Thursday 22 December 2011

Fake boobs for women, fake bods for men


Because of silicone-fake-boobs there are now women around of a body shape that did not exist a generation ago and never had existed throughout human history. And indeed, in moderation, this is the most admired female shape in the mass media.

Likewise - but much less remarked upon - because of anabolic steroid-fake-bods, there are now men around of a body shape that did not exist a generation ago and never had existed throughout human history. And indeed, in moderation, this is the most admired male shape in the mass media.

But, due to a differential susceptibility of men and women to the influence of the mass media, and differential ability to discriminate mass media depictions from real life; this means that we now have a generation of women whose real life ideal of male attractiveness is (unknown to them) wholly a product of anabolic steroid use.

Just an observation...



Jonathan said...

Perhaps, but photos of hunter-gatherers still eating their original diets (e.g. Australian aborigines) and archaeological studies suggest that the average American male physique of today never had existed in human history before agriculture, and our present idea of what ordinary men look like is wholly a product of grain consumption and the ability to survive without physical labor.

It's a tough contest whether the modern schlub or the anabolic steroid-bod is closer to the Sapiens Classic look.

Penda said...

Interesting. And yet:

What about corsets? Used extremely widely in the last century.

This nearly goes without saying, but the 'steroid look' isn't an attraction for women in the same way your opposite example for men. It's almost more significant as an ideal for men, among men, in the bodybuilding culture.

About the breasts thing, I think your observation is correct though. There is something to the feminist canard about the image of beauty departing from reality; but that practically has much more to do with the never-before seen rates of female obesity and overweightness. Which seems not just to be a modernity condition, but a late modernity condition. (There was an article recently about exhibits of costumes, etc. of mid-20th film stars. Even the 'buxom' stars like Monroe were actually very slim by our standards.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jonathan - I would expect that modern standards of attractiveness have evolved much more recently than hunter gatherer times - and probably averages vary in different parts of the world according to racial group.

Also we need to distinguish between ideals and averages - the average 'modern schlub' has never been the ideal.

@Penda - "the 'steroid look' isn't an attraction for women in the same way your opposite example for men."

No, but in the opposite sense than you suggest.

The anabolic steroid look (in moderation) is the *ideal* for modern young women - not just in pictures but in reality.

(Unless you do not recognize that the idealized modern hunk is a product of steroids?)

Silicone boobs are *not* the ideal for men in real life, only (perhaps) the (fantasy, photographic, remote, superficial) appearance of them.

Sojka's Call said...

I agree with Jonathan's comments. Grain consumption has completely changed how humans look.

Personally, an athletic build that indicates strength, agility and longevity is what I find attractive. And, most people of sound mind would agree with that.

I think those attracted to silicone implants and steroid induced grotesque body shapes that are anything but agile and athletic are people with warped perspectives of reality.

The Crow said...

Eighty-year-olds with perfect teeth, laser corrected eyes, implanted hair, titanium joints, lifted faces...
And dementia.

I admired, just yesterday, the perfect form of a hare.
The pleasure gained from this observation far exceeded anything experienced when observing the human form.

There may well be something to the idea that humans originated somewhere in outer space.

Thursday said...

I think this boils down to runaway sexual selection vs. natural selection. People probably would have preferred these unnatural shapes in the past, but they never evolved because of constraints imposed by natural selection. Steve Sailer once used Jessica Rabbit as an example of a outlandish shape that men would probably prefer in a mate, but which is impossible in reality.

Here is a fantastic video explaining some of the distortions the Ancient Greeks introduced into their statuary for aesthetic effect.

We are now sculpting with real human flesh.

JP said...

But... but... there were lots of those totally buff guys back in the Roman days, you see them all the time in gladiator movies!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Thursday - sure, I know *why* these things happen

But while men are aware that the supernormal stimuli are fake, my impression is that women are not.

Jonathan said...

"But while men are aware that the supernormal stimuli are fake, my impression is that women are not."

Oh, very interesting. I just realized that half the message of your original post ("differential susceptibility/ability") went right over my head the first couple of times I read it.

Why do you think so?

Bruce Charlton said...


Related to this:

For whatever reason (and it is easy to think of evolutionary explanations to do with sexual selection) women are differentially much more attuned to the (perceived) peer group of other women, and motivated to match their evaluations.

(Men by contrast are differentially more competitive. They build alliances rather than peer groups.)

Hence women are much more vulnerable to the mass media than are men. Or, to put it another way, women are more motivated to conform with fashion and trends - these being the most obvious manifestation of the mass media.

When the mass media is as pervasive as now, and when its methods are so refined, women en masse can be made to do things which instinctively repel them - such as deliberately and permanently making themselves ugly, having sex promiscuously, risking their lives for no reason, or travelling alone in strange places.

(Of course, to do such things takes a heavy psychological toll.)

It is relatively facile to shape the objects of sexual attractiveness by the mass media - if the mass media proclaims that person or characteristic X is attractive to women, then they *are* - because the mass media constitutes the most powerful peer group in modern society, and status (among the perceived peer group) defines attractiveness.

Of course, all this is only en masse and on average; individuals retain choice, people stand against the media and fashion, sub-groups are disconnected and defined-against he media and fashion and so on.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bruce; I must respectfully disagree with you a bit. While it is true that modern juice monkeys are completely absurd, men were pretty big and muscular in Renaissance and Classical art. You can get a pretty good idea of what natural, athletic human form was like by looking at classical art, or bodybuilders before 1955 or so. One of the confounding variables is the bench press, which causes men to grow enormous unnatural chest muscles, was invented at around the same time as dianabol was. Before that, strong men were much more shouldery, as all the presses were overhead.
Some of us keep the old school physical culture alive. Natural weight lifting has had something of a revival with the internets. It's done me a lot of good.

The modern Hollywood "ideal woman" on the other hand: almost certainly the result of plastic bolt on boobs *and* anabolic steroid use, which is why they all have enormous chins these days.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SL - I don't think we are talking about the same thing - I'm not talking about hyper-inflated bodybuild champions; but the run of the mill, media hunk look in movies, tv, advertizing, bands etc.

Chris said...

I think Scott's point is correct, regardless of whether one is talking about bodybuilders or "media hunks." Models do not all get that way using steroids, and, as Scott pointed out, significant musculature is possible without steroids, so that the shifting of the average for women's desires would have been possible without the development of steroids.

The exogenous contributor that needs identification in this question is not steroids so much as the development of exercise sciences. Most trainers today recognize that a skinny runner without shoulder or back muscles is not only literally not fit, but probably not maximizing health in the short or long terms, either. It's true, though, that the interaction between the steroid culture of bodybuilding and the development of exercise science in the 1980s and 90s is an open question.

If there's very much difference between media images of men and what men who work out moderately become, it's less musculature than hairlessness, prettiness, and extreme low body fat.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chris. It depends who and what you believe. I believe that the media hunk shape is something new, and that for almos all people to achieve it requires drugs (steroids, diuretics etc).