Making the Future Female


One of my favourite words is NEOTENY

(I’m indebted to my friend at the excellent and highly informative Dear Kitty. Some blog for setting my chain of thoughts in motion for this article)

The word NEOTENY derives from the German word Neotenie, which in turn comes to us from a combination of two Greek words νέος (neos, meaning ‘young’) and τείνειν (teínein, meaning ‘tending to’)

NEOTENY is defined as: the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. It is also called pedomorphosis. 

Many prominent evolutionary theorists, including Stephen Jay Gould and J.B.S. Haldane argue that neoteny has been a key feature in human evolution. See Wikipedia for more details.

These are the more obvious neotenous traits in humans: flattened face, broadened face, large brain, mostly hairless body, hairless face, small nose, reduction of brow ridge, small teeth, small upper jaw (maxilla), small lower jaw (mandible), thinness of skull bones,  limbs proportionately short compared to torso length, longer leg than arm length, larger eyes, and upright stance. 

So what are the effects of these neotenous changes?

In a cross-cultural study, more neotenized female faces were found to be the most attractive to men while less neotenized female faces were the least attractive, regardless of the females’ actual age. Michael R. Cunningham found that the Asian, Hispanic and White female faces that tended to be considered most attractive were those that had “neonate large eyes, greater distance between eyes, and small noses”.

This led Cunningham to conclude that “large eyes” were the most “effective” of the “neonate cues”.

Jones, D. Sexual Selection, Physical Attractiveness and Facial Neoteny: Cross-Cultural Evidence and Implications. p.723.

Now if these research findings are true, doesn’t this have profound implications for our society, and especially the way we demonise men, and some women, who are sexually drawn to young people and children?

I’m certainly not condoning pedophilia – I suffered sexual abuse as a kid so I know only too well how destructive of young lives this illness can be.

But I think we need to ask some searching questions of ourselves, both as a society and as a species.

Not surprisingly, one of my least favourite words is


PEDOPHILE is defined as an adult who is sexually attracted to young children. The word derives from two Greek words, paidos meaning a boy or child and phileein meaning to love.

The word PEDOPHILE is a term of abuse for many nowadays, yet much of our culture seems to focus on us looking like children. Has anyone else noticed this contradiction?

Fashion models are notorious for being extremely thin, yet what is this but an attempt to appear as pre-pubescent?

And what about Manga?

The great majority of mature women shave their legs and under their arms, pluck their eyebrows and other parts of their faces, use creams and potions to stave off or reverse the aging process, wear make-up to make the skin appear smoother and younger and try in many other ways to appear young.

What is this all about, if not to appear childlike? And if this is the case, shouldn’t we be talking about it?

So what do YOU think?

Are YOU drawn to younger-looking people? Is this natural, or is it created by marketing and advertising?

Do YOU want to appear younger than you really are?

If so, why?

If not, how do YOU feel about this process?

12 responses

  1. globaltalking

    Much is created by marketing and advertising. Also we live in a System that commodifies and sexualises our children and tries to sell our looks back to us as an unattainable ideal. Humans live longer and longer yet many of us want to act and look like children. It would be better if we started looking after the children that are here a lot better, and were concerned about the 30,000 children dying a day from preventable causes.

    It would be interesting to see what research has been done in how men are perceived; are mature men seen as more desirable by women? The example of newsreaders come to mind, where older men keep their jobs whilst mature women are moved out of the way for younger females. Part of the problem in modern society is that people are expected to look sexy all their lives – this is ridiculous as sexual attraction is meant to be about mating, yet most people are not actually involved mating behaviour most of the time. This is part of the false consciousness foisted upon us by advertising.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    • Excellent points all. Thanks for this – as I say, we need to discuss these issues not hide away from them. Have you studied these topics?

      October 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  2. I don’t think a preference for neoteny translates to pedophilia. If neoteny is a trait promoted by evolution (which seems likely) then people would find adults with childlike features sexy, rather than actual children who can’t be childlike per se.

    October 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    • So why do women shave their legs and armpits?

      October 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    • thanks for your comment.
      I meant this post to be rhetorical – to create a debate about the issues. Do you agree many adult females try to look pre-pubescent?

      October 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  3. They try to look young but I’m not sure about pre-pubescent. I guess it may depend on which country you live in. Youth is of course also an indication of health and fertility. Another thing to complicate things is that women don’t seem to be into neoteny. It’s certainly not a strong trend anyway.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    • So why the shaving? I’m from England BTW
      I take your point about women not looking for younger looking men, however many men joke about having younger females – it’s not just a pedophile thing. thanks for engaging anyway my friend.

      October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

  4. I think the media and the fashion industry pander to the pedophile that may lurk in all of us. One of the worst offenders is the beauty pagent industry, its like soft porn for pedophiles. I also find the current fad for both sexes to be hairless terribly disturbing. Not that I want to start letting all my hair grow, but shaving the genitals of either sex has gone mainstream (If current mags, etc. can be trusted). I don’t understand the desire to look childlike and think it should stop. Women should look like women, and children like children, the two are not interchangeable. Thanks for your post.

    October 3, 2012 at 12:23 am

  5. NO. i don’t think most humans are pedophiles. i think most MALES are. the ideal for most men would be someone who looked like a 3 yr old (hairless, tiny, head larger than body) EXCEPT it would have large breasts. disgusting. but i agree that this is the motivation behind ‘fashion’s’ dictate about WOMEN in our society. i have said this for many many years. glad someone else is talking about it.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    • Thank you Elizabeth – as you quite rightly point out, many men seem to want women like this. This is exactly what I was getting at. There appears to be a taboo in talking about this hugely important subject hence my post. If we are scared to discuss issues like this then it is females that suffer the consequences growing up in a sick society. I think that male power doesn’t want truly mature women because they will challenge the age-old dominance, so they try to keep women as girls as much as possible. My general argument is that unless women begin to manage human society there won’t be much of a future. There isn’t long left to effect this change.
      Thanks once again for your intelligent response.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  6. JAG

    I feel quite certain that both Men and Women share some form of sexual attraction to children on occasion and at some point in their adult lives. The majority of people keep these “thoughts” or “desires” in control and never act out their fantasies or fleeting sexual thoughts.

    As porn site web-traffic will confirm; incest, pedophilia and teen sites are a booming business. There is no lack of diversity available on the internet. The question that arises is why? Why all of this traffic and hits on these sites? Why are the credit card transactions on these sites attracting more and more business on a daily bases?

    The answer plain and simple is; Because there is a market demand. Worldwide! This market demand is not accidental nor arbitrary. It is a time tested, proven market that is driven by desire. Is this a unique audience? If so, then millions of people worldwide must be “very unique” indeed.

    This market attraction can be viewed either in a negative, positive or neutral way. In the negative context; the puritans and disingenuous among us can state it’s the work of the devil and must be stopped at all costs. In the positive view; we can state this gives millions of people an “Outlet” for their fantasies and hopefully they will never harm a child. In the neutral view; the open minded among us can try to investigate the reasons for this market demand in the first place.

    No matter which viewpoint you take, there is no debating the market exists and demand is rising yearly.

    In its purest form, advertising companies gravitate to “Market Driven Forces”. What attracts and sells in one market share can be converted to another. Web-Traffic statistics do not lie. Marketing Directors see where the market “Cash-Crop” is and emulate (within legal and moral bounds per territory) for their own given product placement. Thus, in today’s market, the younger and more provocative, the more sales are generated.

    I sincerely doubt sexual attraction to children is a new trend or unique to this generation. What is considered socially unacceptable today, may be acceptable a hundred years from now.

    It would be disingenuous to assume that “demons” will haunt an individual for having sexual thoughts of any kind. Sexual fantasies are a keystone to a healthy well-being.

    Only when abusive lines are crossed should we be concerned.

    October 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    • Thanks for this powerful response. There are several points I’d like to respond to, but I do not have sufficient time until later to adequately comment.
      I will therefore ask for your patience and respond fully later.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

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