You're Not Shallow: Physical Appearances Matter

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Can we all just admit it? Physical appearance matters when dating.

I am not suggesting that there is a right or wrong physical appearance. I am fully aware of the intersecting sociopolitical issues that come to bear on people–particularly women, LGBTQ people, and people of color–to conform their appearance to heteronormative, racist, and sexist expectations. And that’s fucked up.

All that said, the idea that pretending that physical appearance is irrelevant, or should be, when selecting a mate (or mates), is silly.

This came to mind when reading about Siren, a dating app that doesn’t prioritize photos by not employing the Tinder model of swiping. Instead, users answer daily questions that are then posted to a feed for other users to peruse before requesting to connect. The idea being that people make connections based on mutual worldviews and interests, instead of photos.

It’s like OkCupid but you can only have one photo and you have the option of blurring it out before people connect with you. The similarity is that OkCupid also has the option of answering over a thousand questions, ranging in topics from sex to politics to weird stuff like “if a left-handed glove is turned inside out, which hand does it fit on?”

The difference is that OkCupid gives you the option of uploading more than one photo, as well as filling out an entire profile, so that a person can pick a date based on more information than “what’s your favorite smell?” A charming little quirk to be sure, if their favorite smell is dirty socks, but definitely not useful information for what they might be like in bed or who they’re voting for (another important and often overlooked aspect of dating, particularly given the current state of the country). Ironically, this difference means that Siren still fails at letting you get to know the person for more than their appearance, even though OkCupid has more photos.

People are taught to de-prioritize physical appearance because people are taught that sex shouldn’t be the most important factor in a relationship, or even in the top three. Heck, even someone putting it on the top five list of things to consider in a relationship runs the risk of becoming the sluttiest harlot known to humanity.

Sex matters in a relationship. Sex matters when dating. People like having sex and we all would be a lot healthier and happier if we came to terms with that.