No one cares how beautiful you think someone else is—especially them

“When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.”
Steve Martin

HUMAN 1:
Can you BELIEVE how utterly SEXIST Steve Martin is?

In the year of our lord 2016 I can’t believe women are still so OBJECTIFIED

It’s getting to the point where even the most innocuous thing is setting people off because the in thing to do is get offended and cry foul.

When men die, their attractiveness as youths is rarely if ever included in a retroactive assessment of their life.

That’s why it’s sexist. Steve Martin felt the need to mention his approval of her figure and how much he wanted to bang her 40 years ago as a precedent to a more substantive compliment.

Being outraged about that is not useful or productive except selfishly to feel like you’re maintaining purity. Sure.

And yet that’s an entirely separate issue from pointing out what’s ‘problematic’ about that tweet.

The problem is that—like complimenting a stranger on how beautiful she is, versus how nice her outfit looks or how she did her hair or something—your compliment is really saying (in a way that’s generally considered polite and socially acceptable) ‘I am sexually attracted to you, and I wanted you to know that.’ Which is unpleasant, and something most people doing it honestly have never thought about, so if they’re decent people, making them aware of it ought to change their future behavior.

HUMAN 1:
If you think, after he dies, no one is going to mention that Brad Pitt was a good looking dude, you’re out of your goddamn mind.

‘Brad Pitt, in his younger years known for playing handsome, quirky characters with magnificent abs such as Tyler Durden in 1999’s Fight Club, became known in his later years for his global charity work and a string of on-set affairs with progressively wider age gaps.’

I think they’ll just stick with ‘leading man’ and ‘one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars’ like usual. But this also goes back to how female characters are written and described in scripts.

Luke and Han didn’t have the equivalent of running around braless or being put in an outfit suited for an Edward Burroughs Martian Princess.

HUMAN 2: Yeah, Hollywood would never make a film that featured Harrison Ford running around shirtless.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger once ran around in a loincloth. I get it. But it goes back to the difference of male power-fantasy versus sex object. I understand this appears subtle, but Conan the Barbarian is primarily a mighty, powerful warrior and looks the way young men would like to look, doing the things he’d like to do. A bully kicked sand in tiny Charles Atlas’ face, so he had to work out and get an attractive girl. You, male comic book reader, want to look like him in a swimsuit to acquire a female in a swimsuit who looks like her.

But imagine if Han Solo were cast to look and dress like a pouty-lipped Final Fantasy 15 character. Luke Skywalker doesn’t get progressively undressed and erotically disheveled throughout his battles like Samurai Jack. Contrast them with bishounen anime characters, and imagine this is what every male character looks like and often contributes little to the plot beyond:

bishounen_by_hachiko_1
Source: Hachiko http://www.deviantart.com/art/Bishounen-155606978

You’d notice, and it would be irritating pretty quick, if not outright uncomfortable.

Back to Carrier Fisher, the most important thing about her in that role was that she be an attractive romantic interest (changed from Luke to Han after the first film). But Christopher Walken nearly got Harrison Ford’s part in A New Hope. Conventional attractiveness is much lower priority there.

Some people may in fact be ‘outraged’ but I think it’s wrong to characterize criticism as outrage. Criticizing someone’s patronizing and fundamentally sexist condolences ought to be done with tact (as much as nebulous Internet mobs trying to one up each other to gain the most attention are capable of tact), but it’s not inappropriate in itself.

HUMAN 3:
Now this part I find really weird (Re: complimenting strangers). Are people not supposed to have a polite, socially acceptable way to signal sexual attraction to women? Is the new goal that only women are allowed to signal sexual attraction (and if so, how’re we moving to make them more comfortable with that; at least here in Texas, the common sentiment I hear from women is that they still think men are responsible for doing the pursuing or at least making the first move)? That seems awfully one-sided and, dare I say, sexist. Also, calling someone beautiful does NOT always signal “I am sexually attracted to you, and I wanted you to know that.” Aside from referring to objects and the like, there’s men I would call beautiful (or handsome or pretty) that I’m not sexually attracted to. There’s some women that fall into that category for me, too. And I doubt Steve Martin was trying to signal to Carrie Fisher that he wanted to bang her from beyond the grave or signal to the public that he wanted to bang her while she was still alive.

These weird situations where men are just supposed to avoid mentioning a woman’s physical attractiveness under any situation are problematic, IMO. They’re trying to fix a problem that exists, but are trying to fix them in ways that are flawed at best and outright detrimental at worst.

If you want to signal your sexual interest in someone to them, there are plenty of ways to do that such as spending time with them, talking about a shared interest and offering to go from the location you’re at to another one, or ‘I really like you’ to someone you’ve known a while.

But there really aren’t good ways to express your sexual interest for people you just met or have nothing really to do with. Don’t tell someone waiting at a crosswalk with you that; don’t tell someone on a bus; don’t tell your server at a restaurant or your coworker or the person you saw across the room at a bar. Reducing someone to their physical attractiveness is making them an object you relate to in terms of your sexual pleasure toward them.

Compliments can pass back and forth, people can get laid, but telling someone their face it too pretty not to smile or how well you think their ass fills a pair of leggings is not useful or good.

In Texas, men certainly don’t go around calling one another handsome at all or saying, ‘Your face looks too mean when you frown’, for example. It isn’t a thing people feel the need to express, or if they do, they successfully restrain themselves.

You can take a lead in relationships with those who are looking for such a thing, but some people also enjoy being (consensually) abused or degraded. That’s not a go-ahead to assume that as the standard for most people or to do it without explicitly checking.

Assume a woman is a fully human person, then—based on that assumption—structure your initial interactions with strangers and acquaintances accordingly.

HUMAN 3:
All of your other suggestions suffer from one of two problems; they’re either more subtle and thus may just be interpreted as components of regular friendship (such as talking about shared interests – actually, frankly, that doesn’t seem to communicate sexual interest at all; by your standards, I’ve been signaling to every friend I’ve ever had that I want to bang them, as well as all of my family members), or they’re more hamfisted, less socially acceptable means of doing the exact same thing as telling them that they’re beautiful (i.e. “I really like you. Like, like like you. You know, because this is middle school.”). If the problem is that politely signaling sexual interest is objectifying, then beating around the bush and being more vague about it or doing it in ways young children do isn’t going to change that.

Given that I’ve seen the approach you’re disparaging work pretty frequently for picking up women around here, I’m just going to have to continue thinking you’re overreacting. We’re just not going to agree here because you’re operating from a basic assumption that it’s innately offensive that I just don’t buy.

The real problem seems to be this mentality that acknowledging physical attractiveness in any way is taken as misogynistic, which is foolish. Looks matter and are a big component in attraction – otherwise, everyone would be completely bisexual. Simply telling someone that they’re good looking isn’t innately objectifying. Acknowledging one trait does not deny others in and of itself; there’s plenty of guys that ignore the other (mental, personality) traits of women, and that’s a problem. That’s objectifying. But you’re attacking the wrong thing, and this movement to try to get people to pretend that women are pure mental energy without a body is going too far the wrong way.

Oh, by the way, there’s an enormous gay population in Houston here and I’ve gotten exactly those kinds of comments when visiting friends living in predominantly gay areas or going out for drinks with gay friends at gay bars; they’ve never once bothered me.

I don’t mean this as an insult, but sincerely, if you’re not autistic it’s pretty easy to glean whether someone’s interests has extended beyond casual and platonic to something more, and there are also intermediate steps available that allow people to make their intentions known with enough plausible deniability that neither have to be especially embarrassed afterward.

This is the difference between ‘Do you want to fuck?’ and ‘Hey, do you want to get a coffee after work?’ (or in another situation, ‘Do you want to go back to my place?’). It’s an element of human interaction that both people can know something happened, but as long as they’re not certain the other people knows it, a white lie of civility can continue functioning.

My argument is that complimenting someone on their parents’ ability to combine DNA is totally different from complimenting them on something they actually put some work in to. It’s like saying, ‘Wow, your bone structure is immaculate.’ Uh huh, and you wake up with that every day. This is separate from their hair, makeup, outfit, jewelry, etc. ‘You’re beautiful’ really just means ‘I want to fuck you’ even if you don’t realize it, because someone who looks the exact same but has 100 more pounds or a crooked nose does not get that compliment nearly so often or at all.

This is part of what a lot of guys don’t understand, and it’s equivalent to working a customer service job. It’s not even so important what you as an individual are doing; it’s important that’s you’re one of dozens or hundreds of people who all do the exact same thing. ‘You’re so pretty; you’d look even more beautiful with a smile’ might somehow be flattering if you heard it only once in a while. When you hear it seven times walking from a bus stop to the next transfer, suddenly it ain’t so nice.

And to all of the men who say they’re so pleased and happy when a gay man acknowledges how good they look, I’d add one more thing: imagine you’re in the shower in prison and you get complimented on how sexy you are.

There’s a reason I specified physically larger men earlier, and that’s similar. The specter of sexual assault for women looms much larger in their daily lives, because it has to. Because many men would not force themselves on a woman, but some would, and many in society would blame her for putting herself in such a situation. Relatively few sober men would sexually assault a woman, but what if they’re a bit drunk at the time?

The penal system is about the only time where men are expected to be subjected to non-consensual or coercive sex, and it’s a huge problem, I agree. But it’s not something most men have to worry about out of that context. Saying the equivalent of ‘I want to fuck you, and I could and would given the chance‘ is not a bloodless appreciation of someone else’s aesthetic impression on your self. And it is not something that is so incredibly wonderful and complimentary when it comes every single day, unasked for and unabated, along with sporadic incidents of actual aggression and violence.

HUMAN 4:
I  just want to point out that commenting on someone being ‘beautiful’ or ‘attractive’ or whatever, does NOT always mean you want to screw them. I can say a woman looks beautiful today, because she does, but I have zero sexual interest in women. I can also say a man is looking handsome without wanting to screw him. You can admire someone looking physically well without having a sexual desire for that person.
I entirely agree with that a given person could mean that. Yet if you were to tell a man, ‘You look really handsome. How much time do you spend in the gym each week?’ do you think he’d interpret that as something different than ‘I want to bone your hard bod’?

That’s not exactly fair because I think most men will interpret a half-second smile from a woman as, ‘She wants my nuts’.

Human 4 may greatly enjoy being told she’s beautiful; I’m not saying that’s impossible. But I am also saying that what most all heterosexual men think they mean and what they actually do mean are often different because a) you’re more likely to strike up a conversation with a fit woman you’re attracted to who’s reading A Clash of Kings than a pimply, fat man reading the same thing, and b) even if you think you’ve sincerely interrogated your own motivation and found it wholly pure, it has to be placed in the context of many dozens of other people behaving in exactly the same way.

You can tell someone they ought to smile for whatever reason you think is sensible, but that encouragement doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

The reality of most women’s daily experience but especially conventionally attractive women’s experiences, is that this thing is said because the person wants to view them as a sexual object of pleasure (in Steve Martin’s words ‘beautiful creature’) and also wants to strike up a conversation with them despite lacking literally all encouragement and often much discouragement to the contrary.
‘You’re beautiful’ is much more about you and what you’re feeling when you say it than what the other person is feeling or wants to hear.
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