Source: The Sunday Times
Date: 8 December 2002

Feminine Face Is Key To A Woman’s Heart

picture of Leonard de Caprio

Lois Rogers, Medical Correspondent

SCIENTISTS believe they have created the perfect male face, a man so handsome that any woman would automatically pick him out of a crowd.

He has large expressive eyes set in a smooth-skinned symmetrical face, a straight nose and rounded hair and jaw line.

Although his makers admit he looks slightly girly, they have found modern women want caring feminine traits rather than more macho markings.

They say bearded men and others with features that suggest they are unlikely to wash up or change a nappy can forget about impressing women.

Single women now want a trophy partner, a "new man" with domestic attributes that her friends can admire at a party, but who can be trusted not to go home with one of them.

Real men will be relieved that this Adonis does not exist. He is a composite computer-generated photograph of 12 moderately attractive, average-looking young men. The researchers at the St Andrews University psychology department, who created him, discovered women are most attracted to a man with features representing the "average". They believe women prefer such features because they signal that the individual is one of the mainstream majority who have survived down the evolutionary process, and are therefore less likely to carry harmful genes.

The face was created with a computer program that calculates average distances between the features of different faces, and average hair and jaw lines.

The volunteer men were picked from the local student population, and 34 female "raters" with an average age of 20 were asked to give marks out of seven for masculinity and attractiveness to various composite images of the men.

The psychologists found people questioned had almost identical opinions. The clear winner was a composite of all 12, feminised to soften the jaw line and perfect the complexion. The researchers say smooth skin in men conveys an absence of inherited disease or damage - a factor that would reduce the score of sex symbols such as Richard Burton whose face had pock marks.

Symmetry in male and female features has long been recognised as an important attribute in sexual attraction, but the rise of feminine appeal in a male face is a modern trait.

"Women find femininity appealing in a male face because they said they associate it with co-operation, honesty and parental ability," said Tony Little, the principal research psychologist. "Strongly masculine features are considered threatening and less attractive, but they still want some combination involving masculine features because they want dominance, too."

Little cites Jude Law and Brad Pitt as embodiments of the ideal man. Leonardo DiCaprio’s looks would be too girlish to attract the mainstream, and a super-masculine Arnold Schwarzenegger type would be too aggressive and promiscuous to make a reliable partner.

Although many observers feel women are increasingly taking a masculine attitude and picking a partner purely on looks, others emphasise that sex appeal for women is based on far more than facial features alone.

Marcelle D’Argy Smith, a former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, said soccer stars such as David Beckham and Michael Owen and film stars such as George Clooney typified today’s desirable male. But she pointed out: "Some men who look absolutely gorgeous are completely doomed from the moment they open their mouths. Men can be thrilled to bits by a lap dancer with an IQ of 43 and even marry them. A woman could never do that."

Films over the past decade have moved away from featuring Terminator-type action heroes, according to Little. Instead they have concentrated on caring male characters, as typified by Hugh Grant’s relationship with a child in About A Boy.

The popular television comedies Sex and the City, about the agonies of urban dating, and Cold Feet, about established couples attempting to stay together, have both frequently concentrated on male emotions and used male stars with feminised looks to appeal to women viewers.

Desmond Morris, the man-watching expert, said the shift in male attractiveness reflects women’s increasing dominance. "Smooth-skinned and feminised looks are characteristics of youth," he said. "It’s possible that these looks stimulate not only sexual but also maternal feelings. If women want to be more dominant, they will look for a little-boy face."

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