I’m hardly complaining, but the sort of orb shape of your typical C or D cup among modern women would hardly seem practical on the Serengeti plain, and from what I’ve heard they can get uncomfortable without proper support. And though I’m not going to go Googling for images here at work, I have the impression that in societies where women typically go bare-breasted, their mammary accoutrements tend to be (sorry) rather more droopy or dangly and generally smaller. Would all women be like that if they didn’t sport bras?
So is there an evolutionary effect here, where we can thank the modern brassiere for the gloriousness that is Jennifery Tilly? Has there been any real research into the question?
Do you mean the way a 3 foot tail is practical on a peacock?
Simply being human is uncomfortable. We are highly prone to back pain because of our ludicrous evolutionary history. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t meant to naturally walk upright.
Not that I’m aware of. In fact one of the “great” debates on the topic is whether bras make breast more or less droopy. The counter-argument to yours is that by using synthetic support, the muscles and tendons never develop properly leading to sagging.
There has been research done on this, and the results I’ve seen all show that wearing a bra makes no difference at all. If they;re gonna droop they’re gonna droop.
I’ve argued in favor of this theory many times on this Board, citing the parallel case of the chest decoration of the female gelada baboon. But it’s not really the question here – breasts can be effective buttock-mimics without being as large and protruding as many modern female breasts are. The question is whether such large breasts, which arguably are a hyper-symbol of female attractiveness, would have been practical in a more primitive, bra-less world.
My take is that excessive droop is more a function of age, and that, given that many of our ancestors had shorter lives, what was more important was a breast that would be maximally effective in garnering mates at a young age while not getting too much in the way. Our modern society allows a lot of physical types that would have trouble surviving out in the Plains continue long and useful lives – the obese, the ones unable to run, those without great endurance or ability to go long periods on little food and water. It wouldn’t surprise me if it allowed breasts not of "optimal shape (in whatever way) to thrive as well.
I don’t know if anyone has performed serious research on this in any scientific journal.
I don’t even know what “contrary to nature” means. Anything that survives and persists isn’t contrary to nature. Do you mean “outside of the support of human society”? Why isn’t that part of “nature”, too?
Lets. Anthropologist Marvin Harris supported it in his works. And Desmond Morris isn’t an untrained popularizer. He’s a zoologist who edited a book on primate behavior before he wrote The Naked Ape and its many sequels.
In any event, I don’t think that there’s any dispute that the female breast is a sex signal which increases attractiveness in humans; all that’s in question is how that state of affairs came to be.
One point regarding the droopiness of bare-breasted natives is that, once the breasts have started sagging due to old age, a bra can hold them up and make it less obvious that they’re droopy. And of course, we don’t often see bare-chested old women from first-world societies. But if you did see a bunch of old Western women topless for some reason, you’d probably get about the same number of droopers as in a similar number of native old women.
Both of those are just arguments from authority, though. What’s the evidence? I’m not sure there’s even evidence that humans “typically” mate face-to-face.
You miss the point – I’m not arguing from authority. I’m arguing that Morris’ ideas have the stature of a theory – he’s a qualified expert in his field (Phil. D. from Oxford University) who has done work in the subject and provides arguments to support* his thesis. John Mace suggests that his ideas aren’t worth the dignity.
See some of my past posts on this. I mention one bit of evidence (which is my own, by the way – I’ve never seen it in any of Morris’ books. Although I haven’t read them all.) in the Gelada Babboon.
I’d love to attend some of the cocktail parties you go to, in that case.*
Taking “mate” in the sense of meeting people., Which is what Morris and others mean when they refer to this use of buttock mimicry. And which is relevant to the case of the Gelada, which meets face-to-face but copulates from behind.
But it’s quite clear that neither has ever actually seen naked female breasts. The only way that breast have the cleavage that mimics the buttocks is if the woman is wearing a bra. Evolution depends on the invention of sexy underwear. :dubious:
Neither Harris nor Morris are considered mainstream in their hypotheses. I find it very telling that Morris is from the UK, where cleavage is a big deal (British magazines talk about “the best cleavage on the beach,” something that’s unheard of in the US). If he were from 19th century China, no doubt he’d come up for an evolutionary explanation for foot binding.
But there is a long list of things about women that have been fetishized: legs, feet, hips (note that the Naked Maja – painted to titillate men – emphasizes the hips and not the breasts), ass, waist, and things like the neck rings in some African tribes, black fishnet stockings, bustles, corsets, etc. Are these all evolutionary? Really?
In general, anthropologists think the “breasts as buttocks” theory is nonsense.
Not as universal as breast and buttock attraction, though. Foot binding , rings around the neck, lip plugs are pretty restricted in area. But I can show you evidence of breast and buttock attraction from all over the world and all time periods. Nor is it true that breasts must be bound and produce a tight Cleavage to be effective buttock-mimics.
And I think that Harris was considered pretty mainstream in his lifetime – he was on the faculty at Columbia and in Florida. His theory of Cultural Materialism wasn’t the most popular, but there are plenty of academics carrying it on now.