Saturday, 4 September 2010

Chapter Eight - The Nude Ape, (or what turned on our stone age ancestors)

Desmond Morris wrote his famous book The Naked Ape at the time of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and reading through it today in the 21st century, we can see how, in many ways, this book is dated. Yet some of the ideas in the book are still revolutionary as he attempts to explain human behaviour through the eyes of a zoologist. Unfortunately his book is greatly influenced by the conventions of the patriarchal society. So although in some parts of the book he gave very invaluable insights, his patriarchal biases limits the conclusions he comes to. Like most academics of the time he mostly ignores the role of women in evolution.
We can see this in the chapter on sex as he tries to put forward the reasons why human beings "pair-bond". Which is a way to explain in zoological terms why people get married and men go to work, because in the "man the hunter" theory it is men who “brings home the bacon” or the Mammoth. He also rationalises that because humans have a far longer childhood than other animals, it needed women to stay at home to look after children. This was because human culture is far more complex than any other animal so children need longer time to learn. So it needed a man to provide food for the mother and children.
Hunting of course provided this food. As men had a poor hunting bodies, that is to say they didn't have great strength, canine teeth or large claws, they needed their intelligence and ability to co-operate with men to be successful. He notes in other primates and animals that the males do not co-operate very well as they are competing for food, sex and status. This is because the male are competing with each other for the right to mate with the females. So for men to co-operate to the degree that they can hunt successfully this competition had to be broken down. Resulting in each man having his own woman who he looked after and therefore didn't have to compete with others over who could penetrate her. He ignored the fact that many non-Christian cultures don’t have pair bonding, where men could have more than one wife.
In recent times the "man the hunter" theory has come under attack. In the excavations of very early humans the bones of animals can still be found, giving the impression to palaeontologists that early humans were carnivores. Then critics of this theory have pointed out that in Africa where humans first evolve, in the Stone-Age communities that still exist there, the vast majority of the food produced comes from the women's gathering. Rather than the man's hunting. Women also do not stay at home but are quite happy to carry their young children with them as they gather food.
The problem with excavations is that the bones of animals tend to be preserved while the remains of vegetable matter soon rot away. Giving the false impression that early humans only existed on a diet of meat. So there is now doubt about the "man the hunter" theory. It is true that in colder climates where the growing season is far smaller or non-existent, hunting became essential for survival, but humans don’t really need to hunt in tropical climates, where humans first evolved.
Today in the 21st century there is some doubt whether humans are natural "pair-bonders". In the 1960s when "The Naked Ape" was written marriage was still the normal behaviour of most people. Now with the majority of marriages failing there in some doubt today whether marriage is normal for us all. Marriage has been enforced in the past through laws, religious taboos and social customs. Without these social restrictions today people are now questioning why they should get married. With the result is the increase of single mothers, who are not interested in living with a man, and prefer to bring up their children on there own. Which is the more the normal primate behaviour of the chimpanzee and the bonobo our nearest genetic relations.
Feminists have also pointed out that marriage is a patriarchal institution enforced because it allows men to know who their children are. So they are able to pass on their inheritance through the male line. Without marriages that restrict women to one man, a woman would be able to have sex relations with many men and would herself be unsure who is the father of her children. In other words it is an artificial restriction imposed on women by men, and not natural human behaviour as suggested by Desmond Morris.
It is true that the gibbons "pair-bond" to the exclusion of other gibbons, but are more distant relations to us than the chimpanzee, bonobo and gorilla. Every type of ape (including the human) has a very different social organisation and why they are different no-one really knows.
Where Desmond Morris does break new ground is in his attempt to explain why women have breasts and why unlike other primates we have large exposed lips on our mouths. He points out that other female primates have their genitals on show to give the males "visual stimulus" when she is on heat. Which would of been also true of our ancestors when we still walked on all fours. Then when we began to walk upright, this caused a problem in that the female genital region is no longer easily seen.
What the male used to see when we were on all fours was her bottom and the red lips of the vagina region. So when we started to walk upright because men would be still looking for this visual stimulus, the only thing he would see would be her bottom, and he would be stimulated by this. So women with larger bottoms would have the advantage, as it would be a larger sexual stimulant. This would put evolutionary pressure for women to have far larger buttocks than men. Unfortunately, the problem would still remain that the man wouldn't see the women's vagina from behind when standing upright. Yet can see it from the front. This would encourage face to face copulation, (which more modern research has shown is something both the Orang-utan and the bonobo are able to do). He points out that when female primates are on heat the vagina area colours up to give a strong visual signal. Without these visual signs men would be looking for similar signs on women. So women with larger than usual red lips on her mouth would become attractive to men, as men will see this as being similar to the red lips of the vagina when they used to see when humans were on all fours. (Which might be one reason why we have oral sex, and many men have the desire to put their penises in women's mouths). Likewise women with fleshy chests would also became attractive to men from the front as it reminds them of women's buttocks. So it suggests that women have end up with breasts, large buttocks and red lips because of sexual selection. As women who have these attributes, are more likely to mate with men
.Even today this is still true where women paint their lips red and know if they have large breasts they have a better chance of attracting men. Desmond Morris backs up his claim by pointing out that the mandrill and gelada baboons mimic the colours of their sexual area on their faces and chests. Which makes sense for these primates, because they spend a large part of their time sitting upright
In the same chapter he points out that compared with other primates the penis of a man is very much larger then any other primate. (The average size of a penis of the largest ape, the gorilla, is smaller than a human's little finger). In his attempt to explain this he is on more shaky ground. He also points out that in other primates, female don't seem to have orgasms and after the sex-act walk away as if nothing had happened. He explains this that if women were to do the same, then because she walks in an upright position the seminal fluid would, under the weight of gravity, flow back out of her vagina. So she needed a reason in which to lie down for a while to allow time for the fluid to fertilise her. So an orgasm that leaves her exhausted for a while would have this effect. So far makes sense and he goes on to point out that it is the stimulation of the women's clitoris that allows the women to have an orgasm.
Desmond Morris reasoning then breaks down because he claims that it requires a large penis in a man to stimulate a women's clitoris. Unfortunately more modern sexual research has shown that a man with a small penis is as just as able to bring a woman to orgasm as a man with a far larger one.
What he seems to have missed, and it was probably his patriarchal bias that caused this, was that when humans were on all fours to some degree the penis is concealed. When men started to stand upright his penis is very much on display. Now if large breasts, buttocks and red lips on a woman, are a great sexual stimulation to a man. Then it would mean that a penis would also be a strong visual sexual stimulation to a woman. So like men being stimulated by very large breasts, the larger the penis the stronger the visual affects it will have on women.
This is confirmed by the mating behaviour of birds like peacocks and birds of paradise. The male bird in these two species has developed extraordinary, very large and colourful feathers. It seems that the evolutionary pressure for male birds to develop these feathers come from the female bird who picks which male she wants to mate with. It seems that the female bird picks her mate on the basis of who has the most colourful feathers and so over evolutionary time the most successful male birds in mating has been those who have the largest feathers.
For Demond Morris in the 1960s such a theory would have been unacceptable. Because even though women's liberation did get started then, it still wasn't acceptable that women could enjoy the sight of completely naked men. Also the patriarchal bias dictated that it was men who always ruled society and took the initiative in all things. So for women to pick men, only with large penises, with this resulting in men evolving even larger penises because of this. Means that there was a time in the past when women could choose their sexual partners.
Now clearly this doesn't happen in patriarchal societies and it is noticeable that in most of these societies the genitals are concealed. Even in very hot climates where people wear very little. It is of interest that in some tribes in New Guinea where men openly display their penises, it is the men with the largest ones that have the highest status in the tribe. This suggests that the women are the dominant sex in the tribe or were in the recent past. Because it strongly suggests that it is women who have the final say in which partner she has sex with. This is such a concern for men in these tribes, that they will tie weights to their penises in an attempt to stretch them or to push hollow tubes of wood over them to make them look longer. Which gives a clue as to why in patriarchal societies the genitals are covered. The more ambitious and aggressive men in a society would have problems if his status were only governed by the size of his penis. So these men had to bring in laws and taboos for a cover-up to ensure that more well endowed men couldn't challenge them for status and power.
So it means for men to grow large penises it needed a society in the past where men had their genitals on display, and for women chose their sexual partners, to the degree that it is mostly well-endowed men who have sexual intercourse with women. In our patriarchal society we have men who expose themselves who are called "flashers". Many women find this behaviour offensive and threatening and can be frightened by it. The reason for this is because women fear these men will come after them and try and rape them. So to have a situation where women are not afraid of "flashers" and are even willing to choose her sexual partners on the size of his penis. Means a woman has to be very confident that she is in control of the situation and the man. Also women in a patriarchal situation can be frightened by men with extra large penises because they fear it could hurt or damage them. So for a woman to approach a well endowed man for sex means she is confident she can dictate to him if she wants it inside her, and can order him to withdraw it if it physically hurts her. In other words she has to be in control of the situation, unlike the situation in strict patriarchal society where a wife was unable to refuse her husband sex.
In the patriarchal society women have always dressed to attract the man with red lipstick or low-cut dresses. Even when dress codes dictated that women cover-up, as in the Victorian times, women then started to wear bustles, which greatly exaggerated the size of their buttocks. Even today women wear tight jeans, to show off the shape of their bottom and vagina, or skimpy and high-cut swim wear to show themselves off to men. It is true some men have done the same as we can see with codpieces in the past or the padded tights of male ballet-dancers. (So it is of interest that male ballet-dancers have the reputation of being feminine or "wimps"). But it is mostly the women who have attempted to dress in a sexual way rather than men. In recent times this is starting to change some men are now attempting to look sexy in the same way. As they also wear tight jeans and tee shirts or wear skimpy bathing suits when swimming. Which shows that they are putting out a signal to women that they want to attract them and even for them to take the initiative.
Many of the ancient Gods in the past like Pan did have very large penises, and in many pagan religions and even in Hinduism today the penis was, and is still, worshipped. Societies where the penis is worshipped and openly displayed by men is going to create large problems for men who are not well-endowed. In a strictly patriarchal society where it is covered up and women are only suppose to have knowledge of the penis of her husband this is no problem. Today when there is more sexual-freedom, men are having relationships with women who will openly talk about having had sexual relationships with many other men before. This creates a problem for men in how they "measure up" whether his girl friend or wife had sex with men who were bigger than him. Even though sex therapists and agony aunts have tried to reassure men that "size doesn't matter", no one is really persuaded by this. Because although technically size doesn't matter, as a visual stimuli it matters a lot.
In recent times because of the advances in plastic surgery many women who can afford it, are having their breast sizes increased. Likewise some surgeons are also claiming to be able to do the same for men's penises, and this is also becoming popular for men who can afford it. (Though there are still worries about the safety of these operations). Also for a number of years sex-catalogues have been selling vacuum pumps to increase the size of the penis. Which men still buy although there is some doubt as to whether these devices really work. So like the New Guinea tribesmen who tie weights to their penises, men in Western societies are starting to become obsessed with the size of their penises.
Many men today with small penises can feel inadequate and even depressed about it. Women who want to humiliate men know that one of the best ways is to suggest their too small to satisfy them. Men have an instinctive feeling that penis size is important to women. In the Stone Age it probably was, and as women become more sexually liberated, it might turn out to be just as significant in the future. Just imagine how interested men would be if doctors found a safe, cheap and reliable way to enlarge their penises? Most men would be very tempted. In the recent past penis size wouldn’t of mattered too much if a man’s wife had to be faithful to just her husband. In that she is not in a position to compare her husband’s penis with other men. Today with sexual liberation most women get to compare the penis sizes of many men. The very fact that men do worry about the size of their equipment to the point of getting very depressed about it, points to a time in the past when this was very important to men’s status and importance. Suggesting a matriarchal society where women choose their sexual partners, so the hang-ups about size must be instinctive feelings coming from this time.
If this were a problem today then it would have been one in the past when people worshipped "well-endowed" Gods and walked around completely naked as the early ancient Greeks did. As this would only be a problem for men and not for women, it points to such a society being either equal or dominated by women.
So what this seems to suggest is that thousands of years of patriarchal rule will through sexual selection cause women to have larger breasts and buttocks. While matriarchal rule will again through sexual selection cause men to have larger penises.
So what does this tell us about our early ancestors? The large breasts of women strongly suggest a patriarchal age, while the large penises of men strongly suggest a matriarchal age. Or does it suggest both and men a women were equal then? This will mean an equal society where both men and women choose their sexual partners and the result would be a free-for-all. You may have an elite group of large-breasted females mating with males who have big penises, but what will the rest of the population do? They’ll be mating with each other as well. So there would be no survival advantage in having either large breasts or a large penis. The reason why a peacock has such enormous tail feathers is because the peahen finds them sexually attractive, and it is she who chooses. If the peacock had a say in the matter then there wouldn’t be such a strong evolutionary pressure to develop such ridiculously large feathers. This means that this kind of evolution can only happen to the male if the female alone does the choosing. The same goes for male-dominated societies where the alpha males only select women with large breasts. The offspring of these women will be more likely to survive, protected by the alpha males. So it needs one sex doing the choosing to exaggerate the sexual characteristics of the other sex. If both sexes are doing it, then survival remains dependent on other factors.
This could suggest that a sexually equal society has never happened in human history. Where the only time we had equality is when we were changing from a patriarchy to a matriarchy, as is happening now, or vice-versa, at the end of the Neolithic age. Which I admit is not what Feminists would like to hear. Though even Feminists admit that equality is very difficult because we live in a masculine society, designed by men exclusively for men. There’s little provision even today for women who have both a career and children. If a woman has children she has two stark choices. Pursue a career while simultaneously caring for her family, which is enormously stressful, or leave work for a number of years, thus reducing her promotion prospects. The alternative is, the woman has a househusband, but that can’t be called equality, because the male then has to sacrifice his own career, for her. We also live in a highly competitive society that favours aggressive men rather than co-operative women. If we change our society so that the feminine virtues of co-operation and caring are rewarded, this would help women, but it would severely disadvantage the average man. Because as shown in the war between Capitalism and Communism, men respond best under the very competitive environment of Capitalism and didn’t do so well in a Communist system. Where competition is not encouraged. Equality between the sexes becomes very difficult to sustain over many generations. What helps men, disadvantages women and vice-versa.

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