Amber Taylor’s been putting some thought lately into male attractiveness, but I think she neglects to mention the important distinction between the different types of hotness. What qualifies a man as hot is very different from what qualifies a woman as hot. Male hotness was best captured in the immortal words of Mary Poppins:
You’d never think of pressing
Forbearance is the hallmark
Of your creed....
That is, he is capable of being masculine, even threatening, while being simultaneously gentle and nonthreatening to the woman in question. She feels therefore capable of admiring his attractiveness, both physical and charismatic, but is not creeped out by him targeting her, because he does not appear to do so. Walking this fine line—being masculine without being intimidating, manly without pursuing too hard—is the great difficulty for men. As Taylor writes, “the small but real potential for a sexual advance from an unattractive man to turn into a nonconsensual sexual encounter discomfits the recipient.” At the same time, however, a man who falls into the “harmless” category has ruled himself out of attractiveness entirely.
Female hotness, however, seems to vary much more widely. This is appropriate since women have more options (more tropoi, you might say) than men in most areas of life. There are also other varieties of female attractiveness than hotness—cuteness, for example, or elegance. A woman who is incapable of smoldering can still be adorable and thus rank high on the list. A man who is incapable of smoldering, however, is virtually incapacitated. In short, the reason men don’t try harder to be hot is because they have to hit the mark precisely or they fail completely. The situation is different for women, not because they are allowed to miss the target (they aren’t) but because there are so many different targets they’re allowed to shoot for.