The Beautiful Woman Syndrome, continued

In case I've provoked the ire of some of my beautiful female readers, I should reiterate that not all beautiful women are afflicted with BWS. However, the presence of the beautiful woman syndrome is not a quantal "either you have it or you don't" thing. In fact, I think that most very attractive women have that affliction to some degree, at least in cultures that glorify beauty, as is so prevalent in the United States. I should also emphasize that the beautiful woman syndrome generally isn't found in women who are merely attractive; prime candidates for the beautiful woman syndrome aren't just attractive, they're beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, or hot. They turn heads and dilate pupils. Every day. And they know it.

Because the presence of a BWSer can stimulate responses that are hard-wired into the limbic system, it's not easy to give these women what they deserve: the same attention as everyone else. Instead, men typically fall all over themselves vying for the attention of gorgeous women. Most eventually become frustrated and give up (more about that later), but for every man who drops out of this game, ten more are eager to jump in. This unending attention contributes to the difficulty that BWSers have in understanding that there is something wrong with their behavior.

When most people make dating mistakes, they sit home alone for a while. Not BWSers. They can get a date any day, any time. Since people are so rabidly interested in being around them, BWSers naturally conclude that they're not just gorgeous, they're great. This is an example of how incessant compliments are generalized by the ones receiving them. The woman isn't just hot, she's wonderful in so many ways (that men usually can't verbalize when asked to explain why that woman is so great, apart from her appearance). For example, on some of The Bachelorette (and similar) shows, men are seen gushing about how a hot woman they just met is so great when she really isn't any better than 99% of the women viewers at home, except for her appearance. But the foxes usually just lap it up.

The dictionary defines arrogance as "making or disposed to making claims to unwarranted importance." Considering this, arrogance is part of the beautiful woman syndrome. If BWSers were to possess an accurate self-image, they would acknowledge their beauty — no one asked them to be blind! However, they wouldn't generalize their attributes into overall greatness unless they had other and more substantial reasons for having such a lofty self-image.

Interestingly, the male equivalent of the beautiful woman syndrome* is much less prevalent. (Some very attractive men are understandably picky, but they usually don't possess the constellation of other symptoms that differentiate this syndrome from mere selectivity.) Another surprising fact is that it's not just jilted men who bitterly complain about BWSers; plenty of women have had it with them, too.

* Why is the attractive man syndrome so rare? In a culture like ours that overemphasizes the importance of appearance, it is not surprising that women are so susceptible to the beautiful woman syndrome. Attractive men are relatively insulated from this problem for a simple reason: the mark of a man is success, not appearance. A man can be handsome and still be considered a failure. If a woman is hot, countless men are eager to date her even if she is perennially unemployed and heavily in debt. A gorgeous woman could have a long list of negative attributes and still be eagerly coveted by men. To men, she is worth more than gold. Hence, she is a de facto winner, not a loser, regardless of what her credit rating is. She can even be a notorious criminal and remain highly desirable. For example, more than a few men still want Casey Anthony. Judging by her response, even one of her attorneys seems to think Anthony murdered her daughter. “Not guilty” does not necessarily mean “innocent,” and anyone who thinks Anthony is innocent must have rocks in his head. Yet men still want her because she is hot, even yummy. Her beauty can make men forget about what she almost certainly did.

Because women can become winners without breaking a sweat, some of them won't try as hard as they otherwise would have if they were less attractive. This doesn't apply only to the "10s" with gorgeous faces, large breasts, tight abs, and great legs. If a woman has any standout feature, it's a sure bet that she will have her pick of endless men. Because great breasts or legs are much easier to acquire for the women blessed with the great genes that confer those assets, they can rocket ahead of other women in the race for success: just marry a successful man, or take advantage of society's proven tendency to give more money and opportunities to attractive women.

Thus there is a major discrepancy between the recipe for success in men and in women. With few exceptions, a man must work hard for years to become a success, while a woman can become an overnight success just by marrying a rich guy. How could she achieve that? By slaving away for 110 hours per week, as I did for many years? No, by having the luck to be born beautiful.

An economist looks at the Beautiful Woman Syndrome

Walter E. Williams is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University and someone with a real gift for translating abstruse ideas into easily understood concepts. He may as well have been discussing the beautiful woman syndrome when he wrote, “There's a reggae song that advises 'If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife.' [...] Pretty women are desired and sought after by many men. An attractive woman has many substitutes for you, and as such, she can place many demands on you. A homely woman has far fewer substitutes for you and cannot easily replace you. Hence, she might be nicer to you, making what economists call compensating differences.”

People rarely speak of compensating differences; instead, they say how Plain Janes are more likely to be kinder, sweeter, more thoughtful, more tolerant, more understanding, and more realistic—in short, they are often nicer people.

Interested in another aspect of beauty? Read about why beautiful women are less likely to end up as ER patients.

Narcissism: the secret sauce of self-delusion

Glamorous ESPN reporter exemplifies BWS nastiness

“Most beautiful dumb girls think they are smart and get away with it, because other people, on the whole, aren't much smarter.”
— Louise Brooks
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