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Filosofie en de waan van de dag

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Waarden en aantrekkelijkheid

Voorkant Pincott 'Do gentlemen really prefer blondes?' Jena PINCOTT
Do gentlemen really prefer blondes? - Bodies, behavior, and brains - The science behind sex, love, and attraction
New York: Delacorte Press, 2008; 180 blzn.
eISBN: 978 04 4033 8062

[Weer zo'n slecht vorm gegeven ebook, zonder paginanummers, index etc. Populaire journalistiek, Amerikaans, vrijwel alle onderzoek dat genoemd wordt is Amerikaans. Ze heeft een vrijwel uitsluitende voorkeur voor de evolutionaire biologie en psychologie in het verklaren van aantrekkingskracht tussen mannen en vrouwen. Het verhaal zit vol met standaard vooroordelen en waarden en normen over mannen en vrouwen. Geen enkel kritisch geluid. We kunnen er allemaal niets aan doen: het zit in de genen, het is ons instinct, etc etc.]

(9) Introduction

"There’s real science behind a lot of odd, under-the-radar things that happen in your love life, such as why you climax more often with some lovers than with others, why sex makes you feel sated, and why cuddling with a guy makes you a little more attached and trusting, even when you don’t want to be. There are reasons why men think you’re into them when you’re not; why people seem more attractive when you’re excited or when you gaze into their eyes; why going on the Pill could change your taste in men; why your sex drive may pick up in autumn; and why you get so crazy when you fall in love.

Of course, men also are egged on by urges and instincts. There are reasons why they have a different reaction to pornography than women do, why they get muddleheaded at the sight of beautiful babes, and why they get so amorous after you spend time away from them. You might also wonder why so many guys are enchanted by voluptuous breasts, hourglass figures, and long legs. And what’s the big deal with blond hair?(...)

One theme in this romp through the research is that everyone has an unconscious preference for certain traits, and much of what we desire is rooted in deep evolutionary biases. We evolved this way. Studying ancestral conditions and the mating behaviors of other animals, evolutionary biologists have an interesting take: whether or not you actually want kids, you have “parental investment” instincts that impact your sex life. It all boils down to the basic biological truth that in one year’s time, a woman could sleep with a googol of men but only have one full- term pregnancy, whereas a man could sleep with a googol of women and have googols of babies. To maximize their reproductive success, men are attracted to cues of fertility—youth and beauty —especially in short-term relationships. For women, it’s more complicated. Women have more at stake in the event of a pregnancy, so we’re choosier about our sex partners. Over the ages we developed biases for guys with signs of good genes (masculinity and social or physical dominance) and signs that they would be good dads (nurturers and providers), although we often make trade-offs depending upon our circumstances. While it’s a given that culture and personal experience affect the decisions we make in our love (and sex) lives, the hidden forces of urges and instincts influence us unexpectedly."(10)

(13) Chapter 1 - Face First

"While you’re walking down the street, you pass a person so drop-dead gorgeous that everyone —male, female, straight, gay, tourist, octogenarian, and infant—turns his or her head and says,“Oh!” What is it about that face? What magic do the beautiful have that most of us lack? Even poets struggle to find the words. Emily Dickinson simply said, “Beauty is not caused. It is.” Where poets rhapsodize, scientists analyze—neuroscientists, psychologists, and anthropologists have all taken a stab at deconstructing facial beauty. Overall, they’ve focused on three measures: averageness (how closely the size and shape of facial features match the average), symmetry (how closely the two sides of the face match), and sexual dimorphism (how feminine or masculine the face appears). We’re only talking about facial shape and features here, not age, expression, or complexion."(15-16)

"Infants as young as one day old, when exposed simultaneously to beautiful and unattractive faces, consistently gaze longer at the attractive faces. The neural mechanism that enables babies to distinguish beautiful from beautiless is unknown, but it is widely agreed that it exists."(17)

"Masculinity or femininity (sexual dimorphism) is the third measure of attractiveness. In men, the hormone testosterone is behind prominent jawlines and cheekbones, thicker brow ridges, larger noses, smaller eyes, thinner lips, facial hair, and a relatively long lower half of the face. Women are attracted to rugged, masculine faces because they signal strong immune systems and, potentially, high fertility and social status. Strikingly, women’s levels of the hormone estrogen influence how attracted they are to masculine faces. The higher a woman’s estrogen level, the more she is attracted to cues of masculinity. Estrogen is also behind the beauty of female faces. It plumps out women’s lips and skin and produces smaller and pointier chins, smaller noses, rounder cheekbones, eyebrows high above the eyes, and a bottom of the face that is narrower than the top half."(18)

"To a great extent, first impressions of people’s looks are less about choice and culture and cultivated tastes, and more about something deeper and universal. Judging attractiveness seems to happen just as automatically and matter-of-factly as judging identity, gender, age, and expression."(18)

"Your instincts might draw you to attractive faces within milliseconds of seeing them, but that doesn’t mean perceptions are fixed like butterflies under glass. Depending upon your personal experience with a person, beauty can turn ugly, and ugly can become beautiful."(19)

(24) - Chapter 2 - Following Your Nose

"We know that body odors are probable cues to good genes and genetic compatibility, and that women are much more sensitive than men to them. But here’s a fact that might astonish you: Not all men are senseless."(31)

"Sweat is not the only body odor that might betray your fertility status. Vaginal secretions contain copulins, which are fatty acids controlled by the level of estrogen in your body. They fluctuate with your cycle; you produce the most at the fertile midpoint. Several studies have found that copulins s mell their most pleasant in the several days before ovulation, suggesting you taste better “down there” at that time."(31)

"What has emerged from these studies is the theory that we subconsciously sniff out potential mates. It’s fascinating, yet questions remain. What are the biological reasons gays and straights have different body odors, and what drives our response to them? Does body odor trigger “gaydar,” the ability to detect who’s gay? Maybe. Instinct, as the s aying goes, is the nose of the mind."(33)

"Of the vast array of odors detectable to the human nose—somewhere between ten thousand and forty thousand—not one of them is a universal aphrodisiac. (Sorry, Calvin and Dior.) That’s not to say fragrances don’t have any effect—they just vary widely in their appeal."(36)

"According to Havlíček, the reason why meat-heavy diets make men stinky has to do with changes in the chemical composition of sweat. Meat contains a high number of aliphatic acids (components of animal fat). Somewhat unappealingly, the strong odor of heavy meat eaters is due to the bacteria that break down these fatty acids. Another possible reason for the stench may be ketosis, the breakdown of body fat, which happens when dieters cut back on carbohydrates and eat a lot of meat. Hormones consumed by or injected into farm animals could also have an effect on body odor, but how much is unknown. Women have more sensitive noses, but it’s likely, although untested, that men also have an aversion to meat-heavy odors on women. (Too much red meat reputedly has an adverse effect on oral sex, making sperm, and perhaps vaginal fluids, taste more acidic, while garlic and onions may leave a bitter taste in the mouth.)"(38)

(40) Chapter 3 - A Sound Choice

"The connection between men’s voices and fertility is the sex hormone testosterone. A deep voice is basically an advertisement of testosterone. At puberty, the hormone makes men’s vocal cords thicken, their larynxes descend, and their vocal tracts lengthen. When researchers at the University of Paris at Nanterre took vowel-sound voice samples of young men and played them to female judges, the women accurately guessed that the men with low frequency and small formants (deep and even voices) had higher testosterone levels than their higher-pitched peers. Testosterone also shapes men’s musculature and jawline, increases their sex drive, improves sperm quality, and makes for better athletes and hunters. Deep-voiced men may have had higher exposure to testosterone, which would translate into hunkiness, horniness, and, historically, an ability to procure resources, which means . . . well, you get the picture: more babies."(41)

"The hormone estrogen is behind the silky elasticity of high-pitched women’s voices, and is the reason men are drawn to them. High estrogen levels are linked to female fertility, and women with high levels of the sex hormone have higher conception rates than women with low levels. Estrogen levels dip right before you get your period and plummet more dramatically at menopause. Low estrogen levels result in loss of elasticity in vocal fold tissue, which makes your voice deeper and coarser, sometimes thin and strained and more difficult to control. You might not hear the difference in your voice when you get your period, but the fluctuation can be devastating for professional singers. A chanteuse I met said that, beginning in her early forties, she couldn’t hit the high notes the entire week around her period, and has started taking hormones to lessen her symptoms.

A high, sweet voice is but one of many high-estrogen qualities. A study at the State University of New York at Albany found that women whose voices were rated highest in attractiveness were more likely to have pretty faces, more symmetrical bodies, and hourglass figures. Intriguingly, the researchers also found that sexy female voices are a predictor of promiscuity. The more compelling a woman’s voice, the more sex partners she was likely to have (in and out of a relationship) and the more likely she was to have seduced men away from their girlfriends. High-pitched women: just call them Sirens."(42)

(47) Chapter 4 - The Racy Parts

"Our brains subconsciously process the sight of long, vibrant hair as a cue of youth and vitality. The length and quality of your hair may also reveal whether you’ve had a child. Hormonal changes in the aftermath of pregnancy may permanently affect a mother’s hair, making it shed copiously and turn sparser, darker, coarser, and more brittle—a reason why many new moms get haircuts. In a study of two hundred suburban American women, older ladies and married women with children had much shorter hair of significantly poorer quality, whereas single women without children had longer, more luxuriant tresses. Interestingly, women of all ages who reported health complications that prevented them from having children also had shorter, thinner, weaker hair. Similar results were found in a Hungarian study that compared the effects of various hairstyles (short, medium-length, long, disheveled, knot, bun, etc.) on health and attractiveness. Only the medium and long hairstyles had any positive effect on women’s perceived health and attractiveness.

Hair is also important to male attractiveness. While a hairless head is considered sexy on a few exceptional men, women generally don’t take a shine to bald guys. In a study at Barry University in Florida, judges of both genders associated balding guys with greater social maturity, wisdom, nurturance, and age—but not good looks. In fact, bald and balding men had negative sex appeal. Likewise, a Korean study with nearly two hundred judges of both genders found that “follicularly challenged” men were perceived as older, less attractive, and less potent than guys with full heads of hair. (I suspect this perception could change as trends inspire cute younger guys to shave their scalps. Many shave their entire head at the first sign of hair loss, believing that chicks prefer an egghead to a comb-over.)

Lastly, there may be a fringe benefit of hair: it broadcasts scent. Hair contains small amounts of fat, and fat absorbs odors easily, which is why your hair retains the scent of shampoo, cigarette smoke—and yourself. Pheromones may emanate from glands that lie at the base of hair follicles, and have an unconscious effect on others. Flirtatious women release their scent in the air by caressing, stroking, and twirling their locks, or whipping them around. Your partner will probably want to run his hands through your hair, and you’ll probably want to do the same to his. Hair may be long dead, but it does your love life good."(48)

"Modern men are attracted to blond hair for the same reason as their cavemen counterparts: it’s eye-catching. The human eye is attracted to light, bright colors, so blondes stand out more than brunettes and even redheads. As singer Deborah Harry of the group Blondie put it, “As a color it’s like walking around with your own spotlight.” Men can’t help but notice."(49)

[Tjonge jonge ...]

"Morever, Western media love blondes, which means that blond hair is implicitly associated with glamour and sex appeal. The blonde is perceived as feminine, sexy, carefree, seductive, and capable of having more fun. She’s Marilyn Monroe, Barbie, Paris Hilton, Scarlett Johansson, and also Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige. (Women of all races reach for the peroxide bottle today.) A study at Old Dominion University in Virginia found that the hair color of cover models for Ladies’ Home Journal, Vogue, and especially Playboy significantly exceeded the proportion of blondes in a random sample of Caucasian American women (which is about 68 percent brunette, 27 percent natural or dyed blond, and 5 percent redhead).

Given all this, do men really prefer blondes? The answer is yes, at least American guys do, according to a study that tracked more than twelve thousand men who used a popular Internet dating service in the United States. The gentlemen indicated a small but statistically significant preference for blondes to women with any other hair color."(49)

[Ja, natuurlijk ook AfroAmerikaanse mannen ... En Aziatische ... En zo verder. Wat een ontzettende onzin is dit toch. En dan die gelijkschakeling van blond zijn met geblondeerd zijn ... Ineens is het niet meer biologisch maar cultureel, goh.]

"One reason why long legs are so sexy is that they’re a cue of health and stable development. When disease, malnutrition, or genetic mutation disrupts growth, the legs are usually stunted in proportion to the trunk. A longer leg-to-torso ratio is linked with better health, including a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, low blood pressure, and even cancer."(52)

"From an evolutionary view, curves are desirable because they’re blatant cues of youth, health, and fertility. The hourglass figure is unique to a woman in her peak reproductive years, and often vanishes after her first baby. Wide hips are crucial because babies’ big heads require a lot of pelvic space. From kimonos to corsets, waist-cinching fashions are sexy because they make the hips and rear appear wide in contrast."(54)

"Harvard biological anthropologist Grazyna Jasienska found direct evidence that the hourglass figure is related to fertility. (...) Intriguingly, there’s also evidence that men evolved to prefer women with a low WHR because curves mean smarter kids."(54)

"Don’t fret if you don’t have Marilyn Monroe’s perfect .7 figure. You can dress to make it seem as if you do. If your hips and waist are about the same, wear shirts, blazers, and dresses that are tailored on top but that flare out at the waist, to give the illusion of wider hips. If your waist is larger than your hips, reduce your waistline by wearing vertical stripes, blazers, and V-neck shirts, which accentuate the top and deemphasize your bottom half."(54)

"Large breasts may be a sign of increased fertility, which could help explain why so many men think bigger boobs are better. The fat that accumulates in your chest (as well as butt, thighs, and hips) does so under the influence of the hormone estrogen, which also affects your ability to conceive."(55)

"Big chests are part of a suite of sexy feminine features associated with health and higher estrogen levels, including a low WHR, rounder facial features with a smaller chin, and a higher pitched voice. Environmental factors also influence breast size. In China, the average cup size has increased by nearly an inch in a decade, with more Chinese women wearing B and C cups than ever before, while the average in America went from 34B to 36C. Fattier diets are the culprit. Yet when women say they wa nt to lose weight, they rarely mean the fat stored in their chests."(56)

[Idem, weer van biologie naar cultuur. ]

(64) Chapter 5 - His-and-Hers Hormones

(81) Chapter 6 - Signs and Signals

(95) Chapter 7 - Sex and Seduction

"Those have been the existing theories on why we masturbate, and not many scientists have bothered with new ones since figuring out it’s not the cause of blindness and hairy palms. Two exceptions are the British biologists Mark Bellis and Robin Baker. Contemplating the masturbatory habits of other animals, Bellis and Baker proposed an evolutionary explanation of why men masturbate so much—it gives them an edge in getting women pregnant. Yes, it’s true that guys who masturbate r egularly have less sperm in their ejaculate, which you might think would decrease the chances of conception. But fe wer sp erm can actually be a good thing. It turns out that the stuff has a “shelf life,” and masturbation flushes away old stock. A man who has recently masturbated before making love would ejaculate younger, zippier, more competitive sperm that are more likely to get a woman pregnant. They’d live longer in her vagina, which means they’d have more time to swim around in search of a ripening egg. They’d also be more fiercely competitive against rivals’ sperm in the event that the woman has more than one lover."(112)

[Dat niveau ...]

(115) Chapter 8 - The Dating Mind-set

(135) Chapter 9 - Love on the Brain

"“Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else,” said George Bernard Shaw, and the statistics back him. Ninety-five percent of us think our partners are above average in appearance, intelligence, warmth, and sense of humor. With so many exceptional lovers, it’s a wonder that any of us ever break up.

Commitment to a long-term relationship requires a conviction that your darling is better for you than anyone else, and such sureness requires a healthy dose of self-delusion. If you didn’t idealize him (and if he didn’t idealize you), there would be no ideal, and without an ideal the future seems bleak, doesn’t it? The more idealized your perception of your be loved, the more satisfied you probably are in your relationship."(138)

"Bear in mind that romantic idealization happens without deliberate self-deceptions. Your brain has brainwashed you. Using fMRI, neuroscientists have found that when people who are deeply in love think of their mates, regions of the brain involved in social judgment and negative emotions, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, are switched off. With the amygdala and prefrontal cortex silent, you may not objectively see your sweetie’s faults or distrust him. (This only applies to your partner; you remain perfectly capable of being critical of anything else you encounter. You might even be especially critical of those who criticize him.) At the same time, the “reward” areas of your brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, are switched on, encouraging you to keep the relationship going. And when you kiss and cuddle and make love, you’re hit with oxytocin, which calms and soothes your nervous system.

Bottom line: if you think your lover is the most amazing creature on earth, that’s fine and natural—and there’s no reason to care if others don’t see the same. And if he thinks the same of you (this part is crucial) , then he probably is the one for you. It’s like ly to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and isn’t that wonderful? There are very fe w things for which it’s okay to have idealized, self-deluded conviction. Let love be one of them."(138)

"Are people naturally monogamous?

Yes and no; it depends on how you look at it. As actor Kate Hudson delicately explained, “I don’t think monogamy is realistic. But I believe that we, as a people, have the power to make it happen.” Humans are among the 4 percent of mammals who have exclusive sexual relationships, which is one definition of monogamy. But the rule is inte rpreted loosely, as we all know. Most of us don’t stay with one partner for our entire lives. Instead, we practice “serial monogamy ” by having many sequential sexual relationships over a lifetime. We might flirt with and fantasize about others when in a monogamous relationship. Both sexes are known to have affairs. Even short-term monogamy isn’t for everyone.

Unconvinced that our species is monogamous? Then think of it this way: we ’re only mildly polygamous. Mildly, because when you compare us to other species we’re downright puritanical. Purely promiscuous mammals reveal at least one of two telltale signs in their anatomy. In species in which dominant males cultivate harems of females, there is a tremendous difference in body size between the sexes. The male gorilla, for example, needs to compete against other males for sexual access, so he’s up to twice the size of the female, which is certainly not true of humans. The second sign is scrotal size. In a species in which both males and females are promiscuous, males have larger testes. The bigger the testes, the more sperm is produced, and the better chance a fellow has of flooding out his c ompetitors. A typical swinging bonobo male, who has sex dozens of times a day with different partners, bears a scrotal sac as big as a grapefruit, whereas a human male carries a modest sac that varies between walnut-and orange-sized.

As our ancestors evolved over the last couple of million years, infants’ brains became bigger and their dependency on parents lasted longer. Females needed extra calories for pregnancy and lactation, and to help raise an infant. These pressures might have spurred a need for a dedicated mate (at least for a while). Concealed ovulation may help empower females with the right to choose and reta in partners. Some evolutionary biologists suggest that our remote ancestors Homo ergaster started to couple up (pair-bond) sometime after they emerged as a species, around 1.7 million years ago. The details and duration of these early human love affairs are unknown.

While mothers benefit from having a man around, the arrangement also benefits men. Although it’s often said that men spread their seed while women harvest it in one place, fatherhood may make men decide to plant a garden rather than a forest. By spending exclusive time with one woman, a man maximizes the chances that he’s the father of her children and that his support goes to raising kids who are biologically related to him. Children whose fathers helped raise them probably had a better chance at survival."(141)

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