Speaking 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
[Credit to David Byrne for the post title]
Way back in November of 2007 I posted about the sordid saga of Ethan Reynolds, formerly of the model blog / community Brat Boy School (since shut down; internet wayback machine link here – caution, it loads slowly). I’m seeing echoes of that experience in the recent downfall of “Hockey Kid Mikey,” an alleged gay high school hockey player promoted by gay web site OutSports who, after building a small empire on the web, turned out to probably be a 40-year-old gay hockey fan.
Both appear to be cases where some blogger used the magical power of the internet to pretend to be someone else. In both cases the bloggers built an enormous base of enamored fans, and in both cases their success began to open doors outside the internet shortly before their fictitious persona fell apart. In neither case were any actual crimes (apparently) committed, and yet in both cases the fans, once betrayed, called for blood.
As I was in 2007, I am fascinated by the response from fans. It’s not as if this technique is old. I’ve compared Ethan to nudie centerfolds, who always seem to find titillating answers to the same questionnaire, but the creation of a fictional persona is not limited to the vaguely pornographic. Think of Dear Abby, or Poor Richard, or for that matter any talk-show host. None of these people is really the person they present to the world. Granted, that fact is disclosed to varying degrees, but I’d imagine there are many Letterman fans who would be outraged to discover the real person behind the television character he portrays. This is, I would hazard to say, at least partly to blame for the outrage behind the most recent “Late Night Wars,” and why Jay Leno emerged as the villain while Conan’s popularity grew: cutthroat businessman is pretty far removed from the brand Jay has been selling his viewers, while Conan’s brand is apparently not as far from his actual personality. Continue Reading
Paul Scholes and Gary Neville play soccer, professionally apparently, in a country called–wait, let me look this up–England. Except there it’s called “football,” which I assume explains the unexplained popularity of soccer. The British have apparently spent decades sitting around very large stadiums watching a bunch of men stand around an enormous field, wondering when the Steelers were to arrive.
Anyway, so on Saturday Scholes scored a very important goal to win a very important game, and Neville gave him a kiss, and people’s minds were BLOWN. Bunches of newspapers in the UK ran kiss-related headlines. Most were favorable, but still. Someone should remind the UK that they are European, which in the US is a word that means “gayer than gay.”
But I digress. The whole reason I took to this blog is because I love, love, LOVE the response from Guardian sports blogger Barry Glendenning, whose response is that these two guys are not nearly hot enough for a PDA. Via Outsports (emphasis mine):
That kiss was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And before you scuttle off down to the comments section to level accusations of homophobia at us, don’t bother. If it was two ripped and dashing footballers – some Matt Taylor-on-Jason Roberts action, for example – we’d have no problem with such ostentatious public displays of man-love and possibly be even a little turned on. Hell, even if Gary Neville had just planted one hand on either side of Paul Scholes’s head and laid a shock-and-awe black-and-white movie style smacker on his lips, that would have been fine too. But it was the tenderness of the moment, the cupping of the face, the tilting of the heads, the eyes closed expectantly, the blur of ginger hair and wispy not-quite-beardness in yesterday’s sport sections that put us off our lunch. Down with this sort of thing. Careful now.
Purely in the interest of journalism, I did the research, and it appears these are the two eye-pleasing gentlemen Glendenning would rather see locking lips on the turf:
I’ve followed Brat Boy School, the home page of model/blogger/underwear spokesman Ethan Reynolds for quite some time. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “fan” of Ethan’s, but he was pretty and I checked in fairly often to read posts about his love life, skin care regimen, workouts, recipes, and political views. Ethan was a pretty high-profile figure in the online gay community. I say was, because Brat Boy School crashed dramatically this week with a revelation: Ethan’s not real.
Well, to be fair, the person who goes by the name Ethan Reynolds is real, in the sense that he is the male model who appeared in photographs on the site. However, he did not write the blog; Rick Altman, his manager, wrote all of the entries. From what I can gather, “Ethan” (whose real name is apparently JR) really was boyfriend to porn-star-turned-underwear-spokesman Benjamin Bradley. They really were (are?) under contract with Ginch Gonch to be the “Ginch Gonch Boys.”
But beyond those facts, any details that appeared on the Brat Boy School blog were fictional.