It seems that Dear Cecil’s answer was at least partially influenced by his distraction (at the moment) by the lovely (I’m sure) Mrs. Adams, and focusing on ‘body proportions’.
A few of preliminary notes.
1.) This is almost all ‘speculation’ (which I like), so we are unlikely to arrive at anything ‘definitive’ here.
(As an aside, I find that I particularly like to speculate on this subject.)
(Though, Cecil did have, however ‘incomplete’, some ‘scientific papers’ to rely on.)
2.) It seems that it really doesn’t matter all that much (in some sense) about the ‘attractive attributes’ that women may or may not have – there seems to be a large component of the “mating selection” that is done by women.
(While men can find various levels of ‘attractiveness’ in different women, when it comes ‘down to it’, many men will ‘mate with anyone’, if given the chance – and then likely ‘move on’. In fact, it seems ‘common knowledge’ that many men would ‘mate with mattresses’, if the mattresses would be at least ‘semi-cooperative’.)
3.) Joe and Cecil are both males (as am I), so the discussion is quite one-sided.
(Relevant to what I wrote in ‘point #2’, it would be more ‘useful’ to examine what physical features women generally find attractive in men; though the discussion might be less ‘interesting’ … to men.)
4.) Joe specifically asked about evaluating “beauty”, while the the title to the piece mentions “cutest”, and what men are “attracted” to. Nowhere is mentioned ‘raw’ “sexiness”. As an ‘armchair philosopher’, I wouldst distinguish between all of these terms (at some length), but will herein refrain – continuing the muddle created by a conflation of meanings, under the rubric of “attractive”.
(When you think about it, you might easily see that there could be differences between a woman you would like to have sex with, at least once; a woman you think that you could ‘live with’; a woman you would want to have children with; a woman you would want to ‘be seen with’; a woman that you would call “beautiful”; and maybe even a woman that you could ‘spend some time with’ – as they are “cute”, or “charming”.)
5.) I suspect that most of our evaluation of ‘beauty’ is based upon ‘cultural influences’, and that there are few, if any, universal aspects.
6.) Further, I think that we might look for ‘general tendencies’ within a culture, but there does seem to be much variation (probably based upon individual psychology, and maybe a few other factors, such as ‘circumstances’).
(Years ago, someone said to me, in a ‘voice of sagacity’, that “it’s a good thing that we guys are not all attracted to the same woman”.)
Some further ‘complications’.
A.) There are ‘specific features’ (breast, lips, etc.) that can be ‘evaluated in isolation’ (and I apologize for this level of ‘objectification’, but these things are ‘in fact’ ‘factors’) – a woman might be more of less attractive in terms of how her ‘individual scores’ added up. (Though, it might also be a fact that some ‘features’ go better with some other ‘features’, so that there could be more than one ‘package’ of ‘equal value’.)
(Cecil assumed the, excuse the expression, “gross morphology” of “silhouette” and “BMI”, as a means of addressing the question.)
B.) “Horniness”. Similar to the ‘appreciation of food’ (where an “optimal degree of hunger” is important for ‘peak experience’), it is my perception that there is an “optimal horniness” for ‘appreciating female physiognomy’ (or “peek experience”, if you will). A guy may not be so ‘appreciative’ just after an orgasm; and there can be a state of ‘overly horniness’, where a guy “just wants to get his rocks off”, and also is not so ‘appreciative’, nor ‘particular’. “At optimum”, there is a ‘wide appreciation’, but ‘preferences’ are still discernable.
C.) “Clothing”, (or “not”). This can ‘say a lot’ about a woman, including “values identity” (or “style”), which can play into 'attractiveness", eh?
D.) When I was a youth, I heard the a ‘folk observation’ that guys (or “young guys”, at least) tend to be attracted to women who “resemble Mom”.
(This would tend to throw the notion of “universality” out of the proverbial ‘window’.)
(Oh, and besides the “Rubenesque” thing, already mentioned by someone else, I once read that there was a time when women tended to be found ‘attractive’ who had very ‘light skin’, as this supposedly showed that they were of ‘upper class’ and need not be exposed to the sun. For some time now, however, women who are ‘tanned’ are thought attractive, as they have the ‘discretionary time’ to spend some of their days out-of-doors. I think that “smoking cigarettes” has also reversed in terms of ‘social cues’.)
E.) There is a truism that, as men age, they find a wider and wider variation in female-features to be attractive.
(I remember that B.F. Skinner had his own, “behavioralist”, explanation for this phenomenon.)
F.) As Cecil mentioned, the “scent of a woman” can be a factor’; as well as listening to a woman talk, and watching her move.
(There are obviously can be very many factors that play into ‘attractiveness’, such as ‘personality’, and ‘ability’, et cetera, but we want to ‘focus’ on what we can ‘focus on’.)
G.) Miscellaneous factors in a male’s evaluation of a female. “Time of night” (or day); “opportunity” and “fleetingness” thereof); being in a “vacation mode” (or a “Friday after work mode”); ‘confidence’ and testosterone build-up, after “winning” a competition; the well-known “beer goggles” effect; the lesser well-known, but widely recognized “Coolidge effect”.
(I will add a factor that I dreamed up, and that is a “ripeness factor”. This is the case where two people are both “seriously looking” for a partner, and they more or less happen upon each other. Each person, is not only ‘looking’, but they also sense the “ripeness” in the other person. This can make for a very “hot date”.)
So, given all that ‘preliminary hoo-hah’, is there anything left to be said, in response to the original question? What might underlie a ‘general beauty’ and ‘attractiveness’ in female facial features (and probably ‘head-shape’)?
Quite some time ago, I read that “evenness of features” (which is a little vague, eh?), and “symmetry”, were often found attractive, as these aspects were thought to indicate “good genetic material”. (I guess that I will ‘accept that statement’, for now, as it is a ‘start’ for further examination, later – by someone else, I hope.)
Also, I’ve read, we have an ability to ‘look for the norm’ in our surrounding population, and there is some tendency to appreciate those features which are most within the ‘median range’. I guess that we sense that ‘things are safer within the center of the herd’, and that would be the best way to form a ‘rating’.
However, I will add a couple of other aspects to consider.
Of course, “nubility” is probably one of the primary and obvious elements. That is, anything that suggests of a woman being within a few years post menarche, and ‘general healthiness’. Certainly ‘skin tone’ would play into such, but also size of nose and ears (as these continue to grow, as we get older). “Eye sparkle” would indicate ‘healthiness’, I suspect. (Shaving body hair might stem from this aspect, perhaps.)
Leaving the face, for the moment, I’m guessing “perkiness of breasts”, and “flat abdomen” would be ‘noticed’ and ‘appreciated’.
Another broad category could be “distinguishability from men”. Men like to easily see that they are ‘in the right ballpark’, for ‘mating purposes’. I think that men tend to like some ‘delicacy of features’ (such as smallish chin and nose), as these are obvious ‘objectifiable’ characteristics – kind of “go” signals, if you will. We usually like to ‘see’ at least some ‘bumps on the chest’, and maybe some ‘extra padding’ on the behind. (Long hair, jewelry – particularly earrings – and dresses, all symbolize femininity.)
Somewhat following that line (maybe), humans tend to exhibit “sexual dimorphism”. I’ve done a little reading on the topic, but I can’t really absorb everything I read. In humans, this is the tendency for males to be physically larger than females. For whatever reason this is, guys usually prefer gals that are smaller than they are.
I’ll ‘toss in’ that a certain “wideness of hips”, within a range of proportionality (and norm), would ‘look like’ a woman could readily give birth to one’ s offspring.
And, I can’t help but think that ‘puffy and rouged lips’ are suggestive of sexually stimulated ‘lower labia’.
Lastly, it is generally pretty ‘sexy’ when a woman smiles at a man. It seems to be saying, “maybe, baby”. Dontcha think?