As a 21-year-old heterosexual male, I am blessed in that I have to contend with barely any double-standards in the realms of courtship and love. However, there is one such double-standard that does possibly affect men, and I’ve seen it thrown around quite a bit in recent years — most often found in various forums, attention-seeking social media posts and sneering criticisms of “Twilight’s” Edward Cullen. The theory reads thusly: When a man does something romantic or flirtatious, it is considered sexy if the man is physically attractive and creepy if he isn’t.
I’ll be clear now in saying that I don’t fully agree, but I can easily see how this view is as widely accepted as it is. For the sake of thought experimenting, let’s compare the possible results of the same actions taken by two different men, one hot and one not: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Steve Buscemi (who I will be calling Jo-Go and Bushem for the remainder of this article).
Now then, let’s say Jo-Go and Bushem have both known a lady they fancy for about a month. Jo-Go texts her something like, “Hey, what are you doing tonight?” and she responds positively and starts getting herself ready. If Bushem sends that text, she might see it as intrusive and off-putting, and then proceeds to either say she’s sorry, she has stuff to do, or just flat-out ignores the message. Jo-Go goes in for a hug, and she wraps her hands around him with little hesitation, mentally complimenting him on his choice of cologne. When Bushem wants a hug, she does that one-armed side-lean thing to only give the bare minimum amount of physical contact needed to not seem rude. You get the idea.
And I can’t deny that there is some truth to the claim purely for biological reasons. Numerous studies have concluded that the primal part in all of us looks for features best suited for mating, so we are more naturally pleased by the sight of attractive people and tend to have dismissive reactions to those we find unattractive. Because of that pleasure, we are going to be inherently more receptive to people we think are hot. It’s almost like a form of wish-fulfillment — we are more open to what an attractive person would say or do because part of us hopes everything else about them is just as excellent as their face or body (something psychologists have dubbed the “Halo effect”). By contrast, unattractive people are at a disadvantage because they have to work extra hard to move past the initial disinterest.
But there are some things I really don’t like about blindly adhering to this idea. For one thing, it implies that there is no action that is inherently creepy. If one accepted this as truth, one could leap to the conclusion that they can do whatever the hell they want to woo a potential lover because it’s a 50-50 shot as to whether the potential lover finds them attractive or not. Some stuff is just not OK to say or do — and I hope I don’t have to spell them all out for you. In addition, it ignores the fact that there is no true consensus on what is attractive and what is unattractive. Maybe a woman finds Bushem’s smile genuine and thinks Jo-Go’s face is constantly scrunched up like the room he’s in is uncomfortably bright. Different strokes for different folks, man.
Also, I think that in many, if not most cases, there is more nuance to this sexy-or-creepy paradigm. I don’t think that being sexy and being creepy are two sides to one coin with the toss’ outcome relying solely on how attractive the guy is. Instead, I think it mostly comes down to the Jo-Gos of the world having more experience in the dating world than the Bushems.
My hypothesis is that Jo-Gos either won the genetic lottery or worked hard for a fit physique at a fairly young age. Due to this initial attractive state, they had a bit of that previously mentioned advantage, and more importantly, a surge of confidence. And because of both of those factors, they were able to dive into the realm of courtship early on, thus allowing them to accrue a lot of crucial knowledge in regards to reading social cues and naturally making connections with people. This knowledge is the bigger cause of their success, not their good looks.
Then we have the Bushems, who for whatever reason, did not have the same level of confidence early on and were either too disheartened to engage in courtship, or did not learn anything from their experiences. As a result, to win affections, they say or do things that they assume will work, regardless of the kind of connection they’ve built with their love interest or what vibes they’ve given them.
To sum it all up: Thanks to their experience with connecting to people and reading social cues, Jo-Gos engage in romantic behavior that they know their one specific love interest will react positively to, and thus their actions are sexy. But due to the lack of experience, Bushems engage in romantic behavior they think any love interest would react positively to, and thus their actions can seem unwarranted, inappropriate and, well, creepy.
So to any man who’s bummed out or making a stink on the Internet because they think they are a Bushem, let me just say that I think there is yet hope. You may be at a bit of a disadvantage, but if you just keep dating, learning from your mistakes and developing good people skills, you will soon find yourself succeeding more often than you fail in the battlefield that is love. Really, if you don’t believe me, just look up Christina Hendricks and her husband, and then you’ll know that there’s hope for everyone. Like most things in life, it’s experience and practice that are the real keys to success, not how chiseled your jaw and abs are.