One of the things that really surprised me when I dug into the utility of the “1-10 scale” in my post Should a Woman Know Where She Ranks On The “1-10 Scale”? is how varied male evaluations of a woman’s attractiveness could be. I always knew that there would be some disparity, but I was not expecting to hear multiple tales of women being rated both 5’s and 9’s, all by different men. I concluded that the answer to the question was No, but I was unsatisfied with this. So, after some further thinking on the subject, as well as some prompting by a few readers, I have decide to delve once more into this subject.
Briefly I want to talk about an idea that I bounced back and forth with a reader concerning a more accurate, or at least, more streamlined system than the 1-10 scale. In it I divided women into quartiles, ranging from: Very Attractive in the first quartile, Attractive to Plain in the second quartile, Plain to Unattractive in the third quartile, and Very Unattractive in the fourth quartile. The reader indicated to me that a woman who fell into the Attractive to Plain category might feel offended, as being called “plain” could be considered an insult. Being a cold and unfeeling man, and an INTJ to boot, I wasn’t terribly moved by this. However, I did realize that the line/region between Plain and Attractive was far more significant than that between Very Attractive and Attractive.
A quintile system was proposed as an alternative, with the categories of Very Attractive, Attractive, Plain, Unattractive and Very Unattractive. This seemed an improvement to me, because it allowed for some of the elasticity that you find near women of “Plain” features. But then I realized that it was just a condensed version of the 1-10 scale. Very Attractive equated with 9-10, Attractive equated with 6-8, Plain was 5, Unattractive was 3-4 and Very Unattractive was 1-2. The real advantage of this system, or the quartile system, is that it replaces an arbitrary value like a number with a clear descriptor. Each man might have a different idea what a “6” represents, but with a descriptor like “Attractive” you are more likely to see agreement on what it means. Also, because it creates just a few broad categories, you are more likely to see consistent results in terms of what women are rated as being.
Another idea I had concerns the notion of “Plain” women. It is generally accepted in the manosphere that men tend to find what is attractive in women, rather than what is unattractive. Otherwise stated, men may be picky, but they have a much easier time identifying what is attractive in a woman and basing her overall “rank” off of that, rather than what they find unattractive about her [Obesity being a glaring exception to this]. What I think may be a consequence of this is that men are not apt to label a woman plain for long. Given enough exposure to a woman, a man will probably begin to rate her upwards, out of the plain category. So the only women who really rate as “Plain” and stay that way are those who have nothing positive or negative about their appearance. Since this isn’t likely to be terribly common, you tend to end up with a distribution curve that looks less like a bell curve and more like this:
I am curious to see if any of my readers have thoughts on these ideas. Is the quartile/quintile system just another folly like the 1-10 scale, fraught with subjectivity and lacking in precision? Or does it have merit? And is “Plain” less common than would be expected?
What kind of Divergence?
Now that I have my thinking out loud done with, I want to move into the heart of this post: trying to figure out just how subjective male evaluations of female attractive happen to be. My last posts on the subject touched on this and I think it is time I addressed it head on. We know that men have individual preferences that manifest themselves in what they are looking for in women. But how diverse are the preferences? Essentially, what is the spread? Answering this via anecdote is ineffective in my view. Something with a little more depth to it is required. You really need to test it, by comparing a large sample of male opinions about a woman’s attractiveness.
When I first started this post, I wasn’t sure if someone had tested this before, but reader The Shadow Knight clued me in that Heartiste had explored some of this ground before. Several times, in fact. CH’s original post is gone, but he did leave up the re-cap/analysis post written in replay to this original. There are a couple of points in his post I think worth highlighting.
Nevertheless, despite the justifiable criticisms of the methodology listed above, and the specter of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, there was considerable agreement on each girl’s ranking. Plus or minus one point and a few wiseguy outliers, most men share the same opinions about where women fall on the 1 – 10 looks scale. Beauty is not an artifact of individual male minds. It is an objective reality. That this should be so and that men are wired with preferences for the more beautiful over the less, proves that men exercise some choosiness when deciding on a mate, just like women do. Pickiness is not gender specific, though women are pickier than men in general.
This paragraph sums up a lot of my views and expectations. I always thought that a large enough sample size would get you a fairly accurate view of female attractiveness, and the data (found in the linked post) seems to support that. Furthermore, CH and I agree that there is an “objective reality” when it comes to beauty. This leads to an interesting paragraph about mid-range values:
As I predicted, there was stronger agreement at the tails of the beauty distribution and more fussiness agreeing on the middle rankings. Every man knows a 3 and an 8 when he sees one, but one man’s marginal 6 could very well be another man’s solid 7. Looking at the bar graphs, this observation is confirmed by the wider spread (heh) of the votes for the 4-7 group.
I have a theory about why there is so much divergence in rankings for women towards the middle of the 1-10 scale. The reason they tend towards that point is because they possess a few markers of attractiveness, but only those few. Since they have so few, men who rate those features highly will tend to give them a higher score, while men who don’t care for those features or don’t like them will rate those women lower. Their physical features essentially demonstrate how men value certain features more, and those women who are most attractive, and consistently rated as attractive, tend to have all of those features.
When a reader/commenter proposed a simpler three tier system to categorize women (I system which I considered and rejected swiftly), Heartiste had this to say:
This is mostly correct. I’d separate the middle tier into two subgroups: Lower middle (4,5) and Upper middle (6,7). The distinction is important, as there is a critical and abrupt change between the two groups that has important implications for how men treat these women.
In other words, CH was suggesting a tier system which was a near match for the quartile system I had proposed earlier in this post. Although he treats 5’s a little differently than I do (by suggesting they are in the lower middle tier, the general structure is the same.
I originally was going to host a series of videos with attached polls to gauge the attractiveness of various women, but I have decided against it. At this time I am unable to discern a moral basis for carrying out the study, and that gives me pause. Plus my gut instinct says that I shouldn’t do it. So for the time being I will hold off conducting any kind of social experiment on female attractiveness. Instead, I will rely on Heartiste’s studies and be satisfied that there is at least some evidence that you can get an objective measure of female beauty.