Friday, 21 November 2014

Animal Attraction

by Frederike Rademacher



We have all seen at least one documentary in our lifetime that involves the act of mating between species. However we have yet to watch a documentary on the sexual attraction and mating of our own species. If there has been such a documentary, I have missed out. I want to talk about our more primitive and yet understated nature when involving sexual attraction. It is widely accepted that we suppress our more primitive instincts when choosing a mate and instead look towards the cultural norm of the society that we live in.

Within the time period between the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries (especially), we have become one of the only know species in which a female openly tries to attract a male. Beforehand, it used to be that men would court us ladies and try to woo us into marriage, which in turn would hopefully result in offspring, and thus we continue our line of DNA.  Although female have always tried to attract males one way or another, it has become more direct in the recent two centuries.

Let us start with what females find attractive in a male, keeping in mind that we have repressed these instincts because of how society is now run and that we no longer live in that primitive, patriarchal state of mind.
           
Why do most females find men with strong physical attributes, such as a large muscular V-shaped frame, more attractive then those with a slighter frame? Well this is simply because we associate these more muscular frames with the ability to bring food back from the hunt. Those who were stronger and faster were the ones who brought home food, a way for males to prove their worth to females. The more food you brought back, even if you hunted in groups, made you more appealing to females and you were more likely to be accepted as a potential mate. This usually meant that these strong, physically appealing males now had first pick of the litter when choosing a female mate. Naturally, we all judge a book by its cover; females will judge a male by his appearance and his ability to be a potential mate, but this is only the first step and not necessarily the most important one. A female will easily overlook physical attributes if the male is able to tick other important boxes.
           
Why are most females attracted to highly paid men? Frankly, those who earn a high-paying salary can afford to feed the family. It’s also a way for females to single out those who are the most dominant males - pretty much no work place is going to have someone who is high up in the hierarchy who isn’t confident in what they are doing, but I’ll go into more detail of that in a little bit. You must think of the highly-paid male as having the ability to provide for the family; however, in our society those who have highly-paid jobs may not have started out as a dominant male but evolved to fit the role that the male has been given. This means that females may not always look for a dominant male at first, but instead a male who has the potential to become dominant.
           
Why are most females attracted to a dominant male? Dominance can sometimes be linked to aggression, which may be a sign that the male is capable of protecting the female whilst pregnant with his offspring. Primitively speaking, this dominant male would be leader of a society of people, the Alpha in this situation if you will. Sad yet somehow true, females are in a way natural social climbers, females want to mate with the Alpha of a group of people and usually this Alpha has a well paid job which will bring in the food. This is also a demonstration of how smart the male is, another attribute that is attractive and females naturally want their offspring to inherit this trait. This will also be why females fight over a male, because they want his attributes to be passed down to their offspring. A lot of these males have characteristics that, in today’s society, we would label as confident, cocky and charismatic (the three C’s, if you will). A study in Germany shows that males who do not sport these characteristics are usually more faithful, more commitment-orientated and reliable – this is a long-term ideal candidate for mating, yet females will often choose instead to mate on a short term with those Alpha males. Even worse, these males often embody the Dark Triad, a personality constellation that encompasses Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism.

Now moving on to the more touchy part of the topic, what is it about females that attract males? I am not a guy so I am going on what I’ve seen/read about or discussed with male friends.

Why are most males attracted to females with curved frame? Ever heard the phrase, ‘wide birthing hips’? It means that the wider the females hips were, the more likely they would be able to deliver offspring easier than those with more narrow hips. There is a magic number when it comes to the ratio between a woman's waist and hips that men find most attractive. In the Western world, that number is 0.7, which means that the circumference of a woman's waist is 70% the circumference of her hips. From an evolutionary perspective, a ratio under 0.6 may signal hips that are not well suited to childbirth, and a ratio in excess of 0.8 could suggest fertility difficulties related to being overweight. Recently, you may have noticed the rising fashion of have a larger derriere. This is a way of going back to more primitive instincts and for the males to have an easier time picking out a suitable female to mate with; those who have a larger derriere are more likely to get the attentions of males. The same applies to breasts; females who had larger breasts were seen to be most likely to produce the most milk for the offspring so they would grow to be strong. These strong offspring would be the ones to carry on the line and so males would want the best chance for the offspring to survive.
           
Why do most males like that females wear red? When females wear red is may be viewed as a fashion statement, but studies done by Andrew Elliot and Daniela Niesta proposes that our interest in this colour may actually have a biological basis. This links in with a way for a female to attract the attention of a male the same way a male peacock displays his array of feathers. The colour is immediately eye-catching to a male and, if the female is able to attract even a glimpse of the male’s eye, then perhaps he might notice some of the other attributes as well, enticing the male further.  
           
Why do most males prefer large eyes and wide mouth? As odd at it may seem, large eyes are an indicator of femininity. Eyes have also been linked to long-term health and reproductive potential. Michael Cunningham’s studies on physical attractiveness have found that men perceive an ideal female mouth as one that, at mouth level, is 50% the width of the face. Eye contact is also attractive to the male; if said male is an ‘Alpha’, then inability to keep eye contact is a sign of submission which can show that the female isn’t suited to her counterpart. 
           
As stated earlier, we may suppress these natural instincts because of our culturally shaped morals or expectations. For example, the Karen people are widely known for their elongated necks; this is an artificial means of attraction (see image above) much like the wearing of red by females, but the same principle applies. In actual fact, the rings placed around the neck do not actually elongate it, but simply create the illusion of an elongated neck. This appearance of a long neck is a sign of beauty, similar to the way in which women used to bind their feet (see below) to make them appear smaller and more attractive (the Chinese were famous for this practice). All cultures have different views about what constitutes attractiveness. I have based my text on Western culture, but everyone has their own ideas of attraction that have changed from the original primitive state: whether to do with religion, culture or personal preference.

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