March 3, 2014

The Economist
25 St. James Street
London SW1A 1HG

concerning Shape Shifting ECONOMIST vol. 414 no. 8927 February 28, 2015 page 75 reviewing David Bainbridge, Curvology: The Origins and Power of Female Body Shape, Granta

Splendid review.  However the reasons for female curves offered would seem to apply to any animal and yet, at present, the curves are unique to humans.  So far as getting queasy about feeling base animal lusts a few million years old I must mutter, “Wus.”  Let us consider some facts bearing on the whence and why of the curve.

The book Wonderful Life, includes an illustration of a chordate from the Burgess shale.  It has a shapely butt, which anatomy then vanishes from the record until the woman.  But it did not vanish altogether.  I have seen stingrays, turtles, and manatee give a creditable simulation of delirious joy in response to the attention of a woman.  Horses like women.  With birds and cockroaches men are treated about the same as woman.  Still and all, it would appear that the womanly curve is so deeply imbedded in the pre-reptile brain as to be incurable by selection.  Women have recreated the ultimate attraction lost these half billion years.

But why do women bother being attractive at all?  It is she who will bear the child, get it a decent start in life and then babysit the grandchildren.  Elsewhere among animals, the sex that’s doing all the work is not the pretty one.  Among humans the almost valueless male is repulsive and the young female not only mind destroying in her beauty but works constantly to make herself more so.  And they seem quite to like old men, the most repulsive and least fit of the lot.

The clue is in the story of Lot.  Get past the special effects and the plot is that a couple sisters decided that their father was the last straight male in town, took him into the countryside, got him spit-faced and had their way with him.  The reason woman are attractive is not to get the young men, who are ready to have sex with almost anything however biologically pointless, it’s to get the old men.  In a large and flourishing society, the big gene pool results in progressive loss of male development and overall a progressive then catastrophic fall in fertility.  It’s happening right under us now.  In order to save anything the fertile girls have to seduce the loathsome old geezers, who know that in fact women will reduce them to body servants and hardly care about sensory input anyway.  Yet they are sort of masculine time capsules, offering the viable sexual development of a couple generations gone by.  Of course to avoid the outbreeding trap that led to the disaster they should ideally be close kin.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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