Thursday, December 21, 2006

Skin-color preference in sub-Saharan Africa

It has long been noted that black men prefer lighter-skinned women, both in sub-Saharan Africa and in the black diaspora. For the United States, we can quote several writers. "A fair Negro woman … has such superior marriage chances that this fact is generally recognized as the major explanation of why passable women do not seem to pass out of the Negro caste as often as do passable men" (Myrdal 1944: 698). "The frequency with which Negro men choose women fairer than they are attests at least in part to the connection in the mind of the black man between fair skin and beauty" (Grier and Cobbs 1968:80). "Several research projects conducted in the last few years suggest that African-American men are more attracted to women who are lighter than they are, and that African-American women believe light skin makes them, or would make them, more appealing" (Layng 2006).

In sub-Saharan Africa, women often use skin-bleaching products, usually hydroquinone but also mercury, topical steroids, and Javel water. Ntambwe (2002) cites prevalence rates of 25% in Bamako, Mali, up to 52% in Dakar, Senegal, up to 35% in Pretoria, South Africa, and up to 77% in Lagos, Nigeria. He adds, "the majority of black men prefer light-skinned women as partners, girlfriends or wives. Several authors have stated that these light-skinned women are perceived as attractive, intelligent, moral, sexually more desirable, even chaste; whereas dark-skinned are regarded as mean, evil, stupid, even as not trust-worthy."

This preference is often put down to European influence. Myrdal (1944:697), for instance, felt that African-Americans were internalizing Euro-American color prejudice. Others, like Layng (2006), simply see an adoption of dominant norms of beauty: "it was the Europeans and their descendants who were both numerically and economically dominant. so it is not surprising that, over time, a greater number of African-Americans, especially those who were upwardly mobile, adopted the prevailing views on physical attractiveness."


Made in Africa?

There is evidence, however, that this aesthetic preference is native to Africa. Ardener (1954) found it to be widespread among the Ibo of Nigeria, including generations born before the colonial period. In a survey of the Human Relations Area Files, van den Berghe and Frost (1986) noted a consistent cross-cultural preference for lighter skin in women but not in men. Sub-Saharan Africa is no exception, as shown by these extracts from the ethnographic literature:

Bambara (Mali) -
The Bambara are not unmoved by the beauty of a woman's form; they can distinguish a well-formed body from a malformed one, a pretty woman from an ugly one, and they find a coppery skin more attractive than one of ebony black. (Henry 1910:217)

Tallensi (Ghana) -
In skin colour they vary from black through chocolate brown to bronze, which the natives call "red" (bon-ze'e) and regard as the most attractive bodily hue. (Fortes 1945:7)

Hausa (Nigeria) -
Light skin colour, referred to as "red", ranks high in the Hausa criteria of beauty; many variations of colour, from black to a very light reddish brown are seen. (Smith 1965:264)

Ibo (Nigeria) -
In Ibo culture, however, these yellowish or reddish complexions are considered more beautiful than the darker, ‘blacker,’ complexions. ... It is true that, in West Africa, government has for many years been identified with pale-skinned Europeans, but the Ibo evidence suggests that preference for paleness of complexion is indigenous. (Ardener 1954:71-72)

Azande (Sudan) –
Of the women and girls, some with babies, he kept the most beautiful in Zande eyes, those brightest of eye and clearest of skin and with full breasts, for his couch. (Evans-Pritchard 1937:60)

Berti (Sudan)
Men and women affirm without any hesitation that men are black, hot and hard and women are white, cold and soft. (Holy 1988:471)

Somali (Somalia) -
Men appreciate women of good height and stature, with good hips and breasts, and plump but not fat. A reddish tinged skin is thought highly of in preference to a dark dull black. (Lewis 1962:13)

Masai (Kenya, Tanzania) -
Further requirements for being regarded as beautiful are an oval face, white teeth, black gums, a skin color as light as possible ... (Merker 1910:18)

Rundi (Rwanda, Burundi) –
Beauty does not count very heavily, but a man is not displeased if people notice that his wife is attractive and well-fleshed, has a long and narrow nose, a light skin, and is somewhat like a cow. (Albert 1963:203)

Ganda (Uganda) -
There is, in respect of the ordinary negroid complexion, a preference for paleness deeply rooted in the Ganda ideal of beauty. ... The Ganda concept of skin pigmentation considers light coloured complexions to be differing shades of white. A dark brown skin colour is said to be — eruyeru, that is, somewhat white. A really brown-reddish-yellow person is said to be mweru = white, which in comparison would be considered to be blonde; and this in the Ganda aesthetic language is considered as red = myufu, the most perfect skin pigmentation. (Lugira 1970:34-35)

Nairobi (Kenya) –
In the future the increasing use of skin lightening creams such as "Ambi" may eventually reduce the importance of natural skin color. But whatever the case, in Nairobi of the 1960’s, as throughout much of Kenya, the lighter "brown" girls are usually considered to be more beautiful than "black" girls — and the more successful prostitutes are invariably "brown." (McVicar 1969:242)

Ila, Lunda, Luvale, and Chokwe (Zambia) -
Here too words meaning literally "white" are commonly used to refer to light skins though "red" may also be used. Light skins are admired just as much as is shown to occur among the Ibo, and young girls discussing the possible attractions of various young men have often been heard to emphasize "very black" as a point against someone. In the past at least one attraction of a light skin apart from its intrinsic appeal was the fact that the tattooing stood out against it in strong contrast. Very black skins are not infrequently thought to go hand in hand with inherited witchcraft and a light skin to indicate its absence. Dark-skinned women conscious of their possible disadvantage have been heard to tell men that light-skinned women will be found to be sexually unsatisfying. (White 1954)

Ngoni (Malawi) -
Young men say that what they like in a girl is a light skin colour, a pretty face, and the ability to dance and to copulate well. (Barnes 1951:30)

Kgatla (Botswana) -
... the generally admired type is a light-skinned girl of somewhat heavy build, with prominent breasts and large, firm buttocks. (Schapera 1966: 46)


Aesthetic preference = Mate preference = Mate choice?

But does this aesthetic preference translate into mate preference, and thence into actual mate choice? Not necessarily. First, with the exception of Khoisan and Pygmy hunter-gatherers, sub-Saharan societies are highly polygynous, with over 40% of wives living in polygynous unions. Polygyny creates a situation of too many men competing for too few women. Thus, men are less able to translate their mate preferences into actual mate choice.

Nor does aesthetic preference necessarily translate into mate preference, at least not among traditional rural Africans. Vilakazi (1962: 59-60) states: "The traditional Zulu does not make physical beauty a first priority or even an important qualification in a wife; and the skin colour of the woman is of little importance." In a rating study, Dixson et al. (2006) examined criteria of sexual attractiveness among subsistence farmers in Bakossiland, Cameroon, including the preferred skin color of a potential female partner. The result? No consistent preference. Ardener (1954:72) has commented on this ambivalence among the Ibo of Nigeria:

In the choice of a wife, yellow-skinned girls are regarded as beauties, and, other things being equal, they command higher bride prices. On the other hand it is generally held, especially by dark-complexioned persons, that yellow-skinned people are not as strong as the dark and do not live as long. A 'black' girl is said to be a harder worker. … A Mission headmaster was of the opinion that the preference for yellow girls was greater nowadays than in his youth. He thought that the reason for this was that people formerly looked for strength rather than beauty and tended to marry black girls. He claimed that black people had greater powers of endurance, and he cited his own village where, he said, of the oldest six or seven people, only one was yellow.

McVicar (1969:242) makes a similar observation for Kenya when contrasting 'black' and 'brown' African women: "Among these tribes black girls are usually regarded as hard workers, possibly because many consider themselves fortunate enough to be married."

Sub-Saharan Africa, together with New Guinea, differs from most culture areas by its high level of polygyny and correspondingly low level of paternal investment in child care (Bourguignon and Greenbaum 1973: 51; Goody 1973; Pebley and Mbugua 1989; Welch and Glick 1981). To maximize their reproductive potential, African men seek self-reliant women who can raise children largely on their own. This traditionally meant being able to produce enough food through hoe farming—outdoors and in the sun. There was thus a premium on darker women. Lighter women may have been preferred aesthetically, but this preference remained unexpressed.

The last sentence may bother evolutionary psychologists. If traditional, rural African men improve their reproductive success by choosing darker women, wouldn't natural selection promote this choice by making it enjoyable? Wouldn't it hardwire a preference for darker women into the neural circuitry? It might—if the learned belief that darker women work harder in the sun is not so entrenched as to make rewiring unnecessary. More importantly, it might if enough time elapses.

But relatively little has. Agriculture first arose south of the Sahara only 6,000-7,000 years ago, near the Niger's headwaters, and essentially involved cultivation of sorghum, pearl millet, cow pea, and other crops by female hoe farmers (Frost 2001; Murdock 1959:64-68). This nucleus of farming populations first spread throughout West Africa and then, starting about 3,000 years ago, went on to people central, eastern, and southern Africa. Previously, sub-Saharan Africa was largely home to Khoisan and Pygmy hunter-gatherers …who were light brown in color. Jared Diamond has described this demographic expansion in "How Africa Became Black" of Guns, Germs and Steel.

In any case, all human populations seem to share the same hardwired influences on notions of physical beauty. Children as young as 2-3 months of age will spend more time looking at female faces that adults have rated as attractive, this being so for either white infants looking at faces of black women rated by black men or black infants looking at faces of white women rated by white men (Langlois et al. 1987; Langlois and Stephen 1977). Similar findings have been obtained from adults (Maret 1983; Miller 1969).


Why are blacks so black?

Is it just coincidence that female hoe-farming populations are so dark-skinned? (i.e., the agricultural peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and New Guinea). Indeed, they're much darker than other populations at similar latitudes with similar levels of solar UV radiation, notably Austronesians (Malays, Polynesians), tropical Amerindians, and Khoisans. These other populations, however, have much less polygyny and much higher paternal investment.

The standard explanation is that these lighter-skinned populations are relative newcomers to the tropics. Hence, natural selection has not had enough time to darken their skin. But how long is long enough? Amerindians entered the tropics at least 12,000 years ago. That's 500 generations. Australia was peopled by modern humans about 50,000 years ago and its indigenous inhabitants are only just beginning to show a north-south gradient in skin color. If this selection pressure has been as weak in Eurasia and Africa as it apparently has been in the Americas and Australia, it would need over 100,000 years to create the skin color difference between black Africans and northern Chinese and about 200,000 years to create the skin color difference between black Africans and northern Europeans (Brace et al. 1999). Yet modern humans began to spread out of Africa only 60,000 or so years ago.

And what about the Khoisans? Their in situ residence in south-central Africa has a very deep time depth and this region has one of the world's highest levels of UV radiation—not only because of its tropical latitudes but also because of its relatively high altitude and open landscape (Jablonski and Chaplin 2000, see Figures 1&3). Yet their skin color is a light yellowish-brown.

An alternate explantion is that human skin color varies in response to both natural selection and sexual selection (Aoki 2002; Frost 1994, 2007; Manning et al. 2004). Female hoe-farming societies, with their weaker sexual selection of women and different mix of wife-choice criteria, would shift the selective balance further away from sexual selection and further toward natural selection. In other words, natural selection for darker skin, to protect against sunburn and skin cancer, would encounter less resistance from sexual selection for lighter-skinned women.


Conclusion

Today, hoe farming is disappearing. As agriculture becomes mechanized and as people move off the land, Africa is entering a new social environment where men no longer choose wives for their ability to work hard in the sun. Increasingly, African women are supporting themselves and their children through work in the service economy—with its emphasis on charm and visual presentation. The circumstances of life are now promoting rather than hindering the aesthetic preference for lighter-skinned women.

Africans are aware that their behavior has changed in this regard, as it has in others. But why is less clear. Many black intellectuals, especially those of the diaspora, imagine a past where African men preferred black as the color of female beauty—a past before slavery, colonialism, and glossy magazines. In fact, the reality was more complex. Before European contact, black Africans saw themselves neither as 'black' nor as 'Africans.' They saw themselves as … people. Like people elsewhere, they admired physical beauty. But beauty does not fully determine mate preference, just as mate preference does not fully determine actual mate choice. In the transition from thought to act, the circumstances of life can get in the way, in Africa as elsewhere.


References

Albert, E. 1963. Women of Burundi, in D. Paulme (Ed.), Women of Tropical Africa. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Aoki, K. 2002. Sexual selection as a cause of human skin colour variation: Darwin’s hypothesis revisited. Annals of Human Biology 29:589-608.

Ardener, E.W. 1954. Some Ibo attitudes to skin pigmentation, Man 54:71-73.

Barnes, J.A. 1951. Marriage in a Changing Society. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Bourguignon, E. and L.S. Greenbaum. 1973. Diversity and Homogeneity in World Societies, HRAF Press.

Brace, C.L., M. Henneberg, and J.H. Relethford. 1999. Skin color as an index of timing in human evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 108 (supp. 28):95-96.

Diamond, J. 1997. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, New York: W.W. Norton.

Dixson BJ, Dixson AF, Morgan B, Anderson MJ. 2006. Human Physique and Sexual Attractiveness: Sexual Preferences of Men and Women in Bakossiland, Cameroon. Arch Sex Behav. [Epub ahead of print]

Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1937. Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Fortes, M. 1945. The Dynamics of Clanship among the Tallensi. London: Oxford University Press.

Frost, P. (in press). Comment on Human skin-color sexual dimorphism: A test of the sexual selection hypothesis, American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Frost, P. 2001. Polygyny and sex ratios, Encyclopedia of Birth Control, ed. by V.L. Bullough, Santa Barbara (Cal.): ABC-CLIO, pp. 218-223.

Frost, P. 1994. Geographic distribution of human skin colour: A selective compromise between natural selection and sexual selection? Human Evolution 9:141-153.

Goody, J. 1973. Polygyny, Economy and the Role of Women, in J. Goody (Ed.) The Character of Kinship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 175-190.

Grier, W.H. and P.M. Cobbs. 1968. Black Rage. New York: Basic.

Henry, J. 1910. L'âme d'un peuple africain. Münster: Aschendorff.

Holy, L. 1988. Gender and ritual in an Islamic society: The Berti of Darfur, Man 23:469-487.

Jablonski, N.G., & Chaplin, G. 2000.The evolution of human skin coloration. Journal of Human Evolution 39:57-106.
http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/chem/faculty/leontis/chem447/PDF_files/Jablonski_skin_color_2000.pdf
Langlois, J.H., L.A. Roggman, R.J. Casey, and J.M. Ritter. 1987. Infant preferences for attractive faces: Rudiments of a stereotype? Developmental Psychology 23:363-369.

Langlois, J.H. and C. Stephan. 1977. The effects of physical attractiveness and ethnicity on children's behavioral attributions and peer preferences. Child Development 48:1694-1698.

Layng, A. 2006. Color Counts: "… it is evident that differing color holds considerable importance within the black community and is measurably influencing self-esteem, prestige, and marital status." USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), March, 2006
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_2730_134/ai_n16108105

Lewis, I.M. 1962. Marriage and the Family in Northern Somaliland. Kampala: East African Institute of Social Research.

Lugira, A.M. 1970. Ganda Art. Kampala: Osasa pub.

Manning, J.T., Bundred, P.E., & Mather, F.M. 2004. Second to fourth digit ratio, sexual selection, and skin colour. Evolution and Human Behavior 25, 38-50.

Maret, S.M. 1983. Attractiveness ratings of photographs of Blacks by Cruzans and Americans. The Journal of Psychology 115:113-116.

McVicar, K.G. 1969. Twilight of an East African Slum. Ann Arbor, University Microfilms (UCLA Dissertation 1968).

Merker, M. 1910. Die Masai. Berlin: Reimer.

Miller, E.L. 1969. Body image, physical beauty and colour among Jamaican adolescents. Social and Economic Studies 18:72-89.

Murdock, G.P. 1959. Africa: Its Peoples and Their Cuture History. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Myrdal, G. 1944. An American Dilemma. New York: Harper & Row.

Ntambwe, M. 2004. 'Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the FAIREST of them all?' Science in Africa March. http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za/2004/march/skinlightening.htm

Pebley, A. R. and W. Mbugua. 1989. Polygyny and Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa. In R. J. Lesthaeghe (Ed.), Reproduction and Social Organization in Sub-Saharan Africa, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 338-364.

Schapera, I. 1966. Married Life in an African Tribe. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Smith, M.F. 1965. Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Muslim Hausa. London: Faber & Faber.

Van den Berghe, P. L. and P. Frost. 1986. Skin color preference, sexual dimorphism, and sexual selection: A case of gene-culture co-evolution? Ethnic and Racial Studies 9:87-113.

Vilakazi, A. 1962. Zulu Transformations, Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.

Welch, C.E. and P.C. Glick. 1981. The incidence of polygamy in contemporary Africa: A research note. Journal of Marriage and the Family 43:191-193.

White, C.M.M. 1954. Correspondence, Man 54:147.

14 comments:

Stefan said...

Good Job! :)

Tod said...

I would eliminate the potentialy mirthmaking phrase "hoe farming" from your stock of verbal explainations.

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Anonymous said...

@Buy K: This article is discussing the attraction MOST sub-saharan African males feel towards females of yellowish-brown/light brown skin colors, not any "preference" some "black" men feel towards "white" women. The latter seems to be more of a result of colonialism/trans-atlantic slave trade/institutional racism. For some men it is just a preference but for most others, in my opinion, it is a result of predujice. However most men are naturally attracted to lighter females of their own ethnic group.

Anonymous said...

As I read your blog post regarding skin color, It gives me more of an understanding why gentlemen prefer blondes, and that goes to saying that it is what the majority of western civilization prefer, no matter the race of men. It is interesting, because I suggest some of the reason in why men of black/darker skin prefer lighter skin women, whether they are light skinned black females or Caucasian. I do believe we are predispose of this,it is also the same in why black women argue over the black men's preference of the lighter skin color of a female, because I guess, as you stated, that is a desirable trait of being "tall,dark and handsome" and being a bit rough around the edges. Anyway I love this blog.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. Well I agree that beauty is not the only factor in choosing a mate.But disagree on two points. Fist color preference is an individual as well as cultural thing.as a half Igboman I know that many Igbo men find dark skinned women just as attractive as light skinned Igbo girls. In Igbo land light skin is quite common, and we are quite aware that many of these light skinned women are very hard workers with double the strength of some dark skinned men let alone women. Perhaps in tribal groups were there are few light skinned people they may believe such women cannot work hard. Perhaps it is more a case of them being so sort after that the men believe they will be high maintenance. Also they will always be courted by other men. Which in AFrica can be a deterent. Also it is not true that the light skinned AFricans do not live as long. Some groups have a minority of light people so that would explain the one out of six in that man's village elders. Most Igbo villages you will not see such because you have equal numbers of both groups. Infact in NIgeria Igbos are perhaps the lightest group and also have the stereotype of being the most physically strong and muscular. So, yes there is in some cultures an indigenous preference for a copper complexion but black beauty is also appreciated and this goes for men as well as women. Mostly it is a matter of personal taste, however there is some cultural influence in those tastes. And please do not equate this to liking of white women. It is totally different. A man who likes a light black woman will often have no attraction to a white woman. However some just like all women, no matter the color. But it is a sick black man who would only like white women!!!!

Peterson Maignan said...

I partly disagree with the above.

Maybe light skin could be the result of a sexual selection process, but I doubt this selection is centered around women.

What characterize a polygyneous society is the near-inexistense of single female adults. This means, no mater the skin tone, an adult woman will find a mate and have children. However, it leaves a lot of men alone and the selective process may be supported by the higher reproductive success of dark skinned men due to better attractiveness and/or higher social status.

But what you seem not to realize is How equatorial is Black Africa, espacially west and central Africa where Black Africans originate. To me Black Skin is more than a tropical phenotype, it is specifically equatorial.

For instance, if you try to compare indigenous populations living in lattitudes between Dakar to the North and Luanda to the south. You can notice that each population shows very dark skin complexion. I make the list below:

-Niger-congo, Nilo-Saharan and Afrasian speakers south of the Sahara

-pygmies

-dravidians

-Andamanese

-Negritos

-Papuans

-Melanesians

Concerning America, the indigenous peoples living between the north of Peru and the south of Mexico have the darkest complexions among the indians and their skin is closer to Brown/red than the average yellow of pentagonians or north american natives. Maybe it indicates the beginig of an evolution toward dark skin.

Anyway, the populations I listed above are very different, some being farmers, the other hunter-gatherers or pastoralists, monogamous or polygamous (Some African pastoralists have a lighter skin, this is probably owed to their diet and intermixing with northerners).

Inspite of all of their lifestyle differences, they share similar equatorial locations and thus pretty much the same black skin including its natural variations.

Now what makes Sub-Saharan Africa so different lies on two elements. The first is that it is a big continental mass whereas Southern India, The Andaman Islands, The Malay Peninsula and the Australasian Archipelago, and to a lesser extent Mesoamerica and the northern part of the Andean mountains are tiny locations. Plus, equatorial climates are not very fit for agriculture and can't support as much populations than temperate or tropical climates.

The second explanation is that subsaharan Africa received relatively few gene flow from the north due to the Sahara which acted as a barrier. This is quite different from equatorial Eurasia which neighbors far larger areas with more populations and almost no uncrossable barrier in between.

In think the black skin phenotype is very confined to equatorial areas, and that skin tones get at least brownish within a few distance before the tropics and that it is never black in subtropical areas. Then it gets dark again approaching the polar circles, probably for the skin to be adapted to the day-long sunshine during the summer months. That's an hypothesis i'm still puzzling about this very case.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe the Bakossiland study is consistent with your theory. It was explicitly about sexual preference, not simple marriage choice, and is likewise not consistent with your theories of stronger sexual selection for males being stronger in SS africa, in women were also polled, and they preferred average to muscular body builds (as is the case in many other places) and preferred medium sized penis length. With regards to male preference, only one of the studies you cite make explicit an ambivalence in mate choice criteria, that being the Zulu, whereas the others, when some kind of ambivalence is indicated, make clear that the preferred type is lighter skin, even if certain social contraints make this mate choice less tenable. In this case, they not only, again, asked about sexual preference, but on page 2, it's noted that the great majority of marriages are monogamous.

I am unaware of the exact nature of farming and labor in Bakossiland, but while the region is apparently quite backwards, it's still remarkable that monogamy clearly predominates and this preference remains the case, in contrast to the studies you cite. The only consistency I see with your theories is a preference for a high WHR, since it seems like high WHR's are only preferred under certain rural social conditions, but even still, these were all about sexual preference and an indifference to skin color showed up. This is contrary to another post on this, where you said

"There, male preference will be much more ambivalent, especially if the question is "Which woman do you most want to marry?" and not "Which woman do you find most attractive?""

Peter Fros_ said...

When answering a questionnaire, most people will not distinguish between sexual preference and mate choice. The question would have to be something like: "Describe your sexual preferences, assuming you don't have to marry the woman" -- in other words, a prostitute.

In the case of prostitutes, skin bleaching is very widespread in Africa:

"In the past the tendency to bleach was known mainly to be a routine of prostitutes and women who worked in the sex industry."

http://www.modernghana.com/news/20904/1/the-new-skin-bleaching-phenomenon.html

Polygyny is still widespread in Bakossiland, as noted in a recent book on that part of Cameroun:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=caAwAAAAQBAJ&dq=bakossiland+polygamy&hl=fr&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Strictly speaking, you're correct in saying that monogamy predominates. It accounts for only 20% to 40% of all marriages in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The corollary, however, is that most women are in polygynous relationships and that single men have to compete for a much smaller number of single women. This has the effect of lowering standards, particularly in the realm of sexual beauty.

Anonymous said...

I am curious where you come up with the idea that on a questionaire, when asking people what they find most physically attractive in the opposite sex, have to be differentiated like that. It seems you are implying a significant number of people have different values/expectations for what they want in a marital partner vs. what they find most sexually/physically attractive, that they aren't the vast majority of the time one and the same (or that a questionaire will yield inherently different answers from other method of polling people, like asking them upfront.) In most of the world, a minority of men go for prostitutes, and I imagine this is also the case in african societies, even assuming greater promiscuity. One of your examples even had men saying they wanted a wife who can "copulate well" when asked "what they like in a girl." The study clearly asked about simple attraction, not marital choice, and this was obviously the case with the female choices, especially when it asked about penis size and musculature. And from what I have seen of polls in places like even China, the female choice in Bakossiland does not differ from women in other parts of the world, and doesn't fit your model of male-male competition predominating in SS africa.

I also looked at the book you cite, and on page 103, it says "few people marry more than one wife nowadays", despite polygamy being spoken of with pride.

Anonymous said...

I meant to include these details in my last post:

While it may be the case that in SS africa (atleast moreso in the past), mate choice criteria is distinct from aesthetic preference, it should not be difficult for men to differentiate between those when asked asked what they find most attractive, even if it's on a questionaire(especially elsewhere in the world.) Going by the examples you cite, it's apparently not difficult to find out what men sexually desire in SS africa and parse those from practical considerations, though I already mentioned this. On top of this, you have variously argued dark skin was selected in SS africa in part for women to better cope with UV rays during fieldwork, but these men did not express a preference for dark skin. (it also begs asking why the igbo people have so many people who are so remarkably light skinned despite being similar in terms of marriage and labor to other west africans.)

I also previously said that a preference for a high WHR might be consistent with your theories, but I forgot that such a preference has also been found in monogamous amazonian tribes. It is clearly an aesthetic preference, and is likely similar to a preference for fatter women, which is mainly found in foraging settings and usually disappears when the environmental considerations that make it viable/adaptive disappear.

Anonymous said...

I mean, the study has "sexual attractiveness" and "sexual preference of men and women" in it's title. To top it off, it's even aware of your work and cited your 86 paper with Berghe early on, so it's also likely aware of polygamy possibly affecting preferences. When you mentioned that thing about quesionairres, I see no reason to act like this would be an issue outside of SS africa, and even then, it does not seem difficult to find out what men like in that part of the world. I think the issue of parsing between practicality and desire is of little issue, if at all, for this study, and the results do reflect sexual desire.

India Nelson said...

All of these sources are from studies and articles written in the mid to late 1900s. Europeans had already entered anND begun to affect Africa by that time. Can you prove that there was light skinned preference on Africa before the arrival of the european???

Peter Frost said...

India,
Uh, did you read those studies and articles? Ardener's paper provides evidence going back to precolonial times.