SEARCH:  
Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Tuesday 16th December 2008

Clever Men and Beautiful Women


Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to be introduced to Padma Lakshmi, the Indian model and food writer. I was appearing as a guest judge on Top Chef, the food reality show she hosts in America, and the two of us would be working together for the next fortnight. The word "gorgeous" is inadequate to describe her. She is so dazzling, it is almost as if she is accompanied by her own lighting system. My first thought was, "How on earth did Salman Rushdie manage to pull you?"

Padma isn't the only beautiful woman Salman has been involved with. Since their divorce last year, the best-selling Indian novelist has been linked with the actresses Scarlett Johanson, Rosario Dawson and Olivia Wilde, not to mention athlete Aimee Mullins and, most recently, the Bollywood starlet Riya Sen. It is an impressive roster for a man approaching retirement age who barely reaches 5ft 7in in his slippers.

How does he do it? The explanation offered up by sexually-jealous, middle-aged journalists -- i.e., people like me -- is that the women he attracts are only in it for the publicity. Actresses like Riya Sen, described as "the Indian equivalent of Jordan", know that being photographed with Rushdie in the tabloids will boost their careers, particularly on the sub-continent where Rushdie has rock-star status.

Yet could there be another, more interesting explanation? A report published last week by the Institute of Psychiatry claimed that intelligent men produce better sperm. Not only is there more of it, apparently, but it is more mobile too, and the children they conceive are likely to be fit, healthy and smart.

If this is true, it means there is a biological reason why women are attracted to smart men -- just as there is a biological explanation for why men are attracted to women with the right waist-to-hip ratio. According to evolutionary psychologists, the reason men find women like Jessica Alba, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren so irresistible is because they have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7, a measurement that correspondents with health and fertility. Could a similar biological imperative explain why women are so attracted to Salman Rushdie?

He is far from the only literary novelist who has punched above his weight in the sexual arena. The Nobel Prize-winner Saul Bellow was married five times and Norman Mailer was on his sixth marriage when he died last year. Milan Kundera, the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, once pointed out that women aren't attracted to good-looking men, they're attracted to men who associate with good-looking women. But perhaps it is not merely their big reputations as literary lotharios that make men like Rushdie so appealing; it is also their big brains.

Other examples of clever men linked with beautiful women include Henry Kissinger and Jill St John, AJ Ayer and Naomi Campbell, Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy, Martin Amis and Isobel Fonseca, Nicholas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni and, most recently, Bernard-Henri Levy and Daphne Guinness.

In the light of the biological theory, perhaps Mrs Merton's put-down to Debbie McGee wasn't as accurate as we imagine: "So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?" Maybe McGee was attracted to the fact that Daniels is obviously an intelligent man.

The most famous example of an intellectual making an unlikely conquest of a beautiful woman is Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. In Christopher Bigsby's recently-published biography of Miller, he includes the following quotation from Elia Kazan, who observed the two lovebirds together at a party in 1951: "I could see that need had met need and the lovely light of desire was in their eyes. I watched them dance; Art was a good dancer. And how happy she was in his arms! Not only was he tall and handsome in a Lincolnesque way, but he was a Pulitzer Prize playwright."

The conventional wisdom is that Monroe was attracted to Miller because she was intellectually insecure -- if she could get someone as clever as Arthur Miller to marry her, then she wouldn't be thought of as such a bimbo. But perhaps she found his intelligence appealing for more primordial reasons. She was desperate to have children when she met the playwright and the fact that he had such a large brain may have triggered a biological response in her reptile brain.

Whatever the explanation, I am personally grateful that women find intelligent men so interesting. I cannot boast of having a string of ex-wives, but I am happily wedded to a woman who is considerably more attractive than me. I always assumed she married me because I can make her laugh, but perhaps it's my ability to do complicated sums in my head that impressed her. One thing's for sure: I'm never going to introduce her to Salman Rushdie.

ES Magazine, 12th December 2008

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share





Twitter @NiranjanAjit @tgemiles @NickJTimothy No, but the first to contrast somewheres with nowheres. I took it to be a rif… link  (4 hours ago)

BEST OF THE WEB

The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski - the-american-interest.com
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony - jerusalemletters.com
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller - quillette.com
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand - newyorker.com
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge - economist.com
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell - city-journal.org
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander - prospectmagazine.co.uk
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell - quillette.com
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff - newsweek.com
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings - dominiccummings.wordpress.com
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew - politico.com
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus - claremont.org
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman - theguardian.com
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer - conservativehome.com
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan - nationalreview.com
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs - newstatesman.com
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker - edge.org
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood - theatlantic.com
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray - quadrant.org.au
Beware the soft Stalinists of the campus by David Aaronovitch - thetimes.co.uk
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter - conservativeteachers.com
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win - youtu.be
Corbyn's first seven days - theguardian.com
Corbin's cabinet chaos by Darren McCaffrey - news.sky.com
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons - gq-magazine.co.uk
Inside Westminster's free school - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn's politics are a fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland by Tony Blair - theguardian.com
Robert Conquest obit - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that - news.stv.tv
In defence of free schools by Toby Young - standpointmag.co.uk
 

BLOGROLL

Andrew Lilico
Andrew Neil
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Normblog
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Slate
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone
 

COLUMNISTS

AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
 
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.com


  • IMdb Page on the film