Monday, February 1, 2021

White Skin Privilege: Modern Myth, Forgotten Past

 


Cairo Slave Market, Maurycy Gottlieb, 1877 (Wikicommons)

 


I've published a paper "White Skin Privilege: Modern Myth, Forgotten Past" in the journal Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. Here is the abstract:

 

European women dominate images of beauty, presumably because Europe has dominated the world for the past few centuries. Yet this presumed cause poorly explains "white slavery"—the commodification of European women for export at a time when their continent was much less dominant. Actually, there has long been a cross-cultural preference for lighter-skinned women, with the notable exception of modern Western culture. This cultural norm mirrors a physical norm: skin sexually differentiates at puberty, becoming fairer in girls, and browner and ruddier in boys. Europeans are also distinguished by a palette of hair and eye colors that likewise differs between the sexes, with women more often having the brighter hues. In general, the European phenotype, especially its brightly colored features, seems to be due to a selection pressure that targeted women, apparently sexual selection. Female beauty is thus a product of social relations, but not solely those of recent times.

 

Please feel free to comment.

 

Reference

 

Frost, P. (2020). White Skin Privilege: Modern Myth, Forgotten Past. Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture 4(2): 63-82.

https://doi.org/10.26613/esic/4.2.190

https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.26613/esic.4.2.190

16 comments:

HomeStadter said...

What I wonder is if this selection is still continuing, or if that female sex selected phenotype is dying out. Obscuring the issue is the demographic transition which started in Europe, but appears to be coming to every part of the globe in its time.

Anonymous said...

I don't consider it a female-only attractiveness trait; Nordic men are also good-looking.

Morris said...

The perception of facial attractiveness, both male and female seems to be innate, related to health/fitness/youth. Attractive features are: high cheekbones, wide mouth, narrow nose, slim/sunken cheeks, smooth forehead tissue above the eyes, clear demarcation between tissues. All of these features are related to levels of edema present and degree of cell/tissue shrinkage. For the progression (or regression) of attractiveness look at time series of photos e.g. male movie stars (females tend to have facial surgery) on IMDB.
To me that perception seems to be race independent but different societies tend to have different distributions. If so does it imply inherent health/fitness differences?

Robertus said...

@HomeStadter
What do you think? How many children has Emma Watson or Scarlet Johannsson had?

But in Asia, their own selection seems strong (according to their aesthetics). In comparison to caucasians, many Asian women now are arguably more "acceptable", but are seldom breathtaking, most look alike. Even with mediocre facial features, many are perceived to be prettier than they "should" be as a result of neoteny and in certain areas (Hong Kong, Sichuan) gracilization, (are you familiar with koinophilia?)

@Anonymous
Some traits are attractive in men, but not in women and vice versa.
But not always. My guess: a sexy but late blooming man (e.g. Mads Mikkelsen) married to a beautiful women can produce good children of either gender.

But these are not the kind of men the women might marry, you can see the result:
From my observations, Nordics (significant amount of Swedes, slightly less than that Norwegians, less than that Danes, not Finns) mature quickly. They may look highschool age by middle school, but unlike blacks, wrinkle quickly thereafter. Some may look 35 at 25.

This is what you get if you divorce then get married to a male stripper whom you have multiple children with.

Bruce said...

I’m assume that evolutionary biology wires men to seek sexual variety (spreading the seed far and wide). Novel hair and eye colors suggest variety.

An old Slim Whitman song:

“My heart is broken in three
I love three girls secretly
A blonde, a brunette, or redhead I could wed
But which one is it to be?
Oh gee, my heart is broken in three”

Anonymous said...

Peter,

What are your thoughts on the more recent theory that the light coloration was due to sexual selection during the Neolithic, rather than earlier?

Apparently, the Neolithic Globular Amphora/Funnelbeaker were the first cultures that were majority blue eyed and blonde haired.

Also a recent study seems to indicate that Viking era Scandinavians had moderately lower frequency of pale white skin and blonde hair than modern Scandinavians.

Sean said...

In your last post you said "the direction of sexual selection goes into reverse beyond a certain point". In relation to white skin, I think the prevalence of tanning among young women in the modern West shows that during a period in the distant past of Europe, skin lightening began to be intensively selected in women for something that, although essential to reproductive fitness, was not really sexual at all.

Bruce said...

Sean, a thought on your comment.

Women seem to prefer men who are darker complexion than themselves (perhaps they are wired to seek the opposite of what men prefer, darker complexions being associated with maturity, masculinity).

Women often think that men prefer in women what they prefer in men. Maybe this is the reason for the prevalence of tanning among women?

Just speculation.

Peter Frost said...

HomeStadter,

Intense sexual selection of women requires an excess supply of women on the mate market, as a result of higher mortality among men and/or restraints on polygyny among men. Those conditions largely ended with the end of the last ice age. There probably has been some sexual selection of women since then. I dealt with this topic in another post:
http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2020/07/recent-evolution-of-british-population.html

Morris,

"To me that perception seems to be race independent but different societies tend to have different distributions. If so does it imply inherent health/fitness differences?"

That perception is largely universal in our species. I cover that point in the article:

"Children as young as two to three months old look longer at female faces that adults have
rated as attractive, be they 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. 2000; Langlois et al. 1991; Langlois et al. 1987; Langlois and Stephan 1977). Similar findings have been obtained with adults of various ethnic origins (Bernstein et al. 1982; Cunningham et al. 1995; Maret 1983; Miller 1969; Perrett et al. 1994). There are some minor differences. East Asian men tend to prefer immature and inexpressive faces whereas African American men tend to prefer women with large buttocks and heavy body build (Cunningham et al. 1995). Nonetheless, notions of beauty seem to vary much less within our species than do many of the features we use to judge female beauty."

Robertus,

"They may look highschool age by middle school, but unlike blacks, wrinkle quickly thereafter. Some may look 35 at 25."

It depends on whether they go in for suntanning, tanning salons, regular trips to the Caribbean, etc. When I was a student in Russia (in the early 2000s), I noticed that most women looked young well into their forties. UV radiation is much weaker there, and it was difficult for most women (lack of money, Soviet-era travel restrictions) to travel to the tropics.

"What are your thoughts on the more recent theory that the light coloration was due to sexual selection during the Neolithic, rather than earlier?"

That's an artefact of ethnic replacement north of the Black Sea. I discussed that theory in an earlier post:

https://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2014/03/did-europeans-become-white-in-historic.html

Sean,

"In your last post you said "the direction of sexual selection goes into reverse beyond a certain point". In relation to white skin"

Uh, I was referring to face shape, not white skin.

Sean said...

I think what you are writing leaves out certain nuances, which would be better mentioned. You will be interpreted as meaning that European women's skin colour is the most sexually desirable according to an objective standard rooted in the search image men are genetically equipped with. In other words, the whiter the woman the more men want to have sex with her.

Those with a mind to be critical will reason that if white skin is for sexual attraction of males, tanning among white women would be done in order to get less attention from men, which seems to be the opposite of why white women actually do get tans. So you are making it easy for HBD critics to discount your ideas on white skin.

White skin was for something else that is not needed now; could that be a way round the problem of tanning's popularity? I would note that Chinese women are often dated by young educated white men, is this possibly because the skin tone of Asian women more effectively releases the less powerful sexual approach behavior of nerdy men?

My opinion, drawing on my reading of your own posts of course, is that at some point in prehistory there were fewer nerdy personalities, and a sudden surfeit--one might almost call it an invasion--of brutally abusive testosterone crazed men. Consequently, the main selection pressure on women was not attracting men, but eliciting willingness to enter into an official marriage in which children would be cared for and have social status. A 'white' wedding.

Robertus said...

"I would note that Chinese women are often dated by young educated white men, is this possibly because the skin tone of Asian women more effectively releases the less powerful sexual approach behavior of nerdy men?"

Asian women are dated because:

(speculation)

1. The quality of single Asian women hasn't declined the way women in the west have. These men may fail to find a suitable white woman so they turn elsewhere.

2. Asian women are more attractive than they "should" be because of neoteny. This increases perceived femininity, and makes the face more averaged out too.


Peter Frost said...

Sean,

"You will be interpreted as meaning that European women's skin colour is the most sexually desirable according to an objective standard rooted in the search image men are genetically equipped with. In other words, the whiter the woman the more men want to have sex with her."

Sean,

That's not what I think, and that's not what I wrote:

p. 73 "The adult female body has a lighter complexion probably for the same reason it has other “cute” childlike features, like a babyish face, a higher pitch of voice, and smoother, more pliable skin. Such features seem to promote pair-bonding by making men less aggressive and more caring [...]. Women may have therefore evolved lighter skin not to get men sexually interested but rather to keep them interested within a long-lasting relationship."

p. 72 "Culture is not immutable. The sex difference in complexion has become overshadowed by much larger differences of race and ethnicity. Meanwhile, since the early twentieth century many women have turned away from fair skin to embrace the tanned look, thus giving their body surface a new erotic meaning"

Robertus,

I would add that single men outnumber single women in almost all Western countries. This is a big factor that pushes single men in the West to seek women elsewhere.

mary said...

Correction:

Viking era Scandinavians had the SAME frequency of pale white skin and blonde hair than modern Scandinavians.

The study that generated this conclusion has been greatly distorted by the media, with some conclusions differing diametrically from those of the author.

Robertus said...

@HomeStadter and Peter Frost
Referring to what I said:
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/04/did-natural-selection-make-dutch-tallest-people-planet
Selection for height in men has occurred in the Dutch.




luke said...

light skin women preference still exist in the West actually

Stephen said...

quote: "Conversely, women are more likely to have less common hues, like green eyes and red hair."

I thought red hair was well established to be a simple Mendelian trait on the melanin gene MC1R so how is sexual dimorphism in this trait possible? I would have to see good evidence for this dimorphism to believe in it.