Attraction doesn’t depend on surveys

Picture of Asian girl with feature measurementsI heard the discussion on the Vanessa Feltz show this morning about the recent “study” done by an evolutionary psychologist, named Satoshi Kanazawa, who is based at the London School of Economics, which purports to prove that “there are marked race differences in physical attractiveness among women, but not among men” and that Black women are the most unattractive of all, with Asians being the most attractive. This is really quite old, because the idea of a racial hierarchy with Asians at the top and Blacks at the bottom goes back at least to Charles Murray in the mid-1990s. Someone wrote that his writing cannot be called racist because “Kanazawa is a man of colour and does not exist with the institutional power to be racist”; actually, he is a middle-class Japanese man and the Japanese are the dominant population in a first-world country, and there is not the history with Japanese immigrants here in the UK that there is in the USA and perhaps Canada.

Others have commented on the crudeness of the survey and how it was based on asking Americans to vote on which person they found most physically attractive in photographs. The problem is that what someone finds attractive or otherwise in a photograph may appear totally differently when one sees someone in the flesh, and so one may react totally differently to them. Photos can be manipulated in any number of ways both before and after the shoot — the angle and light, the pose, through to how it is developed and digital manipulation. Flash photography, in particular, often lightens someone’s colour.

Whatever is conventionally regarded as beautiful in any society, what an individual finds beautiful is particular to them, otherwise only a small percentage of the population would ever find a partner. If “attractiveness” concerns the opposite sex, men know what is attractive to them in a woman and they know it when they see it or encounter it regardless of whether that individual would make the front page of any fashion magazine, and although many people harbour some degree of prejudice, men who are not totally blinded by prejudice are able to appreciate beauty in a woman of any race if her characteristics are those he finds attractive. I would imagine the same is true for women, although I don’t have personal experience there.

Of course, this does not take into account the fact that love comes into forming relationships too, as well as the fact that couples do not just know how each other look but how they behave, and there may be things about someone other than looks that perhaps make up for less than (their idea of) ideal looks. So, the survey is quite ridiculous, presuming that physical attractiveness is all that matters in forming relationships, rather than one of many important factors. (And if it is not about relationship forming, then does he mean that Black women are of less value as living, walking ornaments? I’ll remember that next time I need someone to brighten up my living room.)

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