Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fair Skin Is a Man Catcher

A remarkable piece of objective scholarship managed to penetrate the January 1986 issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies. Entitled, "Skin Color Preference, Sexual Dimorphism and Sexual Selection: a Case of Gene-Culture Co-Evolution?" it was authored by Peter Frost and no less than Pierre van den Berghe, who is perhaps America's leading sociologist of race and race relations. It is one of the very few biological studies of human physical beauty published in the U.S. in recent years.

Van den Berghe and Frost begin by stating that in any given race the women tend to nave lighter complexions than the men. They then use standard ethnographic files to locate 51 societies on five continents which have recorded their preferences for human skin colour. Of these 51 societies, 30 preferred lighter women and 14 preferred lighter women and lighter men. Three preferred only their men to be lighter, altliough a closer look at these atypical three reveals that they also may have preferences for lighter women. A closer look at the remaining four societies-two of them from New Guinea-which supposedly believe that "dark is beautiful" demonstrates that these rare cases are founded on very dubious sources.

Van den Berghe and Frost's study also provides copious skin color data for such racially disparate lands as Indian, China, Bali and Brazil. All these countries, despite their vast non-white populations, favour lighter women. Surprisingly, the blazing climates haven't negated preferences for complexions which, if unprotected against ultraviolet rays, can be highly carcinogenic. "As for North America and the Caribbean' the sociologists report, "the case for widespread preference for light skin scarcely needs to be made." They add, "It even extends to many Afro-Americans despite reactive protestations that 'black is beautiful' ... "

Arabs regard the lightest women as the most beautiful. Their ideal woman has skin lias white as snow-strange praise indeed to come from a people very few of whom have ever seen snow." The two sociologists' comments on European aesthetics extend back to the Etruscans and Romans, although their survey, located comparatively few studies in the ethnographic literature which record the type of women most admired by modern Europeans. They suggest, reasonably enough, that whites just take for granted that the cream of their women will have the creamiest complexions: "In countless literary sources (such as love poems) stretching over millennia...the ivory, lily, or snow-skinned, rosy cheeked, blue-eyed blonde has been the Western ideal of feminine beauty .... "

Over time, upper classes of all races have become lighter-skinned than their fellow countrymen, because they have repeatedly skimmed off fairer women from the lower classes. This association of class with skin colour has contributed to lighter-pigmented folk being held in high esteem and, conversely, the darker-pigmented held in low esteem.

Even Third Worlders are not too keen on melanin. Searching for the cause, liberals can only take refuge in the environmentalist explanation that nonwhites are just mimicking the values of the European "imperialists," who used to comprise their ruling class. Although there may be some truth to this, as van den Berghe and Frost concede, they point to the aesthetic preferences of ancient Egyptians, medieval japanese and Aztecs-peoples who existed before the rise of the European empires-to show that the selection of Iighter women as mates has always de-pigmented the upper Classes.

The two sociologists might be faulted on one score. They fail to mention that in many cultures the ruling class is able to remain indoors while the masses toil under a burning sun. Consequently, the tanning factor may have influenced this low-melanin aesthetic. For example, the Japanese phrase for "high-born" means "deep window" - a way of saying that the nobility is noted for remaining indoors.

Does tanning, "working in the noon-day sun," merely give the appearance that men are natural fy darker than women? Does sunburn only make it appear that classes are stratified by pigmentation? Van den Berghe and Frost rebut these arguments by citing, where possi6le, modern studies which measure pigmentation of the inner upper arm, where the skin is scarcely if ever touched by the sun's rays. To the horror of nurturists, a definite pattern emerges of lighter women being more highly valued regardless of the race under consideration. Having looked at the environmentalist explanations of this evaluation and found them wanting, van den Berghe and Frost turn to their main hypothesiS: that men's aesthetic preferences are shaped by their genes.

The first genetic explanation they propose, only to dismiss it immediately and without explaining why, is the one advanced in "The Racial Beauty Contest" (Jnstauration, Nov. 1989), which proposes that men are attracted to women who have youthful, neotenous physical traits. As one such trait is a lighter-than-adult complexion, men will very likely carry an inborn preference for light complexions in women.

More plausible, van den Berghe and Frost reckon, is their claim that medical research has found that a woman's skin darkens when she becomes temporarily infertile during pregnancy or an infertile phase of her menstrual cycle. This suggests that a link may exist between a woman's skin coloration and her "fecundability." In preferring to mate with light-complexioned women, men may unknowingly be selecting the most fertile women. In the present-day United States the minorities' admiration of the "Majority look" is one of the few assets-the Aesthetic Prop, as Instauration's editor calls it-that Majority members still possess in the ongoing racial confrontation.

A vital part of this look, particularly for women, is a fair complexion, which, van den Berghe and Frost predict, will soon return to oust suntans, particularly since it is now well known that the tanning of light skin often leads to cancer. Suntans, incidentally, are a temporary camouflage that can be disposed of at will. They send a message that the owner is healthier than he or she really is and is affluent enough to loll around beaches and visit expensive tanning salons. Dark-complexioned whites seldom go in for tanning. Be that as it may, it is heartening to report that, in at least one corner of academia, two scholars are attempting to lay a biological foundation for the most important and the most pleasing of all human aesthetic preferences men's attraction to female beauty.

By ‘986’ May 1991

1 comment:

Shockadelic said...

Pale skin makes genuine sexual arousal more obvious.

There's no faking a flush.