I’ve never understood people who have elaborate methodology for rating attractiveness. Even your basic 1–10 scale is overcomplicated and unscientific. I have a group of friends who believe there’s but one fundamental metric that matters: would you or not?
Over on Reddit, that question was implicitly posed with this facial reconstruction of a Bronze Age woman who lived and died more than 3,700 years ago. The forensic artist’s rendering — which first made headlines in 2016 — was based on the skull of “Ava,” whose remains were unearthed in Scotland. Considering this likeness of a person from an era when Stonehenge was still being rearranged now and then, a good lot of the boys announced that they’d be down to bone. “Swipe right,” commented one. “I would go full homo on this sapien,” said another, somewhat confusingly. “Well fuck me, Bronze Age women in Scotland are like a million times more attractive than women in Scotland now!” declared a guy who may or may not have had his heart broken by a Scottish lass.
Even the skeptics — the guys pointing out that Ava probably didn’t condition her luscious ginger hair or tweeze her eyebrows — sounded fairly open to the idea of a time-traveling booty call. “She probably smelled like shit, and her teeth would have been gnarly. General hygiene would have been sub-par at best,” one such fellow remarked, adding: “I’d still hit that like a screen door in a hurricane.” But why? Do we secretly yearn for a more sexually primitive culture, even if it means a wildly different standard of grooming? A lone participant in this conversation broached the issue of whether Ava would fuck them: “Maybe she just wouldn’t be into any of our pale, smooth, scrawny asses?”
The male erotic fantasy of a woman from the dawn of civilization is curious because it projects a dual need for dominance and submission. One the one hand, dudes picture themselves as a cave-dwelling alpha who invents fire, hunts mastodons, and fucks whoever he wants with a minimum of foreplay or emotional connection (and without having to text her the next day). The women of his society are dependent upon him and maybe wearing skimpy animal furs like Raquel Welch in One Million B.C. But Welch’s character in that film was the leader of her intellectually advanced tribe, Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble are way smarter than Fred and Barney, and super-strong Neolithic women performed the “rigorous manual labor” that gave us a little advancement called agriculture. With the preponderance of straight men out there who really want a girlfriend to play the role of mom, it makes perfect sense that there’d be an interest in the hyper-competent and self-sufficient caretakers of epochs long past.
This paradoxical archetype of a pre-modern woman — uninhibited yet docile, capable yet always deferential — is pure invention. It’s the myth men tell themselves about a world before gender politics, before Eve ate the apple, before women ruined things by subverting an essential and immutable natural order that, spoiler alert, doesn’t exist either. From what we know of ancient human sexuality, it’s most likely that “a caveman would quietly sit in the corner and watch another caveman have sex with a woman, patiently waiting his turn.” Rather than loyally catering to the whims of any single male partner, women were enjoying the evolutionary advantages of promiscuity and multiple orgasms, only forced into monogamy with the advent of private property, when men came up with the idea of owning and controlling their physical affection.
Granted, it’s not a major problem that a handful of lads are hung up on the possible babes of the Bronze Age and beyond. People have also thirsted over facial reconstructions of men who walked the earth several millennia ago — though I would note that the commentary there is along the lines of “he’s weirdly hot,” as opposed to the chorus of “would smash” that greeted Ava’s picture. The difference, I believe, is between an academic interest in our ancestors and a romantic idealization of them as uncorrupted, which leads to problematic tropes like the “noble savage” and “born sexy yesterday.” When a guy sees Ava and jokes, “I love girls that aren’t full of themselves because they have no idea how beautiful they are because mirrors haven’t been invented yet,” it feels like he’s only half-kidding — that a part of him suspects he’d get laid a lot more in 1700 B.C. I guess he’ll never know for sure, but either way, dudes may as well quit daydreaming that they’ll one day meet a woman who knows her way around flint weapons and has never heard of the written word, let alone the feminist movement.
Hey, at least the members of the current dating pool put a premium on regular bathing.