Sex to Impress
Hugo Schwyzer over at Jezebel discussing how most of the mate/date choices of men are a response to what the same men believe will impress other men.
The piece reminds us of the Black Studies discussion. It’s not enough to look at what these Victims Studies disciplines say; we also have to look at what they don’t say. Schwyzer criticizes men and admonishes them to essentially not care about what other men might think of their mate choices. But you’ll never, ever see Schwyzer or a feminist academic call out female gold-diggers or chicks who like guys with broad shoulders.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that slender women aren’t attractive, or that all of men’s sexual preferences are simply about trying to win approval from other guys. Yet as Alice Randall, Joe Tex, and Sir Mix-a-Lot all remind us, what men want has at least as much to do with culture as with biology. In the black community, Randall suggests, those expectations about male desire have encouraged female obesity; among middle-class whites, expectations about what men want play at least a strong supporting role in women’s destructive pursuit of thinness. No, it’s not all “men’s fault.” But men are hardly innocent bystanders either. As the anecdote about Jennifer Fink’s six year-old makes painfully clear, what guys are taught to find attractive drives their desire at least as much as does their evolutionary hardwiring.
The sooner we start challenging men to think about why they want what they say they want, the sooner we’ll start moving towards at least one part of the solution to the body image crisis.
Schwyzer typically hides behind the canard that he is not a woman therefore he cannot criticize women. That’s why he won’t write a “women should start doing X” piece. This type of thinking has never stopped female feminists from criticizing men though.
Both men and women hope that their romantic choices will impress other people in order to increase their status. The case can be made that they hope to impress members of their own sex in some sort of Darwinistic struggle. This doesn’t seem controversial. And it could be true that men’s preference for thinner women helps perpetuate womens’ unhealthy focus on thinness. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a general preference among men for thinner women – given a binary choice between thin and fat. I do personally think that men hedge on hiding women of certain (larger) proportions from their friends. It’s nothing new to hook up with bigger girls behind the scenes. But if thin versus fat were just an arbitrary choice for white men (Schwyzer focuses on white and black men’s choices in his piece), why would it just so happen that thinner women are the chosen ones? It seems more likely that thin women are preferred to fat women but that this generality is ratcheted to the extreme.