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and other things. A quick survey, based on comments I made in Steph Liebe's F/book.

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The present haute couture optical world of impossibly thin women holds no sexual and little aesthetic appeal to me. It's an alternate reality and not one I take seriously for myself. However, many women have reported that they and reactions to their appearance by others are strongly influenced by this alternate optical world.

So it behooves us to look into the causation of this persistent issue.

It's not as simple as media imagery by some unknown means programming helpless female brains (which would be insulting to women anyway). To leave out the biological is to see but a small part of the story. A beginning point to consider is that most men do not find tall, skinny models sexy. Evidence: the artificial enhancements given to porn actresses. Therefore, there's something more going on than something simple like "If I'm bone thin, I'll be found sexually attractive." I advance an hypothesis as follows: the clue to fashion and thinness is enhancement of perception of height. Height is an evolutionary selector because height correlates in populations to social dominance and intelligence. That's one reason women have donned height-enhancing things like high heels: to increase their appeal to high-status males who want children (mainly sons) who will pass on their genes. This is one reason why the human race is becoming taller over time: there's a selection bias toward height. I believe the idea is that we will top out in the 6'5" to 6'8" range, because any taller and we start to have structural problems.

Another element in the bias toward slenderness/thinness, by the way, is the male evolutionary drive toward guaranteeing female virginity/fidelity. The male human has a drive to ensure that the children his mate bears are his own, so that he is not investing resources in (and/or possibly giving up his life for) another male's offspring. It's known that even today, in western societies, ~20% of children are not the husband's/purported father's. So, a very slender/unstretched/youthful stomach suggests that the female has never been pregnant and isn't now pregnant - a sort of early-check system without requiring genital involvement or marital (pair-bonding) commitment. [Evolutionary psychologists point out that stress on female virginity and overall control of females is strongest is "honor societies" - ones in which resources are scarce. This is one reason for female troubles in some Islamic countries.] This is why slender females have an impulse to display a trim stomach and why it's found so desirable: in evolutionary terms, the higher-status male will respond to, even demand, all signs of non-pregnancy.

There's also the function of tall/slender mates as signals of social dominance - hence the "trophy wife."

All this is why you see skinny porn actresses with huge implanted chests, or skinny starlets with their bodies at weird angles to make them look like they have curves. [The same weird-angle thing shows up with not-so-skinny Facebook people, who use camera angles and odd expressions or postures to suppress/distract from plumpness.] There's little evidence that the male sexual response is to curves as evidence of good nourishment. The male response to female curves is mainly a response to perceived fertility and youthfulness (which is also what a lot of makeup is about, e.g. blush and lipstick imitating vasodilation during youthful fertility). One thing that is *constant* whether in older Western art like Rubens or cultures where more plumpness is liked or in today's decadent Western media culture is a male preference for a female waist/hips ratio of 1:1.3 - which turns out to signal optimal fertility (and also be an auspicious waist width for successful childbearing). This preference is independent of culture - that alone shows how much of a role biology plays.

Female bodies show fertility markers through fat distribution: breasts, buttocks, and hips. So an additional sad thing about the distorted hypersexed media of today is that by demanding that women's bodies have ever less fat on them, art directors and photographers etc. are featuring bodies with suppressed fertility and even gender markers - some of the young starlets out there are startlingly androgynous, especially around the hips/waist area. And so we see all kinds of artificial workarounds of this: the omnipresent Photoshop, cleavage-creating makeup or shadow placement, weird cocked angles around the hips - all trying to imitate a natural curve that has been removed by severe dieting and exercise. They also try to make up for the missing gender markers by extravagantly female hair and makeup and couture.

There's lots more to say on this, but none of this should be taken as defending the false optical world of fashion and the media as a guide for how people should look. As a number of critics have pointed out, no one *can* look like that. This is what motivates me to get at the underlying dynamics. I find the evolutionary perspective helpful because it makes sense of otherwise disconnected phenomena.

[ Random note: The much-commented on self-esteem nosedive in girls is correlated to puberty, i.e. the period where one suddenly wants to take one's place in the social mating arena. It's analogous to the uptick in aggression in boys. ]

[ Random note: I suspect there's an innate component to female sexual shame. Since keeping virginity/knowing fatherhood was so important, it makes sense that both males and females would have a drive to prevent a high level of random couplings. In males that takes the form of a drive toward controlling the female; in females, that may take the form of a certain impulse away from sex, particularly unless everything were just right. Thus the phenomenon of women having difficulty/being unable to orgasm if their feet are cold, and also the greater complexity of female sexuality. There are whole domains to be explored just in this issue. ]

[ My own feeling for the false optical world is expressed by Jennifer Garner's character in 13 Going On 30 - looking at a bunch of ice-cold couture images, the 13-year-old-in-a-30-year-old's-body says, so refreshingly, "I don't know anyone who looks like that!" I can enjoy it as a decadent artificial product, like a sci-fi novel - but it has nothing to do with what I find wonderful about real women in their real bodies. Hopefully they, too, will be less imprisoned by the glacial images in times to come, by becoming conscious of where it all comes from and where the strange sides of ourselves are sourced. ]

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
my_wits_end
Mar. 1st, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
A beginning point to consider is that most men do not find tall, skinny models sexy. Evidence: the artificial enhancements given to porn actresses.

Oh how very scientific of you!

How do you know that this is due to nature and not a cultural preference? And doesn't this contradict your point that men are concerned with tallness? Why are runways not filled with tall women with big boobs, then?

Height is an evolutionary selector because height correlates in populations to social dominance and intelligence.

Citation needed (particularly in regards to intelligence).

This is one reason why the human race is becoming taller over time: there's a selection bias toward height.

Is this selection bias really significant in comparison to improvements in nutrition and health in general? I really don't know and I wonder if you've considered that.

There's little evidence that the male sexual response is to curves as evidence of good nourishment. The male response to female curves is mainly a response to perceived fertility and youthfulness

...and fertility has nothing to do with good nourishment???

One thing that is *constant* [...] is a male preference for a female waist/hips ratio of 1:1.3 - which turns out to signal optimal fertility [...] This preference is independent of culture - that alone shows how much of a role biology plays.

Oh, so the only thing that is really constant and might be a psychological trait selected for by evolution is the preference for a certain waist/hip ratio..

So, it's pretty unclear what you're arguing, here. My attempt at an interpretation: the biologically determined preference for tallness is overriding the biologically determined preference for a waist/hip ratio, which is then being artificially simulated with breast implant and camera angles. Is that right? (P.S. I've yet to be convinced that the evolutionary perspective is helpful in making sense of this phenomena.)
writerspleasure
Mar. 1st, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
Oh how very scientific of you!

Since you're a sloppy misinterpreter, I'll demonstrate you're that, then leave the rest of your reply in the dustbin where it belongs. Feel free to slob about some more about what that means.

> doesn't this contradict your point that men are concerned with tallness?

No, and you have shown no reason for suspecting a contradiction. [One of the great dodges of our time is the forced finding of non-existent contradictions.] Models are [generally] tall and skinny, often very skinny - i.e. with highly significant fertility and even gender markers suppressed (though they are also young and with health-suggesting flawless skin artificially produced), which diminishes full sexual interest. The suppression of important fertility markers like hip/waist contrast and breast and buttock size conjoined with the status-significant height creates a desexualized, conceptual environment. [Similar in feel to classical ballet, by the way.] The artificial, decadent, *optical* world of haute couture is just that: an artifact. A full sexual response would be distracting.

Next time, don't be a snarky slob.
my_wits_end
Mar. 1st, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC)
A full sexual response would be distracting.

Which is why they emphasize the height only, and not also the waist/hip ratio? If that was your point, then I wonder why you didn't say so in the OP.
writerspleasure
Mar. 1st, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Because it wasn't "my point." I'm presenting an integrated picture that relates two domains that until now have been treated separately. There are lots of implications to be drawn from it.

This wasn't an important explication: it's on the level of obviousness given the OP's explicit and bolded mention of suppression of fertility markers in favor of height. Try a reading/thinking cycle instead of the automatic yet erroneous detection of contradictions and stupidity. Unless you're just a lulzseeker; in which case, continue.
pocketfullofsin
Mar. 3rd, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
adaptationist! foul, foul adaptationist!

but seriously, i can't take this seriously. assurance of male paternity is only a concern in patriarchal societies with patrilineal inheritance. those became the norm with the invention of agriculture. before that, you had matriarchal societies, matrilineal societies, communal societies and nobody gave a shit. i mean, look at our closest relatives. they don't give a shit.

why is it so set in stone that we must?
pocketfullofsin
Mar. 3rd, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
edit: maybe it was the invention of herding. whatever social phenomenon caused an inordinate amount of wealth to become concentrated in male hands, at which point matrilineality fell apart.
charlycrash
Aug. 27th, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
Read this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentism_%28literary_and_historical_analysis%29

This is pandemic amongst this sort of, to be honest, poorly thought-out evopsych. It's a pretty major mistake to assume that the sociology of the present was identical not just in the past but on evolutionary timescales. Until you can prove that all your assumptions about human culture were invariable for the past 20,000 years or so - and good luck with that - then your ideas are nothing more than speculation based on very questionable assumption. Thus, worthless.

Also: if we're going to be strictly Darwinian about this, consider that an entity capable of basing their behaviour on memetic information (read: to have their behaviour sculpted by culture) rather than genetic imperatives is able to be infinitely more adaptable and responsive than a genetically programmed "robot", and thus, in a species capable of memetics such as us, innate behaviour should be selected against in favour of a tabula rasa state.

Consider how long it's taken for basically the entire human race to learn not to touch live electric wires, and on the other hand how long it would take to spread a collection of alleles creating a genetic/innate aversion to doing so across the entire human race - and consider how many people would die by electrocution in each case. Memetics - culture - should beat innate tendencies to death, and we've had culture for a long, long time now.

Oh, and: for the record, in most species it's the females who exert sexual selection on males, not the other way round.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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