Would women in Shanghai or Canada be afraid of you? Would women in Fiji be attracted to you?
A recent study found that sexual preference for “masculine men” and “feminine women” is not something that emerged thousands of years ago in our evolutionary ancestors, but rather something new and somewhat specific to urbanized cultures. I found that one of the most interesting takeaways from this article was that simply having “masculine” traits–facial features like a square jaw, etc.–was associated with perceived aggression (seemingly insinuating that the more masculine you are the more aggressive you are).
Specifically, participants were shown several ethnically diverse sets of pictures and asked, among other things, “Which face is the nastiest (most cruel, unkind, aggressive, difficult, unpleasant to live with)?” Bear in mind that in all pictures the face had a neutral emotional expression. What an unfortunate finding for those of us who were born with traditionally masculine traits! It’s almost as though they’re saying, “Good luck finding a woman that is not afraid of you!”
Now, to be fair,I may have hyperbolized a bit there. But in all seriousness, it’s too bad that being born with a set of traits may influence what a majority of women may imagine about your personality before they even meet you. (By the way, I’m discussing heterosexual relationships here because that was the specific focus of the research group in the article below). On the plus side for those “nasty” men identified above, masculine traits were often also found to be more visually attractive.
I highly recommend checking out the study: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/40/14388
It’s got some interesting info about how culture, urbanization, and availability of not only potential partners but also visual cues (billboards, TV, etc.) may influence the way we perceive threat and whom we find attractive.
Perhaps the most significant finding is the societal differences shown in the figure above. The figure demonstrates that the more urbanized the culture (Shanghai, UK, Canada) the higher the percentage of women surveyed that found more masculine traits to be aggressive (longer blue lines). Women in less-developed cultures tended to be much less likely to show a preference for “masculine” traits and less likely to perceive them as aggressive (more evenly distributed blue, white, and pink lines).
So, are you seen as nasty and aggressive? Do your traits match your personality? It may largely depend on where you live and what kind of women are around! What can we do about this in “urbanized” and Western cultures so that masculine men are not unfairly labeled as aggressive, nasty, and just plain hard to live with?