How being beautiful influences your attitudes toward sex

People tend to feel strongly about matters of sexual morality, such as premarital sex or gay marriage.

Some sources of these differences are obvious. Religion, media portrayals and parents and peers are big social forces that shape attitudes about sex.

But could something as innocuous as the way we look spark these different outlooks, too? In a recently published article, I studied this question.

Beauty and opportunity

Compared with the rest of us, most beautiful people lead charmed lives.

Studies show that pretty people tend to get favorable treatment. They secure better jobs and earn higher salaries. Others are friendlier toward them. With this extra money and social support, they’re better equipped to fend off any consequences of their actions. For instance, the better-looking can get more benefit of the doubt from juries.

Their lives are most charmed, though, in matters of sex and romance. While many benefits of beauty are small – a slightly higher salary offer here, a better performance evaluation there – the romantic benefits are larger and more consistent. Good-looking people on average have more sexual opportunities and partners.

Could this create a sense, among attractive people, that anything goes when it comes to sex? Could it make them less inclined to value sexual purity? And might sexually experienced people belittle the moral costs of sex in order to feel better about their own past conduct?

If so, we would expect good-looking people to be the most tolerant ones where sex is concerned. They would have less restrictive views on issues like premarital sex, abortion or gay marriage.

A link to conservatism?

But you could also argue the opposite.

Higher salaries and greater success in the job market might pull good-looking people toward more conservative views when it comes to taxes or economic justice.

Since conservatives, on average, dislike sexual freedom more than liberals do, identifying with conservatives for economic reasons – or simply moving in conservative social circles – might make the beautiful less, not more, tolerant where sex is concerned. Along these lines, studies have found that good looks are associated with conservatism among politicians.