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

Tim Benham (
Tue, 30 May 1995 06:48:08 GMT

Lemonhead ( wrote:
: On 27 May 1995, Herb Huston wrote:


: Why assume that just becuase men in modern Western culture find
: female breasts attractive that *all* men find breasts arousing?

I didn't see such an assumption and I don't believe Herb would make
such. Since the item,under discussion is the evolution of
'unnecessarily' large breasts, the relevant question isn't whether all
men find breasts arousing, but whether their preferences are such that
women with larger than average breasts are at a reproductive

: There is
: no evidence I am aware of that other cultures focus sexual attractiveness
: on the female breasts.

I don't agree: see, e.g., Ford & Beach, _Patterns Of Sexual Behaviour_.
They find that men in many cultures prefer large, rounded breasts but
that some prefer long, pendulous ones. I don't know whether there is any
evidence that these differences in preferences are reflected in differences
in the anatomy of the female populations in question.

: 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?

No - I'm not aware of anyone making the analogous claim with respect
to breasts.

: 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.

Your example is generally called "concealed ovulation" and is generally
considered to raise the sexual temperature because it obliges men to
attempt intercourse with women at all times instead of only during
oestrus. The second part of your sentence implies that evolution is
directed towards making groups nicer places to live, which isn't
at all likely.

: 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.

Well it doesn't seem to have worked very well does it?

: 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.

How would a gene which made its carrier unattractive to the opposite sex
succeed in overcoming its sexier alleles?

: 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.

I think you need to read a few books on evolution and natural selection.
See my previously posted list for some starters.

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