Studies Are Obsessed With 'Showing' the Secrets of Attractiveness


It seems like every week there’s a new study out exploring the manifold nuances of attraction and desire. Just when you begin to think the media is out of studies to run, something new claws its way out of the ether, bellowing “MEN IN ZIP-OFF CAPRI PANTS ARE MORE ATTRACTIVE TO WOMEN ON DAY TWO OF THEIR PERIOD, STUDY FINDS.”

This sort of research can be interesting and enlightening sometimes, but it can also be confounding and frustrating. It’s difficult to attempt to universalize such a specific interpersonal occurrence, and, furthermore, the findings are often framed in a way that tends to uphold and naturalize gender roles — aligning “feminine” with “beautiful” and “passive” and “lots of estrogen” and “masculine” with “attractive to women” and “dominant” and “literally so much testosterone” (“HOW COULD ANY MAN LOVE THIS TESTOSTERONE-WARPED VISAGE?” I should ask myself one day in my masculine growl, while clutching my strong jaw). This can occur even when the studies in question are investigating something incredibly culturally-specific.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of the sexiest qualities in men and women, all of which allegedly cause the opposite gender to release all of the hormones:


Has heavy stubble.

Exists only in the summer.

Wears a white t shirt, which creates the illusion of a testosterone-infused body.

Carries a guitar with him everywhere he goes (because prenatal testosterone creates musicians, a bit of knowledge every woman carries in the deepest marrow of her bones).

Is 6 feet or taller.

Waddles about, swinging his big flaccid dick with pride, since penises were once probably a courtship display for humans — sort of like a peacock feather that will hopefully never end up on a decorative headband sold at Urban Outfitters.

Is a narcissist.

Has a chin of any size.


Has a small chin and full cheeks, because estrogen.

Preferably is in a constant state of ovulation, which is when she looks and sounds the sexiest.

Has “medium-sized” breasts (second place goes to “large” and third place is “very large”).

Is petite and leggy with, let us reaffirm, a big bust.

Goes into temporary exile every Wednesday at 3:30.

Possesses confidence (but not too much confidence).

Is dumb and sleepy-looking, unless she wants to be wife material. Also, FYI: studies have shown that being less attractive is a great way to look like someone’s future spouse.

Is a brunette.

On one hand, it’s interesting to track how standards of beauty shift over time; it’s something that’s quite obviously related to how our culture perceives gender and fairly telling about what a population of people are taught to value. However, sometimes I wonder, “Why does this need to be done, again? Does this really reveal anything about desire or just it just show how much we love to shove ’empirical evidence’ into patently sexist gender binaries? Does it do more to help us understand why we tend to be drawn to certain things, or more to reinforce harmful behavioral and appearance-based social expectations that hardly anyone can uphold?”

Whatever, though — I’m ovulating and I can’t spend much time thinking, lest I ruin the confused and drowsy look I’ve been trying to cultivate. Studies show that I only have this one week to look truly sexy.

Images via Getty.

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