On the one hand, humans are driven by primitive instincts that have been encoded in our genes over millions of years of evolution, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In his book The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, points out that human beings share 98 percent of their genes with chimpanzees. So only 2 percent of our DNA is what makes us “human.” It’s perplexing.
Darwin theorized that a major incentive for all species is to procreate. He posited that successful mate selection is achieved in two ways: competing with others for the mate you want, or having specific mechanisms for attracting that mate. Robin Thicke and T.I. use both tactics in “Blurred Lines.” They put down the fictitious competition multiple times: Thicke insults the man who wrongly tried to “domesticate” the girl in the song; and both men shamelessly advertise the size of their genitalia.
Our primal, animalistic side comes out in music. For example, there is an obvious science behind the constant male praise of the female butts in music. A certain amount of fat signals that the woman is past puberty, fertile, and able to become pregnant, carry to term, and breastfeed.
It’s even more formulaic than that: It’s not just about the size of the woman’s behind, it’s about its size in proportion to the woman’s waist. Sir Mix-a-Lot confessed that he loved “an itty bitty waist and a round thing [his] face.” And he just couldn’t lie. In Nelly’s song “Ride Wit Me,” he raps, “How could I tell her no? Her measurements were 36-25-34.” It’s unlikely that Nelly actually did the calculations, but the woman he’s describing has a waist-hip ratio (WHR) of .73, precisely in the range that scientists say males find the most attractive, because WHR is “a reliable signal of reproductive age and reproductive capability.”
Daniel Bergner, journalist and author of What Do Women Want?, said that WHR “over and over again” proves to be a factor in sexual attraction, not because men are “mathematically locked in,” but rather because they have cultural preferences. However, the forces of science and culture work simultaneously. Cultural forces, he said, are determined “not by cultural construction, but genetic manifestation.”
Dr. Lionel Tiger,
professor emeritus of anthropology
at Rutgers University, feels strongly that “animalistic” is not a helpful word. “The nature of an animal is in its culture.” At the same time, he said, there is nothing wrong with it. “If you’re not animalistic, you’re dead or sedated… We are animals; it’s like accusing someone of being a hominoid.”
And yet, humans can react badly when we’re confronted with our animalism. To be associated with animals has negative connotations.
But there is a fundamental disconnect here. When it comes to sex, in many ways, we are not animalistic at all.