Nude Men Seem Less Intelligent

The more skin women reveal, the less men see them as intelligent or empowered. Instead, nudity promotes the notion that women are sensitive, “feeling” creatures.

Turns out the perception runs both ways with women seeing men as less intelligent and less competent when they show skin, too. In fact, simply “taking off a sweater — or otherwise revealing flesh — can significantly change the way a mind is perceived” say researchers.

And as psychologist, Kurt Gray of the University of Maryland observed:

This effect can happen even without the removal of clothes. Simply focusing on someone’s attractiveness, in essence concentrating on their body rather than their mind, makes you see her or him as less of an (empowered) agent and more of an experiencer.

Women see partially-clothed men as more sensitive, too, and are disinclined to hurt them. Likewise, most men don’t want to harm unclothed women, either. Perhaps nakedness makes people seem more vulnerable so that we want to protect them.

Interesting. There’s no evidence that showing skin makes men want to rape, and it looks like the opposite effect is more likely.  (Of course, some sexual fetishes do combine nudity and violence so the effect isn’t uniform, but that still doesn’t mean nudity causes a person to want to harm.)

Practical take-away? Showing skin can make us seem less competent at work. But it can be great in the bedroom, where it’s all about feeling.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 15, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, men, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This article is very interesting. People tend to judge people by their “cover” and tend to see those who are naked or focus on their beauty as less intelligent. When we see nude bodies in good shape, we often think their bodies are beautiful in some ways. I think people see those bodies as an object, which is not related to one’s intelligence or potential. Therefore, those people are regarded as less intelligent. I think each body is inherently designed and we all have the inherent ability to appreciate our beauty when we see it. Moreover I believe inner beauty should be prioritized and we should not judge people just by appearance, by their virtues in their heart and mind.

  2. Sarananda Osheim

    What an interesting find! I think its really neat that females find men to be more sensitive without clothing. I have never consciously noticed this in my behavior before. I’ll have to start paying attention to this mental behavior to see if it applies to me as well. When I do see I appreciate this article because it seems really rare to have a similar gender judgment. Maybe if this knowledge is shipped out, there will be less stigma towards the ratio of knowledge to clothing. Awareness of these internal judgments is the first step to overcoming bias. We could use one less negative stereotype in the world.

  3. Maria Papayianni

    Interesting post. Unfortunately I am guilty of doing this as well sometimes. I do believe most human beings tend to want to judge a book by its cover. It’s just the reality of human nature. If the cover is beautiful, often times people focus on it too much. This must be hard for those blessed with good looks in general. Not just nude males… Everyone wants to be noticed for who they are. My personal experience with this is that there is nothing more demeaning than spending time with someone, and after a while you start realizing that all they see is the appeal or lack of appeal of your outward appearance. At the end of the day it’s up to us whether we want to see what’s inside people, which does not correlate with the amount of clothing one chooses to wear or their physical features.

  4. I agree with this article that when we see someone nude or focus on their beauty and attractiveness we think less about their brains and intelligence and I think that this topic goes both ways and is true for men and women. When people think about attractiveness and beauty people are focusing on superficial things so they do not think about other topics that are deeper and more in depth like intelligence or power. Being nude makes someone seem more vulnerable because they do not have the barrier or protection of clothes which people use by dressing certain ways making them seem powerful, strong, or make them look authoritative. We should use clothes to our advantage to make ourselves look certain ways like powerful and authoritative for jobs or job interviews. We need to make sure that we are covering up what we need to so people focus on our abilities and not our bodies and I think that is true especially for women who are more often judged for the ways that they look. But not wearing clothes can also come in handy for other situations as well.

  5. I found it interesting that nude men and women are seen as less intelligent by the opposite sex. It is still hard for me to wrap my head around how intelligence is correlated to physical appearance. Do we completely forget about the fact someone has a mind of their own by looking at their physical appearance? Look at that picture of Justin Timberlake on the side, I am still aware that he has a mind of his own but the expression on his face looks like he is a bit confused. I wonder if he were given a pair of glasses to wear would we perceive him as a little more intelligent?

  6. Today, more and more women are trying to dress less and sexy. This skin reveal makes them seem less intelligent. However, it’s similar that how women view men for the skin reveal. When men show skin, women also feel that men are less intelligent. There is no direct connection between nakedness and harm. We can say that men tend to hurt nude women, and there is no evidence shows that there is a clear connection between nudity and violence. It all depends on different people, different thinking and feeling, and the situation is different according to different places. It’s all about the feeling, and it has nothing to do with the skin reveal.

  7. This article is really interesting. I think not only nude, but also a good-looking face will cause people seem to be less intelligent, especially to women. I once heard someone said, “If you are a beauty, you have to make double efforts to prove your ability.” It is true because when people pay too much attention to one’s face, they tend to ignore her/his inner beauty. People would even guess beauties would sell themselves for some achievements. I think people really should not discriminate beauty. Being beautiful or handsome does not mean she/he is superficial.

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