This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
What gives a man the right to call a woman a dog?
Donald J. Trump called his former apprentice, Omarosa Manigault Newman, a “dog”—an obvious derogatory attack on her looks—after she released not just her tell-all book about her time in the Trump White House, but also recordings of her conversations with various people while working for the administration.
Whether you like Omarosa or not is beside the point. Men have been passing judgment on women’s looks since forever, as if men, and only men, are the ultimate arbiters of a woman’s desirability. And often, it is the most unattractive—and most insecure—men who are the most brutal in their assessments. Projection, perhaps?
Take Trump, for instance. The man has deluded himself into thinking he is the finest specimen of manhood in the entire universe, with the requisite trophy wife to prove. Yet he is quite objectively far from handsome, and far from well-built, qualities that make a man attractive, at least from a physical point of view. He is also a creepy, lumbering, obese, badly-dressed and badly ageing man who has demonstrated time and time again that he is nothing more than a boorish, humorless, petulant, unintelligent—albeit media-savvy—child perpetually indulging his tantrums on Twitter. A cad, in other words.
But a cad who just happens to be white and rich and powerful, which is, unfortunately, often conflated with attractiveness. Also in this category: Hugh Hefner and Rupert Murdoch, any number of rock stars, CEOs, and politicians. Heck, even in the most desperate slum, the local kingpin will still be considered more attractive and powerful than the hottest but poorest boy.
As the equally objectively far-from-handsome and self-absorbed statesman Henry Kissinger correctly observed, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
Julie Burchill, writing in The Spectator back in 2015, said that while women tend to undervalue their looks, “A sizeable number of men, on the other hand, suffer from the opposite delusion. I call them Magic Mirror men, because they seem to possess an inner looking-glass which tells them that they are, indeed, the fairest of them all.”
She cited Trump as an example. She described him as “a preposterously unappetizing specimen with an almost Tourettish compulsion to pick holes in the appearance of women. Apparently the bewigged bell-end thought he ‘had a shot’ with the Sainted Diana. He bombarded her with massive bouquets. Not surprisingly, Trump also gave Diana ‘the creeps,’ according to her confidante Selina Scott.”
Men have even made a sport of ridiculing ugly women. In the 1991 film Dogfight, starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, a group of marines en route to Vietnam seek the ugliest girls to bring as dates to a “dogfight.” The girls think they are merely going to a party with a marine, unaware that they are actually being entered into a reverse beauty contest: the guy who brings the ugliest “dog” wins. It’s a cruel, sadistic joke that reinforces male bonding at the expense of demeaning women. Each of the men at the dogfight throw $50 into the pot, which goes to the winning marine.
The irony is that early on in the movie, River Phoenix’s character, Birdlace, realizes that the girl he has plucked out of a coffee shop to be his date, Lili Taylor’s Rose, may be a little overweight, but is not a “dog,” and is almost embarrassed to bring her as his contestant to the dogfight. Rose eventually discovers the real reason behind the date, courtesy of a hooker hired as the date of Birdlace’s friend.
But this being a Hollywood movie, Birdlace realizes how cruelly he has treated Rose, and eventually, in the course of one night, the eve of his departure to Vietnam, he allows himself to discover Rose as a human being, and they fall in love. The war intervenes, but they do get their happy ending three years later.
Even in Tudor England, Henry VIII was not exactly the finest specimen of male pulchritude, but he was king, and therefore could expect any woman to jump at the chance to share his bed. For many women—and their scheming families—sleeping with the king was an accepted form of social climbing.
So it was quite refreshing to see that Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, felt zero sexual attraction towards her husband, if the series The Tudors is to be believed. Henry made no secret of his lack of attraction towards his new bride; their marriage, after all, was intended as a tactical political alliance more than anything else. He is unable to get aroused by her, despite repeated attempts at consummation, and tells his Lord Privy Seal, Thomas Cromwell, that she had “unhealthy smells.”
Cromwell tries to ask the new queen what might be the problem—keep in mind that the sex lives of the monarchs were rarely private, since the future of the dynasty was at stake without a suitable heir. He is surprised when she confesses that it is the king himself who is unattractive—the suppurating wound on his leg and the foul smells that emanate from it are a major turn-off, but nevertheless, she tries to do what she can to please the king.
It was pretty ballsy of Anne of Cleves to say that. She was considered to be plain in looks, and there were certainly many more women who had no qualms about looking past the king’s girth or odor or increasing unattractiveness, not to mention his rather spotty reputation for treating discarded wives badly, beheading two of them, in fact. Their marriage was annulled but Anne and Henry remained, it appears, good friends. He may never have found out that he wasn’t really all that hot as far as she was concerned, but that didn’t stop him from finding carnal pleasures elsewhere, or, indeed, satisfying himself just to prove he wasn’t impotent.
Then again, the Magic Mirror for kings must have an extra layer of reflective delusion.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
For comments and questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Marian Hukom
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