- I think there's two directions I would want to answer for.
- 1. I think women often think of makeup as simply 'making you more attractive' in a kind of neutral, nonnormative way, as though cosmetics were a hard science, a bunch of techniques which 'increase' your level of 'objective attractiveness'. So a person says that doing your lips like this makes them appear 'fuller', and this description is value neutral on its face, but 'fuller' is taken to be synonymous with 'better', ie. the subliminal statement is that fuller lips are better than smaller or flatter lips, and in this way normative statements are encoded in the whole discourse.
- But we have to keep in mind that its normative statements can only be true of a specific - to be a little French - regime of desire; a context in which desire is organized. And this organization is arbitrary - not random or inexplicable but arbitrary in the sense that there are other, compting regimes of desire. In lesbian sexuality, for example, women generally do not wear makeup (even femmes) and 'natural', nonsynthetic features of her body are considered very attractive - body hair, scars, etc., things that cosmetics efface or remove, are objects of fascination for lesbians. When lesbians do wear makeup its often seen as orthogonal to 'attractiveness', & things like bright colours & other expressive things are more important.
- But why do heterosexuals tend to find certain things more attractive, and lesbians different things more attractve? I dont think any biological explanation is satisfactory because you can see similar things happen across cultures, etc. I'll argue why I think this is in the next point.
- 2. When a man is thinking about a woman, there are multiple things acting on him that effect his desire. In our culture there is a bit of a suspicion towards anything synthetic, and he might feel that women wearing heavy makeup are too synthetic or are even in some sense tricking him. He resents it and he does not want to see it. So when a woman wears a lot of makeup it reads to him as a kind of negative signal - she's doing the thing he doesnt like, and he resents it. This bears on his desire for her. This is one reason that many men who insist that they hate makeup end up pointing to women who wear 'natural-look makeup' as their preference, because the makeup does its work without sending this negative signal.
- But what work is it doing? It makes her lips appear larger, her eyes darker, etc. Why are these considered attractive by him, but not by everyone? Other features are cosidered unattractive: large noses are often seen as something unattractive, even though they often go along with large lips which are considered attractive. What decides? We can probably trace historical reasons for this: large noses are stereotypically associated with jews and black people, whom historically people in our society have tended to have negative views of. Its easy to see how dehumanizing someone through racism or antisemitism could lead you to find a person's features repulsive. But black women, for example, stereotypically have large lips as well. While this might not necessarily trouble us (they might have been considered repulsive 'despite' having some features already considered attractive), we can also imagine this having its origin in an eroticization of black women (because this seems to me to be the case) which simply happened at a different *time* - perhaps in the 20th century, where the camera lingering over a woman's lips is a sexual gesture (suggesting oral sex, etc.), and at this time black women were being sexualized (around this time you see a growing market of 'ebony' porn, etc.) So you can see this being grounded in certain histoircal developments in our cultural discourse and these being preserved as artifacts of our psyche even after those discourses have become outdated or superseded by others, or when there are multiple compting discourses. You can make a similar case about eg. fake tan (where white women darken their skin) and skin lightening creams (where usually asian women lighten their skin) - contradictory practices which have their origins in different times or different cultural discourses.
- But just because I live in a culture where x is cosidered attractive doesn't mean *I* find x attractive - we all know this. But I *know* that x is considered attractive. Thats the trick. I know what people consider attractive before I even feel sexual desire myself. This knowledge contaminates my sexuality. I begin to develop a fascination with things (either attractive or repulsive) partly in relation to how I see myself in relation to this knowledge. If you look at, for example, the way people talk about ther preferences in breast size you see this play out: my taste is a little more than just what arouses me but says something about me as a person. I *know* that bigger breasts are more attractive, so I might, seeing myself as a sensualist liable to excesses, develop an intense fascination for large breasts; or I might, seeing myself as someone more modest, develop an attraction to small or medium breasts, and insist, besides, that they be natural; or I might see myself as some kind of pervert and buck the trend entirely, becoming fascinated by women with flat chests with boyish frames. My attraction to different features is at least partially decided by my understanding of myelf, as a complete personality, in relation to the dominant cultures, and my taste in relation to the dominant taste.
- Of course, a lot of lateral room is avaiable here. I might get a different understanding of what 'most people' like, I might have a different impression of what semitoc role a preference plays than someone else, etc. Its dependant on what messages I actually see, as well as on my memory, etc. In the end, no one actually reflects what 'people like', no one is perfectly synonymous with the dominant taste, and no one ever has or will be. Its something of a 'social fiction', an absent other that I need to imagine to articulate my own subjectivity.
- Anyway, does he mean it when they say they prefer women who dont wear makeup? He might, or he might not. But he developed his taste self-consciously, *knowing that he would have to answer this question about it* - so his answer will always be not a straightforward description of his taste but, to some extent, an aspirational answer, a maxim, a statement about the man he thinks he ought to be.
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