Sunday, December 12, 2010

Telling it like it isn't

Dan Savage, of all people, is the impetus for this blog's latest entry in the is-fashion-for-straight-men department. On a recent podcast, a man called in because his friend (or "friend," depending how cynical we want to be) is a mid-20s man with a thing for high school boys. After pointing out the obvious - adults with such inclinations shouldn't coach youth hockey teams - Savage, in full telling-it-like-it-is mode, explained that it's normal for men to like younger people than they could possibly pursue. His example, paraphrased, was to ask, "Why do we send 15-year-old girls down the runways and not their mothers?"

Why indeed. Whether men in their heart of hearts, so to speak, would all prefer 10th graders is another matter. As for why the runways are as they are, it's because it's easier to find, among 15-year-old girls, enough straight-up-and-down types whose breasts and (god forbid) hips have yet to develop. The girls on the runway are not built all that differently from the male hockey players the caller's friend finds so alluring. (Thus the often-voiced and mildly-homophobic suspicions that runways are cast in this way because gay men would rather see men than women, and so choose women who look as androgynous as possible.)

Savage noted, after making this remark, that he expects angry calls. But it's not so much an uncomfortable-truths issue as a bad-example one. The 15-year-old girls that all straight men - if we're going to take the telling-it-worse-than-it-is, stirring-controversy approach to the question - wish could be theirs are the ones bursting out of training bras. The ones who look like wrinkle-free 35-year-old women. The ones who fulfill some fantasy by looking like grown women, but having none of the baggage (demanding career and past serious relationships versus 45 minutes of pre-calculus homework and a few crushes on not-yet-out gay classmates) of an adult.

So, there are 15-year-old girls, and there are 15-year-old girls. The 35-year-old Estonian mothers of fashion models probably would be more appealing to hetero adult men, but perhaps the curvier 19-year-old cousins would be most sought-after still. Of course, compared with the time Savage explained with confidence that it's dangerous for women to wash their entire bodies with soap (!), only to, to his credit, play a call from a woman with woman-parts and decent hygiene, this was not so off-base.

8 comments:

Matt said...

It's true that it's dangerous for women to wash their entire bodies with soap, but this is true of men, too. Some areas get too dried out with soap and so a moisturizing beauty bar or something like that should be used on the face and other areas prone to dryness. This is what Savage had in mind, right?

PG said...

The runway model example isn't useful, but Savage is at least correct with regard to John Derbyshire at National Review.

Phoebe said...

Matt,

He's not referring to faces, or to the soap vs. beauty bar distinction.

PG,

I remember that! (Does he still write about this? I haven't looked at the National Review in ages.) Derbyshire, like Savage, was, I think, intentionally going for provocative, expecting an angry reader response for telling it like it is. But I'd say Derbyshire's referring to the second category of 15-year-old girls - the ones who are already developed. If only because it crosses the line from misogyny to misogyny-plus-possible-homosexuality to suggest that girls and women are only aesthetically attractive before they have breasts or hips - not one of the "hard truths" a conservative publication would likely embrace. Of course, his disgust at a 36-year-old Jennifer Aniston suggests he himself might go more for runway models. Best of luck to him there.

Phoebe said...

Also - Savage, unlike Derbyshire, claims that the appeal of the 15-year-old is gender-neutral, or at least that gay and straight men like 15-year-olds. This is still implying that difficult truths apply to male desire, while women dream of, I don't know, 35-year-old accountants. But it's not the same as Derbyshire's idea that men remain at their peak, beauty-wise, for longer than women do.

Matt said...

I know, Phoebe- that was meant to be a joke. (The fact that only an idiot would not get what Savage meant should have been a give-away, even if you didn't think the joke was funny.)

Phoebe said...

Matt,

I have trouble judging tone via blog comments, but now that you point this out... duh, as the kids used to say.

PG said...

I think Derbyshire was going on a Hollywood concept of attractiveness, in which Sean Connery's old ass is still hawt while Kim Basinger is relegated to playing Eminem's mom. This is actually more ludicrous than Savage's runway model example, because of course the bankability of movie stars has a great deal to do with qualities other than their pure physical being at rest. Connery, if you aren't hearing the accent and remembering him as Bond, is a pretty average-looking pensioner with heavy eyebrows.

Phoebe said...

PG,

He meant movie stars? I thought he was referring to what would do it for him, naked-female-form-wise, and projecting those preferences onto men generally.

But yes, there's a lot going on in movie-star appeal beyond, well, physical appeal. Above all there's the fact that we're supposed to believe movie stars are not just very successful actors, but the most "beautiful" people in the whole world. Which is how we get nonsense like the notion that Matt Damon (!) is the best-looking man alive.