A hate to do it. I really do. This is not even a subject I feel that passionately about. Well, okay…I guess passionate enough to write a blog post about…but certainly not enough to even suggest that I care about telling women what they should or should not do with their bodies.
What I will be discussing here, and perhaps revealing to some, is about women’s body hair. It’s a heavily debated topic, one I wasn’t sure if I should get into. In fact, I hadn’t known how vehement this topic could get until I debated about it with some classmate female friends a couple months ago. Here’s how it all got started. I traveled with some friends to a conference in Lithuania. During one of the evenings we were walking to a bar for some drinks after dinner. There were four men, including myself, and the two women I mentioned. As we were walking we past by a store which had mannequins in the window. One of my female friends, lets call her Lacy, mentions how American Apparel apparently has started putting pubic hair on their mannequins.
Here are some picture to see for yourself…
|Here is an article with more pictures.|
To my shock of hearing this news, and perhaps due to the slight buzz from the few beers I had drunk just prior, I tactlessly said something to the effect of “Whaat?, no one wants to see that.”
Also I was quite unaware of my two female friend’s feminist inclinations when it came to women’s body hair. Both Lacy and, let’s say…Mary, were appalled by my response. I then began to explain my self, backpedaling my rudeness, but staying firm to my side of the debate.
From there, all hell started to slowly unravel and break loose.
One of the other men accompanying us joined in on my side, while the other two remaining guys kept mostly quiet, chiming in once in a while. However they were for the most part neutral in this debate. So it ended up being a 2 vs. 2 melee.
I will from this point on explain what I argued that night. In doing so, I will provide evidence supporting my claim. I am always interested in counter evidence and a civil debate. After having this discussion with my friends on this topic, it opened my eyes not only to my (and Western/American culture) bias, but it also served to help me understand where they, and other women who feel the same, are coming from. And understanding is always good.
With that said, here was my argument that night.
My argument summarized: Adult women have attempted to appear younger and sexually fertile to compete for mate selection . This has been, and still is today, a viable evolutionary strategy for procreation and allows women to have a wider range of choice in mate selection. This mating strategy developed due to men’s (natural) inclination to seek out mates for procreation that have certain qualities that demonstrate high reproductive fitness — pubescent qualities such as little hair, smooth skin, along with other neotenous features (some which may be particular to race or culture).
(Shit, this is sounding like a thesis paper…!)
So let’s delve in a little more to these mating strategies of female homo-sapiens. 😉
Sexual Arousal and Neoteny
Mating strategies is (or was) the reason many women painstakingly take great lengths to ensure they have a youthful appearance by way of makeup.
|YouTube sensation Jenna Marbles parodied this drastic change that can be had (and is expected in Western modern society) in her video “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking”.|
Makeup, however, not only is used to make women look younger, but it is also used to highlight features that would only otherwise be apparent during sexual arousal. That being, to even the complexion, a blushed face, and enlarged or darkened eyes and pupil dilation.
|I think I’m getting a peak shift right now..|
These are the signs that women also display during the ovulation period. So it would make sense that women have found ways to exaggerate it to get choice mate selection.
This is ties in with the “peak shift effect” which has been displayed in humans to be ‘taken in’, so-to-speak, by exaggerations. Experiments with mice have shown, for example, a mouse being conditioned to choose the path in a maze that displayed a rectangle (with the goal some sort of food, of course). Once the conditioning was established the experimenters displayed rectangles on more than one of the paths, and one of the rectangles was more exaggerated than the others (i.e. wider, narrower). The mice tended to take the path with the exaggerated rectangle. The reason for the “peak” is that when the exaggeration becomes too crazy, it loses its power.
|I hope people don’t find this attractive…|
That is why for most men I believe, the photo above exceeds the peak shift principle and is no longer attractive.
Given, this photo is from the Victorian era where such clothing that greatly exaggerated busts and bottom were the fashion of the time, so of course culture plays a vital role in determining where the scale of attractiveness lies. Further, each individual person has their own scale of where their particular scale of attractiveness resides (influenced by one’s culture).
Any woman reading this that may be insecure about their bodies for lack of ginormous T&A, which unlike exaggerating sexual features of the face cannot be altered via makeup, please do not worry. While each man has their own spectrum of attractiveness, overall for most men it is more about waist-hip ratio and balance throughout the whole body.
As mentioned before, one part of sexual attractiveness that women also aim to exaggerate (or fabricate) is signs of youthfulness.
This is called neoteny, which is a creature’s tendency to remain youthful even as an adult. According to J.B.S. Haldane calls it “greater prolongation of childhood and retardation of maturity.” which he calls a major [human] evolutionary trend ( ). This is not only present in women, but men as well. However in most cultures it is more prevalent among women.
I talk about neoteny and how Japanese culture epitomizes this this evolutionary trend in one of my previous posts Most Neotenous in the World: Japan.
|If this dolled up makeup is not enough, in Japan they have photo booths called “PURI-KURA” that enhances and makes your eyes even more bigger and scarier.|
Evolutionary psychologist and professor at the University of Göttingen, Dr. Bernhard Fink, who specializes in human mate preferences says, “The maintenance of youthful features and the exaggeration of female typical traits can be found in almost every culture,” . In essence, makeup makes women more appealing because it exaggerates natural signs of youth, fertility, and sexual availability. (Makeup Science)
And not only makeup, but shaving as well. Today, many women tend to get rid of unwanted body hair (i.e. upper lip, chin, armpits, legs, and arms) in attempt to appear more youthful.
What’s going on here? Don’t women already have a lot less hair typically than the average male? And if puberty brings with it the advent of body hair, doesn’t shaving eliminate a natural sign of sexual readiness?
The answers lie in human evolution.
Human’s evolutionary, historical and present-day evidence of hair regression.
A question that has always boggled anthropologists and bio-evolution scientists is ‘Why did humans lose their hair?’ Of course, we didn’t lose it all, but compared to the other Great Apes, we seem like hairless mutants.
While aren’t we full of hair like our closest cousins, the bonobos and the chimpanzees?
Well, the cause of this change is actually that we are hairless mutants – in that every creation is a product of mutation and natural selection. But what spurred this on?
The leading theory points to where humans originally came from, East Africa, and its hot climate. Evidence suggests that East Africa was just as hot at least 4 million years ago as it is now (Why Humans Have No Fur – Explained). Therefore the humanoids living in that region best suited to survive such extreme conditions were the ones who could stay cooler – the ones with less hair. Also humanoids with less hair that had sweat glands could benefit by staying cool and exhausting its prey through endurance-hunting, thus leading to a higher chance of survivability. Generation after generation of hairy humanoids dying and their less hairy brethren surviving and passing on their genes paved the way for humanity’s infinity with hairlessness.
|Why aren’t wookies hairless?
More trees on Kashyyyk to protect from UV rays?
Some speculate humans going bipedal also may have contributed to this loss, as hair on our ancient ancestor’s bodies became less exposed to harmful UV rays from the sun they needed less protection on their bodies, though it beat down relentlessly on their heads and shoulders (explaining why we still have lush and long growing scalp hair). But the androgenic hair, the hair that is on our arms, legs, pelvis, and more commonly for men also on the face, chest, back, and stomach, still somehow remains. But in different proportions. This is due to the hormone androgen, a natural steroid, which the most common being testosterone, the male hormone.
|Androgenic hair distribution on females and males. (wikipedia)|
It’s still debatable which gender was most responsible for natural selection. One side claims men were with their stronger physical bodies and aggressive tendencies chose and fought over their mate selection (like Chimpanzees). Others, claim that women were the ones in charge, using female charm,wit, and certain sexual fitness strategies (like makeup and shaving) as ways to woo the men of their desires in bed. Likely, it was a great deal of both parties participating in this mating game to various degrees throughout human history.
But the fact remains that there is a sexual dimorphism among humans – a difference between sexes: women being smaller, having less muscle mass, pronounced breasts, wider hips, different brain structure, hormones, and behavior, and YES, less body hair.
Sexual dimorphism exists in varying degrees, with Gorilla males being twice the size as females, and Gibbon males and females being roughly the same size. Human males have a modest dimorphism when it comes to body size – only 10-20% bigger and heavier than females. But the dimorphsm exists nonetheless and the other dimorphic traits (as listed in the previous paragraph), are prominent and noticeable.
It might not be politically correct to say, but it was men’s taste that created this difference…and men’s insecurities of paternity.
Men are shallow & insecure SOB’s.
It sucks for women, I am sure…but a great deal of men are looks-oriented when it comes to attraction. Sure, personality and chemistry are important, too, but they are often pushed to the wayside, and at the very least usually secondary important qualities. Certainly, when it comes to initial attraction, looks matter a lot.
|Tell ’em, Aladdin!|
(And look at Aladdin’s body! Not a single body hair drawn on him. Have you ever seen a hairless Persian man? I haven’t. Goes to show how some neotenous features are affecting the male body images in modern times, too.)
But wait, aren’t women just as into looks when it comes to attraction? I mean sure, women can be into a guy for other things as well, like if he is funny, rich, or overall likes their personality; but more and more women these days seem to be expressing their carnal desires and have no shame in doing so.
So one might consider that women may have the same type of attraction that men do to women.
Interestingly, women do claim to be just as turned on by looks, but fMRI studies paint a different picture. In a study at Emory University, participants from both sexes were presented erotic images and during these sessions their brains were looked at. Most of the female sexual images presented to the males showed the men’s brains lighting up in amygdala and hypothalamus regions of the brain. Whereas the women, even when reporting greater sexual arousal, showed much less activation in those regions. These findings point to that when men viewed the images they experienced arousal and appetitive desire, (i.e. “I like that and I want to have that”). But with women, the response (though varied on the spectrum) was predominately arousal (“I like that”). So the “I like that” and “I want that” brain response are separated whereas in men they are one and the same. (Men and women differ in amygdala response to visual sexual stimuli)
So interestingly,it appears that when it comes to physical attraction, men have a stronger urge to have (sex with) what they find arousing.
And men’s inclinations to be more physical-appearance oriented when it comes to mate selection has been one of the primary driving forces for human evolution when it comes to standards of beauty and sexual dimorphism.
It also makes sense that men would be more interested in a female that displays physical traits that differ from one’s own gender (like less hair).
Men have also historically been attracted to women who are just post-pubescent, or perhaps even pre-pubescent, since women were often married by the time they were 14 years old. This was another mating strategy before DNA tests were available, which would ensure that the man’s offspring would be their own. So to appear younger by way of shaving one’s body hair could also be looked at as a evolutionary remnant that still exists today (although culture’s have practiced this to varying degrees, and some not at all).
Furthermore, shaving also acts as an aesthetic strategy (remember peak-shift effect from before?) to exaggerate youthful features just as makeup does.
So are all men pedophiliacs for liking shaved legs (and more recently in America shaved vaginal areas)?
In some respects, no. For males to be attracted to neotenous features is natural to the animal world and signals to potential mates sexual availability or preparedness.
But in some respects, yes. What is determined as neotenous, or displaying a sexual readiness is culturally determined. In some cultures, women’s body hair is considered natural and a sign of sexual maturity (ready to mate!) For those cultures and those women who are sick and tired of patriarchal society determining the standards of female beauty, this kind of neotenization is bizarre, creepy, and unnecessary. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, there is this ongoing neotenization of the female body (thanks in large part to Western media’s and pornography’s influence).
But cultures change…
And with it, the standards of beauty. What once served an evolutionary purpose, with today’s modern culture, technology, and social progress, it no longer need serve the same function. There are other ways to show reproductive fitness to each other. As gender roles change and more women are doing the same kinds of jobs as men, along with the rise of feminism in industrialized modern countries, we are seeing a small shift in what is considered beautiful. Men are beginning to shown signs of desiring traits other than primitive youthful appearances for their mate selection. However, the change will likely take a long time to satisfy the goals of full body hair and no makeup feminists. It is a evolutionary instinct to desire neotenous features in women that has been passed down to mankind for millennia, but one that can be mediated by culture.
By the end of our debate, we kind of all agreed to disagree, although I think she could see my point. She thought, as I think as well, that we do not need to be bound by our ancient past. Overall, I am glad that I got into that discussion with them. Before then, I hadn’t realized the unfairness of the situation. “Why do women HAVE to shave to be accepted by society and be attractive for men? Men have the choice of whether to shave or not and is not taboo either way. For women, it is a different story.” This sentiment that Lucy and Mary shared with me has stuck with me. While men are also in this process of cultural neotenization (i.e. male models and Disney characters with no body hair), the pressure is definitely not to the extent that women are under.
To wrap up…
I hope this blog post was not offensive to women, but if it was, feel free to comment below and state your case. I, personally, have no qualms with how women want to groom themselves. I personally am attracted to either shaved or unshaved. To me, it’s not that big of a deal. Every person has their own preferences and if they are like me, I don’t think they care as much about arm, leg, and vaginal hair as one might think (given there are other features about you they find attractive). Indeed, it is probably more healthy and hygienic to keep all body hair, as it does serve some protective function. Overall, I think a general cleanly appearance is what is most physically attractive to both sexes… whatever two people can agree on “clean” meaning.