The looks/personality controversy is a long-running debate throughout the history of the incelosphere over whether looks (physical attractiveness), personality or other factors are more important when it comes to female attraction. The controversy comprises fiercely entrenched members of several schools of thought and those who are moderately tilted in one direction or another. Individuals from both schools are often guilty of faulty reasoning and personal biases, and possible gaps in personal experience.
The looks angle
Lookists note that more attractive men, especially facially attractive men, tend to do better and that this is even proclaimed on the love-shy forum. They generally assert that "objective" facets of looks, such as certain bone configurations and facial ratios drive the bulk of female attraction to men. This autistic obsession with facial ratios and specific obscure facial features often draws ridicule of these sorts of ideas from people outside the incelosphere. Lookists tend to claim to be less physically attractive themselves, but this is not always the case. The facial features they often emphasize as being crucial to male sexual success include:
- A reasonably compact middle facial third or midface.
- An aesthetic looking, sharp chin that is not overly large nor small.
- The eyes possess a positive canthal tilt, or their outer part is flared upward.
- A sharp jawline.
- "Hunter eyes" or eyes where the upper part of the eyes are vertically compact and there is minimal visible soft tissue surrounding the eyes.
- A full head of hair. It is often asserted that the ideal male hairline is 2 or lower on the Hamilton-Norwood scale of male pattern baldness (minimal temporal recession of the hairline).
- A wide palate.
- A "forward grown" maxilla (upper jaw bone). Among lookists, the maxilla is often considered to be the "key" to facial attractiveness in both sexes. Having a forward grown maxilla means the face juts out in the profile. It is a common feature found among those considered conventionally attractive, such as models.
- Smooth, young, glowing, and generally healthy looking skin.
Lookists will tend to discount any argument that personality is more important or that less physically attractive people date as well. They will tend to bring up examples of people they personally know who are less attractive and suffer from long periods of involuntary celibacy.
A subset of looks theorists claim that male height is the most important feature to women. They generally draw on anecdotal evidence to support this claim, such as women on social media proclaiming their hatred for short men or lusting over tall men. They also cite scientific research that suggests women are attracted to taller men, and that taller men have higher sexual or reproductive success. They often leave out the fact that the effect of male height seems to drop off beyond the requirement of the "male taller norm". That is, it seems particularly important to most women that their male partners be taller than them, with the importance of height dropping off after then. Thus it would seem that height would only be a strong predictor of inceldom if one is very short, which proponents of height theory often tend not to be, with these individuals typically being in the average height range.
Such research often has weak effect sizes and provides little evidence that height is the main determinate of male sexual success, though it does seem that it is a robust (consistent) driver of female attraction. They often accuse incels that admit to being tall of being "fakecels".
The personality angle
Personalitists point out examples of rather physically unattractive men who have no problems dating. They will also point out examples of good-looking men they know who suffer from involuntary celibacy. Personalityists have a strong belief in social skills as the key to dating success.
- Bad boys or alpha males get tons of women, regardless of looks. Some are downright repulsive-looking but still have women hanging off of them.
- That while women may be initially attracted to men based off of physical attraction, how a man makes her feel is a more important determinate of who she will sleep with than a man's looks.
- That even extremely ugly, and often outright monstrous looking men can still get relationships and sex. They tend to bring up prominent examples of this occurring as evidence against lookism. Lookists dismiss these cases as outliers, claim that such women are "virtue signalling" via dating such men, or claim these incidents only occur in countries where arranged marriages are the norm.
Personalityists often observe that incels often appear have certain personality traits that are clearly unattractive to women and that this explains their inceldom. These traits are disputed but include:
- Shyness, social awkwardness.
- Being "nerdy" or having an overly intellectual manner.
- Being effeminate.
- Being overly nice, agreeable and lacking assertiveness.
- Not being able to flirt with, tease, or make sexualized innuendo in the company of women, which they argue to be an important facet of the courtship process.
- Being perceived as "weird" or otherwise deviating from expected social behavior, though some argue that women are attracted to this when it is either performed by high-status men (as it can function as a signal of his high status) or performed in a certain way.
- Having autistic traits such as obsessiveness, a tendency to systematize things, and being overly cold and aloof in social interactions. However, some (generally PUAs) claim that women like men who act indifferent towards them.
- Being boring and lacking spontaneity.
- Generally lacking charm and not being able to adapt one's behavior to how a woman expects one to act towards her during the courtship process. Basically, this appears to boil down to not being able to tell her what she wants to hear and induce in her a state where she is receptive to sexual advances, which many personalityists claim men with "game" can do with ease.
Personalityists often state they are not physically unattractive and should be therefore be doing reasonably well on the dating market.
What drives the controversy
Both sides suffer from extremism and sample bias, which provides ammunition that the opposite side can use. For instance, personalityists will occasionally say that a very attractive man can be incel if they have poor social skills. Lookists will tend to come up with implausible ranking systems that are self-inconsistent and rating average-looking people as ugly. These behaviors undermine their efforts and make them look crazy.
Generally, both sides rely mainly on personal experiences and anecdotes to drive their points home. It seems there is a general tendency in both camps to cling towards a trait that causes insecurity in themselves and proclaim this trait as the main source of one's involuntary celibacy. There is a lack of attempt to rely on empirical evidence on both sides, with this debate tending to focus on unscientific, uncontrolled "experiments" conducted on dating apps on the lookist side. The lookist side often draws on the wealth of evidence produced by the social sciences which confirms that physical attractiveness is important in driving attraction in both sexes and is associated with positive life outcomes in general, again for both sexes. However, they tend to be dogmatic and lack nuance in their employment of this evidence, being overly deterministic in their proclamations beyond what the evidence itself can justify.
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