Warrior babes: Must men lie even about what we find sexually attractive?

Many years back, I came across a show on the TV guide channel called something like “The top ten sexiest women in sci fi”, and I decided to watch it to gain some insight on early twenty-first century cultural…oh hell, you know why I was watching it.  Anyway, “science fiction” was defined broadly to include a bunch of science fiction, fantasy, and superhero TV shows.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, ogling women is a bad thing.  Do as I say, not as I did.)

Some of the girls were indeed quite pretty.  (My own vote would go to that actress in Dollhouse–I never saw the show, but whenever I was in a room where someone was watching Fox and a preview for it would show, I watched in rapt attention.)  As each of the ladies on the list was presented, a few commentators (mostly minor actors and comedians, like with those documentaries on VH1) would appear to explain what was so alluring about this particular girl.

One would think this self-evident from the pictures, but just flashing ten pictures of pretty girls in silly costumes wouldn’t take up half an hour.  So time after time, I heard that what really, truly makes some girl sexy is that she’s so strong and tough, that she beats up monsters with her bare hands, and that’s supposedly such a turn-on.

What bothers me here–enough that I still remember it years later–is not the obvious lying but the fact that the lies seemed pointless.  I understand that the whole warrior babes genre is a sort of unspoken agreement between young men and feminists, in which men get to watch revealingly dressed pretty girls but must pretend to be impressed with them as warriors.  But for this show, the masks were off.  Just calling it “Sexiest sci fi girls” is admitting that we’re judging them as objects of lust.  Why bother reintroducing bits of the pretense?

Even obvious truths deserve to be stated.  Physical toughness is not attractive in women.  No guy was ever aroused at the thought of a girl who could beat the crap out of him.  Of the ladies on that show, only Xena Warrior Princess looked like she might be able to beat me up, and I was not remotely attracted to her.  She looked too manly, as would any woman who was really “strong” and “tough” in the way these guys claimed to like.  The rest of the girls were soft, slender, and curvy in the ways normal men like.  For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is supposed to be able to clobber preternatural demons, but the actress who plays her doesn’t look like she could overpower ordinary men.

Men are attracted to vulnerability and cuteness, not warrior toughness.  This is true for personality as well as looks.  To be sure, an attractively sensitive and feminine personality is compatible with great courage and sacrifice, but even in such cases its style is very different from manly toughness.  Androgynism is unattractive.  Men prefer feminine women; women prefer masculine men.  That’s a big reason why feminism and male sexual desire often seem to be in conflict.  (A partial conflict.  By destroying femininity and chastity, feminism makes women less attractive but easier to get into bed.)

Or has the thinking now switched, so that we’re not criticizing men’s sexual desires as “objectifying”, but trying to restructure them in a more feminism-compliant direction?  Do the TV producers think that if they show attractive women being tough warriors often enough, it will restructure our desires so that we’ll start being attracted to “strong” women with masculine personalities who we imagine might be able to take on monsters in hand-to-hand combat?

If that’s the idea, it’s hard to imagine it working.

35 Responses

  1. […] Warrior babes: Must men lie even about what we find sexually attractive? […]

  2. How about Ripley in *Alien*? She seems like an archetype of female toughness to me and also sexy. Even though Sigourney Weaver is not very pretty. Or curvy. Or soft. Rather, she has the angular elegance you sometimes see in tall, skinny girls.

    Ripley is not a modern warrior babe, not in the first movie, anyway. And she is vulnerable in her way. But she is mentally tough when that is required of her. She fights, but not with her hands. She is sort of a frontier wife.

    Her toughness would have worked even better with a child to protect. This was fixed in the second movie, though her character otherwise deteriorated a lot. She was not sexy in that movie, at least to me.

  3. I have been watching an anime called “Witchblade,” spun off from a USA comic series of the same name.

    The heroine is ditzy, uneducated, and irresponsibly emotional. When she shifts into superpower mode, she’s unstoppable. But when she actually falls in love with a man, she has to do the fake-refusal until he grabs her and has his way with her.

    Also, she’s a single mother with an adopted daughter who accidentally falls in love with the estranged father of her adopted daughter.

    Japan walked a fine line. They made a heroine that feminists could just barely accept, but they also made her a retro-bimbo.

    Brienne of Tarth, incidentally, is what a strong woman should look like, and I’ll take a strong woman with a body like that over a cute woman with a weak, sickly body.

  4. I think, Bonald, what men find genuinely attractive and what men might lust after. There is a certain lustfulness about some buxom blonde playing at warrior (when, really, we know such a thing is nigh impossible). Obviously, it’s her feminine traits that attract, but the warrior thing might add a bit of a lust to it. No man would ever think of marrying and having babies with such a woman, though.

    Or has the thinking now switched, so that we’re not criticizing men’s sexual desires as “objectifying”, but trying to restructure them in a more feminism-compliant direction?

    This is also true. The left even tries to drill into boys that women that want to stay at home with the kids are somehow lazy. I think they realized at some point down the line they weren’t ever going to win on the front to make all men androgynous asexual betas, but they can mold the desires. This might even be an agenda of the pornography industry, come to think of it.

  5. Ripley didn’t do anything for me. We need a third opinion.

  6. Yeah, Ripley did nothing for me either.

  7. ” buxom blonde playing at warrior … No man would ever think of marrying and having babies with such a woman, though.”

    Ahem. I’ll blog some pictures of Gwendoline Christie and Ronda Rousey in a few hours.

    I hope you all realize that every civilized country fields an Olympic team of athletes every four years, and half of those are female. Every major country has female Olympic athletes in judo. Those women are vastly more attractive and vastly more warlike than the average woman. They could be warriors. And lots of men are eager to marry them and have babies with them. Tove Torvalds has three children with her world-famous husband.

    However, a large country can only produce a few dozen of such warrior-women, and their warlike qualities only last a few precious years.

    Ronda Rousey was born in 1987, and right now might be the peak of her combat capacity. She probably won’t be winning many big fights in ten years. But for the moment, she’s a real-life warrior woman.

  8. Yeah, Ripley did nothing for me either

    The first two alien movies were suspenseful enough that you could overlook the “I am woman, hear me roar!” siliness. But by the third and fourth movies, the alien became a symbol, and not a very subtle symbol, of an unborn child in a womb. So in the third, Ripley plummets into the fire because being forced to have child is hell. James Bowman nailed the fourth:

    “In the film’s climactic scene she makes especially effective use of this quality to dispose of a giant, toothy alien fetus who regards her as its mother. After nuzzling with the horrible thing and showing apparently maternal feelings toward it (on this point she is always ambiguous, identifying herself as “its mother” at one moment and shooting it at the next), she flings a drop of her blood at the tiny window (a window?) of the spaceship, puncturing a small hole in it. The monster is then sucked through the hole in disgusting ribbons of flesh and blood.

    The imagery of abortion is unmistakable. As the creature is cut to pieces and evacuated into space, Ripley whispers “I’m sorry” to it. Obviously not sorry enough to sacrifice not only her own life but also that of her lesbian love interest, a robot played by Winona Ryder. The robot has already taken a bullet in the chest without ill effect, so it is not clear what Ripley thinks will happen to her as she grapples with the monster-fetus. But presumably even robots must be saved from the nightmare of motherhood. As the film ends, she and her beloved droid can breathe the free air of earth as we see the spaceship re-entering the atmosphere just at sunset amid pastel clouds. What a brave new world there is here to enjoy, unencumbered by the burden of nature.”

  9. This inspired to list down what I find attractive on women. An ultimately shallow exercise, but so what. It’s not if I’m demanding any potential girlfriend/wife to dress this way.

  10. To be fair, Buffy’s fighting prowess was magically gifted to her. I recall one episode where she had to face a vampire without her powers. He nearly killed her and she only survived by relying on her wits. But other shows that portray 100 pound waifs taking out squads of linebackers with only her awesome kung fu as a completely natural thing are ridiculous.

  11. No to Ripley. Definitely too tall, skinny and manly. The underwear scene at the end of the 1st movie is completely unattractive. Sigourney Weaver does have an upper class presence though.

  12. I have to disagree with your assertion that some men don’t find strength and toughness sexy in a woman. And many guys to find the idea of a pretty girl who can beat the crap out of them to be very sexy indeed.

    What feminists object to is that such men still do expect such women to still be attractive and sexually available to them. Feminists are only sex positive when it comes to female sexuality.

  13. I always had the hots for Diana Rigg, as Emma Peele in “the Avengers.”
    She was very feminine, and still kicked plenty of ass.Charlie’s Angels, Angie Dickenson’s character, and one of the Mission Impossible chicks, the one with freckles, all were simultaneously feminine and powerful. Who was the chick in the Bible who nailed that guy’s head to the floor? Pretty badass if you ask me, and very sexy. I find strong women intriguing, if not actually desirable.

  14. Not entirely germane, but my wife watches a lot of tcm, and I’m constantly irritated by the opposite type; the helpless Fair Maiden who stands around during the big swordfight, biting her hand while the hero is fighting for his life. There’s a five pound candlestick right there, why do they never try to help out? Throw a goblet at Basil or flip a tapestry over his head or some damn thing, don’t just stand there and watch. It would piss me off to the point of going back to the village and hooking up with a tavern wench or milkmaid; a helpmeet rather more than some fainting Nelly just because she takes the occasional bath. Someone mentioned the frontier wife. That’s my ideal; some spirit, please. Maureen O’Sullivan springs to mind. Can’t think of a contemporary analogue. Milla Javovich, maybe. The girl with the dragon tattoo, preferably without the tatoo, though. In my fantasies, I’m selective!

  15. Ripley was definitely not sexy. I second everything in the original post. “Powerful” women, also makes no difference this way or that. An why would any woman want to be described as “fierce”? Who would like a fierce woman?

  16. Scott W, did you see Prometheus, the Alien prequel? The main character has an abortion, though the surgical computer calls it “abdominal surgery” or something like that. It is even more explicit because she’s impregnated by her boyfriend who is “infected” so to speak by an alien substance. In an interesting twist, the Alien she aborts grows monstrously huge and tries to kill her. Ultimately it lays a proto-xenomorph in another character.

  17. I would never want to describe a woman as “fierce” generally (to my mind, “fierce” = proud, unruly, disrespectful, etc.), but the capacity for occasional acts of fierceness would be nice. I’d love a woman who’d defend her children by flinging herself nails-first into the eyeballs of an assailant.

  18. I think warrior babe attraction is a feature of adolescent boys, whether those truly of that age or those who have never outgrown it. They’ve not yet matured to the point of accepting the manly responsibility of being husband and father, so they are uncomfortable with truly feminine women who fit the role of wife and mother. The warrior babe is female (fulfilling their newly developed attraction to girls) but also like what they aspire to be (heroic).

  19. I suspect that the programming has already taken hold in some men. It is like religious instruction. When the religious authority figure tells you what is attractive, over time, and you trust him or her completely, that’s what it becomes. It’s a form of hypnosis that targets the weak and suggestible. The more a man is enmeshed with his mother, who, presumably protected him or irregularly withheld protection (intermittent reinforcement–very powerful), or who fought off other men in favor of him, the more that man believes that a “strong woman” will be sexually assertive with him and otherwise will want to dominate him sexually–even though he’s “sensitive,” pudgy, has man boobs, is mechanically inept, and unemployed. Eventually, such a man may either get himself a bunch of money (and pay women to play-act in this mode) or discover his error in mature old age.

    There’s also the matter of a man who believes that women like to see themselves this way and thereby attempts to pander to her by calling her “a strong woman.” In some cases he’s right but that too is a manipulative technique, often times, as a way of persuading her to leave him.

    Of course women who are actually (rather than merely professionally or to attempt to deter both male and female attackers in the neighborhood) tough tend to be either lesbians or uninterested in sex, hence the coup when buying one of them. She’s a trophy. Extra credit for buying oneself a sex change and having your “tough woman” trophy wear the pants.

    Any programming which causes despair and hopelessness over time serves to reduce population eventually, at least among certain demographics. Catfighting is also on the rise. Whereas men who are resistant to the programming are a challenge and threat to our engineered society.

  20. Marissa, Yes I did and I had completely forgotten about it, but it is the most artless equation of unborn with monstrous alien in the series.

  21. Forever popularized to the masses by Lara Croft. Your assessment of the ‘silent agreement’ with feminists is dead on. Men want femininity, ultimately. Strong women can be independent, and this is unattractive because the true vocation of womanhood is naturally dependency on man. To reject is is itself a rejection of womanhood.

  22. A plausible and agreeable–but unlikely–goal of feminism would be to get men to treat average-looking women better, respect what they have to say, and follow through on their commitments to them. To support that goal, feminism would be pushing for more homely-but-funny comediennes, since nothing has more power to transform a homely girl into a desirable one than the ability to be hilarious on purpose.

    We know this is not feminism’s goal since they push for warrior babes instead. Warrior babes have the opposite effect.

  23. Thinking more about it, I’m struck by the contrast between the warrior babe and the femme fatale. As Steve Sailer noted in his review of “Drive”, the femme fatale has all but disappeared from movies these days, while of course the warrior babe is forced into every action or sci-fi flick and period piece, however implausibly.

  24. One of the most grotesque signs of societal decay and the fact that this nation is doomed is women in mixed martial arts fighting and the fact that people actually watch it.

  25. To be fair, we shouldn’t imagine an active and conscious collaboration between adolescent boys and feminists. I imagine most professional feminists understand the pornographic function of the warrior babes genre and despise it. However, feminism is established ideology, and most people sincerely believe it. So when the screenwriters and producers of these shows say they want to fight sexist stereotypes and whatnot, they’re being self-serving but not dishonest. Or, rather, if there is any dishonesty, it’s what they’re practicing on themselves. And yet, because they really believe it, they really do work to put in noxious anti-patriarchal themes in their shows.

    It’s sort of like how the war in Afghanistan morphed into a war for female public education. The war wasn’t caused by women’s studies professors clamoring for invasion. But once we’d gotten bogged down in fighting, we had to come up with some grand reason to justify why we were there. Two hundred years ago, we might have said we wanted to spread the Gospel. Today, when we invade heathendom, it’s to teach them about sexual equality. In both cases, the justification would have been sincerely believed.

    I don’t have any hard feelings toward adolescent boys, either. Who among us didn’t have a weakness for looking at pretty girls at that age? (Not that I claim to be entirely free of it now.) Purity of mind is especially hard then, and the culture seems designed to make it as hard for them as possible.

  26. Nothing against adolescent boys, but it is unbecoming for a grown man to act like one.

  27. For what it’s worth, I’ve spent some time with men I could tell were quite sincere in their thirst for women who looked to them like they could beat them up; I can’t imagine it’s a common fixation, but it didn’t seem to accompany any major psychopathology either. Of course, the women in question had plenty of other desirable features (hips and chest, a well proportioned face, clear skin, etc.), but muscularity didn’t seem to count against them.

  28. […] Two more fine pieces from him: The moral critique of democracy in The Dark Knight and Warrior babes: Must men lie even about what we find sexually attractive?. The dude is just a […]

  29. Reblogged this on The Practical Benedict Option and commented:
    Moderate disagreement here on the idea that men don’t want physically robust wives. I don’t know that this fainting dame thing should be taken so far by anyone into traditional living. The sturdy, stocky, physically strong woman is a common enough wife-type throughout history and the idea that those husbands really weren’t sexually attracted to their strong, muscular wives who could toss hay bales and catch stray calves solo is weird.

    Men want women who are less masculine than they are, that much is true. But the cute physically frail woman is a luxury good and not exactly a traditionally desired wife-type for the average man.

    Warrior-woman, no, that’s taking things too far, men mostly aren’t interested in their own personal shieldmaiden. But the delicate blossom who can’t lift more than a teacup is not exactly what a lot of men want either.

  30. “But the cute physically frail woman is a luxury good and not exactly a traditionally desired wife-type for the average man.”

    But doesn’t everyone want luxury goods? They just can’t all afford them, which is what makes them a luxury. The best evidence that most men don’t usually desire (sexually, as opposed to desire as a useful addition to the household) beefy hay-bale-tossing gals is that men stopped wanting them once they were no longer necessary. By contrast, big ripped muscular men are no longer as necessary (slender actuaries or doughy engineers can probably materially provide for families better than hulking lumberjacks) but still desired, suggesting muscularity is intrinsic to male attractiveness in a way that hay-bale-tossing-ness isn’t to female attractiveness.

  31. I think the voluptuous type is what most men want the most. The frail, petite type is better than the morbidly obese type or manly hay-bale tossing type but not as naturally desirable as the voluptuous type.
    Men seem to find height (in a relative sense) unattractive. If a women isn’t at least a few inches shorter than you she doesn’t seem “frail.”

  32. Just look at the actresses they get to play warrior babes. They don’t go for female bodybuilders.

  33. I literally find obese women more attractive than female bodybuilders.

  34. Voluptuousness implies a certain sturdiness. Quintessentially, it’s the sturdiness required to carry, bear, and nurture children without suffering abnormal amounts of distress to her body.

    This winds up also creating the impression that the woman could wrestle around with you for a bit without getting her bones broken, while ideally not also creating the impression that she’d easily pin you.

    I think maybe that’s what other commenters are getting at when they object to the fainting waif image.

  35. Agreed NZ.

    My guess at a ranking of what most men naturally desire would be voluptuous > petite > feminine big girl > Helga-Hairy-Chest. That’s ranked based on perceived fertility. Petite signals young which means future fertility.

    I don’t know where the tall, skinny runner’s body girl fits in. Less than petite, greater than big girl? The female body builder is so unnatural they’re off the scale.

    Hope that’s not too swinish of a comment.

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