Last updated: December 18. 2013 2:09AM - 912 Views
By Kenny Luck Special to the Weekender

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In the mid 19th century, the British naturalist Charles Darwin hit upon an interesting idea: sexual selection. According to Darwin, organisms compete with one another to obtain a mating partner and reproduce. This idea applies to humans, too. Put simply, favored traits get passed to later generations and survive. Traits that are not favored are not passed on and don't survive.
Modern researchers have pinpointed a number of ways in which we, humans, do this. In fact, according to one study, of the scientific papers published from 1997 to 2007 in two leading scientific journals, 75 percent focus on mate choice. This means that the scientists are paying attention to this, too.
Men, typically, as a for-instance, use strategies such as aggression and strength to attract available females. Adolescent boys, for example, engage in more play-fighting than girls and all around display more aggressive behavior than girls. Females, in turn, use bodily attractiveness and other sexual signals to attract males. In fact, “female features and body fat deposition on the breasts and hips appear to have been shaped by male mate choice.”
The sexual selection process that Darwin described is more or less the same framework that is used by researchers today. That said, however, the mate selection process (i.e. dating) is messy, complicated, and confused.
Writes David Puts, an anthropologist from Pennsylvania State University: “Human mating is complicated… and is even more complicated than it appears in contemporary industrial societies, where men and women choose their mates largely beyond the authority of kin; women do not rely economically on men, and men are prohibited by the state from using force against mates and sexual competitors.”
Puts goes on to say that beauty, fashion, and fitness are so important in places like the United States that they have become multi-billion dollar industries—all because the aforementioned things are indicative of mate choice!
Generally speaking, according to Puts, more men are available for mating than women. This is primarily because women tend to invest more in their offspring, providing more paternal care across all societies. Moreover, men mature later and die sooner, which enables a “polygynous” (having more than one mate) dating framework for men. This is true of other mammals, too, where non-human great apes show intense male competition for female attention.
To conclude, sexual selection shapes mate choice in a number of complicated ways. Both men and women use sexual strategies to attract a mate, and these strategies lead to successful traits that are passed down succeeding generations through intercourse. Finally, who you date and who you mate has profound consequences for yourself and later generations.
Source: “Beauty and the beast: mechanisms of sexual selection in humans,” David A Puts, 2010
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