Monday, February 13, 2006

Exposure of Female Anatomy - A Biological Perspective

It's rather cliched now to lament that dresses of ladies are getting shorter and shorter. It's now become a form of art to cleverly expose some extra bit of flesh on the woman's body without showing 'those' parts fully, yet making it scandalising enough to attract attention.

There's nothing right or wrong about all this. So, let's not lament. Let's try to look at it from as many angles as possible.

A female is an attractive thing biologically. The male of a species (especially in mammals) is biologically programmed to feel sexually attracted to the female of his species. A female is biologically programmed to show off her charms to attract male attention. Exposing flesh, which is nothing but an exhibition of sexual health, is a natural thing for a female of a mammal species to do. Biologically speaking, again, the sexual equations of male and female are that man dominates, and female submits. It gets well betrayed right from the manner a courtship starts to the way a copulation happens (of course, I am talking about the natural ways; not the creative ones invented by us!) In that manner, when a chappie feels like pouncing on a girl showing off her assets, it's not really his sex-starvedness or his narrow upbringing. It's his biology. If he does that he will do the most natural thing for him to do: sexual domination.

As exposure is increasing in films and on streets, we are going closer and closer to our original biology. The female is showing off her sexual beauty. The only deep rooted biological reason for that is to attract sexual attention. A natural consequence of it would lead to mating with a male, which would substantiate the sexual domination of the male ape on his female counterpart.

In animal kingdom, there's no concept of molestation or rape. It happens with humans because they create a condition of tremendous biological stress through a society driven by intellect, and not biology. However, choosing a level of submission and conflict with their biological propensities depends not on any clear logic but as per fads and fashions. In turn, fads and fashions are dictated by deep-rooted biological characteristics. Intellect just serves as a protector of rights: the right to violate or submit to those biological instincts. There was a time when ladies wouldn't even wear a blouse. There are times and places when there would be no part of her anatomy visible. These days, often things are fairly functional, in the sense that convenience and comfort, and not sexual exposure, dictate the taste. But many very attractive dresses worn by girls even today seem so tight as to be cutting through their bodies, or so flimsy as to be ready to fly away any moment. Of course, it's neither comfort nor convenience that gives birth to such tastes. It's pure biology. I have moved in circles where shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex used to be a taboo. I have been witness to cultures where bodily contact is a de facto part of male-female interaction. Humans really don't have a clear concept as to what is the safe and right amount of closeness. Nor do conditions of today allow the development of such an idea. When somebody learns to be at ease with some given norms – notwithstanding the biology – circumstances take a sharp turn around him; and he is faced with an entirely different culture! Most of us are smart enough to handle these unnatural changes. But we should accept that we are blessed with a biological make of a fairly primitive tribal ape. While our intellect fights hard to adapt to the ever changing cultural conditions, our biology has fallen far behind. Acts of sexual crime are calls of distress from our biology.

All this may make it all appear as an advocacy for conservative dressing. It's not the case though. I am advocating an acceptance of the presence of dominance of our biological instincts upon us. The exposure that we see these days has a lot to do with the women empowerment and also with money. But a point to note is that after getting the freedom to do what she wants, a female ape will have a biological tendency to choose submission and sexual exhibitionism in many ways. She will pierce herself at several parts, she will wear clothes and footwear that will restrict her movements and make her uncomfortable. She will go to strange limits to create illusions of the hairlessness of her body. All this is loud evidence of the fact that women are liberated. But they are also loudly declaring that a female mammal would always choose male sexual dominance, going biologically. In case of humans, that happens in an extraordinarily sophisticated manner: self-inflicted trauma by females to look attractive, for instance. It is done by choice, hence can't be condemned as an atrocity; at least not while these acts of female beautification are in fashion.

On the other hand, one of human-being's nature is to go against his nature. Our intellect is as much a part of our biology as our genetic code. Our intellect exposes us to many other ways of looking at things than our mere biology. Take again the case of female dressing trends. We have come a long way from the time when a woman was supposed to kill herself if her husband died. We now think of it as some kind of atrocity done to women by a male-dominated society. The atrocity was there; but it didn't have more to do with men than with women. Here again, biology seems to have a part to play. Male dominance is always a fashion. Then it was crude. A women mounting her departed husband's pyre would be an epitome of female submission. In her age, she would be hailed as a heroine. Today, those ways of female submission to male dominance are rapidly going out of question. But new ways – more subtle and less blatant – have to been invented to make that same thing happen. Inconvenient methods of dressing, expensive ways of looking good, be it through expensive (and very temporary) hairdo, outragiously priced jewellary and dresses, painful piercing and hair removal ... they are more sophisticated methods by which a women takes the liberty of submitting to the male need of sexual dominance. The story of perfectly willing sacrifice of Madri by burning herself up with Pandu seems ridiculous and barbaric to us today. In a more sophisticated society tomorrow, when they come across methods by which females of today subject themselves to painful experiences – be it by wearing inconvenient and uncomfortable drapery, by going through the tedium of hair removal just so that they have the liberty to show off that extra square inch of their anatomy -- those people of tomorrow will proclaim the society of today as barbaric and male chauvinistic.

The money aspect in the movies etc. also has a mapping to the same cause. There's nothing inherently noble about a lovely face, and nothing inherently ignoble about a sexy figure. The exposure of physical beauty, be it in the form of eyeliners and lipsticks accentuating an artificial pout, or skimpy outfits accentuating curves, are all directed towards the same end: enticing the male, a perfectly natural thing for a female to do. In all ages, such acts have always been done by the most aggressive and outgoing of the females of that age. Madri and Rani Padmini displayed their loyalty (which in this case is a display of the strength of sexual pair-bond and hence sexual strength itself, in some sense) by walking out of the crowd and taking the liberty of ending their lives. Today, a film heroine takes the same liberty by wearing the skimpiest of all dresses and walking proudly and gracefully in front of a crowd of thousands. Both these classes of women are aggressive and powerful; both are heroines of their own respective ages; both are doing the same act of sexual submission in their own ways fashionable in their respective era. And since the acts of most aggressive sexual submission are done by the most empowered of all females of an age, they are rewarded, not just by sexual attention, but everything else: money, fame, power etc. Exposure in films and in the most fashionable circles are not the consequence of a lot of money. The money is a consequence of exposure, which only the most aggressive and empowered of all women dare do in our present age.

I realise that saying all this may subject me to a lot of brickbats from the female audience, but I entreat for a scientific view to what I am saying. It will be a very emotional thing to do if I am interpreted as an advocate of female subjugation. As I mentioned above, we are intellectuals – and that fact is as fine-engrained in us as our biologically being mere beasts who are susceptible to strong biological tendencies beyond reason and control. We have a fair degree of control in deciding what's right and what's not through volitional thought. We are blessed with some degree of freedom to even go against our biology. But we must also understand that we are still strongly held back by our genetic make: the make of a primitive tribal ape where male sexual dominance and female sexual enticement and subsequent submission comes very naturally to us. If our intellect wages war with that make, there's going to be tremendous tension. That tension again is a part of the game we are in the middle of. Man always adventures; he always takes risks; he always walks on a knife's edge. He falls and bleeds. But he gets up and keeps on walking. Our rebellion against our biology is also a very natural thing for us to do.

We intellectuals would definitely like to have a society that treats men and women equally.But the biological part of us will reject such a society as very dry and uninteresting. The more we try equating the two sexes, the newer and more ingenious methods will we devise to again create distinctions. But the justification for the inherent differences between men and women, which linger in the form of poetic verses or allusions of mystical thoughts, are not very effective. Men and women are different by their biology. If that's accepted, we don't need to knock at the doors of mystics of poets to look for an explanation as to why we are not what we think we are or should be.

To close, I will assert that exposure of female anatomy, whether in movies or in real life, has definitely to do a lot with women's liberation. The money factor is involved but it is not so much an antecedent, as it is a consequent of the exposure. The exposure happens mostly by the most aggressive and powerful females of the human species – film stars and attractive and popular ladies – and is an act of display of sexual powers of a (sexually) powerful and confident female. This act itself is nothing new of this age. Sexual exhibitionism is very typical thing for a female of our species to do to attract male mates. This same biological event sometimes goes awry and takes the form of sexual crimes, whorehouses and nude bars. But that's a combination of a largely unnatural social intellect and a personal intellect defeated in the hands of very strong biological instincts.

And to reduce all this to one line, there are various aspects – sociological, philosophical, moral, economic – to this issue of exposure of female body catching up in fashion, but all that is clearly pervaded by the biological aspect, which always keeps men and women of our aggressive species at war – with competitors,with each other, and even with oneself -- to win each other's attention, in the course of which, both sexes not only show tremendous ingenuity, but –partly owing to our massive intellect – go to unnatural extents in inflicting even pain and death unto oneself.

I repeat, there's nothing right or wrong in this. But surely, there's a lot of material to wonder and feel awe at the complex way we have been designed by that clever and crazy chap: God!

Postscriptum: I owe a lot to Desmond Morris and his book 'The Human Zoo' for the above treatment. The central idea – that of female exhibitionism and male dominance – is a scientific fact according to him. In his book, he gives far more numerous and naked examples of this thesis. I have just instantiated this idea to explain the point of the above discussion.


Pritesh said...

As I said in the mail too, there are examples of enhibitionism in males of different species....."WE" interpret them as show-offs of strength! It's, kind of hard to decide whether it is their strength they are displaying or their desirability!

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Ya. Right. I think, desirability subsumes all qualities that add to the appropriateness of finding a mate. Strength is one of them. In some way, desirability is also a show of health, which makes the organism fitter for survival, either by giving it power to fight away enemies, or to give birth to and nourish a healthy progeny.

No, since you raised the issue of exposure, which has a tinge of female exploitation. somehow 'male' exposure fails to catch up as exploitation. Somehow, there doesn't seem to exist a concept of 'subjugation by sex' in case of males. I feel, it's very common for men to quickly resort to sexual insults and abuse, when they want to put down someone who is a female. And the roots of its effectiveness seems deeper than cultural. It seems biological. The treatment somehow fails to click if done sex-neutrally. And the only comprehensible root seems to be in the bilogical basis of this assymmetry.

I repeat, 'biological.' That's where it all starts. It would be ideal (intellectually) if that's where it would have ended too. If men and women had grown completely into rational creatures (I hope it will strike a chord with you since you are reading Ayn Rand these days) :). If all relations between men and women had been decided by conscious rationals.

But, it definitely doesn't happen. Most women remain those sensitive, soft creatures who quite often inadvertently tend towards mushiness, oversentimentalism; who definitely don't need, but yet seem to love, protection and ladylike treatment...and yet get away being extremely cute and desirable. Girls more like guys end up, despite being great in all logical ways, being tagged as 'tomboys.' Similarly, men despite all lectures, end up being violent, aggressive, loud, untidy, insensitive. And those mostly end up winning away the most aggressive and outgoing of females. Nice guys continue to finish last! Some of them do worse. They don't even take part in the race. They write long philosophical blogs! ;)

That's not hypocricy or culture. It's biology for you! :)

Nidhi said...

well...thers so much i can say about this...i think the our (human's) understanding of what is biology is not complete the sense...that intellect also emanates from our brains and if i go towards a school of thought...everything yet to be discovered is already programmed into our genes...we are just yet to with intellect so also emotions and instincts are biological....whatever i wrote i feel to a large extent describes the non homo-sapien our case the difference comes because we can choose...a bitch in heat has to mate....but it is not so with human female...thats is why the concept of biological dominance of male that we understand is not necessarily right...otherwise there wouldnt have been such uproar against it...and thats where i differ from desmond morris...

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Yes. The uproar is there, and is justified. But, as I am trying hard to explain that to assert (or propose) that assymmetric biological instincts exist, and to say that we should follow or ignore them, are two different things. The former is descriptive; while the latter is prescriptive.

The only prescriptive thing that I am mentioning is that by accepting the possibility of the biological assymmetry, we equip ourselves with yet another weapon to combat it if it tends to affect us adversely. We have long tried to explain the assymmetries in terms of culture etc. but, the deep-rootedness of this assymmetry keeps on perplexing humans as ever. That's why, the idea of looking for biological basis.

The uproar we see are valid and, I feel, are against the encroachment of that assymmetry -- which we feel should either not exist or should be limited to the harmless sexual games between the two sexes -- encroaching into other relations of the two people. Whether the assymmetry has a biological basis or not is definitely a valid question. But is the uproar directly about denying the presence of the biological assymmetry?

Just for personal safety, I hereby deny being thought of as a proponent of this 'assymmetry' theory. My own acquaintence with this theory is only a few months old. But, I can confidently declare that supporting or refuting it doesn't prescribe anything about the rational and social interactions between human males and females which are governed by intellect. For instance, family, profession etc.

fuse me said...

Again, if you see statistics, a lot of the rape victims are burkha clad, and the number of cases of people trying to molest boldly dressed women are fewer compared to the women who dress as normally as the others.

I think if man wants to create a divide between animals and himself, then he better know how to keep his so called basic instincts to himself, or in bed with his wife.