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Love Your Body, Step 2: Understand Men

April 7, 2010

Fans or Critics?

This may come as a shock to some of you, but yes, men like to look at beautiful women.

There is nothing wrong with this instinct, it is simply the way men’s brains are hard-wired. But as women, we quickly draw assumptions about what this male tendency says about us as individuals–we make what seems to be a logical deduction and imagine that men are not only appreciating female beauty, but comparing us against others, and condemning imperfection. In our weakest “bad-hair-day” moments, we envision men playing the role of Simon Cowell, judging our looks in the beauty pageant of life: “absolutely dreadful…next.”

Because of our fears and assumptions, we prefer to either not think about men’s visual nature, or do our darndest to try to live up to those visions of air-brushed perfection. But as is the case in so many areas of life, the truth can actually set us free from many of our insecurities.

I certainly am not an expert on the subject of male sexuality, but I have it on good (male) authority that women are far more critical and less forgiving about the female body than men are. Men seem to be quite capable of appreciating the beauty of many different types of women simultaneously.

Women, on the other hand, are sorters, rankers, and fault-finders. The more insecure, the more vicious we are in criticizing our own bodies, and finding flaws in others.  If we compare ourselves with another woman and find her more “perfect” than we are, it seems unbelievable that a man would still find us attractive and choose us over them.

“He Prefers You”

Author and talk radio host Dennis Prager has focused much of his career on teaching about male sexuality. In his lectures, he assures women that when the average man notices (and instinctively feels attracted to) a beautiful woman, he is able to compartmentalize that image, and is usually not comparing her against his wife or girlfriend.

It is, of course important to men that their wives or girlfriends make the effort to keep up their health and appearance the best they can, but this is not in order to compete with other women, but to simply show good stewardship and respect towards their bodies.  “He prefers you looking your best, to the fantasy woman on the screen”, Prager explains, “he’s not sitting there comparing you to some perfectly air-brushed model”. 

Similarly, author and relationship researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, writes that men’s universal struggle with sexual temptation is not an indication of his lack of feelings or attraction towards his significant other. She writes in her book, For Women Only, that it is natural for women to wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Am I not attractive enough? We suspect that our husband’s struggle arises because of our own flaws…” But after interviewing a variety of happily married men, Feldhahn found that the fact that men notice other women is not a negative reflection on the feelings and attraction they have towards their own wives. 

These revelations might seem too good to be true (and there will always be some men who fall outside this norm) but Prager insists, “I’m telling it to you because it’s true…not in order to make you feel good.” When we accept the reality that men are not constantly comparing us to an impossible standard, we can relax a bit and learn to be kinder to ourselves. 

In the Beginning

Understanding that men are visual and are made that way also goes a long way in improving the understanding and acceptance between the sexes.  This ought not be an excuse for men to view porn, or to look at a woman “to lust after her”, but it does help to explain why the urge is so universally powerful.  

Either we can be repulsed by the fact than men will continue to notice beautiful women, or we can help guard them against sexual temptation by being intentional in our modesty–while simultaneously being grateful that God indeed made us to be the capstone of  His creation, so that when men see us looking our best, they can joyfully exclaim, “this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman.”

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2010 7:52 am

    I don’t know what planet these authors live on, but men spend considerable energy finding fault with and openly insulting physically imperfect women who’ve done nothing wrong to them. The favorite thing to insult women about these days is fat.

    I’ve been called all manner of evil for being fat, especially since I don’t apologize for it, or accept people insulting me quietly. I’m not in-your-face or demanding that every guy think I’m beautiful. I’d just like people who are equally or more imperfect to not feel like it’s okay to try to put me down.

    Men leave and reject women for not being pretty enough, or getting older all the time. We are being compared with other women, and worse yet, women on a television screen who most men will never meet and if they do, wouldn’t have a chance with.

    …not that women these days are much more realistic. In my opinion, both sides deserve each other and the consequences of their stupidity these days. I just don’t like it when “feel good” authors think that ignoring a problem will make it go away.

    Men are extremely critical, and are actually passing up real life women in pursuit of a fantasy that doesn’t exist. Because of this, the west is going to be overrun not by superior cultures, but just cultures wherein people make babies at a reasonable age, and don’t generally get divorced because or petty whims.

    • April 7, 2010 3:08 pm

      Nicole,

      Thank you for these comments. I can assure you, however, these are not “feel good” authors. (Read their books, and you will understand why I say this).

      There will always be men who are “extremely critical” and “passing up real life women in pursuit of a fantasy”, but I’m guessing that most these men are single, lonely, and unhappy. Many either live in their mother’s basement, or have their own TV shows. (Which is why TV can be so detrimental for both men and women).

      Men DO want women to make the effort to look their best–this matters more to them than whether we put on 5 pounds over the Christmas holiday. I hold to my assertion that women, in general, are much harder on the female body than are men.

      I disagree that men leave women all the time for not being “pretty enough”. In reality, infidelity is a sign of a deeper problem within the relationship. Often men are looking for something new and exciting, with no emotional responsibilities. It would not have made any difference if his current wife was prettier (just look at Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston…gorgeous!!!!)

      Thank you again for joining the discussion!

    • Celeste permalink
      September 6, 2010 5:44 am

      Nicole,
      Maybe you should give yourself a break and love and accept yourself truelly ,so that when you hear those harsh comments it wouldnt affect you at all…I’ve learnt in my life that whenever I feel bad about myself,I’m more open to harsh critism and remarks,almost as if I’m on the prowl just waiting to hear something to justify what I’m feeling about myself (call it law of attraction:when you feel good,you attract guys who appreciate you, try it,it works!! )
      I’ve met some really shallow guys ,you wouldnt even believe the things they said ,but its out of their own insecurities that they “attack” us…
      I still think its the media that are brainwashing some men AND women of what beauty looks like….

  2. Christina permalink
    April 7, 2010 2:58 pm

    What a great reminder, Terra! I have several guy friends who are constantly reminding me that it doesn’t take much to impress men, but I never believe them. It’s very true that women are far more critical of ourselves than other people are. Why do we expect that men who don’t even notice when we chop 6 inches off our hair will notice if we gain two pounds?

  3. Todd permalink
    April 7, 2010 5:23 pm

    Terra, and these referenced authors, are correct. Nicole is either wrong, or is refering to mentally ill/emotionally imature men. The VAST majority of mentally healthy men fit into the catagory described herein. Surely there will always be a relative few guys who would prefer a Victorias Secret catalogue to a real live human female, but I’ve never met one.

  4. Aprill permalink
    April 7, 2010 8:56 pm

    I am a Dennis Prager fan & regular listener of his, & I just heard him speak about you & this article on today’s Male/Female Hour. I love what I’ve learned of you so far & who you are (Christian conservative) & I look forward to reading more of your blog & have signed up for your emails. God bless you!

  5. Curt permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:49 am

    Great comments. I also as a guy agree with Todd. Most health, MATURE men (all be it that these may be in the minority especially at younger ages) would prefer the “real thing” over a magazine or the plastic “fakeness” of a materialistic female.

  6. Shaun Hall permalink
    April 10, 2010 11:41 am

    Nicole: In your comment you said, “Men leave and reject women for not being pretty enough, or getting older all the time. We are being compared with other women, and worse yet, women on a television screen who most men will never meet and if they do, wouldn’t have a chance with.”

    I think that there are some very shallow men for whom that statement is correct, but by and large when mean leave relationships it is more for reasons of their own fear of growing older or other insecurities than any failing in their partners (although getting them to admit that is worse than pulling teeth). Men are competitive and often base their self-image on their ability to attract women compared to younger, better looking and more fit men.

    When we are young we struggle to find someone with whom we can share the rest of our lives. If we are lucky we find the perfect woman for us and are happy right up until we reach middle age and start feeling our mortality and doubting our manhood. Then for some insane reason we have to prove we can compete with the young bucks for younger women that we don’t really want (we don’t really want them we just want to prove that we could still get them if we did want them). In the process we abandon a woman who is no less perfect for us than ever she was giving some hurtful explanation about you not being enough for us when the reality is that we have begun to doubt that we are worthy of you or anyone else. It isn’t about you it is about us really being that stupid and insecure.

    S-

  7. Todd V. permalink
    April 15, 2010 6:33 pm

    When I lived in the Lynnwood area, I loved to go to the Cycle Barn. They had three floors of motorcycles that I could wander around and look at. I admired their beauty of form, of shape, of function, of design. I never had a desire to own any of them. Had I been given one, I would have sold it and kept the bike I had then, which incidentally is the same bike I am still riding (BMW R1100RT).

    I’ve been riding the same motorcycle for 12 years now. I love looking at other motorcycles. I love the lines, the different styles: cruisers, racer replicas, off road, sport bikes, tourers, sport tourers, etc. Never once have I had even the inkling of the desire to trade my bike for one of them. My bike is a perfect match for my needs. I admire the others, but not to exclusion of the one I have.

    I would never diminish women to the status of an inanimate object, but there is an analogy to be found. I can appreciate the beauty of a woman without wanting to own her, or even spend time with her. I can appreciate the beauty of a mountain from a distance without inquiring about purchasing it.

    I have seen mountain ridges that are extraordinary. The beauty of the Pacific Northwest forests is breathtaking. The Oregon coast is so beautiful that photos cannot do it justice. The Sonoran desert is a phenomenally gorgeous sight. The Ozarks are so incredibly lovely you wonder if they were spared from the Fall. I have seen a mountain meadow nestled in the Rockies that stopped me in my tracks while I drank in the beauty. My point? All of these look very, very different. Yet all are uniquely beautiful. All can be equally appreciated in different ways. (This analogy fails in S. Nevada, which is why they test nuclear bombs there.)

    Women need to realize that they cannot look like Twiggy and Scarlet Johansson at the same time (and no man who loves them expects them to!). The women in magazines are airbrushed, and the women on television just came out of 3 hours of makeup with a makeup artist following them around for touch ups. They don’t look that way in real life.

    Finally, and I alluded to this earlier, while I appreciate my wife’s physical beauty, it is her inner beauty that just knocks my socks off. I cannot spend enough time with her. She is such a joy to be around. When I look at her external beauty (which I greatly enjoy) it is quite a bit of her internal beauty that I am seeing. But I didn’t go blind when I said, “I do.” I still notice beautiful women. They are still attractive. But it would be impossible for any of them to hold a candle to my wife in any area.

  8. April 25, 2010 11:48 pm

    Hi Terra, thanks for this article.

    In relation to Dennis Prager’s conclusions – “the fact that men notice other women is not a negative reflection on the feelings and attraction they have towards their own wives.” – well, this is a generalization. It depends on the relationship, and how well the woman is meeting her man’s needs.

    It also depends on the man’s values and beliefs!

    And, another thing Terra – I agree that men are visual creatures – but we all are. We all notice contrast, color, someone attractive.

    I’m tired of people saying “men are visual creatures”. Well, women are too. This is not to say that women check men out – it’s just that we all have eyesight, and human instinct.

    If we weren’t all visual – and didn’t have our sense of eyesight then what on earth would happen to ATTRACTION?

    Anyway, thanks again for your article Terra.

    Best regards,

    Renee @The Feminine Woman.com

  9. May 12, 2010 4:59 pm

    Good post and true. I would add that with regard to women, men are often more concerned about the the woman efforts with regard to looks. That is, if a woman is overweight despite exercise and good eating that is one thing. If she’s shoving cake in her mouth everyday that’s another.

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