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Friday, October 15, 2010

Bite me!


Warning: This article isn’t going to have much to do with Polyamory, may contain foul language, and could be offensive to some. Maybe it will also be a bit interesting.

Teeth. Not mine or yours, but the name of a movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t bother. It really isn’t that good. If you do think you are interested, leave this article now and check it out. Come back when you have seen it or decided you don’t want to see it because I’m about to spoil the plot for you.

Teeth is about a girl who is born with teeth in her vagina. Medically termed Vagina Dentata (I have since learned that is a real term and just plain sounds cool), she finds out about the teeth when she is quite young and her step-brother tries to finger her during a game of “Show Me Yours”. Did you guess what happened? Yep, her vagina bit his finger. Convinced there is something wrong with her she hides her avoidance of sex by promoting chastity. Now years later, hormones raging, she tries sex again but eventually finds a vagina with teeth can be a weapon.
The story was an interesting concept but the film didn’t deliver well at all. What it did get me to thinking about was the idea of teeth in the vagina. If they did exist, and were able to be controlled by the owner, it presents some interesting possibilities!

Think about rape for a second. The guy forces himself upon the woman, sticks it in and her vagina promptly bites off his penis. Chances are the guy will never rape a woman again even if somehow he is repaired and made fully functional again. Catching him would also be a breeze; “Hello police? I was just raped. A description? The guy checking into a hospital with his penis bitten off.” And proving the crime would probably be easier considering DNA from the woman, not to mention a bite pattern, would be on his stump. Would a vagina have dental records? Think about the direction the practice of dentistry would have taken if vagina dentate were real, or should I say "common".

Lately there has been a lot of talk, due to the recently published book Sex at Dawn, about evolution as it relates to sexual psychology. I haven’t read the book yet but apparently it proposes some evolutionary explanations as to why humans are Monogamous rather than Polyamorous. Somehow my brain connected the theme of the movie Teeth with the concept of sexual evolution.

If it is possible humans have psychologically adapted their sexuality from Polyamorous to Monogamous lifestyles, why haven’t they evolved physically? Evolutionary theory, the small amount I have read anyway, suggests that once sex organs developed in humans we have remained largely unchanged since. One noticeable trend, attributed to sexuality, is the divergence of size between males and females. It is suggested this is due to female preference for larger males due to their ability to protect and provide better than smaller males. That actually makes sense though at some point I’ll have to research some more since I’m guessing that now we are more a more technical world, rather than hunter/gatherer, the female preference for large males should decline as preference would shift to intelligence.

I digress so I’ll get back on point now. If the human brain is the most complex muscle in the human body and we have been able to modify it relative to sexuality then why haven’t other simpler muscles modified over time to support our sexuality? If men really like bigger boobs on women, why haven’t they gotten bigger over time? If women really prefer a bigger penis, why hasn’t average size increased? And why hasn’t the vagina evolved to prevent unwanted sexual intrusion, such as rape? Maybe not teeth necessarily, but how about the ability to voluntarily tighten the vagina to the point penetration by a penis would be impossible?

I’m really not sure where I was going with all of this. I guess a couple of unrelated ideas somehow got into my head around the same time and through some warped variation of the physical attraction law, they went on a weird date that resulted in this article.

Do you think we could have evolved as much as we have psychologically with respect to sexuality without physical evolution? If tomorrow we started evolving physically to support our sexuality, what physical changes would you expect? Other comments?

5 comments:

  1. Your post made me think of the Rape-Axe condom. It's a device that has razor barbs which embed in the penis of a rapist (like the vagina dentata), and which has to be surgically removed from the offender, which makes identification of the rapist easy. Skeptics say that it is problematic a) because it still requires rape to happen in order to work and b) it's likely to just make the attacker even more angry, possibly leading to further violence against the woman. http://jezebel.com/5568621/rape+axe-condom-distributed-during-world-cup

    As for evolution - sometimes nature stops at 'good enough'. Also, not all men prefer large boobs, and not all women prefer large penises. If rape interfered with reproduction (say, if more women were killed than impregnated), then perhaps the vagina would evolve to reduce unwanted sexual intrusion. Or women would evolve to have Wolverine-like spikes shoot out of their hands to maim their attackers before the penis even got that far. (The latter sounds better to me.) Of course, either of these would take a very, very long time in evolutionary terms.

    I prefer to have men evolve to use their brains and understand that unwanted sexual intrusion is not okay, period. One generation of appropriately raised children would do a lot on that count, without the need for vagina dentata, vagina super-sphincters, or wolverine claws.

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  2. Thanks for the comment Polly!!

    I had never heard of the Rape-aXe condom before so I did some reading about it at the link you provided. That is one heck of a concept though I do agree with the concern it could just infuriate an attacker further resulting in more violence. I came across a comment suggesting the barbs could inject a sedative which I also thought was an interesting idea. I also think there needs to be more research on the psychological impact to women wearing the device.

    You have a point about evolution stopping at ‘good enough’ though I doubt we have finished evolving. Maybe in another 500 years females will develop some type of protective abilities. Or maybe male psychology will evolve and rape will disappear. The bigger boobs and penis, like your Wolverine-like spikes, comments were tongue-in-cheek to as the question; Why does it seem we have stopped evolving sexually? The argument could be made that we have well populated the planet so sexual evolution doesn’t need to continue to support growth of the species. But then, most will agree the world is becoming over-populated so why hasn’t evolution taken over to limit reproduction? There are many, many questions like that to ask but what I really am wondering is why our sexual evolution seems to have stalled when we, humans, seem to recognize there are beneficial changes that could be made.

    The last paragraph of your comment was the most interesting to me. It sounds like you are familiar with psychology to a degree but the comment doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I just don’t get it.
    Rape is about power, anger, and some other emotions probably coupled with a psychological problem. I agree that raising a child to understand rape is not okay should prevent them from raping later in life. But that would assume a psychologically healthy child maturing to a healthy adult. That healthy adult would understand right from wrong. Does a rapist understand right from wrong? I think many do. But are they a psychologically healthy person? Apparently not, which allows them to mentally override right from wrong and commit rape.
    In our society today, in the U.S. anyway, everyone knows murder is morally and legally wrong. We have laws against it and books that tell us it is wrong. We learn from an early age from our parents, schools, and even watching TV that murder is wrong. Yet it still happens. Some of that could be attributed to how children were raised but much could not.
    I respectfully disagree with you that raising children appropriately will solve the problem. Does proper child rearing help? You bet. It is the foundation without which there is probably little else that would change improper behavior. But in my opinion it is only a foundation, what is built on top of that is a product of individual psychology, social impact, and a number of other variables which a parent doesn’t control once a child has left the home. Once again it is that most complex muscle, the brain that despite being fed properly can still malfunction in a multitude of known and unknown ways resulting in deviance or bad behavior.

    I’m very interested to hear your response. And thanks again for your comments. I really enjoy how you challenge my ideas and call me out when you think I’m off the map. I bet there are some awesome conversations around your dinner table!

    PP

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  3. I would not necessarily say that we have stopped evolving.
    This article from 2007 http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/dec/11/evolution

    and this article from 2009
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091019162933.htm

    suggest that we are still evolving.

    I was under the impression that sexual selection had influenced penis and scrotal size in the human male (we have proportionally larger scrotums than other primates, arguably through sperm competition)

    As to rape, I wonder how much our culture of respect through fear and strongest takes all (just look at the foreign policy of some nations) adds to it. The part our media (internet, TV etc) play is also a point.

    The intolerance of "the other" whether gay, poly, gothic (or any subculture), black, asian, islamic or any other difference and the bigotry shown and also exploited by people and those with an interest often justifies violence which can, I think, make violence more acceptable at other times and in other situations.

    In short I think we need wholesale cultural change :-)

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  4. Ammendment and addition

    The male Bonobo chimp apparently has larger testes than the human male.

    re:rape and dentata
    If pregnancies result from rape then there is no disadvantage in evolutionary terms.

    Obviously evolution being "blind" there is no way of selecting something useful in future and if vaginal teeth are not in the genetic blueprint then they cannot be evolved. There is also likely to be strong sexual selection against this trait

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  5. Kester,
    Thanks for more thought provoking comments!

    I agree, humans have not stopped evolving. I seriously doubt that we ever will until and unless we become extinct. What prompted my article was another article I had found (that I can’t seem to find now) which stated that sex organs specifically in humans had not evolved (or hadn’t evolved much) since originally developed. That isn’t to say we haven’t evolved in other ways.

    I also agree that cultural change, along with education and proper parenting as Polly mentioned, would go a long way to eliminating or reducing the number of rapes. That’s another conversation though. I was really curious why genetics and evolution hadn’t taken steps to protect against rape rather than exploring social or psychological causes and implications of rape.

    I’m not sure I agree that the “genetic blueprint” designated what can and cannot develop in an organism. From what I’ve read the concept of a genetic blueprint is becoming more and more questionable (http://www.science20.com/rationally_speaking/demise_genetic_blueprint_metaphor) indicating humans can develop as environmentally needed. Then again, there is so much speculation in the field of genetics we could probably throw article url’s at each other for a month and still never exhaust the supply nor definitively answer our questions.

    I’m also going to somewhat disagree that “There is also likely to be strong sexual selection against this trait”. That uses the common belief that genetic or sexual selection favors species survival. Typically that seems to be a valid statement. Yet, throughout time (from what I remember reading without doing a bunch of research) there have been species of animals who have become sterile or otherwise changed somehow to protect against over-population. Likewise there have been those who developed both pairs of sex organs in order to perpetuate their species either through lack of partners or difficulty breeding. That leads me to believe “strong” selection against vagina dentata is probably valid while species continuation is a concern but over-population could change that. Just as lack of suitable mates could (in theory) result in women developing both sets of sex organs. Maybe there is “strong” selection against it today but that could change.
    Actually, while reading your comment and writing this response I got to wondering what it would take for evolution to initiate the development of vaginal dentata; an evolutionary, genetically, and developmentally possible event in my opinion.

    :)

    PP

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