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September 29, 2013 / JayMan

Keeping it Real…

Every once and awhile we’re hit with a piece in the campaign against the very concept of beauty and the human desire and appreciation of attractive people (especially attractive women). Most silly among these are those that talk about what “real” women look like:

They feature “real” women – as if the models, singers, and actresses we see splashed across the media aren’t also real women (Photoshop, make-up, and plastic surgery notwithstanding). In general, the implication is that women obsess about their appearance – often about the most trivial aspects of such – because “Western” society has brainwashed us with unrealistic standards of beauty that women strive to emulate. Our concern over beauty is because of what we’ve been driven to by the media. Without this “brainwashing”, we’d naturally accept people for their “inner” beauty (or some nonsense like that – a point Dustin Hoffman recently professed) and the race to be the most beautiful would evaporate.

Right.

Sure, the media likely does compound the beauty arms race (as with many things), but if you believe that that is solely responsible for the human desire for beauty, and hence, women’s obsession over their own appearance – let me show you a few things:

Peafowl:

Male (the peacock):

peacock-03

Female (the peahen):2224912782_9b1960ff12

Mallard:

(Female left, male right)

mallard_F5R2282

Lion:

Male:

lion-wallpapers-hd-1920x1080Female:

Lioness and cub

Deer:

Male:

bilde_1

Female:

Whitetail_doe

Mandrill:

Female left, male right:

132541224.HlSwY7s8

Human:

john-abraham___23435351925eb5a5ee2

Sense a pattern?

Throughout the animal kingdom, whenever there is a great difference in appearance of the sexes, it is almost always the male who is more ornate and decorated. That is, males pick up the majority of conspicuous secondary sex characteristics.

Humans are a distinct exception to this. While human males do have some secondary sex characteristics, such as wider shoulders and facial/body hair, women are the more ornate sex, complete with breasts, longer hair, and for Europeans, brightly colored hair and eyes (both of which are more common in women).

The reason for this boils down to a zoologically uncommon behavioral feature of humans: paternal investment. Men invest in their children. In other animal species, where there is parental investment at all, it is usually only maternal (especially for mammals). In many such species, males need to evolve elaborate displays to attract mates (to show off their fitness). Females, on the other hand, are under much less such selective pressure (i.e., sexual selection), and basically just need to be “there” in order to procure a mate.

Humans, however, are “dadly.” Because human males invest in their offspring, a man has to be more choosy about his mates than males of other species are. And since the supply of mates is finite, women are forced to compete with each other for mates. Flashiness, of the form that is usually found in males across the animal kingdom, appeared in human females. Breasts are one key example; long hair (in non-Africans) is another. As Peter Frost notes, across human races, where average paternal investment deviates from the species’ average to a large degree, there is a corresponding variation in average female attractiveness. This is most pronounced for horticultural Africans (on one end) and Northern (Indo-) Europeans (on the other). In sub-Saharan Africa, women were much more self-sufficient, hence paternal investment was low. Sexual selection more heavily acted on men – hence, the lower average attractiveness of Black women. By contrast, in Northern/Eastern Europe, the adverse conditions encountered by hunter-gatherers there made paternal investment paramount. Polygyny, as the kind found in Africa, was difficult. Hence, sexual selection acted more heavily on women. All sorts of beautifying features appeared, such as bright hair and eye colors, in the effort to attract mates. This intense sexual selection on women rendered Northern (Indo-) European women the most attractive of all, on average.

Women all around the world are concerned with their appearance. What women go through to attract a mate is not much different from what the peacock must go through when he courts the peahen:

Hence, women are often inherently insecure about their looks. This is with good reason; in the past, in the European wilderness of old, this was supremely important – perhaps even a matter of life and death. Female-female competition through attractiveness is as old as the species itself. It has been with us from the beginning, and likely will always be with us.

I feel that it’s important that all people be treated with dignity and respect – including the less attractive individuals among us. This post should not taken as some license to deride or disrespect unattractive people. To the extent that campaigns against “Western beauty standards” are in this spirit, I agree. That said, these campaigns try to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In the quest to make less attractive people feel better about themselves, they pretend that attractiveness does not exist (biologically), when there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Sure, the beauty arms race is often taken to ridiculous extremes – especially now with the availability of plastic surgery (which now even has women modifying their vaginas), but that doesn’t mean that beauty isn’t an objective biological reality or that the obsession over it doesn’t have some good practical and biological reasons. The problem with “real” women is that some real women do indeed look better than other real women. This is a fact of life, and unfortunate as it may be for some, it is something we need to learn to accept just like many other facts of life.

8481887-close-up-of-a-beggars-hands-and-jar-of-coinsAnd speaking of facts of life, as you know, one of those facts is that we all need money. More specifically, I and my growing family need money. Winter is coming in Maine – and also coming – right in the depth of it – is one bouncing baby boy. Please see my “Donate” button at right to help keep the JayMan family warm! Note the many ways to help, PayPal via the “Donate” button, Flattr at the bottom, and Bitcoin for those who insist on that as well. Thank you very much!

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41 Comments

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  1. Denise / Sep 29 2013 8:02 PM

    “that doesn’t mean that beauty isn’t an objective biological reality”.

    True to a certain extent. That we respond to what we find beautiful in other people is universal, and there are some notions of beauty in humans that are the same around the world. But some things are just cultural fads. Think of the mutilated feet of Chinese women a hundred years ago. Or basketball-sized artificial bazooms that don’t even look like parts of a living being. Or the preferences in amount of body fat that change over time and place, or body hair or overdeveloped muscles.

    To the extent that our preferences are culturally determined, perhaps they can be consciously broadened. Wasn’t it an excellent thing for China that through a political act men eventually got over finding crushed, festering feet erotic and normal-sized feet repulsive?

    • JayMan / Sep 29 2013 9:43 PM

      @Denise:

      Yes, there are some “cultural” forces that act on top of biological ones. Some of them, perhaps most, are exaggerations of underlying biological preferences. Bound feet, for one, is an amplification of the fact that women have smaller feet, which is presumably attractive (big feet on women is a turn off for me). Obviously the same is the case with big breasts (that said, I think few men ever found the grossly distorted basketball size fake breasts attractive). Preference for body fat, really, doesn’t seem to vary all that much within a culture over time (and then that’s really just to accentuate breasts and hips). Even big muscles aren’t necessarily that much of a turn on for most women (we’re talking Mr. Universe level). In general, I suspect the cultural flexibility, while present, has been oversold.

    • Denise / Sep 30 2013 7:57 PM

      Jay Man,

      Forty years ago a Jamaican man I knew pointed out a woman to me and said that she would be thought in Jamaica to have a great figure. She wasn’t grossly obese or anything, but I think she was a good 30 pounds overweight by American standards, and not very tall. Maybe you can tell me if he was pulling my leg, or just expressing a personal preference.

      If European paintings suggest what an ideal female body looked like at different times – and I think they do – there was quite a variation, including what would now be considered quite small breasts.

      People generally like facial features with size, shape and arrangement as close to average as possible, however the current fad for big lips on white women seems to be far outside of average. Many of the overblown mouths would not have been considered attractive when I was young. I assume this fashion will pass eventually. Or could what looks average to people become skewed by all the puffed-up mouths, creating a feedback loop until only the artificial lips look normal?

      I’m eternally puzzled by the bazooms. I’ve hardly ever met a man who said he found them attractive, and yet millions of women have had their chests cut open and plastic bags full of inanimate material sewn in in order to appeal to men. Someone must like them. Personally, I think they’re hideous. I think anyone who likes fondling and kissing plastic bags should just go out and buy some.

    • JayMan / Sep 30 2013 8:57 PM

      @Denise:

      Forty years ago a Jamaican man I knew pointed out a woman to me and said that she would be thought in Jamaica to have a great figure. She wasn’t grossly obese or anything, but I think she was a good 30 pounds overweight by American standards, and not very tall. Maybe you can tell me if he was pulling my leg, or just expressing a personal preference.

      He wasn’t pulling your leg.
      See here. I’d imagine the lady on the right is close to ideal for many Black men.

      If European paintings suggest what an ideal female body looked like at different times – and I think they do – there was quite a variation, including what would now be considered quite small breasts.

      Women in older European paintings aren’t generally all that different from modern ideals. But, I guess 20 or 30 lbs is a big deal for the ladies. 🙂

      People generally like facial features with size, shape and arrangement as close to average as possible, however the current fad for big lips on white women seems to be far outside of average.

      Not really. Angelina Jolie is about as far as you can get before it starts looking weird.

      I’m eternally puzzled by the bazooms. I’ve hardly ever met a man who said he found them attractive, and yet millions of women have had their chests cut open and plastic bags full of inanimate material sewn in in order to appeal to men.

      Most fake boobs aren’t all that big. The women who get the giant fake breasts do it for the shock value (many, if not most, are porn stars).

  2. Amber / Sep 29 2013 10:24 PM

    People don’t really believe the ‘real women’ bullshit on a technical level; they just want to feel better about the fact that they’re ugly. Trying to point this out to people just makes them go “why do you hate meeee?” Most people don’t actually care about ‘facts’ at all. They only care about how a particular position makes them feel, emotionally, and if it signals that other people like you or not.

    Plus, honestly, women are kind of neurotic and chatty, especially about their looks. If you’re female, it’s almost impossible to escape. TV, advertising, fashion mags., school-aged-peers, etc.,will all tell you that you’re fat and ugly and need to lose weight and get better clothes (I was called “fat” all of the time in school, despite being anorexicaly thin. Luckily I wasn’t stupid.) Then we get told constantly by Facebook, social justice communities, other advertisements, other friends, etc., that we shouldn’t be concerned about our appearances, that we shouldn’t try to be thin and pretty, blah blah blah. You can’t fucking catch a break. I’m normally not concerned about my appearance, but reading half a dozen FB posts in a row about how I shouldn’t be starts making me think that maybe I should.

    Of course, the only sensible truth is that being attractive is a perfectly nice thing and it’s just fine for people to want to be attractive and want to look at other attractive people, but we shouldn’t let it get out of hand and shouldn’t discriminate based on looks. But that doesn’t make a catchy meme.

    • JayMan / Sep 29 2013 10:29 PM

      @Amber:

      Of course, the only sensible truth is that being attractive is a perfectly nice thing and it’s just fine for people to want to be attractive and want to look at other attractive people, but we shouldn’t let it get out of hand and shouldn’t discriminate based on looks. But that doesn’t make a catchy meme.

      Well said!

  3. misdreavus / Sep 30 2013 12:24 AM

    I’m not sure if I buy Peter Frost’s theory. But yes, standards of beauty are not all socially constructed.

    • proudfeministgirl / Nov 30 2013 5:36 PM

      I agree with the post of Jayman, we can see it in many types of fashion and traditional clothes, the women are also more ornamented, typical femenine dresses are more broad and have ribbons with varied forms and designs,and in many cases the female clothes have symbols such as flowers, just like a flower itself is pretty flashy, the women who wore it too, (like Japanese Kimono, among many other styles of clothing). The male clothing is more thin and less broad, the Jeans are smaller than dresses.

  4. misdreavus / Sep 30 2013 1:04 AM

    If it ever turns out that northern Europeans are not mostly descended from hunter-gatherers, this would blow a giant hole in Peter Frost’s theory. Y and mtDNA haplogroups seem to confirm that they aren’t. Since the Neolithic, there have been multiple waves of migration into northern Europe not only from the south but also from the Middle East — am I to believe that intense sexual selection on women (so rare that it requires unusual situations, i.e. a much greater percentage of women than men failing to reproduce) occurred in the Levant prior to the Bronze Age?

  5. misdreavus / Sep 30 2013 1:13 AM

    Come to think if it, it does sound bonkers. Wouldn’t a deficit of men in Ice Age Europe cause the potential fitness reward for polygamy to skyrocket?

    So I am to believe that for thousands of years, women in Ice Age Europe failed to reproduce in great numbers (because of increasing competition for the few men who had not died on long hunting trips), while simultaneously practicing monogamy throughout each and every epoch, period, and culture. Well that sounds very plausible to me.

    • misdreavus / Sep 30 2013 2:17 AM

      Went back and read Peter Frost’s blog again.

      Looks like he’s saying that men could only afford to take care of one female at a time, hence the lack of polygamy.

      Still don’t buy it.

      ….

  6. infowarrior1 / Sep 30 2013 8:58 AM
  7. Days of Broken Arrows / Sep 30 2013 3:51 PM

    Ah yes, the “real” women. If only it weren’t for “social conditioning,” men would be flocking to them, because “Real men like meat; bones are for dogs” — as the Facebook meme goes.

    And yet if you reversed all of this, and claimed that “real” men needed to be shorter and poorer than women, with less intelligence, how would these same women react? “Real,” it seems, is a one-way street. Ask any five-foot Asian or Hispanic guy how open women are to their “realness.”

    • JayMan / Sep 30 2013 3:55 PM

      @Days of Broken Arrows:

      There is that…

    • Anthony / Oct 1 2013 7:57 PM

      Sounds like parody time! Get pictures of a bunch of short guys, and taller but fatter guys, and put them in uniforms from low-paying jobs (gas station, Burger King, etc), and label it with something inspiring-sounding about “real men”, then post to facebook every time someone posts one of those “real women” things.

    • JayMan / Oct 1 2013 8:18 PM

      @Anthony: I like it!

      Great idea!

  8. Anonymous / Sep 30 2013 10:40 PM

    I always thought plainness in the female in animal species was for the purpose of cammoflauge, and not attracting predators to the nest.

    • Amber / Oct 3 2013 6:51 PM

      Predators avoid female lions, and antlers on lady deer would probably help deter predators, not attract them.

  9. Maciano / Oct 2 2013 5:00 AM

    Hey Jayman, great blog & work. I rarely respond, but read regular.

    I’ll drop you a buck soon enough.

    Cheers!

    • JayMan / Oct 2 2013 9:41 AM

      Thanks!

  10. Krakonos / Oct 3 2013 2:57 PM

    Maybe the “real woman” is just a return to our mammalian ancestors. Currently in the west there is no selection pressure on women when it comes to reproduction. There is only pressure on men.

    Have you ever seen some tropical trainforest hunter-gatherers or subsidience agriculturalists? Women tend to place less emphasis on their appearance. Sometimes even less than men. And paternal investment is a bit questionable there too.

  11. ejjunju / Oct 6 2013 4:47 PM

    You need to visit Africa!! Your statements about African beauty are so off the mark!!! You seem to want us to believe that there is one yardstick for beauty!! That is so wrong. Even in modern times we see that what is considered beautiful constantly evolves, fuelled by so many social issues!! We also know that the drivers of physical appearance are many and not everything is about copulation!! And if you really know about world history, you would realise that paternal investment in Europe is not that old. Actually, it is as old as paternal investment everywhere. And while polygny was found in some places in southern Africa, it is not a common practice in Africa. But i guess you just want to prove your point and slip back to your corner satisfied!!

    • JayMan / Oct 8 2013 11:32 AM

      @ejjunju:

      Your statements about African beauty are so off the mark!!! You seem to want us to believe that there is one yardstick for beauty!! That is so wrong.

      While there is some variability, there is indeed a broad consensus around the world on what is the most beautiful for women. And that is generally regarded to be Caucasoid traits, especially those from Northern and Eastern Europe.

      Even in modern times we see that what is considered beautiful constantly evolves, fuelled by so many social issues!!

      You sure about that?
      See: Evo and Proud: White skin privilege

      We also know that the drivers of physical appearance are many and not everything is about copulation!!

      What is valued as desirable in females are signs of health and fertility. Everything is, ultimately, about reproduction. It is the primary goal of all life.

      And if you really know about world history, you would realise that paternal investment in Europe is not that old.

      Paternal investment is apparently as old as humanity itself. It is generally high among hunter-gatherers. Some groups have “regressed” on that to an extent.

      And while polygny was found in some places in southern Africa, it is not a common practice in Africa.

      Now on that you’re wrong. In some places in West Africa, polygyny rates can get as high as 60%. It may be declining in modern days, but we’re talking historically here.

  12. Minnie / Oct 7 2013 12:36 PM

    I don’t see evidence for less sexual selection in Africa. There is a lot more sexual dimorphism in African people than there is in East Asians or Native Americans, for example. There have also been many famous models, such as Iman, who come from Africa – in particular, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

    Hair texture is strongly correlated with latitude, for example many Pacific Islanders who are more related to people in East Asia and South India also have kinky hair. Please give some non-Eurocentric evidence as to your opinion about whether or not African women are attractive. Thank you.

    • JayMan / Oct 8 2013 11:38 AM

      @Minnie:

      I don’t see evidence for less sexual selection in Africa. There is a lot more sexual dimorphism in African people than there is in East Asians or Native Americans, for example

      I’m not saying that there was less sexual selection in horticultural Africans. It’s just that sexual selection was more focused on men there, as opposed to women.

      There have also been many famous models, such as Iman, who come from Africa – in particular, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

      Northeast Africans have Caucasoid features.

      Hair texture is strongly correlated with latitude, for example many Pacific Islanders who are more related to people in East Asia and South India also have kinky hair.

      Hair texture actually isn’t strongly correlated with latitude. Only two broad groups have kinky hair: sub-Saharan Africans and Australoid peoples, the latter of which are descendants of one of the earliest waves of modern humans to leave Africa.

      Please give some non-Eurocentric evidence as to your opinion about whether or not African women are attractive.

      Around the world, do women try to imitate African features or European ones?

  13. Jorge Videla / Oct 8 2013 11:29 PM

    do i know who you are jayman?

    there was a woman i used to work with. i forgot about her for 14 years, then i had a bit of a nightmare about her (it was g-rated). i searched her name and found out she’d married but late in maine to a guy i believe is a very smart light skinned black and tech consultant.

    this woman was one of the most beautiful women i’ve ever met. she was very smart too.

    • JayMan / Oct 8 2013 11:41 PM

      Well, I think my wife is very beautiful, but that’s not me. I’m not, nor ever was a tech consultant.

  14. Jorge Videla / Oct 9 2013 12:26 AM

    this IS pseudoscience and contradicts my own experience.

    1. women try, but so do men, it’s just that makeup and clothes are irrelevant. exercise and eat right and get a little sun and fix your teeth if they need fixing and stay clean. that’s all anyone can really do.

    2. i am prejudiced, but it seems to me the most attractive men (and i’m straight) are also nw euro. but so are the ugliest. what’s denzel washington to the young marlon brando? i mean come on. and brando’s family name was brandau. no italian blood in the godfather.

    3. it also seems that according your theory women are interested in men who will invest most in their children. women are interested in looks too. they’re not supposed to be, but they are. the effect a very good looking man has on a woman is sometimes even more profound than the effect a very good looking woman has on a man. but perhaps due to “homophobia” men just can’t imagine that they can be the objects of desire.

    4. among the wodaabe, the men wear the makeup.

    • JayMan / Oct 9 2013 12:30 AM

      @Jorge Videla:

      1. women try, but so do men, it’s just that makeup and clothes are irrelevant.

      Looks are important for men, but it seems they are more important for women.

      i am prejudiced, but it seems to me the most attractive men (and i’m straight) are also nw euro.

      Some studies claim Black men are. It’s a bit less clear.

      it also seems that according your theory women are interested in men who will invest most in their children.

      Not necessarily. Depends on the woman and depends on the strategy she’s pursuing.

      women are interested in looks too.

      Never claimed otherwise.

  15. Jorge Videla / Oct 10 2013 3:22 AM

    and of course mixed race people are the prettiest of all, supposedly.

    i was talking about the extremes, though, not the averages.

  16. Anonymous / Oct 10 2013 3:05 PM

    I think that makeup, physical fitness, fashion, scent, and posture are components of female pursuit of beauty less than they are fertility signals. Look at pictures of female models/porn stars without makeup or any woman and you’ll notice (with a heterosexual penis) a difference. Men who apply makeup to themselves are considered feminine, and likely more attractive to homosexual tops than anything else.

    Human males have several fitness signals. Male fashion has evolved from focusing on male size to intelligence to social competence. The traits that males advertised through historical evolution are harder or nearly impossible to change whereas the average woman benefits substantially from applying cosmetic enhancements to her appearance.

    Female beauty is a finely tuned deception mechanism that masks fertility signaling. Sea Otters have low levels of sexual dimorphism and higher levels of paternal investment and there is no significant sea otter female beauty to speak of it. On a sidenote: This is why 60’s Equalist Feminism is completely at odds with later Sex Positive Feminism. The latter tried to establish asexuality as a basis for male-female relations while the latter is designed to increase female hypergamy. A woman who can take legal action against those who catcall at her (unfit males) can wear dress and makeup designed to salaciously entice males (making her more attractive, successful) while benefitting from a pro-female legal and political system; but this is at odds with Equalist Feminism which would have her wear no makeup at all and therefore be deprived of the benefits that a cosmetically enhanced female receives naturally putting her on the same level playing field as cosmetically unehanced men. Most people in HDB sites conflate the two feminisms because they don’t take a sideline approach to how philosophical feminism evolved from an asexual, philosophically principled movement to goodie bags for females.

  17. Tyrion Lannister / Oct 11 2013 6:23 AM

    I am compelled to point out some thoughts about this item:

    Sexual selection and sexual attraction seem be based on beauty rather than utility, and explains the common observation in nature that it is the most beautiful that survive. Im going to try to explain this. There is a dynamic interaction between the mean number of new deleterious mutations per generation (Mg), the mean number of deleterious mutations in the genome of the population (Mp) and percentage zygote survival (Z). Increased Mg leads to increased Mp and a fall in Zs but it takes several generations before a new equilibrium is reached. If sexual attraction is influenced by the number of deleterious mutations in the genome of individuals then Mp is reduced and Zs increased for any given value of Mg. This fall in Y and rise in Z is more marked in polygamous than monogamous mating systems. And deleterious mutations can occur without any observable or measurable effect on function. Thus sexual selection, in this organism, for low levels of deleterious mutations cannot be based on assessment of performance. Instead it is based on a simple symmetrical surface pattern that is flawlessly reproduced by organisms with no deleterious mutations, but is less than perfect, and therefore less attractive, if genetic systems have been deleted. A complex vital task requires a system with a high level of redundancy that acts so that the loss of one component has no observable effect and therefore cannot be used for sexual selection. The reproduction of a beautiful surface pattern also requires a low error, high redundancy genetic system; however, in this case there is advantage if a single deleterious mutation produces a recognisable change.

    Furthermore deleterious mutations interact synergistically causing impaired performance in individual systems and this leads to a positive correlation between the total number of deleterious mutations in the genome and impaired performance across the whole spectrum of biological capability. This includes performance in intellectual tasks, sporting ability, the ability to fight disease and preserve health and the development of a symmetrical physical form. Sexual reproduction distributes deleterious mutations unequally amongst zygotes and Z will correlate negatively with zygote mutational load. Rising environmental mutagenesis will lead to a rise in the human genomic mutational load and to decrease Z, although the full effect would take several generations. So that a marked rise in environmental mutagenesis would lead to species extinction if mate choice were random, i.e., unrelated to the genomic mutational load. The biological imperfections caused by mutations, however, in health, intelligence and physical symmetry are all, to varying degrees, related to sexual attraction. Thefore if mates are chosen in response to sexual attraction the species can be maintained in the presence of high environmental mutagenesis.

    Maby the polyandric pattern that we see today, which women mate with a minority of males could have the most marked effect in reducing the number of deleterious mutations in the next generation. When environmental mutagenesis falls, the number of eligible males would increase and a species would change from a polygamous to a monogamous pattern of mating. Thefore if sexual attraction is a force which counteracts genomic degradation this result would imply that women should not be attracted by good genes, but by a lack of bad genes. Humans should choose mates in a way that maximizes their reproductive success. But what exactly is the optimal choice? Most empirical research is based on the assumption that individuals seek a mate of the highest possible quality (in terms of the genes or resources that can provide), and hence show directional preferences for indicators of mate quality. This would imply that attractiveness and quality should be highly correlated. But surprisingly there are not a linear relationship between beauty or its components and genetic fitness, and there are not particular greater mate qualities of those who are highly attractive. Empirical research show that whereas unattractive faces can signal poor genetic fitness, on this account, those who avoid mates with extremely unattractive faces would have increased their reproductive success over those who did not. In the extreme case of genetic anomalies, such as Down’s syndrome, it is obvious that unattractive faces signal low health and intelligence. However, faces that are above average in attractiveness are no more ‘‘fit’’ than those in the middle of the attractiveness.

    Specifically, some mathematical models have shown that the preferred male must provide genes that increase the survivorship or mating success of the offspring as compared to the genes provided by less desirable males. And empirical research on lek mating systems, as well as other nonresource-based mating systems has confirmed the association between mate preference and increased offspring viability, although the fitness effects appear small at only a few percent. Beauty provided valid cues to intelligence and/or health for faces in the lower but not the upper halves of the distributions of these facial qualities. Thus, low attractiveness (low averageness, low symmetry, or low sexual dimorphism) signal low fitness, as indexed by intelligence or health. On the other hand, high attractiveness does not signal any higher levels of fitness than does moderate levels of these attribute. Then mate preferences for attractive faces could not have enhanced reproductive success via choice mates in the top half of the beauty distribution. So maybe humans not only correctly utilize these cues when they are valid, but they also overgeneralize, utilizing these cues in the upper half of the distribution, where they are not valid. Therefore beauty preferences appear to have evolved under the influence of both the good genes and the runaway selection mechanisms.

  18. Tyrion Lannister / Oct 11 2013 6:34 AM

    @Jayman,

    “Looks are important for men, but it seems they are more important for women.”

    It is not the real frame, because females are more choosier when it comes to mating. So female preferences by male mate phenotype are most correlated with greater variability of male mating success. One obvious implication of this, is that, given sufficient latitude of female choice (ie. relieved of systemic constraint, which would otherwise limit their choices), female mate choices will always tend towards small male breeding populations. In more colloquial terms, what this means is that male/female ‘leagues’ are asymmetrical, with male ‘rank’ being bottom heavy in distribution, while female ‘rank’ being top heavy. On the contrary, men find a wider range of female population within a suitable level of sexual attractiveness.

    “Some studies claim Black men are. It’s a bit less clear.”

    I do not agree. Predominantly, both females and males black faces get higher ratings for dominance and gender identity characteristics, but white faces receive the highest attractiveness ratings and higher ratings for nurturant and expressive characteristics.

    @ Anthony,

    “Sounds like parody time! Get pictures of a bunch of short guys, and taller but fatter guys, and put them in uniforms from low-paying jobs (gas station, Burger King, etc), and label it with something inspiring-sounding about “real men”.

    You should to know that nowadays being a high status male (with respect to mating) says less about material resources/labor incomes (or educational prestige), than about physical beauty. Hence since economically prosperous, systemically mediated welfare state dynamic that prevails in developed world populations, economic and ecological pressures no longer mediate their mate choices to the extant they did in the past. One consequence of this is that male erotic capital (physical attractiveness) has supplanted other forms in the stratification of male status with respect to mate availability.

  19. Tilikum / Feb 1 2014 12:52 PM

    this is the third most important article i have read since i found the sphere in like 3 years.

  20. Jokah Macpherson / Dec 9 2014 6:51 PM

    Just reading this post for the first time since the Audacious Epigone just linked it. I have one question – is parental investment really a sufficient explanation for the more conspicuous secondary sex characteristics in human females? I’m not an expert on animal behavior but it seems like that in many bird species, the father’s investment is roughly equivalent to the mother’s.

    • JayMan / Dec 15 2014 8:58 PM

      @Jokah Macpherson:

      Well, paternal investment predicates female intrasex competition for mates. Is there such female-female competition among birds?

  21. Lakis / Sep 1 2016 7:53 PM

    Interesting page, all considered.

    Have you looked up Okcupid’s info?

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