On Wed, 1 Dec 1999, Matt Gingell wrote:
> I'm curious - do we know what the biological basis for gender-specific
> attraction might be? It seems to me that gender is a learned
I doubt it.
> We aren't born with the ability to distinguish males from
> females, in contrast, for instance, to the ability to distinguish
> between foods that smell edible verses those that smell spoiled.
It may be hormone trigger based. You don't need to distinguish males from females until you can reproduce. On the other hand you need to be able to detect bad foods your entire life.
> Indeed, young children often seem to have very peculiar ideas about
> the nature of sexual difference.
Evidence for homone-based trigger mechanisms perhaps.
> The preponderance of heterosexuality across different societies, and
> especially across different species, suggests that there is some
> underlying biological predisposition. To play the devils advocate
> though, perhaps it's significance has been overstated. I'm more
> attracted to tall thin women than short fat women, which is certainly
> cultural, just as I salivate at the smell of beef and recoil at the
> thought of eating dog. Perhaps the fact I'm more sexually attracted to
> girls than boys is just as learned.
No, the studies are fairly clear about this, men are "programmed" to be (visually) attracted to high (bust-or-hip / waist) ratios, presumably because easier births and/or greater milk capacity are markers for reproductive success. We probably aren't attracted to the inverse bacause these women would be "pregnant" and would therefore be poor choices for attempting reproduction. I expect there will be some variation in the strength of these attractions and/or some "spin" put on them by cultural influences.
> Memes like 'men shall not lie with men' have historically made sense
> from a public health point of view - in just the same way memes for
> monogamy did.
Huh? Actually men lying with men has a fairly long historical tradition (the Greek armies come to mind). Public health really took a hit when large numbers of women followed the armies around and promoted the spread of STDs. This is because it is generally easier for men to tell they are infected with something than women, so women can function as hidden carriers. This probably was at its worst during the middle ages up to Napoleon's time when large numbers of recruits & camp followers were infected with syphillus.
> There are obvious epidemiological reasons to minimize
> the non-essential exchange of bodily fluids, whichever way they're
Actually, the mouth is a much greater carrier of bacteria than other body areas. By this argument we would have social or genetic selection against kissing. I suspect the social benefits of kissing weigh heavily against this.
> I see an analogy to injunctions against pork. I'm certain the
> incidence of homosexuality would be dramatically higher than ~10% in a
> society where there wasn't such a stigma attached, Ancient Greece
> being the canonical example.
I could see interesting anti-pork injunctions developing because swine are a carrier of influenza viruses and intermixing of swine/avian/human influenza viruses is what makes the really nasty strains (influenza is one of the few viruses that can be viewed as having multiple "chromosomes", so strain intermixing in animals/humans infected with multiple types can produce some really nasty variants).
The reason for higher levels of sexual activity (when social reasons against it are lessened) is because of the genetic "hypersexuality" program. Humans are programmed to have sex for pleasure, not to have sex for reproduction. It is interesting to think that much of the anti-homosexual bias seems to go hand-in-hand with Christianity. Perhaps a clever ploy on the part of the church to outlaw "outlets" for sexual drives, increasing their control over the accepted "outlets" (e.g. marriages) and strengthening their birth-to-death management of private lives.