hotness gap
Image: Clint Brewer Photography

The ‘Hotness Gap’ Relationship Phenomena

On 31 October, at 12:49 PM, I texted my housemate the following message: “KIM KARDASHIAN AND PETE DAVIDSON?????”. This was an interesting communication for a few reasons. First of all, neither of us have ever expressed any investment in the lives of either of these people. Secondly, the only reason I was aware of the couple was Twitter’s shock that the two were seen together, in a log flume no less. Kim, being both out of her natural habitat and with someone who seemed to be in such a different social sphere to her own, was enough to turn many internet users into red-string wielding conspiracy theorists. Even those with little interest in either party were drawn to the hubbub. But why do couples like these garner such attention?

The past few years have seen an interesting phenomenon. Muscular, hypermasculine men are no longer necessarily the standard by which attractiveness is measured. Instead, there has been a shift towards almost the exact opposite. The idea of men being ‘in touch with their feminine side’ is seen as a welcome alternative to the aggressive and ‘tough’ image that has been sold as aspirational for so long. This sort of aesthetic has been given many different names over the years. It’s sometimes broadly called ‘softboy’ style, however with the constant internet niche microtrends, that’s probably no longer an accurate way to label this clique. Phrases like ‘Victorian orphan chic’ and ‘anaemic baby bird core’ are descriptors that I wish I had not genuinely seen online.

Each couple has caused a stir, with people asking just what it is that attracts successful, famous women seen as ‘unattainable’ to these men.

Within this category of non-traditional masculinity is a subsection of tall, tattooed men who have become famous for dating more traditionally attractive women. Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, for example, or the near-universally ridiculed Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly. It seems that Kim has now followed in her sister’s footsteps with her aforementioned relationship with Pete (Kete? Pim? Neither sounds great). Each couple has caused a stir, with people asking just what it is that attracts successful, famous women seen as ‘unattainable’ to these men.

Many of those bemused by these situations are straight men. Countless straight women have pointed out the obvious – humour, talent and success are attractive qualities that someone like Pete Davidson, as a high profile comedian, has in spades. Others have suggested the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he’s simply a nice person. Of course, attractiveness is also a very subjective issue – what many are stuck on is the idea of the ‘attractiveness gap’ within the couples, confused as to why people don’t date only within what society agrees is their designated hotness category. This concept has been oversold to us countless times, from the strictly separated groups of cheerleaders and outcasts in high school film cafeterias to the plot of nearly every 2000s romcom, that it’s sometimes difficult to remember that in real life, the ‘hotness gap’ is much more of a myth.

Media coverage tends to focus on telling us that the men these women are with are so unbelievable, horrifically unattractive that there must be some secret, hidden reason why these couples are together.

Tabloids are keen on these couples, ready to capitalise on more celebrity drama. Media coverage tends to focus on telling us that the men these women are with are so unbelievable, horrifically unattractive that there must be some secret, hidden reason why these couples are together. Whilst many find it fun to speculate on the intricacies of celebrity relationships, the constant barrage of articles stating point-blank that a person is unattractive can’t be doing any wonders for their self-image. Since Pete Davidson’s relationship with Ariana Grande in 2018, tabloids and Twitter have obsessively tracked his dating life, more and more shocked by the women he’s been seen with, and Kim Kardashian’s huge amounts of cultural capital have shot these discussions of attractiveness into the spotlight once again.

The real reason that these ‘hotness gap’ couples are so obsessed over is that they break the mould of standard celebrity relationship patterns. Although they’re fun to dissect and analyse, maybe we should ease off on the meanspirited coverage of these couples. It’s easy to mock the ‘average-looking’ man and his relationship with the supermodel-type woman, whether out of jealousy or incredulity. Twitter jokes are one thing, but when someone is being repeatedly and contemptuously knocked down for their looks in every gossip magazine then it might be time to take a step back. Mocking people based on their appearance is never tasteful, and the lack of basic decency towards both the men and the women (who are generally seen as stupid and unable to make the ‘right’ decisions) in these relationships is unfair. Mocking people based on their behaviour, on the other hand, is much more justifiable, and I will continue to enjoy making fun of each ridiculous detail of Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly’s relationship knowing that I am morally in the clear.

 

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