Are those pernicious skin-lightening creams sold in India just capitalizing on deeply-ingrained, subconscious beliefs about skin color, good and evil? Well researchers at the University of Toronto think so. They analyzed over 2,000 photographs of men and women from advertisements and concluded that men are subconsciously attracted to women with lighter skin because they equate whiteness with "purity, innocence, modesty and goodness," according to the Press Trust Of India. Women, on the other hand, are attracted to swarthier men because "darker complexions are associated with sex, virility and danger." (Related: didn't Carl Jung come up with these archetypes like a hundred years ago?)
The lead author of the study, sociologist Dr. Shyon Baumann, the Independent, "What the research shows is that our aesthetic preferences operate to reflect moral preferences. Within our cultures, we have a set of ideals about how women should look and behave... Lightness and darkness have particular meanings attached to them and we subconsciously relate those moral preferences to women."
In the advertisements analyzed by Baumann and his team, the skin of white women was 15.2% lighter than the skin of white men, and the skin of black women was 11.1% lighter than the skin of black men. The other major finding of the study was that ads with darker-skinned women were more likely to show those women in their skivvies or with bare feet. (???) Was Anna Wintour falling prey to subconscious assumptions when she and her editors cast the LeBron/Gisele cover?
How Complexion Sparks Desire [Press Trust Of India]
Men, Women & The Secrets Of Skin Colour [Independent]