Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Why do more women today prefer effeminate men?

By Ke Han (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-29 13:24

Why do more women today prefer effeminate men?

TFBOYS [Photo / IC] 

Women today, at least young women, have a different aesthetic appreciation of men. Both in the West and East, women are becoming increasingly fond of effeminate men rather than masculine men. The trend is most evident among male pop stars and male characters in popular TV plays in various countries.

This seems to go against common sense. According to evolutionary psychology, women are supposed to fall for masculine men. Masculinity conveys the message of more power, greater possibility of survival and better access to resources, indicating better life guarantee for women who have to conceive and raise children.

A research by New York University and Princeton University in 2011 showed that the long-term evolutionary "instinct" was changing gradually. Researchers showed more than 1,000 facial images of the opposite sex to male and female participants - the pictures had been airbrushed to make them look either more effeminate or masculine. It turned out that men and women both had greater fondness for the feminine facial images of the opposite sex, suggesting masculine men are not as popular as before among women.

The traditional view has been challenged by another research. Participants in the research were shown pictures of many groups of men from different races and regions. In each group there were three pictures of the same man that had been airbrushed: one looked more masculine, the second more feminine and the third almost sexless. The participants were women from rural and urban areas in different countries such as the US, Russia and China. The result: urban women favored faces of masculine men more while women from rural or less developed regions favored men with effeminate faces.

The results go against the traditional view of evolutionary psychology, according to which masculine men should be more popular in less developed areas where women need strong men to protect their children. Researchers say the study indicates women's preference when it comes to men no longer relies on simple evolutionary concepts; they show more modern characteristics.

So why is women's aesthetic appreciation of men changing in modern times? A study in the US covering 4,800 white women in their 20s provides the reasons for women's changing appreciation: progress in the medical field and improvement in health levels. In areas where people are generally in good health and with higher medical standards, women like effeminate men more. In areas with relatively low-level medical facilities, women favor masculine men more.

The conclusion is easy to understand: In a comparatively safe and stable society in which health is not a huge threat to the survival and raising of children, masculinity - which implies health, strength and power - is not so important to women.

In fact, masculinity means high level of testosterone, which could make women feel insecure instead. Studies show that men with high testosterone levels are more likely to divorce, run away from home and be prone to domestic violence than men with low testosterone levels. On the other hand, women suppose that effeminate men are more considerate and caring. All these show that there are complicated social transformations behind women's preference of men.

Another reason for the change could be the increasing equality between sexes. With economic development and popularity of gender equality, women are making increasingly more contributions to and sharing more responsibilities of society. Both sexes can freely develop their individuality despite traditional gender restrictions. As the number of "tough guys" gradually reduces, women's preference also changes accordingly.

In other words, the social factors behind the phenomenon of women favoring effeminate men more are complex, and there's no such a thing as unchanged "nature" or value in contemporary times.

The author is a PhD candidate in psychology in Britain and the co-founder of psychology online organization yosumn.

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