Ladies, what gives you confidence when you go out? Men, what about you?
In a recent survey we asked 100 women and 50 men what is the one thing in their purse or wallet that provides them with confidence? The most commonly reported item for women – lipstick/lip gloss, and men – a $100 bill. So the question isn’t are men and women different, but rather, how and why they’re different.
We’re told by the “experts” and media that the male market for cosmetic medicine is exploding. I believe that understanding the natural selection pressures on humans over the past 250,000 years, and its influence on what’s “attractive” is essential to comprehending the motivators behind our current and emerging market of male patients.
That leads us to initial judgments of men and women. At first sight, do we lend more value to the sexual fortitude, financial status and political prowess of a man than we do when forming judgments on a woman? Do we unfairly place too much emphasis on appearance when it comes to judging women’s first impressions? If so, is it innately encoded, or just a misogynist crafted philosophy reinforced by a misaligned male dominated society? And what does all this have to do with aesthetic medicine anyway?
For a serious discussion (admittedly beyond the scope of this article), we first have to remove our preconceived social, political and religious notions, and do our best to solely focus on the science of human evolution and nature. If we’re focused on the intent to better determine the most appropriate aesthetic treatments for each gender, then we can narrowly define, agree to, and interpret the minor difference in the sexes, while viewing it within the context of how it impacts beauty and self -esteem.
If you believe in Darwin’s Theory of Natural selection, then as humans, we have one purpose on earth: survival of our genes. We want to produce a more genetically fit offspring and species. Therefore, humans are constantly in search of good genes, and over the last 3.5 million years of evolution, a highly accurate subconscious sense has been engineered that can detect good genes. While the relationship between good genes and physical beauty is commonly associated with a female, a male’s gene quality is characterized by his projected ability to provide resources for his mate and future family – this is interpreted as attractive.
Again, throughout 99% of our evolutionary existence, a successful male was predicated by his ability to provide resources. He would have been aerobically fit to better hunt his prey, possess a sharp intellect making him able to track animals, and strong enough to fend off attacks from beasts or jealous contemporaries. Men who were better adapted for this task would have been able to garner more resources, which, from an evolutionary perspective, is imperative to a man’s goal of ensuring genetic survival. Moreover, while physical prowess was instrumental to hunting and defending against predation, males with dominant facial features such as a strong chin, brow and nose would be at an advantage.
Unlike the female face, which benefits from a small chin, large eyes, petite nose and homogeneous skin, an attractive male incorporates what was listed above, in addition to dark skin, a well-defined jaw line and a framing brow. Women have been inclined to desire the male with these dominant features. Even when given only seconds to make a judgment, humans are drawn to males with dominant, attractive facial characteristics when it comes to positions of power and leadership.
To illustrate, a long-range analysis of West Point Academy revealed that freshman cadets with more dominant facial features such as broad chins were more likely to achieve higher rank in the military.
Likewise, in business it has been shown that a CEO’s appearance directly correlates with his company’s financial success. Also, a better or a more competent looking male candidate is more likely to win election for public office.
We like our male leaders tall, dark with a strong jaw, power chin and a full head of hair. We also don’t like our men in leadership to smile wide, showing their teeth; we find that somewhat deceitful. This is the reason that you rarely, if ever see a CEO or politically elected leader with a wide smile. Just take one look at the 44 presidential portraits over the last 225 years; only the last four display smiles showing their teeth.
Based on those statistics, it is clear to see that the physical traits once imperative to survival in the Pleistocene have become a viable predictor of our modern concepts of male sexual attraction. And by being keenly aware that what makes a male attractive is different from what makes a female attractive helps prevent us from treating men the same as women. Approximately 90% of aesthetic procedures are done on women. Thus, most our training, thinking, research, writings and marketing are created within the context of the female model of attractiveness. However, if we use those same procedures, products, aesthetic philosophy and designs on men that are developed for women, may miss the mark.
Look no further then Hollywood male stars, Bruce Jenner, Kenny Rogers and Mickey Rourke that have been feminized. This practice only leads to greater aversion from our craft. Both men and women are pleading with us to keep them looking natural and within the context of their gender. We have a duty to respond by recognizing there are physical differences in male and female beauty, and for now there still remain differences in what motivates each gender to undergo an image altering procedure.
Despite evidence pointing to intellectual features like creativity, humor and artistic talent gaining more importance in the perception of attractiveness, evolutionary adaptations occur over eons, not decades. It is essential that the cosmetic physician is able to recognize and achieve what dictates the idealized dominant male face without treating it towards a feminizing appearance. We have an emerging male market, and by adopting an evolutionary lens while evaluating and treating, we gain an increasingly clear view and direction to meeting and exceeding the male’s expectations.
- Clark R, Hatfield E. Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers J of Psych and Hum Sex 1989:2:39-55.
- Mazur A. Booth A. Testosterone and Dominance in men. 1998 Behav Brain Sci 21 (3) 353-363.
- Rule NO, Ambady N. The face of success: inferences from chief executive officers’ appearance predict company profits. Psychol Sci. Feb 2008;19(2):109-111.
- Todorov A, Mandisodza AN, Goren A, Hall CC. Inferences of competence from faces predict election outcomes.
- Philips KA Diaz SF Gender differences in body dymsporphic disorder. 1997 J of Nervous and Ment dis. 185 (9) 570-577.
- Dixson B Am J of Hum Biol 19:88-95 (2007)
- Francken A et al What importance do women attribute to size of the penis. European Urology 42 (2002) 426-11
- Dayan S. Subliminally Exposed 2013. Morgan James Publishing New York, New York.