The Physical Boundary Between Friend and Foe

by margueritetremblay97 on September 11, 2016 - 2:26pm

In our recent Race and Racism classes, we have discussed various ideas that revolve around the creation of a widely used term that is race. Although there are much more beliefs and theories to explain physical diversity among geographical regions, Diamond mentions three approaches which are: natural selection, sexual selection, and random genetic factors. Despite the fact that each of these concepts provide an interesting basis as to how physical traits are distributed geographically, for the sake of this paper I will focus solely on sexual selection.

In Jared Diamonds’ article, “Race Without Color”, he points out that although the theory of natural selection can be responsible for the geographical variation of physical traits, our appreciation of those traits is what keeps them consistent (Diamond, 1994, para. 22). He continues by mentioning that certain traits are seen as more beautiful by some individuals, which influences one’s choice in sexual partners (Diamond, 1994, para. 32). Accordingly, this theory suggests that racial classification did not emerge from body chemistry but from how one perceives another as attractive and friendly or not (Diamond, 1994, para. 38). An example mentioned of this is how European men are judged hairier by world standards, while Southeast Asian men have less dense facial and body hair (Diamond, 1994, para. 23). According to sexual selection, these geographical variations would have been accomplished throughout time, as European women preferred hairier men, and Asian women preferred sparser body hair.

The whole notion of sexual selection got me thinking. How did these people come to have these preferences? Were these preferences culturally taught to them, or were they innate? I have an idea of how they possibly could’ve emerged. I have noticed, and probably so have you, that people are obsessed with organizing everything into categories and sub-categories. From a very young age, children are taught to make associations with their surroundings as a manner of learning, and these schemas created accompany them for the rest of their lives. With these schemas come stereotypes, where individuals associate certain groups of individuals with certain characteristics, all based on their physical traits. Eventually, the way we are drilled to view these people results in us approving or disapproving of a certain group. Because of these stereotypes, and many other factors, we begin to prefer certain traits that are associated with certain individuals from specific groups, which as by-product creates sexual selection. A real-life example of this would be when we hear individuals express how they “like Latinas” or “only date black guys”, as people acknowledge that they prefer certain “races” over others.

All in all, although Diamond raised multiple different concepts, he failed to explain how past natural selection and sexual selection beings of all sorts came to preferring certain traits. Thus once again, and in a simpler way, I think that it’s both the natural way our brain makes associations as well as social influences and stereotypes that affect the way we perceive and value others that look different from us. This concept could account as to why there are so many same nationality couples, and why people generally opt for a partner that resembles them physically in a way. What about you, do you think that the reasoning behind our physical preferences is innate, socially taught, or a little bit of both?


Word Count: 535


Diamond, J. (2016, Winter). Race Without Color. In A. Nouvet (Ed.), Anthropology 381-101-LA: The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism. Saint-Lambert, QC: Champlain.

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