Why are Black women less physically attractive than other women?

Opened something of a hornets\’ nest here, has our intrepid researcher.

Satoshi Kanazawa\’s racist nonsense should not be tolerated

The psychologist\’s latest article asks \’why black women are less attractive\’. What will Psychology Today and the LSE do about it?

Well, go have a look at what he actually said (using Google cache).

As I commented at The G:

A few bits.

The Add Health database, from which he takes his raw data, covers tens of thousands in each wave. His data is fine.

His use of language is indeed a bit odd. Then again, English is not his first language (in fact, when I was being taught by a different Japanese Professor at the LSE English was his fourth, which made lectures difficult).

Peer review? You\’re kidding! This was a blog post!

Scientific freedom does include the right to research things you\’d rather people didn\’t research.

Finally, in less clunky language, what he\’s saying is \”In this database of tens of thousands of Americans, we have the interviewers stating, as what they see as an objective fact, that black/African descent women are less attractive than women of other racial backgrounds. Black/African men are seen as more attractive than the norm, women less so.

I wonder why?

We do know that black/Africans have more testosterone in their hormonal make up. We also know that testosterone masculinises facial features. We could hypothesise therefore that black/African men are considered more attractive than normal because they have more masculinised features. This is pretty much the definition of being more attractive. Women of the same genetic background also have that more testosterone, more masculinised features and are therefore considered less attractive.\”

Fine to disagree with him but to do so you need to come up with an alternative explanation of the findings from those Add Health questions that have been asked over the years.

BTW, yes, he did control for both intelligence and BMI, so it\’s not either of those reasons.

You may or may not like what he\’s saying but it\’s not obvious that he\’s transgressed against anything other than what you consider good taste.

Note the very large difference between what The G says he said, he asks \”why are black women less attractive\”? and what he actually asks \”this data says that black women are considered less attractive. Why?\”

That second is an entirely valid scientific question. After all, the proper study of man is mankind. So if we\’ve this objective fact about how people perceive the looks of those from different racial (uggh, horrible word, genetic then) backgrounds, yes, wouldn\’t it be interesting to know the answer? His may or may not be the correct one but it seems a reasonable one.

Update: worth recalling that this is all US data. So \”black/African\” really means \”of West African descent\”.

19 comments on “Why are Black women less physically attractive than other women?

  1. Given that different societies have different views on ‘attractive’ or ‘beauty’, it’s hardly surprising.

    What is considered the epitome of desirable in parts of Africa or the Pacific might have said Guardian scribes demanding state intervention on spurious health grounds?

    And would they rather he said, ‘I don’t know, they all look the same to me’?

  2. An odd feature on American blogs discussing topics like this is that they seem to take it as axiomatic that men prefer blondes. I don’t. On the other hand, I must admit that the “black” women I’ve found most attractive have been either of mixed race (black-white) or from the rather unrepresentative Horn of Africa. If you don’t believe me, just fly Ethiopian Airways. My golly!

  3. I can’t believe you’ve written that Tim. Anything Ken can do, you can do better. The Guardian has plenty to get its teeth into today. All I have to say is, Alesha Dixon, Jessica Ennis. Both mixed race. I’ll get my coat.

  4. Weird.

    a) Black women look lovely, especially when they’re wearing glasses.

    b) The physical difference between black male and black female faces is actually a lot less than the difference between white male and white female faces.

  5. If he’d done his research in one or two of the expat bars in Nigeria, he’d have come away asking why so many black women are physically terrifying.

  6. This is “black” woman having a hissy fit over something that he never said in the first place because her reaction was to take offence at the headline before reading the article.
    I know a lot of women (and over my lifespan have known many more) of many different races – it has never occurred to me to debate whether one group of races is more attractive than another group of races – attraction is to an individual (unless you are in serious need of a psychiatrist) not to a race. So the whole survey is stupid, but to attack someone for querying why a survey has produced a result is despicable. No wonder journalists are rated alongside estate agents as the lowest of the low if they behave like that.

  7. Tim said: Note the very large difference between what The G says he said, he asks “why are black women less attractive”? and what he actually asks “this data says that black women are considered less attractive. Why?”

    The image on the Guardian page has the headline, “Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?”

  8. Tim Newman, that could be to do with higher testosterone levels as well, as higher levels of testosterone are correlated with physical strength and aggression.

    One problem with the testosterone theory for attractiveness is that white men should be rated higher than Asian men, as whites have higher testosterone levels, and they don’t appear to be. I suspect there is something else at play in racial disparities in attractiveness, although testosterone may play a part for blacks, as the testosterone difference in quite large compared to the white/asian gap.

  9. One problem with the testosterone theory for attractiveness is that white men should be rated higher than Asian men, as whites have higher testosterone levels, and they don’t appear to be.

    In fact they are generally in US culture. Blacks are seen as very macho, Asians as not very macho at all, and whites somewhere in the middle. There’s at least a plausible argument that blacks (both genders) are more masculised, asians (both genders) more feminised, and whites are in the middle.

    It may however be more a culture thing. There is a perception that white girls are less aggressive than black girls, and this has been noted in the black community; that black men give up on dating their own race because they’re just too much effort to deal with. As a generalisation, of course.

  10. Tim, you might want to read this, later, Psychology Today article:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-the-lines/201105/beauty-may-be-in-eye-beholder-eyes-see-what-culture-socializes

    money quote: “The editors of Psychology Today removed Kanazawa’s post, and they were right to do so, not because Kanazawa voiced an unpopular opinion, but because he failed to support his unpopular opinion with sufficient evidence and provide it with the necessary context.”

  11. This may be the first step in demanding affimative action in marriage.
    At present birds of a feather are allowed and prefer to marry the same colour. Which upsets the ‘we are all the same’ theories.

  12. but because he failed to support his unpopular opinion with sufficient evidence and provide it with the necessary context.

    The problem with that really, and it is one that science/academia suffers from generally, is that “popular” opinions are rarely tested to the same standard.

  13. The study equally says that black men are more attractive (than white men), but I suppose that headline isn’t as attractive to Guardian readers.

  14. I’ve been told there is quite a lot of pornography on the Internet, though I have never managed to find any myself. It might be interesting to scientifically count what proportion of “models” are from the various ethnic and race categories. Presumably that would tell you what people want to look at, unconstrained by “race politics”. Would it look like your average Marks and Spencer store in which half to a third of models pictured seem to be of African descent? (Marketing code for “We embrace diversity”)

  15. He may have controlled for intelligence and BMI, but did he control for social class?

    And these being interviews, what is to be done about the social conditioning of the interviewer ?

    Reading the article, what immediately set my alarm bells ringing, was the inclusion of “native american” as a racial category. Why? Because this showed it was an American study, not an international one, and therefore likely affected by US social peculiarities and attitudes to race. Looking closer, I just didn’t understand this:
    “At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the physical attractiveness of the respondent objectively …” How?

    Depending on the exact answer to the question, How does one rate someone *objectively* for physical attractiveness at the end of a lengthy interview? the title of the article might have to be amended to: Why do Americans rate black women (but not black men) as less physically attractive than their counterparts in other racial groups?” That question is less plausibly answered by reference to testosterone.

  16. I don’t know if the hypothesis about testosterone makes sense. Men apparently find Polynesian women very alluring (bearing in mind all the various individual differences), but Polynesian men are distinctly gorgeous too. I know there’s a lot of evidence that men are more visually-motivated than women, but I remember a trip to Fiji where I fell in lust on average about once an hour, from just looking.

  17. Yes, the testoterone thing is too simple. The ideal population is one that has the sex dimoprhism working for both sexes; Polynesians are a good example. Latins are another. Manly men and girly girls.

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