The Human Animal: The Biology of Love

David and Victoria Beckham are the epitome of beauty, masculinity and femininity in Western culture

David and Victoria Beckham are the epitome of what are considered beautiful, masculine and feminine in Western cultures. 

Is what is considered ‘attractive’ and ‘sexy’ the same for all humans and cultures? Does gender vary culture to culture? 

Again it’s clear that biological tendencies in finding a mate and an unconscious desire to continue the human species have a deep role in what humans find attractive. Natural and artificially enhanced physical properties all mimic other body parts applicable to that gender. For example, the female lips redden during sexual arousal, mimic the shape of her vagina and can be visually enhanced through the use of lipstick, a cultural custom. It made me realise how almost every visual custom can be proved to have a deep-seated biological core! When it comes to the bases of sexual attraction, we maybe animals but we can be very sophisticated animals it seems. We have a conscious perception of what is beautiful as well as a biological one and use all visual aids and gestures possible to make us attractive. However, one cultures idea of beauty can differ greatly from another.

Morris now evidences how ‘attractive’ and ‘normal’ masculine and feminine identities can vary across cultures and appear odd to foreign eyes. In Western culture a slender figure for a female is most attractive and a moderately muscular frame is preferable for males. With this notion in my mind I sought out all those celebrities and public bodies who are considered ‘attractive’ in our modern culture. And this point appears true. All the females are slender, youthful and healthy looking, the males more muscular and rugged. It seems the whole notion of bigger means better and men as the protector and women as the protected come into play. Thus, influencing our ideas of what is attractive. Males should be big and protective, females slender and vulnerable.

Whereas in Western culture a big, masculine body is considered attractive, among the Mesaa in East Africa an incredibly slim figure is seen as the epitome of masculine beauty. These ‘beautiful’ effeminate bodies appear more graceful and female.

This contrasts strikingly to the much heavier bodies, which spell out beauty in many of the islands in the south pacific where it applies to both males and females. Both males and females if large and bulky are considerably attractive and ‘beautiful’. Again this breaks western ideas of females having to be more slender to be ‘beautiful’. Overall, it’s become quite clear that what is considered beautiful, male and female attractive properties varies across cultures significantly and thus impacts certain beauty standards.

As we look across the globe and into different cultures beauty standards and what it means to be an attractive male or female differ. They visual properties and differences are often too subtle to be appreciated by outsiders but can be of enormous importance within the societies concerned. For instance, among the Toda of southern India female hairiness is especially appealing to men, even to the extent of having heavy female eyebrows.  Although, beauty standards do vary around the world there are a few universals that apply to the whole human species.

Morris begins to destruct the human body of males and females to show that biological properties are shared across the species, regardless of culture. The outline of the male human body for instance is a triangular shape, broad shoulders and a narrow waist to give the impression of strength and power, which is attractive to females. A strong compact buttock is also desired in a male, perhaps because it signifies it’s thrusting power for mating. In fact male muscularity in general is appealing. It denotes health, vigor and strength. For females this shows that the males will protect her and her potential offspring as well as being sexually active. However, there is a very fine line between having muscles and being muscle bound. An over cultivated physic can denote vanity which isn’t attractive for females. By contrast a chubby body lacks the key signals, such as health and vigor.

Youthfulness is another signal, which has universal sex appeal. Sex drive and fertility are at their highest levels among young adults. The male sex drive peaks at 18 years old and for female fertility its 22 years old. When a survey for sexual appeal was made in 190 different societies across the world, it was discovered that the most important feature common to all cultures was a healthy and clear unblemished skin.

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