The Currency of Attraction
How being beautiful grants persons inherent advantages
Much discussion is had lately about the inherent privileges people are born with. However, one that often gets ignored, is the privilege of attraction. Like it or not, attractive people rule the world. Be they celebrities of film, music, sports, business, or whatever field you choose, most likely they’ve profited from their appearance, an almost universal appeal of instinctual attraction that holds power over others.
Attractive people are granted advantages in society that others are not. This is not hyperbole, it is fact, backed by a myriad of scientific studies. There’s a field of study dedicated to the benefits of physical attractiveness called pulchronomics. These studies have proven over time that we innately favor those among us to whom we are physically attracted. Beautiful people are shown to be more financially successful, more prone to career advancement, let off the hook for bad behavior and criminal activity, and live happier lives because of these things.
Is humanity really this shallow? Yes. Yes it is. And despite all efforts to the contrary, the evidence suggests it remains this way. It’s not entirely our fault though, as evolution seems to have groomed us to be this way in favor of producing healthy offspring, and the effects of this evolution are so ingrained that they reveal themselves early on in childhood.
What makes someone attractive?
What is it that draws attention to someone over another? What traits gain that edge of advantage, that differentiation that marks the beautiful from the ordinary among us? Science would tell us a multitude of things on this topic, ranging from symmetry of attributes, to various evolutionary traits our species have grown to favor when choosing mates.
For women, we tend to seek out those with large, round and bright eyes, full lips, and small waist to hip ratio. For men, we seek out those with athletic body types, broad shoulders, and strong jawlines. In both, symmetrical values are important in facial features, defined cheekbones, and good, straight teeth. These are all signs of healthiness, proper grooming, etc, even if looks can be deceiving.
Most people who are universally attractive know it from a young age. They are often more socially popular, picked for more activities by their peers, and granted more opportunities from authority figures. Yes, this heightened level of attention can bring with it stress and unforeseen pitfalls, but these stresses usually do not remove the benefits at play, and are easily avoided or overcome. It all depends of the individual, and how they navigate the world and their choices.
Despite all this, the easiest way to describe what makes someone beautiful, is you know it when you see it. Although beauty is subjective, in the eye of the beholder as they say, when someone is universally attractive it is hard to deny.
The power of sex appeal
Much of physical attraction lies in the instinctual desires of the human necessity for procreation, and thus they are of a sexual nature. We tend to say that people who have universal attraction of this level contain the it factor, or that they have sex appeal.
Sex appeal is powerful because it is an innate lure of attention. People are drawn to those they are sexually attracted to, because they desire to be with them. Even if this is something impossible to act upon, the mere presence of this attraction acts as a driving force on behavior. Attention means time, and time means money. The more attractive a person is, the more likely people are to engage with them, and more willing to spend their money to feel that engagement.
This is why pop culture and media is a literal parade of beautiful people. This is why the porn industry exists. This is why every magazine cover at the checkout line is emblazoned with scantily clad hotties, and they all have provocative headlines promising secret tips to help you become more attractive, or the word SEX somewhere in bold letters.
Sex is power. It commands the public in subconscious ways, and it is used as such, whether you acknowledge it or not. You are constantly being marketed to on a sexual level.
Women vs Men
Both of the traditional sexes benefit from the dynamic and power that physical beauty grants them, but it would be an error to ignore how much of this dynamic tends to favor the male perspective. This is just a reflection of how much of history has been dominated by the patriarchal power structure, enforced by religious indoctrination, and the brute force of barbarism.
Time may be changing things, but for the most part, this outdated power structure is still at play in the game of marketing. All it takes is a look around, paying attention to the intention of the advertising. If women’s bodies aren’t being sexualized to draw the male gaze, then women are being told how to better sexualize themselves to achieve this, often under the pretense of empowerment.
Both sexes profit from this system, but even today there are disparities that favor men. There’s the long debated pay gap in which males are statistically favored to earn more money for the same work. Besides this, men seem to more easily benefit in other ways, resulting in far more wealthy men than women. In a most recent statistical survey, it was revealed that of billionaires, men outnumber women approximately 2,500 to 300. That alone is a statistic that should concern you.
Looks aren’t everything
However you want to look at it, it’s hard to deny the factors that influence success are heavily skewed toward those who know how to leverage the basic human desires of physical attraction. There are of course always going to be exceptions to every rule, and no one would rightfully argue that a person’s looks determine everything else about them, not even their success. But it would be a mistake to do the opposite as well, because clearly, it can and does matter.
Physical appearance can also be manipulated. If you are not born with the most attractive of traits, you can do things about it. Proper grooming and hygiene go a long way. One of the most unanimously agreed upon factors of attractiveness is the way a person smells. And despite appearances, people are going to pay attention to those who make them feel good about themselves. Just giving someone your undivided attention can speak volumes in today’s world. For the desperate, there’s always plastic surgery, but I’m not sure how desperate a person should be to consider it.
Marilyn Manson wrote a song called “The Beautiful People” in the 90’s that rightfully critiqued this notion of celebrity and power being ruled by a class of perfectionist elites of beauty and morality. While also clearly a subversive stab at organized religion, his stab at the idealized beauty standards of Hollywood and celebrity culture was as prescient and relevant then as it is today.
Society may be trying to declare itself more highly evolved and moving past the archaic biases of physical beauty, but as always, actions speak much louder than words.