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Darwinism

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Aug. 27th, 2003 | 12:33 am

I managed to get the lesbian chat group to talk about "Does beauty matter?" in reference to my new book.

In the conversation I mentioned the research that's found that men are more likely to focus on appearance and tend not to be as concerned with psychological compatibility. Whereas women tend to want someone who is both sufficiently attractive and compatible.

As much as I want to believe that people are free from instinctual tendencies a Darwinism explanation makes perfect sense. Women would tend to be looking for potential mates who will stick around for childrearing. Men only need the woman to be healthy, as he can always just try to get a different woman pregnant if she's psychologically incompatible.

I wonder if true equality will only happen after we start to bioengineer our species and can remove some of these holdovers from human prehistory.

Also I had this amusing thought about how the modern lesbian relationship is a better strategy for reproduction than the traditional heterosexual one. The woman who wants to have a child gets a partner who is more likely to be oriented toward long term emotional stability, and she gets to peruse a sperm bank for the best genetics without having to worry if the guy is emotionally available.

I need to include the disclaimer that this social science research only discusses general trends, any particular individual can violate these probabilistic descriptions.

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Comments {17}

(no subject)

from: ohnerustung
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 10:42 am (UTC)
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Why would you want to bioengineer out the good things?

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 11:01 am (UTC)
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Because they're not good to me. Some of the conflict in hetero relationships may stem from this difference in expectations of how to have relationships.

Another solution is to imagine that everyone lives in homosexual relationships, with reproduction handled through sperm banks.

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Dieppe

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from: dieppe
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 11:03 am (UTC)
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Obviously any research on "attraction" is subject to our culture and other issues that are difficult to separate from the subjects being studying.

For example, in places of the world where stretched out earlobes or necks with stacks of brass rings are considered "attractive"...

But I have to disagree with one thing here. Saying that women are somehow magically "free" of being attracted to someone as either a potential mate completely free of seeking a mate only on physical attractiveness---is complete bullshit.

Women aren't any more special than men or more highly evolved... They look at men purely on good looks alone as much as men look at women on just pure good looks alone.

I just wouldn't go putting women on a pedestal quite yet, D.

Individuals may vary, and as a man, yes, I take into account more than just "good looks"... but as geeks I think we aren't the "norm." Go into society a little bit and you'll find very petty women and petty men who are seeking "weight height proportionate" people who are good looking and it doesn't matter what else they are.

For research, I highly suggest watching "Sex and the City" on HBO. Is it reality? I don't know, but it's a lot closer than just going off happily thinking that women would pick Me based on my attractiveness as a potential mate or the one who brings home the bacon. :/

People pick people starting with attraction. If you aren't "attractive" you just have to be something else special and that something else is usually either outgoing or some other thing that will catch someone's interest. :-P

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 11:10 am (UTC)
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Saying that women are somehow magically "free" of being attracted to someone as either a potential mate completely free of seeking a mate only on physical attractiveness

the research claimed that women valued appearance somewhat less than men, but it was still important to them. Additionally they were alsolikely to be influenced by additional social critera. I tend to interpret that as meaning that women are more picky than men, wanting both someone good looking and who has other socially desireable characteristics. The desireability of which are even more variable with respect to the society).

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Dieppe

(no subject)

from: dieppe
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 11:20 am (UTC)
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Yeah I know... but I don't believe it. Go to a club (as a male seeking a female, or a female seeking a female) and be not as pretty as others (good hair or teeth?), and see who are the people hooking up.

I just don't buy it. It's like that study that showed there aren't any bisexual men, but all women are bisexual.. flawed premise, flawed intrepretation of the results.

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 11:28 am (UTC)
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what would you predict for the male seeking female? (My observation of female seeking female, is that until they're really drunk, no one actually has the courage to hit on someone else).

The current social science research would suggest that people are more likely to be influenced by appearance in a club. Though it's also modified by how attractive the person making the first move is. If they think the other person is far better looking than themselves, they're more unlikely to do anything.

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her other side

(no subject)

from: saltbox
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 12:23 pm (UTC)
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See this as an alternative perspective to male and female approaches to sexuality: "[A] new study shows that some reported gender differences might show up because women don’t always answer surveys honestly, but give answers they believe are expected of them."

What this study suggests is that some of the other research (such as those that you've been citing) conducted on males/females and what they seek in relationships may be flawed with respect to certain systematic reporting errors. That is, if females feel as if they are expected by society to be place a higher value on psychological compatibility, and *not* expected to base their attraction solely on physical appearances (because otherwise they would be regarded as "slutty" or "whorish" or what have you, which, you must admit, is at least occasionally seen in this culture), then what they put on research surveys may not be entirely reliable.

Even were the studies you cite not flawed in this manner, there is still the question of whether the trends are biological, or cultural. That is, are "men are more likely to focus on appearance and tend not to be as concerned with psychological compatibility" and do "women tend to want someone who is both sufficiently attractive and compatible" due to biological reasons, or cultural? If the latter, than "bioengineering" would have little effect.

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 12:43 pm (UTC)
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That was an interesting study, though it lends extra credence to to claim that appearance does matter. Also it reminds me of one quip that a social scientist made about the reason social science research is so much more fuzzy than physics is that it's a much harder problem than physics.

(A mass don't try to lie for instance)

The support that some portion of this is biological is the infant gaze studies. Though I did wonder how the study was being done. If the research was holding the picture of the "prettier" person, they could've provided some influence on the infant. (I left the book at home so can't grab the reference right now).

Though the biological component can probably be limited to simple things that indicate physical health and perhaps for women physical cues that indicate likelihood of surviving childbirth.

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her other side

(no subject)

from: saltbox
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 01:07 pm (UTC)
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That was an interesting study, though it lends extra credence to to claim that appearance does matter.

True, the study I cited wasn't about appearance per se. But its findings about how males and females answer surveys differently seems similarly applicable to gender-based preferences in re: physical/emotional attraction. Which is why I take a lot of studies purporting to find "innate" differences between males and females with a grain of salt.

Infant gaze studies I am skeptical of for different reasons: having worked on infant gaze studies myself (in re: early childhood vision), (1) if you check up on the way most of these studies are performed, it's actually very difficult to tell which way the infants are gazing, so there's a lot of experimental "noise" in these studies, (2) I've noticed that a lot of the social science researchers try to extrapolate patterns from infants at very young ages. The problem is that at these very young ages, vision development often isn't very complete---i.e., all babies see is a blur. So what some people interpret as a response towards "prettiness" may in fact just happen to be a response towards "anything the baby can process. period." Which in turn may entail less than the social scientists want.

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her other side

(no subject)

from: saltbox
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 01:11 pm (UTC)
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Also, I wasn't trying to cite this as a study saying that appearances don't matter. Rather, that appearances might matter to a more similar degree (with regards to males and females) than you were suggesting in your original post.

Not that that is a cheery thought to you, given the tone of your posts lately. But get this: YOU'RE NOT UNATTRACTIVE.

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 03:35 pm (UTC)
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The odd thing is some of this research makes it easier for me to believe that I'm not unattractive. By making some of it objective, I have a better chance of discounting my subjective beliefs.

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her other side

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from: saltbox
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 03:49 pm (UTC)
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The odd thing is some of this research makes it easier for me to believe that I'm not unattractive.

That's good, because YOU'RE NOT UNATTRACTIVE. ;)

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 03:33 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, perhaps it could be that what american adults consider prettier may just be visually simpler...

Some of this work on beauty does feed some of my own observations. I'm predisposed to believe the comments about how being considered more attractive does have some impact on how a person is treated.

The gender difference stuff I too have trouble accepting as well. My bias is toward no one visable characteristic can actually predict if someone should be classified "male" or "female". The classifications we learn are derived from likelihoods of multiple characteristics.

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her other side

(no subject)

from: saltbox
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 03:54 pm (UTC)
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I'm predisposed to believe the comments about how being considered more attractive does have some impact on how a person is treated.

I agree, I just happen to think there are fewer universalities in regards to what constitutes attractiveness than you think. And hey, what really matters (at least with respect to relationships, which seems to be the primary concern with your recent posts) isn't whether the "average American" considers you attractive, but whether the people whom you consider attractive consider you attractive, right?

The classifications we learn are derived from likelihoods of multiple characteristics.

Yeah, and I tend to think (hope?) that with the relaxation of social norms, there will be, over time, more and more varied clusters of characteristics.

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Aug. 28th, 2003 10:11 am (UTC)
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what really matter isn't whether the "average American" considers you attractive, but whether the people whom you consider attractive consider you attractive, right?

that's a really good point. I've listened to several people talk about how they chose to project a particular image to have a better chance of attracting people they find attractive.

What I seem to be most frequently attracted to is somewhat soft natural-looking femmes. As for what would make me seem more attractive to them, I'm hoping that looking like I take care of my body is enough.

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her other side

(no subject)

from: saltbox
date: Aug. 28th, 2003 10:14 am (UTC)
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What I seem to be most frequently attracted to is somewhat soft natural-looking femmes. As for what would make me seem more attractive to them, I'm hoping that looking like I take care of my body is enough.

Makes sense to me! :)

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(no subject)

from: musicwomyn
date: Aug. 27th, 2003 11:29 am (UTC)
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now, maybe I am reading too much into you latest posts, and maybe it's just the psychologist in me, but I am hearing (gotta love the psych phrasing) an underlying "I am ugly and no one will ever love me" in your posts. This new reading on attractiveness and love, etc. seems like you have already determined you are ugly and are now trying to find out if anyone can love you being that you are ugly.

You are not ugly! This is going to take some effort on your part. You need to start looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing that you are attractive. If you had some strange illness that disfigured your face and body, then maybe I could understand your concern. You are attractive, healthy, and intelligent. Go with that.

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