Tuesday, 24 September 2013

When "fashion" = evolved/ socially-conditioned signalling


When "fashion" = "multiple simultaneous signals of sexual availability" - then it is useful to know that this is happening. 


Speaking partly as an evolutionary psychologist and partly as a cultural observer, there are a number of signals which a significant proportion of sex-seeking men will regard as signals of sexual availability in a woman:

1. A lot of exposed skin; 2. Tight clothing; 3. Tattoos; 4. Piercings (other than ear lobe); 5. Ankle bracelets (except when ethnically traditional); 6. Smoking, drinking alcohol (or taking other drugs); 7. Bleached blond hair; 8. 'Bold' holding of eye contact; 9. Dressing and making-up and behaving as if considerably younger than the true chronological age (which can easily be seen from the back of the hands); 10. Very high heels; 11. Plastic surgery...

The list is not exhaustive. And the reasons why these signals act as signals are various - that is not the point here.

Given that any one of these will probably be interpreted, by a man looking for sex, as a signal of sexual availability: what is going on when so many modern women, including young and attractive women, deploy many of these signals simultaneously?


Previously, this kind of multiple-signalling was deployed only by those who were selling sex; but now the practice is common, even in the workplace and education; and is nearly ubiquitous in some leisure situations. Even allowing that some women may 'merely' be following fashion, doing what other women do, and are initially unaware that they are sending out these signals; they will nonetheless have much the same effect - perhaps even more powerfully, since gullibility is added to the mix.


Probably, multiple signals of sexual availability imply (to the male viewer) the high possibility of low-investment, short-termist, no-strings-attached sex - which is something that spontaneously attracts attention (especially, but not only, among men who are looking for low-investment, no-strings-attached sex) - attracts attention in a way that - if not yielded-to - must actively be resisted or trained-out; attention which makes the multi-signalling woman a centre and focus of competition among those men who are actively seeking low-investment, no-strings-attached sex (quite possibly - and this is significant - a centre of attention even when other, younger and more attractive, women are present).


This attention and competition may be exciting and gratifying in the short term; may indeed be addictive.

Having experienced this - often elicited with effortless ease!  - women may be reluctant to give it up, may want more of the same.

Having made herself a focus of attention by multiple sexual signalling; a woman may not only enjoy this but perhaps be able to 'manage' this attention, to her advantage - in various ways to get compliments, gifts and favours; although the situation can easily get out of hand, especially when alcohol and anonymity are added to the mix.


From a man's perspective, or so evolutionary psychology tells us, there are two distinct strategies with respect to partners - long-term highly investing (e.g. marriage, leading to children) and short-term, low-investing (aiming at sex).

There is a probability that if a women signals unambiguously her sexual availability, then a man will (unconsciously, perhaps) put her into the category of short-term, low-investing - and will find himself reluctant ever to risk a long-term high investing relationship with someone he has observed in such blatant sexual signalling  or perhaps in even in a context where this kind of signalling is found.

If so, this is one of many ways in which all-out pursuit of short-term pleasure can sabotage a realistic prospect of long-term gratification: firstly by the addictiveness of being desired and pursued, second by the deterrent effect on men who might be suitable long-term marriage partners.


A further spin on this is when married women, perhaps married women with children, engage in this kind of multiple signalling of sexual availability.

At the very least this is a bad prognostic sign - that even wives and mothers want to send out indiscriminate sexual signals which will (like it or not - and presumably they do like it or else they would not do it?) provoke sexual kinds of attention.

Female sexuality is a potent force in human affairs - but like any powerful weapon its deployment always contains potential risks and potentially incurs costs - both individual and social.

It is as well to be aware of these things; if possible, before it is too late...