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Rant #192
(published September 16, 2004)
The Male Beauty
by H.L. Mencken

This disdain of sentimental weakness, even in those higher reacheswhere it is mellowed by aesthetic sensibility, is well revealed by thefact that women are seldom bemused by mere beauty in men. Saveon the stage, the handsome fellow has no appreciable advantage inamour over his more Gothic brother. In real life, indeed, he isviewed with the utmost suspicion by all women save the moststupid. In him the vanity native to his sex is seen to mount to adegree that is positively intolerable. It not only irritates by its verynature; it also throws about him a sort of unnatural armour, and somakes him resistant to the ordinary approaches. For this reason, thematrimonial enterprises of the more reflective and analytical sort ofwomen are almost always directed to men whose lack of pulchritudemakes them easier to bring down, and, what is more important still,easier to hold down. The weight of opinion among women isdecidedly against the woman who falls in love with an Apollo. Sheis regarded, at best, as flighty creature, and at worst, as one pushingbad taste to the verge of indecency. Such weaknesses are resignedto women approaching senility, and to the more ignoble variety ofwomen labourers. A shop girl, perhaps, may plausibly fall in lovewith a moving-picture actor, and a half-idiotic old widow maysuccumb to a youth with shoulders like the Parthenon, but nowoman of poise and self-respect, even supposing her to betransiently flustered by a lovely buck, would yield to that madnessfor an instant, or confess it to her dearest friend. Women knowhow little such purely superficial values are worth. The voice oftheir order, the first taboo of their freemasonry, is firmly againstmaking a sentimental debauch of the serious business of marriage.

This disdain of the pretty fellow is often accounted for by amateurpsychologists on the ground that women are anesthetic tobeauty—that they lack the quick and delicate responsiveness of man.Nothing could be more absurd. Women, in point of fact,commonly have a far keener aesthetic sense than men. Beautyis more important to them; they give more thought to it; they cravemore of it in their immediate surroundings. The average man, atleast in England and America, takes a sort of bovine pride in hisanaesthesia to the arts; he can think of them only as sources oftawdry and somewhat discreditable amusement; one seldom hears ofhim showing half the enthusiasm for any beautiful thing that his wifedisplays in the presence, of a fine fabric, an effective colour, or agraceful form, say in millinery. The, truth is that women areresistant to so-called beauty in men for the simple and sufficientreason that such beauty is chiefly imaginary. A truly beautiful man,indeed, is as rare as a truly beautiful piece of jewelry. What menmistake for beauty in themselves is usually nothing save a certainhollow gaudiness, a revolting flashiness, the superficial splendour ofa prancing animal. The most lovely moving picture actor,considered in the light of genuine aesthetic values, is no more than apiece of vulgarity; his like is to be found, not in the Uffizi gallery oramong the harmonies of Brahms, but among the plush sofas, rocococlocks and hand-painted oil-paintings of a third-rate auctionroom. All women, save the least intelligent, penetrate this imposturewith sharp eyes. They know that the human body, except for abrief time in infancy, is not a beautiful thing, buta hideous thing.Their own bodies give them no delight; it is their constant effort todisguise and conceal them; they never expose them aesthetically, butonly as an act of the grossest sexual provocation. If it wereadvertised that a troupe of men of easy virtue were to appearhalf-clothed upon a public stage, exposing their chests, thighs, armsand calves, the only women who would go to the entertainmentwould be a few delayed adolescents, a psychopathic old maid ortwo, and a guard of indignant members of the parish Ladies AidSociety.

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The Next Rant piece (from Issue #193):

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by H.L. Mencken

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by Admiral Studmuffin of the HMS Hotass

How Marriages are Arranged
by H.L. Mencken

The Thing Called Intuition
by H.L. Mencken

Stupidity: Its Uses & Abuses
by Robert Levin

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