The Human Animal: The Biology of Love

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These fashion models reinforce what is a ‘normal’ and ‘attractive’ masculine and feminine identity. The male is strong, large and rugged whilst the female is soft and sexually aroused.

What is sexy?

Morris offers scientific explanations and theories behind the typical elements males and females find attractive in a mate, referring only to heterosexual desire towards the opposite sex of course. Coming from a biological and scientific perspective of course male and female are meant to be together in order to reproduce and create offspring, thus the species continues. Throughout the animal kingdom males are attracted to females who transmit signals of health and fertility, which are directly linked to child bearing and child rearing. The same applies to human males. Whilst at first glance, having a child is probably the last thing on the male’s mind it still influences his feelings towards a female. The same applies to human females. In females their ancient impulses encourage them to seek out signs of masculine power and strength, indications of protectiveness. Whilst health and vigor are important displays for both sexes many human sexual signals are specific to one gender or the other.

Here Morris demonstrates the stereotypical elements of feminine and masculine identities and bodies. However, coming from a biological background and perspective, can I even say they are stereotypical or are these really just simple scientific facts taken from observation and biological factors? To look at males and females there are clearly physical differences in shape, posture, and behaviour and of course genitalia. Females have rounded petite figures, curves and narrow waists. Their smooth skin and high pitch voices denote juvenile qualities making males feel protective of them.  Males have broad shoulders, thick necks, facial and bodily hair, deep voices and muscular bodies, which offers a strong visual contrast that says, “I’m the protector”.

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Females dressed in suits can give the impression of power and strength, which has become a culturally accepted ‘norm’ in Western cultures.

Such gender signals are accentuated through clothing such as shoulder pads or padding in suit jackets, rugby costumes and army wear, all of which, exaggerate that male image of protector, as well as heighten their masculine identity which will inevitably attract the opposing and more softer sex. However, females may also want to express more overtly these masculine attributes of power and strength. For example, a businesswoman may choose to wear a suit jacket with padded soldiers or mimic that broad torso look normally considered as a more masculine feature so she too can denote an image of strength and power.

This example evidences quite clearly that masculine attributes and properties are seen to have positive connotations and effects in Western society. When a female dresses in trousers or has evident padded shoulders she’s viewed and expects to be viewed as powerful. However, if a male were to dress in a glamorous evening gown, the connotations would be far from positive. This is due to our unconscious automatically viewing females as softer and weaker and men as strong and powerful. And so a man dressed as a woman, would suggest he’s a bit of a sissy or feminine. I wonder could a male in a dress ever become as ‘normal’ as a female in trousers?

In the next part we see two males editing an image of a female model in order to make her more attractive. Manipulating and accentuating what it is that makes a female sexy and attractive. The changes they make to the image all link to the effects sexual arousal has on the physical properties of a female. They edit the eyes first, dilating the pupils, changing the colour of the iris’s to green and whitening the whites of the eyes. This is so the pupil dilation and eyes overall appear more striking. Dilated pupils are a natural outcome of sexual arousal, thus making the female model look all the more appealing. Next they remove any wrinkles or creases from the mouth and skin. Again this is to evoke an image of youth and health, both of which are connected to fertility and sexuality. They than artificially enhance the colour of the lips and skin. For the lips they choose a reddish colour. This imitates the change of colour that occurs during sexual arousal. For the skin, the tone becomes richer more tanned again linking to ideas of health and sexual glow.

In the next image they edit a female model’s legs, lengthening them by 20%. Exaggerated leg length is an important sexual signal especially in females. This is because the legs grow longer in relation to the rest of the body as puberty approaches. So super long legs means super adultness and super sexuality. However, we don’t live in the land of photo editing so how do humans make themselves attractive for the opposite sex?

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