Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.
Wes here again. Today I want to talk about standards. Specifically, I want to talk about standards for physical attractiveness.
Many people have expressed to be something along the lines of “I have high standards when it comes to women/men,” meaning that they don’t find many people sexually attractive. Often, people consider this a point of pride. I can sort of see their point. I think it goes something like this:
only attractive people can afford to have high standards
I have high standards
I am attractive
The fact that this is (obviously) a fallacious argument isn’t really the point. The point is that having high standards makes people feel good about themselves.
I feel that having high standards in this context is a bad thing. More than that, I consider it an unfortunate fact of life that we feel attraction on a purely physical level at all. While this almost certainly had evolutionary advantages, these have largely evaporated in modern-day society. Today, there is seemingly no (non-socially enforced) benefit to discriminating in our choice of romantic partner based on physical characteristics. How a person looks has very little bearing on the things that I consider important in a relationship.
Attraction is important, but only in a circular way. Physical attraction is only important in a relationship because people feel for each other on a physical level. Dating someone to whom you’re not physically attracted is a bad idea because that’s a vital part of a relationship. But it has no value in other contexts. Physical attraction does not add value to any other part of a relationship. To put it a different way, if one were attracted to everyone, one’s relationships would not suffer for it.
When it comes to physical characteristics, I have low standards, although they are higher than I’d like. I wish that I was equally attracted on a physical level to everyone. If that were the case, I would be free to make choices about romantic & sexual partners based on things that add value to a relationship, such as intelligence, kindness, emotional IQ, shared interests, and other factors which directly relate to compatibility. These things certainly make a person more attractive to me (even on a physical level), but I still respond much more to a person’s appearance. I consider it unfortunate that a person’s physical appearance matters to me at all, but such is life.
Physical attraction is largely biological, so I don’t know what we can do about this, but I think most agree that there is at least a component that is socially created. If we were able to realign society’s values somehow so that physical appearance was less important, it would probably have a significant effect on this sort of thing. Maybe? And while I’m dreaming, I’d like a pony….*
*first one in the comments to identify the reference gets a prize
4 thoughts on “Having Low Standards for Attractiveness is Not a Bad Thing”
And I see where you’re coming from, but I think that it’s not something that can ever be separated out because of its utility in biology. I’m not sure it will ever be totally quantified, but it seems that a decent number of studies show that people are attracted to people with, for example, a greater genetic diversity to theirs, which would help create more robust offspring. I know not everyone wants children, but the drive is innate at some level, and short of becoming robots there’s not much to be done.
Disagree, as you know. It would be more of an issue if people didn’t have differing tastes. But I think it’s not a bad thing to be discerning. However, it’s obvious that physical attraction can grow and change over time, so it’s foolish to disregard someone immediately.
I like Your point of view. I found many similarities with my character. I have my low standards on the same level as You. And I, also, wish they were a little bit lower. I agree that physical attraction is a value created by society. Society makes us obey to a lot of things and I’m happy that I found You – who likes to disregard their stupid imposed stuff. That gives me strength to disregard it totally and not partly as I used. (I mean, I obeyed some of the “rules” without noticing or raising against, even if I was against it.)
@Erin – you win a prize! You get mentioned as the #1 superfan on the @polyskeptic twitter feed! I think you’re right about this being innate, but I think there’s a definite societal component. Really, I’d just be happy if people stopped being shamed for being attracted to someone that doesn’t fit the normal definition of “attractive.”
@Genevieve – I just don’t see the advantage. It seems like a handicap.
@Alpha – I don’t think it’s a value created by society, but I think it’s reinforced and encouraged by society, which doesn’t have to be the case.
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