Friday, March 13, 2009

How Accurately Do Women Assess the Attractiveness of Other Women?

Via Roissy, the answer appears to be: poorly.

[W]omen of childbearing age rate other attractive women consistently lower than women who have entered menopause, according to a new study.

This also works in reverse: women can overrate the attractiveness of a not-quite-beautiful woman as well.

I noticed this when my wife sought to match-make her male cousin with a female friend from our church. Unfortunately, I didn't mentally grasp her intentions until it was too late. I could have told her it wouldn't go well.

"Why don't men think that [female friend X] is attractive?" she asked me later.

Let's count the reasons.

  1. 1. She's well into her 30s, and this fact is starting to show around the edges.

  2. 2. While she's not fat, she's not Hollywood thin either.

  3. 3. These two facts are not sufficiently compensated for by other aspects of her appearance.

  4. 4. While someone like Φ would be drawn to her maternal qualities should, God forbid, he need to replace his daughters' mother, [male cousin]'s priorities are probably like those of most men in his position.

  5. 5. [Male cousin], by Φ's estimation, has both the moxie and the patience to get most of what he wants in this regard.

The surprising thing was that Mrs. Φ didn't perceive all this ahead of time. In contrast to the competitive situation the article describes, I don't see what Mrs. Φ would gain by bad faith, and the fact that she asked me about it later makes it seem like she really didn't understand it.


Thursday said...

This also works in reverse: women can overrate the attractiveness of a not-quite-beautiful woman as well.

Three words: Sarah Jessica Parker.

Thursday said...

If women like another women's personality or sense of style, they tend to rate them as more attractive. Also, women seem to be much more forgiving of age in other women.

All of these standards match how women rate the attractiveness of men. Style over genetics? Check. Personality over looks? Check. Not as concerned with age? Check. Women seem to simply transfer their standards for attractiveness for men right over to women without much thought. Therefore, your wife may have been entirely innocent in this regard, merely misapplying her honest standards to her female friend.

(BTW matchmaking from women is usually quite terrible. They are always trying to set you up with their unattractive friends, co-workers etc. I am usually amiable enough to say, "Well, I'll meet anybody," by which I mean I am happy to show up at a party or other reasonably large get-together where the other person will be. A couple of times it has been worth my while, but usually not. I refuse to go on blind dates. Fortunately, most women aren't that keen on them either.)