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Feminization and masculinization in the looks of men
This topic doesn’t really belong at this site, but some readers have wanted me to write on this issue, to be fair if not anything else. I agree that it is fair to also address men at some length. I mulled including the following contents in a zipped file for anyone interested, but decided that it is best to post it online. Before I begin, I wish to say that just as I have nothing against masculinized women, I have nothing against effeminate/feminized men.
The feminine vs. masculine page within this site extensively addresses skull and face shape variation resulting from masculinization and feminization. There is no need to repeat it here; some pictures will suffice. The reader can also download the demo version of facegen modeler and see, from multiple angles, how increasing masculinization alters the face. The demo version of this program allows one to do everything except for exporting to external 3D formats and displaying the ‘SI’ logo on the forehead.
The following example is an easy contrast between an effeminate face and a masculine one.
Fig. 1. Leonardo DiCaprio (left) and Burt Lancaster.
Confounds in judging the masculinity of men
As in women, men’s masculinity should be judged from overall looks. One should beware of the following issues.
Gracilization as pseudo-feminization
Fineness of facial features should not be confounded with feminization. Northern European men often have fine facial features as in the following Swedish male, but his overall face shape is clearly masculine.
Fig. 2. A man from Sweden.
Bizarre combination of multiple masculine and multiple effeminate characteristics
There are some scenarios in men that are difficult to find if not non-existent in women. For example, the following individual has a masculine overall face shape but an effeminate body. His body is not effeminate because he is short, but because of its shape. He is not overall describable as either masculine or feminine/effeminate or even normal.
Fig. 3. Tom Cruise.
If one had a few masculine-looking features but were overall effeminate, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary since sex hormones are not the only factors shaping looks, but observing multiple masculine and multiple effeminate characteristics in the same individual is curious. Such bizarre combinations could result from a number of scenarios. For instance, some physical features are shaped to a significant extent during prenatal development but others are mostly shaped after birth. Therefore, if a male’s testes are not able to produce high levels of androgens such as testosterone but this person is nevertheless exposed to high levels of testosterone in the womb because his mother produced high levels of androgens when she was pregnant, then he will manifest a curious mix of masculine and not so masculine features. An example could be a specific finger-length ratio talked about shortly being masculine even though the overall body shape isn’t. In another scenario, prenatal developmental disturbances caused by excess testosterone exposure will lead to a strange mix of hypermasculine, normally masculine and hypomasculine/effeminate characteristics.
Since having larger muscles is a more masculine-looking feature and there are very easy ways to increase muscle size without being a masculine man -- anabolic androgenic steroids, beta-adrenergic agonists and to a limited extent relatively harmless substances such as creatine monohydrate -- caution is advised in judging the masculinity of a man based on his muscularity. Even without these ergogenic aids, a less masculine man who regularly lifts heavy weights could be packing more muscle mass than a more masculine man who doesn’t do weightlifting. Some illustrative examples of professional male bodybuilders -- steroid-induced freaks -- will clarify this issue.
Do you see a hypermasculine man below?
Fig. 4. Richard Gaspari.
Think again. Look carefully at Gaspari’s shoulder width; it is unimpressive.
Richard Gaspari doesn’t have a masculine face.
Fig. 5. Richard Gaspari; click for context.
Richard Gaspari also does not have particularly narrow hips.
Fig. 6. Richard Gaspari.
The following picture shows Markus Ruhl, and is a good example of what very masculine shoulder width looks like. However, note that Markus Ruhl doesn’t have a masculine face. Also note that Markus Ruhl doesn’t have particularly narrow hips.
Fig. 7. Markus Ruhl.
Again, look at the following individual; very large muscles, but non-narrow hips and a face that is not so masculine.
Fig. 8. Greg Kovacs.
It should be easy to look at the following comparisons and infer who has a more masculine build. Who has the combination of wider shoulders, narrower hips and a smaller backside?
Fig. 9. Jay Cultler (left) and Dennis Wolf.
The following individual is a masculine male from head to toe: masculine face, wide shoulders, narrow hips.
Fig. 10. Dorian Yates.
I don’t have pictures of Dorian Yates as a young man, but judging from the following picture, he was close to looking like a Greek God in the flesh.
Fig. 11. Dorian Yates.
The take home message should be clear. Look at multiple skeletal cues to judge the masculinity of men. Some bodybuilders take human growth hormone (HGH), too, and on some counts HGH changes face shape in the same direction as testosterone. So this can confound judging masculinity, too.
If one observes obese men, they will often have heavy/thick bones and also a large amount of muscle mass, but obese men are on average among the least masculine of men in terms of testosterone levels, estrogen levels, phallus size, etc. So, some people have a propensity to pack on lots of body mass; not just fat tissue, but also muscles and bone mass. The physical constitution that predisposes one toward developing a corpulent/rotund body has been classically described as endomorphy, said to be a somatotype or somatype (build). Other somatotypes include mesomorphy (tendency toward muscularity and masculine skeletal proportions) and ectomorphy (tendency toward a long, lean and thin body development). The extent to which people lean toward these builds varies. A man who leans toward an endomorphic build to a significant but not excessive degree (e.g., Greg Kovacs above) could pack on a large amount of muscle mass using the pharmaceutical agents described above and burn off some undesirable body fat by taking alpha-adrenergic stimulators, but this wouldn’t be making him a masculine man.
Another confound affects an important structure discussed next.
For the ladies
Fig. 12. Stuff that matters.
I previously showed the following graph about the relation between mesomorphy/muscular build and body hairiness. Starting from an effeminate physical build, as the physique becomes naturally more masculine, body hairiness increases, which appears intuitive, but beyond a certain point, greater body hairiness corresponds to a weaker physical build. A plausible explanation of the relationship is that beyond a certain level of androgen exposure, a male fetus is developmentally disturbed, resulting in a weak physical build, but since the individual produces elevated androgens, simple structures like body hair show the effect of elevated androgens.
Fig. 13. Relation between body hair and muscular build.
It is almost certain that a similar relationship exists between muscular build and phallus length, too. The reasons are that the phallus is set well onto its developmental path when the male is in the womb, and this growth is strongly dependent on the same androgen that is a major determinant of body hair growth: dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is derived from testosterone and is more potent than it; it serves to amplify the effect of testosterone on a tissue. The phallus is a simple structure, and is expected to show a dose-response relationship with androgens/DHT over a broader range than the more complex structure of the overall musculo-skeletal build. Hence, the most naturally muscular men are not necessarily well-endowed. Some of the best endowed men may have an otherwise skinny/weak physical build, but such men will usually have multiple masculine features (e.g., a short, skinny man with lots of body hair and a deep, manly voice).
There are some developmental genes (homeobox genes; Hox A, Hox B) that affect both digits (fingers/toes) and the phallus. There is a useful proxy for prenatal testosterone exposure: the index finger-length ratio to ring finger-length ratio or 2nd finger-length ratio to 4th finger-length ratio (2D:4D). The useful measure is on the right hand as it is more sensitive to sex steroids. 2D:4D is established prenatally. With increasing masculinization, the index finger becomes shorter than the ring finger, i.e., 2D:4D diminishes with increasing masculinization. Evidence for this as well as other correlates of 2D:4D can be read about here.
So how could one be reasonably confident that a given man is healthy, masculine and well-endowed without looking at his phallus and giving him a medical exam? The exclusion and selection criteria should be obvious. Exclude the obese/overweight, those with excess abdominal fat even if they are okay elsewhere (this is a diseased constitution) and men with a strange mix of hypermasculine/masculine, normally masculine and hypomasculine/effeminate characteristics. Select men with broad shoulders, a tiny waist, narrow hips and a small backside; and go for men in whom the index finger is noticeably/strikingly shorter than the ring finger. The ideal masculine man would have been exposed to high levels of androgens during prenatal development, developed under high testosterone levels post-natally, possess high baseline testosterone levels and have had no trouble handling the high testosterone levels. These exclusion and selection criteria increase the statistical odds of making the right inference; there are no guarantees; an obese man may be packing a member that would put most men to shame.
As in women, it is important to look at multiple characteristics in men to assess how masculine/feminine they are. Unlike in women, it is harder to judge how masculine a man is because of the ease with which less masculine men can pack on more muscle mass given current technology, and the phenomenon of some men with a mix of multiple masculine and multiple effeminate characteristics. Men’s masculinity assessment should focus on multiple skeletal characteristics/proportions.