In praise of superficiality

Lately around here I’ve been doing a lot of trawling through media detritus for things to make fun of. That’s kinda amusing, but on the other hand, it’s surprisingly taxing, what with the reading and the analysing and the hyper-linking and so forth. Consequently, today it’s time for a change of pace. Specifically, it’s time for a post that requires very little work on my part. I’m going to spout one of my theories. I’ve sat on this post for a little while, concerned that it was self-indulgent. But then I was like, whatevs, redundant, blog-haver!

Now, anybody who has known me for any length of time will have noticed that I talk about hot guys a lot.

In case you were wondering, yes, I am quite conscious of the fact that this makes me seem like a bit of a tool. Perhaps I am. But! Here’s the thing. It’s political! I’m an activist, trying to change the world, one inappropriate-in-the-workplace-or-at-nana’s-80th-birthday-lunch-comment at a time. Because, you see…

I have a theory:

Without wading too deeply into the murky waters cesspool of evolutionary psychology, when it comes to sex and sexual relationships, it appears that the average contemporary western woman reports placing less value on a partner’s physical attractiveness than the average contemporary western man. My cursory look at the literature suggests that there’s evidence for that, but whatever, it could be totally dodgy. On these topics, I think it’s always important to recognise that how people describe their motivations and behaviours in surveys and suchlike is not necessarily accurate. But whether women tend to value looks less or only think or report that they do, I think it’s fair to say that many of us feel we aren’t supposed to be superficial. And I think there’s a broader cultural idea that caring ‘too much’ about looks means one is immature and shallow.

But I think that’s bunkum!

My theory is that straight women would be more sexually fulfilled if they allowed themselves to pay more attention to and revel in looks and physical, chemical attraction. I’ll just come right out with it now and say that I do not have any evidence at all for my theory, unless you’ll allow me to count My Personal Experience. Why, just the other week I was defiling a pretty Toorak streetscape having sex with this chap in his car, and was suddenly struck by the beautiful shape of said chap’s thigh/backside illuminated in the streetlight, and felt instantly 24% more fulfilled. It was wonderful! But things weren’t always so…


As a teenager I was a quivering, boy-obsessed bag of hormones. My Catholic girls’ school* didn’t provide any stimulus, but from the age of 15 for a couple of years I worked at a McDonald’s. There I had intense and overlapping crushes on Simon, Doug, Dean, Vinnie and, most obsessively, Scott. Scott was gorgeous all over, and had the most beautiful arms. I specifically and vividly recall admiring his forearm as he scooped lard into the fry vat on one of my first days at work. I knew nothing of his personality because I was too awestruck to talk to him; my interest was wholly physical.

But while I was very attuned to my aesthetic tastes in men, my first boyfriend was someone I was barely attracted to, physically speaking. He was, though, the first boy to show any interest in me, and he was decent and fun and very intelligent, so that was enough.

My second boyfriend, Cameron, was 30 when  I met him at 18. I went out with him mainly for his political values (something I will never, ever do again), but I was not very physically attracted to him either. It didn’t help that he put close to zero effort into his appearance, regularly wearing, for example, torn old singlets covered in holes and bits of food (for realz!). He didn’t necessarily shower every day, even during Queensland summers, and even though he cycled everywhere, and once explained to me that he didn’t like to wash before seeing me because then he felt as though he was only doing it for sex-related reasons. (LOLWATTFWASITHINKING?!) I never really objected to any of these things because I was then as now averse to telling anyone what to do, but the rancid ball sweat sure made it harder for me to muster my sexual enthusiasm.

When Cameron and I broke up after a couple of years, it prompted a few major revelations about men, sex, and relationships. I realised that I was an incorrigible hornbag and that monogamy wasn’t for me.** I also decided that I was  going to stop settling for personality alone when it came to sex and sexual relationships, and start allowing myself to care a lot more about base physical attraction. And ever since then I’ve been much more, you know, satisfied.

Qualifications, clarifications (I’m not a terrible person, honest)

I want to be clear about what I’m saying here. I’m not saying that a person’s human worth, or how they deserve to be treated, is related to their physical attractiveness. I’m not saying that sex or relationships are or should be based wholly on physical attraction, that personality is not important, or that personality doesn’t play its part in attraction. And I’m not saying that I think there’s an objective beauty standard, for men or for women. Obviously, different physical features are attractive to different people, even while, at the same time, some features are more widely liked than others. That is, of course, cosmically unfair – but not anybody’s fault.

All I’m saying is that I think sexual satisfaction is closely linked to sexual attraction, which in turn has a lot to do with physicality, how our partners look and feel (and smell and taste). If you value sexual satisfaction in your life (and I do), then I think you’ll do well to put aside the saintly exclusive regard for personality and pay attention to what really gets your motor going.

Because there are these two things about sex:

1. We can’t really control our desires

As anyone who has tried it knows, fighting against your inner sexual nature is tiring because it’s a battle that’s never won. You might be able to avoid acting on your desires, but you probably won’t be able to change them or or stop having them.

2. Enthusiasm is pretty key

Most all of us want to be having sex with people that really truly want to be having sex with us. Even if you try (as I have) to have sex with someone you like (or even love) but are not attracted to, because you feel you should want to, that’s usually not going to quite do it for your partner. They want you to want them!

I think that this means we’re not doing anybody any favours when we don’t allow ourselves to be superficial. We’ll struggle mightily to maintain sexual enthusiasm and activity while failing to give our partners the genuine desire that they probably want, and that someone else might have given them. Nobody wins.


* Which is not to say that I or my parents were Catholic, I should note.

** By the by, if this non-monogamy caper is of interest to you, I have written about how I came to it in detail in an essay, in an actual book, printed on paper, and published by a publisher! Amazing! The book is called Naked: Confessions of Adultery & Infidelity.


Filed under Introspection

4 responses to “In praise of superficiality

  1. Pingback: Dating and effort | Dinosaurs in tutus:

  2. Aaron

    Women really shouldn’t feel bad about this. Sure, I want her to like my personality, but in bed I want her to want my body. I doubt any man would complain about being sexually objectified at that point, so go for it.

    It bothers me that guys don’t work on their appearance more (girls deserve the same effort they give us), and I sometimes suspect that if women were more open about expressing this idea that it might change things.

  3. David

    I have been working my way back through your thoughts (while I should actually be working) and was indeed wondering how this non-monogamy caper came about. I was contemplating emailing you if I didn’t eventually stumble across it. Instead, I will go and purchase your real, published book. Cheers.


    Great blog by the way. Its quite interesting getting a female perspective on sexuality and how it effects your/female interactions.

  4. anniceris

    Thanks David! I am quite flattered you like my blog enough to actually work your way through it :)
    Re the book, mine is only one of a bunch of essays in it, I think the second-last one. The book’s a few years old now and I don’t know if it’s actually available to buy still, or if it can be gotten outside Australia (assuming you’re not Aussie too!). Anyhow, if you can’t find it and are still interested then get in touch, I think I have a digital version I could track down. :)

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