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> One Thing Leads to Another

One Thing Leads to Another

So far, I've been careful to talk about beauty as a thing in itself. Now, though, it's time for me to admit the obvious, which is that beauty has something to do with sex. In fact, as I see it, beauty is the first link in a chain that leads to sex. Here's how I imagine it worked in some hypothetical precultural era.

First, a man would see a beautiful woman. As I mentioned in The Reverse, the pleasure produced by her beauty would give him a little push to let him know he was on the right track, so maybe he'd follow her around to keep looking.

Then, eventually, he'd probably get closer, and the two of them would discover that touching is pleasant. I don't know if skin is specially recognized, or if it just happens to be nice to touch because of its smoothness and warmth, but either way, touching is certainly pleasant.

At the same time, maybe there would be something going on with pheromones. That's just speculation, though. (I can't find my copy right now, but I remember that pheromones were part of the plot in Hellstrom's Hive.)

In any case, once there was touching going on, naturally the two of them would notice that there are certain things that are especially sensitive to touch, and that they fit together in a certain way, and voila!

So, that is the chain of events I am talking about. Whether things ever actually worked that way, I don't know, but that is how the pieces fit together.

Now, here is one of the two main points I wanted to make. It came to me as an epiphany, so it may be unexplainable, but here goes. The links in the chain of events are completely independent of one another. They're like parts of a machine—they fit together to produce a particular result, but they can be taken apart and examined, and they are as different as, say, a gear and a fan belt.

Maybe a little more detail will help. I think women are nice to look at, and I think they're nice to touch, but the two facts have nothing to do with one another, except that they fit together. One concerns my eyes, the other mainly my hands. Either could exist without the other.

I don't know if that thought leads to any conclusions, but for some reason it is very interesting to me.

The second main point is that the part of my mind that recognizes beauty is exquisitely adapted to its function as part of the chain. It recognizes women, yes, but only women who it would be productive for me to have sex with, because they are healthy, and of the right age to have children. This is well known, and evolutionary biologists can tell you all about it. All I can do is confirm it, and maybe make it less abtract: that part of my mind does in fact recognize a large fraction of healthy women between the ages of, say, 15 and 35.

Finally, here are some random thoughts.

  • When I was describing the links in the chain, I don't think I sufficiently emphasized the fact that everything is connected to the pleasure center. That is what makes it all go.
  • The pleasure center isn't the only place things are connected to. Obviously, some part of the chain is connected to something that makes those “certain things” I was talking about get aroused. Then, there's some part that makes me feel like my heart's going to burst. What is that, adrenaline? The thing that's funny, though, and maybe not known to women, is that there's some part that makes me drool. I like to imagine that's why men call women “sweetie” and “honey” and so on, and think of them as looking good enough to eat. I have no idea what purpose that connection might serve.
  • In my opinion, good shape and most of the other aspects of beauty are best appreciated from a distance; beauty is a long-range force. That might seem strange at first, but it makes perfect sense when you think of beauty as part of a chain. If a man is close to a woman, beauty has already done what it's supposed to.
  • The same kind of thinking explains why the pubic region is not beautiful. It's probably not easy to recognize, and anyway it doesn't matter at that point in the chain.


  See Also

  Dirty Old Men
  Liking What You See

@ October (2003)