Why Aren't Men the Ones Primping?


| 5 Comments

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It's fairly common knowledge that in numerous species, the male is more attractive than the female. The most obvious example, of course, being the peacock. While the male has the gorgeous, brightly colored tail, the peahen, like the majority of its fellow female birds, is unremarkable - even dull. Likewise, other animals like lions and even deer also have the advantage over their female counterparts, so why is it the opposite for homo sapiens?

The accepted theory is that since sperm is more readily available than eggs, there is greater competition between males therefore they are equipped with natural 'tools' to give them an edge over the average male. So why then, are human males so often so unremarkable, while women are find themselves having to live up to idealistic notions of beauty? 

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Well in the animal world, since monogamy isn't exactly the norm, having the male be attractive increases his chance of copulation which in turn increases his chance of paternity - and since the aim of the game is to procreate, this gives the male an edge in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, the less attractive males are naturally foregone in favor of their more attractive counterparts and are therefore much less likely to father children. 

However, humans don't work purely pragmatically - attractiveness and strength aren't the only factors females take into account when choosing a mate. We can think, and that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, despite that, the facts remain the same: eggs are still less easily available than sperm, so why are women the ones primping? It's here that things get complicated, but I find these to be the most logical explanations:

  1. Human monogamy and postcoital interaction: unlike the animal world, it is socially unacceptable for human males to not take an active part in the pregnancy and child rearing stages. Therefore, men cannot just mate with a woman and then wander elsewhere in search of more women to impregnate. 
  2. Social and cultural factors: Since humans have the advantage of having their own minds, in addition to their natural instincts, it therefore stands to reason that it is a combination of the two that leads to them finding their mates. While they have their instinctual desires, society also dictates that they find a mate who is compatible to their ideals and way of thinking.
  3. Patriarchal society: Ultimately it seems that both males and females started off looking for obviously beneficial traits such as health and attractiveness (strength, good skin/hair/teeth, good bone structure for child bearing, etc.) and slowly added on things like personality, beliefs and other cultural aspects. So where did we lose our equality? Unfortunately somewhere along the way, society started giving all the power to men, making female their lesser counterparts causing them to have to fight for their standing in society. So while men found themselves in control of the money and power, women were relegated to being homemakers and trophy wives; and therefore - men would naturally have the power to choose and reject.

So in conclusion I would have to say that while a variety of natural and societal factors influence the equality in the mating process it seems clear that society has caused the shift in power between males and females.

5 Comments

I appreciate your thought process on comparing our society to the animal kingdom when it comes to what makes us attracted to the potential mate. However I did not really see any strong evidence or study that was done to prove you theories; I found an empirical article on a study. The study gathers marry couples and puts them through tasks and later gives them a questionnaire based on what factors attracted them the most to their mate. Do you think as society changes or progresses we will change our view of what we find attractive based on our needs in that period of time? So does the era of the generation have an impact on which type of person we are attracted to?

http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP06134146.pdf

This article may have been true for the past few centuries but today in European culture, we are seeing an abundance of metrosexual males. These are heterosexual males with an eye for fashion and grooming. This trend is spreading to the United States and many males have taken a more modest approach to it. In 2013 men grooming products boosted 24% in development in the United States. This is a rather drastic change. Males are beginning to compete as well for attention with the use of grooming products and fashion. I found this article to explain the details of new peacock-like male tendencies.

Hi Cara,

Your blog is quite interesting! This is a topic that I have always wondered about. It seems wherever I look, male animals are so much more attractive than females. My dad used to point out the male versus female seagulls at the beach to me when I was little and it always confused me. Aren't the females supposed to look pretty and attractive!? Unfortunately, this is how our society thinks, that women should always dress up and make themselves more attractive in order to attract men. Why can't it be the other way around? I have asked myself this many times. Your blog did shed some light on the topic, about how humans are monogamous and animals aren't. The fact that sperm is more readily available than eggs makes it more competitive for males. In human society, we don't think about these things. However, I still believe that it should be an equal amount of attraction on both the male and female parts. Here is a cool article from Washington State University! http://public.wsu.edu/~taflinge/socsex.html

Even though, as Timothy said, there is more of a metrosexual trend happening, I still think that the amount of pressure to be "beautiful" falls more heavily than women than men, and if I had to make a prediction, I would say that it is because animals are not naturally monogamous. In our society today, it is beneficial to a woman to have a male partner and a monogamous relationship. Maybe she maintains her beauty to attract her male partner but also to keep him around as well. We are just making predictions though. Or, this could not really have to do with males at all. The pressure for a woman to maintain her beauty could stem from her competition with other women to get a mate. Either way, we don't have any studies to prove anything yet. A post from MarieClaire magazine talks about the pressure to be beautiful here: http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/men/beauty-pressure

Callie, I really liked your viewpoint, especially since I hadn't really considered that when I was writing this article. And while I understand Timothy's point, I agree that the pressure to be beautiful does fall more heavily on women than men.
And while it may be true that animals in general are not monogamous (with only about 5% of mammals actually being monogamous) humans are unique from in a number of ways, the most important of which are: we can think, and the fathers actually are a part of the child rearing process. So while I agree that our debatably polygamous instincts might cause men to philander, I also think that monogamy would be the reason for them to actually not look to 'spread their seed' as it were, elsewhere - since that is the reason for the polygamous nature of other animals, they are unsure of paternity. So wouldn't monogamy rid them of the need?

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