Western Metrosexuals & Korean Kkotminam: Inevitable?

( Adapted from Mobile Life, by geishaboy500 )

Alas, it’s no longer my planned thesis topic, but I’m still very interested in the origins of the kkotminam (꽃미남) phenomenon, and so naturally I”m intrigued by the notion that the physically healthier a society, the more women in it tend to prefer “feminine” men as mates. From The Economist:

A disease-free society helps effeminate men attract women

IT IS not just a sense of fairness that seems to be calibrated to social circumstances (see article). Mating preferences, too, vary with a society’s level of economic development. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study by Ben Jones and Lisa DeBruine [themselves a married couple] of Aberdeen University, in Scotland, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

….In a man, the craggy physical characteristics associated with masculinity [James: because of testosterone] often indicate a strong immune system and thus a likelihood of his producing healthier offspring than his softer-featured confrères will. But such men are also more promiscuous and do not care as much about long-term relationships, leaving women to raise their kids alone.

Nowadays, sound parenting is often more important to the viability of a man’s offspring than Herculean strength. That, some researchers suspect, may be changing the physical traits that women look for in a mate, at least in some societies. A study carried out in 2004, for example, discovered that women in rural Jamaica found manly types more desirable than did women in Britain, which led to questions about whether those preferences were arbitrary or whether women in different parts of the world might be adapting to circumstances that place different emphasis on manliness in the competitive calculus.

Dr Jones and Dr DeBruine therefore looked to see if there is an inverse relationship between women’s preference for masculine features and national health. Sure enough, they found one…

With a nod towards copyright, see the article itself for the rest, and particularly for the methodology used, which did account for cultural and racial differences (image right: Hot Girl Remix by geishaboy500). Still, my first reaction was that this earlier study seemed to completely contradict those findings, as it demonstrated that for much of human history women had good reason to prefer skinny guys over muscled ones, the latter being less likely to survive in (frequent) times of scarcity, but that this no longer applied in the overabundance of modern times.

However, just like the kkotminam phenomenon itself forces many Westerners to reconsider their previously held notions of masculinity and femininity (not least myself), one should be very specific about what one means by those terms, and so note that this study was purely based on face shapes, which are heavily influenced by hormones. Accordingly,  it makes a great deal of sense that with good access to modern medicine, women would be more interested in other factors than simply passing on a good immune system to her children, as evidenced by a masculine jaw.

Hence, with the proviso that what makes “a great deal of sense” is very culturally and period specific however (evolutionary psychologists, for example, guilty of once thinking that all women in prehistoric tribes stayed in the camp to look after children and/or do some gathering while the men went off to hunt each day!), and that the specific timing of the popularity of the kkotminam and metrosexual phenomenons (and various permutations thereof) were/are/will be heavily dependent on a whole range of factors, not least the interests of the cosmetic industry, do you think that there’s a certain inevitability in them? Or are they merely passing fads? After all, given the above logic, then they’re here to stay.

( The King and the Clown {2005}; source: unknown )

Regardless, if it were possible, it would be fascinating to see if women’s tastes in men in a various society varied over time according to the health of its members. Alas, isolating everything but preference in face shape is probably impossible, and while it’s fair to say that in all historical societies men’s (and women’s) clothing probably tended to become more flamboyant and colorful in times of prosperity, I can’t stress often enough that neither characteristic is “feminine” per se!

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7 thoughts on “Western Metrosexuals & Korean Kkotminam: Inevitable?

  1. Interesting topic. While it makes perfect sense that more women from healthier societies prefer feminine men, the study doesn’t explain why the 꽃미남 phenomenon exists in Korea when there are plenty of Western countries that are healthier.

    Personally, I suspect the phenomenon is rooted in the average Korean’s refusal to acknowledge that homosexuality exists in this country. Few would argue that on the whole, female traits are more attractive than male traits. In North America, however, men with more feminine features or style are invariably described in pejorative terms like pretty boy, girly-man, flamboyant etc.

    Korea, on the other hand, is stuck in the 60s where girl friends can still hold hands and guy friends can give each other shoulder rubs without raising an eyebrow. I expect the whole 꽃미남 craze to fizzle out once more high profile celebrities come out of the closet and Koreans begin to view homosexuality as a threat rather than just an oddity.

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve submitted this page to kimchipot. Hopefully I can send a few more eyeballs your way.

    • Thanks for the link at kimchipot and the compliment about the post, but otherwise I’m afraid I’m a bit confused by many things in your comment sorry. To wit:

      …the study doesn’t explain why the 꽃미남 phenomenon exists in Korea when there are plenty of Western countries that are healthier

      Well, assuming you mean women liking men with feminine faces rather than 꽃미남 per se, to be frank I thought it was obvious that any number of cultural, economic, and social factors (etc. etc.) can mean that women in any particular society like or dislike men with feminine faces unusually early or late compared to the relative health of its members, but it still remains the overall trend.

      A good analogy would be the development of democracy in Latin America in the 20th Century for instance (no, really!); by coincidence I have Capitalist Development and Democracy (1992) at arm’s reach away in my bookcase, a very systematic look at the topic that demonstrates that while for various reasons some Latin American regimes took a relatively long time to democratize, and some unusually early, as a whole all of them did eventually.

      Personally, I suspect the phenomenon is rooted in the average Korean’s refusal to acknowledge that homosexuality exists in this country.

      Like I mention in this post, I don’t think there’s many Koreans who think that any more, and certainly in 10 years here I’ve personally never met any. Rather, I’d argue it’s more of an amusing factoid perpetuated by guidebooks etc., but really out of date by at least a decade or more; or alternatively it’s an age thing, as I’d wager anyone would be hard-pressed to find a Korean under 35 who still believes that.

      Few would argue that on the whole, female traits are more attractive than male traits.

      Not so sure I agree: after all, the whole point of this post is that what people consider “attractive” in men can be extremely malleable.

      In North America, however, men with more feminine features or style are invariably described in pejorative terms like pretty boy, girly-man, flamboyant etc.

      By whom exactly? I’d say “invariably” just by men actually (which admittedly includes my jealous self), but in my experience women can be just as likely to describe them positively and find them attractive (presumably partially for the reasons described in the post).

      Korea, on the other hand, is stuck in the 60s where girl friends can still hold hands and guy friends can give each other shoulder rubs without raising an eyebrow.

      Stuck in the 1960s of where exactly? Doesn’t sound like any Western society then that I know, but regardless I think its misguided to view Korean society and sexuality as merely lagging behind the (really rather varied) West and destined to become a mere copy of it.

      I expect the whole 꽃미남 craze to fizzle out once more high profile celebrities come out of the closet and Koreans begin to view homosexuality as a threat rather than just an oddity.

      I don’t: I could write a lot just based on that last line of yours(!), but I’ll confine myself to just saying that I can’t ever imagine Koreans viewing homosexuality as a threat the way many Westerners and particularly fundamental Christians in America do, as Korea largely lacks its culture wars, and sexuality (or rather, anti-sexuality) doesn’t form as integral a part of average Koreans’ identity as it does theirs. Instead, I predict that within 10-20 years or so, a generation of youngsters grown up on Western television will react to a big Korean star coming out by a) largely not caring and/or b) realizing that homosexuality, or homosexual tendencies, or whatever, has always really been quite pervasive in Korean culture.

      Sorry if I give the wrong impression by picking apart your comment: I am grateful for it, but, well, it’s unusual that I disagree with so much of one sorry…!

  2. nice article, it really got me thinking..

    maybe its a cultural thing? or maybe its an age thing? before i moved to korea i was only attracted to “masculine” men with beefy muscles, short hair and sparkling good looks. after months of living in korea, the attraction shifted before i could notice. i cant help but find the feminine, long haired, beautifully groomed, purse wearing, skinny guys with plastic-surgery bug eyes far more attractive.

    • Thanks, and there’s definitely both culture and age factors involved: just on the latter for instance, women looking for a good father to have children with rather than a fling tend to prefer more stable types, although ideally they’d get pregnant by the ladies’ men and then trick the stable types into raising them (sons of ladies’ men being more likely to be ladies’ men themselves, giving a woman a greater chance of passing her genes on and all)!

      But I’m just a guy, and so am not about to (or at least will try not to!) tell all women they all like such and such types of guys at one age, and others at another. Whatsonthemenu though, a woman and much appreciated regular commenter, has commented a great deal on this and similar topics, so you might be interested in hearing what she has to say on this sort of thing in the comments thread of this earlier post.

  3. I read only your post and didn’t check the links, but I have a few thoughts:

    1. Economic inequality, more than health, may explain why women in Jamaica prefer masculine men. The stuff I’ve read on evolutionary psychology states that both women and men vary their sexual strategies according to what is available. In areas where there are comparatively few men able to support a family, then many women will mate for genes, not support. Overall health of a population is one lkey indicator of economic equity. Feminine Beauty dot info has some interesting ideas on hypergamy and how it is many women seeking the best men that drives women to compete against each other in terms of looks and youthfulness. The website owner is a white supremicist in his views on ideal human beauty, but some of his stuff is worth reading because, like you, he casts aside PC and addresses real human behavior for better or worse.

    Another webpage possibly of interest is one posted as a link at THM a few weeks ago. It was from the blog of a US dating/matchmaking website. The blog posted results of surveys on sex and racial preferences in sending and responding to messages. One survey noted that women judged men’s looks more harshly yet were more likely to send or reply to the very men they judged as average or less attractive.

      • Not sure how I found out about Feminine Beauty dot info (probably through you!), but I’ve had a number of pages there bookmarked for quite a while now, although I hadn’t gotten around to actually reading any of them yet; thanks for the heads up about the bias of the author for when I do.

        Thanks for mentioning the link about the dating website, but unfortunately I misread that part of your comment and thought it was in a post you wrote yourself: hence it took me 20 minutes to find it! Still, that made me realize it would be very helpful if TMH had a list of authors on the right somewhere, so I could easily access all of their posts there? (rather than having to find one of your {rare} ones first, then click on your name!)

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