Ten Evolutionarily Obvious Truths About Human Nature
July 5, 2007 10:04 PM   Subscribe

 
It is no coincidence that blond hair evolved in Scandinavia and northern Europe, probably as an alternative means for women to advertise their youth, as their bodies were concealed under heavy clothing.

This Psychology Today article has reinforced my belief that undergrad psychology majors are vapid airheads. The good news is, this article says this prejudice of mine is perfectly normal, and nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:09 PM on July 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Undergrad psych majors are indeed vapid. I've met a few who said they couldn't wait to "use" their degrees in their office jobs. It takes them upwards of a decade to realize just why everyone is put off by that.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:11 PM on July 5, 2007


When there is resource inequality among men—the case in every human society—most women benefit from polygyny: women can share a wealthy man.

Well sign me up! Oh, what's that? I can own property? nevermind then.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:13 PM on July 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


These items seem to alternate between being drawn from the "No Shit, Sherlock" file and the "I'm Gonna Wipe the Tennis Court with That Uppity Billy Jean King Girlie" file.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:14 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


This changes everything.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:23 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Studies demonstrate unequivocally that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women. In one now-classic study, 75 percent of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agreed to have sex with her; none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger did.

Sounds absolutely unequivocal to me.

Now let's do a study where they offer candy out of the pocket instead of sex. Conclusion? Men desire candy more than women. QED.

This is exactly why I stopped majoring in psych.
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:25 PM on July 5, 2007


"Women won't sleep with random attractive strangers?"

"Sleep with"? As in "snore beside"? Assuming that's a euphemism for "FUCK" then what does it mean that several have fucked me soon after meeting? That I was a random UNattractive stranger?

As for "truths about human nature," those themselves are social constructions. Though of course some cliches might be included instinctually in blue-eyed blonds, as compensation for being born to stupid to come up with them themselves. (Joke, really.)
posted by davy at 10:26 PM on July 5, 2007


Oh God, this Kanazawa asshole again. We're gonna have to go through this one more time...Who wants to point out the just so stories? I can debunk the half-assed, blatantly superficial historical examples if someone else cites Steven Jay Gould.
posted by nasreddin at 10:27 PM on July 5, 2007


Psychology today is full of shit. Film at 11.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:28 PM on July 5, 2007


Will they sleep with me?
posted by stavrogin at 10:28 PM on July 5, 2007


I thought this part rang somewhat true: In one now-classic study, 75 percent of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agreed to have sex with her; none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger did. Many men who would not date the stranger nonetheless agreed to have sex with her.

When I read this, I flashed back to a conversation I had with some straight male coworkers. On the one hand, they claimed they were jealous of how easy it is for queer men to find casual sex; on the other, they swore they'd never want an "easy" woman for a wife.
posted by treepour at 10:34 PM on July 5, 2007


The history of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous.

It's like Monty Python.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, that bit about suicide bombers was complete bullshit.
posted by stammer at 10:37 PM on July 5, 2007


9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)

vs.

3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy

Did anyone even fuckin proof-read this?
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:40 PM on July 5, 2007


Psychology Today presents:
Ten 'facts' we pull out of our asses.

I guess is sells magazines.
posted by eye of newt at 10:40 PM on July 5, 2007


Is this something I'd have to be human to understand?
posted by trip and a half at 10:42 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


While I admit that I'm no psych major, and much of this may be over my head, the logical leaps made in that article had all of the intellectual rigor of a stoned 18 year old explaining that if God is love, and love is blind, then Ray Charles is God*.

*go on, just try and tell me he isn't.
posted by lekvar at 10:47 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Since when does Psychology Today publish anything that doesn't support whatever bullshit prejudice their target market has?

Also:

In one now-classic study, 75 percent of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agreed to have sex with her; none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger did.

I know that serial killers are rare, but aren't about 99.99% of them men? Yeah, I'll go off in private with a guy I don't know who's twice my size and has three times my strength. Right away.

posted by watsondog at 10:47 PM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Kanazawa actually reminds of Jean Baudrillard, but even worse ideas: everything he says 1) draws a maximum of media attention and 2) manages to completely discredit, in advance, any good idea to emerge from his field.
posted by nasreddin at 10:51 PM on July 5, 2007


Pretend for a moment that I'm the one who posted this to Metafilter, (that is, everything I read made sense to me), and explain to me why it's so ridiculously wrong.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:54 PM on July 5, 2007


Studies demonstrate unequivocally that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women. In one now-classic study, 75 percent of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agreed to have sex with her; none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger did.

To be further explained in the upcoming Psych 1301 Textbook - Nice Shoes, Wanna Fuck? Exploring the realm of hetero-gender interactions and their implications to the past, present, and future of the Psychoanalytic Self
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:59 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think we can consider this askme answered.
posted by Manjusri at 11:03 PM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


OK, I'll try to give some examples of ludicrous shit in the article.

Women's desire to look like Barbie—young with small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes—is a direct, realistic, and sensible response to the desire of men to mate with women who look like her.

Except, um, the Barbiefication of female beauty standards is almost exclusively a late-twentieth century phenomenon. Ever look at a painting by Titian?

Despite the fact that humans are naturally polygynous, most industrial societies are monogamous because men tend to be more or less equal in their resources compared with their ancestors in medieval times ... Industrialization tends to decrease the level of inequality.

Neither claim is supported by the evidence. In the world of 12th century European peasantry, everyone was equally well off--except, of course, the lord and his family, who were off-limits for cultural reasons. Our society is more stratified today than it ever was under a pre-capitalist system.

Most suicide bombers are Muslim
Suicide bombing as a tactic of Muslim insurgents only emerged in the past two decades. Before, suicide bombers were more diverse--anarchists, Zionists, communist revolutionaries.
posted by nasreddin at 11:09 PM on July 5, 2007


Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

This sentimental, chauvinistic claptrap is straight outta the 19th century.

Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it.

First, lots of men who are low status and poor have more love affairs ending in reproductive success than Bill Clinton could possibly dream of.
Second, this interpretation of the will to power is so laughable that somewhere, Freud is spinning in his grave like the fort-da toy.
posted by nasreddin at 11:16 PM on July 5, 2007


Wow. I feel strangely queasy, having gulped down that great big bucket of pseudo-scientific vomit.

It's almost impossible to decide which half-baked, half-digested piece of swill to spit out first.

How about this one?

Pupil dilation is an honest indicator of interest and attraction. And the size of the pupil is easiest to determine in blue eyes. Blue-eyed people are considered attractive as potential mates because it is easiest to determine whether they are interested in us or not.

Ignoring the fact that blue eyes are not universally considered attractive (or, let's say, superior to any other colour), or the fact that they simply don't exist in a number of races (um, did all the 'attractive' people decide to migrate to Europe, and all the 'uglies' to Asia?), this is quite simply ridiculous within the very framework they have chosen to use.

If dilated pupils indicate interest, then people with *dark* irises will be considered more attractive, exactly *because* it is more difficult to pick the dilation. Most people register dilation unconsciously, and would therefore be more likely to pick a dark-eyed person over a blue-eyed one, all other things being equal, because the trompe-l'oeil effect of a dark iris surrounding the pupil will make them look like a turned-on hornbag.

Aside from that, the claim is objectively false. Everybody knows that green eyes are the most attractive, especially when tinged with amber or blue.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:16 PM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Suicide bombing as a tactic of Muslim insurgents only emerged in the past two decades. Before, suicide bombers were more diverse--anarchists, Zionists, communist revolutionaries.

I'm baffled by the need for people to explain suicide bombing in theological or cultural terms, as if it's completely incomprehensible that a person who has taken it upon themselves to fight a much more powerful opponent could be willing to die in the fight. Do we need to furrow our brows about why so many Christian European boys were willing to throw themselves at enemy machine guns from 1914 to 1918? Is it perhaps because Christianity is a death-focused religion, or because those boys all thought they were going to fuck Mary in Heaven? Why are so many pundits so eager to pay their respects to American soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and then so revolted by suicide bombers and the allegedly sick cultures that produce them?
posted by stammer at 11:19 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Much as I'm sure most of that article is gibberish, did many of you posters even read the article in question?

Mach3avelli: 9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)

vs.

3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy


Key word is most. Some men, particularly those at the top benefit from polygyny, whereas most do not.

UbuRoivas: If dilated pupils indicate interest, then people with *dark* irises will be considered more attractive, exactly *because* it is more difficult to pick the dilation. Most people register dilation unconsciously, and would therefore be more likely to pick a dark-eyed person over a blue-eyed one, all other things being equal, because the trompe-l'oeil effect of a dark iris surrounding the pupil will make them look like a turned-on hornbag.

Really? I mean, that one could easily go either way---We might not consciously be able to tell the difference, but that's no reason to assume that it isn't subconsciously obvious that the brown eyes aren't dilated.

Granted, that may be slightly at odds with the idea that with blue eyes it is easier to detect dilation, but then again, it may not.

Anyhow, I'm not trying to claim that this article is right... but if you're going to dispute it, at least come up with reasonable objections.
posted by vernondalhart at 11:34 PM on July 5, 2007


Ignoring the fact that blue eyes are not universally considered attractive (or, let's say, superior to any other colour), or the fact that they simply don't exist in a number of races (um, did all the 'attractive' people decide to migrate to Europe, and all the 'uglies' to Asia?), this is quite simply ridiculous within the very framework they have chosen to use.

They don't mean "everybody things blue eyes are attractive!" What they mean is, the majority of people from any specific group find blue eyes attractive. That is, Asian people in test groups voted blue eyes more attractive than brown.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:45 PM on July 5, 2007


I would say that the Asian-people-in-test-groups bit is more a case of an idolization of a rarity. Chinese people don't have blue eyes, so someone with blue eyes seems intriguing and fascinating, and possibly attractive by extension.

In the globalized and technology-saturated culture of today, this argument lessens in strength (contact lenses, foreign film stars permeating the native culture, etc), but the basic point stands. You want something because it's hard to get.
posted by Phire at 11:51 PM on July 5, 2007


vernondalhart: it's an entirely reasonable objection.

We don't wander around thinking rationally, "hm, if I hook up with a blue-eyed person, then I'll be able to more easily tell if & when they're in the mood". The issue is not whether the potential object of desire is in the mood or not. It's how they look to us.

Somebody with dark eyes is more likely to look like they are up for it than somebody with blue eyes, and is thereby more likely to pull that unconscious trigger, which will make them appear more attractive to the observer, which will make the observer more likely to approach & engage with them.

Of course, if bluey actually is in the mood it might be easier to pick, but people don't always just switch on based on a glance. In many cases, and especially with women, greater interaction is required to get those hormones flowing, which means that the people who already (perhaps mistakenly) look like they're willing & ready are going to have a natural advantage, because they are more likely to be approached in the first place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:54 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ha!! Take that attractive people!!
posted by pompomtom at 11:57 PM on July 5, 2007


I wonder what their blonde-hair-blue-eyes claim says about races that don't have those traits? Especially in eras where countries and such were much more isolated.

I've met a few who said they couldn't wait to "use" their degrees in their office jobs. It takes them upwards of a decade to realize just why everyone is put off by that.

I am somehow not surprised.
posted by Many bubbles at 12:04 AM on July 6, 2007


Or on preview, what UbuRoivas said about the race thing.
posted by Many bubbles at 12:06 AM on July 6, 2007


If dilated pupils indicate interest

Before I got married, the "she's got dilated pupils!" phase of the conversation was the most exciting part!
posted by KokuRyu at 12:08 AM on July 6, 2007


vernondalhart: sorry, I slightly misread your comment. OK, "we might still notice that dark-eyed people aren't dilated" was what you were saying, right?

I'm thinking of various Asian & Indian people I know, whose irises are so close to black that you'd practically have to be snogging them to pick the iris from the pupil. At a greater distance - across a room, for example - darkies are still going to have that advantage, even if not quite as dark-eyed as the people I'm referring to.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:13 AM on July 6, 2007


Wow. I did not think my opinion of Psychology Today could drop any lower, but there it went.
posted by kyrademon at 12:28 AM on July 6, 2007


Is this a joke???
posted by zouhair at 1:00 AM on July 6, 2007


Even Oprah do better
posted by zouhair at 1:00 AM on July 6, 2007


I think I just turned Scientologist.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:05 AM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Citizen Premier: so we're clear, I think the underlying objection to Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature is that it seems far more concerned with being politically incorrect than with being truthful. Many of its claims are based on faulty information, or oversimplifying a complex phenomenon, or drawing causative links from correlated data, or ignoring equally legitimate alternative explanations, or any number of other fallacious approaches.

These types of articles are lousy science designed to grab attention, which gets smart people riled because it gives the impression that this is what real science looks like.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:14 AM on July 6, 2007


That article was AWESOME!

But seriously, this website, it is humor, right? Some off-shoot of the Onion?
posted by From Bklyn at 2:27 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Psychology is great -- it's like the religions of ancient peoples. Isn't it cute how the ignorant made up fables to explain things they couldn't understand? The sun was a ball of dung pushed across the sky by a huge beetle! Men prefer Barbies because they are fertile!

Except that much of what psychologists make up fables to explain can be tested, can be known -- but instead they're still trying to make stone soup out of a few ragged scraps of conventional wisdom or nothing at all. Can we get a FPP from Shamanry Today: Ten Reasons it Really is Dung?

Oh wait
.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:38 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'll be the lone voice in the crowd who's likely going to get rocks thrown at him - but some of that made sense to me. Some of it even seemed like common sense, in fact.

Regardless, it's gotten me curious to explore the specifics behind these claims to see how far they're stretching the science that is claimed to support the allegations.

Anyone looking to point me in that direction would be appreciated.
posted by revmitcz at 2:40 AM on July 6, 2007


Oh, and Futurama said it all before.
posted by revmitcz at 2:48 AM on July 6, 2007


But Barbie isn't fertile. Look at those narrow hips!
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:04 AM on July 6, 2007


I'll be the lone voice in the crowd who's likely going to get rocks thrown at him - but some of that made sense to me. Some of it even seemed like common sense, in fact.

Sure, some of it makes sense; it's very very very obvious that male attitudes to casual sex differ wildly from female, to the point where we can laugh that anybody even bothered to do a study to prove it. But that one item of truth is just the bait to make readers think the rest of the list has merit.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:18 AM on July 6, 2007


It is difficult to ascribe the preferences and desires of women in 15th-century Italy and 21st-century Iran to socialization by media.

Fixed that for you, Doctor Miller.
posted by pax digita at 3:18 AM on July 6, 2007


Psychology is great -- it's like the religions of ancient peoples. Isn't it cute how the ignorant made up fables to explain things they couldn't understand?


That's evolutionary psychology not all psychology. I like to think of evolutionary psychologists as practitioners of reverse intelligent design.
posted by srboisvert at 3:19 AM on July 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


I like the psychologist who "identified" two types of sexual harassment--essentially by quoting U.S. case law. Guess he's a psychologist for the EEOC. What glib pop tripe.
posted by Phred182 at 3:21 AM on July 6, 2007


davy writes 'Women won't sleep with random attractive strangers? Assuming that's a euphemism for "FUCK" then what does it mean that several have fucked me soon after meeting?'

It probably means one of two things:

a.) You've adopted a strategy that favours quantity over quality. If you ask fifty random women a day to have sex with you, then eventually you're going to score with some of them, or
b.) You grew up, as did I, during the free lovin' 1960's or 70's.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:27 AM on July 6, 2007


Or that when women's socks are rocked more than ordinary, they will sleep with men on a slighter acquaintance than is usually deemed sufficient?
posted by Methylviolet at 4:11 AM on July 6, 2007


Speaking as someone who loves politically incorrect truths, most of that article was bullshit. That said, I can't spot the error in this:

Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

Most of human history makes no sense whatsoever if this paragraph is false.
posted by Ryvar at 4:32 AM on July 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Ryvar: I can only assume "paint cathedral ceilings" refers to the Sistine Chapel, in which case (as far as I understand it) the artist was probably not too interested in wooing the opposite sex. More to the point, I see where your problem is...

"Most of human history makes no sense whatsoever if this paragraph is false."

Fixed that for you.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:44 AM on July 6, 2007


OMFG, there isn't enough bull excrement available in the entire world to call on this article.

Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.
So, basically, this article is saying men are tools and are only motivated by women? All this time I thought it was the other way around. Yay!

At a greater distance - across a room, for example - darkies are still going to have that advantage, even if not quite as dark-eyed as the people I'm referring to.
UbuRoivas, I'm seriously hoping your use of the word "darkies" was inadvertent and not at all related to the general meaning of this word in the US.

And the whole dilated pupils thing? Boy does that explain a lot for me. Perception most certainly is not reality, and damn my stupid eyeballs. Will be looking into wearing sunglasses all the time...
posted by fuse theorem at 5:39 AM on July 6, 2007


Ryvar the fact that you can't spot that the statement left women (and gay men) entirely out of the creation of civilization is not evidence of the statement's truth.
posted by srboisvert at 5:43 AM on July 6, 2007


Needs more charts and graphs.

Also, he should explain why women don't like good music.
posted by bonehead at 5:52 AM on July 6, 2007


I think I just lost 50 IQ points by reading that article.
posted by footnote at 6:04 AM on July 6, 2007


And here is my favorite tidbit:

So natural selection designs parents to have biased sex ratio at birth depending upon their economic circumstances—more boys if they are wealthy, more girls if they are poor. (The biological mechanism by which this occurs is not yet understood.)
posted by footnote at 6:10 AM on July 6, 2007


That article was dumb. But... oooh! a quiz to determine if my girlfriend and I are good for each other. Thanks, science!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2007


In a survey of respondents from 46 nations, wealthy individuals are more likely to indicate a preference for sons if they could only have one child, whereas less wealthy individuals are more likely to indicate a preference for daughters.

The latter part of this is absolute horseshit. (cf. gender imbalance in China)
posted by desjardins at 6:22 AM on July 6, 2007


The problem with this article is that its conclusions, so overdrawn as to make most shout "1,000 hours in MS Paint!" needlessly obscure some very real science buried in there.

The hip-to-waist ratio? That's long, long known. They skipped facial symmetry as one of those "beauty constants." Barbie was built out of those desires, not the other way around. I'm more suspicious of the blonde, blue-eyed thing.

The blue-eye pupil thing? Well, I can recall a fairly ancient study using an attractive woman with bright blue eyes, which were airbrushed (pre-Photoshop days) to have either small or large pupils. The men who saw the small-pupil version would describe her as "aloof," "icy," and "disinterested." You can imagine the reactions to the large-pupil version.

The bit about the size variation between male and female is dead-on. There are a lot of indicators to suggest that holy Christian matrimony wasn't the exact plan.

The Muslim suicide bombers isn't evolutionary at all and juts out oddly. It's speculation based on culture, perhaps worthy of some, oh, I don't know, actual research, but it doesn't belong in the rest of the article.

Good science underneath; conclusions that beg, beg, beg for the smackdown of some rigorous research; and lousy writing. I do appreciate that someone might have taken time to write an article that would dare suggest that we aren't all bland, grey unisex tabula rasa golems until the evil of Western Media-Driven Culture miraculously transforms us into tools of The Man, though. It takes a little bit of courage in an era when some neurological researchers have been threatened just for considering looking for differences between men and women's brains.
posted by adipocere at 6:27 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Then there's this:

Physical attractiveness, while a universally positive quality, contributes even more to women's reproductive success than to men's. The generalized hypothesis would therefore predict that physically attractive parents should have more daughters than sons. Once again, this is the case. Americans who are rated "very attractive" have a 56 percent chance of having a daughter for their first child, compared with 48 percent for everyone else.


As the father to a newborn daughter, I'm here to tell you it's true. Absolutely. No doubt.
posted by papercake at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2007


Okay, so men ONLY go through a midlife crisis because his wife isn't young and nubile anymore? And that no matter the age of a man, if he's hanging out with women who are over 30 he's going to have a midlife crisis, even if he's 25? You mean to tell me that gay men never have a midlife crisis? And that women never go through one?

Honestly, as I was reading this stuff I just kept thinking "This person seems to have some serious issues with women, but has no idea. He might need to get some counseling."

Abuse, intimidation, and degradation are all part of men's repertoire of tactics employed in competitive situations. In other words, men are not treating women differently from men—the definition of discrimination, under which sexual harassment legally falls—but the opposite: Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.

Oh! That's a relief. I'm happy to hear that it's all about equality. So when I was in my early 20s and I was presenting designs to an employer at a temp job, and he completely ignored everything I was hired to do and said, "You look really good in that dress. You'd look even better without it." And then tried to chase me around a table until I had to threaten him with a book? I guess I was wrong to think that was unprofessional or sexist & that he was just treating me the same as he would've treated a male coworker. Guess I should've stuck around to hear how much he liked my designs. I feel so silly.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.

Funny, I have never seen my male coworkers grab each other's asses. Somehow, they're able to distinguish between a male posterior and a female derriere.
posted by desjardins at 6:36 AM on July 6, 2007


And papercake, aren't you relieved to know that if you want to get a divorce in the future you're more free to do so because you didn't have a son that will need you around?
posted by miss lynnster at 6:37 AM on July 6, 2007


Women exhibit high survival & replication value by simply being "beautiful" -- a blend of evolutionarily and socially/culturally determined qualities, to be sure, but basically you can just *look* at a girl, or even a photo, and tell if she's "hot". Or, let's be blunt, whether she's a "3" or a "6' or a "9".

Men exhibit high survival & replication value by being the tribal leader, by being the alpha dog. A woman generally can't just *look* at a photo of a guy and tell whether he's a "9" (successful doctor, businessman, etc.) or a "4" (decent looking, but unemployed, lives in his mom's basement, no self-esteem, etc.). Oh, but wait, that's where "status symbols" come in -- the Rolex, the Porsche, in some circles.. tattoos, piercings, in others... -- they prove from afar that you're a high-value guy. (I fucking HATE status symbols, I hate the whole idea of them, but I concede that I'd do better with women if I paid them more mind.) Sounds misogynistic, and maybe it is, but your best possible "status symbol" is an attractive woman -- and if you blow her off, other women will assume you must be a higher level than the woman you dismissed. And body language is SOOOO important for guys, particularly eye contact. Exude confidence, BE confident, and women will assume you must really have your shit together if you're that confident. It's so much more complicated for a guy to be "hot" than for a girl, but there's a lot more we can do about it, too, just by changing behavioral patterns.

Dating, or more specifically "attracting a mate", is like a fucking video game sometimes -- what level are you? You can generally only date people at or below your "level". The trick, for guys, is to advertise yourself to be the highest level possible.*

As a recently single, late bloomer, plate-of-beans overanalyzer kinda guy, I find this stuff fascinating. Plus it gets me laid -- and, more importantly, understand *why* I got laid! (or didn't, d'oh!)

* ...without, if you're a guy, "trying too hard", which is a kiss-o-death indicator of poor confidence!
posted by LordSludge at 7:24 AM on July 6, 2007


LordSludge, I beg to differ. The vast majority of women are in the solid average range -- it's a bell curve. They must distinguish themselves in the dating marketplace by symbols (clothes, makeup, hair...) just as much as men must. The system actually works in men's favor -- an ugly man can make himself attractive with expensive accoutrements and acheivements; an ugly woman just can't do that.
posted by footnote at 7:37 AM on July 6, 2007


So, basically, this article is saying men are tools and are only motivated by women? All this time I thought it was the other way around. Yay!

Part of me wants to respond with a flippant "Of course we are."

But let's not - what I'm taking away from that paragraph is that men are influenced in a subtle manner to achieve in order to attract mates. That seems fairly straightforward - if all women preferred men who stood on their hands, in a very short time any thusly afflicted culture would see no upright males of breeding age. Women are not immune to this phenomenon either, but the focus of their efforts generally seems to lie towards gathering attention rather than gathering attraction - because for the most part they can and do take the male sex drive for granted.

Ryvar the fact that you can't spot that the statement left women (and gay men) entirely out of the creation of civilization is not evidence of the statement's truth.

Pull up any general human history book or a book covering scientific progress in overview and read through with an eye towards one factor: ratio of male to female names you encounter. We're thankfully entering a more enlightened age these days, but until the 20th century the history of the events and major shifts in progress of our race have been performed and authored by the male gender. The underlying social trends and fabric of culture in peacetime was until recently the primary contribution of women. This is in fact far more powerful in a global sense of how most lives were lived, but too subtle to generate much notice, and distinctly lacking iconic individuals.

Too brush aside a gender disparity of such magnitude with the cry of 'sexism!' smacks of the same simplistic thinking that plagues the majority of the parent article. While there may be many factors involved, I believe the largest one to be that men, unlike women, are *not* able to take the sex drive of the opposite gender for granted. Because women shape the basis for our sociological mechanisms, their ability to push men to seek iconic status is, in my opinion, vastly underestimated.

As for orientation, the relative historical rarity of homosexuality (with significant exceptions for specific cultures) is such that any generalizations in the vein of the above would be resting on far, far shakier ground. "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." seems appropriate.
posted by Ryvar at 7:43 AM on July 6, 2007



a.) You've adopted a strategy that favours quantity over quality. If you ask fifty random women a day to have sex with you, then eventually you're going to score with some of them, or
b.) You grew up, as did I, during the free lovin' 1960's or 70's.


or you have blue eyes like I do...
posted by slapshot57 at 7:46 AM on July 6, 2007


Other significant factors that are frequently underestimated: the total 'ideal' cost of breeding for a male is fifteen minutes of pleasurable exertion.

The best-case cost scenario for a female is massive additional resource requirements with reduced functioning for a period of nine months AND, historically, a good chance of zero return (infant mortality) or death (birth complications fatal to the mother) at the end of it.

The sex drive and attraction/attention disparity between the genders makes an awful lot of sense when viewed in the light.

One other subtle piece of business that's rarely mentioned is the fact the Y chromosome isn't contributed to by women. To a limited extent males reproduce asexually. I'm betting that this little fact has historically had a massive say in the strong preference for male children amongst impoverished/traditional cultures.
posted by Ryvar at 7:50 AM on July 6, 2007


footnote, we're on the same page, mostly. The difference is that a woman is attempting to simply maximize beauty (clothes that show off a nice booty and push up a small chest, makeup to cover acne and convey healthy skin, etc.), whereas a man must advertise success and confidence to indicate that he's an alpha, tribal leader, where physical beauty is secondary. (Would Tiger Woods be able to date/marry a model if he lived with his parents and sucked at everything? Is Donald Trump physically attractive in any way, shape, or form?)

Yes, we guys are lucky in that our behavior -- something we can control -- largely determines our attractiveness vs. the genetic crapshoot of physical beauty. It's all bullshit on the intellectual level though. Why should I have to have a good job and lots of friends to be worthy of love? If I'm a kind person, and I treat my mate with love, respect, and affection, shouldn't that be enough? Conversely, why should a woman have to be shaped just right and appear young to a get a decent guy?

But this is all hold-over lizard brain stuff, which has NOTHING to do with equity, fairness, or even decent, civilized human behavior. Even so, it *still* overwhelmingly drives people, so it's a mistake to ignore it. Actually, I believe most of this is at odds with building a healthy, happy, enlightened and fair society, but it's there, lurking, nonetheless.
posted by LordSludge at 8:08 AM on July 6, 2007


I'd like to stand up for Evolutionary Psychology here (though certainly not for the vapid and oversimplified garbage that often gets passed off as such).

While the idea of Fodorian modularity that served as a starting point for evo psych has been rejected by a lot of "new school" cognitive scientists, that doesn't render it completely moot.

There are plenty of douchebags out there who don't really understand evolutionary theory or the basics of psychology that are more than happy to tell you all about evo psych (and they're apparently held in high esteem by Psychology Today), but thinkers like Cosmides, Tooby, and Buss have made significant contributions to the science of Psychology, and need not be discredited just because their findings are widely misapplied and misunderstood.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:26 AM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


"....and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them..."

WHAT? Where are these women that are impressed by software, and what am I doing wrong?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:29 AM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


One other subtle piece of business that's rarely mentioned is the fact the Y chromosome isn't contributed to by women. To a limited extent males reproduce asexually.
Not exactly. It's more that a male inherits maleness from his father. The reproductive process, obviously, requires both sexes. A male's gamete splits into two sperm cells, one with an X, one with a Y. Y's are tiny, containing almost no genetic information. Explanation here.

I'm betting that this little fact has historically had a massive say in the strong preference for male children amongst impoverished/traditional cultures.

The theory I subscribe to is that a male preference is because of (a) the boy's capacity for physical work; (b) the girl's non-zero chance of falling pregnant without a living, able-bodied husband and therefore requiring care from her family.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:36 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


WHAT? Where are these women that are impressed by software, and what am I doing wrong?

With the software you get the money. With the money, you get the power. With the power, you get the women. I suspect it's step 1 that's letting you down. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2007


And papercake, aren't you relieved to know that if you want to get a divorce in the future you're more free to do so because you didn't have a son that will need you around?

Absolutely, lynnster. I look forward to marrying my daughter off, going through my midlife crisis, finding a younger woman (probably by not-harrassing her at work), leaving my wife and fathering more hyper-attractive offspring.
posted by papercake at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2007


"Everybody knows that green eyes are the most attractive, especially when tinged with amber or blue."

Sorry, it's green eyes tinged with BROWN, like mine. Or brown eyes tinged with green, like those in my "SO". Anything but green and brown is a sign of genetic unfitness to be a supergenius.
posted by davy at 8:43 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Women won't sleep with random attractive strangers? Damn.

No, I can confirm they won't. Unless you mean sleep in the zzz sense. That being so then, yes, they do.
posted by humblepigeon at 8:43 AM on July 6, 2007


LordSludge, it's actually men's competitiveness to be the alpha dog that's such a big turnoff to a lot of women.
posted by desjardins at 8:52 AM on July 6, 2007


it's actually men's competitiveness to be the alpha dog that's such a big turnoff to a lot of women.

Yeah. I wish I could find a link to that study where the beta-male chimps had more reproductive success because they hung out meekly in the background grooming and making friends with the ladies on the sly...
posted by footnote at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2007


I was on a late flight a few weeks ago, and you wouldn't believe the amount of sleeping with random strangers that was going on in that plane. Talk about your evolutionary anomalies.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2007


Am I really speaking from a PC kneejerk reaction when I ask that these claims be substantiated with something beyond pat truisms (waist/hip ratio, gentlemen prefer blondes), unsourced statistics, and anecdotal evidence? There may be some science hidden in here somewhere, but I sure can't find it.

(This isn't that same "scientist" from a decade or so ago who put forth that bold, cra-a-a-azy politically incorrect so corral those sacred cows, liberals! proposition that men who habitually cheated on their wives did so because they had bigger nutsacs than other guys, and accordingly felt a stronger need to breed...is it? "I can't help it, baby -- it's not me, it's my huge balls!" I think his side proposition was that big-breasted women have more orgasms or something. It was very weird. Anybody remember this?)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2007


About the issue of sleeping with attractive strangers: the testing method itself greatly affects the answers. Women have a drive both to be choosy--due to much greater mating investment--and to be perceived as choosy. This is why "slut" is a nasty word. Asking the woman directly, especially if the stranger in question is shown to her and she is asked by a third party interviewer, in a public place, will basically guarantee an answer of "no", even if the man in question might otherwise be attractive to her. A better question design is by anonymous form, and reading somewhat like: "You are staying overnight in a hotel, out of town. You are quietly having dinner in the hotel bar. A very attractive (whatever that means to you) male who you'd never met before asks to join you. You talk, and he makes it quite clear that he would like to have sex with you. It is very unlikely that anyone but you and he will ever know about it. Would you agree to have sex with him?"

Whereas a man has no such concerns for discretion, indeed he is happy to be perceived as sexually successful, even if he actually is not.

Seduction methods such as the Mystery Method referred to by LordSludge above are designed in response to this discrepancy. These methods teach a man to display (meaning, somewhere between "fake" and "actually acquire") characteristics of a high-value sex partner to women: appearing wealthy, being friendly, expansive, conversational, intriguingly challenging without being rude or servile, choosiness, lack of neediness and discretion. If a man displays all of these characteristics, the theory goes, he will greatly increase his success with women.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:08 AM on July 6, 2007


Yeah. I wish I could find a link to that study where the beta-male chimps had more reproductive success because they hung out meekly in the background grooming and making friends with the ladies on the sly...

Here's an abstract of a dissertation about that strategy in bonobo chimps. From the abstract: "Only in one group did a dominant male obtain the highest number of copulation bouts."

Besides, some of humans actually think about our mating choices beyond our first impulses.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on July 6, 2007


[...] appearing wealthy, being friendly, expansive, conversational, intriguingly challenging without being rude or servile, choosiness, lack of neediness and discretion. If a man displays all of these characteristics, the theory goes, he will greatly increase his success with women.

I'll agree with this. Most of these also seem like qualities the men I know seek in women.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on July 6, 2007


Green eyes tinged with gold are sexiest. Which, coincidentally, I have! Fancy that!

Most phone sex lines tell the women to say they are long-legged redheads, so I am thinking that is a popular choice, too.
posted by misha at 10:07 AM on July 6, 2007


"The only thing that kept me watching License to Wed until the end (apart from being paid to do so) was the faith, perhaps misplaced, that I will not see a worse movie this year." -- A. O. Scott, NYTimes
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:14 AM on July 6, 2007


Damn it, wrong thread . . . although it makes more sense on the subject than the tired "biology is destiny" horseshit in that article.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:16 AM on July 6, 2007


aeschenkarnos: Seduction methods such as the Mystery Method referred to by LordSludge above are designed in response to this discrepancy.

Well, sorta... MM attempts to model the whole courtship, soup to nuts, with various phases: Attraction --> Comfort-building --> Seduction. (It makes sense, esp. when retro-actively applied to my own experiences, but it's just too much shit to hold in my head while trying to chat with a girl...) To use the MM model, I suppose we're discussing the very beginning of the Attraction phase. But I wasn't at all talking about MM, per se, and certainly not trying to derail into that whole questionable subculture.

desjardins: LordSludge, it's actually men's competitiveness to be the alpha dog that's such a big turnoff to a lot of women.

I hear that, but when I say "alpha dog" I don't mean the guy who's constantly trying to put down the competition. I mean the guy who genuinely has his shit together, is secure with himself, and is a leader among his friends, who respect and admire him, and who he tries to support. A real alpha dog doesn't have to bark. The barkers are the beta dogs who feel they must compete to, one day, be deemed alpha.

Most of these also seem like qualities the men I know seek in women.

But only as a distant second to physical beauty. Face it -- most men would jump at a chance to date a Jessica Simpson (or, my celebrity crush, Milla Jovavich, or pick-any-Victoria's-Secret-model) regardless of whether she has lotsa money, lacks friends, or is kinda needy.
posted by LordSludge at 10:43 AM on July 6, 2007


On suicide bombing : However, the prospect is quite appealing to anyone who faces the bleak reality on earth of being a complete reproductive loser.

So following the article's logic, all we need to do to protect ourselves from suicide bombers is get them laid?
posted by quin at 11:52 AM on July 6, 2007


So following the article's logic, all we need to do to protect ourselves from suicide bombers is get them laid?

Dye their hair blonde, insert blue contact lenses and give them sex change operations!
posted by misha at 12:11 PM on July 6, 2007


Funny that dilated pupils are an element in attraction. When I see a girl with very dilated pupils my first thought is, "Is she on ecstasy or meth?"
posted by mullingitover at 12:38 PM on July 6, 2007


...all we need to do to protect ourselves from suicide bombers is get them laid?

Silly as it sounds, I'm guessing "yes".

How many suicide bombers had satisfying sex lives, compared to the population at large? Would be an interesting, if impossible, research project.
posted by LordSludge at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2007


Women won't sleep with random attractive strangers - runs contrary to my experiance.
How did they conduct that experiment? I mean yah, the “nice shoes” thing or what?
Wasn’t it Voltaire that said about seduction give me a few minutes and I can talk away my face? (What's wrong with a kiss, boy? Hmm? Why not start her off with a nice kiss? You don't have to go leaping straight for the clitoris like a bull at a gate. Give her a kiss, boy. Nibbling the earlobe, kneading the buttocks, and so on and so forth. So, we have all these possibilities before we stampede towards the clitoris.)

“The bit about the size variation between male and female is dead-on. There are a lot of indicators to suggest that holy Christian matrimony wasn't the exact plan.”

I’m 6’3 and make good money, my wife is 5’3” so I should have like what, 84 wives? Good luck with that pal, I’ve been barking up that tree for years.

miss lynnster - I see you were being sarcastic, but yes, it is all about equality. Just the other day I remarked how pretty my co-worker’s dress was and how he would look even better with it off. Then Bob and I chased each other around the table and he giggled and threatened me with a book, pulled down my panties and tickled my ass and called me Shirley, it’s a completely commonplace professional relationship.

“...all we need to do to protect ourselves from suicide bombers is get them laid?”

You’d be surprised what the state department gets up to in fighting terrorism. It ain’t all about bullets.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2007


aeschenkarnos speaks truth.

Most of these also seem like qualities the men I know seek in women.

But only as a distant second to physical beauty


This is true as well, in fact a truism, and hardly merits discussion.

Financial position of the woman has little to no impact on most men. In fact, I doubt it has any impact outside of royal families or the ultra-wealthy.

And all of those other traits get trumped quite easily by physical beauty.

For instance, Rosanne Barr, based on what I've read and interviews I've seen with her, is famous, rich, powerful, charismatic, confident, funny, friendly, conversational, and not needy.

Now, do you think more heterosexual males would be more attracted to her or to one of the Victoria's Secret models, even if those models didn't have many of those desired traits?

When I see a girl with very dilated pupils my first thought is, "Is she on ecstasy or meth?"
posted by mullingitover at 2:38 PM


Which, coincidentally enough, both increase the chances that she would have sex with you substantially. So, your strategy is really just as sound!
posted by Ynoxas at 2:01 PM on July 6, 2007


LordSludge: A real alpha dog doesn't have to bark. The barkers are the beta dogs who feel they must compete to, one day, be deemed alpha.

Okay, I'll buy that. I know guys like that, who can get a girl to do just about anything without saying a word. Sometimes that girl was me.
posted by desjardins at 2:13 PM on July 6, 2007


Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

What. The. Fuck? Since when in history did the majority of women even have the right to refuse marriage (usually arranged by her family)?
posted by jokeefe at 3:13 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Financial position of the woman has little to no impact on most men. In fact, I doubt it has any impact outside of royal families or the ultra-wealthy.

And all of those other traits get trumped quite easily by physical beauty


Eh, you're addressing extreme cases. Most people, male and female, are just normal looking. Most people aren't faced with the situation where they have to chose between RICH ALPHA MALE!! and normal guy; or between HOTTT BARBIE GIRL and normal girl. In the end, who you chose to partner up with has to do with more than looks, because most of our looks are pretty much indistinguishable.
posted by footnote at 3:28 PM on July 6, 2007


misha: Green eyes tinged with gold are sexiest. Which, coincidentally, I have! Fancy that!

Hm, gold is kinda almost amber I guess...so, yeh, nice eyes.

(practicing a 'neg' from that Mystery thingummy)

Financial position of the woman has little to no impact on most men.

Are you talking about whether or not a woman is fanciable, or dateable-marriageable? Because I, for one, wouldn't have much interest in anything even vaguely serious with a financially crippled partner. Why would you bother, when looks will fade & there are plenty of people out there who have their career shit together?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:28 PM on July 6, 2007


most of our looks are pretty much indistinguishable.

Speak for yourself!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:34 PM on July 6, 2007


Some are monogamous, some polyamorous,
Some vary monthly, and some are asexual;
Whatever arrangement you find the most glamorous
Know that your likings are highly contextual -

Some trends and tendencies stem from biology
But their expression can be highly mutable;
Claiming them destiny is a tautology
At least in terms of the mates your find suitable:

Constructions and customs and castes, class, and factions and
Finding those partners who share your vocation,
Can all play a part in attractions and actions and
Do not discount the effect of location.

So before wooing with claims of genetics
Recall your position is not unassailable;
Differing factors affect our aesthetics,
The greatest of which may be who is available.
posted by kyrademon at 4:42 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


plagiarist! you yoinked that from somebody's lj! oh, i see.

"Constructions and customs and castes, class, and factions and" is a bit of a tongue-twister to keep in meter. otherwise, very nice writing.

/ 'neg' training
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:12 PM on July 6, 2007


In societies where rich men are much richer than poor men, women (and their children) are better off sharing the few wealthy men; one-half, one-quarter, or even one-tenth of a wealthy man is still better than an entire poor man.

Hmmmm define "better." A wealthy man might give you more to eat and fancier clothing, but only one tenth of his attention. A poor man would give you all of his attention.

Personally, I found having a life partner who gives me his full attention is worth a great deal. In my life experience the wealthier, the more powerful the man, the less time and attention he gives his mate (YMMV.)
My husband gets very little satisfaction from his work life, so he looks to his home and his mate for his greatest joy and satisfaction. That results in such things as love notes, constant kissing, full body massages, and creative love making - things which I suspect any number of women unhappily married to rich men would pay a lot for.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:27 AM on July 7, 2007


According to a video-documented polling experiment I saw somewhere on the web, girls will say yes to sex with reasonably attractive strangers starting somewhere around $2,500.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:46 AM on July 7, 2007


footnote: ...Eh, you're addressing extreme cases. Most people, male and female, are just normal looking. Most people aren't faced with the situation where they have to chose between RICH ALPHA MALE!! and normal guy; or between HOTTT BARBIE GIRL and normal girl.

That's a cute strawgirl -- is she single? Hey, I'm not saying there's a binary choice between HAWT and normal. There's most certainly a continuum of attractiveness.

In the end, who you chose to partner up with has to do with more than looks,...

Certainly. But the involuntary "lizard brain" attraction is mostly looks for women, alpha-ness in men.

...because most of our looks are pretty much indistinguishable.

Waaa, huh??? No offense, but this is laughably false. Please paw through hotornot, myspace, or facebook and get back with me. Oh, I know -- first, go to a dive bar, then go to a college bar. Compare and contrast. There's a continuum of attractiveness, from repulsive to ugly to meh to normal to decent looking to kinda cute to whoa very cute to OMG TEH HAWT. (Although I find the 1-10 scale to be a lot less cumbersome, heh!)

secret life of gravy: Hmmmm define "better." A wealthy man might give you more to eat and fancier clothing, but only one tenth of his attention. A poor man would give you all of his attention.

Absolutely. But what we're talking about is the "lizard brain" attraction, not the rational higher-level thinking. It's the stupid part of a woman's brain that makes her date alpha assholes that beat her up, or makes a man leave his plain (but otherwise *perfect*) wife of 10 years for a two-week fling with the office hotty.

It's nature's cruel joke: A lot of the things that make a single man attractive -- indifference, unavailability, unilateral decisiveness, availability of attractive women -- make him lousy relationship material. Hence the cliche that once a woman gets a great guy, she'll try to change him, because otherwise the relationship can't last. And, golly gee -- women age, while men are hard-wired to yearn for younger women.

It's fucked up, but that's how it is. Maybe in 1000 years, we can leave this all behind.
posted by LordSludge at 11:23 AM on July 7, 2007


girls will say yes to sex with reasonably attractive strangers starting somewhere around $2,500.

Mark Twain was at a society party, mingling with the women in their pearls. He’s busy talking to a fabulously wealthy matron who’s complaining about the loss of old-fashioned morality in this country. Twain interrupts her to ask, “My dear madam, your complaints are well grounded, but I wonder if you would sleep with me for one million dollars.”

The woman replied without pause, “For one million dollars, who wouldn’t?”

Twain continued, “Unfortunately, I don’t have one million dollars, but would you sleep with me for twenty?”

The woman became offended and replied indignantly, “Certainly not! What do you think I am, a whore?”

To which Mr. Twain replied, “I thought we already established that. Now we’re just haggling over price.”


But some of us are priceless. : )

posted by misha at 8:21 PM on July 7, 2007


misha, I've seen that witticism attributed to Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw, but never to Mark Twain.
posted by churl at 12:51 AM on July 8, 2007


Sorry misha, that came out really snarky. I meant to say, I've also seen that excellent quote attributed to Churchill and Shaw.
posted by churl at 1:03 AM on July 8, 2007


Don't start quoting Churchill 'round here!

misha: Ubu, if you were my husband, I'd poison your tea.

Ubu: misha, if I were your husband, I'd drink it.

(I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly)

posted by UbuRoivas at 3:48 AM on July 8, 2007


UbuRolvas, not need for an apostrophe before "round". It's accepted that it's a shortened version of "around", just like phone is a shortened version of telephone.
posted by humblepigeon at 5:12 AM on July 8, 2007


thank's for that
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:36 PM on July 8, 2007


You know, I have seen it attributed to Shaw, also. Damn, now I will actually have to d some real research...
posted by misha at 2:41 PM on July 8, 2007


I have now found the joke attributed to both Oscar Wilde (dubious, considering his orientation) and W.C. Fields as well!

However, the most reliable accounts (because of their specificity) suggest that the dialog in question took place between Lady Astor and Winston Churchill.

Consider me corrected. : )
posted by misha at 3:00 PM on July 8, 2007


No great deal. Almost every quote in history has been attributed to Twain, Shaw, Wilde & Churchill. In most cases, there is no record of any of them having said it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:23 PM on July 8, 2007


Ryvar said:
"Pull up any general human history book or a book covering scientific progress in overview and read through with an eye towards one factor: ratio of male to female names you encounter. We're thankfully entering a more enlightened age these days, but until the 20th century the history of the events and major shifts in progress of our race have been performed and authored by the male gender."

Uh...correlation is not causation. Just because most of history was recorded by the dominant power of the time (males) does not mean women were not enacting major progress in civilisation.

They were simply accomplishing it with a lot less dick-waving.
posted by batmonkey at 4:50 PM on July 9, 2007


All of this neglects that "beauty" is certainly, demonstrably socially constructed. This is *not* to deny the biology of attraction, but the anthropological literature has established, for a century, that "TEH HAWT" is culturally constructed. And within this overlay of (quite significant) variation in the qualities of alphaness or barbieness, all of us know there are also individual differences within any given culture in what we find attractive in a potential mate. Footnote has a point in that these variables may be more significant as you approach the median standard of attractiveness in any given culture. But take it from a guy -- there are a million kinds of female beauty within the broad outlines of youthfulness/fertility/value to others that set some possibly universal human laws of attraction. I can't speak for the female perspective, of course, but I would bet there's more than one kind of alpha. At least I hope so, since not all of us goodlooking alpha males work in lucrative lines of work. I would say "alphaness" is relative to context, as well as subject to cultural and individual variation. As is also true of hawtness.

Or as Willie Nelson once said, "last night I came home at 2 with a 10, and woke up at 10 with a 2." I'm sure there's a version (Chrissie Hynde must have written one) for men who appear alpha but turn out to be omega when the shit hits the fan.
posted by spitbull at 2:37 PM on July 10, 2007


the anthropological literature has established, for a century, that "TEH HAWT" is culturally constructed.

yes, but OTOH, a study in which people across the world were shown a series of faces & asked to rate them for attractiveness put them in almost exactly the same order, across the board. the main factor, if i recall correctly, was symmetry & adherence to the golden mean proportions.

this doesn't disprove the point that teh hawt - taking into account body shape, demeanour etc - isn't culturally relative, but it does point to some underlying basic standard, which may be innate.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2007


um, *is* culturally relative. got lost in a triple negative there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:21 PM on July 10, 2007


...but until the 20th century the history of the events and major shifts in progress of our race have been performed and authored by the male gender.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA.... who do you think was feeding them?
posted by desjardins at 4:45 PM on July 10, 2007


UbuRolvas, as I said, the claim of cultural variation does not contradict the idea of broad universal standards of attractiveness. The thing is that they are very broad -- "symmetry" and "asymmetry" are about the most precise variables in what research has been done on this. We know for a fact that cultural imperatives can override instinctive ones up to a point (and that point may well include suicide bombing or other "altruistic" self-destructive phenomena).

The thing about articles like this is that they are practice reductio ad absurdam logic in order to naturalize and rationalize and jutify a particular set of cultural preferences and customs as universal. Most posters in this thread picked this up in the PT article right away. Whenever you read an "evolutionary" explanation for any social phenomenon in the New York Times or a popular magazine, you can smell the politics of naturalization at work, and the eager lapping it up of people who desperately want their own "success" (or lack of it) justified as beyond their control, or their natural right.

Very few psychologists know shit about evolution. "Evolutionary Psychology" is a branch of cognitive science and neurobiology, not clinical or experimental psych. This cat is a typical idiot.
posted by spitbull at 4:52 AM on July 11, 2007


they practice reduction ad absuram (not "they are practice", sorry)
posted by spitbull at 4:53 AM on July 11, 2007


reductio ad absurdam or reduction ad absuram? I'm not sure that either of these is what the article is doing, as a reductio ad absurdum is essentially a defensive argument, and not something one uses to put forward a proposition.

/pedantic.

i agree with your overall position, by the way. if you read my earlier comments, you would have guessed that i found the article to be a total crock of shit.

* presents a rectalio absurdbum as a peace offering.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:18 AM on July 11, 2007


(best you don't click on that)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:29 AM on July 11, 2007


the claim of cultural variation does not contradict the idea of broad universal standards of attractiveness.

My point isn't that there's no such thing as a standard of attractiveness (cultural or biological). Of course some people are objectively better looking than others.

What I'm saying is that in REALITY, the vast majority of people (male and female) aren't chosing between super-hot people and average people for their partners; they're chosing between various shades of average. When it comes down to that choice, I sincerely doubt people are chosing between average candidates based on eye color or what have you.

Now, if you chose to pass up the average people in front of you because they don't conform to your ideal fantasy standard of beauty, well, then, you should probably be headed over to Askme to get some sense kicked into you.
posted by footnote at 6:00 AM on July 11, 2007


OK - my AskMe question:

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"


Which one is correct?

(actually, if you are choosing between average & average, you can afford to be picky over eye colour because there's a massive pool to filter. it's only at the extreme end of the scale that you might submit to compromise over something as important as that)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:25 AM on July 11, 2007


They are both correct. The beggar is playing humble so you'll feel guilty and give him more quarters; the woman of the night is encouraging your vanity to pay more for better quality. ("L'oreal -- because you deserve it.")
posted by footnote at 6:58 AM on July 11, 2007


Ubu and footnote, I think we agree. It's rather like the question of the language instinct, actually, vis a vis the matter of specificity of function. Some evolutionary theorists believe (as do most linguists) that language evolved as a specific cognitive faculty with dedicated neurological structures that are neither piggybacking on other structures (or bootstrapping, in the lingo) nor available for use for other cognitive purposes. (Note that this is a stronger claim of modularity than the demonstrable fact that language processing happens in specific brain regions for specific linguistic structures.)

"Beauty" (or "sexual attractiveness," which is certainly not the same thing, and the distinction between which begs this entire question) is a lot more primitive and basic than "language." The idea that any individual organism makes some kind of rational calculation of the reproductive odds ahead of taking any action is the reductio ad absurdam I was talking about, and the reason I quoted Willie Nelson's pithy remark. The aggregate effect of selection for specific visual traits (as if reproductive fitness wasn't signalled much more powerfully by other channels than sight) would seem to this anthropologist to be powerfully overdetermined by cultural variation and individual variation and highly specific historically formed social contexts.

So we agree this article is full of shit, and the worst kind of banal pop Social Darwinist thinking.
posted by spitbull at 7:45 AM on July 11, 2007


I meant to say, after "some evolutionary theorists believe," that "others believe" something else: that the mind is a much more generalizing machine, capable of rapid transpositions of cognitive effort and capacity, well below the level of conscious thought, and on the fly. I think the bundle of affects and rationalizations and drives that go into something as complex as "dating" (and that must be extensively mediated by all the cultural and environmental factors that shape and socialize the mind of the individual attractee/attractor), are best thought of as not reducible to simple universal principles that require no more cultural context than a broad stereotype or two (as in this article).

That is why one can be surprised by beauty, and why beauty is a sublime experience.
posted by spitbull at 7:53 AM on July 11, 2007


"others believe" something else: that the mind is a much more generalizing machine, capable of rapid transpositions of cognitive effort and capacity, well below the level of conscious thought, and on the fly.

That, combined with the neurologically-demonstrated theory that "consciousness" is, at best, only a vetoing power that can do little more than stop already in-progress unconscious (instinctive or culturally programmed) actions suggests that language might only ever function as some kind of ex post facto rationalisation of other deeper processes at work...?

Some fun reading on the topic of the evolution of language: Svante Paabo & the significance of FOXP2.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:25 AM on July 11, 2007


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