I've tried, on so many occasions, to explain that while women care just as much as men about a partner's looks (yes, all women, I have surveyed all of womankind individually), the way this caring expresses itself is quite different. Then along came a Vows that summed this up perfectly. It's about a self-identified geeky guy who marries a bona fide model. The passage in question:
In July 2011, Ms. Perez and Mr. Sirpal, along with some of his friends, took a trip to Nashville. It was an opportunity, he said, for his friends to see he actually was dating a “10.”
“The guys couldn’t believe she was dating me,” he said with a laugh.
This - this desire not merely to date a "10", but to be witnessed doing so, strikes me as male. Has a woman ever, in the history of humanity, done the same? Most likely. Do all men think like this? Probably not. (Would most men say something like that so openly, to a NYT reporter? One hopes not. Although it has that grating "Vows" quality of, he must think it sounds meet-cute, or benignly flattering to his new wife, and is oblivious to the cringe factor.) But this seems particular to what it means for a man to want to date a beautiful woman. It matters that he finds her beautiful, but also that she is, in some official, verifiable sense, hot. What matters isn't just that she have a kind of beauty that does it for him personally (which will probably overlap with societal ideals), but that her beauty constitutes power in the world at large. Now granted, most men don't marry or even date women who are or ever were models (I've been led to believe the Stuyvesant High School fashion show doesn't count), but this sort of thing plays out among mere civilians as well.