The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Beauty-Power Axis

March 31

I would have gone to see "21" this last weekend, but found out that the actual student the
story is based on is Chinese. When they changed it to a white guy for the movie, that
just pisses me off. And no, it's not just Hollywood. Sigh.


The "Soulmate Process" has roots back in about fifteen years of speculating about the
nature of relationships, observations about them, experiments in my own life
and he lives of students and friends. I believe it, have seen
it in operation many times, but there is an irreducible amount of speculation

The basic idea is that our relationships are mirrors of our own worth, self-image, and self-love. One of the saddest things I've seen is people simply not understanding what attracts the opposite sex (and I have to confine this to male-female
relations, because I simply haven't observed gay mating dances to the same degree. I would suspect that the rules are very

Something called the "Beauty/Power Axis" is critical to understanding this. In general,
human beings will make the best relationship choices they can. All other things being
equal, the average man will go after the most beautiful woman.
The average woman will go after the most powerful man. In our current culture, there are LOTS
of people making a straight transaction (men and women placing equal value on both characteristics) but in
general, the way to bet is that, guys, want to attract more women? Earn more money, buy a house
(men with houses are something like six times more likely to attract a given
woman), get a bigger car. Women, want to attract more men? Project secondary sexual
characteristics, fertility and sexual readiness, and the signs of a healthy
immune system (smooth skin, etc.)
Everybody knows this stuff, but it can be painful to look at.

What this means for personal development is absolutely awesome. It means that, to the degree that this is true, and that
everyone will make the best choices they feel they can afford to make.

God, that realization can be painful. IN RELATIONSHIPS, WE DON'T GET WHAT WE WANT. WE GET WHO WE ARE. We want to believe that our love, our hearts, our sexuality has infinite worth. The last thing we want
to think is that it can be somehow quantified. And in an absolute sense, it isn’t, and can’t. But high-performing people put themselves through discipline and focus the average person just can’t believe.

Women who are “beautiful” are not merely the winners of a genetic lottery. That may be true in junior
high, but from my time in Hollywood watching these women exercise, diet, shop, raise their make-up to the level of artistry, take dance and poise classes, etc. and etc…I am convinced that 95% of women could be “beautiful” if they put
the right focus into it.

And as for men and wealth? Well, the average man, the average PERSON can be a millionare before they retire if they save 10% of their earnings into a no-load mutual fund and let it sit. If they put serious time and energy into learning not only
how to make it but hold it? They can do better than that.
Considerably better.

In other words, these rules aren't more unfair to men than to women. They just are. If you play the game understanding these rules exist, it is sometimes possible to break them. Ignore them at your own peril.

The average person seems to be prevented from the full expression of their beauty or power more by fear than by lack of potential. One might almost suggest that a primary attraction between people is the "percentage of potential expressed." In other words, two people who are operating at the outer edges of their potential will be appropriate mates for each other. One person coasting while the other is maxing out? Not so much.

But you also have to look at the idea that human beings are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

But these things together, and you can glimpse what I'm talking about here:
1)If you are satisfied with the intimate relationships in your life, congratulate yourself: they are a reflection of who you are.
2) If you are NOT satisfied with the intimate relationships in your life, YOU must take responsibility for change. It isn't fair, but
"fair" doesn't really enter into it. Ladies, you can predictably attract a man whose expression of power equals your expression of your beauty.
Guys, vice versa. It is POSSIBLE to find relationships where a straight trade is made, but one almost never sees the opposite: a woman of power linking up with the beautiful but powerless guy. It's interesting to see the cultural and psychological barriers that prevent this 90% of the time.

The Soulmate Process is designed to align your heart's desires and your true nature with your external actions. A by-product of this is that you will become more attractive. You can use the attraction to measure your success, but the real point is to help you see where you are selling yourself short.

1) Make a list of the traits you want in a partner. Be specific, and let yourself dream. No compromises at ALL. If God gave you this mate, you'd be blissfully happy and wouldn't think "damn! I should have asked for X!" You should list qualities of body, mind, and spirit.
2) Look out at your circle of acquaintences, and find the person who comes the closest to your list. IF POSSIBLE, FIND THREE PEOPLE.
3) Invite them to dinner or lunch. Sit them down, and tell them of your project. What you want to know is: what are they attracted to? What kind of person could THEY fall in love with?
4) If you have chosen carefully, what they describe to you is what you REALLY aspire to be. Not what you let yourself admit to, but what you REALLY want. Relationships aren't that complicated. We get who we are, to an uncomfortable degree. If you ask three people, GREAT! Overlap their answers
What all three of them say in common is the core of what you want.
5) Look at the gap between who you are and what they want. Imagine yourself becoming that person. Would that be a good thing? In alignment with your values? Then begin to acquire those characteristics. Along the way, one of the signs that it is working is that you willbegin to attract the opposite-gender equivalent of the person you are becoming. That's just a side-benefit, however. The real reward is expressing a more authentic self.

That's it, in a nutshell. This is more art than science. It is so painful to watch people aspire to partners they simply don't have the power to attract and hold. The sadder thing is that so few people come anywhere close to expressing their true power: whether that manifests as finances or beauty or both. It is as if they are sitting on Fort Knox, and refusing to open the gates. What are they afraid of? I think in most cases people want to be "discovered". To be "seen as my true self", for someone to "see the real me" and not be distracted by little things like looks, weight, money, etc. And to be honest with you, most of the time it seems to me that these people are killing their dreams.

I think that we can all live lives in alignment with our values. Which means that we can all be attracted by what we see in the mirror. Which means that we can be attracted by our opposite-gender dopplegangers. There are few things sadder than someone who consistently and exclusively attracts people they themselves are not attracted to.

In other words: love yourself, turn yourself on, celebrate your life with your actions and words and thoughts, and strive to be the very best you can be. You will find a partner with the same level of courage, clarity, self-respect and honesty that you bring to your life.

And if you don't like the results you're getting from others...look in the mirror again.
Is this superficial? Really? Power is nurtured and expressed through countless small actions from day to day. Those actions are motivated and sustained by our emotions, values, and positive/negative anchors. What we do expresses who we are more than anything else. A snapshot appreciation of money, fitness, success, health, beauty, grace, power...these are, in one form or another, what goes on throughout the animal kingdom, and has powerful analogues in human society.

What too many of us want, and pray for, is NOT that people will "see our true selves" despite our outer shells. What we pray for is that we can cheat, cut corners, attract someone whose level of energy and commitment is higher than our own.

It doesn't work.
By the way: men? If you don't want to be judged according to your finances, don't judge a woman according to her beauty. Women? If you don't want to be judged according to your beauty, don't judge a man by his finances. Very, very simple stuff.


Anonymous said...

I think there is a lot of hard truths in what you say.

At the same time, have you looked into the pick up artist phenomenon currently gaining popularity among the younger generation?

These "pickup gurus" have supposedly created a replicable system to get girls, that works a good majority of the time regardless of your wealth or your looks.

Anonymous said...

af1 -

There's definitely a difference between pickin' one up and and keeping them :).


Anonymous said...

Good point!

Daniel Keys Moran said...

>pick up artist phenomenon

This is new?

Anonymous said...

Physically and financially, I'm not 100% where I'd like to be, but relationship wise? Sometimes I wonder at it all. And honestly, I wouldn't trade where I am for more money or tighter abs or a few thousand more dollars a year.

Some people whom I find incredibly attractive seem to think that I'm also attractive, physically and personally.

I'm convinced that some of that is in part physical health. It's not that I'm phenomenally healthy, but that I'm not unhealthy, and that can cause depression. Mind you, I know some beautiful people with chronic health issues, both in body and spirit, but it takes someone exceptional to have the will to be happy enough to be attractive when you're sick a lot.

I was not all that attractive when I was more depressed.


Also, if 21 is annoying you, I wonder what you think of the new Jackie Chan/Jet Li movie "Forbidden Kingdom"?

mjholt said...

How about a change up:
men and beauty
women and wealth

Wealthy women attract a better class of men than beautiful women do.

Beautiful men don't have to be rich to attract a classy woman.

The best of all possible worlds is being beautiful and wealthy.

As Billy Holiday sung: God bless the child who has her own.

Kami said...

I know a very beautiful man who reliably ends up with wealthy/powerful women. The dynamic is fascinating but also painful to watch. They discard him after a period of time. Sometimes it's a handful of years, sometimes it's a handful of months. Emotionally, physically, he's a keeper, but his pitiful and sometimes total lack of income may be what's causing the women to undervalue and inevitably abandon him. I don't think that the women consciously rid themselves of him because of his monetary status. They just 'get bored' or move on for some other excuse. While they're in the relationship, though, they seem to enjoy having a 'kept man.'

I don't know if he'd be comfortable talking about it but the next time I see him and we've had a few drinks, I'll see if he's receptive and if we can talk about it in a way that won't be hurtful to him. I really care for this person and I'd love to see him succeed in love. Wouldn't it be crazy if 'all' he had to do was get involved in a career?

Steven Barnes said...

Kami--any human being who cannot support himself/herself is in a child position. Men seem to tolerate this better in a woman than women do in men. Now, someone who makes a deal to take care of the home while the "hunter/huntress" goes out and brings home the bacon is providing for themselves, no doubt. But again, when guys do this, I've seen it throw the dynamics of the relationship off again and again.
Picking women up is an interesting art form. I'm sure the reverse is true as well. Once upon a time, while researching "The Kundalini Equation" a girl I knew took me to a cowboy bar in Anaheim. She had another girlfriend with her, and used the occassion to demonstrate the art of picking up men. I suppose I was an honorary woman that evening...the technique was fascinating. Might write about it sometime.

Unknown said...

I think part of what goes on with the pick up artist phenomenon is that you're more likely to pick someone up if you keep trying many times, and having some system or other encourages people to keep trying.

Getting a man is either very easy or very difficult, depending on what you're actually trying to get the man to do.

Anonymous said...

this particular analysis
(which I've chafed at before)
makes both women and men
seem so lame!

power signified by
windowed office


women for high tits
and cheekbones
flat belly
round ass


whatabout MINDS!!!!!!!

Pagan Topologist said...

Suzanne, you are so right on here!

Mike R said...

>She had another girlfriend with her, and used the occassion to demonstrate the art of picking up men. I suppose I was an honorary woman that evening...the technique was fascinating. Might write about it sometime.<

I would be interested in hearing about this experience.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever felt like a bigger loser in my entire life than after reading this blog post.

Anonymous said...

I really wonder
in this day
of educated women
and the necessary two income households
if this particular
Axis" isn't sorely out-dated

i find it offensive

goddess knows
having been associated with a "power' man
(my totally inferior marriage
of 27 years
begun before he was "powerful")
it is a criterion
that is more problematic
than it is rewarding

and Beauty women
will you know beauty in the traditional physical sense
fades . . .

it just seems so inane___

Nancy Lebovitz said...

This doesn't match the reality I've seen. Most of the happiest long term relationships I know seem to involve one or two professional incomes and fairly ordinary looking women. No extraordinary power/money or beauty needed. Maybe everyone is settling, but it all seems to work quite well.

I'm going to underline Suzanne's point about beauty in the sense you're talking about it fades. You call the gender roles as you see them fair? Women have a much shorter window of opportunity than men. Power and money can be built up in reasonably stable form. "Beauty" is a progressively losing fight against entropy.

I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the Hollywood women you're talking about started out pretty when they were young. You have no idea whether average women putting in the same effort would get comparable results.

And the power thing is, at best, an over-simplification. As far as I can tell, rock stars trump politicians so far as attracting women is concerned.

jrichardson, Steve's stuff can play into self-hatred. Thanks for having the courage to say what the effect was instead of crawling into a hole, a frequent temptation at my end. I hang around because some of what Steve says is useful for me (and the political side is interesting), and because I suspect that pulling together the nerve to disagree is *very* useful. And because while I'm frequently very angry, I trust Steve on some level to be decent about it all.

Anonymous said...


while that media-driven
concept of beauty does indeed fade

there are so many other standards!

I happen to think
some of the most beautiful faces
men and women both
are the deeply furrowed
Curtis photos of American Indians

I've been photographing
my own body
for some years now
sort of a personal recording
of the aging process

I've learned MUCH
from this project
about both aging and beauty

Anonymous said...

Recently my wife and I were both sick and we couldn't get out to the grocery store. When we got down to the last cookie in our box of favorite cookies it sat there for four days while we both saved it for the other person. Finding someone who will be considerate of you is in my opinion a lot more important than power or beauty.

Marty S

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