Monday, November 22, 2010

Michael Shelton - Male Beauty: Variety and Homogenization in the Future

Hmmm . . . male beauty. It's bad enough we have done this to women for so long, now we want to do it to ourselves as well? People are more than appearance, though I know we are "programmed" to judge by exteriors. Too bad.

Some final predictions about males, race, and sexual attractiveness

Throughout 2010 I have been blogging about the impact of increasing cultural diversity in the United States on our ideals of male beauty, and now, as this series comes to close, I believe several predictions are possible.

Positive Predictions
• White men will continue to cede their priority position in the rank of "classic" American masculine beauty.
Dating and marrying those from different cultures, ethnicities, and races will become increasingly common.
• Engaging in sexual activity with a person from a different race or culture will no longer be taboo or imply a rebel status.
• Finally, and of great importance, we will increasingly find ourselves attracted to and sexually aroused by individuals from different ethnicities and races.

Less Sanguine Predictions
The future sounds like a better place, doesn't it? But before we pop the cork on the champagne, we must confront an unavoidable truth: A hierarchy of attractiveness will yet remain. Studies find that women across the globe have a general consensus regarding the physical characteristics of a sexy male: He is tall (usually six feet or taller), muscular (but not too developed), and has symmetrical features. Throw in clear skin and lustrous hair, and we have an attractive male. Regardless of their ethnicity and skin color, men who have these qualities are described as good looking and sexually arousing, even to those of different cultures, and there is no evidence that these criteria for male beauty will markedly change in the future.

Without doubt, many men will still be left out of the beauty race due to their body composition, too much or too little muscularity, height, and assorted physical anomalies. Men will still be expected to work just as hard to achieve an ideal of beauty (and secretly fret over their inability to achieve this ideal) even when skin color and ethnicity no longer play predominant discriminating factors. Regardless of skin color, some men, either through genetics, effort, and/or available finances to correct "deficits", will be pinnacles of beauty and the aspirations for others, while the majority will maintain a secondary status.

In an even more extreme position, some believe that standards for male beauty will become more exacting. While skin color will no longer be a determining factor, other demands will usurp its place. For example, Susie Orbach, author of bestselling Fat is a Feminist Issue and co-originator of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, writes that, "[W]e are almost doing away with body variety..." Comparable to the finding that myriad languages around the world are going extinct, so too are regional standards for physical beauty; Orbach and many others believe that a homogenization of beauty is occurring for both males and females. In their vision of the future, we will be even less forgiving of those who lack perfection and tyrannical about the characteristics of the desirable male.

One step forward, and two steps back...

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