Sunday, 13 July
Good Morning Jessicca…
Why is it human males grow beards and other primates do not? You won’t find a gorilla or orangutan having to trim its whiskers. It’s a peculiar characteristic limited to Homo sapiens. Similarly, you won’t find any primate other than us where the female is in need of a bra. Human breasts often develop to a size having nothing to do with nursing. It is an adornment provoking the male into the role of procreation.
Of course, the biological truth is the male needs little provocation to become aroused. Sex is a full-time preoccupation with him – in urgency probably just behind defending his life and eating to prevent starvation. The female’s concern on the matter is just a bit more veiled. Being left with the responsibility of childbirth leaves her somewhat circumspect.
Natural selection’s role in determining the nature of secondary sexual characteristics is as Darwinian in cause-and-effect as the shapes of beaks on Galapagos finches. The bird’s bill shape is determined by the feeding niche available to the animal. A diet of hard seeds requires a stout bill. A longer, thinner beak is necessary for a bird that finds its food in narrow passages. The demands of the bird’s life style define its morphology.
What external factors determine the nature of human sexuality? Individual survivability is not the primary role of secondary sexual characteristics. These are mostly visual cues having to do with messages concerning reproduction in the strictest biological sense. How successful one is at mating has much to do with one’s display – yes, like a peacock spreading its tail feathers… although humans aren’t normally so flamboyant about it. The pea-size brain of a bird hasn’t much room for subtlety.
Human sexuality is more than physical appearance but, all things being equal, visual appeal is definitely the tie-breaker. The attraction of one sex for the other is determined by what the opposite sex finds desirable. Sexual characteristics of males are largely determined by what females prefer in men, and vice versa. A woman’s seductive power is determined by man’s desire. Once again, I want to keep things in perspective. Peacocks haven’t much variation in personality. We do. Humphrey Bogart got Lauren Bacall – not Cary Grant. The woman on this month’s cover of Cosmopolitan is not necessarily a man’s fantasy.
|Peter Paul Rubens|
The rules for sexual attraction are not rigid. Just look at the human population. It suggests we have an enormous variety in taste when it comes to finding a mate. Of course, society has a role in the appearance of the human population. Most civilizations at least make some effort at monogamy. One individual may have many conquests but such relationships are not widely formalized into harems. We promote the egalitarian view of there being someone special for everyone. It’s healthy for everyone to be paired up. Everyone needs to be on the dance floor, not lining the walls in sullen frustration.
The safety found in modern society enables us to exhibit instances of exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics. Jungle law no longer restrains the more exotic human tastes. Dolly Parton proportions aren’t conducive to being fleet of foot. Women of extraordinary curves and delicately boned men were probably rare among prehistoric populations. There was a time in human history when Nature was just as unforgiving to us as with all other individuals of the animal kingdom.
There was basically one successful morphology for dogs in the wild – no Pekinese or bulldogs or Dobermans. People have also broken free from severe biological constraints. We can be over seven feet tall or four foot six. We can focus all our time on hitting a baseball better than anyone or we can spend our days identifying what’s poetic in life.
We are an extravagant species. We entertain hilarious thoughts. If you appreciate your sexual identity then you can thank the sex opposite you. It’s their erotic desires that largely made you who you are. Think about it. Even as we accomplish the extraordinary with our minds there is a part of us never far from the siren song of sexual desire.