The Purpose of Pendulous Boobies

March 18, 2013 Animals, In The News, Naked People Comments (0) 212

Bonobo female - photo by © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0Speaking of articles that drive me nuts, it’s pretty safe to assume that any time scientists make a “discovery” about human reproductive evolution, I’m going to get annoyed. Like this recent article about the purpose of enlarged female breasts.

“Larry Young, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University who studies the neurological basis of complex social behaviors, thinks human evolution has harnessed an ancient neural circuit that originally evolved to strengthen the mother-infant bond during breast-feeding, and now uses this brain circuitry to strengthen the bond between couples as well. The result? Men, like babies, love breasts.”

Now, the best explanation I’ve heard, summarized rather bluntly, is that breasts resemble buttocks. In many primates, you see, females signal reproductive readiness through a swelling of the buttocks. This works great for quadrupedal animals, but when humans moved to bipedalism, that swelling became both inconvenient for locomotion, and relegated to a position well below eye level. Sure, plenty of men still like butts, but maybe there was an evolutionary advantage in having a second “butt” in, let’s say, a more ‘prominent’ position. This theory is supported, says author Christopher Ryan, by the fact that bonobos, which also show an inclination toward bipedalism, are the only other ape to feature human-like breasts.

So why does Larry Young think his theory is a better one?

“Young thinks it’s because we form monogamous relationships,* whereas 97 percent of mammals do not. “Secondly, it might have to do with the fact that we are upright and have face-to-face sex, which provides more opportunity for nipple stimulation during sex.”

See, there’s a problem here. You may not know it (because science textbooks, and apparently many scientists, still cling to this patriarchal notion) but human monogamy only arrived around 18,000 years ago, when agriculture and the idea of property ownership arrived and human men decided human women were part of the “property” they were going to own. Homo sapiens arrived in our current form closer to 200,000 years ago, and our ladies have been swinging pendulous breasts since the start–as, likely, did many of our bipedal ancestors and cousins.

It’s about time we stopped teaching children the mythology around the “monogamous human,” where women stay home and mind the children, men go out and hunt wild beasts, and pair-bonded women have to hold the attention of their instinctively promiscuous men. It’s bullshit, perpetuated by churches and others with a vested interest, and the result of feeding it to our children (aside from constant stress and ruined relationships when people feel they aren’t living up to the myth) is scientists who draw false conclusions based on wrong information.

If you want an accessible explanation of the reality behind human reproductive evolution, I highly recommend Sex at Dawn, co-written by Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, MD. It’s a fun read, with some mind-blowing revelations around human behavior, and it’s quite accesible to the layperson [puns may be intended]. I will warn you, though, if you’re one of those people clinging to the one-man-one-woman model of human reproduction, this book (like reality–sorry!) is likely to upset you.

* [emphasis mine]

Bonobo photo © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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Vore and the Surveillance State (AKA: Will your fantasies land you in prison?)

March 15, 2013 In The News, New York City Comments (1) 277

Surveillance camerasSo NYC’s “Cannibal Cop” Gilberto Valle stands convicted, and he’ll do time for…what? The fact that seems to have eluded a lot of people, because people are busy and often just read the headlines, is that the “Cannibal Cop” never ate anyone. He never killed anyone, or abducted anyone, or injured anyone. What he did, and the reason he is going to prison, is described by some people as “plotting,” by others as “fantasizing.”

This isn’t a post about the Cannibal Cop, not exactly. That said, I’ll point you to the excellent reporting being done on the story by by Daniel Engber at Slate. What’s important, for this conversation, is that you become aware of a fetish community, one that’s found a real life online, called “vore.”

Vore is complicated, but put very simply it’s a sexual fetish that involves eating people, seeing people being eaten, or being eaten oneself. It’s often depicted in cartoons or stories, is often cartoonish in that the “eaten” person is eaten whole and not killed, and often speaks from inside the belly of the eater, and if you’ve come across it accidentally, vore is odd and somewhat baffling. It’s also, according to one theory, the reason Gilberto Valle is going to prison. Continue Reading

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Do you have a minute to talk about idiocy? (The ACLU, WBC, and gay rights)

March 14, 2013 ACLU, In The News, Philly / Pennsylvania Comments (1) 107

ACLU LGBT Rights

Call me partial, but articles like this get my blood boiling. You can read the whole thing at that link, but here’s a summary: John Featherman, writing for Philly.com, doesn’t believe the ACLU should promote themselves as defenders of gay rights, because the ACLU defended the free speech rights of Westboro Baptist Church in court.

Here’s a sample:

“[ACLU-PA Legal Director Witold] Walczak started out by telling me, “The ACLU defends everyone’s rights and strongly believes that no one is free unless everyone is free. If government has the power to squelch Phelps it has the power to censor other unpopular groups, with the LGBT community being an unfortunate and frequent target.” Walczak later added, “ Just as the ACLU’s defense of abortion protesters doesn’t undermine our commitment to a woman’s reproductive freedom and representing the KKK doesn’t compromise our dedication to racial justice, defending Phelps’ free-speech rights is consistent with our LGBT-rights work.”

I don’t know. I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated or hip enough to see how you can represent the interests of opposing parties at the same time. To me, a former candidate for political office, that’s like taking money from a donor and then turning around and giving it to their worst enemy. In my world, you just don’t do that.”

So, first of all… WBC is the LGBT community’s worst enemy? Really? Not the politicians who want to prevent us from marrying the people we love, and put us in jail for having sex? Not the religious leaders who incite violence against us, and push foreign nations to legalize the execution of gays? Not the fake psychologists who claim electroshock treatments and solitary confinement can turn gay children straight?

No, those aren’t our worst enemies. People who say nasty things about us. They’re our worst enemies. Continue Reading

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Random House’s Hydra and the value of affiliation

March 11, 2013 In The News, Writing Comments (0) 99

Big doings recently in the publishing industry. First John Scalzi and the folks at the Science Fiction Writers of America got their hands on a copy of the contract terms offered by Random House’s recently-created eBook-only Hydra imprint. This led to a couple of scathing blog posts from Scalzi and the formal announcement from SFWA that Hydra is no longer a qualifying publication for membership, and the recommendation that authors stay away. The same goes for Alibi, Hydra’s sister imprint for mystery works, and presumably for all the Random House eBook imprints, though SFWA wasn’t willing to make that official because they hadn’t actually seen contracts.

There followed a letter from Allison Dobson, Random House’s digital publishing director, in which she assured SFWA (and prospective writers–this was, after all, an open letter) that Hydra, and Random House, aren’t trying to rip anybody off, that it is in fact a “different – but potentially lucrative – publishing model for authors: a profit share,” and also can’t everybody just talk about this? Continue Reading

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The Next Big Thing Project: My very own self-interview

March 6, 2013 Writing Comments (1) 95

I’ve been tagged by Andrew J. Peters to participate in the “Next Big Thing Project,” for which I am quite grateful. I’m not sure I can lay claim to the title of “Next Big Thing,” but I’m a slacker when it comes to self-promotion. Indulge me for a few paragraphs as I play celebrity.

More importantly, I’m supposed to tag several other talented writers to answer the same questions. So check out the end of this post to discover five others I believe you’ll be reading in the near future.

What is the working title of your book?

Andromedan Sons. This could easily change. I’ve never been much good at titles, and rarely love what I come up with. For the record, it’s a book I’m shopping around right now, but I haven’t yet found an agent or publisher.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I created the main character when I was about 11 years old. He was one of my first ever fictional creations, sort of a blend of Superman, Batman, James Bond and MacGyver, with some original touches. He was definitely a traditional adolescent male power fantasy: handsome and sexy, rich, and with an answer for every problem.

Over the years I’ve had different ideas about how to use him. I finally had an idea I considered good enough for a novel. It’s an action-adventure novel, but it’s also a reflection on how such a figure would fit into a corporatized future America, what that would do to the kind of idealistic person who’d enter the super-heroing industry, and what it would do to the people around him. Continue Reading

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