Forum:Beauty

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I know this is somewhat off topic in terms of this wiki. But I've been wondering about this whole issue for the longest time, and there isn't much in philosophy or psychology or anything really that addresses this. Like, if you're a heterosexual guy, we KNOW that women are beautiful, but why is this the case? In terms of body, women are not that much different in terms of shape -- arms, legs, hips are wider, forehead narrower, breasts, generally shorter. But overall, WOW why are women so attractive. I don't get WHY this is the case or what mechanisms are at work; is it something cranial? Or is it adaptation? How is it related to the male gaze? If anybody has any thoughts about this whole topic I'm interested because I can't seem to figure it out, and it bugs me, like there should be logical explanations somewhere. The symmetry. Or is there a branch of learning which I should explore, perhaps neuroscience? I've been wanting to write about this but I can't figure it out. I have a sense that it's related to Spinoza's ideas about the principle of association. Or, when women look at men, why do they find men attractive? Totally confounds me.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

probably neuroscience is the best direction to look. I think there's an instinct (or something) to respond positively to certain body shapes. And let's face it, if men didn't find women attractive (and vice versa) we'd all have never been born. Totnesmartin (talk) 21:36, 8 September 2010 (UTC)
Evolutionary psychology might also help, but I would be wary of simple-sounding ev psych explanations, as they are often ad hoc. Tetronian you're clueless 21:47, 8 September 2010 (UTC)
Good point - after all, we don't all like the same type of woman - or even any woman. Totnesmartin (talk) 21:58, 8 September 2010 (UTC)
Thank you Totnesmartin. Thank you Tetronian. Totnesmartin, you don't like any women? Not even Oprah who, I believe, is an American deity? Will explore Neuroscience. Evolutionary psychology, thanx. --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 22:02, 8 September 2010 (UTC)
I was speaking generally, forgetting that "there are those among us" is also a euphemism for "me." this error was caused by a lack of tea. I love women, most of my friends are women. Totnesmartin (talk) 08:56, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
At the risk of oversimplifying we men are programmed to see beauty in that which is most likely to propagate our genes. In areas where food is scarce beauty is seen in the more rounded figure - this is a woman who is well fed and therefore likely to survive. If you look at the neolithic Venus figurines they are almost spherical. The same reasoning is why the classically beautiful female form tends to have wide hips and big breasts - both seen as part of successful child rearing and hence gene propagation.
More recently beauty is associated with wealth. When a deep tan indicated a peasant who worked in the fields then it was beautiful to have a pale complexion. Now a deep tan is associated with plenty of leisure time and hence wealth so now that defines beauty. Of course wealth is directly associated with survival so, once again, we're back to gene propagation.
In conclusion, an appreciation of the female form is genetically programmed. Jack Hughes (talk) 09:58, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Jack on this. There is also an interesting New Scientist article on this, but unfortunately you need a subscription to view it. I'm reluctant to cut and paste it here for copyright reasons. If anybody wants a copy I could mail it though.--BobSpring is sprung! 11:10, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
Interesting stuff. Thanks. I'm interested in the article from New Scientist; if you mail it to me at Tom Sulcer / 6 Irving Pl 2fl / Summit NJ 07901-3605 I'll mail you back stamps to cover the postage and photocopying expense, thanks in advance. But I'm also thinking of subscribing to one of these academic services so I can peruse lots of articles for little cost; does anybody have any recommendations? About the beauty & propagation thesis -- generally agree. What I'm curious about is how the mechanism works, and maybe it's out of my league since I don't know much about the brain. Like, how come within an instant or two I can tell if a woman is attractive? Or I can figure that woman X is more attractive than woman Y? I wonder how it works for homosexual men and lesbians; do they have the same beauty appreciation but only for persons of their own sex? How come the mechanism doesn't kick in until we're about ten to twelve? And how does it happen that hetero men are attracted to women (and not men), and that hetero women are attracted to men (and not women). How does all this stuff happen. I think the principle of association is definitely at work here -- you know from math, if X=A and A=B then X=B. So like Jack said we learn to associate tan skin with either wealth (today) or with pale skin with wealth (previously) -- good point by the way. --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 15:10, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
Actually I was thinking about email. I've sent it to you by that means. I have read theories about excessive exposure to testosterone in the womb causing lesbianism and also about a genetic preposition for being exceptionally attracted to men being responsible for male homosexuality. The theory is that while being exceptionally attracted to men is counter-productive in reproductive terms to males, it results in extra production of offspring in females which offsets the negative aspects of the trait.
I have no idea if these theories are correct.
With regard to sexual attraction kicking in around the age of puberty - well, it's not evolutionary important until that age.--BobSpring is sprung! 17:47, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
Interesting.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:22, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
Oh well, I am a homosexual guy and I also KNOW that women are beautiful, it's just that I don't want to... do anything with them. But I suppose you can also tell a really handsome guy from some ugly troll? --Earthland (talk) 18:59, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
As it happens I can't. My wife will sometimes point out someone she feels is "handsome" and I've got no idea why she would reach that conclusion. To be fair, there are other times, when it's obvious.--BobSpring is sprung! 20:15, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
Also interesting. I'm a heterosexual guy. I have vague ideas, looking at guys, if they're good-looking or not; what I can't tell (unless I see women going gaga over a particular guy) is how sexy a man is. For example, watching the TV show Friends, to me the three guy characters, Joey, Chandler & Ross were equally attractive; but apparently women find the Joey character the most sexy of the three. Why? I don't know. But when I see women who I think are beautiful, it's inextricably linked with my desire to make love to them.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:22, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
I think that a lot about what we find attractive in the opposite (or same) sex is acquired within early childhood, as with a lot of other elements of our personality & psychological make-up. Freud was definitely onto something with this idea, but took it a little too far in suggesting that we actually subconsciously want to fuck our own mothers. You don't need to accept that dubious conclusion to acknowledge that maybe your ideals of femininity have a lot to do with the traits of family members &/or other women you were around during your formative years. €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:35, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
But why do we find objects beautiful? there can't be any evolutionary advantage (unless you end up marrying an art critic). Why are there "beautiful" buildings, animals, flowers... autumn leaves? Totnesmartin (talk) 20:57, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
Good question. I have no clue.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:22, 9 September 2010 (UTC)
I would speculate that it came about as a side-effect of other traits with an advantage evolving, and stayed, since it didn't have any disadvantages. Mindless educated Hoover! 21:53, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

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So what you're saying is: men (by evolution) learned to judge female beauty and this was evolutionarily beneficial. But to get this skill, men also learned to see beauty in things like vases or sunsets. This wasn't strictly beneficial but it wasn't harmful. So it kind of stayed as a side-effect. Is that what you're saying? Kind of like -- men evolving nipples even though we don't need them.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 23:22, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

Is this forum all about why is Pamela Anderson prettier than Brad Pitt? Sounds dangerously heterosexual! You're not enough progressive and ethical! --Idiot number 58 (talk) 09:31, 10 September 2010 (UTC)
Well, I'm not going to give specific examples, because I have no evidence whatsoever. But one of the reasons for useless traits is often that it was a side-effect of a useful trait, and there wasn't enough selection pressure to remove it. Mindless educated Hoover! 13:09, 10 September 2010 (UTC)
I think the forum is about beauty. I'm wondering do male homosexuals think of Brad Pitt as more beautiful than Pamela Anderson? Or is the beauty quotient the same but that only male homosexuals are aroused by Brad Pitt? Wondering.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 18:07, 10 September 2010 (UTC)
There is no beauty quotient. What we find sexually arousing & what we find aesthetically beautiful are not the same thing, though there is a rather obvious overlap in ideals of sexual beauty. €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:03, 10 September 2010 (UTC)
Is Pamela Anderson really the best example?--BobSpring is sprung! 20:29, 10 September 2010 (UTC)
Better examples: Jessica Alba. Also not so sure about things that arouse us being different from things we think are beautiful, but I think there's overlap. Or maybe what's arousing is a subset of what's beautiful; so if I'm attracted to the shape of something, that's one thing; but within the set of things I'm attracted to, it's a woman, then there's overlap between the beauty stuff and the attractiveness stuff. No, this makes no sense. I'm totally frigging clueless.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:12, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
The variations in what people consider to be "beautiful" are so wide that the probability of our being able to understand it in any objective way is very low. For example, I am thoroughly disgusted by the so-called "people" of Hollywood, who as we see them are more face paint and digital brush strokes than organic matter; I prefer such figures as Frigg and Germania. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:31, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the exaggeration of normally "beautiful" features is so overdone that it becomes ridiculous and unattractive. Like that line from LA Story: "There's something weird about your breasts" "yes, they're real."
Definitely something early and appealing like a Norse goddess named FRIGG. Ooooh. But I bet if there really was a human from that time, she'd be short, have bad hair and teeth, and probably wouldn't have had to worry about being a victim of Marital rape. That is, if marriage had been invented back then. Too much makeup is unappealing. But too little makes a face look washed out, so I like a balance. And the whole idea of breast implants is unsettling to me.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 12:37, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
Actually Disney has a pretty good idea about how to make (cartoon) girls look pretty. Big eyes, small nose, regular features, small chin, young, slim, healthy. The reverse - small eyes, big irregular nose, large chin, old, infirm - gives you your typical ugly witch.--BobSpring is sprung! 12:57, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
I've never found a Disney character attractive in that way (except Mrs incredible, who's a bit of a milf). Wilma Flinstone, though... Totnesmartin (talk) 13:05, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
Definitely agree about cute Disney cartoon characters. This is an interesting angle to think about the whole beauty thing, because it's drawings but in animated stories. Cutest Disney characters: Belle in Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid. Wasn't too fond of Jasmine in Aladdin. Come to think of it, many of the female leading-lady cartoon characters seem to be rather alike. Wilma Flintstone = fox, but Betty Rubble had more of the oomph factor.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 00:51, 12 September 2010 (UTC)
Oh, I'd go with Betty...but I'd be thinking of Wilma. Totnesmartin (talk) 08:17, 12 September 2010 (UTC)
It's also interesting that most of the typical "Disney beauty" characteristics are child-like. (Big eyes, small nose etc.) Big eyes are child-like because eye size doesn't change very much as you grow older so children (and for that matter all young mammals) have relatively big eyes in relation to face size. Noses, on the other hand, continue to grow even in adults. Hence children = big eyes and small noses. Exactly what conclusions one could draw from this I'm not sure.--BobSpring is sprung! 11:31, 12 September 2010 (UTC)
Very interesting about child-like facial features and beauty. Cool observations about changing proportions. Impressed. Yes I wonder too what it means, conclusion-wise.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 00:21, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
that's wp:Neoteny, and it's a powerful trigger in the protective instincts of many animals. It's a different thing from the attractiveness of adults, which is more sexual. Totnesmartin (talk) 09:43, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm not so sure that it is neoteny as it is not present in the whole species. But if you're going down that sort of route than I'd go for sexual selection of such characteristics. While we are on the subject, I've always suspected that sexual selection is the reason for the existence of large human female breasts. No other female ape needs them to be that big all the time. (I accept there is great variation in human females in this case, and also great variation in male reaction.)--BobSpring is sprung! 10:21, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I read somewhere - can anyone confirm - that humans relatively large penis size compared with the other apes is sexually selected. Jack Hughes (talk) 10:30, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
There's data about relative penis size in different animals [1], and I suppose everything in nature is sexually selected. Humans beat out apes, but we lag behind the African bull elephant. Zebras have huge schlongs too.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:53, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Actually no, sexual selection is not the main driver of evolution. If that's want you meant to say. Sexual selection frequently drives counter-productive traits like peacocks' tails. Natural selection by itself would not produce these things.--BobSpring is sprung! 08:50, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
It's been a while since I studied biology. Not clear what the difference is between sexual selection and natural selection -- aren't they basically the same thing (producing the same result?). I assume natural selection means nature killing off unfit creatures before they reproduce. And sexual selection means Jessica Alba choosing me over, say, Brad Pitt. But a big part of a sexual choice is an estimate of fitness so isn't there a lot of overlap? --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:09, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

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What I think is true is that the ability to determine beauty (and become aroused) -- within seconds -- by seeing another human -- is a complex mental act but it's vital for evolution, procreation. Whenever we see someone we're attracted to, whether we're gay or straight, male or female, and know almost instantly that we're hot for them -- this is an amazing capability that humans have which is supremely complex and it will be really cool when scientists figure out how this happens. Also definitely think Germania (above) is hot -- something about women with swords. Most seductive film moment for me (or one of them) was: in Purple Rain when Prince was on the motorcycle, and Apollonia tried to reach her leg over and get on it, and Prince nudged the motorcycle forward so Apollonia was straddling the air (unable to get on the motorcycle) -- great movie moment.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 22:03, 16 September 2010 (UTC)