2013 was the year when the world underlined just how important looks are to dating. After years of trying to convince hesitant daters (especially men) to fill out lengthy online dating profiles, the world of online dating was revolutionized with the success of Tinder. An app which almost exclusively relied on photos for partner match.
There are various reasons for the success of Tinder – not just the ease of only looking at photos. The minimum effort set-up of the app, and the focus on elements such as mutual friends, shared interests, and geographic location have attracted a whole new breed of male online dater. Men who would never have joined paid dating websites.
But there are also negative implications of the Tinder-approach to dating. The app is fraught with prostitutes, businesses trying to advertise for free, unsolicited cock shots, and married people seeking anonymous validation of their appearance.
In a lot of ways, 2014 has seen the dating clock reset. AD 1 – or rather AT 1 – the year of Tinder … plus one. Thousands of apps have launched onto the market, hoping to mirror its success.
But 2014 has also seen another interesting reaction to the Tinder era. An increasing number of websites, events and even TV shows have come on to the scene, hoping to undermine the focus on looks, and remind us just how important personality is to attraction.
We all know physical attraction isn’t enough on its own. Yes, it’s a quick way to filter the people you’d like to sleep with, from the ones who will enter the friend zone … but when it comes to potentially lifelong partnerships, looks fade, and a personality will endure.
But how do you assess how attractive someone’s personality is? Often we will give someone we’re physically attracted to, far more of our time than someone who we’re not attracted to. I have a somewhat photographic memory, but the images I had of my closest friends and ex boyfriends the day we first met are hugely different to the way I remember them now. Our personalities colour the way we look to certain people. Your partner doesn’t have to be the most physically attractive person in a room for you to see him or her that way.
So what happens when you completely separate personality from looks?
Earlier this year, at the Science Museum Lates, new dating app Loveflutter carried out speed dating with a difference. Every dater wore a brown paper bag over his or her head. The dater was asked to include an interesting fact about himself on the front of the bag.
Meanwhile other dating sites offer speed dating in the dark (an option which doesn’t seem overly popular – every time I’ve tried to get a ticket, the event has been cancelled).
But the most extreme illustration of the movement against superficial dating is BBC 3’s Dating Show “Sexy Beasts”.
Each dater has his or her face covered in (normally rather hideous but) incredible special effects prosthetics.
The format of the show is similar to most simple dating shows – 1 picker, 3 options, trial dates and a final decision. However all this is done with rubber masks and head coverings, resembling fish, dogs, aliens, trees …
Trust me, no one looks remotely attractive! (Scroll down to the end of the article to see what this guy really looks like!)
The first thing I really like about this show is how hard it actually is to work out what someone looks like under the prosthetics. Whilst you may think that eyes are the biggest clue to someone’s features, every time I’ve looked at one of the ‘Sexy Beasts’ pre-reveal, my idea of what they look like underneath is completely wrong. Hair colour and nose and face shape have all been carefully disguised.
Yes, you can still see the daters’ bodies, which does still affect superficial impressions, but it is often the case that the picker rejects someone who he or she would normally be automatically drawn to.
The show is a comedy show. The voice over lady has a field day with the cringeworthy contents of the dates, and the unfortunate ‘reality’ of reality TV is that it often attracts the least likeable members of society. Which is the rather interesting lesson from Sexy Beasts. Men and women who normally completely rely on their looks, are reduced to simply voices and opinions … neither of which are often particularly attractive.
I’ve watched three episodes so far, and when I first heard about it (from a Twitter follower – thanks Nicki 🙂 ) I assumed the lesson would be an obvious one. That less attractive people are far more eligible, when all you concentrate on is personality. But actually the biggest lesson I’ve learned (and something which the sarccy voiceover revels in), is just how unattractive people who would consider themselves in the upper tiers of society lookswise are, when all they have to rely on is conversation. Some of the dates are laugh-out-loud awful, and when the masks are finally removed, people very rarely come away looking attractive in any sense of the word!
Yes, a personality can colour the way we see people. And in Sexy Beasts, often focusing only on personality and conversation is far more damaging to the daters’ attractiveness than any of the ugly make up and prosthetics are!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
Here’s what the Red Devil above really looks like under the prosthetics –