And all the girls walk by
Dressed up for each other
Van Morrison, Wild Night
I’ve had a theory for a while about makeup. Women wear it to attract men, but often apply it in such a way as to subvert their own goals. I believe that different looks attract different types of attention, and women should use makeup strategically in keeping with their mating objectives.
My theory was given a boost last weekend, when Jenna, an attractive college senior I know personally, called to tell me a funny story. She and her roommates had nothing special planned last Friday, but at around 10 a guy friend called inviting them to a party. He urged them not to dawdle, because the host would stop letting people in if it got too crowded.
Jenna jumped in the shower, washed her hair, and flew around getting ready for the next half hour. She blew her hair dry, and was applying her makeup when her roommates told her they were going now. Thankfully, she was just putting on her lipstick, so she grabbed her shoes and ran out the door. On the way, she was horrified when she caught a glimpse of herself in the car window, and realized she had never done her eyes. Her hair, skin and lips looked fabulous, but her eyes looked beady and her blonde lashes were nearly invisible! Her roommates thought this was hilarious, but neither had eye makeup with them, and they refused to go back.
About a half hour into the party, the handsomest boy in the room approached Jenna and introduced himself. They talked and danced all evening. At the end of the evening, he asked to take her home, and she said, “Look, nothing is going to happen tonight. I don’t hook up.” (Yay Jenna!)
To her amazement, he was taken aback and assured her that he had no ideas along those lines. He said, “I’m not even trying to make this a one-night thing.” It’s been less than a week, but Jenna says all flags are green so far.
She wonders if there could possibly be any connection to the fact that she wore no makeup? Did it make her seem more approachable? More modest? Jenna attracts her fair share of players, always with the smokey eye look. They always take off as soon as they realize she’s not going to put out. Had Jenna been doing some false advertising, specifically selecting for hardened player types?
Why do women wear makeup?
All women’s fashion, whether cosmetic or clothing, is designed to make the female appear young and fertile to males. The cosmetics industry makes products that virtually all young women purchase in some amount. Women’s magazines relentlessly promote cosmetics, not only via ads but also through articles instructing women about the new colors for the season, and plenty of instruction on how to apply it. I’m certain that on the newstand today, I could find dozens of features on the most effective way to create that coveted smokey eye look.
The designing and marketing of cosmetics is tailored to female insecurity around beauty, as defined primarily by gay men and merchants. When straight men are asked about makeup, they often express the belief that less is more. But Fashion Week sets the tone, literally, and bizarro runway models with freaky painted faces inspire next season’s lines.
Are women painting their faces in a way that repels men? Or certain kinds of men? Are they dressing up for each other as part of the rituals of intrasexual female competition for the most desirable males?
There is no question that makeup draws the attention of men. One study had two women in their early 20s go to bars for sixty sessions over twenty nights. Sometimes they wore makeup, sometimes they went bare. On nights when the women used cosmetics, they were approached within 17 minutes, and by an average of 2 men per hour. On the other nights, 1.5 men approached, on average, within 23 minutes.
This is key: Women with makeup get hit on more in bars.
Why do men approach women in bars? In hopes of gaining access to sex. So we may surmise that wearing makeup leads to more requests for sex. What we don’t know is how women wearing makeup fare in other settings. Do women wearing makeup in class get more male attention? Are those men indirectly requesting sex? Do women with less or no makeup get male attention, and if so, do those males have a different objective?
The wearing of makeup goes back 6,000 years and has been present in nearly every society on earth. It has very practical applications in creating the appearance of high fertility:
|Eyes||Clear, bright, large||
Eyeshadow and mascara make eyes look larger.
Dark lashes and eyeliner make whites of eyes look whiter.
Shaping brows frames the eyes, and removes hair to produce the appearance of higher estrogen.
Full, dark lips
Even, white teeth
Lip color fades with age, so naturally red lips indicate youth. Lipsticks and stains mimic the effect.
Gloss implies the female is salivating with desire.
Teeth whitening and straightening advertise good dental genes.
Clear, even tone
Foundations even out tone and cover spots or blotchiness.
Blush mimics the rosy hue of youth in the cheeks.
|Hair||Shiny, healthy, thick||Hair products create shine, texture and body. Long, abundant hair shows off the feature to its fullest advantage.|
When is enough enough? At what point has the desired effect been reached? Consider these photos of celebrities:
One study asked 100 random men on the street which pics they preferred:
Ashley Greene: Natural 76%, Glam 24%
Charlize Theron: Natural 72%, Glam 28%
Megan Fox: Natural 82%, Glam 18%
Jennifer Lopez: Natural 62%, Glam 38%
Zoe Saldana: Natural 54%, Glam 46%
Of course, it’s women who will decide the morning after a red carpet event who looked great and who looked terrible. The men have little influence.
Badger recently weighed in on this at Badger Hut:
Here’s a newsflash for women from me, on behalf of men in general: we don’t give a shit about fashion. We don’t care what celebrities are wearing on the red carpet. (We do care about what’s under the dresses.) Heavy makeup does not make a woman prettier, although light makeup is tasteful. Fashionable clothing does not make a woman any hotter; Kate Middleton is pretty no matter what she’s wearing, though I understand that to women around the world she would just be Katie from the block if she didn’t have William’s nuclear preselection. (Speaking of which, I’ll never understand why Cammila Bowles wore a dead bird in her hair in her wedding to Prince Charles.)
When we have to go somewhere we don’t care if it’s the pink top or the blue top. Maybe your ass does look fat in those pants, but we’ll give your groin a tactile examination just to make sure.
A beauty blogger named Anna shared this illuminating conversation with her fiance:
Eric: “You’re so beautiful”
Me: “Really? You never say I look beautiful when I wear makeup. I mean, do you like me with makeup?”
Eric: “Well of course you look pretty with makeup.”
Me: “You seem to compliment me more when I look like a little dude.”
Eric: “No, when you’re Not wearing makeup it’s like, you look innocent. I look in your eyes and see your soul. I can’t see to your soul with all that clown whore makeup on.”
Me: “…………….(blink blink)………………..thanks……….”
Clown whore makeup? Is that how we look to men?
Another woman wrote in recently to an advice column written by a professional matchmaker:
Q: I’m getting sick and tired of guys only wanting one thing from me. I’m in my 20s, and have had only one boyfriend. The rest of the men I’ve been with have all been one-night stands and booty calls.
I feel like guys take one look at me and think sex. I’m tall and have blond hair. I do like to dress sexy when I go out, but I try to keep it sophisticated-sexy. I’m a very confident and outgoing person and I love to meet new people, which is often why I go up to random guys and start up a conversation.
Does this make me seem easy? What am I doing wrong? Should I stop dressing sexy? Wear lighter makeup? Stop approaching guys? Stop going to nightclubs?
A. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong by wearing makeup, being blond and tall, or wearing sophisticated-sexy outfits. Anyone going to a bar or club trying to meet people should definitely strive to look their best and be outgoing and approachable. However, if you want to meet someone who’s interested in you for more than a hookup, you need to stop hooking up. Period.
Well this advice is total crap. She’s missing the whole point. Let me fix it:
If you want to meet someone who’s interested in you for more than a hookup, you need to stop looking like you’re down for a one-night stand.
For an understanding of what men are looking for when they want a relationship, I turned to Andy Ajzenkopf at Ask Men, who wrote an article about The Appeal of The Girl Next Door.
“Most guys are attracted to the all-night, uber-party girl. But eventually, our focus shifts toward someone with whom we can settle down.
Typically, we look for the wholesome, naturally pretty, more demure female who we’ve come to know as “the girl next door.” Somehow she embodies all of our more mature and tamer instincts: marriage, children and tender companionship.”
Here’s how he defines her:
“Every guy may have his specific girl-next-door prototype, but in general, she’s the girl whom you always admired from afar and were afraid to approach, fearing that any erotic projection toward her would ruin her image as a decent, pure and almost virginal womanly ideal.
She’s (in your mind at least) untrodden ground; unspoiled by other men and so sweet-natured it almost frightens you to think of her in explicit sexual situations. Almost.”
He’s looking for several specific qualities, but here’s the one that jumped out at me:
“She doesn’t attract attention. She’s “under the radar,” so to speak. Guys won’t hit on her everywhere you go; not because she’s unattractive, but because she prefers to remain low-key, both in her appearance and her attitude. She’s neither a flirt nor is she flashy; but she has that natural beauty that doesn’t require coats of makeup.”
Men appreciate authencity, and they hate being duped. I read one account of a man who talked a woman into going home with him, but when they got outside under the streetlight he almost had a heart attack and bailed when he saw how much makeup she was wearing. Another guy talked about a woman who “got ready” in his bathroom, and when she emerged without makeup, he yelled, “Dude, what did you do with your sister?!”
I don’t have any scientific evidence for my theory. But I’m willing to bet that if you go easy on the makeup, you’ll get a better class of guy approaching you. Of course, it depends on what you consider classy. If you’re looking for The Situation, don’t change a thing.