In today’s culture, there are body parts which are acceptable to admire, and there are body parts which are more taboo. You would never, for example, have a main character in a young children’s cartoon admire another characters breasts or butt, but it is plenty common for them to admire eyes or the face. In the same way, classic chivalric love will tend to focus on the face or general form over features which are generally considered more sexually charged (at least it today’s modern cultural context).
There is, I think, a generally inclination to consider the admiration of eyes or face as more mature or respectable, while the admiration of features further south is generally considered more shallow. It seems to me, however, that this dichotomy is a false one. I’m not sure how features of the body can be meaningfully divided into shallow vs. non shallow because any bodily admiration seems like it is the same act. There is, perhaps, different levels of will required to not focus on particular features. In this sense, maybe, some sort of division can be made. However, if this is the feature being lauded, then in a sense what is being encouraged is a kind of deception – those who are admirable are those who can disguise their true interests by admiring different features. That being said, there is evidence that suggests that a beautiful face is of significant importance for general impressions of beauty – when watching porn men spend a considerable amount of time admiring faces (Where Men and Women Look). Where women look is somewhat contingent on whether they are on contraceptives; when on contraceptives they focus more on genitalia, when not they focus more on features of the environment. The differences are kind of irrelevant to me when talking about shallowness.
The core notion of shallowness, to me, seems to be that admiring the body is less then the mind. I’m inclined to concede this general point, appearance I think is the lesser aspect of a person’s identity. I do not think, however, that there can truly be more or less shallow physical admiration. I also think that physical admiration is an essential part of romance – sexual admiration is pretty much built into the definition of romantic love. It seems to me that physical admiration becomes shallow when it is the primary focus. This in itself is not inherently bad in any sense I can tell – people can, I think, enjoy mainly physical relationships. It does mean, however, that the other person is fairly exchangeable (to the extent that attractive bodies are more interchangeable then identities).
Let me know what you think,
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