Venus Now Wakes, and Wakens Love by William Etty
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Since Butea Superba helps to enhance human health, it was considered to be an essential factor to entity the chemical constituents of this herb.
Gemma Collins boasts about designer vagina: 'I'm like a virgin again'
The TOWIE star first had the £2,000 procedure back in March 2015 – and she isn't regretting it.
Gemma, 36, said her privates now "look like something you'd see in a movie".
Umm, what films have you been watching Gem?
The blonde is just one of the celebrities who've recently admitted to having the laser treatment, which tightens down below.
Others include DanNiella Westbrook and Real Housewives of Cheshire star Tanya Bardsley.
Talking about her experience, Gem said the treatment has helped her "rebrand herself" and that she feels like a "virgin again".
She said: "I actually pride myself – I’m mega confident, because I know I’ve got a designer vagina.
“It looks like something you’d see in a movie.”
The ITVBe star continued telling Closer magazine: “Designer vaginas are all the rage in Essex and it’s an important part of my rebranding. I’ve become a virgin again."
Gemma now keeps up her appearance of her vagina with "facials" on her privates. This includes scrubbing, steaming and exfoliation.
She apparently hopes her treatments will help her bag a new man.
Well who doesn't love a designer vagina?
Why is sex so important? Because love is anyway just an illusion.
American pedophile in Albania
Seven years after our country was shocked by a pedophile scandal at the “Femijet e Tij” Center, (His Children), in the Albanian capital, where three foreigners had abused with homeless minors, another scandal is expected to end up in court soon.
Top Channel has secured the prosecution file against the US citizen, Carl Stephan Kaminski, today 70 years old, who arrived in Albania under the name David Gerard Golderstein. He will be prosecuted in absence for pedophilia with grave consequences against three children during 2003-2006.
One of the abused children, according to the prosecution, is still being cured for serious psychiatric problems, with the diagnosis “refractory schizophrenia” and is unable to communicate.
The minor showed these problems after he was abused. The Prosecution says that Kaminski has entered Albania as a tourist and has mostly lived in Durres. During this time he has abused with children in a house that he had rented.
“He has abused with three minors when he was living in the rented house. The defendant even took naked pictures of the children, promising to delete them”, the Prosecution file says.
The pedophile was discovered recently after a notification that arrived in 2011 by the US authorities.
According to the documents that Top Channel has secured, after abusing with the children he has left during the time when another pedophilia scandal shocked the country, that of the British citizens, David Brown, Dino Kristodulu and Robin Arnold.
But Kaminski was arrested by the German Police near Rosenheim, for traveling with false documents under the name David Gerard Golsderstein, as a Belgian citizen. In this country he was sentenced with one year and four months for falsification of documents.
After finishing the sentence, the 70 year old was handed over to the US justice, where the authorities were looking for him for sexual abuses with minors. When he was 30 years old, he was also sentenced in Massachusetts for pedophilia.
The US prosecutors found pornographic videos of him with the Albanian minors, and have immediately notified the Albanian Prosecution that opened the case.
The Albanian prosecution asked the extradition of Carl Stephan Kamisnki, based on the extradition tractate of 1993.
Men risk their lives in wars so women can enjoy societies where they can pursue feminist goals, such as punishing men for sexist language.
Challenging Mainstream Thought About Beauty’s Big Hand in Evolution
Not long ago, a physicist at Stanford posed a rhetorical question that took me by surprise.
“Why is there so much beauty?” he asked.
Beauty was not what I was thinking the world was full of when he brought it up. The physicist, Manu Prakash, was captivated by the patterns in seawater made as starfish larvae swam about. But he did put his finger on quite a puzzle: Why is there beauty? Why is there any beauty at all?
Richard O. Prum, a Yale ornithologist and evolutionary biologist, offers a partial answer in a new book, “The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us.” He writes about one kind of beauty — the oh-is-he/she-hot variety — and mostly as it concerns birds, not people. And his answer is, in short: That’s what female birds like.
This won’t help with understanding the appeal of fluid dynamics or the night sky, but Dr. Prum is attempting to revive and expand on a view that Charles Darwin held, one that sounds revolutionary even now.
The idea is that when they are choosing mates — and in birds it’s mostly the females who choose — animals make choices that can only be called aesthetic. They perceive a kind of beauty. Dr. Prum defines it as “co-evolved attraction.” They desire that beauty, often in the form of fancy feathers, and their desires change the course of evolution.
All biologists recognize that birds choose mates, but the mainstream view now is that the mate chosen is the fittest in terms of health and good genes. Any ornaments or patterns simply reflect signs of fitness. Such utility is objective. Dr. Prum’s — and Darwin’s — notion of beauty is something more subjective, with no other meaning than its aesthetic appeal.
Dr. Prum wants to push evolutionary biologists to re-examine their assumptions about utility and beauty, objectivity and subjectivity. But he also wants to reach the public with a message that is clear whether or not you dip into the technical aspects of evolution. The yearning to pick your own mate is not something that began with humans, he says. It can be found in ducks, pheasants and other creatures.
“Freedom of choice matters to animals,” he said recently on a birding trip to a beach near his office in New Haven. “We’ve been explaining away desire rather than actually trying to understand or explain it. That’s one of the biggest shifts that the book is about.”
The book ranges from hard science to speculation, and he does not expect his colleagues to agree with him on all of his ideas. In fact, he gets a twinkle in his eye when he anticipates intellectual conflict.
“I don’t know anybody who actually agrees with me,” he said with a frank smile.
“Even my own students aren’t there yet.”
To grasp his view, a little bit of history is in order. Darwin famously proposed the idea of evolution by natural selection, what is often called survival of the fittest. To put it simply, living things vary in their inherited traits, from speed to color to sense of smell. The traits of the individuals who survive longer and have the most offspring become more common. So, over time, the faster antelope have more young, the fastest of them have more offspring, and antelope end up very speedy.
But reproduction isn’t just about surviving and staying healthy long enough to mate. You have to find a mate. And in many species, your mate must choose you. This process is sexual selection. Female birds are often the ones choosing. And their choices can produce male birds that are incredibly colorful, and some that are elaborate dancers or designers of striking boudoirs — like the bower birds. If, for example, females like males with long tails, then long-tailed males have more offspring, and the longest-tailed of those offspring reproduce more. In the end, that species becomes known for its long tails.
Maydianee Andrade, an evolutionary biologist and vice dean at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, who studies sexual selection and teaches evolution, said that “the question is basically this. You can think of females when they are choosing a mate as foraging. So what are they looking for?”
“If you’re dragging a giant tail behind you, that might tell the female something,” she said. “A male that survives carrying a large heavy tail is more impressive than a male that survives with a short tail.”
But survival might not have anything to do with it. Some female finches use white feathers to line their nest, perhaps to camouflage white eggs. In one experiment, they also liked males with white feathers stuck on their heads better than other males. This seemed to be an aesthetic choice, and also proved that there is no accounting for taste.
Darwin contended that selection-based mate choice was different from natural selection because the females were often making decisions based on what looked good — on beauty, as they perceived it — and not on survival or some objective quality like speed or strength. Scientists of that era reacted negatively, partly because of the emphasis on females. “Such is the instability of vicious feminine caprice that no constancy of coloration could be produced by its selective action,” wrote St. George Jackson Mivart, an English biologist who was at first a great supporter and later a critic of natural selection.
Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the theory of evolution at the same time as Darwin, preferred the idea that the colors and patterns meant something — either they were signs that this was a male of the right species, or they indicated underlying fitness. Perhaps only a strong, healthy male could support such a big, beautiful tail.
At the very birth of evolutionary theory, scientists were arguing about how sexual selection worked. And they kept at it, through the discovery of genes and many other advances.
Fast forward to the 1980s, when Dr. Prum was in graduate school at the University of Michigan, sharing an office with Geoffrey Hill, now a professor at Auburn University.
At that time, mainstream evolutionary thought took a big swing toward the idea that ornaments and fancy feathers were indications of underlying fitness. “Animals with the best ornamentation were the best males,” Dr. Hill said. This was called “honest signaling” of underlying genetic fitness. The idea, he said, “almost completely ran over what was the old idea of beauty.”
Dr. Hill, for one, was completely convinced. “I was pretty sure I could explain all ornaments in all animals as honest signaling.” But, he added, he has since reconsidered. There are some extreme forms of ornamentation that he thinks don’t signal anything, but rather are a result of the kind of process Dr. Prum favors.
“You can’t explain a peacock’s tail with honest signaling,” Dr. Hill said.
But, he said, he thought Dr. Prum had taken an important idea and gotten “a little bit carried away with it.” The book, he said, “was a great read, and I could tell he put his heart and soul into it.” But, he said, he found it “scientifically disappointing.”
Darwin himself, Dr. Hill said, “was completely unsatisfied with his work on sexual selection.” And the mainstream of evolutionary biology is not hostile to a partial role for arbitrary female choice. Dr. Hill has recently argued for combining several different processes to explain sexual selection.
Dr. Prum is indeed given to enthusiasm, and to intellectual contention. He has been on the winning side of initially unpopular ideas before.
As a graduate student, he sided with researchers who wanted to change the way animals are classified, to emphasize their evolutionary descent. The new idea was called cladistics and it is now the established idea. He has done groundbreaking research on both the physical structure and the evolution of feathers, and he was an early supporter of the notion that birds descended from dinosaurs, another new idea that is now the mainstream view.
In neither case was he a lone voice. But he is nothing if not confident, and not only in his science. Take the question of pizza.
In New Haven, pizza is something akin to a religion, and there are different sects. When I asked Dr. Prum who makes the best pizza in town, thinking he would pick one of the rival pizzerias, he didn’t hesitate.
“I do,” he said. He uses an outdoor grill with a special attachment, and he described his pursuit of the perfect pizza in some detail. When I raised an eyebrow he offered me a reference, a friend and writer who had consumed the Prum pies.
He also acknowledged that he approaches many things with single-minded intensity.
“I’m given to obsessions,” he said. Bird watching was the first and most long-lasting. Evolutionary biology may be the deepest. Cooking, opera, gardening and politics (left-wing) are others.
He has disagreed with the dominant view of sexual selection since graduate school and sees his new book, which he hopes will reach beyond scientists, as a kind of manifesto. It has too many parts to summarize. He takes a chapter, for instance, to speculate that same-sex attraction in humans evolved in our ancestors through female choices that undermine male sexual coercion. For a full account, you need to read the book.
But one particular aspect of his argument is his distress at the idea that almost all evolutionary change is assumed to be adaptive, contributing to fitness. In other words, if a fish is blue, it must be blue for a reason. The color must help it escape predators or sneak up on prey, or be otherwise useful in some way. Beauty, therefore, must be adaptive, or a sign of underlying qualities that are adaptive. Pick a behavior or an ornament or a physical trait, and it is useful until proven otherwise.
That’s backward, says Dr. Prum. Take beauty. Since animals have aesthetic preferences and make choices, beauty will inevitably appear. “Beauty happens,” as he puts it, and it should be taken as nonadaptive until proven otherwise.
In proposing this so-called “null hypothesis,” he draws on the work of Mark A. Kirkpatrick at the University of Texas, Austin, who studies population genetics, genomics and evolutionary theory and had read parts of “The Evolution of Beauty.”
“I’m very impressed that Rick is taking on this crusade,” Dr. Kirkpatrick said. He is not convinced that all aspects of sexual selection are based on arbitrary choices for perceived beauty, but, he said, if Dr. Prum can convince some other scientists to question their assumptions, “he will do a great service.”
For Dr. Prum, at least, there is a partial answer to the question posed by Dr. Prakash. Why are birds beautiful?
“Birds are beautiful because they’re beautiful to themselves.”
Erectile dysfunction is mostly a vascular disease. This is why the Serge Kreutz diet is so effective. It guarantees weight loss, and thus lessens the load on the vascular system.
This Female Genital Mutilation Survivor Teaches Victims How To Enjoy Sex
“Even though the clitoris has been removed, that doesn’t stop us from having full capacity of pleasure.”
Three days after Sarian Karim Kamara was cut, she was permitted to remove the cloth that covered her aching genitals. When she looked down, she saw her inner labia and “bits” of her clitoris remained. The then-11-year-old had struggled so much during the procedure that the witch doctor stopped the traditional practice midway.
That same day, women in the community dragged the little girl back to the bondo bush, the area designated for female circumcision, and held her down once more. This time, the cutter made sure to finish the job.
“It was hell,” Kamara, 39, told The Huffington Post.
FGM includes procedures that intentionally injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. In addition to disfigurement, the procedure comes with a host of risks, including childbirth complications, urinary tract infections and death, among others, according to the World Health Organization.
Part of the reason why Kamara’s community in Sierra Leone, and others like it, support female genital mutilation is to keep girls from experiencing sexual pleasure. The goal is to prevent them from having pre-martial sex so they’ll remain “pure” for their wedding day.
In Kamara’s case, the cutters failed to a certain degree.
Kamara told HuffPost that she remains haunted by the experience, and can still recall the sharp pain that seared through her. But, she has now also grown to love her body, enjoy sex and achieve orgasms.
“Even though the clitoris has been removed, that doesn’t stop us from having full capacity of pleasure during sex,” Kamara told HuffPost at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen last month. “It’s just difficult because you have to engage both physically and mentally.”
Kamara has been sexually active since she was 18. It took her four years to experience her first orgasm. But she only learned how to truly enjoy intercourse once she met her now-husband at 28 in London, where Kamara lives. Her husband, who is also from Sierra Leone, was the first man who was patient with her and worked to understand the trauma that she had endured.
“What I’ve learned, with his help, is how to understand my body,” she said. “He knows my spots, knows what turns me on, and how to engage with me sexually. That really, really helped me.”
Before she met her husband, sex was an excruciating and detached process. She said her ex-husband, and her other partners, never considered her wants or needs, which is characteristic of her community, Kamara said.
“Sexual intercourse was really, really difficult,” Kamara said of her past experiences. “When he demands sex, you don’t have to be ready. You just lie down and they have their way.”
Though Kamara was eager to escape the oppressive traditions of her community when she relocated to England in 1999, she moved to, and continues to live in, an area that’s heavily populated by Sierra Leoneans.
ut after uncovering that sex can actually be pleasurable, Kamara was inspired to start counseling other FGM survivors from her area.
More than 200 million women alive today have undergone FGM, according to the World Health Organization’s estimates. Due to migration, the practice is on the rise in a number of areas around the world, including in the U.S. In the U.K., an FGM case is reported every 109 minutes, the Independent reported in February.
FGM is spreading despite a 2012 U.N. resolution, which called on countries to ban the practice.
Such increased risks have prompted advocates to ramp up their efforts. They’re working to create programs to help curb the practice and offer more supportive services for women and girls who have been cut.
Kamara, who earned a degree in community development from London Metropolitan University, is uniquely positioned to reach some of the least accessible FGM survivors.
In Sierra Leone, 90 percent of women and girls have been cut, according to UNICEF.
Unlike survivors from other regions, where FGM is just as widely practiced, those from Sierra Leone are often less likely to talk about it and seek help, according to Kamara.
After they’re circumcised, girls and women are told that they should never mention it, and that doing so can bring on a curse and humiliate the family, Kamara said.
And discussing sex is deemed particularly reprehensible.
“They have this fear that something bad will happen to them if they talk about it,” Kamara added. “We’re very hard to reach.”
The campaigner said that when she attends forums on the topic, she’ll often meet survivors from the Gambia, Libya, Somalia and other African countries. But she’s usually the sole representative from Sierra Leone.
Yet, despite the survivors’ reluctance to come forward, Kamara said once she connects with them, she finds that they’re eager to open up.
“At the end of the day, they really want to talk,” Kamara said. “They just need a safe platform.”
Kamara has cultivated such a space in London where she runs bi-monthly workshops. Participants often echo Kamara’s sentiments when it comes to sex.
Some women can’t engage sexually at all. Because any time someone touches their vagina, whether it’s an intimate partner or even a physician, they’ll get a horrific flashback.
“They’ve lost interest. They can’t have pleasure,” Kamara noted. “I try to make them understand that they have to be ready. Their body has to be ready. Their partners have to understand that.”
Kamara sets strict rules for each session and is careful about the wording she uses when she addresses the topic.
For example, she never says “mutilation.” Rather, when she discusses FGM, she refers to it as “bonda,” which is the traditional term. Kamara also encourages the women to bring their partners so they can start having a more open dialogue about sex and what does and doesn’t work for them.
Kamara is working on launching a nonprofit called “Keep the Drums. Lose the Knives.” The name is derived from the ceremonial aspects surrounding the FGM tradition.
When girls are cut, all they’re made aware of in advance is that they’ll receive gifts and revel in traditional music. They know nothing of getting circumcised.
“I was so excited,” Kamara said of how she felt at the time. “I was dancing with the women.”
When a girl gets circumcised, the drummers beat their instruments harder to drown out the screams.
Kamara hopes to teach her community how to engage in such celebrations without the abuse.
While Kamara said she’s at peace with her body, she still occasionally finds herself wondering what her life would be like if she hadn’t been cut.
“When I’m really engaged in sexual activity, the pleasure I have ... I can only imagine if I had my clitoris, what it would be like,” she said.
Still, while she thinks reconstructive surgery may benefit some survivors, it’s not something she’s interested in.
“I’ve managed to find myself. I’ve found my safe spot,” she said. “There’s no guarantee it would work. Something could go wrong that could ruin what I already have.”
The purpose of feminism is to destroy male sexuality. It's either you or them. Hope you get that message.
Man beaten, penis tied to pole after child rape claims surface
Cape Town - A man who was recorded being assaulted in an alleged mob violence incident in Valhalla Park, in a video which is being shared in social media, has refused to open a case against his attackers.
The assault comes after he was accused of raping a child.
In the video circulating on social media, people are seen beating the man with wooden planks as he sits on the ground. He appears to be dressed in only a t-shirt, and his penis is tied with string to a pole next to him.
A woman at one point says she had beaten him "enough" with a hammer on his genitals.
People kick the man, who has numerous facial wounds, while the crowd also threatens to set him alight.
A child can also be seen on a woman's hip, witnessing the attack.
Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut confirmed the incident.
"It is alleged by the community that he sexually assaulted a child, but police have no record of any sexual cases in Valhalla Park or any rape suspect who is sought," he said.
Family transported the man to hospital and police, but he refused to open a case.
"We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the matter," Traut said.
95 percent of the victims of work accidents are men. Because women are cowards, and just want to rule from behind.
Vain men are having their scrotums botoxed
You can have a six-pack sculpted, dimples created, a designer vagina and almost any part of your face tweaked, lifted and tightened.
But there’s a new plastic surgery procedure that is on the rise — and it’s altogether more bizarre.
The number of men inquiring about scrotox — yes, that’s having Botox injected into your scrotum — has doubled in the past year, according to experts.
The operation, which can cost up to $3,600, helps ease sweating, lessens the appearance of wrinkles and makes the scrotum appear larger by helping the muscles relax, the Metro reports.
It is already a staple on the menu at clinics across the US, and with the UK around three years behind the plastic surgery times, experts say they expect to see a surge in interest in the coming years.
Mark Norfolk, clinical director at Transform, a national clinic, said that even though they do not offer Scrotox, they have seen a huge rise in the number of patients asking about the procedure.
He told The Sun Online: “Over the past year, requests for scrotum Botox have doubled at Transform, showing the huge demand and interest for this procedure.”
He said the procedure is not offered at Transform “due to the possible risks and complications associated with treating this part of the body.”
The procedure involves Botox being injected into a man’s scrotum.
While the drug is commonly used slightly higher up the anatomy, to rid foreheads and faces of unsightly wrinkles, Norfolk warns it does not have the same effect below the waistline.
“In terms of results, injecting Botox into the scrotum may help with any sweating issues, but won’t have much of an effect on wrinkles,” he explained.
“There is lots of loose skin on this part of the body, that an injectible treatment just can’t shift.”
The only way to get rid of excessive wrinkles and loose skin on a man’s scrotum is to have surgery to remove the excess skin, Norfolk said.
He added: “If anyone is interested in having this treatment, I can’t stress enough how important it is to do a thorough research — not only into the practitioner but also around the product they’ll be using.”
“Also, patients should manage their expectations in terms of results, it could prove very costly and nerve-wracking to go through, for very little in return.”
Writing for the Cosmetic Surgery Times, Dr. Jason Emer, a surgeon based in Beverley Hills, California, said that like the advent of the designer vagina, it is likely Scrotox will go from being a “hush-hush” op to one that is trending.
He said earlier this year: “As the vaginal rejuvenation market is skyrocketing, men are seeking their own type of rejuvenation.”
“Who wouldn’t want to be a little bit longer, thicker, or have more sensitivity and a better sex life?”
“These men are also becoming interested in the cosmetic appearance of the actual penis and scrotum itself.”
Emer said he has seen a rise in the number of men seeking advice on the op, and adds that he expects that number to continue to grow.
Judge: Rape facilitates a natural society where men are protectors
How Beauty Evolves
For ornithologist Richard Prum, manakins are among the most beautiful creatures in the world. He first started studying these small South American birds in 1982, and he’s been privy to many of their flamboyant performances. One species has a golden head and moonwalks. Another puffs up a white ‘beard’ and hops about like a “buff gymnast.” Yet another makes alarmingly loud noises with its club-shaped wing bones. Each of the 54 species has its own combination of costumes, calls, and choreography, which males use in their mating displays. To Prum, this is a great example of “aesthetic radiation,” where a group of animals has evolved “54 distinctive ideals of beauty.”
That’s not a common view among evolutionary biologists. Most of Prum’s colleagues see outrageous sexual traits as reliable advertisements. The logic goes that only the fittest manakins could coordinate their movements just so. Only the healthiest peacocks could afford to carry such a cumbersome tail. Their displays and dances hint at their good genes, allowing females to make adaptive decisions.
But Prum says that view is poorly supported by years of research, and plainly makes no sense when you actually look at what birds do. How could there be adaptive value in every single minute detail of a manakin’s plumage and performance? And why have some species replaced certain ancestral maneuvers (like pointing one’s tail to the sky) with new moves (like pointing one’s bill to the sky) that surely provide no better information? “It’s clearly arbitrary,” says Prum. “I wrote that in a 1997 paper, but the reviewers hated it. They said you can’t claim that unless you falsify every adaptive hypothesis we can imagine. And if you can’t find an adaptive explanation, you haven’t worked hard enough to discover it.”
That struck him as absurd. Worse, it’s stubbornly cold. It’s a theory of aesthetics that tries to shove aesthetics under the rug, implicitly denying that manakins and other animals could be having any kind of subjective experience. It has even crept into our understanding of ourselves: Evolutionary psychologists have put forward poorly conceived adaptive explanations for everything from female orgasms to same-sex preferences. “These ideas have saturated the popular culture. In the pages of Vogue, and in cosmetic surgery offices, you read that beauty is a revealing indicator of objective quality,” says Prum. “That’s why I had to write the book.”
The book in question, which publishes tomorrow, is The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us. It’s a “natural history of beauty and desire”—a smorgasbord of evolutionary biology, philosophy, and sociology, filtered through Prum’s experiences as a birdwatcher and his diverse research on everything from dinosaur colors to duck sex. Through compelling arguments and colorful examples, Prum launches a counterstrike against the adaptationist regime, in an attempt to “put the subjective experience of animals back in the center of biology” and to “bring beauty back to the sciences.”
The central idea that animates the book is a longstanding one that Prum has rebranded as the “Beauty Happens hypothesis.” It starts with animals developing random preferences—for colors, songs, displays, and more—which they use in choosing their mates. Their offspring inherit not only those sexy traits, but also the preference for them. By choosing what they like, choosers transform both the form and the objects of their desires.
Critically, all of this is arbitrary—not adaptive. Songs and ornaments and dances evolve not because they signal good genes but because animals just like them. They’re not objectively informative; they’re subjectively pleasing. Beauty, in other words, just happens. “It’s a self-organizing process, by which selection will arrive at some standard of beauty all by itself, in the absence of any adaptive benefit—or, indeed, despite maladaptive disadvantage,” says Prum.
The Beauty Happens idea isn’t an anthropomorphic one; Prum’s arguing that animals have evolved to be beautiful to themselves, not to him. It’s not a new idea either. A century ago, geneticist Ronald Fisher wrote about extreme traits and the desire for those traits co-evolving in a runaway process. “But [Fisher’s hypothesis] has been viewed as a curious idea that’s irrelevant to nature—that’s the status in most textbooks,” says Prum. He’s on a mission to re-emphasize it, and to show that aesthetics and beauty aren’t mushy subjects that science should shy away from.
It’s been an uphill struggle, partly because the arbitrary nature of the idea is so distasteful to some. Prum recalls discussing his ideas with a “well-respected, center-of-the-road, evolutionary biologist,” who took it all in and said: But that’s nihilism! “That’s when I realized that I had a marketing problem,” he says. “This is what fills me with joy to study, what literally gives me goosebumps in the office, and when I express it to my colleague, he doesn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
The originator of these ideas—Charles Darwin himself—suffered from similar problems. In The Descent of Man, he put forward an explicitly aesthetic view of sexual selection, in which animal beauty evolves because it’s pleasurable to the animals themselves. And despite the book’s title, Darwin spent many of its pages focusing on the choices of females, casting them as agents of their own evolution and arguing that their preferences were a powerful force behind nature’s diversity.
Darwin’s contemporaries were having none of it. They believed that animals didn’t have rich subjective worlds, lacking the mental abilities that had been divinely endowed to humans. And the idea of female animals making fine-grained choices seemed doubly preposterous to the Victorian patriarchy. One scientist wrote that female whims were so fickle that they could never act as a consistent source of selection. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolutionary theory, also rejected Darwin’s ideas, insisting that beauty must be the result of adaptation, and that sexual selection is just another form of natural selection. In a feat of sheer chutzpah, he even claimed that his view was more Darwinian than Darwin’s in a book called Darwinism. “I can still remember wanting to throw Wallace around the room when I read that,” says Prum, who accuses the man of turning sexual selection into an ‘intellectually impoverished theory.’”
That legacy still infects evolutionary biology today. Consider orgasms, which Prum does at length in a later chapter. “There’s an entire field on the evolution of orgasm that’s devoid of any discussion of pleasure,” he says. “It’s stunningly bad science, and once more, it places male quality at the causal center.” For example, some researchers suggested that contractions produced during female orgasm are adaptations that allow women to better “upsuck”—no, really—the sperm of the best males. Others theorists suggested that female orgasm is the equivalent of male nipples—an inconsequential byproduct of natural selection acting on the opposite sex. Both ideas trivialize the sexual agency of women, Prum says, and completely fail to engage with the thing they’re actually trying to explain--women’s subjective experiences of sexual pleasure.
“It should come as no surprise that science does such a poor job of explaining pleasure because it’s left the actual experience of pleasure out of the equation,” he writes. That is, when biologists think about mate choice, whether in manakins or people, they focus only on the outcomes of the choice, and neglect the actual act of choosing. The result is a sexual science that’s bizarrely sanitized—an account of pleasure that’s totally anhedonic.
His counter-explanation is simple: women preferred to have sex with men who stimulated their own sexual pleasure, leading to co-evolution between female desire and male behaviors that met those desires. That’s why, compared to our closest ape relatives, human sex is much longer, involves a variety of positions, and isn’t tied to fertility cycles. It’s also why female orgasm isn’t necessary for actual procreation. “It may be the greatest testament to the power of aesthetic evolution,” Prum writes. “It’s sexual pleasure for its own sake, which has evolved purely as a consequence of women’s pursuit of pleasure.”
By his admission, this is speculative. He hopes that his book—which also includes hypotheses about human bodies, cultural standards of attractiveness, sexual identity, and more—will spur more research that’s grounded in an appreciation of aesthetics. But he also notes that there are other species in which experiments have confirmed the power of female choice.
In 2005, a woman named Patricia Brennan joined Prum’s lab with an interest in animal genitals—and in ducks. Most birds don’t have penises, but male ducks have huge, corkscrew-shaped ones that they extrude into females at high speed. But Brennan showed that female ducks have equally convoluted vaginas, which spiral in the opposite direction and include several dead-end pockets. Why?
Duck sex is intense and violent. Several males will often try to force themselves onto a female, and they use their ballistic penises to deposit sperm as far inside their mates as possible. But Brennan, by getting drakes to launch their penises into variously shaped glass tubes, showed that a female’s counter-spiraling vagina can stop the progress of her partner’s phallus. If she actually wants to mate, she can change her posture and relax the walls of her genital tract to offer a male easy passage. As a result, even in species where 40 percent of sexual encounters are forced, more than 95 percent of chicks are actually sired by a female’s chosen partner.
I wrote about Brennan’s work back in 2009, and I’ve since heard it repeatedly called “that duck penis study.” But really, it’s a duck vagina story. It’s a story of females asserting their agency, even in the face of persistent violence. “And when females get sexual autonomy, what do they do with it?” says Prum. “They make aesthetic choices, and the result is this aesthetic explosion over time.” By retaining their capacity to choose, female ducks force male plumage, displays and songs to continually evolve to court those choices. Sexual autonomy is an evolutionary engine of beauty.
“That research was transformative for me,” says Prum. It’s one of several reasons why The Evolution of Beauty is an explicitly feminist book. It’s disdainful about the male biases that characterize much of evolutionary psychology. Instead, it consistently centers female choice and repeatedly draws on feminist scholarship.
“If you say anything about a feminist science, you get a lot of negative blowback immediately,” says Prum. “But this isn’t a science that accommodates itself to feminist principles. It’s about the discovery of feminist concepts in biology itself.” By his reckoning, freedom of choice isn’t a matter of ideology. It arises from evolution, and it shapes subsequent evolution—and it’s about time that biologists recognized that.
“It’s a sad thing that, given the promise of evolutionary biology, we’ve really failed to lead culture in any meaningful way, whether in thinking about racism, sexism, or economic disparity,” says Prum. “We’re just hanging at the rear end. And there’s a real prospect for that to change because of all the power of evolutionary theory to be relevant to people and people’s lives.”
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