Thursday, March 27, 2008

Today's Totally Hilarious Study

I love the people who do research like this:

The fair maiden of myth appears to have a basis in scientific reality, according to new research.

Scientists looking into attractiveness in men and women suggest that men of all races are subconsciously attracted to fairer-skinned women, while women are more drawn to dark-complexioned men.

The researchers, whose study shows that across different races, lighter-skinned women are seen as the ideal, say the attraction is driven by preferences based on moral assumptions.

Men are subconsciously attracted to fairer skin because of its association with innocence, purity, modesty, virginity, vulnerability and goodness, according to researchers at the University of Toronto.

Women are attracted to men with darker complexions because these are associated with sex, virility, mystery, villainy and danger.

Ok. I'm now leaning back in my maidenly chair with great satisfaction, because I'm the palest of all goddesses. Which means that I am innocent, pure, modest, virginal, vulnerable and good. On the other hand, if I put some beige foundation on I'd be a slut. Yeah. Research is so rewarding, especially when one can draw the explanation out of one's butt.

Note that the research was based on an analysis of

...more than 2,000 advertising photographs of men and women, the researchers found that the skin of white women was 15.2 per cent lighter than the skin of white males, and the skin of black women 11.1 per cent lighter than the skin of black men.

Advertising photographs were chosen because almost invariably the models were considered to be among the most attractive people of the races and genders.

Is it now clear to you how those theories about virginal pale maidens and swarthy swashbuckling men were shown to be true? You go out and look at pictures in advertising. If women in them have lighter skin it so very clearly proves that it's all about lack of pigmentation as a symbol of innocence and vulnerability.

The study also discusses the slut factor:

When they analysed adverts featuring white women only, they found that women with the darkest complexions were more likely to be in an advanced state of undress.

They were also more likely to have a bared midriff, and only they are shown with bared feet or are implied to be totally nude.

The darkest-complexioned women in this group were also likely to be provocatively dressed, wearing a bra and underwear or similar article of clothing.

In contrast, women with the lightest complexion are more likely to be conservatively dressed and portrayed as friendly, happy and honest.

I probably should read the study in great detail, to get answers to many of the questions these findings provoke. For example, how were the photographs selected? Where they in newspapers, women's magazines, men's magazines? What products did they advertise (cars?, beer?, makeup?, detergents?) and to what group (men or women or both? older or younger consumers?)? And how did the study take into account the possibility that female models might wear a lot more makeup on their faces than male models (including those new light-reflecting concealers)?

The main point I want to make here is that even if the empirical finding about different average skin colors of male and female models in ads were true it would not have proved anything about the reasons for those differences.