It’s one of those things that everybody knows — men are more visual than women. The proof is all around us. Pornography caters to men as their most loyal consumers, some studies show physical attractiveness of their partner is more important to men’s happiness than women’s. The physical just matters to men.
Meanwhile women are more attracted to a man’s personality, such as his sense of humor, and his ability to provide and be a good father to their potential children. Evidence for this is seen in women’s willingness to happily engage in relationships with men who aren’t generally considered the most physically appealing.
But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong, as it has been in the past? What if the idea of men being more visual has little basis in reality, or what if the gender inequalities in visual arousal have their origins in culture and society, not in biology? When looked at critically, there are several reasons why the commonly accepted idea that men are innately more visual should be questioned:
1. There is greater social acceptance and encouragement for men to value physical appearance
Historically women needed to value more than a man’s appearance. Since they couldn’t have jobs that would sustain themselves and any family they would have, women had to look to a man’s financial ability and ability as a father when choosing a mate. Men who were more financially stable could focus on other qualities in a potential mate, such as their physical appearance.
Nowadays women have more career opportunities. But differences in society’s appraisal of the genders remain — men are still expected to be able to provide financially for their wives and family. And women are still expected to be pretty enough to secure a marriage with the most financially able man.
2. Some studies challenge the idea that men are more visual
Most studies that gain popularity reinforce conventional wisdom. Thus there are easily found studies which support the idea that men are more visually stimulated than women are. Much rarely discussed are the studies which conflict with this notion.
One of the more recent studies on gender and visual stimulation found that women are as visually responsive as men are. In the study, the brains of female participants showed as much activity as the male participants when shown sexually erotic images. Researchers responded that although men might personally rate sexual images higher than women do, there was no difference in their brain activity when viewing them.
3. Sexual objectification of men has increased
Since the Women’s Movement, objectification of men has steadily increased. Men are more and more being shown as sexual objects in media such as TV, magazines, and movies. Women’s viewing of (male) pornography has increased. Men are also focusing more on their physical appearance, paying more attention to grooming and spending more time at the gym.
One writer claimed that the world may now be “entering a Golden Age of Male Objectification“, where male bodies are presented for female consumption.
4. Women may be just as visual, in different ways
The concept that men are more visual focuses on response to physical attractiveness and sexually suggestive images. But what about other physical stimuli? Do men still score higher?
It is known that women pay more attention to their physical appearance than men do. Women spend more on clothing, cosmetics, and accessories and spend a greater amount of time physically preparing themselves for the day. Is it possible that women are more visual than men when it comes to non-sexual stimuli?
To add, some studies suggest that it’s not that men are more visual than women, but that men and women focus on different aspects of the body when evaluating the opposite sex. In one study, men tended to focus more on the face of women, while women spend more time looking at a man’s body and physique, including his genitals.
…Perhaps the shirtless, muscle-bound hunk isn’t just a made-up attraction.
What is your view — are men more visual than women? And why?