Do Pretty Girls Have it Harder?

September 11, 2009

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life

Never make a pretty woman your wife

So from my personal point of view

Get an ugly girl to marry you

Jimmy Soul, 1970


Do beautiful women have a harder time finding real love? I bet Jennifer Aniston thinks so. The woman in this photo writes the great blog, and is the author of Words to Date By, which I posted a few months ago here at HUS. It’s clear that like everyone else, she’s had her share of disappointments and douchebags, though I have a hard time imagining that she doesn’t get and keep whoever the hell she wants.

Conventional wisdom and research provide lots of evidence that good-looking people enjoy many advantages in life. They make friends more easily, get more promotions at work, and presumably have no trouble attracting members of the opposite sex. They are perceived to have a very high mating value.

So why do I know so many beautiful unhappy and lonely women? I know what you’re thinking: Cry Me a River.

To the rest of us, beautiful people are coasting on their looks, getting all sorts of stuff they didn’t have to work for. When I was in middle school, my family moved from New York to LA. In New York, I’d been feisty and outspoken, confident in my smarts and my Irish looks. When I got to LA I realized right away that things were not going to go so well for me there. Where I was short and curvy, with dark hair, the ideal California girl was…well, you know exactly who she was. She was the woman in this photo.

In the end, guys didn’t like me much in high school, but the girls did. I wound up as court jester to the most beautiful, perfect blondes on campus. I was granted a full array of priveleges, such as going over to help them get ready for formal dances, or coordinating the publicity for their various elections. They effortlessly reeled in all the hottest guys and made them boyfriends.

What’s changed? Well, for one thing, in that era guys derived social status from being able to attract and keep a hot girlfriend. They were pretty much the only guys getting regular sex. Today, that’s been turned upside down. In his 2008 book Guyland, Michael Kimmel makes some interesting observations about the way men aged 18-26 view relationships today:

  • “Because Guyland is so homosocial, it requires the relentless assertion of heterosexuality.”
  • “The guys who appear the most disinterested are the ones who end up being the coolest, and that the girls find most attractive. When women decline sexual advances, they threaten masculinity.  That’s why guys like porn so much:  the women are compliant.”
  • “Sex in Guyland is guys’ sex.  Women are welcome to act upon their sexual desires, but guys run the scene.  Many young women are biding their time, waiting for the guys to grow up and start acting like men.”
  • “If sex were the goal, a guy would have a much better chance of having more (and better) sex if he had a steady girlfriend.  Instead, guys hook up to prove something to other guys.  The actual experience of sex pales in comparison to the experience of talking about sex.”

For guys, scoring sex becomes the most important goal on any given evening. Therefore, it is important to maximize your chances for success by avoiding girls where the risk of rejection is high. Hooking up with a girl deemed unattractive by your buddies is explained away by your drunkenness, and is vastly preferable to “not getting any.” This leads most guys to pursue whatever woman they feel is most likely to accept their advances.

Beautiful women, expecting to have a high mating value, find themselves targeted by only the most sexually aggressive men. These tend to be men who are extremely good-looking and have a strong track record of hooking up with whomever they want. It is they who have the highest mating value, sexually speaking. If they were interested in a relationship, they would likely target girls of similar attractiveness, but few of them are. Often, very good-looking girls discover that they are only the newest challenge, the most difficult sexual conquest, for a popular guy. As long as guys derive status from “banging bitches” instead of having girlfriends, none of this is likely to change.

This short film, Not Pretty, Really was shown at Sundance in 2006. It’s less than three minutes, so hang in there – I especially want you to watch the woman who comes on at 1:50. It’s powerful and moving.


Last semester, a very good-looking young woman got the following text on her phone late at night from a frat star she barely knew:

ur so hot i wanna cum on your tits 2nite

When she told me about it, she sounded very much like the woman in this film. She said, “Guys say disgusting things to me when they’re drunk. I wish I could meet someone who wanted to get to know me, someone who would get me.”

What happens as men age and presumably become more interested in having a real relationship?

In researching this question, I discovered that the question of why beautiful women are often perpetually unattached is a very popular one on dating and relationship forum sites, which cater to singles in their 20s and older.

A representative sample of male responses:

“I find pretty women intimidating. I would rather approach a less-attractive woman who might accept my advances.”

“Most men are intimidated by good looks. They think that because she looks good, she must be high maintenance, hard to get, already dating, and snobby. The few men that do approach her are all players who like to play head games just to get into her panties and claim her as a trophy. Some men that date beautiful women know this. They know that in most cases, beautiful women are single, fed up of head games and craving for a real man to approach them and desire them for who they are and not solely for their bodies.”

“Guys don’t want other guys drooling over their girlfriend.”

“Men do not like to approach women that they believe everyone wants.”

“Yes, guys do find it harder to talk to extremely attractive girls. Not intimidation necessarily, but a conviction that they’re just not in her league. Girls need to make themselves approachable. They need to try to initiate things, make eye contact with guys that they like. They should smile and be cute.”

“This girl must have already heard all possible pick-up lines and would not welcome an approach.”

“As far as looks go, “cute” is accessible, “pretty” is inaccessible, and “beautiful”, unattainable. A client of mine used to be a fashion model in New York. She’s smart and she has been around long enough to know it’s her looks that guys are interested in, and she won’t put up with it.”

“Remember in school when the quarterback got the prettiest girl? Believe me, guys remember, and not many of us were the quarterback. Men also have problems with self confidence and when presented with a choice between a cute girl that we have a chance with and a pretty girl that seems like a long shot, we are going to play it safe and go with cute. And relationships also have economics- the more attractive the women is the more resources a guy needs to get the girl- a fancy car, nice house, good job, or at least that how it works in a guys head. You can tell me how true that may be, but even if it’s not, the perception may well be more important then the truth.”

What’s a gorgeous girl to do?

  • Bide your time, your day will come.
  • Do not allow yourself to be objectified and used as an opportunity for some player to boast about having nailed you.
  • Focus on friendships first. A guy who cares for you as a friend is less likely to use you, and more likely to develop real feelings.
  • Be approachable, so that nice guys consider taking a chance. When you like a guy, find ways to let him know that he has a shot.

And the rest of us?

  • Hey, their loss is our gain. Most relationships today develop from hookups, and if you’re more likely to get the hookup, you have a better shot at the relationship.
  • Don’t kid yourself, though. You’re just as likely to be objectified and discussed with his peers the next day. If you want a relationship, be smart about who you have sex with.
  • Ditto the rest of the advice: Focus on friendships first. A guy who cares for you as a friend is less likely to use you, and more likely to develop real feelings.
  • Be approachable and friendly. And be yourself, because you are beautiful!

The truth is, we all want to be known, men and women alike. We seek short-term validation, but what we really crave is for someone to really see us, and to love what they see. We may get there at different times, we may get kicked to the curb a few times in the process. All of us, the beautiful and the less so, have an equal shot at happiness and real love with the right person.