A friend recently described herself as “an 11 in Florida and a 7-and-a-half in New York.” Another friend, who lives on the West Coast, described to me a girl from Tinder he was meeting as a “9” and then later clarified after meeting her that she was an “8.” An ex once explained a scene to me in which he and his male friends sat around discussing what number each of his male friends thought their collective girlfriends should be attributed (the fuck?!). In high school, I learned about a binary that guys used to compare more than one woman wherein they mentioned a sport’s final score as “1—0” or “1—1.” “1—0” meant that the female on the left side was attractive (a “1” out of “1”) whereas the female on the Right side was not (a “0” out of 1”). As a teen, I remember seeing a show called “Battle Of The Bods” wherein five female contestants were to self-rank from least attractive to most attractive, while three men behind a one way mirror did the same thing. The areas of comparison ranged from “Best Butt” to “Best Overall.” I recall a friend at Wake Forrest telling me about a sorority hazing ritual wherein women were to stand in line according to attractiveness and finish off a half-quart of vodka with the bottle ending at the “ugliest” girl.
Even my female friends and I are guilty of participating in the same drunken objectification of males based on their relative attractiveness (although I’m confident in claiming that more females than males are objectified in this kind of subjugation!). Can a person’s entire physical appearance be reduced to such an archaic classification? It is well known that our president, however piggishly, has also ranked women on a type of Likert scale—“Sadly, she’s no longer a 10,” Trump said of Heidi Klum in a 2015 The New York Times interview. But it’s not just our Commander in Chief who ascribes quantitative measures to beauty—our culture fosters an obsession with Likes and Follows as rewards for prettiness.
How are these numbers quantified? Do non-visual traits like kindness, sense of humor, creativity fall into the conversation? I am going to assume not. With apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge replacing the “traditional” dating of yesteryear, we focus on looks alone. Love is pinned between a swipe yes and a swipe no based on whether or not you find that person physically attractive. Although more “serious” dating apps make the effort to accompany photos with questionnaires, we are still picking our partners by their appearances. It’s not to say that meet cutes and “love at first sight” haven’t always incited partnerships based on looks. It’s just that qualities like magnetism, charisma, and charm have been taken out of the equation. “Beauty,” writes Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth, “leaves out smell, physical response, sounds, rhythm, chemistry, texture, fit, in favor of a portrait on a pillow.”