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.
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 twentyfive year old woman will already have a less neotenous facial fat distribution and hence appear less sexually attractive than an eighteen year old woman. This preference can be seen in men's re-marriage: The age gap is three years at first marriage, five years at second marriage, and eight years at third marriage.
Evolution of female neoteny[edit | edit source]
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 probable 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. Men's attraction to neotenous females may hence be explained by higher survival rates of cute looking female offspring, with the female offspring being much more dependent on surviving by mere cuteness than the males. Neoteny serves the same purpose in other animals, and 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) are 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).
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]
References[edit | edit source]
- Buss, 1994/2003
- 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"