Brains over beauty: When smarts turn into sex appeal


Not too long ago, a sea of tweets attacking Mark Ronson for “coming out” as sapiosexual flooded the internet. In an interview on “Good Morning Britain,” the Grammy-winning producer stated he identified as sapiosexual after which the hosts congratulated him on being “out and proud.”

He quickly backtracked and apologized for the statement in a Rolling Stone interview approximately a week after his appearance on the talk show. “I do not consider myself part of any marginalized community and I apologize if anybody misunderstood or took offense to it,” Ronson said.

Sapiosexuality is not a sexual identity based on gender or sex. Physical appearances are not what makes someone sexually attractive to members of the sapiosexual community. Rather, it’s intelligence that’s valued above all else. 

Those who are sapiosexual find the capacity to carry a witty, clever conversation to be the most attractive trait in a person.

But there is a revolt against the idea of sapiosexuality. Critics brand it as being ableist and elitist. After all, what gives someone the right to deem another intelligent or unintelligent?

In and of itself, intelligence seems to be a very subjective attribute. Someone might consider a person intelligent while another may consider the very same person pompous. 

Many people believe sapiosexuality is pretentious and discriminatory, specifically against those with intellectual disabilities or people who could not afford to receive higher education.

But, members of the sapiosexual community say the trait of intelligence is not necessarily the typical, knowledge-based version that first comes to mind.

“What I connect most with and value most as a sapiosexual is emotional intelligence and comedic intelligence,” said Teresa Sheffield, a comedian who identifies as sapiosexual, to The New York Times.

If Sheffield’s assertion is a general model for sapiosexuality, then intelligence means a heightened understanding of different elements of human nature, whether it be in knowledge, emotions or comedy. 

Following this model, sapiosexuality can be redefined as an attraction to an elevated intelligence in any aspect of human nature, a more specific description of intelligence that is not as exclusive as the broader definition.

But some psychologists argue that sapiosexuality is just a millennial phenomenon. Sexuality expert Debby Herbenick said that sapiosexuality is more of a sexual preference than a sexual identity, a crucial difference to note. 

Sexual preference implies choice, typically inaccurately and offensively used to describe sexual orientation, which is an “enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction,” according to GLAAD.

A study has also been conducted regarding sapiosexuality. The study, led by Gilles Gignac, linked intelligence to the IQ level of a person and also used the IQ level of the participant. The survey of 383 people also asked for the participants to rank traits they find attractive in a person.

Intelligence was ranked as the second-highest attractive trait in a person. The study also revealed that sexual attraction, as well as partner interest, increased as IQ scores increased too, with partner interest rising faster than sexual attraction the higher the IQ score was. 

But there was a limit to the pattern. People who scored in the 99th percentile were actually found to be less attractive than those who scored within the 90th percentile, suggesting there seems to be a sentiment of “too” intelligent.

Shining light on the participants, the study also found there is no correlation between IQ and identifying as sapiosexual. Approximately between 1 to 8% of people ages 18 to 35 may be sapiosexual.

So, sapiosexuality is not a completely illegitimate idea as some seem to think. There is a scientific basis supporting its existence. But its emergence into the mainstream culture forces people to think about what it actually is and question what it stands for.

Some believe sapiosexuality mocks the LGBTQ+ community, all of whom have had to suffer years of oppression. Coming out carries a heavily emotional, courageous and significant weight. 

Critics claim that to apply “coming out” to sapiosexuality misleadingly burdens it with the same weight. That phrasing is why Ronson received so much disapproval.

How did being a nerd go from pathetic to sexy? Is intelligence not a subjective judgment left to the brains of the beholder? If sapiosexuality is truly based on the knowledge-based idea of intelligence, then is it not discriminatory and insensitive and frankly, a bit pretentious?

Who would have thought a simple interview on "Good Morning Britain" with Ronson would provoke such thought?


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