What’s that in your genes?
Beauty and deception: Looking at hot women through the lens of evolutionary psychology
Thu, Jan 29, 2009 (midnight)
Every day I go to the bookstore and page through men’s magazines that promise me six-pack abs in 30 days and mind-blowing sex with supermodels. Sometimes I browse through books that teach me how to cure cancer with vitamins and milk, how to seduce the woman of my dreams with subliminal messages and prepackaged speeches, how to use the “Law of Attraction” to control the universe with my mind and how to use the positioning of the planets to find what we’re all after: true love.
I find these books in the nonfiction section.
As an attorney and former professional magician, I see deception wherever I look. I see it at the bookstores, on the Strip, inside the casinos and in bars and clubs. So when I asked my roommate Oxana what she looks for in a guy, it came as no surprise when she said, “somebody honest.” Oxana, a Russian showgirl who’s been living in Las Vegas for four years, told me that she’s dated liars and cheaters before, and what she really wants is “somebody who doesn’t play games—a no-bullshit guy.”
Basically Oxana wants somebody who hasn’t read Tony Clink’s book The Layguide: How to Seduce Women More Beautiful Than You Ever Dreamed Possible, No Matter What You Look Like or How Much You Make. In the book Clink recommends this strategy for picking up a girl in a bar: “Instead of approaching, have your wing move in on her. After a minute or two, have him call you over and introduce you. Say ‘hi,’ but look a little uncomfortable and leave soon after. ‘Poor guy,’ your wing says, ‘do not waste your time on him. Women hit on him all the time, but they’re only after his money. He just gets so tired of it. He’s kind of famous, too.’”
Oxana said that when she and her friends, most of whom are also showgirls, go out on the Strip, guys try this stuff on them all the time. Guys lie about their income, their possessions and their status. They wear knockoff designer watches and field phone calls from high-powered stockbrokers—the ones who apparently do business at midnight Mountain Standard Time.
“Why do guys do that stuff?” Oxana wanted to know.
“Because you’re attracted to guys who can provide for your potential offspring.”
“But I don’t want offspring.”
“Your genes do.”
If women are attracted to men who can provide for offspring, men are attracted to women who can produce them. In fact, to say that a woman is “beautiful” is to say that she looks fertile. Men are drawn to showgirls, promotional models, bottle girls and strippers because they look like they can bear 15 children. Without getting too bogged down in evolutionary psychology, men are attracted to fertile women because our male ancestors were; the genetic lines of the guys who were into the infertile women petered out a long time ago.
Just as men present themselves as richer and more powerful than they really are, women present themselves as younger, healthier and ultimately more fertile than they really are. They don’t carry around fabricated fertility clinic reports, but they do lie about their age. Sometimes they do it verbally, but most of the time they do it visually. They dye their hair blond, inflate their breasts and cinch their waists, all in an attempt to appear younger, healthier and more fertile than they really are.
Let’s start with hair. Like a lot of women who work on the Strip, Oxana dyes her hair blond. But why blond, as opposed to, say, black? Do gentlemen really prefer blondes? They do, and it’s because such hair occurs naturally at youth and grows out with age. With age a woman’s hair may turn from blond to red or blond to brunet or blond to gray, but never the other way around. So before hair dye came along, blond hair was a reputable indicator of youth. Crudely put, if a caveman slept with a blond chick, there was a good chance he’d knock her up.
The caveman’s chances were even better if the cavewoman’s blond hair was long and lustrous, too. An unhealthy woman’s body sends its nutrients away from the hair and to the more crucial body parts. As a result, the woman’s hair grows thin and dull. Today women simulate long, luscious hair with wigs and hair extensions.
Along with blond hair, high, firm breasts once served as a reputable indicator of youth and fertility, as breasts descend with age. Today women fight the sag with push-up bras, push-up swimsuits, corsets and, of course, cosmetic surgery. Every year plastic surgeons lift and augment 400,000 women’s breasts. And given how much money women spend on this procedure and how much attention tabloids, women’s magazines and TV news programs give the once-controversial surgery, you might guess that breasts are the most important fertility cue. But that distinction goes to the hip/waist ratio.
A woman whose waist is seven-tenths the size of her hips has hit the fertility cue jackpot. For starters, a woman with an hourglass figure is definitely not already pregnant. Pregnancy is nature’s ultimate mood-killer. In addition, a woman with an hourglass figure probably doesn’t have diabetes, hypertension or gallbladder disorder. And it’s unlikely that she’ll suffer a heart attack or stroke in the near future.
Perhaps nobody appreciates the importance of an hourglass figure better than Sara Blakley, creator of the popular body-shaping undergarment Spanx. Blakley’s clients include Julia Roberts, Tyra Banks and Oprah Winfrey, and her business is worth $150 million.
According to Blakley, Spanx “comfortably shapes problem areas, accentuates your waistline, minimizes your tummy and thighs, lifts your rear and makes inches seem to disappear.” Simply said, wearing Spanx makes your hip/waist ratio look greater than it really is; wearing Spanx makes you look like you can bear more children than you really can.
Using Spanx, silicone, hair extensions and dye, women can now fake all of the once-reputable indicators of fertility. And here’s the irony: even though guys understand this much, it doesn’t make us any less attracted to women with blond hair, large breasts and a large hip/waist ratio.
Why is that? Is it because the media bombards us with highly sexualized images of skinny blondes with large chests? No, the media bombards us with images of these women because, as I said, we’re predisposed to find them sexually attractive. Evolutionary psychologists Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa compare this to fast-food advertising. Miller and Kanazawa would say that I don’t consume so many McDonald’s hamburgers, fries and soft drinks because I’m brainwashed by McDonald’s commercials; I consume so many McDonald’s hamburgers, fries and soft drinks because they taste good. McDonald’s commercials just capitalize on my innate preferences.
We’re attracted to women with obviously dyed blond hair and unrealistically large breasts because our genes haven’t had enough time to match our intellect. Breast implants only recently celebrated their 100th anniversary, and men’s genetic preferences, which evolved over tens of thousands of years, need time to catch up.
But maybe they’ll never catch up. We’re still attracted to women in makeup, which has been around for more than 6,000 years. Archaeologists discovered that 4,000 years ago Egyptians used kohl (a face paint of ash, almond, lead and copper) to line their eyes. Women have been using cosmetics to accentuate facial features and simulate smooth, even skin ever since.
Smashbox Cosmetics Specialist Stella Nichols says, “Nine times out of 10, applying makeup is about covering discoloration and blemishes. The best way to downplay blemishes is to start with a green-toned primer, followed by a full coverage foundation, which gives the illusion of practically flawless skin.”
But makeup can do more than that. Nichols, who has painted hundreds of faces, uses makeup to alter the appearance of women’s bone structure.
“I use contouring and highlighting tricks to slim and define her face. I use a small contour brush to apply a matte bronzer that’s slightly darker than the skin tone. I start at the hairline and bring it down directly under the cheekbone. Then I use a blush brush, to apply light powder to the cheekbone, which highlights and raises the cheekbones.
“Next I apply bronzer right under the jawline for sharpness and definition. Takes the attention away from jowls, too.”
Nichols points out that for her, makeup isn’t necessarily about deception: “There’s nothing deceptive about dark purple lipstick. Nobody is born with that kind of pigment in their skin. Makeup allows me to wear my imagination on my face. I look at it like any other art form; I don’t wear it to trick people into thinking I look like someone I don’t. That leads to trouble.”
Women realize that many guys only want them for their looks, and guys like Tony Clink realize that girls realize as much—so they develop strategies to convince the women otherwise. Pickup artists Style and Ross Jeffries give this speech to women they meet in bars and clubs:
“I live in Los Angeles. It’s where the most beautiful women in the country come to try and make it. You look around a club there, and everyone’s good-looking. It makes this VIP room look like a dive bar. And do you know what I’ve learned? Beauty is common. It’s something you’re born with or you pay for. What counts is what you make of yourself. What counts is a great outlook and a great personality.”
After reading 1,700 words on beauty and deception, that line about a great outlook and great personality must sound refreshing. But remember Jeffries’ and Style’s motivation for saying it: They want women to think they’re not concerned with beauty, when they definitely are—they both admit this much.
“I’ve heard that speech so many times,” Oxana told me. “I mean, not those exact words, but pretty close. And you’re telling me all the guys who say that stuff are lying? You’re telling me they were just saying that to get into my pants?”
“Maybe. Depends on the guy.”
“This is all very depressing.”
That doesn’t make it untrue. We fall victim to these deceptions when we deny they exist. Only when we acknowledge and appreciate the lies and the bullshit that go into the courting ritual can we hope to transcend them. And when we transcend the lies and the bullshit, we stand a chance of finding what we’re all after: true love.
Or you could try the Law of Attraction and astrology. Good luck with that.
Rick Lax is the author of Lawyer Boy: A Case Study on Growing Up.