Friday, 6 March 2009

On The Horizon

No, this is not about the view thirty miles away ( the distance the horizon appears to be at if you are a six foot male) but the BBC2 Horizon documentary on Tuesday, which asked the question, 'What's the problem with nudity?' Psychologists and scientists gathered a group of eight volunteers, from all parts of the UK and from different walks of life, to study attitudes to the naked human form.

In the first experiment, the eight were divided into pairs: two men: two women: two couples each of mixed sexes. One couple at a time was split between adjacent rooms, separated by a wall with a full length, two-way mirror. Each pair received instructions, to be read when told; one was to sit in front of the mirror, the other asked to stand before their mirror and strip. Most of them realised the partner was on the far side of the glass, although this was not specifically explained. Stress levels were measured. When evaluated, females tended to be more stressed before stripping, males after. They were asked why they thought humans felt this discomfort, being naked before a stranger. Was it simply the sexual aspect? Scientists had a theory that the reasons were rather more complex.

Amongst all the life forms, why are humans not covered in fur? Anthropologists believe humans first appeared in Africa a quarter of a million years ago. In Kenya, there is research being done to explain one of the mysteries of human skin. Why have we lost the insulating, protective fur of other mammals? 150 years ago, Darwin put forward the theory that natural selection accounted for it, preference being for a mate with less hair. In Finland, experiments were begun to test out this theory, that women prefer less body hair on the men they choose. A set of before and after photos of men's torsos were taken - all body hair being shaved before the second set were done.

The UK experimenters followed suit with our volunteers; men were photographed, bodies unshaved, their images being intermingled with those taken in Finland. The women were asked to rate the attractiveness of all the men's pictures. 60% of those most favoured were hairless. Our four 'hairy' volunteers were ranked extremely low in the remaining group. Seemingly, Darwin's theory holds good. But by the rules of evolution, this theory is not enough on its own.

In primates, thick, glossy fur is a prime factor in the choice of a strong, healthy mate. So there must have been a further incentive for our ancestors to become less hairy.

Back in London, another experiment was conducted. Two men, one clothed, one naked, stood before powerful heaters, while thermal cameras showed hottest areas. The clothes protected the body as fur would do, keeping the temperature of the covered skin lower. But there had to have been more significant factors as to why our ancestors became hairless. Then scientists realised, there had been three main changes: we walked upright: we began strenuous exercise, roving miles over the plains: we developed sweat glands, that were more efficacious with bare skin. These three factors helped our bodies develop in a different way. Our skin is a giant, all over cooling system, capable of loosing a litre of sweat an hour. Fur was no longer so useful.

I think I shall stop here, and take you on another stage of evolutionary delight tomorrow. Hope a night without fur is not too traumatic - you can always snuggle up next to somebody else for warmth - maybe a woolly mammoth? xxx

9 comments:

  1. Lemons make you think of pancakes? Must be a British thing ;-)
    I prefer a less furry man too.
    Why is there still fur in your armpits if the sweatglands theory is correct? Why does your nosehair grow faster the older you get? And your eyebrows too I believe. Gosh, you triggered quite a lot of questions there. Can't wait for your other post.
    'See' you tomorrow or sunday then...

    Hugs xx

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  2. Great work, Jinksy. Very educational. I'm looking forward to reading more.

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  3. thank you as i missed the programme

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  4. Very interesting. I am attracted to men with facial hair (mustaches and beards) and repelled by thickly haired arms, legs and chests. Too much like "lower" animals, perhaps?

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  5. I like men with hairy chests. I hate the shiny waxed look of male models. It must itch like mad when it starts to grow back after a waxing session.

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  6. I think you are a very interesting woman. Where have you been all these years, Jinksy? And with all this talk of nekkidness and you commenting about climbing in my kitchen window I have to stop and laugh, a lot. Some things are in the air. Apparently naked is one of them. I've just help back a post on stripping. (Different than the metaphorical one posted.) I don't know that I'm as brave as you.

    Will be back for part two.

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  7. Can you explain why we still have hair on our heads? Will be back tomorrow for the answer.

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  8. Thanks for such an interesting post Jinksy. I have to admit, I love my wooly, furry mammoth hubby but he is so busy being overheated that he can't cuddle the always-cold me! I need fur!

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  9. Oh, I've read these 2 posts back to front, still, it didn't really matter. Most interesting, I wish I'd seen it. The theory about us standing upright and wearing clothes therefore not needing the fur seems logical to me. And the sweat glands. Excellent blog.

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