Friday, November 19, 2010

Science of Attraction

In light of yesterday's discussion, I thought it'd be interesting to discuss the science of attraction with evolution theory at its basis. Something that repeatedly confounds me is the belief that I can force myself to be attracted to someone, or, wielding the ethics of the modern progressive family, can look beyond physical attraction and find something hidden deep in my object of interest, and then I'll fall in love, and flowers will blossom and a golden light will lazily hang across everything I see.

This has yet to happen. To what extent can I manipulate my subconscious, natural desires? Is the purpose of disability studies to get people to the point where they can gaze at a disabled person and feel attraction? I suspect the latter question is a no--that the purpose is to turn the disabled from object to subject--but I have to wonder, Are we expected to look at an amputee with the same amount of amazement as we are Venus de Milo? (I'd also like to point out that the West's infatuation with Venus may not be due to her level of physical attraction, but the expertise of her sculptors; sculptures of Egyptian Pharaohs are physically attractive, but their sculpted form isn't as 'realistic' as that of Venus or many other classical Greek works).

This all comes back to me being wary of Theory, yet, at the same time, Biology. What can the mind control, and what is it forced to leave be? I suppose this most comes up when reading Lacan, the man who so forcefully divorces biology and the mind, especially in the case of the death drive and many psychosomatic disorders (anorexia, etc.)

I've just confused myself more. Thoughts?


  1. I'm reminded of a class discussion from a few years back, during which, a female student who said something along the lines of, "Look. I find Keanu Reeves attractive. I don't think that's a cultural construction." The Matrix was in theaters at the time. My professor's response was as follows: "It's hard for me to see how finding Keanu Reeves attractive is not a cultural construction." His argument was basically that the broad media apparatus surrounding Reeves spent most of it's time championing his attractiveness, which is arguably why we think he's attractive, and potentially say things like, "That guy looks like Keanu Reeves," in the first place. More to the point, Neo is not disabled.

    I also remember another professor of mine telling a student, in pretty much these exact words, the following: "I've grown a bit tired of hearing that such-and-such is a 'social construction.' I understand that Judith Buter got away with it, but you have to do better than that."

    These are legit questions, Oceania. I hope that your peers can shed some not-so-lazy light on them.

  2. I agree, totally legit questions. I also like your point about the Venus statue "infatuation" being more based on sculptor expertise

  3. I've heard people say that once they fell in love with someone, that person's physical flaws or what-have-you became less prominent, and I'm inclined to agree. I don't know if that's you manipulating your subconscious, because that implies a degree of intention and I don't think you can really control your subconscious intentionally, but I do think it's a thing that happens. Why else would that woman at the beginning of the Davis reading have gotten married when, I would argue, the majority of society would find her unattractive?

  4. This is embarrassing, but since we're all friends, I might as well admit it: I find the actor who plays Snape in the Harry Potter films (Alan Rickman) attractive. I know! My friends have already told me how gross I am for thinking that, but it's true. Something about him is really attractive to me, and I know for a FACT that it can't be socially constructed. can that be explained? I am sure that it has a lot to do with biology and also possibly psychoanalysis (really don't want to go there...), but I've never really given it a lot of thought.

  5. You're totally not gross. People have plenty of "strange" attractions, and I think this answer's Joe's question of whether or not beauty can be found beneath the skin.

    It also definitely plays into our recent discussions on disability and the anecdote of the disable woman...finding beauty in something that would, according to convention, not be considered beautiful