Monday, December 04, 2017

Mother Nature and Sexual Harassment

Go away you pushy boor!

Back in March of 2016
, before the current dust-up about sexual harassment, Gabby Bess at Vice wrote an article entitled Female Animals Make Themselves Look Ugly to Avoid Sexual Harassment. The strap line: "All men are bad—even the non-human ones. We talked to an evolutionary biologist and author of a new paper, 'Why aren't signals of female quality more common?,' that suggests female animals have adapted their appearance to avoid them."

It's long been observed that females are typically less decorated than their male counterparts—the sexual dimorphism displayed amongst peacocks is an obvious example. Previous explanations for the penchant for drab plumage among female animals have focused on the increased need for females to camouflage from predators and conserve energy for reproduction.

But Hosken theorizes that, "given that selection can favor female signals that reduce male harassment"—such as emitting an anti–aphrodisiac or forming communities away from males entirely—"it is very likely that the costs of male harassment could also select against ornaments that positively signal female quality, even if these ornaments would increase fitness in the absence of sexual harassment."

In other words, Hosken suggests that females look deceptively dull in part to ward off unwanted male attention because the threat of sexual harassment outweighs the potential benefits of being able to attract a better mate.

1 comment:

Peter Apps said...

It affects behaviour also; mares associate with dominant stallions to avoid being harassed by younger stallions.