Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Things which bother me: People who can't tell me if someone's attractive

Here's a thought which comes back to me from time to time: Why is it that I can judge any person's appearance and potential for physical attraction, but no one else can can?

So, that's an odd question, let me explain a little. There have been many times in my life wherein a friend has been describing another person, and whenever the topic of appearance comes up, these friends are unable to describe them. Sometimes, they are able to, but fail to determine whether or not they find them attractive.

Now, there are several issues at work here, so let's focus on the first one: Apparently, most people are unable to tell if someone is attractive if that person is of the sex to which they are not naturally attracted; namely heterosexual people cannot seem to tell me if someone of their sex is attractive, and some homosexual people have had trouble telling me if someone of the opposite sex is attractive.

I understand that this is vague, so let's work with an example. A female friend of mine is telling me about this girl in her class. My female friend is heterosexual; does not find girls attractive. Perhaps this classmate sounds intriguing and I ask, "Is she cute?/What does she look like?" (I'll get into why I'm not shallow for asking this later.)

My female friends, and trust me, this exact scenario has occurred many times, with different people, all react the same way: "How should I know? I can't judge that!" And this answer confuses me.

I am a heterosexual man. I have no, nor have I ever had, homosexual desires. I have no problem with who or what (usually) you're attracted to, and I only mention it here to give you a framework. My idea is that as long as it's legal, and consensual, love and be attracted to whoever your heart desires. Anyway, I am a heterosexual male, and yet I am still able to tell if a man is attractive.

The next question you may have is: "Attractive to whom? Not to you, then, to your female friend?" Well, my answer is maybe, and maybe not. I can tell you if a person is generally attractive, if they have something about them which might make them just generally unattractive or alluring, and then I work more specifically from there.

Let's pick an example, Nathon Fillion:

Oh not fair! Or, oh yes please! I can hear you saying now. The unfairness of picking this is because so many would claim that he's so attractive that no one would be able to say no, but don't worry, I'll use another example later. Let's look at him, and not because of his awesomeness, just his physical appearance.

In the photo above, we see a male, late 30s, early 40s (he's 41 actually!) with blue eyes and a little grey in his hair. Slightly coiffed hair, little bit of stubble, evidence of but not really any facial hair. With a quick glance, there is nothing about him which is generally unattractive. He doesn't have a mole in an unfortunate place, no weird facial expression, no neck beard, the only thing about him which might be unattractive (to some) is the grey in his hair. Blue eyes are considered quite appealing by most, and he has those. He has a little smirk which might be endearing, and isn't really unattractive. So, if anyone were to ask me, "Is he attractive?" I would answer he has no noticeable unattractive features, and his blue eyes, symmetrical face, and smirk make him a handsome individual. And, if you're into that sort of thing, he has grey hair but with a haircut which speaks of youth.

See how easy that was? While most would think that rating attractiveness is a purely subjective game, I have shown how one can logically break it down. It becomes much more detailed and accurate when you consider your audience. I know a few people attracted to slightly older men, and when talking with them, would bear that in mind in my analysis. Like I mentioned before, Nathon Fillion is considered quite attractive, by most, so I will move onto a different example.

Enter, Drew Carey:
Lovers of Mr. Carey don't take me wrong here. I am not comparing Drew to Nathon, I will simply show you how I can rate him.

Nice haircut, although his hair is a little thin, big glasses which hide/overshadow much of his face, nice smile, but a little crooked. Evidence of a double chin coming in, and blue eyes? Maybe? Hard to tell in this photo. On first, second, and third glances, there is nothing overwhelmingly attractive about him. I'm not trying to say he's ugly, I'm saying that one's blood does not pump in quite the same manner upon seeing him as with Mr. Fillion. In many ways, I would say Drew Carey looks a lot more like your average guy. Sure, he would be harder to describe because his appearance does not demand so much of your attention, in fact most people would probably take a quick look at him and remember only his glasses, but after describing him as such, I would rate him in the following way: he's alright looking, nothing really wrong with him, kind of average, but he's got a nice smile. I'd give him a chance, maybe he'd surprise you, but if all you're after is a boy-toy, a piece of meat over which to drool, I wouldn't consider it. 

Just to rub the point in a little further, I will show you how I can rate a woman I don't find attractive, personally, Amanda Seyfried:
Why did I choose her? Well, I chose her because I do not really find her attractive. She has qualities which are generally attractive, but I only recognize that others might see and want that (her) but I do not. My description: long blond hair, blue eyes, pale complexion, she's just generally good looking. I mean, most would consider her beautiful, at least here in this photo, but she does nothing for me. Would I go for her? Not really, there's nothing about her which stands out other than her eyes. If you're into that typical blond hair/blue eyed doe look, go for it, otherwise, I'm sure she'll find someone else, and in the meantime, I'll be hunting foxy brunettes.

Everything I am saying is biased. By definition, it has to be. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts, but the one thing you are probably saying is, "Well, you must consider these people slightly attractive if you're able to rate them as such."

I would disagree, saying that I am rating them first on general appearance, which is mostly a measure of symmetry and a first glance. Once I have concluded with that, I move onto specific features and recognize that while I may not find them attractive, others might, and for some features, like the blue eyes for example, these features are just known to be desirable, if books, TV, and movies have taught me anything.

One last quick thought: I don't think I'm shallow, either because of this rant, my rating of people by their physical appearance, or by my aforementioned asking if someone was attractive. Like it or not, we rate things. It is part of how the mind works, as I'm given to understand it. People want to know as much about a person as possible in order to categorize them. When it comes to physical attractiveness, that's just one small characteristic I consider when deciding whether or not I'm attracted to someone. It's the first thing I usually notice, but it's not the most important. But, if I'm going to be romantically, and possibly physically involved, with someone, I would like to be physically attracted to them, as I enjoy the physical side of things just as I enjoy the emotional and intellectual sides of companionship. I don't think it's shallow, I think it's just my way of getting the whole picture.

So, long story short: When I ask you to tell me if someone is attractive, you should be able to tell me if they are generally appealing, appealing to you, and if you know me well enough, if they have features which I may consider attractive.

This rant, by the way, doesn't just apply to my female friends. I have known many a straight guy unable to give me a straight answer. I think I figured out why, just now: they just don't want to think about it. Maybe they are so repulsed by the idea of looking for the attraction in someone of one sex or another, that they are unable to answer my question. Maybe that's it, but honestly, it's not hard to think about things, and for me, very easy to categorize something or someone without putting emotional investment into it. It's a simple question, and one I don't think will redefine your sexual orientation.

If you can't/if you're afraid to rate someone from the sex to which you're not normally attracted, don't be afraid, everyone's beautiful, and I won't judge you for thinking so as well.


  1. Here's how I see it. I will, like you, always 'know' if someone is innately attractive; symmetrical and what-not. And if you asked me if a female acquaintance of mine was attractive, and she was (in my opinion), I would say so. The trouble is when I don't think the individual in question is particularly striking. I'm hesitant to say so because it is a negative remark, and I don't want to hand out negative judgements on someone you have never met, especially considering the matter of taste. And what if she's like Drew Carey, and has a wonderful sense of humor? Basically, I don't want to throw someone under the bus with something society considers to be shallow (while all the while valuing it at an absurdly high level). It's not that I don't know, I just don't want to say "Naw, she looks like a manhole cover" when you ask.

  2. Fair enough, but all I'm asking for, in this case: Is [insert person's name] attractive? To you, to me, in general." You can be nice about it, even if you find them to be quite ugly. For example: well...I don't find her attractive, and generally speaking, I'm not sure you would either, she looks like this [description, a wide face, with a weird grid pattern on it (in the case of a manhole cover)] so you'll have to judge.

    1. Haha! Point taken. I guess I'm not very good at saying unflattering things on command... though I do seem to be quite skilled at saying them by accident.