Is She Hot? Are You Sure?

It’s time to have a conversation with other straight males about the problems we cause ourselves. Let’s be perfectly honest. We are attracted to a woman’s physical appearance. We also live in a society that decries any acknowledgment of this as anti-feminist. We are accused – often correctly – of treating women as objects of our affection rather than as people. But we cannot ever effectively deny our instinct to judge a woman’s image, simply because that is what we do.

The problem does not lie with feminism, nor with biology. No, it arises from our own choice to talk about attraction using the terms of objectification.

A woman neither “is” objectively “hot” nor objectively “not hot.” Equivalently, a woman neither is attractive nor not attractive. Pick any word you want, any synonym for those words, or any word with a meaning even remotely similar to them. A particular person cannot be defined in those terms by any individual.

I am not discussing whether one should not be defined that way. That is the subject of feminists and self-identified champions of women’s rights. I am no champion of women’s rights. I am, admittedly, as selfish as one could possibly be without winding up in prison.

A person absolutely cannot be defined in those terms with any illusion of accuracy. It is unfeasible for any individual to make a judgment of another’s theoretical attractiveness to others based on his own unique perspective because a person’s feelings of infatuation, or lack thereof, have practically nothing to do with objectively describable characteristics.

A modern man feels attracted to a particular woman due to a confluence of personally determined physical, emotional, and intellectual qualities that he seeks. The deepest, most powerful feelings of desire arise when the subconscious finds enough of those qualities – which vary wildly from man to man – in a particular woman. The conscious mind usually does a terrible job of ascertaining what the subconscious wants and does an even worse job describing it, which, parenthetically, explains both why there is currently a shidduch crisis and why the shidduch system will always be unideal.

Objectively determinable physical characteristics play much less of a role than we think. For comparison, a woman’s appeal to a man is as much a function of her physical body shape as a food’s flavor is a function of its taste on your tongue. Recently, science has revealed that we actually predominantly judge flavor with our sense of smell. Similarly, though a woman’s physical characteristics might be easier for the conscious mind to acknowledge and express, a woman’s personality and background as revealed by certain qualities of her gait and facial expressions really touch a man’s heart. And, as I stated earlier, everyone seeks something different.

Maybe you think I’m crazy. Maybe I’m imagining the way our minds work. It’s impossible to meaningfully judge a person’s inner traits by a brief scan of his or her appearance, right? Wrong. Recent has shown that long-term mental illness produces a noticeable impact on a sufferer’s basic facial reactions. Obviously this is an extreme example, but personalities fall on a spectrum. We infer much more than we are aware.

I am grappling with this issue because I find my personality and intellect demeaned by the way in which people ask me if a girl is hot. People approach the question as if it is a moral imperative. If they treated it lightly then I wouldn’t care; I would just mock it, like I would any other brainless, inconsequential exploration. But no, they impose so much assumed significance upon it that asking the question affronts my ego. Why is this something that should matter to me? Why should I dedicate some of my brain’s limited analytical energy to determining whether arbitrary aspects of a woman’s body align with artificial notions of meaningless qualifications?

Motivations are complex and unique to each person. We can all achieve a greater degree of self-satisfaction by refraining from unnecessarily oversimplifying our feelings of attraction. Each of us will, at some point, encounter an individual in the course of our daily lives whom we will find attractive. That does not alter some innate quality of that individual. Attraction is an interactive  function of two people and a situation, not the result of some objective quality of the attractee.

It’s impossible to live in the modern world and not maintain some understanding of what artificial qualities are commonly subsumed under the term “hot.” Its use is so pervasive in media culture that it has infected our rational minds with poorly conceived notions of how they work. Seeking “hot” women is a conscious activity, not an honest expression of our innermost desires, and we shouldn’t perpetuate it.