breasts, evolution, and sexuality

breasts, evolution, and sexuality

Pat
Pat

August 8th, 2004, 6:19 pm #1

The idea that sexual fascination with female breasts is solely a Western notion or a character defect of Western culture is not supported by evidence. Humans are the only primate with visibly enlarged female breasts in the absence of pregnancy and lactation. Desmond Morris wrote, “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 signaling. 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.]
The theories I've found in the scientific literature focus on sexual attraction as the key element of the evolution of prominent human female breasts. They relate to provisioning of females by males and the roles that prominent breasts and copulating ability throughout the monthly cycle play to help increase provisioning and reproductive success. I’ll put a few quotes and weblinks in a separate post for those who are interested.
Various contemporary cultures may put various emphasis on breasts, but sexual attractiveness of female breasts is probably true across all cultures. Human breasts are largely fat tissue, and that fat could be just as functional as an energy reserve in the hips or abdomen. There are certainly reasons for human breasts being much larger that those of other primates. The idea that most cultures find breasts to be no more attractive than elbows is not supported by any studies I could find. If anyone knows of such information, I’d like to hear about it. It seems sensible that we accept the sexuality of female breasts, just as we accept the attractiveness of the higher female voice or the absence of facial hair. Denying their sexual aspects will not help us to better understand their cultural ramifications.
Of course the simple fact of breasts being a main element of sexual attractiveness does not legitimize the exploitation or repression of female breasts. Breasts are exploited and made a fetish and/or repressed in many cultures, and Western nations are not the only culprits. Going topfree gets you a stiff fine in Illinois, China or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps future research studies will produce some insights that help us to not only better understand human breasts, but also better be able to give them their freedom.
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Pat
Pat

August 8th, 2004, 6:38 pm #2

For those with an interest:

Breasts: Their Evolutionary Origins as a Deceptive Signal of Need for Provisioning and Temporary Infertility
http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/images/breasts.htm [Presented at the August 1993 Binghamton meeting of the Human Evolution and Behavior Society]
VI. Conclusions
"Female breasts enlarge during pregnancy and lactation. Since it is during these periods that provisioning most benefits the child, males evolved to be more generous providers for females with breasts. Also, dominant males evolved to regard enlarged breasts as not sexually attractive. While this promoted their own reproductive success, it left such females free to be courted by non-dominant males. These males courted by provisioning, an act which also promoted their childrenTs well being. Thus, females with enlarged breasts were better provisioned. [para 53]
"For the two reasons given above, females with breasts were better provisioned. Thus, females with genes for preferentially depositing fat in their breasts left more descendants, causing such genes to be selected for. Thus, breast fat, by mimicking pregnancy and lactation, deceived males, (or non-dominant males at least) into providing better provisioning. [para 54]
"Males were selected to find breasts attractive because this led to greater female provisioning when it was most needed, and greater male success in forming durable pair-bonds. These survived until the female was again ovulating. Of course, once the male preference for women with breasts emerged, the usual sexual selection feedback mechanism took hold. Having breasts showed possession of genes for breasts. Such female's daughters would inherit valuable male attracting genes. In non-human primates where male provisioning is unimportant, breast fat deposits did not emerge because they would not motivate better provisioning."

http://brainmind.com/2EvolutionBreastsButtocksEtc.pdf
An ariticle on the mechanisms of evolution.

For some insights on why human males differ so much much from their other primate cousins:
http://www.evoyage.com/BillsEssays/HumanPenis.html


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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

August 8th, 2004, 7:27 pm #3

The idea that sexual fascination with female breasts is solely a Western notion or a character defect of Western culture is not supported by evidence. Humans are the only primate with visibly enlarged female breasts in the absence of pregnancy and lactation. Desmond Morris wrote, “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 signaling. 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.]
The theories I've found in the scientific literature focus on sexual attraction as the key element of the evolution of prominent human female breasts. They relate to provisioning of females by males and the roles that prominent breasts and copulating ability throughout the monthly cycle play to help increase provisioning and reproductive success. I’ll put a few quotes and weblinks in a separate post for those who are interested.
Various contemporary cultures may put various emphasis on breasts, but sexual attractiveness of female breasts is probably true across all cultures. Human breasts are largely fat tissue, and that fat could be just as functional as an energy reserve in the hips or abdomen. There are certainly reasons for human breasts being much larger that those of other primates. The idea that most cultures find breasts to be no more attractive than elbows is not supported by any studies I could find. If anyone knows of such information, I’d like to hear about it. It seems sensible that we accept the sexuality of female breasts, just as we accept the attractiveness of the higher female voice or the absence of facial hair. Denying their sexual aspects will not help us to better understand their cultural ramifications.
Of course the simple fact of breasts being a main element of sexual attractiveness does not legitimize the exploitation or repression of female breasts. Breasts are exploited and made a fetish and/or repressed in many cultures, and Western nations are not the only culprits. Going topfree gets you a stiff fine in Illinois, China or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps future research studies will produce some insights that help us to not only better understand human breasts, but also better be able to give them their freedom.
Morris also points out many ways civilized man has progressed beyond his primitive instinctual beginnings.

If primative man saw a female he liked he grabbed her and carried her home. (Cartoons even show him bonking her over the head with his club and dragging her by her hair- I hope it wasn't that primitive).

You mention countries where topfreedom is illegal, I can give you a list where it is- so what does that prove?
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Michelle
Michelle

August 8th, 2004, 8:07 pm #4

The idea that sexual fascination with female breasts is solely a Western notion or a character defect of Western culture is not supported by evidence. Humans are the only primate with visibly enlarged female breasts in the absence of pregnancy and lactation. Desmond Morris wrote, “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 signaling. 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.]
The theories I've found in the scientific literature focus on sexual attraction as the key element of the evolution of prominent human female breasts. They relate to provisioning of females by males and the roles that prominent breasts and copulating ability throughout the monthly cycle play to help increase provisioning and reproductive success. I’ll put a few quotes and weblinks in a separate post for those who are interested.
Various contemporary cultures may put various emphasis on breasts, but sexual attractiveness of female breasts is probably true across all cultures. Human breasts are largely fat tissue, and that fat could be just as functional as an energy reserve in the hips or abdomen. There are certainly reasons for human breasts being much larger that those of other primates. The idea that most cultures find breasts to be no more attractive than elbows is not supported by any studies I could find. If anyone knows of such information, I’d like to hear about it. It seems sensible that we accept the sexuality of female breasts, just as we accept the attractiveness of the higher female voice or the absence of facial hair. Denying their sexual aspects will not help us to better understand their cultural ramifications.
Of course the simple fact of breasts being a main element of sexual attractiveness does not legitimize the exploitation or repression of female breasts. Breasts are exploited and made a fetish and/or repressed in many cultures, and Western nations are not the only culprits. Going topfree gets you a stiff fine in Illinois, China or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps future research studies will produce some insights that help us to not only better understand human breasts, but also better be able to give them their freedom.
Much appreciated!
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Pat
Pat

August 9th, 2004, 6:55 am #5

Morris also points out many ways civilized man has progressed beyond his primitive instinctual beginnings.

If primative man saw a female he liked he grabbed her and carried her home. (Cartoons even show him bonking her over the head with his club and dragging her by her hair- I hope it wasn't that primitive).

You mention countries where topfreedom is illegal, I can give you a list where it is- so what does that prove?
That topfreedom is legal in only a few countries, and then typically in only limited circumstances, mostly shows that humankind has a long way to go. My specific point was that breast sexualization is not just a Western construct. Some people say that the sexualization of breasts is a Western point of view, but it is probably hardwired in our heredity. What we do with that sexualization is another matter. Just because something has a sexual component doesn't necessarily dictate negative outcomes. The wonderful things that happen on this forum are among the positive influences that will hopefully one day lead to further emancipation and freedom for both women and men.
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Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

August 9th, 2004, 11:34 am #6

The idea that sexual fascination with female breasts is solely a Western notion or a character defect of Western culture is not supported by evidence. Humans are the only primate with visibly enlarged female breasts in the absence of pregnancy and lactation. Desmond Morris wrote, “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 signaling. 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.]
The theories I've found in the scientific literature focus on sexual attraction as the key element of the evolution of prominent human female breasts. They relate to provisioning of females by males and the roles that prominent breasts and copulating ability throughout the monthly cycle play to help increase provisioning and reproductive success. I’ll put a few quotes and weblinks in a separate post for those who are interested.
Various contemporary cultures may put various emphasis on breasts, but sexual attractiveness of female breasts is probably true across all cultures. Human breasts are largely fat tissue, and that fat could be just as functional as an energy reserve in the hips or abdomen. There are certainly reasons for human breasts being much larger that those of other primates. The idea that most cultures find breasts to be no more attractive than elbows is not supported by any studies I could find. If anyone knows of such information, I’d like to hear about it. It seems sensible that we accept the sexuality of female breasts, just as we accept the attractiveness of the higher female voice or the absence of facial hair. Denying their sexual aspects will not help us to better understand their cultural ramifications.
Of course the simple fact of breasts being a main element of sexual attractiveness does not legitimize the exploitation or repression of female breasts. Breasts are exploited and made a fetish and/or repressed in many cultures, and Western nations are not the only culprits. Going topfree gets you a stiff fine in Illinois, China or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps future research studies will produce some insights that help us to not only better understand human breasts, but also better be able to give them their freedom.
I don't know about a fine in Saudi Arabia, more likely a bilateral mastectomy, by analogy with the penalty of cutting off the hands of thieves. Possibly being stoned to death too.

I recall this article, and there is obviously a lot written about the social psychology and anthropology of the breast.

I doubt any of it was ever read by our lawmakers or enforcers though.

However none of this changes the absurdity of the present situation in which these considerations are not particularly active.

And as a consequence, the argument that we would support, namely that the entire moral and social fabric of a country would not disintegrate if women stopped wearing bras!
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Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

August 9th, 2004, 12:27 pm #7

For those with an interest:

Breasts: Their Evolutionary Origins as a Deceptive Signal of Need for Provisioning and Temporary Infertility
http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/images/breasts.htm [Presented at the August 1993 Binghamton meeting of the Human Evolution and Behavior Society]
VI. Conclusions
"Female breasts enlarge during pregnancy and lactation. Since it is during these periods that provisioning most benefits the child, males evolved to be more generous providers for females with breasts. Also, dominant males evolved to regard enlarged breasts as not sexually attractive. While this promoted their own reproductive success, it left such females free to be courted by non-dominant males. These males courted by provisioning, an act which also promoted their childrenTs well being. Thus, females with enlarged breasts were better provisioned. [para 53]
"For the two reasons given above, females with breasts were better provisioned. Thus, females with genes for preferentially depositing fat in their breasts left more descendants, causing such genes to be selected for. Thus, breast fat, by mimicking pregnancy and lactation, deceived males, (or non-dominant males at least) into providing better provisioning. [para 54]
"Males were selected to find breasts attractive because this led to greater female provisioning when it was most needed, and greater male success in forming durable pair-bonds. These survived until the female was again ovulating. Of course, once the male preference for women with breasts emerged, the usual sexual selection feedback mechanism took hold. Having breasts showed possession of genes for breasts. Such female's daughters would inherit valuable male attracting genes. In non-human primates where male provisioning is unimportant, breast fat deposits did not emerge because they would not motivate better provisioning."

http://brainmind.com/2EvolutionBreastsButtocksEtc.pdf
An ariticle on the mechanisms of evolution.

For some insights on why human males differ so much much from their other primate cousins:
http://www.evoyage.com/BillsEssays/HumanPenis.html

Thanks Pat: a lot of information, but difficult to see where it takes us in the battle!

I think we have commented on those societies which the buttock is considered the primary erogenous zone before.

Since the manufacturers of swimwear appear to have put buttocks on the beach it is difficult to see why the breast would be an exception.
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Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

August 9th, 2004, 12:40 pm #8

That topfreedom is legal in only a few countries, and then typically in only limited circumstances, mostly shows that humankind has a long way to go. My specific point was that breast sexualization is not just a Western construct. Some people say that the sexualization of breasts is a Western point of view, but it is probably hardwired in our heredity. What we do with that sexualization is another matter. Just because something has a sexual component doesn't necessarily dictate negative outcomes. The wonderful things that happen on this forum are among the positive influences that will hopefully one day lead to further emancipation and freedom for both women and men.
I think it was Ann who raised the question of whether rather than trying to uncouple the breast and sexuality we should be asking what is wrong with sex, and why should the sight of a body part (ankle or breast) be so evil (demonised)?

As Nat likes to point out, Western Civilisation survived ankle liberation, so why should breast liberation automatically incite Armageddon or Sodom and Gomorrah?

Has it been proved that males allowed to see breasts would automatically launch themselves into a frenzy of debauchery.

A couple of dinner guests made an interesting observation last night, recounting their experiences on a beach in Spain.

The only fully covered individuals were Americans (ok it could have been a number of nationalities, I am not trying to make a nationality issue), and my friends overheard a man commenting on a top free young German girl "she is asking for it".

Since my friends were on the beach with all their family they took considerable exception to such speach and told them to get off the beach since they were the ones who had problems, and were "immoral" and not the other way round.

Since the beach was the furthest one, it was clear that it it was no accident that the Americans were there to make trouble.
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elijah
elijah

August 9th, 2004, 7:56 pm #9

"...we should be asking what is wrong with sex, and why should the sight of a body part (ankle or breast) be so evil (demonised)?"

i think that all female parts are sexually attractive to males. just some parts more than others; the breasts is probably more than ankles. society has to balance how sexual a body part is and whether to cover it with how oppresive and how unproductive it makes women to cover that body part. covering female breasts doesn't hinder a woman (at her job for example) as much as covering a woman's entire body (like in muslim countries). but then again, fanatical muslim countries don't want their women to work. another example is that men and women can show more skin at the beach than on the streets or office because to cover up too much at the beach lessens how much fun you can have. so it's understandable to have different rules in different cultures or situations.
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elijah
elijah

August 9th, 2004, 8:11 pm #10

The idea that sexual fascination with female breasts is solely a Western notion or a character defect of Western culture is not supported by evidence. Humans are the only primate with visibly enlarged female breasts in the absence of pregnancy and lactation. Desmond Morris wrote, “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 signaling. 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.]
The theories I've found in the scientific literature focus on sexual attraction as the key element of the evolution of prominent human female breasts. They relate to provisioning of females by males and the roles that prominent breasts and copulating ability throughout the monthly cycle play to help increase provisioning and reproductive success. I’ll put a few quotes and weblinks in a separate post for those who are interested.
Various contemporary cultures may put various emphasis on breasts, but sexual attractiveness of female breasts is probably true across all cultures. Human breasts are largely fat tissue, and that fat could be just as functional as an energy reserve in the hips or abdomen. There are certainly reasons for human breasts being much larger that those of other primates. The idea that most cultures find breasts to be no more attractive than elbows is not supported by any studies I could find. If anyone knows of such information, I’d like to hear about it. It seems sensible that we accept the sexuality of female breasts, just as we accept the attractiveness of the higher female voice or the absence of facial hair. Denying their sexual aspects will not help us to better understand their cultural ramifications.
Of course the simple fact of breasts being a main element of sexual attractiveness does not legitimize the exploitation or repression of female breasts. Breasts are exploited and made a fetish and/or repressed in many cultures, and Western nations are not the only culprits. Going topfree gets you a stiff fine in Illinois, China or Saudi Arabia. Perhaps future research studies will produce some insights that help us to not only better understand human breasts, but also better be able to give them their freedom.
this article says that nursing human female areolas release pheremones that reduce stress. it follows that it is the reason that babies are happy when they breastfeed.
http://slate.msn.com/id/2104802/?GT1=4529
(scroll down to middle of article)

i remember a study (that i can't find right now) awhile ago that said that men's stress levels go down at the sight or touch of female breasts. maybe the same hormone is also present in non-nursing mothers probably to a lower extent that causes this. anyone heard of this or can find it?





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