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My Facial Feminisation Thesis


Part 2:

The Established Research


After finding these kinds of inconsistencies between the consensus of opinion and my own observations, I decided to look at all the research I could find from scientific papers to artists manuals and try to establish once and for all what the known facts were about the sexual dimorphism of the human face. There are 3 main sources sources from which we can get information about male and female facial differences and facial beauty:


1: The Neoclassical Canons.


da vinci profile


These are the classical ideas about facial proportions such as Leonardo Da Vinci's division of the face into thirds (illustrated above) and similar ideas by Albrecht Dϋrer but modern studies such as those by L. G. Farkas have found that there isn't really a particularly close correlation between these ideas and facial beauty. You can read more about the neoclassical cannons and their problems in a study by F Vegter and J Hage here.

Da Vinci's and Dϋrer's ideas do make great art but not necessarily great facial surgery. Unfortunately there are surgeons out there are making decisions about people's surgery based on these outdated and erroneous ideas. Typically you might hear surgeons talking about dividing the face into horizontal thirds with the top third going from the hairline to the glabella (a point between the eyebrows), the middle one from the glabella to the base of the nose and the bottom one from the base of the nose to the base of the chin. The suggestion is that a beautiful face, male or female, will fit these divisions exactly. This simply isn't true and there is nothing to be gained by trying to achieve those dimensions. In fact, an average female face is equal for the middle and lower thirds but not the upper third and an average male does not fit any of them. The rule of thirds is very appealing - humans like to think that nature is arranged according to these simple mathematical rules and maybe there are some such rules beneath it all but the division of the human face into equal horizontal thirds is neither a rule of beauty nor of nature.


2: The Beauty Mask (Phi Mask).

Many of my clients have seen the beauty mask devised by Stephen Marquardt which is a particularly detailed attempt to analyse beautiful faces in terms of the “golden third” or “golden ratio”. It is essentially a modern version of the neoclassical canons. Here's a link.

I've had severe doubts about the usefulness of this mask for some time – it is interesting to apply it to a face which is already close to its ideal but it is really difficult to apply it to the kind of faces you see on normal people. The main problem though, is that the beauty mask is quite a masculine and angular face for a woman which makes it particularly unsuitable for FFS purposes and it is somewhat at odds with most people's idea of feminine beauty. E. Holland has written a detailed account of the problems with it which you can read here.


3: Scientific Analyses of Faces and Skulls.

These include studies by archaeologists, anatomists and forensic reconstruction artists and includes the many attempts by scientists to mathematically analyse facial beauty and/or quantify facial gender. These can be very useful. For example these are the kind of studies that describe the prominent brow bossing that males tend to have or the fact that the male jaw tends to have squarer prominent corners. If you want to read some of the sources then Dr. Caroline Wilkinson; Krogman and Iscan; White and Folkens; and Iscan and Helmer are all good.

However, sometimes this information can be misleading for FFS purposes or at least poorly applied. For example, you may hear it said by FFS surgeons and patients that men tend to have wider cheekbones than women. Technically this is true if you measure the width of the cheekbones relative to the width of the cranium. This ratio is useful in archaeology because it can help sex a human skull but not in FFS because the width of the cranium is only apparent in the case of someone who is bald or has a shaved head – in the vast majority of cases, the width of a woman's cranium is hidden by her hair and even if it wasn't, I don't think this is an area that our brains use for gender recognition.

Another reason that some of these measurements are not useful in FFS is that they refer to features that either don't show, can't be changed or are not part of the way humans recognise gender. An example would be the fact that men tend to have a more prominent bump on the back of the head called the inion. And of course it is very important to remember that skull measurements need to be considered with all the soft tissue differences included like the nose to top lip distance and the fat distribution.

Another problem is that the reference points that might be used in a scientific study are not necessarily chosen to illustrate gender differences and even when they are, they are not necessarily chosen to illustrate differences in the way we perceive the gender of faces but according to which areas of skull geography offer convenient points of reference for measuring equipment. This means they do not necessarily tell you how your face “seems” to other human beings. The thing is that we are not trying to convince computers or callipers that we have female faces, we are trying to convince ourselves and other people that we do.

Ironically, despite this, it is computers that can help us see for ourselves what the average male and female face looks like and what the key differences are that humans notice between male and female faces – this is done by blending a number of photographs of faces together using “morphing” software to create averaged faces or “prototypes”. Although mathematical calculations are involved in generating these images, the final result is presented as a picture of a face and that means you can apply all the subtleties of human subjective judgement to it. You still make comparative measurements automatically with your eyes but you can spot things that don't necessarily appear in the research (like the height of the hairline in the middle) and you can see that some differences that do appear in the research are not very important in facial gender recognition (like the vertical thickness of the cheekbone). We will look at prototypes in detail in the next section.



Please use the links below to navigate around the thesis:


Part 1: Common Misconceptions

Part 2: The Established Research

Part 3: Prototypes

Part 4: Sexual Dimorphism of the Face Feature by Feature

Part 5: Relative Proportions

Part 6: Female Neoteny and Feminisation as a Subtractive Process

Part 7: Objective and Subjective Femininity

Part 8: How Feminine is Feminine Enough?

Part 9: Beauty

Part 10: The Man in the Mirror/Self Perception