Neoteny or pedomorphism refers to an adult organism retaining childlike features. In humans, this means a roundish, soft face with large eyes, short nose, full lips and clear skin, but also overall a shorter and weaker stature. Neoteny is a highly desirable trait in women and women are more neotenous than men in appearance, mentality and behavior (e.g. adult crying). Women use fakeup to enhance their neoteny by smoothing their skin and enhancing eye contrast. Compared to other mammals, humans are overall more neotenous as evidenced by their lack of fur, small teeth, smooth skin and large eyes, presumably as a result of self-domestication and K-selection. As a result, a fairly high amount of neoteny is normal, and to some extent even attractive in men (but presumably only as long it is not an outright feminine appearance regarding chin, nose and eye region). Other K-selected, highly (eu-)social higher animals such as the naked mole-rat are also found to exhibit neotenous features such as nakedness, slow maturation and a high life expectancy.
In men, neoteny can be exaggerated through feminization, resulting in pubefantilism (delayed puberty) and a feminized phenotype which may negatively affect dating prospects (cutecel), partly due to a diminished capacity to intimidate other males. A woman with very neotenous features is referred to as a fauxbait.
Women's neoteny steeply declines in their twenties such that women's rate of aging is faster than men's, which is known as hitting the wall. A twenty-five year old woman will already have a less neotenous facial fat distribution and hence appear less sexually attractive than an eighteen year old woman, but this effect is attenuated by the great oversupply of sexually frustrated men. Men's preference for youthful women can be seen in men's re-marriage patterns: The age gap is three years at first marriage, five years at second marriage, and eight years at third marriage.
Sex differences in neoteny[edit | edit source]
With regards to overall sexual dimorphism in great apes and other mammals, one can distinguish tournament and pair-bonding species. In tournament species, the males are much larger and stronger than the females and the males compete violently (in "tournaments") with a high rate of polygyny and the alpha male violently defending his harem. Contrasting this, sexual dimorphism is much smaller in pair-bonding species where the males are less violent, invest more in the offspring due to bonding in pairs (monogamously) and where the species is overall more K-selected. Humans are regarded to be somewhere in between with a moderate amount of polygyny and accordingly humans only have moderate sexual dimorphism. On the other hand, the amount of resources men provide relative to women is quite extreme compared to most animals and unique among primates, with men providing twice as much calories in hunter-gatherers than women and exclusively providing the more nutrient dense meat from hunting which men used to get mating opportunities and invest into offspring and their mate ever since. For this reason, humans occupy a special position with regards to the tournament/pair-bonding spectrum, with men defending their harem through wealth rather than violence, and with women advertising their sexual dimorphism and neoteny to get access to resources. Also, despite only moderate differences in overall body size, men's and women's appearances are still so distinct that humans can categorize faces by sex with 98% accuracy. When relying just on the facial geometry (without skin tone/texture), this drops to 75%. It should be noted that sexual dimorphism may overall be somewhat reduced in industrialized countries due to high mutational load in the gene pool (primarily owing to very low child mortality), and/or due to pollutants and toxins (see also feminization).
Body[edit | edit source]
The most obvious physical neotenous trait in women is their shorter stature. Even though men are only about 8% taller on average, this sex difference has a very large effect size of d = 2.0, meaning most men are taller than most women. Accordingly, women also have a weaker physique, especially a weaker upper body and thinner arms leading to large sex differences in lifting, grip strength and especially in throwing with effect sizes of d = 2.5 to 3.0.
An important pedomorphic feature at the gestalt level of the body is the head size relative to the entire body. Women's and men's heads are, however, roughly proportional to their stature without noteworthy sex differences in this ratio. Though, women's ratio of head to body size is higher when including their fuller, longer hair and more voluminous hair styles, as well as when rather relating women's head to their 11% (d = 1.6) narrower shoulder width and narrower neck. The ratio of maximal cranial width to shoulder is significantly, but only slightly different (0.37 vs 0.39), but that excludes women's thinner arms and about 50% more voluminous hair. Women's hair is more voluminous due to each hair strand growing for a longer duration (not faster) before it falls out. Another very noticeable overall neotenous feature is women's body and facial hair having a lower density and thickness. Women have a variety of less visible neotenous traits such as a more delicate skeleton, smaller mastoid processes, smoother ligament attachments, lower basal metabolism, larger tear ducts, faster heartbeat and greater longevity.
Face[edit | edit source]
A neotenous face is marked by a high ratio of neurocranial to lower-facial features, while also exhibiting a small nose and ears and full lips. Women's upper-to-lower-facial-height ratio is 1.23 while men's is 1.07. Baby's eyes are large relative to their overall body size, but while it is true, that men are more sexually attracted to women with larger eyes, women's eyes are not actually larger than men's in absolute terms. Among Caucasians aged 20 to 40, men's eyes are actually slightly wider than women's eyes (28.7±1.9 mm vs 27.7±2 mm). There is also no significant sex difference in exposed iris as a fraction of the overall eye area. However, due to women's smaller mandible and nose, women's eyes appear proportionally slightly larger than men's. Women's nose is on average around 12% less deep and wide than men's with a very large effect size of about d = 2, but notably women's nasal height is only 3% shorter. Since human perception only estimates sizes relative to the context, not absolute sizes, larger eyes have presumably the same effect on men's sexual attraction as proportionally smaller noses and lower-facial features. Women's teeth are slightly smaller, however, this difference is so small that even dentists cannot tell the difference. Women's teeth tend to be more quadrangular, which may be a neotenous tooth shape, while men's teeth are a bit more often triangular, resembling more canine teeth and the teeth of closely related pan, which may hence be a geronomorphic trait.
A more substantial sex difference than eye size is that women's eyes are rounder (d = .66 in terms of width-to-height ratio, which is a moderate effect size), while men's eyes tend to be vertically narrower and the corners of the eyes are more rectangular like hunter eyes. This might also make women's eyes appear larger. Another very noticeable sex difference in facial morphology is women's higher, thinner and fainter eyebrows, which also appears to be pedomorphic and might highlight the eyes. This sex difference may stem from men's hunter eyes which are framed by more pronounced brow ridges which possibly have the purpose of protecting the eyes from sticks and claws during hunting. The higher eyebrows may also enable women to put on a more effective pouting/frowning expression. While men's forehead is slightly concave due to the brow ridge like it is found in apes, women's forehead is more smooth and round like that of children.
Women's less developed lower-facial features are primarily evidenced by their lower facial depth being about 10% shorter than men's (d = 2.0), i.e. a lower distance from the chin to the ears and less forward growth, owing to a shorter mandible, which is also narrower (d = 1.0). Women's upper and lower lips are about 10% fuller/higher on average (d = 1.0 for the upper lip and d = 0.7 for the lower lip). Women also have a more subcutaneous fat in their faces and their entire bodies. Women are more babyfaced due to these fat deposits and their more developed buccinator muscles, which also contributes to making their faces appear rounder. These muscles being more developed in women has been suggested to be explained by women's greater propensity to smile. Smiling is a pedomorphic trait as well with children smiling 20 times as often as adults. The large difference in accuracy classifying faces by sex between textured and non-textured faces (as mentioned introductorily), suggests a substantial facial sexual dimorphism lies in facial texture which likely primarily owes to women's lack of facial hair, thinner skin and reduced creases due to their subcutaneous fat deposits; once again neotenous features. Another trait concerning the facial texture is women's higher facial contrast, and facial contrast has been linked to perceived age, with a high facial contrast being a pedomorphic trait, potentially explaining why women use powder, eyeliners and lipstick to trick men into believing they are young and fertile, in addition to powder smoothing the skin texture, making it appear like that of children.
Behavior[edit | edit source]
Behaviorally, psychologically and neurologically, women also exhibit greater neoteny than men, down to the level of their central nervous system which has younger metabolic characteristics. The most salient childish behavior is women's higher rate of crying, on average crying 4 times as often as men which matches the rate of 11 year old boys. About 54% of men cry very rarely, but only 18% of women. Women also behave more childishly interacting with their female peers, as evidenced by them being uncooperative and sneaky toward them. Women score about one standard deviation higher in questionnaires measuring neuroticism (though such questionnaires likely underestimate group differences due to groups answering in reference to their own group). Neuroticism refers to emotional instability, which can also be regarded as a neotenous trait as children are generally impatient, cheeky and whiney, and this may be an expression of women's greater (childish) neediness. Women's childish tendency toward compliance and picking up on emotions is evidenced by them being ten times as likely to get infected by mass hysteria, and being much more likely to cry when receiving criticism. The sex difference in moodiness appears to express as borderline personality disorder in women as an extreme, however, due to women's lower activity level and physical strength, their mental instability less likely reaches pathological or dangerous levels. Nonetheless, women are 2-3 times more often diagnosed with mood disorders, anxiety and depression compared to men. Women also score higher in agreeableness, compliance and withdrawal, which are akin to childish subordination, which also points to immaturity. Interestingly, women do not have a lower general intelligence, as presumably educating the offspring is conductive to reproductive success and it helps being sneaky. Another neotenous trait in between physical and behavioral features would be pitch and loudness of voice as this is partly determined by the chest size acting as resonating body. Women's voice has a substantially higher fundamental frequency, remaining at the vocal pitch of prepubescent boys, with sex differences around d = 5 among young adults, making the voice one of the most conspicuous and distinguishing sexual characteristic. Women generally have a behavioral bias to expect men to do things for them as evidenced by even feminist women preferring so, which may also serve as evidence of a childlike dependence. Women's neotenous mentality is evidenced by their interest in extremely bluepilled romance fiction such as princess stories etc. (besides rapey romance). In personality questionnaires, women more likely report to cry during movies (d = 0.95), to like flowers (d = 0.81) and dance performances (d = 0.71) when compared to men.
Sexual attraction to neoteny[edit | edit source]
While femininity is unattractive in men, it is considered highly attractive in women. Cross-culturally, men prefer women with larger eyes and smaller noses, and smaller lower-facial features compared to the upper half of the face. Further, healthy men exhibit a significant involuntary penile arousal in response to visual stimuli of even prepubescent human females (in half of men), with girls aged 12-16 eliciting just as much penile arousal in men as adult women. Highly attractive Italian models in exhibited more babyness with regards to their soft-tissue facial characteristics. There is mixed evidence on more neotenous/feminine looking women to have a higher reproductive success in modern industrialized nations. Women with longer i.e. more voluminous hair are rated as more physically attractive, possibly because it mimics a pedomorphic head-to-body ratio.
With regards to women's psychological neoteny, there is less evidence for men finding it outright sexually attractive when compared to men's attraction to women's physical neotenous features. In one study, neurotic women had slightly higher reproductive success, however this result was only significant at p < 0.05. Another study found that men are indeed drawn to women on the borderline spectrum, but only if they are physically attractive.
The potential existence for a genetic foundation of men's attraction to underage girls, of course, does not justify acting upon these urges, but it hints at the possibility that one cannot simply change men's sexual preference, nor that they are an acquired 'addiction'.
Evolution of female neoteny[edit | edit source]
An explanation for men's mate preferences for youthfulness (and as a result women being selected for retaining their youthfulness) may be that women have a costlier and shorter reproductive life. While men's sperm motility, count and shape only decreases by about 50% after the age of 50, women become entirely infertile by around 45-55. Women's maternal mortality rate also quadruples by age 40. The younger the woman a man chooses to invest into and reproduce with, the higher the reproductive success he can expect with her, explaining why men with a preference for fertile and young women were selected for by evolution. Investing in an old woman would be a waste of a man's resources with respect to his reproductive success.
Another line of theories about women's neoteny concerns their resource-dependence on men. Due to sex differences in parental investment, women evolved to be coy and choosy, and men evolved to be taller and stronger than women in an evolutionary arms race among men competing for reproductive opportunities. As a result, women became dependent on men's resources. Due to women's resource-dependence, it is possible that they retain child-like features such that males are encouraged to invest into them much like humans of either sex invest more in cute looking offspring (baby schema). Men's attraction to neotenous females may hence be explained by both encouraging men's investment in their wives (and hence the offspring), as well as by enabling higher survival rates of cute looking female offspring, with the female offspring being more dependent on surviving by mere cuteness than the males (especially at post-pubertal age). This may possibly even give rise to a feedback loop in men's sexual attraction to neoteny. Neoteny serves the same purpose of encouraging parental investment in other animals, and neoteny also provokes play drive, sometimes to the extent of causing playful aggression. Due to the relatedness of species, the signaling also works across different species, leading e.g. humans to breed cute looking pets that they take pleasure in providing for.
Interestingly, women’s preferences for men’s facial neoteny (rather than masculinity) appear to be strongest under disfavorable ecological conditions, which may result from similar evolved mate preferences that ensure higher survival rates through cute looking offspring (which is related to Travis-Willard hypothesis, which states that the sex ratio at birth skews female under harsh conditions due to women having a higher survival rate). Though there is also evidence to the contrary that neoteny is less preferred in case of environmental threat.
Another hypothesis for the evolution of female neoteny may be that it has been sexually selected for by males in efforts of ensuring paternity. Different from men, women can always be certain their offspring is their own. As a result, men may have evolved to desire certainty about their paternity. Moreover, being providers of resources, men have extra incentive to minimize the chances of investing in someone else's offspring. Men can best achieve this certainty by monopolizing girls as early as possible, preventing other men from impregnating them. Further, men may have evolved to prefer childish, weak, submissive and obedient women, as those are easy to control. Gowaty (1992) writes:
There should be strong selection on males to control females' reproduction through direct coercive control of females […]. Evolutionary thinkers, whether informed by feminist ideas or not, are not surprised by one of the overwhelming facts of patriarchal cultures, namely that men […] seek to constrain and control the reproductive capacities of women […]. Juvenilization decreases the threat some men may feel when confronted with women; many men are comfortable around women whom they can clearly dominate and are profoundly uncomfortable around women whom they cannot so clearly dominate.
An alternative or additional explanation for men's attraction to female youth may be that women lose their fertility sooner. An older man can still reproduce with a substantially younger woman and does not depend on her ability to protect, whereas women do depend on a protective partner. Women's fertility peaks in their mid twenties, and a clear skin and full lips are signals of youth which women accordingly get selected for as men will perceive women without those features to be older, and judge them to be infertile sooner, reducing their reproductive success. This alone is an insufficient explanation, however, because young boys prefer girls of their own age who do not have maximal fertility.
Adaptions for female neoteny may explain male hebephilia, i.e. the sexual interest in pubescent girls which may affect most men, and, as extreme instantiation of these adaptations, it may also explain pedophilia, i.e. the sexual interest in prepubescent girls. In fact, children's smooth skin and innocence may act as a super stimulus on men's sexual preferences for neoteny. This may also point to female neoteny being a Fisherian adapation.
Men's selection for paternity assurance may even have reduced women's spatial abilities as men would prefer women who are scared of getting lost, rather than ones who are nimble at navigating their ways to different men. It may also explain women's stronger same-sex attraction as men would have preferred their harem women to derive additional sexual pleasure from each other rather than from other men. Another explanation may be that signals of childishness and helplessness acted as a means of ensuring continued investment on part of males, thus females with neotenous behavior such as crying had a better chance of accruing resources for their offspring and thus increasing their survival.
Artificial juvenilization[edit | edit source]
Artificial attempts at achieving a neotenous look is called juvenilism or adolescentilism wherein people (especially women) attempt to look like adolescents and more childlike often by means of fakeup, even when they are actually vicenarian or tricenarian, … or maybe even older.
East Asian men[edit | edit source]
Hominids tended to become more neotenous as they evolved (e.g larger skulls, smaller jaws, less body and facial hair). Humans are more similar in physical appearance to infant chimpanzees as compared to adult chimpanzees because of humans greater levels of neoteny. So the East Asian race (which is the furthest evolved from the African prototype) has the most neoteny. Since women prefer dominant looking men, this gives the less neotenous looking Caucasian males dating advantages over East Asian men. This may explain the SEAmaxxing phenomenon, alongside the alternative explanation that Asian women associate Caucasian males with prosperity and wealth (hypergamy).
See also[edit | edit source]
- Fake depression
- Female sneakiness
- Female solipsism
- List of aesthetics
- Pretty Boy
References[edit | edit source]
- Buss, 1994/2003
- Tanikawa, C., Zere, E., & Takada, K. (2016). Sexual dimorphism in the facial morphology of adult humans: A three-dimensional analysis. HOMO - Journal of Comparative Human Biology, 67(1), 23–49. doi:10.1016/j.jchb.2015.10.001
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Average_human_height_by_country Using Finns as reference population for Caucasians
- Mesko, N., & Bereczkei, T. (2004). Hairstyle as an adaptive means of displaying phenotypic quality. Human Nature, 15(3), 251–270. doi:10.1007/s12110-004-1008-6 (see "coverage hypothesis")
- A. Roberto Frisancho. (2008). Anthropometric Standards An Interactive Nutritional Reference of Body Size and Body Composition for Children and Adults. 2nd Edition
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- Cartwright, M. J., Kurumety, U. R., Nelson, C. C., Frueh, B. R., & Musch, D. C. (1994). Measurements of Upper Eyelid and Eyebrow Dimensions in Healthy White Individuals. American Journal of Ophthalmology, 117(2), 231–234. doi:10.1016/s0002-9394(14)73081-8
- Nedungadi, T. P., & Clegg, D. J. (2009). Sexual dimorphism in body fat distribution and risk for cardiovascular diseases. Journal of cardiovascular translational research, 2(3), 321-327.
- Sforza C, Laino A, D'Alessio R, Grandi G, Binelli M, Ferrario VF (January 2009). "Soft-tissue facial characteristics of attractive Italian women as compared to normal women".
- Alley, T. R. (1983). Infantile head shape as an elicitor of adult protection. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1982-), 411-427.
- Eibl-Eibesfeldt I. 1989. Human Ethology. Routledge.
- Jones, D. (1996). Physical attractiveness and the theory of sexual selection: Results from five populations (Vol. 90). University of Michigan Museum.
- https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1601&context=fchd_facpub p. 231-240
- Kenrick, D.T., Keefe, R.C., Gabrielidis, C., & Cornelius, J.S. 1996. Adolescents’ age preferences for dating partners: Support for an evolutionary model of life-history strategies. Child Development, 67, 1499-1511.
- https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=560351713504498712&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5 See section "Male Tolerance"