This was a fascinating article from The Economist magazine. The sub heading is that a disease-free society helps effeminate men attract women. I quote:
IT IS not just a sense of fairness that seems to be calibrated to social circumstances (see article). Mating preferences, too, vary with a society’s level of economic development. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study by Ben Jones and Lisa DeBruine of Aberdeen University, in Scotland, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Dr Jones and Dr DeBruine, themselves a married couple, examined what might be called the Deianira paradox. Hercules, demigod and paragon of masculinity in the ancient world, was indirectly done for by his own sexual prowess—his jealous wife, Deianira, accidentally poisoned him with a potion she thought would render him eternally faithful. Deianira’s predicament is a woman’s ultimate dilemma. In a man, the craggy physical characteristics associated with masculinity often indicate a strong immune system and thus a likelihood of his producing healthier offspring than his softer-featured confrères will. But such men are also more promiscuous and do not care as much about long-term relationships, leaving women to raise their kids alone.They then go on to show a relationship between the health indicators for a given country and its women's preference for 'effeminate' vs 'masculine' men. The whole article was intriguing, but what interested me more was how they used digital manipulation to adjust more "masculine" faces to make them look more "effeminate". Look at the image. The guy on the left is more "masculine", the guy on the right more "feminine". Now, I knew that without being told. And so probably, did you. Isn't it fascinating that such subtle distinctions should still be so easily perceptible? And matter, too?
Because it also suggests something else to me. I find the guy on the left more attractive, but if I met the guy on the right, I would be more likely to assume that he's gay (cliches, I know). My attraction to the guy on the left shows how deep-rooted my gayness is. I'm responding 'viscerally' if you like to my innate (cultural?) perceptions of maleness. What is interesting about the research is that this innate/cultural attraction is malleable in women depending on the need for 'manliness' in that culture. But why doesn't this apply to gays? Perhaps because we're not going to have his baby. Which implies in turn that it is about something else. But what, exactly? I don't know.
It also points out the absurdity and cruelty of the Christian-Fascist attempts to 'cure' gayness. Something this deep, this 'instinctive', will not be easily altered.
An altogether most fascinating article.
One final point: I think Hercules was as partial to men as women. So where does that fit in?