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

Lemonhead (
Sat, 27 May 1995 00:09:02 -0500

On 27 May 1995, Herb Huston wrote:

> Let's see what a famous zoologist has written on this topic:
> [stuff deleted]
> An examination of the anatomy of the breast reveals that most
> of its bulk is made up of fat tissue, while only a small part
> is glandular tissue concerned with milk production. The hemi-
> spherical shape of the breasts is not a parental development.
> It is concerned instead with sexual signalling. This means
> that suggestions that men's interest in women's breasts is
> 'infantile' or 'regressive' is unfounded. The male responding
> to the prominent breasts of a virgin or non-lactating female
> is reacting to a primeval sex signal of the human species.
> -- Desmond Morris, _Bodywatching: A Field Guide to the Human Species_,
> 1985, Crown, New York, pages 164-5.
Why assume that just becuase men in modern Western culture find
female breasts attractive that *all* men find breasts arousing? There is
no evidence I am aware of that other cultures focus sexual attractiveness
on the female breasts. I think out attraction has much much more to do
with culturally-based cues- we cover them up, so there is an air of
mystery about them. Nineteenth century men would have felt arousal at
the sight of a woman's knee- does that mean that the female knee evolved
becuasemen were attractted to big-kneed women?
If anything, I would think that the human female breast evolved
to *avoid* sexual attraction. There are certainly many such
adaptiontions (concealed estruation for example) that seemed to have
evolved in order to ease much of the sexual tension that must have been
present in early hominid bands.
Many animals find females that have just given birth and are
nursing to be unattractive, and they do not try to mate with them.
Perhaps the female breast evolved so that they constantly appear as if
they are nursing, and are therefore less attractive. Groups whose women
evolved such adaptation would enjoy much better cohesion and would be
much more successful.
I can see one arguement for this idea coming already--If the
women were so unattractive, no one would mate with them, and there would
never be any children. I'm not saying that large breasts made them 100%
unattractive, just less attractive enough to reduce the sexual tension in
the group. Looking at human history as far back as hunter-gatherers,
there doesn't seem to be too much of a problem *producing* children, but
the problem seems to be *keeping them alive*. Perhaps this greater
unattractiveness led to fewer children *born* but a greater *success
rate*. This would seem to be in line with the general trend in birth
rate from mammal to primate to ape, that is a greater investment in each
individual child. Also, becoming pregnant less often would lead to fewer
deaths during pregnancy for women-- the major cause of death for women
since the advent of the big brain until very recently.
I just thought of all this when I was reading the thread, so if I
am overlooking something, someone tell me.

Kevin Karpiak
University of Illinois
at Champiagn-Urbana
Student of Psychology
and Anthropology
Reach me at: