Friday, August 12, 2011

Aesthetes vs. Sensualists

Among the myriad ways you can divide up the world to try to understand human behaviour, I think it's interesting to note the different attitudes (straight) men have towards women.

As I see it, the male world is roughly divided into two camps - the Aesthetes, and the Sensualists.

Both the Aesthetes and the Sensualists love sleeping with hot women. (The Couch: Duh! They also enjoy eating food and breathing oxygen). Let's assume they enjoy this equally.

But the difference comes in how they react to hot women that, for one reason or another, they can't sleep with.

Aesthetes are so-called because they love female beauty. They enjoy being surrounded by attractive women, even if nothing is going to happen. They enjoy having attractive female friends, partly for the validation of knowing that hot women enjoy their company, but partly just for the improvement in view. They see a pretty girl walk down the street, and reflect on how good it is to live in area with pretty girls around them. Sure they'd love to bang her, but the fact that they can't doesn't stop them enjoying seeing them.

Sensualists, on the other hand, are driven only by the sensual and carnal aspects of the opposite sex. For the sensualist, being around desirable girls is important mainly for the potential that he might one day be able to hook up with them, however remote that possibility is. If he can't, their attractiveness doesn't bring him any pleasure. Indeed, for the hardcore sensualist, being surrounded by attractive but taken women actually is a source of psychological discomfort - he can't stop being bothered by the fact that he'd like to sleep with them, but can't. Their beauty only serves to remind him of their unattainable nature. He wouldn't ever admit to himself that he might be happier if some of the women around him were less attractive (because he is likely to overestimate the probability that something might still happen), but it is nonetheless so.

The aesthetes I know are generally happier, as it's much easier to find someone attractive to merely look at rather to have sex with. But they are also less driven in their quest to actually sleep with the women they meet, because they derive more satisfaction without that, and hence the marginal change in happiness is smaller. The guys I know who sleep with lots of girls are, to a man, sensualists - beautiful women who they haven't hooked up with are a challenge and a torment, but not a source of pleasure. 

On the other hand, the men I know who had any substantial number of female friends were all aesthetes. This isn't always just driven by the simplified logic of surrounding themselves with hot women - they are also more likely to appreciate the female sex for reasons other than just physical attractiveness, such as the different ways that women tend to view the world. Aesthetes are more broadly interested in eligible women, of which being young and physically attractive is a large part, but not the only part.*Aesthetes tend to objectify women less - not in the OMG SEXISM OBJECTIFICATION!!!11!! sense, but more broadly in terms of viewing the opposite sex mainly as a means to an end. I think this view tends to be more common among sensualists, and it makes friendship unlikely.

For the men, if you want to know which camp you fall into, there is an easy test. Suppose you're 45 and married with two young children. You're also a committed husband, and determined not to stray. In your job, you get assigned a super hot secretary with a huge rack and a penchant for wearing slightly too revealing clothes for an office setting.

How would you feel when you walked in each morning and saw her?

The first thought will probably be, 'Man, she's hot!'. But what's the second thought?

Your answer will tell you not only which side you fall on, but also tends to reveal quite a lot about how you think, which is why I think it's a useful categorisation. 

If you have to judge whether someone else is an aesthete or a sensualist, here's a rule of thumb - men that are greedy in other aspects of their personality are more likely to be sensualists.

*If this post dwells on physical attractiveness as the main salient characteristic of women, it is from a conviction that this is a large component of how most men actually perceive them. A sad fact this may be, but it is a fact nonetheless.

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