I am by no means a sexy man. On dating apps, I dub my appearance “aggressively average.” That doesn’t mean I don’t put my best foot foward. For example, I have a remarkably weak chin, so I hide it beneath an obnoxious beard. My body is soft and dad-like, so I’ve covered it with tattoos. To hide my receding hairline, I wear a baseball cap almost everywhere. Because if you, like me, aren’t the most stunning specimen on earth, you have no option but to work with what you’ve got. Because looks matter. They matter a lot.
The latest evidence of this sociological truth comes in the form of new research from Eastern Connecticut State University, which finds that even in the era of body-positivity and dad-bod-acceptance, women are less willing to date relatively unattractive men. Even when a guy boasts the best personality traits known to man–“respectful,” “trustworthy” and “honest,” for example–they don’t hold a candle to the almighty stud.
Researchers at ECSU asked women to rate images of various men paired with profiles featuring good and bad qualities. Women were then asked which men they’d go on a date with. The study determined that physical attractiveness is still the leading factor in how women size up men. Even if a guy appeared to be Prince Charming in every way except for the physical, he ranked lower than the hunky bros with milquetoast personalities. Ultimately, researchers concluded that men must have a “minimum level of physical attractiveness” for a women to pursue a first date with them.
What this ultimately unnecessary research boils down to is something we’ve always known but for some reason, don’t talk about: Women are just as shallow as men. What the study doesn’t cite, however, is just how unattractive men can be and still get laid. The research recognizes a “minimum level of physical attractiveness” but doesn’t explore what the phrasing constitutes.
So I took the query to Twitter, asking where a man with a stunning personality would need to register on a scale of one to 10 in order to land a date.
As women have achieved more autonomy, they’ve become freer to date men who are less traditionally masculine—you know, the corporate breadwinners, lumberjack hunters and dowry-holders.
The majority of my online sample agreed that a “five or six” is the lowest they’d go, followed by a “seven or eight.” This suggests that even with the greatest personality on the planet, a man still has to be firmly average to get the attention of a woman.
That being said, valueing looks over sensibility doesn’t necessarily mean we’re shallow. In fact, much of our inherent attractions could be considered selfless. Do you like a big booty, for instance? According to research, the preference symbolizes something deeper than merely being someone who enjoys a little soft spanking now and then. Evolutionary psychologists believe a large posterior actually signals that a woman is healthy, fertile and has prime skeletal morphology for unencumbered childbirth. They say something similar of large breasts.
Playboy’s resident sexual neuroscientist Debra W. Soh recently wrote about evolution’s impact on attraction: “Contrary to what gender theorists might have you believe, attractiveness is not an arbitrarily defined standard of beauty that men have only recently learned from magazines, media and the advertising industry,” she reports. “Attractiveness and youth are signs of health and fertility; they are hard-wired cues men follow when seeking a female partner. From an evolutionary perspective, these preferences exist for the purpose of successful reproduction.”
Of course, attraction itself evolves, and this evolution has become particularly evident among women who, in the past, primarily sought men for strength, sustenance and security. As time has passed and women have achieved more autonomy, they’ve become freer to date men who are less traditionally masculine—you know, the corporate breadwinners, lumberjack hunters and dowry-holders.
Despite the evolutionary advances that have allowed beta males to compete equally against alphas, ECSU’s research proves average men will always have the short end of the stick. So what do us fives need to do to compete against the 10s?
“To help compete with more attractive peers, the unattractive man is going to have to try a little harder to get noticed,” Katy Zvolerin, sexologist and public relations director for adameve, tells Playboy. “A great haircut and attention to personal hygiene go a long way, but personality and a sense of humor are also quite important. You should be approachable and confident, even if you’re shy or awkward, and embrace that aspect of your personality. Go with it.” (To become instantly better-looking to the opposite sex, you might even consider moving to one of these cities.)
Let me translate Zvolerin: unattractive dudes have no other option but to embrace the “But he’s really nice!” narrative and try our damndest to achieve it. We may never slow down time when we enter a room, but history proves that as attraction evolves, women are becoming increasingly drawn toward men who respect over those who may merely protect them with muscles or money. “While you may not have the looks, remember there are a lot of gorgeous women who sit home on Friday and Saturday nights because everyone assumes their dance card is full,” Zvolerin says. In other words, a lot of women are simply waiting to be approached. So, start there.