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Paulus added a topic in ExplorePasiphaë's bullThe first of two parts; I decided to fragment it in two, for the comfort of the reader, after I noticed how extense the thread turned out to be . Anyways, who would want to read such a long crude prose for so long?
A wide glance at human sexuality can show, like Krafft-Ebing and Alfred Kinsey did, that it is as diverse and singular as the stars, and the deeper one probes, the more extravagant it becomes, be it at the group level or at the individual level: objectum sexuality and human cannibalism(1) being two clear examples.
At the same time, it is quite hard not to find a culture or society that did not condemn some sexual activity or an aspect related to it, for example, menstruation, incest, sodomy, and others.
Nonetheless, here I will write about a particular sexual activity, one that, usually, either incites extreme mockery or censure. I refer to Bestiality or Zoophilia. Zoophilia is defined, by wikipedia, as "a paraphilia(2) involving cross-species sexual activity between human and non-human animals or a fixation on such practice. The term zoophilia derives from the combination of two nouns in Greek: ζῷον (zṓion, meaning "animal") and φιλίa (philia, meaning "(fraternal) love"). As a suffix, -philia indicates an abnormal liking for or tendency towards a given thing. Thus, the term denotes an abnormal human sexual attraction to animals".
The idea of abnormality (normality) in itself controversial, can be understood here, for simplicity's sake, as a behavior statistically insignificant or rare (altough the use of it can be discussed too in the comments).
There is a long cultural tradition of, favorable as well as unfavourable, zoophilia depictions, Greek myths like that of the title of this topic, Japanese paintings like The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife by Hokusai, literary tales from Boccaccio, and the many religious prohibitions, just to name a few examples, are proof of this, so the sexual act it is definitively not something new. Usually kept at the margins of society and in obscure corners, harshly censured and penalized by law, morals and taste, by theists and atheists alike, only recently, at the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21th century, has it become, very feebly, a subject and sexual act to be discussed and argued for/against, rather than be dismissed beforehand, by ethical philosophers, legal scholars and the general public at large.
I propose here to peruse the most common objections and reservations to zoophilia, then make some final observations about the topic in general, and hopefully start some interesting discussion.
Objections to Zoophilia
I divided them into three categories, but more in the interest of organization than of philosophical rigor, because the categories selected are not easily demarcated, reality is always multifaceted and complex I guess, and some of them might be less differentiated than initially granted.
Ideal objections: these objections are about an ideal state or parameter that humans and other animals cannot trespass, like a taboo, otherwise something of great symbolic value might be loss and, slippery slope, it could be the end of society and humanity as we know it.
These views may be resumed by the following writer: The great philosophical question of the 21st Century is going to be whether we will knock humans off the pedestal of moral exceptionalism and instead define ourselves as just another animal in the forest. The stakes of the coming debate couldn't be more important: It is our exalted moral status that both bestows special rights upon us and imposes unique and solemn moral responsibilities--including the human duty not to abuse animals.
… One of the reasons bestiality is condemned through law is that such degrading conduct unacceptably subverts standards of basic human dignity and is an affront to humankind's inestimable importance and intrinsic moral worth.
I say permitting it (zoophilia) promotes social anarchy, moral disintegration, and a view of humans that is inherently degrading, thereby harming the common good. (3)
It is easy to see that there are many assumptions and loaded meanings to question in these hyperbolic and apocalyptic statements, but let’s focus on two big words, that are used not only in this context, but in many others, to reject and censure a position or view: “dignity” (in this cited fragment) and “natural”.
Dignity is a very value laden concept, full of implicit assumptions, unclear, and of an arbitrary application. In this case it is used as an argument against zoophilia, because, the critics say, having sex with a non-human animal would demean a human being, take away his/her dignity, and by doing so giving free way to an anything goes morally speaking.
The first problem, then, with dignity is that is it simple undefined and vague, because, when we speak of dignity to what do we refer exactly? After researching various definitions and articles, It seems to be related to worth, respect, self-respect, to being fully human, yet those same terms are not defined without some controversy, and might say more about the one that preaches them than the one that “fails” to live up to them. For example a woman in a story by Sartre thinks about how having a body in itself is in some sense undignified, ugly, problematic, because of the reflexes, mechanics, secretions it expels, sort of like a silly meat puppet; others believe that being human it is not special at all, nor is there any intrinsic dignity to it, perhaps quite the contrary, because as early and recent psychology studies have show, we can be tribal, impulsive, biased, cruel and irrational, things we surely do not find to be praiseworthy. Perhaps being human isn’t that great after all. Of course we could argue that they who do those things are not human or are far from it, but that is just dishonest; sadly, dictionaries and popular culture abound with definitions of humane, humanity and the like as synonym of good, empathetic, benevolent, dignified and help to promote these lazy assumptions.
Other problem is, even if we were in agreement about what dignity meant, how do we accomplish this standard? For example, say we think that dignity is having respect for oneself, how do we measure that that self-respect is being done or accomplished? Is there a spectrum of dignity, some having more, others less? Is it even possible to have no dignity at all? And does something having less dignity or no dignity at all is it necessarily bad? Less say we know what dignity is and we know how to “measure” it, the next question is who are we to use dignity as a norm and rule for human action? Did not the Nazis felt the Jews to have no dignity at all, and because of it to be of no value and justified in treating them as a pest, as trash, as nothing? Surely we think the Nazis to be wrong, yet they, presumably, had quite sure a definition for dignity, how to measure it, and felt an authority of it. Nevertheless, let’s assume that we have solved all these problems, why should dignity be of such an importance that it can overcome other human interests like freedom, originality or pleasure? I think that it is not clear or obvious at all that it can be so.
Some much for dignity, yet, perhaps, we could use the weapon of the critic, and shoot him in the face with it. Could it be true that blurring the human/non-human animal divide could be detrimental to society and morality? Perhaps not, recent studies on prejudice and discrimination have shown that thinking and seeing nonhuman animals as less important than humans, of not placing relevance in their interest or wellbeing, in being speciesist, turns out to be correlated to being prone to discriminate other groups and people:
It has been contemplated that many of our prejudices against human outgroups (i.e., groups to which we do not belong) find their roots or origins in our thinking about the human-animal divide. Could this be true? Might our sense of being different from and superior to non-human animals lay the foundations for the mistreatment of other people, particularly “others” we consider animal-like?
Our laboratory has been actively pursuing this intriguing possibility. My PhD student (Kimberly Costello) and I recently proposed the Interspecies Model of Prejudice. This simple model breaks down into several parts. First, we propose that thinking of humans as different from and superior to animals contributes to prejudices against others (e.g., immigrants). Second, this relation (or “effect”) is explained by the degree to which we view those other people as less-than-human. In other words, devaluing animals provides the fuel for devaluing other (dehumanized) humans, which leads to prejudice toward that group. The implications are clear: portraying “them” as animal-like would have no derogatory sting or system-justifying impetus if we did not collectively consider non-human animals inherently inferior to humans in the first place. As Plous (2003, p. 510) observes, “… the very act of ‘treating people like animals’ would lose its meaning if animals were treated well.”(4)
Of course I do not suggest having sex with non-human animals as a cure for prejudice and discrimination, yet the idea of seeing zoophilia as degrading to humans, to dignity, because it blurs the, vague frontier, of humans and non-human animals is at the core of other ideas and acts that dismiss the interests of non-human animals, and because of it, of humanity at large maybe?
Let’s think about another idea and argument that is usually thrown into debates where the human and non-human divide is put into question, that is the argument from nature. This is easy and simple; it merely affirms that having sex with non-human animals is unnatural. Well, just like the idea of dignity, this one suffers the same criticisms: vagueness, arbitrariness, is-ought confusion, etc. What is natural? Is it not everything that exists natural, the whole universe in short? So talking about the natural is pointless and meaningless perhaps? Maybe the critic does not mean that, he means something more modest, like a feature intrinsic to nature or some kind of identity, yet this is also of little help because humans are from nature and live in nature, how could they be possible above and beyond it, should not everything they do be natural? Maybe the critic means something more specific, like a rule, but still this is problematic, because, for example, the Marquis de Sade argued, in his novels, that seeking pleasure is the sole law of nature, all animals want it, and so does the human being, the unnatural is to censure and repressed it. I doubt many would agree with Sade, nor think that nature prescribes an action or that it norms human conduct, in fact, it can be argued otherwise, that some “natural” actions are to be censured, since it is possible that human conducts that we find abhorrent could be grounded on natural selection, for example rape (some evolutionary psychologist think that is served and serves a function as a secondary mating strategy); of course we would not permit rape because it is a natural product of mother nature, evolution, et al, we do not care about these natural origins, we judge actions through other standards (wellbeing, consent, harm, etc.), we consider societies to be different now, our interests and values to be different also. Plus the idea of the natural is as varied as it is ambiguous: Rousseau said that civilization was unnatural, yet no one seems to agree or care now; we used to think that women who rejected maternity were unnatural, that women, being mothers by nature, belonged solely to the domestic sphere, their cognitive abilities being nil and unnecesary, yet we do not agree with these ideas now; we used to think homosexuality to be unnatural; slaves escaping from their bondage to be unnatural (5); even, some believe, the use of technology to be unnatural (Unabomber), etc. yet few if none agree with these claims or put much importance into them. To the contrary, poison is natural, but nobody drinks it with merriment; disease is natural, yet everyone complains about it and seeks help to get rid of it; burping, farting, expectorating are natural yet we dislike it when somebody does it in our faces. Let’s say we can show with certainty what is natural, now what? Does it matter? No. Because what is the case is simply that, a description of something, and as it best it can tell us the origin of something, but nothing much. The natural it is not a norm, nor a rule, and even less an ethical prescription, and even if it where, we can reject it for other reasons and values.
Ethical objections: these have to do with the interests of the non-human animals
Is it argued, in its stronger form, that the non-human animals necessarily are harmed by having sex with humans and so zoophilia is wrong; the soft form says that potentially they could be harmed and because of that zoophilia is wrong. Is it true that this could be the case? I think yes, but it depends. First of all talking about the non-human animal as if it were a uniform and unique group of beings is false, violent and sloppy, because, to assume that all animals are equal is to dismiss their singularities and differences, physical, emotional and psychological, and be ignorant of their preferences. But more to the point, this argument is not entirely convincing, because an adult human would make as much harm to a puppy, as he would do to a human infant, in other words, this preoccupation is not circumscribed only to zoophilia, it is about sexuality in general. It is not hard, I presume, to imagine ways to have sex with a non-human animal that would cause neither the human nor the non-human animal harm, but pleasure and satisfaction to both parties involved if it is done with care.
A more satirical reply would poke the eye of the critic and mock him with rage: “you, you preach about harming the non-human animal, you, the one who cares little or nothing about the suffering and horror of animal farming, about the cruel manufacturing of cosmetics, about the use and abuse of animals in entertainment, about the misuse and exploitation of them in scientific experiments, about the leather you wear made of tears and blood?”.
This argument claims that non-humans animals do not, nor are able, to give consent, zoophilia then is abusive and harmful, just like rape. Jacob Appel addressed this argument (as well as the harm apprehension):
(The issue of consent) reflects the concern of animal rights advocates, such as members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, that bestiality is synonymous with animal abuse. Animals cannot consent in a meaningful way to sexual contact, they argue, so human-animal sex is akin to rape.
The problem with this reasoning is that animals cannot consent—under the legal definition of that term—to anything. We do not describe owning a pet dog as kidnapping, even when the canine is restricted to the inside of a home, although confining a human being in the same manner would clearly be unethical. What might make more reasonable sense is to speak of animal welfare. Certainly, to the degree that animals experience pain, an argument can be made for preventing such suffering. (Although I suspect that the vast majority of lawmakers who voted for anti-bestiality statutes do not eschew hamburgers, leather-goods or even fur—not to mention cleansers and cosmetics safety-tested on the eyes of lab rabbits.) But while (without becoming graphic) some such human-animal interactions are likely painful, others may well be neutral or even pleasurable for the animals concerned. As the father of the modern animal rights movement, Princeton-based philosopher Peter Singer, points out, “Sex with animals does not always involve cruelty.'"(6)
And as Brian Cutteridge argues:
Animal sexual autonomy is regularly violated for human financial gain through procedures such as [artificial insemination and slaughter]. Such procedures are probably more disturbing physically and psychologically than acts of zoophilia would be, yet the issue of consent on the part of the animal is never raised in the discussion of such procedures.(7)
Apart from the inconsistency in everyday life of the consent argument, we could ask how could consent be taken into account without assuming a human expression of it? Is it possible that non-human animals could consent in their own way? For example some think that the dog attempts at copulating with the owner, “humping” the leg say, are in some way giving their consent to the activity and even initiating it. Not only that, they also "seem to enjoy the attention provided by the sexual interaction with a human."(7)
Lastly, zoophilia, it is not entirely an human initiated and consented activity, because research “has proven that non-human animals can and do have sex for non-reproductive purposes (and for pleasure).In 2006, a Danish Animal Ethics Council report concluded that ethically performed zoosexual activity is capable of providing a positive experience for all participants, and that some non-human animals are sexually attracted to humans (for example, dolphins).”(8)
Nevertheless, although inconsistent in its uses and justly condemned and refuted because of it, consent in its positive meaning I am less confident to support. It seems less clear, at least to me, without a doubt, how to distinguish or interpret consent from a non-human animal.
In part two I'll deal with the disgust or yuk argument to zoophilia.
(1) The case of Armin Meiwes
(2) "A paraphilia is a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme". From Psychology Today.
(3) “Wesley J. Smith (born 1949) is an American lawyer and author, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism”. Wikipedia.
(4) The Human-Animal Divide and Prejudices Against Humans. Seeing others as “less-than-human”. From Psychology Today.
(5) Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity. Wikipedia.
(6) Three Reasons Society Shouldn't Rush to Condemn Bestiality. Opposing News.
(7) For the Love of Dog: On the Legal Prohibition of Zoophilia in Canada and the United States.
(8) Bestiality ban not needed: Ethics Council; "Bid to save over-friendly dolphin". CNN.
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Paulus added a topic in ExploreA Shameless Worship of HeroesWarning
1) The following writing was in spanish, then it was translated by me into english.
2) I haven't written in a long time in english so there may be some strange sentences, phrasing, and other errors.
“…for why should we stand reverent before waterfalls and mountaintops, or a summer moon on a quiet sea, and not
before the highest miracle of all: a man who is both great and good? So many of us are mere talents, clever children in the play of life, that when genius stands in our presence we can only bow down before it as an act of God, a continuance of creation.”
Will Durant, The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time
It is generally correct to state that no great human being, whether in the field of science, philosophy, politics, or the arts, was, as a person, pleasant and praiseworthy, friendly and sensible, or at least one can concede that many are situated quite far from the saintly deification we give them. This I knew, with some disappointment, after perusing briefly history, the great teacher. Yes, because many idols blind us with their most exalted and bright costumes of genius, aided by our naive admiration, of their shameful and reprehensible stains that tarnish them. Perhaps Foucault was uttering a truism when he said that we think of an author not as a person, but as systems of ideas, a cultural product and an array of social meanings (an example would be an artist like Picasso, that whenever we think of him we think him as a synonym of cubism, of rebellion in art, of even art itself maybe; but what about the man Picasso, the asshole Picasso?). The following list, although partial and biased, is what I found in my sad investigation of human filth in what was thought perfect, and this includes sufficient eminent names to generate speculation and curiosity:
The genius painter Caravaggio suffered from psychopathic impulses and the most subtle misunderstanding turned him mad as a wounded beast ; visionary composer Gesualdo, out of jealousy, killed his wife and mistress and then let their mutilated bodies in public view as any spiteful villain would do; Gandhi was a superstitious indecent, who made a servant of his wife , and his rejection of Western medicine ended up killing her though she was suffering from a curable disease; the famous Argentinian poet Pizarnik could barely control her passions and ruined almost all , if not all , her friendships; Socrates, the philosophy pioneer, was a lousy father, always absent and indolent; Leibniz always opportunistic in his relationships, stopped supporting Spinoza’s philosophy when he got in danger and preferred to lie to himself, than say that he agreed with the tenets of the philosopher named ; poor Spinoza already mentioned , called the prince of philosophers through history, did not have much sympathy , if not an iota of respect, for animals as he thought of them as dispensable things; Schopenhauer, acute observer of life, could never overcome his horrible relationship with his mother and boasted of being a misogynist ; Borges was never able to give a satisfactory justification for its controversial approval of dictator Videla , nor for his obscene acceptance of the recognition done by Pinochet in Chile of his work; Bartolomé de las Casas although he rebuked the Spanish conquistadors brutality, made a blind eye to African slavery; Rousseau was an extreme paranoid that ended turning away all his friends because of unfounded suspicions. The list could go on but I’ll let the interested reader to inquire more.
The style of this topic, because of the initial constraints and primordial intentions, is an essay akin to those one can find in Schopenhauer’s Studies on Pessimism, or Mencken’s A Book of Calumny, that is to say, it is not as rigorous in philosophical argument and logical clarity, as it is, I hope, in literary merits and polemics. It also paints a curious and personal reflection about something that stroke my fancy. Nevertheless I expect it to at least starts some mild discussion, perhaps with regards to how we create ideas, myths about the other, especially when that other is a person of great genius and, we assume, rightly deserving our admiration. How much is Borges, for example, the idea, the historical person, the legend maybe, related to the human, the flesh, bones and blood in other words? Also how much is says about ourselves this creation and worship of idols, for, being imaginative, could there be a sign of immortality in every admiration, that is to say, when we admire someone as great as Borges, do we omit, intentionally his most (in)humane qualities, for doing so keeps him saintly and above death, a proxy for our own survival after death (analogous to the immortality of having a child, although this "child", usually, precedes the parents).To resume, why do we have these heroes, how do we define them, how much imperfection can there be in a hero before it diminishes his o her greatness, and why do we worship them, as Durant says in the title of one of his essays; finally, is it of importance to remind ourselves that they were far from perfect and human, all too human, does it matter, or to the contrary, maybe this all too human meanness relates to their greatness in some way?
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Paulus added a blog entry in A Cybernaut DivagationsAroused by a Cartoon? Part IThis post is big and, I fear, I will not achieve a symmetry and a ,complete, coherent message; I hope although, that my central claim is taken.
It is troublesome to write posts that discusses sexuality and representations at the same time, because it is such a vast topic! Sexuality, particularly human sexuality, with all its beauty and ugliness, is a most complex phenomena. No wonder it is a subject of so much dispute and discrimination/prejudice.
People are too ignorant of the richness of human sexuality, and thus, we are too eager to condemn and patronize with our impressions, than to to be charitable and give a deliberate reflection and analysis to a subject, which some seem to enjoy, that we cannot admire.
Homosexuality, transexuality, bisexuality, "perversions", fantasies, fetishes, etc. Are all misunderstood and wronged by our ignorance, which is sometimes mistakenly disguised as, either, an appeal to science (psychology mostly) or nature. We must educate ourselves more about this subject, sexuality, and even challenge conventional assumptions. We cause to much harm by not doing so. First of all, we should do away with that ridiculous embarrassment and pudor when talking the subject; probably an heredity from victorian irrationalism. Second, we should read the most we can about it and do not fear or disgust too quickly with the unfamiliar. Third, we should check if there are inconsistencies with what we profess to be good or normal and what we condemn to be bad or not-normal; he who is very interested in female feet, might too easily feel ashamed of having a friend that likes hentai. Both sexual tastes, and objects of sexual stimulation, are not that unrelated.
Nevertheless, since this post is more concerned with hentai and anime, and how these art forms arouse emotions and sexual excitement, we cannot concentrate on the more broad topic of human sexuality! I apologize for the divagation.
One cannot help wondering, is it really that curious that one may feel attracted or aroused by anime (hentai particularly)? Anyone that surfers the internet will notice forums dedicated to this for crying out loud! Millions of users dropping saliva for pictures and videos with anime girls in sexy poses. So factual evidence shows that it is not an isolated phenomena of a few people. But let us not focus on mere factual research; I want to examine this in a more sophisticated manner.
Historical Aside: Pin-ups were a famous and very successful artistic enterprise in the 1940's, and soldier’s lockers were full of them. So it is not that weird to be aroused by drawings anyway . Here some examples:
There are many representations (signs that stand in for and take the place of something else - it is plain obvious that this in itself a subject of intense debates, theories and ideas for philosophers since millenniums) in art. The most adored ones are:
•Lines, shapes, form, perspective, color put in a certain order or no order in a canvas (painting).
•1's and 0's, vectors, pixels, lines, dimensions in a computer screen (computer graphics).
•Symbols/ words in a piece of paper - as Borges so beautifully put it, "It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordination’s, one of them — at least in an infinitesimal way — does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others" (literature).
•Photos (which are a recording radiation on a sensitive medium, "drawing with light") in sequence (films).
•Figures created by shaping or combining hard materials like marble, metal, glass, or wood, or plastic materials such as clay, textiles and softer metals (sculpture).
•Organized pleasant vibrations in the environment (music, a disputed definition )
All these art forms are capable of provoking in us thought, emotional catharsis, joy; literature for example, I wrote someplace else, incites us
To reflect/think about others, to understand better and not judge to quick and harshly, to be more considerate. We are able to develop this qualities by reading and getting acquainted with a variety of fictional personas, from a woman in need of a more candid love, to a man that finds himself turned into a insect when he awakes in the morning.
Another reason (related to the one above) for reading, is to be familiar with other eras, societies, individuals.
"Literature transports us into another era and into another person. It gives us a slight touch in the shoulder and whisper to us, that perhaps, our dilemmas, be it moral or intellectual, are not so much our troubles but the troubles of human nature."
I also seek, when reading, a sort of witty or emotional revelation, be it intellectual, moral, spiritual or any other. A couple of examples can illustrate:
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.."
And literature is just symbols in paper put in some specific or systematic order!
Now anime is very similar to film, the difference is in the materials used, but, briefly, both are sequential arts. One can ask, if anime causes wonder (regarding intellectual, emotional and sexual arousal) why do not the other arts? In short, the answer is lack of thought and consistency in our ideas concerning the particular art, in this case, anime.
Perhaps one could respond, "but wait, anime is always - this is false of course - distortions and unreal characters, with big eyes and small breasts sometimes, with no hair, etc."
This remark can be given a very interesting and fascinating response. Here I will have to dwell in philosophy of art, history of art, science and my own musings and musings of other fellow cybernauts. I want to be systematic, so I'll do a little list of things to reflect and consider when analysing and studying representations in art:
•Character and Culture
•Evolution and psychology
Of course, not all arts fall in all these categories. Literature, I believe, for example, to be much more dependent on imagination and character and, probably, is unrelated to any of the ideas that Ramachandran gives in his paper Science of Art (a work in the field of neuroscience) which are more suitable for painting and sculpture.
With respect to character and culture, I can refer with this, roughly, to the individual education, environment, beliefs and his/her dispositions to novel and different ideas (an open mind). I regard myself lucky here, and to not fall in a vulgar indulgence of my vanity, I will claim quickly, that I am fond and open to all fields of art, or to anything that tries at least, or is trying, to be art or of aesthetic significance. Ceramics, sculpture, music, painting, comics, anime, cinema, architecture, gardens, novels, poetry, videogames, etc. I love them all!
I think that having an amenable disposition, is a very important factor when coming in acquaintance with something new and different. A so-called receptive mind to proliferation of ideas. By practicing this, we can always earn something aesthetically pleasant and meaningful, of course not all experiences will have the same value, but it is much better than dismissing in a irresponsible manner something because of laziness and prejudice.
Of imagination, I spoke already above. I'll say something about habit now. Pretty straightforward, I wonder if merely getting accustomed to an art form is enough to develop an attraction and respect to it. I know I should elaborate more here, but I cannot think something important to add to this "habit" idea. I will give an anecdote though. I have never been an anime (hentai particularly), fanatic, I am not one now either, although I am much more fond of, and interested in, it than previously (before I did not even dare to look at it! I had an immense dislike for it). I came afterwards acquainted with Cowboy Bebop and many other works of meaning, and then I developed a taste for anime. Now I am not sure if this is really just habit and not, perhaps, the dispelling of prejudice, or mix.
Nonetheless, habit is a weak idea. Now for the more interesting and controversial ones, because they may fall into reductionism, neuroscience and evolution.
Evolutionary ideas are simple. A particular shape and form in a body is arousing.
The 3 Main Physical Factors of the Biological Attraction in Humans
Even at the stage of fecundated egg, the human body starts developing from dividing cells. If each division went perfectly, we all would be perfectly symmetrical, the left and right sides being mirror images. But this never happens, due to environmental disturbances, as the organism does not live in a constant environment (food, temperature, humidity, predators and so on) and this slightly alters the division.
That's why any human and animal presents a certain degree of asymmetry between the right and the left side. Smaller symmetry means an individual has powerful genes enabling him to stand bad conditions and survive better, being more healthy and fertile.
"It makes sense to use symmetry variation in mate choice. If you choose a perfectly symmetrical partner and reproduce with them, your offspring will have a better chance of being symmetric and able to deal with perturbations." said evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill of the University of New Mexico.
His symmetry researches on people revealed that both men and women rated more symmetrical members of the opposite sex as more attractive and healthier than their less symmetrical individuals.
2. Body shape.
Psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas investigated people's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) relationship with sexual attractiveness and found that women with a WHR of 0.7 (a waist much narrower than the hips) are most desirable to men. An analysis of Playboy models and Miss America contestants found that the majority were situated around a WHR of 0.7 or lower.
"In general, a range of 0.67 to 1.18 in females is attractive to men, while a 0.8 to 1.0 WHR in men is attractive to women, although having broad shoulders is more of a turn-on." said Singh.
WHR encodes a crucial fat clue: if the individual possesses enough energy to care for offspring.
The way fat is stored on the body is controlled by sex hormones. The proper levels of estrogen in women will produce the right WHR ratio and testosterone does the same in men.
People with the right WHO, no matter their weight, are less vulnerable to conditions like cardiovascular disorders, cancer and diabetes, and are more fertile, as revealed by many researches.
"The idea is that beauty is conveying information about health
3. The face is the first factor that tells the gender. And the person's fertility degree.
"Estrogen caps bone growth in a woman's lower face and chin, making them relatively small and short, as well as the brow, allowing for her eyes to appear prominent," Thornhill explained.
Testosterone carves masculine faces, with a bigger lower face and jaw and a prominent brow.
"Men and women possessing these traits are seen as attractive, because they advertise reproductive health." said Thornhill. and fertility, and we admire that," said Singh.
So, it does not matter whether it is
Venus de Milo
A nude painting (Bouguereau)
All these representations are stimulating. Although one would expect to get aroused by "real" persons, not representations! Well our brain is a complex machine and full of surprises, it can also be tricked presumably.
To avoid one kind of misty conjecture for another one (more vague speculation), I'll focus, in the second part (because I cannot post too many pictures in one blog entry ), on psychology and evolution, with regards to facial features and skin, a very important factor which determines, overall, our attraction to someone.
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Paulus added a blog entry in A Cybernaut DivagationsAroused by a Cartoon? Part IIPresumably, 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.'
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 .
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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