Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is Fruitful Sexy?

Photo by Flickr user klikomatic, used under a Creative Commons license.

Men get turned on by women who look fertile. Fruitful is sexy. Or at least that's the story we get from the popularized versions of evolutionary psychology: Men like large, firm breasts, a narrow waist, and curvy hips because it's this combo of traits that signals high fertility.

Okay. I know plenty of men who like smaller breasts just fine. That fact alone exposes the simplemindedness of this theory.

But let's grant the above premise. Even so, I poked a couple more gaping holes in this theory just in the time I needed to take a shower this morning. (I do my best thinking in the shower - maybe because the spray wakes up my brain, or maybe just because the kids usually leave me alone for five minutes. Too bad I can't take my laptop in there.)

So ... if fertility really determines sexual attractiveness ... then:
  1. Why is menstruation almost universally subject to taboos? After all, it's a necessary precondition for fertility, and as such it ought to be celebrated! Men ought to consider it sexy! And yet - it's not just seen as totally un-sexy, we women often feel less feminine during our period.
  2. Why the heck would anyone consider a supermodel attractive? The theory requires curves. Most supermodels don't have 'em - at least not lower than their ribcage.
  3. Why have men historically preferred virgins? Why not prefer women who've already shown they can conceive and bear a child? Yes, I know that popularized ev psych paints men as competitors who want to avoid supporting another man's spawn. But assuming a man just refuses to do that, why wouldn't he prefer to try to impregnate a woman who's proven her reproductive "fitness"?
Hmmm ... maybe that last point explains the MILF phenomenon?

Yeah, I realize these are slightly goofy arguments. That's what comes from accepting a goofy premise. That's the penalty for taking seriously ideas that aren't fruitful; they're just plain fruity.


Smirking Cat said...

I've read a simpler theory that men and women are attracted to physical attributes that are simply different from their own gender, for instance, men being hopelessly obsessed with tits because they don't have them and breasts are therefore "female", say vs. an arm or foot, that both men and women have. I still think much of our socially-accepted preferences are hammered into our heads as we grow up though.

Sungold said...

One reason I think you're right about most of our preferences being due to our socialization is that - to take the breast example again - men's preferences vary pretty widely. Some prefer the stereotypical mondo breasts, some like 'em smaller, and some are more fixated on other parts. So there's a lot more individual variation than ev psych admits, and a lot more historical variation too - for example, the 1950s were an era of breast obsession, the 1960s not so much. Think Jayne Mansfield vs. Twiggy.