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Aroused by a Cartoon? Part II

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Presumably, these are some of the common characteristics that make for a beautiful person (from Cosmetic Beauty):


A luminous, clear complexion is a major signal of youth and beauty. Skin that is free from imperfections is a sign that a person is free from disease, and a wrinkle-free complexion is a signifier of youth. Interestingly, a recent study has found that wrinkles aren't the only cue our eyes look for to evaluate age.

‘Whether a woman is 17 or 70, the contrast of skin tone plays a significant role in the way her age, beauty and health is perceived,' says study co-author Dr Bernhard Fink from the University of Goettingen, Germany. ‘Skin tone homogeneity can give visual clues about a person's health and reproductive capability, so an even skin tone is considered most desirable.'

Facial features

Numerous studies of beauty have found that female facial attractiveness is greater when the face has certain features, in particular large eyes, thin eyebrows, a small nose and full rosy lips.

A female face is generally perceived to be more attractive when possessing high, arched eyebrows, widely spaced large eyes with dilated pupils, high cheekbones, small nose, high forehead, narrow face with thin cheeks, large smile, full lower lip and a small chin. These appealing characteristics in females are typically developed under the influence of estrogens and signify youth and therefore fertility.

The article ends with scepticism and an honest admission that what biology says is not everything to beauty:

While perceptions of beauty differ from culture to culture and change with the times, there is certainly some consensus that facial symmetry and harmony play a significant role in how human beings determine a beautiful face. In the end, however, our individual perceptions of beauty are personal, and there are many other factors that make a person attractive, such as warmth, charisma, personality and intelligence.

Now I think is too tedious to search for examples, but heck, let me try (I do not promise success though, since I am choosing those that seem attractive to me):



Yes, I know is Scarlett again.. Isn't she beautiful!




I do not think every face has to stick to the rules of course. This one has smaller lips, which gives a kind of delicate, feminine feeling, and her cat eyes like, with long eyelashes, are sexy.


I think in anime, the cute factor is exploited more. We have faces that seem to beg for protection and love :D.


Enough! Really, I am getting tired -I have been written this post non-stop-. So I will proceed now to Ramachandran neuroesthetics ideas and end with some thoughts by others cybernauts on this subject.

The idea I want to remark from Neuroesthetics is the Peak Shift Principle and Rasa (essence ,an Hindu art concept), Ramachandran explains as follows:

Hindu artists often speak of conveying the rasa, or ‘essence’, of something in order to evoke a specific mood in the observer. But what exactly does this mean? What does it mean to ‘capture the very essence’ of something in order to ‘evoke a direct emotional response’? The answer to these questions, it turns out, provides the key to understanding what art really is. Indeed, as we shall see, what the artist tries to do (either consciously or unconsciously) is to not only capture the essence of something but also to amplify it in order to more powerfully activate the same neural mechanisms that would be activated by the original object. As the physiologist Zeki (1998) has eloquently noted, it may not be a coincidence that the ability of the artist to abstract the ‘essential features’ of an image and discard redundant information is essentially identical to what the visual areas themselves have evolved to do.

Consider the peak shift effect — a well-known principle in animal discrimination learning. If a rat is taught to discriminate a square from a rectangle (of say, 3:2 aspect ratio) and rewarded for the rectangle, it will soon learn to respond more frequently to the rectangle. Paradoxically, however, the rat’s response to a rectangle that is even longer and skinnier (say, of aspect ratio 4:1) is even greater than it was to the original prototype on which it was trained. This curious result implies that what the rat is learning is not a prototype but a rule, i.e. rectangularity. We shall argue in this essay that this principle holds the key for understanding the evocativeness of much of visual art. We are not arguing that it’s the only principle, but that it is likely to be one of a small subset of such principles underlying artistic experience. How does this principle—the peak shift effect—relate to human pattern recognition and aesthetic preference? Consider the way in which a skilled cartoonist produces a caricature of a famous face, say Nixon’s. What he does (unconsciously) is to take the average of all faces, subtract the average from Nixon’s face (to get the difference between Nixon’s face and all others) and then amplify the differences to produce a caricature. The final result, of course, is a drawing that is even more Nixon-like than the original. The artist has amplified the differences that characterize Nixon’s face in the same way that an even skinnier rectangle is an amplified version of the original prototype that the rat is exposed to. This leads us to our first aphorism: ‘All art is caricature’. (This is not literally true, of course, but as we shall see, it is true surprisingly often.) And the same principle that applies for recognizing faces applies to all aspects

of form recognition. It might seem a bit strange to regard caricatures as art but take a second look at the Chola bronze—the accentuated hips and bust of the Goddess Parvati (Plate 1)


and you will see at once that what you have here is essentially a caricature of the female form. There may be neurons in the brain that represent sensuous, rotund feminine form as opposed to angular masculine form and the artist has chosen to amplify the ‘very essence’ (the rasa) of being feminine by moving the image even further along toward the feminine end of the female/male spectrum. The result of these amplifications is a ‘super stimulus’ in the domain of male/female differences. It is interesting, in this regard, that the earliest known forms of art are often caricatures of one sort or another; e.g. prehistoric cave art depicting animals like bison and mammoths, or the famous Venus ‘fertility’ figures.

In brief, the principle speaks of the distortions, exaggerations, pronounced characteristics of a figure that make it more pleasant and exciting than a normal o real one, or rather, the principle shows that in fact the distortions is more real than reality. It captures the substance, essence. For example Picasso cockerel is a classic illustration:


Gombrich says of this artwork, Picasso was not content with giving a mere rendering of the bird's appearance. He wanted to bring out its aggressiveness, its cheek and its stupidity. In other words he has resorted to caricature (the peak shift principle at work here). But what a convincing caricature it is!

Should it be a surprise then that some anime art is so disproportionate in their facial and body features and yet, loved by fans?


The prehistoric art in France (Lascaux) is another good example:


Very simple lines and colors, almost a sketch, but it seems very alive does it not!?

Ending now. There is an idea too about idealization, which Michio discusses, but dismisses to quickly in my opinion.

Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet: the persona in that book is an aesthete, and he notes in an entry (as the novel is somewhat a compilation of disjointed entries) that he likes to appreciate beauty from a distance. He likes to view human beauty (in women, most especially) from a distance, because if he tried to interact with the woman he appreciates his image towards her shatters: there is inevitably something flawed in that lady, and since he doesn’t want his ideals to be destroyed he remains distant; he sees human beauty as he sees art’s beauty – perfect and untouchable.

I think this is indeed applicable to anime and to feeling attracted to particular characters. I do wonder if I was able to enter in a relationship with the character I am so fond of, would I see her the same way? Or would I get tired of her and the magic would be gone, as Maupassant writes but men grow tired of everything, especially of women? Is it because she is unattainable and an impossible romance, that I feel fond of her and imagine her to be perfect?

Is this the end of the topic? Of course not, there are many other ideas for the why of emotional and sexual arousal, like fantasies, fetishes, even psychoanalysis. I end here though.

I leave you with these two links, one to Michio's piece and another, a video, that summarizes this post:

Exploring 2D Complex

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I wonder to what extent this sort of fetish about cartoons is about seeking a perfection in beauty and sexiness that surpasses not just what human beings are capable of, but of what reality is capable of. I mean, looking at those pictures of real life women and the pictures of the anime women/girls, I can't help but notice the fatal flaw that besets all real life women--nostrils. Apparently anything more than a bump on the face below the eyes is considered a monstrosity :DOkay, I'm teasing, really. Fascinating post, Paulus. But you never did get around to explaining why it is that human beings can find cartoons arousing, in fact your statements are about why men find real women arousing which in my opinion makes makes this problem more difficult. Afterall, a woman with enormous E.T. eyes, no nostrils, and a slit for a mouth, is hardly the kind of woman who is going produce healthy offspring. There's obviously much more than just biology going to work here. There's the issue on how it is that a cartoon drawing can represent real things, how we can invest meaning in these sorts of representations, and how this meaning can have sexual value. You say the one drawing makes you want to protect her, which you find arousing. I think that's interesting in it's own right and perhaps shows another angle on the issue of pedophilia that Michio mentions in another thread. I think we're also dealing with matters concerning masculinity as a gender role, not to feel dominant, but to feel needed, the desire to help and protect a woman. This could be an expression of a consequence of the feminist movement which has made women more independent and self-assured, now the damnsel in distress is being turned into fantasy.

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Afterall, a woman with enormous E.T. eyes, no nostrils, and a slit for a mouth, is hardly the kind of woman who is going produce healthy offspring. There's obviously much more than just biology going to work here.
There's a biological theory of handicap ( that tries to explain such cases. Basically the reasoning goes, if she was able to survive and mature with such serious obstructions to the basic life functions (breathing and eating), she must possess really outstanding vitality to outbalance these handicaps, and therefore I want to produce my offspring with her. It doesn't work for eyes, however, perhaps because we don't perceive seeing as the same kind of boring-but-necessary biological necessity as breathing or eating; seeing is exciting, so for eyes it's "the more the merrier"; similarly, large animal-like ears are common in "cosplay".

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