In the first part of this new human guinea pig series, the author figures out the game plan on how he’s going to become the perfect man.
Back in the days of yore, masculinity was a generally uncomplicated issue: You had to dress like that guy from Mad Men, talk like Alfie, and kill villainous outlaws vis-a-vis Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars.
If you could do all that while fixing a busted car engine, you pretty much had it made.
Note that I said uncomplicated, not easy.
Times have changed. With the advent of feminism and online dating, men are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about masculinity.
If you are a member of the fairer sex, do forgive me for making this self-centred statement: Sometimes, it can be deeply perplexing to be a single guy in the 21st century. Do we pay for dinner on the first date, or would that be presumptuous? Do we hold the door? Will we get eaten by White Walkers if we do?
I believe that the progress of technology and gender equality are wonderful developments. But it’s hard to dispute the fact that as we make advances in these fields, various countertrends have started to crop up around the globe. Japan’s staggering number of virgin millenials has been attributed to the lack of confidence that Japanese males feel towards dating, due to stagnant and decreasing wages.
The technology that gave us mobile dating apps could have potentially sparked a renaissance of new digital relationships. Instead, women and men alike bemoan the death of romance, and the pervasiveness of hook up culture.
The digital age that we live in poses new questions about masculinity: Is masculinity an outdated concept? What are the modern benchmarks of male attractiveness? And — as I hope to find out through self-experimentation — are these standards attainable for the average bloke?
What Maketh a Sexy Man?
As any bad business guru will tell you, it’s important to have goals to work towards. Before I can take steps towards becoming sexy, I have to define that most nebulous of concepts.
We tend to think of physical attractiveness as being absolute, rather than subjective. But going back through history — and across world culture — one realises that there has never been a universal standard for beauty.
Ever wondered why statues of the gods and heroes of the Greco-Roman era have such small penises? Apparently, the ideal Greek man was rational, logical and in control of his baser instinct; these traits were symbolised by a smaller member. Larger penises, more often found in depictions of centaurs and satyrs, signified foolishness and a lack of ability to control one’s animalistic side.
Variations in ideal beauty hold true for women as well: The Kayan Lahwi of Myanmar consider long necks to be attractive, and the women of the tribe wear brass coils around their necks to lengthen them. Marilyn Monroe, an archetype of female sexuality in her time, would have been considered chubby by today’s modelling agents and fashion magazines.
But what about us 21st century, city-dwelling homo sapiens?
Well, the jury seems to be divided in that regard. There are tons of differing accounts about what constitutes attraction to a member of the opposite sex, with many scientists providing conflicting studies of what male attractiveness should look like.
Consider this bizarrely specific list, which identifies attractive men as individuals who:
- Drive fast cars
- Have hairy faces but smooth bodies
- Possess deep voices and withhold compliments
- Are tall
Even this short list doesn’t engender much hope for my prospects as an ideal mate. I’ve never learned how to drive, look like a dying rat when I grow out my moustache, have a nasal speaking voice, and stand at a middling 1.76 metres. Sure, I may be able to withhold compliments like a champ, but I doubt that sole virtue is going to increase my desirability to members of the fairer sex.
The further I delve into the subject of attraction, the more it seems like my DNA is doomed to wallow in the abandoned end of the gene pool: Women like men who are mindful; who are nice guys; who are bad boys; who possess vast sums of money; who possess a wealth of experience; who wear red; who save lives; who play with fire.
A study conducted by Professor Geoffrey Miller – an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico – posits that intelligence in men correlates to higher attractiveness, better genes and stronger sperm.
That is quite possibly the only reassuring piece of news I manage to glean from my research. If there’s one skill that being a journalist has taught me, it’s how to act intelligent.
Now I just have to hope that my sperm won’t catch on to my bluff.
Parameters of Perfection
Not all the studies look completely bleak, but the contradictions in the research certainly seem endless. It probably has to do with trying to make generalisations about an entire globe of women.
If I’m going to embark on a quest to reengineer myself as sexually attractive, scattered reports on what constitutes sexiness isn’t going to be sufficient. For my experiment to have any weight— and to stop myself from going batshit crazy in the process — I’ll have to find data that’s relevant to the region I live in.
Thankfully, the good people at female-centric dating app, Lunchclick, were willing to lend me a hand. They provided me with access to a 2015 survey which queried 1969 respondents in the Southeast Asian region on everything from dating habits to what they found desirable in members of the opposite sex.
In one of their questions, they asked respondents what singular trait would guarantee a first date. The responses, in order of frequency, were as follows:
4. Family Values
6. Good Dress Sense
It’s not the largest sample size to work with, but it does give my experiment a sense of direction. Surprisingly, material traits – like income and a nice car – seem to be non-factors. And some of these traits may not be within my ability to realistically accomplish: Short of facial reconstruction surgery and deliberating spawning a few by blows, I doubt I’ll be able to buy myself a cleft chin, or demonstrate my competence as a family man.
That whittles things down to a manageable, but still foreboding, list of 4 challenges that I’m going to have to accomplish over the forthcoming months:
- A stellar body
- A keen intellect
- Sartorial smarts
My game plan is fixed. Now all that remains is to go forth and execute it, with a little help from friends, experts, and individuals who are susceptible to cruel and unusual punishment.
God help us all.
Thank you to our friends at Lunchclick for the survey used in this article. Check back in November for part two of Mr Perfect, in which the author reports back on his attempt to attain the perfect body.