Take It From a Woman: We Want Rat Faces and Dad Bods

Welcome to hot rodent summer

June 21, 2024 6:10 am
"Challengers" stars Josh O'Connor and Mike Faist are the leading faces of hot rodent summer
A new rat pack emerges.

My most recent romantic escapade involved an intoxicated woman running up to my date on the street and informing him that he looked like “that one guy from Challengers.” I wasn’t sure which of the two actors in the sexiest movie of the year she was referring to, but I had quietly thought he bore a resemblance to both of them. The validation from a random (albeit drunk) woman satisfied me immensely, not only because this corroborated my own private assumption, but because I knew I was out with an enviably attractive man.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s a hot rodent summer. I’m aware that this sounds beyond offensive, but it’s true: the internet is thirsting after famous men who look like vermin. The cultural success of Challengers and the subsequent thrust of Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist onto our timelines certainly solidified the trend, but this rat pack, if you will, has been scurrying underneath our sewage system for quite some time now, waiting for an uncovered manhole to emerge into the sunlight.

Who else is among the sexy rats, you ask? Timothee Chalamet, The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White, Sabrina Carpenter’s Irish boyfriend Barry Keoghan and The 1975 frontman (and muse for Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poets album) Matty Healy. Looking at all these men together, you’ll notice some similarities. They are all white men, yes — a likely extension of the White Boy of the Month meme. And as Vogue writer Raven Smith notes in his explanation of the trend, these men are less like literal rodents and more akin to the animated, anthropomorphic rats like the ones in Ratatouille

“Rodent men may be sinewy, with almost-Concorde-pointed noses and tight jaws, but they also possess a Disney softness, a mischievous and enchanted charm,” he writes. “Some even have big, playful ears!”

While Smith says that we shouldn’t put too much stock in the trend — “Rather than see this new obsession as an emancipation from traditional Hollywood hotness…let’s instead think of this as a summer fling, no strings attached” — I do believe there’s something worth delving into here.

In a separate echo chamber of the internet, 12-year-old boys are coveting facial-fitness gum to obtain sharper jawlines. It’s a product of “looksmaxxing,” a movement, derived from incel internet forums, that encourages people to change or enhance their appearance to fit in with traditional beauty standards. For boys and men, this would mean emulating a Chad, someone who embodies a hypermasculine beauty standard: chiseled jawline, over six feet tall, massive arms and pecs — the type of guy men insist all women want. At least once a week, I come across a tweet or TikTok clip of some red-pilled podcast bro lamenting that women solely desire male partners who make six figures, have the body type of a Grecian god and a jawline that could cut glass. And every time, I can’t help but laugh. 

There seems to be a disconnect between what women actually find attractive and what men think women want. Case in point: hot rodent summer. I’m not blind. I’ve seen Challengers. A lot of these leading rodent men are jacked, but that’s not the emphasis of the trend, which is more about big ears and innocuous charisma. I mean, we’re equating them to rats for fuck’s sake. 

It reminds me of the dad bod craze, wherein women have deemed beer guts attractive. I’m aware of the double standard — mothers who grow a human being in their wombs for nine months aren’t offered the luxury of having a mom bod, and are expected to lose the baby weight as soon as that little thing is out of them — but men looking like Tony Soprano or Jason Kelce is hot by a lot of women’s standards. It’s backed by science.

A Psychology Today article by Bucknell University professor and psychologist Joel Wade cites a few studies conducted on dad bods. The consensus? Single and married women alike tend to prefer a dad bod over a more chiseled build. Interestingly, though, this is not necessarily because of the physicality of the dad bod, but because of the traits associated with the type of men who have dad bods. 

“Research shows that men who are very physically attractive have some characteristics that women find unappealing,” writes Wade. According to some studies, extremely attractive men are more likely to cheat and have higher levels of testosterone, which can cause them to be more aggressive. “Women might find a male they assume to have lower testosterone levels more appealing because he would be assumed to be less aggressive and have characteristics that would make them a better partner — and a better father.”

I’ve always said gym selfies of your six-pack on dating profiles is a red flag. In my experience, men I’ve dated who are a bit too into working out and their physical appearance tend to push their orthorexia and exercise addiction onto me. And as you might imagine, I do not appreciate that. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking stock of your health. I love working out, but being thin or jacked does not necessarily equate to being healthy — despite what the roided-up fitness bros try to tell us. 

In reality, the best thing you, a man, can do for yourself, for your partner and for your dating life is to have the face of a rat and the body of a dad. Kidding. You should actually just try to be a decent person. Someone who asks questions on dates, who listens, who’s respectful, who is — dare I say — nice. 

Alpha males and incels are constantly trying to convince more and more men that women are gold diggers who want the physicality of Glen Powell-type leading men. But based on research and current Hollywood trends, it seems like the opposite is true. I, for one, would take Set It Up Powell over Top Gun Powell any day of the week. 

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