Hearsay about fatherhood abounds. There is all sorts of guff out there, from the spooky stories about Dads being insensitive to babies and rolling over them in their sleep, to the ancient one about the best fatherhood is when the role is shared between the oldest men nearby. More realistic ones say that Dads are as good at multitasking and are as caring as mothers, but I am not really sure which are grounded in truth and which, in truth, should be grounded. I still have a favourite though. My favourite is that a man with a young child is much sexier than one without.

This has been touted to me as a truth by postgraduates in the Netherlands and it appears in a Jeeves and Wooster story by P. G. Wodehouse. So, it is about as broadly-held a view as it could be. I am curious immediately as to why this should be. I think the reasons could be aesthetic, implicative or possibly even wish fulfilment.

The wish fulfilment is the cruelest and flimsiest reason. Arguably, a picture of a man and a young child provides a place for a woman to fit in–there is a ready made family that she can walk into without having to do any of that pesky commitment/relationship/pregnancy/childbirth work. In short, I am not sure it is really a sane view.

A stronger case is what it implies about the man. It suggests that he can ‘perform’: it suggests not only fertility on his part and also a sort of willingness to be a Dad and thus shoulder responsibilities as a parent. This means that the female he impregnates will not be left on her own, giving the off-spring an improved chance of survival. It is a good picture for any woman who is not scared of her ovaries.

But, still, I am not really convinced. If a man with a young child fertilises a second woman, any resulting child will be competing with the child already born. And what of the first child’s mother? That question is posed by such a picture, but not answered. If we turn this on its head, we can devise the argument that what is not available is sexy, but that goes for anyone in a relationship, not just a new Dad.

No, aesthetic reasons are probably the strongest. This could be because there are two. First, it is a picture that includes something that is ‘cute’. That will undoubtedly garner attention from a group genetically/hormonally predisposed to be caring of the cute thing. The strongest reason for me though, is that the contrast between the man and the baby is about the sharpest there can be between two humans. The baby looks small and cute and vulnerable, which makes a 6’6″er (2m) without too much fat and a smile on his face look big, strong, fertile and caring all at once. The fact of his appearance makes the other look all the smaller and thus more lovable.

I find this argument unanswerable, but it appeals to me for another reason. There is also a fabulous advantage for me, and other new Dads. What this boils down to fundamentally, is that buying zinc ointment and those absorbent pads to preserve the modesty of lactating bosoms, makes me look gorgeous. Who am I to argue?