Looks ladder

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The looks ladder is a tool that is used to describe the positions of some looksist theorists describing the level of attractiveness a given person can obtain in a partner. Core to the claim is that men can only date below themselves in physical looks unless they are very physically attractive. Put simply:

A man who is... ...can get
Extremely good-looking (Extremely) Good-looking girls
Good-looking Average-looking girls
Average-looking Fat or below-average-looking girls
Below-average-looking No one

The argument may appear nonsensical at first, due to the general impression that most people date within their attractiveness range. However, looksists (and others) have argued that most women appear more attractive than they truly are due to wearing makeup the vast majority of the time they are seen. Using this argument, if most couples appear evenly matched, and the girls in them are all wearing makeup, it can be reasonably concluded that on average, the girls are at least slightly less physically attractive than their male partners. Such evidence is yet to be conclusively shown, however.

The ladder can also be used to describe an aspect of female hypergamy. If one aspect of status is physical attractiveness, and men tend to "date down" (hypogamy) then it is possible that one factor in female hypergamy is physical attractiveness.

The looks ladder may also be used as a personalitist argument about love-shyness degrading the partner attractiveness a love-shy man can reasonably attain. The looks ladder may very well prove true for love-shys, on average, unless they remedy their love-shyness somehow.

The looks ladder has also been argued to hold true on online dating sites, and there is more agreement between different schools of thought in this regard due to the imbalanced gender ratios on dating sites giving females an advantage.


Some personalitist love-shys dispute this ladder, claiming that unless a man is very good-looking, love-shyness will prevent him from forming relationships with any partner. Some looksists dispute the ladder as well, due to the extremity of its arguments. The latter reason leads many others to reject it as well. The question of whether a less extreme version of the looks ladder has some truth to it is left open.

See also

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