Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Walk this way

Okay, riddle me this, Wikifray: One study demonstrates that lap dancers engage in fertility signaling behaviour when they’re ovulating, and another study shows that non-lap dancers walk more conservatively when they’re ovulating. How can these two results both be correct? Either women are signaling fertility, or they’re not, right? How can one group of fertile women make more money during fertile days, while another group appears more sexually alluring to men when they’re not fertile?

According to researchers, non-lap dancers throw out a net when it won’t have any effect, and they reel it in before they have chance of catching something, while those booty-shaking lap-dancers put out the long line, and their catch varies with the moon.

No wonder Megan O’Rourke, writing on Slate’s XX Factor Blog, snickers. No wonder Anna Applebaum sneers. The folks researching the sexy walk came up with this brilliant explanation:

That makes evolutionary sense, because it would benefit a woman to advertise her fertility only to those men she believes would make a suitable mate. In contrast, men can pick up on the attractiveness of a woman’s walk from long distance, and it can therefore act as an unwitting signal to less appealing males whom she might not want to choose. Dr Provost said: “If women are trying to protect themselves from sexual assault at times of peak fertility, it would make sense for them to advertise attractiveness on a broad scale when they are not fertile.

But what about the strippers, if it’s not the way they shake their money makers, then what is it? A husky voice? Bedroom eyes? Pheremones? I suppose any of these would fit neatly into an ev psych conclusion, but the researchers only say that the women are somehow signaling estrus. Maybe they whisper to their clients, “Mmm, I’m ovulating.” Would that count?

I have a theory. Well, it’s not really a theory, it’s more of a hypothesis. Acutally, it’s a guess, okay? A guess: women who are not lap dancers self-consciously minimize their sexy sashay during fertile days in order to not appear slutty. Why? Because our society has strong social proscriptions against sexual availability in women, and when they’re feeling the natural spike in arousal that comes with ovulation, they don’t want anyone to notice. And the strippers? They get paid to appear sexually available, and that’s easiest during the time when they’re feeling a natural spike in arousal, anyway.

I know—these are essentially the same conclusions that the researchers offered, but both of my explanations rely on women adhering to social conditioning, not heritable predisposition. Or is social conditioning founded in ev psych, too? Ah, I get it: everything is ev psych, because that just makes so much sense.


There's some interesting discussion in the XX Factor Fray, mostly castigating the bloggers for not making careful arguments. Their critics make careful arguments. Who knew talking about sex could be such a soporific?