Re: Breast Size (Was: Re: Homosexuality and genetic determinism)

Tim Benham (
Tue, 30 May 1995 11:58:02 GMT

Michael Andrew Turton ( wrote:
: In article <3q7g9h$>, Bryant <> wrote:
: He DID present a group selectionist argument. Male attraction to
: large breasts (if indeed it innately exists) came after they arrived on the
: evolutionary scene -- BIG BREASTS CAME FIRST.

I'm curious to know what evidence you have for this statement. Since
you refuse to admit a role for sexual selection at all, you need a
period of evolution when women's breasts got bigger and men's
preferences didn't change followed by one in which men's preferences
changed and women's breasts didn't. This seems very implausible, but I
may change my mind when I see your evidence.


: No, because all human females have relatively large breasts
: compared to other animals. Once those big breasts evolved, then perhaps
: men came to appreciate them.

"perhaps" now? You seemed QUITE CERTAIN in the previous paragraphs.


: Look, this large-breasts-advertises-fertility stuff has to be
: junked. It won't wash. Since mating and reproduction take place in
: the context of social negotiations and have historically not been the
: free choice of the individuals involved, breasts-for-men won't fly, especially
: since in many cases the female is promised to the male BEFORE sexual
: maturity!!!!!

Once again you overstrain to reach your conclusion: "in many cases"
doesn't prevent selection from occurring in the possibly "many" other
cases. Nor is your minimization of the degree of choice exercised by
the male compatible with the polygyny practised in many primitive
societies. In these societies a man may, if he is fortunate, have his
first marriage arranged for him (and there is no reason to suppose
that he is unable to influence the selection process: children whine
because it sometimes works). His father can scarely provide or control
his acquisition of second and subsequent wives. Also you ignore the
universal practise of adultery, an area where the parties rarely
consult friends, family or partners.

: Not only that, but in hunter-gatherer groups most everyone
: gets a mate

This is frequently untrue and also irrelevant. What matters is
differential reproduction, which is in no way excluded by "most [sic]
everyone gets a mate".

: and these decisions are made for a constellation of reasons,
: only some of which have to do with obvious markers supposedly signalling
: the female's ability to bear children. The answer has to lie somewhere
: in either human sociality or child-rearing advantages, not in evoking some
: kind of male response.

"Has to"? Nothing you have provided so far would lead anyone familiar
with the area to accept that it is impossible for sexual selection to
have operated in ancestral humans or near-humans. That would be a

: Mr. Karpiak's story has the advantage of placing the reason for
: large female breasts in a social context. Consider that menarche hits around
: 16 or 17 in hunter-gatherer societies. Soon the female is married off
: and begins to have children. No period of time passes when nubile and
: willing females have unrestricted access to males.

Where does "unrestricted access to males" come into it?


We're are dealing with the pre-historic period here. Modern societies
at that stage vary considerably in the degree of choice the young have
in choosing their mates. As noted previously there are in any society
other avenues through which choice can be exercised.

: This is a key problem
: for stories which invoke selection processes based on males freely "selecting"
: females. Because lactation is typically prolonged for
: two or three years per child as a birth control measure,

I'd be surprised to see evidence for this.

: for most of her
: adult reproductive lifetime she's got big breasts. These signal to men:
: stay away, I'm breastfeeding and can't reproduce now.

Apart from the fact that this implies contra-factually that men have a
distaste for large breasts, it is also seems to admit that large
breasts are sexual signaling device: a negative signal is still a
signal. So what is your position exactly? are the only sexual signals
women are allowed to evolve negative ones?

: Later, the woman is
: too old to appeal to the preference for younger women.
: It's past midnight and I've got crash. More tomorrow.

Note non-scientific newsgroups removed from followups.

People who like this sort of thing
will find this the sort of thing they like.
Tim J.Benham