Apr. 16th, 2017

dmilewski: (Default)
LindyBeige has a fun video exploring the origin of female breasts, but he leaves hanging the question of why human fertility became hidden. Today, I will throw spaghetti at that wall and see what stick.

Warning: Speculation Ahead

So, why do women hide their fertility? In most animals, females show their fertility, then males compete for the females, with the fittest male being the winner. In a few cases, such as lions, males dominate a group of females, thus getting all their fertility cycles to themselves. Why don't humans do this?

To quote LindyBeige, "because humans are freaking dangerous." Competition for females would inevitably lead to fights, and unlike most animals, humans have tools that let them fight far more lethally than other animals. Inevitably in such a system, a few men would get wounded or killed, but men are expendable, right? Right?

Well, in a hunter-gather culture, men are how a tribe claims and maintains territory. An injured man here and there won't matter much, but over time, the tribe that loses fewer men to inter-male fighting will steadily claim more and better resources than those tribes that do. Because of this, there is an evolutionary pressure to make mating less dangerous. There's a variety of ways to do this, but I'll deal with two: mate more often and hidden reproduction.

Mating more often is the simpler of the evolutionary strategies. More females receptive more often means that more males get a chance at reproduction more often. One male grows increasingly challenged at maintaining a hold on all females, and the opportunity cost of missing any mating opportunity goes down. However, this doesn't quite decrease the danger enough.

Doubt is what decreases the lethality more. If a man knows that a female is fertile, he'll fight hardest, but if he is in doubt, he'll fight less hard. Doubt is what decreases the stakes behind every mating. Doubt changes the game.

The thing about doubt is that nobody knows when to mate. The men might want to mate all the time, but the women would need more incentive. They would need to get something out of mating. Some pleasure reward perhaps? So now women have a desire to mate year round and they get pleasure out of every attempt (presumably).

And humanity? It's now in a cycle of self-domestication.

Now, with perpetual mating, you still need markers to know when mating makes sense. A man needs a way of seeing whether his efforts are worth it. So, when women enter child-bearing age, they develop breasts, marking their fertility. When they exit childbearing age, their faces wrinkle and change, showing that they aren't fertile any more.   

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