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August 10, 2003

Blondes & babies

Steve Sailer's Sunday column is on blondes, and his "it's cute because it's shiny" theory makes a lot of sense. I dyed my hair "blonde" two winters in a row, though the first time it was more coppery since my black hair needed multiple treatments and I couldn't stand the itch. It was kind of popular in the late 90s among the punk/snow-board & soccer player set-but the light blonde tips look was more a "gay thang" from what I remember. One of the reasons I did dye my hair blonde was encouragement from a friend of mine who happened to be gay (hi Syd!), and perhaps that colors my perception that non-extreme-sports guys who go blonde tend to be a bit queer.

Back on the topic of paedomorphy in human populations, I do want to add that I believe northeast Asians also exhibit a large degree of child-like traits. The epicanthic fold, more subctaneous fat in the face, flatter facial profile and small nose, all to me suggest a tendency toward selecting for "younger" looking individuals (my Asian friends tended to look the most like their baby pictures as adults to my eye). Perhaps it's no coincidence that paedomorphic selection occurred among the northern Eurasian populations that today also have high mean IQs? I don't know, but something to think about.

Godless comments:

Well, I generally like Steve's ideas....but in my opinion, this sort of theorizing is what gives behavioral genetics a bad name. First of all, the theory is pretty much untestable. There might be a way to test it short of cordoning off a section of wilderness in Northern Europe and letting blondes, brunettes, and redheads attempt to hunt...but in the absence of a test this is a "just so" story, like much of Rushton's explanations (though not his *data*) [1]. Indeed, in 1997 the famous neuroscientist VS Ramachandran subjected the evolutionary psychology community to an Alan Sokal-like hoax on this very topic:

In summary, I suggest that gentlemen prefer blondes in order to enable them to detect the early signs of parasitic infestation and aging both of which indirectly reduce fertility and offspring viability. Although originally intended as a satire on ad hoc sociobiological theories of human mate-selection, I soon came to realize that this idea is at least as viable as many other theories of mate choice that are currently in vogue.

In other words, many of those other theories are bunk as they're entirely armchair philosophizing. Second of all, the "blonde universality" theory doesn't take an important piece of contrary evidence into account: the disproportionate presence of East Asian females as European male mates and sex objects. In a situation with a 1:1 East Asian/Euro ratio (e.g. UC Berkeley), anecdotally speaking the relative losers in the mating game are Asian males and white females.

We'd have to do polling to verify the latter part of the hypothesis, which many here may find controversial. But as I said before:

For once, though, I'd invoke a cultural explanation [for blonde overrepresentation]. In my opinion that's probably because the US has white models and the US rules the cultural world. But in terms of pure sex appeal, I subscribe to Sailer's "whites are intermediate" theory. Probably muscular West African guys and neotenous East Asian females would do best in a competitive mate/advertising market if we controlled for income, language, IQ, etc.

It's impossible to control for the black-white gap in real life, but when the white-Asian gap is controlled for, I think Asian females beat out white females for white guys. Evidence in favor:

1. Vastly disproportionate demand in the white world for Asian porn relative to the # of Asians (don't know how best to survey this, but a reasonable methodology would validate)
2. Anecdotally, at the UC's in which Asians and whites are at parity (or greater, e.g. Irvine where Asians outnumber whites 2:1), white females complain in a manner very reminiscent of Asian males about how Asian women are "too obedient" and how "they'd never be slaves like that". Again, I'm pretty sure a survey would validate this, e.g. "do you think white males on campus date Asian women *too much*"?

Here, Asian denotes "East Asian", not my kind of Asian (South Asian).

[1] There's a big difference between describing what *is*, and describing how it came about. That's not to say that evolutionary explanations are off-limits, but rather that one needs to test them rather than simply postulate them.

Posted by razib at 11:53 PM

Am I the only person in this world who finds Alpine brunnettes more attractive -- on average -- than Nordic blondes? These preferences are commonly spoken of as universal, but I never find them to be true for me.

Posted by: Chris W at August 11, 2003 12:54 AM

These preferences are commonly spoken of as universal, but I never find them to be true for me.

you are very special obviously ;)

no, seriously, the arguments over what is "universally attractive" tend to be the most contentious and lond-winded on this blog, because EVERYONE has a fucking opinion. i think it is plausible that in northern europe there was selection for blondism (duh!)-whether sexual or otherwise. interestingly-the native americans that settled in the cloudy northwest did not develop the blonde fixation-even though according to biologist spencer wells they share a partial origin with europeans somewhere in central siberia ~ 40,000 years ago-so perhaps it is a recent mutation? (on the scale of 10-20,000 years I mean)

jason malloy assures me that questing for universal beauty tends to lead to fuzzy dead ends-and anthropologist peter woods and suggested the same thing to me. too many factors are confounded.

the preference for light skin in females though seems universal-insofar as the male of a given subpopulation is considered the norm.

Posted by: razib at August 11, 2003 01:20 AM

I have to say this is one of the lamer things I've seen from Steve. Blond hair is a significant disadvantage when hunting and raiding? What? If neolithic hunters and raiders anywhere had found this to be a problem they would have had many ways to deal with it.

Steve doesn't get into the fact that a woman's hair gets darker with each child she bears, and that younger women are blonder. It seems much more likely that blondeness is a marker for youth, and that a male preference for blondness ends up being advantageous because of this. There is also the more general theory that paedomorphic features are selected for for other reasons (see David Brin's essay on neoteny for a more complete explanation). If David Brin is right then you would expect to see more such features in a high-K population.

Posted by: bbartlog at August 11, 2003 10:17 AM

Bbartlog- you said "It seems much more likely that blondeness is a marker for youth, and that a male preference for blondness ends up being advantageous because of this." Given that part of what Steve Sailer was trying to explain was why blondness didn't occur in non european races that theory is as problematic as his. Why is blondness rare outside of Europe given that in general men of all races prefer younger looking women? His theory is no worse than any other theory that I'm aware of.

Posted by: RF at August 11, 2003 11:45 AM

I think people are too hard on the "just-so" aspect of evo psych. You can't study adaptations without teleology, and teleology is inherently pretty theoretical. (and in evo psychs defense, cosmology has much kookier theories IMO, even though it is heavily math based). We can look at "just-so" stories as simply the beginning of the inductive process (hypothesis), but based on just a few logical premises, ready to be tested (much like the Asians are hottest model you just placed on the table).

FWIW, I think the most Occam-ready answer to the blondeness question is that blondeness is simply a side-effect of lower pigmentation. Paler skin = blonder hair (like in albinos). And as for the lack of pigmentation I'll appeal to the old vitamin D explanation.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at August 11, 2003 01:20 PM

"neotenous East Asian females"

neotenous, and therefore "asexual"-boyish east asian females.

i know a running joke between my college mates and i, was that it was virtually impossible to distinguish between east asian men and women.

honestly, in my opinion, they can not compete with blondes, dark eyed latins and near easterners, or mulattos.

i think the white male-asian female dynamic has more to do with cultural stereotypes of asian women: docile, obedient, etc., which you hinted at in your "evidence", rather than any universal inclination on the part of men to find pre-pubescent boyish looking women attractive.

Posted by: .nobody. at August 11, 2003 01:42 PM

I don't buy into the theory that white men find Asian women more attractive.

We've observed that the white men who have Asian wives/girlfriends then to be less the studly alpha-male whites males, and more the nerdy not-too-good looking white males.

The conclusion is that Asian women are their second best alternative because they can't find a white woman.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at August 11, 2003 01:52 PM

Second of all, the "blonde universality" theory doesn't take an important piece of contrary evidence into account: the disproportionate presence of East Asian females as European male mates and sex objects.

GC:I don't think this necessarily goes against Sailer's thesis. It's very possible that blondness gives an advantage for women but that the various features of East Asian women give them an advantage that far outweighs any disadvantage of being darker.

Now personally, I *don't* prefer blondes, and I do (significantly) prefer East Asian women, but I wouldn't make too much out of my personal preferences (I mean, I'm 19 years old and reading right-wing and h-bd websites...generalizing from that certainly wouldn't give very reliable information on 19-year old guys!)

Posted by: Matt W. at August 11, 2003 01:54 PM

We've observed that the white men who have Asian wives/girlfriends then to be less the studly alpha-male whites males, and more the nerdy not-too-good looking white males.

Not only this, but the dorky white guys tend to choose from the better looking Asian women (at least from what I've seen). So Asian men are the biggest losers here, because the more attractive Asian men are forced to take less attractive Asian women than they would get otherwise, whereas hot white chicks are still able to get studly white guys.

Posted by: Oleg at August 11, 2003 02:14 PM

Let's all use anecdote and get nowhere.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at August 11, 2003 02:21 PM

It would be hard to conduct a survey on the attractiveness of white males and Asian females who date interracially and compare to their racial norms. I would guess, though, that if you conducted a survey at a university with large numbers of Asians and whites, you would find white women to be far less upset about WM/AF dating than Asian men.

Posted by: Oleg at August 11, 2003 02:42 PM

The obvious problems would still be:

1) nature/nurture: hard to tell if the preferences represent something biological or cultural (though I think steve's 'is love colorblind' made a good case for the former, but remember that wasn't *absolute* beauty standards just relative physical compatibilies.)

2)sampling: university students represent a unique sub-set

3)constraint: not everybody gets to date who they want to.

4)short-term/long-term: I've dated different kinds of people just for variety, but most of them I would never ever choose as the ideal candidate. College dating can be about experimentation, variety, and curiousity.

5) other variables: for instance i don't think asian girls and black guys date very much, but is that b/c they don't find eachother attractive (i.e. baby don't got back) or because their personalities are very different?

Posted by: Jason Malloy at August 11, 2003 02:45 PM

"So Asian men are the biggest losers here, because the more attractive Asian men are forced to take less attractive Asian women than they would get otherwise, whereas hot white chicks are still able to get studly white guys."

Ahem, Oleg, believe it or not the more attractive Asian men who are sufficiently culturally assimilated also gets attractive white girls, they don't always need to turn to 'less attractive Asian men'. If I were a racial collectivist (which I'm not) I'd say the AM/WF imbalance (to the extent that it's as marked as people seem to presume but see Bill Lee's explanation for the US) is a good thing because it means all the less attractive Asian males will fail to reproduce:) Personally I don't have the slightest problem with the imbalance since other people (even if they are of the same ethnicity) are not me.
The 'problem' will sort itself out. Also the white females who prefer or are not averse to Asian males (and yes they do exist) have in my experience and from any survey of Internet clubs based around certain interracial relationships tended to be more intelligent/educated/ambitious/liberal and less ditzy/superficial than average so these couples are going to get the best eugenic conditions.

Obviously white nationalists want to keep hammering at this because it's a nice tactic for encouraging racial separatism - 'they're taking oue women' etc. The people who tend to worry about such things in general are of the same quality stock as white nationalists i.e. insular types with low self esteem.

Now, since we're going on anecdote, I know a few AF/WM couples and AM/AF couples and don't want to offend any friends who might inadvertenly come across this blog but here is my ancecdotal experience - as a statistical generalisation (note the caveat) the majority of AF in the former are (ahem) nothing to write home about and the majority of AF in the latter are.

Now onto the causes of the imbalance - my guess too is that it's mostly cultural. One indicator for me is the relatively high incidence of AM/WF pairings in Sydney where the AM is Fillipino. Now, Northern Chinese/Japanese are genetically more 'caucasian' than Fillipino (and I do mean Fillipino of non-spanish descent) so if it were a biological thing, you would expect Northern Chinese/Japanese to be preferred.
1) It is true that many FOB Asian men and even the less assimilated but ABC ones, especially Hongkies (i.e. Hong Kong) are completely hopeless conversationalists, have extremely narrow interests (cars and food), have bad table manners, spit on the sidewalk, and are bloody annoying yuppies, etc - there is the whole stereotype of the 'ugly chinaman' that is recognised by the Chinese community. This has a certain impact on attractiveness to potential dates.
2) I would theorise that AM especially from more traditional families are less forthcoming in seeking out mates of other races than AF. In part this is because AM, especially the eldest child, are under certain obligations to 'bring home the right person' whereas females, as we know, are a lost cause because they don't keep their family surname.

Posted by: Jason Soon at August 11, 2003 03:18 PM

why isn't blonde selection universal? you should read the "goldie locks" post-the unique social selection processes that occurred in northeast europe at the time. i don't buy it personally, but perhaps there's something to it (perhaps the deep australian desert created the same impulses).

on a psychometric note, i made a bunch of mental connections, and it seems that perhaps that enforced monogamy (because of resourche scarcity) of high status males meant that women were selected for neotanous features (men were choosy since they couldn't pick more than one) in both northeast and northwest eurasia. but i also recall that dowries are common in *hindu* india because it too is a society where there is enforced monogamy on high status males-perhaps male choosiness of females has lead to their higher IQ even though the environmental context is very different than northeast & northwest eurasia? just a thought....

Posted by: razib at August 11, 2003 04:40 PM

The problem with this assertion is the numerical difference. We're talking about large white populations and small Asian populations, so the impact of outmarriage is felt more by the small Asian populations but diluted among the much larger white populations. In a 50/50 mix, every WM/AF couple presents direct sexual competition for both WFs and AMs.

Well, I attend a university with a racial composition similar to UC Berkeley (i.e., roughly 1:1 white/Asian ratio). Still, I don't hear white women complaining about Asian women taking their men, while I do hear Asian men complaining about white men taking their women, and I do hear specific complaints like "they take all the cute ones", etc. Also, when I generalize the attractiveness of the Asian women and white men who date interracially, I'm not basing this on things like "I knew a white guy who...", but rather on generalizations of the dozens of interracial couples I see every day while walking to and from class. One easily quantifiable trait I could think of to test my hypothesis, though: I would bet that white men who date Asian women are measurably shorter than the average white man.

Also, the white guys who intermarry tend to be more intelligent than the ones who do not - see my previous post on the socioeconomics of intermarriage.

This may or may not be true. The whites who marry *Asians* may be smarter than average, but the whites who marry blacks and Hispanics are probably below average. Hard to say how it works out on average.

Personally, I don't really care what happens to the jocks

But the jocks (albeit the more intelligent ones) are the ones producing all those NBKs. ;)

Posted by: Oleg at August 11, 2003 04:51 PM

I'm shocked, shocked to learn that many theories are bunk!

Of course many theories are bunk. That's why they are called theories. If there exist multiple theories explaining one phenomenon, some of them can't be true. But no one has ever explained how we can get from ignorance to truth without generating theories in-between.

I have no idea whether my theory is testable or not, but the notion that the testability of a theory determines its value is one Karl Popper's dumbest dictums, the one that kept him from endorsing Darwinism for decades. Theories about what happened in the past (e.g., the theory of evolution and the theory of continental drift) often can't be put to a single determinative test, but that's the way it goes. We end up having to see whether they fit better than competing theories. And, we can't do that without people generating various theories. So, this theory may stink, but at least it's a theory and in this case something is better than nothing.

On a personal note, people ask me, "What population has the most beautiful women?" and I always reply, "I have to engage in more research!"

Posted by: Steve Sailer at August 11, 2003 08:32 PM

"Not only this, but the dorky white guys tend to choose from the better looking Asian women (at least from what I've seen). So Asian men are the biggest losers here, because the more attractive Asian men are forced to take less attractive Asian women than they would get otherwise"

Nah. There are plenty of asian women who aren't interested in white men. Theories on genetics aside, *tradition* counts for a lot with these people.

Posted by: Johnny Rotten at August 12, 2003 12:58 AM

"Our girls are cuter than yours"/"they're taking our women" discussions are always fun but let me just make this point:

It's interesting to note that the highest incidence of blondism occurs where the Gulf Stream strikes Europe (N. Germany/Baltic/S. Scandinavia)

A coincidence like that is just too good to be accidental - I'd bet money on a climatic cause of the blonde-whiteness phenotype

Posted by: DefaultUser at August 12, 2003 03:15 AM

I'd bet money on a climatic cause of the blonde-whiteness phenotype

western ireland is mostly brunette (more blondes in the east round dublin). west & central wales is mostly brunette, more blondes in england (stereotypically).

Posted by: razib at August 12, 2003 04:01 AM

First I want to state for the record that I'm not a "white nationalist". I believe that there are differences between the races, and if Asians are better at math, but whites are better looking, that doesn't make one race "superior" or "inferior".

That said, it's easier to prove high math ability than better looks, because looks are a large part cultural. One could argue that whites are better looking in the U.S. because whites dominate the culture, especially the upper class culture.

On the other hand, I think there were experiments where young chidren are given dolls of different races to play with, and they prefer the white blonde doll over other dolls.

If Asian women place a higher degree of importance on intelligence (or earning capacity which is correlated with intelligence), and a lesser degree of importance on looks, compared to white women, then this would explain some of the anecdotal observations of others.

Trying to figure this out based on looking around an elite college doesn't work so well, because all the males at Berkely have above average intelligence.

If Asian women are stealing the short dorky men, white women probably don't care that much. Amongst people in there 20s, there is always an oversupply of single men compared to single women because men tend to be polygamous. A rich thirty-five year old divorced male may have a girlfriend who is 25 years old and white. Older high-status males steal younger women, so it's doubtful that women notice a male shortage, assuming that enough white males are going with Asian women to actually create a shortage that's not counterbalanced by white women going with black men.

But it's understandable why Asian men would be bitter, they are clearly getting the worst deal.

And given all the above, I still think, but can't prove, that most of the white men with Asian wives or girlfriend would have preferred a white woman but couldn't find one. (And I explained above why there is a shortage of women.) But this is also on average, because a hot Asian woman is way better looking than an ugly white woman.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at August 12, 2003 08:41 AM

I should add the obvious but unspoken: when it comes to mate selection, the majority of American women place higher importance on looks and physical characteristics than they do on intelligence, math ability, or even earnings ability.

We also have the phenomenon of upper-middle class women in their thirties who will never get married becaues they are too choosy. They only want a man who is both good looking and intelligent, and most of them are already married.

This phenomenon isn't necessarily new. In The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton,written about a hundred years ago, Lily committed suicide rather than face the alternative of marrying somone rich and good looking but dumb, rich and smart but ugly, or smart and good looking but only middle class.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at August 12, 2003 08:48 AM

Given how modern-day marriages are handled in the US, everyone seems to be assuming that men go out "looking for wives" just like how they go out shopping for cars. Since I hardly think thats the case, a lot of the assumptions made in this thread are moot.

Posted by: Johnny Rotten at August 12, 2003 10:05 AM

I think it's essentially correct that men go out looking for wives. There's just a lot more time spent on it than car shopping, and a lot more intermediary steps. And the cars have a say in the matter.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at August 12, 2003 10:41 AM

Oleg, while the white women at Berkley may not be complaining about the Asian women stealing their men, how many of the women at Berkley are interested in men in the first place? :)

Posted by: Jacqueline at August 12, 2003 02:11 PM


Sure, there are some anecdotal stories of unnatractive nerdy rich guys who have a hot girlfriend, but it has been my observation that the majority of unnatractive nerdy guys making $100K don't have much luck with women. Only a $1M salary will bring out the gold diggers.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at August 12, 2003 08:57 PM

On the Evolution of Blondness

Posted by: Dienekes at August 13, 2003 02:12 AM

I enjoy reading Steve Sailer's articles, even though this one appears a bit far-fetched to me. Didn't the East Asian race evolve somewhere in Siberia where there is little sun? Still there are no blondes there. Or what about the Icelandic "Bjork" type? I come from Europe and I think that most Northern European men consider darker haired Italian women more attractive than the nordic "Dutch" types.

Regarding the discussion on interracial marriages, probably most people prefer partners of their own race, even though I personally do think that objectively speaking Asian women do on average make the best and most stable partners irrespective of the husband's race.

Posted by: Phil at August 15, 2003 07:05 AM