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Was Satoshi Kanazawa Right?

This post is also available in: German

Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary scientist and former columnist at Psychology Today who wrote an article (since pulled, and which got him fired from the magazine) about the attractiveness of the different races of women, (concluding that black women were the least attractive), might, in the end, have had his analysis vindicated.

Peter Frost, over at his blog, Evo and Proud, has a good post delving into a study by Michael Lewis et al which examined the attractiveness of the big three races. He starts with a primer about the evidence that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, it is objectively measurable and only “subjective” inasmuch as the perception of objective beauty resides in the individual brain.

Notions of human beauty seem to develop along similar lines in all humans. Children as young as 2-3 months old look longer at female faces that adults have rated as attractive, be they white infants looking at faces of black women rated by black men or black infants looking at faces of white women rated by white men (Langlois et al., 2000; Langlois et al., 1991; Langlois et al., 1987; Langlois and Stephen, 1977). Similar findings have been obtained with adults of various racial/ethnic origins (Bernstein et al., 1982; Cunningham et al., 1995; Maret, 1983; Miller, 1969; Perrett et al., 1994).

In the most comprehensive of these studies, Cunningham et al. (1995) assessed criteria of female beauty among men of different ethnic backgrounds: Taiwanese, White Americans, Black Americans, and recently arrived Asian and Hispanic students. All of them perceived a female face to be more attractive when possessing high eyebrows, widely spaced large eyes with dilated pupils, high cheekbones, small nose, narrow face with thin cheeks, large smile, full lower lip, small chin, and fuller hairstyle.

To be sure, the East Asian men tended to prefer more immature and inexpressive faces whereas the Black American men tended to prefer women with larger buttocks and a heavier body build. These differences in preference, however, are much smaller than the differences in physique that actually exist among human populations.

Just as I have been saying: there are universal beauty standards molded by smaller regional racial preferences.

So what happens when physically different populations come into contact with each other? Are some judged to be better looking than others? And is there consensus on this judgment?

The anticipation is killing you! I hope it lasts.

Finally, Lewis addresses the possibility that this gender asymmetry may reflect an underlying asymmetry in sexual attractiveness: “If there are differences between the relative attractiveness of the genders between different races then asymmetries in interracial marriage will follow.” To this end, he asked male and female volunteers to rate the attractiveness of human faces that differed by ethnicity and gender. Of the male raters, 15 were White, 2 were Black, and 3 were Asian. Of the female raters, 14 were White, 3 were Black, and 3 were Asian.

The results are shown at the top of this post. Female raters gave the highest ratings to Black men, followed by White men and East Asian men. Male raters gave the highest ratings to East Asian women, followed by White women and Black women. There was no significant interaction between the race of the rater and the race of the face being rated.

This research, at least, supports Kanazawa’s theory that black women are the least attractive of the major races of women. Read the comments to Frost’s post as well. They are very good and blessedly free of feminist or equalist cant, even the ones which question the validity of the study or the conclusions one can draw from the data. Interestingly, in the chart appended to the top of Frost’s post, the standard deviation — or “spread” — of beauty is highest among white people (and lowest among blacks, except for Asian males). So, although the white beauty average is higher, there are more very ugly people and very beautiful people within the white race. The spread between ugly and hot, in other words, is greatest among whites. This observation falls in line with what appears to be a general trend for whites to have very large spreads in quality along multiple measurable human traits.

White people are, essentially, nature’s favored evolutionary guinea pigs. They are experimented on to a greater degree than other races, and as a result there are a lot more experimental failures, and a lot more experimental successes, within the white race.

My personal opinion on this matter of interracial attractiveness — besides the belief that nothing pricks the collective id like a rip-roaring, no-egos-spared discussion about the hotness of this or that group’s women — is that, like the women of most races, there are a fair number of hot black chicks I have seen whom I would most assuredly and happily defile with sweet lovemaking. And there are a lot of gross white women I wouldn’t touch with Tim Wise’s precious anti-racist dick. Honey Boo Boo’s mom comes to mind as a perfect example of the genre.

But we are talking about averages. If you don’t know what an average is, you should leave the internet and return when you are more enlightened than a garden slug. And, on average, I have noticed that some races just have proportionately more bangable women than do other races.

That’s all. If you can’t comment below without propping your ego with a strawman, or a hayfield of strawmen, you will be banned. Life is too short to tolerate obtuseness and trollery.

Anyhow, Frost talks about his own research into facial attractiveness, and explains where his conclusions or theories differ from Lewis’ study above.

Nonetheless, there are significant differences between my findings and Michael Lewis’. The cross-cultural study showed a general preference for lighter-skinned women, but only at the lighter end of the local range of skin color. We see this in folk terminology. Traditionally, a beautiful woman was ‘white’ in Europe and East Asia, ‘golden’ in Southeast Asia, and ‘red’ in sub-Saharan Africa.

As for my menstrual cycle study, the darker male face was indeed more strongly preferred by women in the first two-thirds of the menstrual cycle, i.e., when estrogen levels are high and not offset by progesterone. Yet, even in that group, there was still more preference for the lighter male face. In other words, estrogen seems to weaken a woman’s resistance to darker male skin, without reversing the direction of preference, at least not fully. […]

Finally, the ideological environment has changed over the past twenty years. In Lewis’ study, the White raters showed no tendency to prefer their own kind—an unusual finding in itself. Many of them may have thought long and hard before choosing a White face over a non-White one. Of course, this possible anti-White bias would not explain the gender asymmetry. It would simply shift all preferences towards the darker end of the color spectrum.

And that leads to another point. Perhaps some of the raters were unconsciously using East Asian preference as a proxy for White preference. In our current ideological environment, it is legitimate to admire East Asians for a wide range of good qualities: politeness, work ethic, self-discipline, attractive facial features, and so on. Such admiration incurs no social cost. So if you feel ashamed of your preference for White people, why not repackage it as East Asian preference?

Frost posits an evolutionary mechanism by which black men and white women would become more physically attractive over generations.

In some populations, men competed against each other for access to women. This was especially so in tropical ‘horticulturalist’ societies where year-round farming enabled women to provide for themselves and their children with little male assistance. For men, the cost of taking a second wife was close to zero and may even have been negative. Such societies thus had a high polygyny rate and correspondingly intense male-male rivalry for mates. The pressure of sexual selection was therefore on men.

In other populations, women competed against each other for access to men. This was especially so in continental Arctic societies where men provided almost all the food and where long-distance hunting caused more deaths among young men than among young women. Such societies thus had a low polygyny rate and a surplus of women on the mate market. The pressure of sexual selection was therefore on women (Frost, 1994a, 2006, 2008).

I’ve come across this theory before in different outlets, so it’s not like Kanazawa is some kind of freakish radical for suggesting it in the pages of Psychology Today.

A reader mildly objects:

My one caveat is that black women may not photograph as well as women of other races.  Having recently spent some time in the Caribbean around (non-fat) black women and I can say that there plenty _plenty_ of good looking black girls, at least where I was.  But I’ve never found black women all that attractive in photographs.  And the obesity epidemic in the US has hit them hard too.

A caveat worth considering. I’ll assume the Lewis study used photographs of slim black women, or at least photos of black women who were comparably thin to the other women, because otherwise that would qualify as a major flaw and oversight by the researchers.

As for the idea that black women photograph worse than women of other races, I’m not sure I buy it. Bodybuilders have known for a long time that tanned skin, sometimes tanned to the point of orange-y absurdity, looks better in glossy mags. Darker skin captures plays of light in more pleasing ways. Perhaps the reader is referring to the facial bone structure of black women, what with their pronounced jawlines and unappealing prognathism, and how that may contribute to their looking worse in photos. That’s possible, but I can’t figure out a way that theory would work such that the faces which look bad in 2D look better in 3D. Maybe some photoshop experts in the audience could lend their opinions.

Also, is it possible that sexual selection in some outlier black majority communities, like the Caribbean, runs the other way, producing hotter women and blander men? A sex skew in the favor of men could certainly produce more beautiful women over time. So could a greater demand by women for men who can provide for them. You might see this happening in black societies with white minorities, where the continual reminder of the minority’s higher status compels black women to seek out more paternal and productive and less showboat-y caddish black men. Or you might see it in societies where the women are not able to provide for themselves as easily as they can in lands with more fertile soils and better climate or where there’s a generous welfare system in place that substitutes for male provision. Pure speculation, but isn’t that the seed corn of scientific truth?


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