Western Metrosexuals & Korean Kkotminam: Inevitable?

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( Adapted from Mobile Life, by geishaboy500 )

Alas, it’s no longer my planned thesis topic, but I’m still very interested in the origins of the kkotminam (꽃미남) phenomenon, and so naturally I”m intrigued by the notion that the physically healthier a society, the more women in it tend to prefer “feminine” men as mates. From The Economist:

A disease-free society helps effeminate men attract women

IT IS not just a sense of fairness that seems to be calibrated to social circumstances (see article). Mating preferences, too, vary with a society’s level of economic development. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study by Ben Jones and Lisa DeBruine [themselves a married couple] of Aberdeen University, in Scotland, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

….In a man, the craggy physical characteristics associated with masculinity [James: because of testosterone] often indicate a strong immune system and thus a likelihood of his producing healthier offspring than his softer-featured confrères will. But such men are also more promiscuous and do not care as much about long-term relationships, leaving women to raise their kids alone.

Nowadays, sound parenting is often more important to the viability of a man’s offspring than Herculean strength. That, some researchers suspect, may be changing the physical traits that women look for in a mate, at least in some societies. A study carried out in 2004, for example, discovered that women in rural Jamaica found manly types more desirable than did women in Britain, which led to questions about whether those preferences were arbitrary or whether women in different parts of the world might be adapting to circumstances that place different emphasis on manliness in the competitive calculus.

Dr Jones and Dr DeBruine therefore looked to see if there is an inverse relationship between women’s preference for masculine features and national health. Sure enough, they found one…

With a nod towards copyright, see the article itself for the rest, and particularly for the methodology used, which did account for cultural and racial differences (image right: Hot Girl Remix by geishaboy500). Still, my first reaction was that this earlier study seemed to completely contradict those findings, as it demonstrated that for much of human history women had good reason to prefer skinny guys over muscled ones, the latter being less likely to survive in (frequent) times of scarcity, but that this no longer applied in the overabundance of modern times.

However, just like the kkotminam phenomenon itself forces many Westerners to reconsider their previously held notions of masculinity and femininity (not least myself), one should be very specific about what one means by those terms, and so note that this study was purely based on face shapes, which are heavily influenced by hormones. Accordingly,  it makes a great deal of sense that with good access to modern medicine, women would be more interested in other factors than simply passing on a good immune system to her children, as evidenced by a masculine jaw.

Hence, with the proviso that what makes “a great deal of sense” is very culturally and period specific however (evolutionary psychologists, for example, guilty of once thinking that all women in prehistoric tribes stayed in the camp to look after children and/or do some gathering while the men went off to hunt each day!), and that the specific timing of the popularity of the kkotminam and metrosexual phenomenons (and various permutations thereof) were/are/will be heavily dependent on a whole range of factors, not least the interests of the cosmetic industry, do you think that there’s a certain inevitability in them? Or are they merely passing fads? After all, given the above logic, then they’re here to stay.

( The King and the Clown {2005}; source: unknown )

Regardless, if it were possible, it would be fascinating to see if women’s tastes in men in a various society varied over time according to the health of its members. Alas, isolating everything but preference in face shape is probably impossible, and while it’s fair to say that in all historical societies men’s (and women’s) clothing probably tended to become more flamboyant and colorful in times of prosperity, I can’t stress often enough that neither characteristic is “feminine” per se!


Filed under: Body Image, Cosmetic Surgery, Cosmetics, Gender Socialization, Korean Sexuality, Sexual Relationships, Skin Whitening Tagged: 꽃미남, metrosexuality, Metrosexuals