The Casaubon Factor

In George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, female protagonist Dorothea Brooke marries Mr. Casaubon. The twist is that this Casaubon is far from being your typical darcyesk, attractive hero but an elderly man who is feverishly pursuing his scholarly ambitions. The other characters cannot understand Dorothea, who rejected another young gentleman’s proposal in order to be with Casaubon. I can understand her a bit and I would define his attraction as follows:

Casaubon Factor: The uncanny sexappeal of intellect.

I think that the Casaubon factor is currently very in fashion and you can see it everywhere. Just have a look at my favourite example: Mr. Sherlock Holmes, a. k. a. Benedict Cumberbatch. I’d argue that with Cumberbatch it is less his actual physical appearance but rather his snobbish, self-sufficient, self-confident, intellectual attractiveness that enters the dreams of the masses of fangirls out there. Holmes is sexy. His incorporation of the sophistication of the British gentleman and his ability to solve riddles and always to be a step ahead of everyone else function as a stimulative cocktail.

The same is true for German Tatort forensic pathologist, K. F. Boerne, played by Jan-Joseph Liefers. He is not George Clooney or Brad Pitt, but still he has this attractive aura that keeps me wanting more of him.

I would even go so far as to argue that The Big Bang Theory’s No. 1 nerd, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, is also a member of the Casaubon society. We like Sheldon and we are fascinated by Sheldon. We acknowledge his strangeness and his hyper-intelligence but that might be exactly what is so uncannily sexy… in a nerdy way.

Maybe this new breed of man is on its way to rid us of our dreams of manly Marlboro cowboys, shirtless Diet-Coke-men, and footballers in tight pants. We want men, who are mysterious, smart, and hard to get. All of my three examples are men who hide their emotions: Sherlock considers feelings a weakness, Boerne has no problem dissecting the corpse of a former lover, and Sheldon is completely asexual. Yet, we want them!

But, girls, here’s a thought: Maybe we can have all of them. Maybe monogamy is out-dated (wow… I feel a little bit Carrie Bradshawish typing that). Last week I talked to a friend who has been happily married for two and a half years… but not living monogamously. She allowed me to share the following anecdote with you but out of respect (and because I’m a bit afraid of her Judo-abilities) I will use the pseudonyms Mrs. Poppins and Mr. Mayonnaise. The two are sharing a small one-room-flat and last week Mr. Mayonnaise brought a girl home. Mrs. Poppins was home as well and – as a good wife – she respectfully climbed onto the upper mattress of their bunk bed and allowed Mr. Mayonnaise and the girl to get it on on the lower one. When I asked her whether the girl knew she was there, she replied something like that: “Duh… ‘Course I said hello. I’m not rude!”

If this is a trend, and if monogamy really goes out of style, then I want to officially call dibs on Jude Law (for the sexiness), José Mourinho (for the snobbish intelligence), and Chandler Bing (for the laughs)…. I know that the latter is fictional, but – come on! Let a girl dream!

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