Why wear clothes?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Thoreau, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. jrossd Registered Member

    Clothing sabotages sexual selection

    What evolutionary pressure could cause us to adopt a social rule that hides the body and makes it more difficult to select a mate?

    You could argue that clothing makes women more attractive. But what about men? By hiding our sexual organs, we eliminate penis size as visible fitness indicator. What advantage does it confer to reserve this information, revealing it only after an intimate connection is made?

    In other words, without clothing, would sexual selection have caused men to develop larger, or at least more attrative, penises?

    The real question: if we had not invented clothing, would human evolution have produced more "beautiful" people?

    Is assortative mating the key to this puzzle?
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  3. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    How is the penis a fitness indicator?
    The bigger it is the better a father you'll be?
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  5. jrossd Registered Member

    Suppose bigger is actually better. Let's just stipulate that for a moment. Then penis size is clearly a fitness indicator, it indicates a capacity to provide pleasure to females.

    It would be a great advantage to women for penises to be on display. On the other hand, it is a great advantage to average men for them to be hidden.

    Clothes favor the interests of men (most men) over the interests of women.

    Or does the fact that clothing exists disprove the idea that bigger is better? Is how we clothe ourselves a better fitness indicator?
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  7. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Pleasuring a woman says nothing about quality of evolutionary fitness*, or even ability to be a good father.

    Wouldn't clothing be a "better" indicator? After all if a guy's wearing Armani it says something about his income, and thus how well set up as a provider for his children.

    * Before I get jumped on (er, metaphorically speaking!) I'm not knocking the ability to pleasure a woman. I know there'll be numerous posters ready to tear me a new one if I go down that route.

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  8. Neverfly Banned Banned

    Evolutionary factors are not necessarily logical ones.

    If a larger penis attracts more acts of breeding, all the traits that breeder has will be passed on- including negative ones.

    There are many reasons why mates choose eachother- physical attraction being a strong one. That isn't necessarily advantageous for the species even if it can be called an advantage for the person trying to get some action.
    Along with the attractive outward traits can be a bunch of genetic defects tailing in the Beauty traits wake.

    I think we wear clothes cuz it gets cold sometimes.
  9. Pete It's not rocket surgery Registered Senior Member

    Sexual selection means that evolution will necessarily favour more 'beautiful' phenotypes.
    But, the very meaning of 'beauty' is also subject to evolution, and what often happens is that arbitrary factors of 'beauty' are greatly reinforced by evolution, sometimes to ridiculous lengths (pun intended).

    Penis size is a great example. Consider the following scenario:

    Imagine that during the course of human evolution since regular bipedalism developed, changes happened so that a longer penis than average conferred a reproductive advantage (see notes below for several hypothetical scenarios).

    That would mean that long-penis males would be more like to have children, and so long-penis genes would have a higher chance of being passed on, and any genetic mutation that tended to increase penis length would be favoured (all else remaining equal). Easy so far, right?

    Now, females who carry long-penis genes** would also be favoured indirectly, because their sons would be more likely to have a longer penis.
    Think about that for a moment, because it's important... if a female has long-penis genes, then all the genes of that female have a better chance (maybe only slightly better) of being around in two generation's time than the genes of a female without long-penis genes. Right?

    Now consider genes for defining 'beauty'. Yes, there are such genes - an animal's genotype has a definite influence on the phenotype of what is considered 'attractive' and what is not. Cultural and personal idiosyncracies (memotype?) are also influential***, of course (more so in humans?), but the genotype influence is stil very important.

    In our hypothetical scenario, a beauty genotype that gives females a preference for slightly longer penises than average will have an evolutionary advantage. Why? Because a female with prefer-longer-penis genes will be more likely to mate with a male with a long penis, and such a man is more likely to have long-penis genes. So that female's children have a higher chance of carrying both long-penis genes, which we already know is an advantage in this scenario.

    Now imagine the survival advantage of a slightly longer penis is enough that long-penis-genes and prefer-long-penis genes become widespread in the species genotype. What happens now is that they reinforce the action of each other - even if there were no other reason to have a longer penis, the prevalance of prefer-long-penis genes means that a long-penis genes will be selected anyway, and vice-versa.

    The result is generally an accelerated evolution of both the visible phenotype (long penises) and the 'beauty' phenotype. Long penises increase reproductive chances because they are attractive, and long penises are attractive because they increase reproductive chances.

    This type of runaway sexual selection is not at all uncommon. Peacock tails are a classic example, and it seems to be more common in birds for some reason.
    See Sexual selection, Runaway sexual selection, and Fisherian runaway.


    * Why a longer penis at all? Perhaps due to the mechanics of sex as hips changed with increasing bipedalism. Perhaps related to Sperm competition. Perhaps it was attractiveness that developed first - a longer penis might advertise good nutrtition, for example. Or reverse attractiveness - short penises might more easily hide signs of STDs. Or perhaps it was completely arbitrary - a slight increase in prefer-long-penis phenotype might conceivably develop through genetic drift, and would be sufficient to trigger the feedback cycle. Note that all these are wild guesses - plausible at first glance, but not serious contenders unless supported by much further investigation.

    ** Females don't have a Y-chromosome, but the Y-chromosomse is just the switch that deicdes whether an embryo develops as male or female, by determining which other genes to activate. All the details instructions for both sexes are on other chromosomes.

    *** It is interesting to consider the realtionship of sexual selection to our "memotype" as well. Memes of beauty are not solely reproduced by mating as with genes, but they are spread by any sharing of thoughts. So what is the relationship between the 'memotype' of beauty and the genotype of beauty? How much influence might they have on each other over millennia?
  10. Pete It's not rocket surgery Registered Senior Member

    I should have added that visibility is a necessary factor in this type of runaway sexual selection, so wearing clothes would slow it down. But, so what? The beauty of the oversized human penis in that scenario is arbitrary anyway.

    I suspect that human breast size has evolved in a similar way.

    No other primates have breasts or penises as proportionately large as humans.
  11. kira Valued Senior Member


    Why wear clothes? :bugeye: Coz we human are conservative, while the rest of the animals are liberals....

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    Why do we wear clothes? I suppose it's because we don't have fur (like other animals) that protects us from cold. Why don't we have fur? Because our brain evolved faster than the adaptation of our body to the environment.. we human have this efficient tool that help us to manipulate the environment according to our needs. We make clothes, umbrella, heater, air conditioner, etc., so we need no fur..

    Also, women have menstruation, you know

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    so we get used to cover ourselves.. and then the human male follow our style ^^
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The technology of clothing was invented around 70KYA. We know this because that's when body lice speciated. All humans still lived in Africa, where we assume it's too warm to need clothing.

    On the other hand, there was an ice age at that time; average global temperature was 6C/10F below normal. Clothing might very well have been invented for the too-obvious-to-think-of reason: to keep warm.
    Because other mammals have more hair. They have hormones that respond to the weather by growing the hair in thicker when it's cold, then molting and growing it in thinner when it's warm. I don't know if our hair does that, but we don't have enough of it to make a difference.

    Technically, we've been in an ice age for the last three million years and will continue to be in one until there are no more year-round ice sheets at the poles or anywhere else. But temperatures can fluctuate by 8 degrees/14F during an ice age, and 70KYA was a cold spell.

    This same glaciation during which clothing was invented was also the period when the first successful migration out of Africa occurred: 60KYA. The low rainfall of an ice age caused a famine in Africa, and they walked along the southern edge of Asia (which was much farther south because sea level is lower in an ice age when more water is locked up in the ice caps). They finally settled in Australia (easier to reach with Stone Age boats because the waterways were much narrower), where, paradoxically due to always-weird weather patterns, food was bountiful.

    Perhaps being the first would-be emigrants to have clothing was an advantage that made them the first to make it.

    As to why clothing eventually became mandatory even in warm weather, well nobody left us a memo.

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    I imagine that after wearing clothes constantly during a ten-thousand-year ice age, people became accustomed to not seeing each other's genitalia. Custom often becomes ritual, our species is famous for that.
  13. Neverfly Banned Banned

    I always knew there was something funny about you...

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    Let me know if you need me for your art portfolio...

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  14. kira Valued Senior Member

    Hehehehe... you haven't met Shadow

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    Besides Pete, there are many other funny members here, just stick around!

    Back to the clothes... me thinks the clothes for human is like the tail (plumage) of the peacock... depending on the clothes you wear, you can make very different impression. Many human recognize this and this is why fashion (and shoes and bags and cosmetics and watches) have become among major industries. Really, why some people spent 80k Euro for Omega or 50k Euro for Rolex when 10 Euro watch can work for a couple of years?? Now if we all go naked (no clothes, no shoes, no make up, no expensive watches, etc) many industries will die and this is simply against human survival.
  15. jrossd Registered Member

    Why was runaway sexual selection was prevented, or at least slowed down, by the social taboo against exposure? The peacock's tail is displayed for all to see. Bowerbirds do not hide their constructions. Why would something of direct sexual interest be hidden?

    Exposed breasts are no longer taboo in Europe, and the thong bikini has revealed everything else of sexual interest in women. There is a small patch of hair that's kept under wraps.

    But there's a hard stop when it comes to men. Penises are completely different. Why?

    1. The taboo is a great thing for most men, other than those who are well-endowed. It means that size is not an issue in social situations, and cannot be used as a method of domination. Power is disconnected from physical attributes. See Howard Stern. (But Lyndon Johnson had a well-known habit of whipping it out, search for "Lyndon Johnson penis".) But how could such a social rule evolve? It's almost as if it were the result of a conscious conspiracy of under-endowed men.

    2. An exposed penis reveals too much about the owner's state of mind. Could the origin of clothing be the need to hide a possible state of excitation? This is key to understanding why it is highly unlikely for exposed penises ever to become acceptable, despite the relaxation of restrictions on women. But what reproductive advantage would clothing confer on an individual in a society without the taboo? What are the steps that human evolution took to develop this solution?
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    All heterosexual men enjoy looking at naked women, even naked women who are not stunningly attractive. In virtually any circumstance. If one shows up suddenly in the street, in a board meeting, in the supermarket, in the bathroom, in the waiting room for a prostate exam... we will ogle her.

    Most women don't enjoy looking at naked men UNLESS: he is stunningly attractive, OR he is her partner and he knows how to arouse her, OR it's a nude beach or a nude pool party, OR something else about the situation makes her comfortable and/or aroused. If an ordinary-looking naked man shows up unexpectedly in an ordinary place and situation, most women will go EWWW!
  17. Neverfly Banned Banned

    Maybe genitals are ugly. I mean, seriously. They aren't much to look at.

    If it wasn't for the sexual urge itself, we wouldn't exactly LOOK at them, don't you think?

    We don't look up eachothers nostrils. There's boogers in there. Or in eachothers ears.
    We check out a womans butt, the curves, but don't wanna see the anus. The anus is safely hidden away.

    I'm not gonna tell you what is up there, but it ain't wax or snot.

    In the end...
    We're more self aware of the things we may not like about ourselves. So we keep them safe from view.

    From a Pure Sex standpoint, you might have a valid observation and it does seem to apply to most animals that are less self aware than we are.
    But there's more to it than sex.

    We are more aware of that.

    Speaking for myself, I don't wanna jiggle my junk in public.
    Even if it was attractive to the opposite sex. Or to Pete. Because I really don't NEED to have a whole bunch of women trying to have my baby. We're plenty populated, over populated, even.
    I am a father, one son. I may want more kids someday if I meet a marryable woman... But I know that I want to be a parent not a breeder. Time with my son is important to me. I cannot imagine having spawned kids I do not know about- not influencing their lives- or having them influence mine.

    So, my package is safely tucked away, reserved for only when it's needed. I don't need to advertise it. I'm more self aware than brother bear is.

    Speaking of bears... Pandas rub their butts all over trees marking them with their scent.
    This makes scents for them "cough"...
    Why don't us humans run around rubbing our genitals all over lampposts and street signs and other people?
    I mean... if it might be a sexual advantage... People Like the scent of sex, right?
  18. Neverfly Banned Banned

    I know way too many women that ogle nude men to believe for a moment that this claim is true.
    Just about every woman I know talks about sex nonstop. Then she says men are over sexed.
    Then she talks about sex some more. Then she says, "Gosh! I sound like a guy, huh?"

    No. You sound like every other woman I know.

    You've been reading too much Peirs Anthony.
  19. Spud Emperor solanaceous common tater Registered Senior Member

    I see you haven't visited the Great Southern land.
  20. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    To keep the jiggly bits perkier

    Fraggle is not a woman. I am and I think he is right. If some guy next to me in the bus pulls his zipper down and shakes his dick at me, I'm not going to get excited, I am going to chop it off. But yeah, I can drool over a good pair of shoulders or a nice butt and yeah I don't freak out when the men in my family run around half naked.
  21. Neverfly Banned Banned


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    The "No. You sound like every other woman I know" was my response to the oversexed woman saying she sounded like a guy. Not to Fraggle.
    Well yeah. If some chick on a bus suddenly waggled her genitals at me I'd be pretty unhappy about that.
    That's WELL outside of my comfort zone and I'm sure a lot of people can agree with that.

    Now, I may be unusual in this bit- So I am not vouching for other men-- But I don't like being flashed. Mardi Gras-- Uh uh. I've been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras one time and I'll Never Do That Again.
    Flashing breasts DOES seem to be something a lot of guys might be happy with- if it's a college coed.
    If Anne Ramsey did it, many men might not be too happy.

    Either way- I may be different on that score.

    But again, I know a lot of women that DO ogle men within their Comfort Zone. Where a bus and a stranger might be shocking, that isn't the ONLY situation women are in.
    That's within your comfort zone and I imagine family members wouldn't be turning you on or being ogled...
  22. Try Again No, I'm not a mod. Registered Senior Member

    I wear clothes to cover my nakedness.
  23. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

    I think it depends on age. If some random ordinary guy my father's age just popped up naked somewhere I would probably say eww. But a random guy my age, is a whole different story. The guys that play strip soccer at school always catch all of the girls' attention even though not all of them are exactly "hot". i must admit I like to watch them run around too

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