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

Bryant (
28 May 1995 10:37:06 -0600

In article <3q90hs$>,
Michael Andrew Turton <> wrote:
>In article <3q7g9h$>, Bryant <> wrote:
>>Breast development accurately advertises hormonal profile, and hence,
>>fertility. Large breasts per se may be directly (and positively)
> It does? Are there studies out there which show this? Are they
>cross-culturally confirmed?

Let's clarify, here. I was making two points. First was the fact that
normal breast development (symmetry, etc.) accurately cues fertility.
That is documented, yes. I'm at home now, but will tomorrow (Monday) get
the references from my file and post them here. This first point doesn't
address relative breast size between developed women; it only addresses
whether or no (and how) breasts develop.

Second, I speculated that heavier women may have had larger breasts in
the remote past, and that they had a survival advantage over skinny
women (since the latter may have hookworm, etc.). That was pure
speculation, like the poster's before me. Except that I avoided the group
selectionist fallacy.
> Look, this large-breasts-advertises-fertility stuff has to be
>junked. It won't wash.

Would you care to look at the evidence first?!

Secondly, let's be careful not to confuse "large" as in species-typical
and "large" as in "that woman has larger than average breasts." Breast
development per se does advertise fertility, but larger and more fertile
probably do not have a linear, positive relationship. I've never seen
evidence to that effect, at least.

>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

As an anthropologist here so rightly pointed out to me once, marriage and
mating are quite different matters.

> Not only that, but in hunter-gatherer groups most 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.

Precisely; men attracted to cues of child-rearing (or making) advantages
in women will mate differentially with women who reliably make babies.

> 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. SEXUAL ACCESS TO UNMARRIED

Group selectionist hypotheses have the disadvantage of being utterly
unlikely evolutionarily, as simple game theory models show. Mr.
Wynne-Edwards famous examples of group selectionism have since been much
more parsimoniously explained by genetic self-interest.

Secondly, Your last two sentences are not the cultural universals you
suggest. By the way, 16 or 17 yrs old is as developed as most women will
ever be.

> This is a key problem
>for stories which invoke selection processes based on males freely "selecting"

I suspect that in the majority of cultures, female attractiveness is an
important variable in men's extramarital & premarital sexual choices.

>Mike Turton