WHY ARE HUMANS SEXUALY ATTRACTED TO AGRESSION?
You may, at some point, have asked yourself why you were so hopelessly attracted to a certain person. Or why the majority of people seem to be attracted to certain types of people. Especially when that person has obvious, maybe dangerous or harmful, flaws.
Why is it that certain body types, facial features or behaviours are so much more attractive than others. Why, for examples, are long legs, broad shoulders or predatory smiles do sexually attractive?
Often these attractive features are linked to strength or aggression. Long legs for hunting down prey. Powerful arms for fighting. Dominant and aggressive characteristics.
In other words, why are humans sexually attracted to agressive and predatary characteristics?
As a young man one of the most difficult lessons in life is when, however much you might like a girl, however kind you might be to her, however much skill or talent you might try to demonstrate, she still does not like you.
This was probably (but not always) because (consciously or subconsciously) she thought that you lacked confidence (or power, success, aggression, dominance or some other macho characteristic).
Then later, one of the greatest tests in a young man’s life is when he discovers how easy it can be to attract a lover by being excessively confident (or appearing powerful, successful, aggressive, dominant ect’). Some men never even notice this “test” and some never “pass” it, and spend the rest of their lives keeping up an overly macho persona.
Unfortunately, most of us will have experienced being with an aggressive partner, being attracted to a dangerous person or having a close friend who is in an abusive relationship. On top of that, the media is filled with stories of terribly, maybe fatally, abusive relationships.
So we ask ourselves why? What the hell did I see in him/her? Why were they attracted to them?
Additionally, why is the idea of the “Alpha” male or female so popular despite the complete lack of scientific evidence?
This concept entered the mainstream after Lucian David Mech wrote a book on the behaviour of wolves in captivity,and found that the wolves formed packs with dominant leaders. However he later studied wolves in the wild and found that they lived in family units. In his next book he explained that the dominant alpha behaviour only existed in unnatural captivity, not in the wild,and urged his readers to disregard the whole concept of alphas. Despite this, the idea stuck in the collective consciousness and later flooded social media. The concept is incredibly popular in pop culture, despite being discarded by the man who coined it.
That is the focus of this little essay, to consider why aggressive or predatory people are sexually attractive. (That is, why they are attractive to almost everyone, not to the victims of childhood abuse or people with mental illness, which is a separate issue.)
The history of the human race is vastly long.
The first humanoids appeared on Earth 2,000,000 years ago
Bones of primitive Homo sapiens first appeared 300,000 years ago in Africa, with brains as large or larger than ours. They were followed by anatomically modern Homo sapiens at least 200,000 years ago, and brain shape became essentially modern by at least 100,000 years ago.
The recorded history of ‘modern’ humans is only about 3,000 years, depending on where in the world you are.
Most of human history is prehistoric.
For example, the first archaic humans arrived in Britain 800,000 years ago. These Hominids were not Homo Sapiens, but they were tooling using bipeds like ourselves. The first Homo Sapiens reached Britain 40,000 years ago. Recorded history began in Britain with the Romans. Before that there was certainly culture, art, metal working and other basic technology but it was a culture of legends and spirits that most modern humans would find impossible to understand or survive. Only about 0.25% of British history is ‘historical ’ or ‘modern’ history, 99.75% is Prehistoric, or ‘primitive’’, history.
My point is that for about 98% of human history we were ‘savages’ hunting and killing to survive. We are talking about hostile climates, huge aggressive animals and constant struggle to find food. A lifestyle closer to that if a pack of wolves than to modern humans
Imagine if you spent 99 years of your life in the wilderness, fighting to stay alive with no technology and then suddenly in the last year of your life you were transported to the modern world and told to be peaceful.
Old habits die hard.
Those instincts which were so important to our survival 50.000 years are still imprinted upon us, and they are so harmful.
Now we are no longer hunting like two legged wolves and huddling in caves we should no longer be sexually attracted to predatory hunters and brutal fighters, but we still are. We are still attracted to the same long legs for running down prey, the same broad shoulders and club like hands, the wide hips for raising so many young that one might survive, the same dominant tribe mentality. *
The tragedy of this is that the psychological traits which would have made a successful mother, father or leader 50,000 years ago make for terrible lovers, parents and rulers in the modern world. The mentality of the stone age warrior is still attractive despite not only being obsolete, but also harmful.
For example, imagine a woman who takes great pleasure in killing other humans and animals, she loves to hunt and becomes excellent at it. Because of this constant exercise, her body is slim, strong and graceful. She takes many lovers from the most physically powerful men she can find, so she gives birth to many strong children. Such a woman would be an excellent choice of mate for a prehistoric person, but a terrible lover or mother in modern society.
Long gone also are the advantages of the crudely dominating personality necessary to brutally enforce the tribe and scare off rivals. Brute strength, cunning, cruelty and intimidation had their place in the distant past. Now those traits are (for the vast majority of our lives) grotesque at best and devastating most of the time. There are times in our lives when aggression is necessary, but why model ourselves, or select our lovers, based on behaviour which would be beneficial for 1% of our lives?
It has been said that ‘it is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war’ and I agree. There is great advantage in being able to defend and in having the self discipline to do so, but that warlike state should not be a permanent feature of a person. It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a warrior in a war… *2
Regarding the myth of the ‘Alpha’, this is a modern concept where animal aggression is glorified and history is twisted. Of course there were kings, queens and tribal leaders in the past, but for most of history the leaders were born into their position, and if not they gained it because of popularity, intelligence, wealth or simply being in the right place at the right time.
In the most primitive of societies, the ‘Alpha’ personality might have been advantageous to a tribe during short periods of war or scarcity, but most of the time it would have been just as annoying as it is now.
HERE AND NOW.
At the current time, humanity has a great deal of choices to make. Most of these choices revolve around whether we continue to be dominated by instinct or if we choose to use our rational minds. Now, despite the fact that the majority of the human race no longer has to hunt or fight everyday for survival, we continue to be dominated by fear and primitive instincts. People who have never needed to hunt a dangerous wild animal to feed themselves (and whose parents, grandparents, great grandparents… have never had to do so) are still being controlled by their survival instincts. This is having a detrimental effect on our relationships which most people can see but very few can address.
Over two thousand years ago, the great philosophers reminded us that we have the option of following our reason, yet in important matters like love and family we still ignore it.
In short, next time you are looking for a relationship try not to look so much for the hunter’s sleek body, the predatory mind and the dominating presence and try to look more for a fascinating mind and a caring personality.
A person in love would benefit more from the instincts of the artist than the instincts of a hungry wolf.
*Not that there is anything wrong with being in good physical health, the point is that physical strength should not be the main or only desirable feature in a partner.
*2 perhaps I ought to say, better a warrior in an eternal garden than a warrior in a ceaseless war.