The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex HTML version

Secondary Sexual Characters Of Man—continued
On the effects of the continued selection of women according to a different standard of
beauty in each race--On the causes which interfere with sexual selection in civilised and
savage nations--Conditions favourable to sexual selection during primeval times--On the
manner of action of sexual selection with mankind--On the women in savage tribes
having some power to choose their husbands--Absence of hair on the body, and
development of the beard--Colour of the skin--Summary.
We have seen in the last chapter that with all barbarous races ornaments, dress, and
external appearance are highly valued; and that the men judge of the beauty of their
women by widely different standards. We must next inquire whether this preference and
the consequent selection during many generations of those women, which appear to the
men of each race the most attractive, has altered the character either of the females alone,
or of both sexes. With mammals the general rule appears to be that characters of all kinds
are inherited equally by the males and females; we might therefore expect that with
mankind any characters gained by the females or by the males through sexual selection
would commonly be transferred to the offspring of both sexes. If any change has thus
been effected, it is almost certain that the different races would be differently modified,
as each has its own standard of beauty.
With mankind, especially with savages, many causes interfere with the action of sexual
selection as far as the bodily frame is concerned. Civilised men are largely attracted by
the mental charms of women, by their wealth, and especially by their social position; for
men rarely marry into a much lower rank. The men who succeed in obtaining the more
beautiful women will not have a better chance of leaving a long line of descendants than
other men with plainer wives, save the few who bequeath their fortunes according to
primogeniture. With respect to the opposite form of selection, namely, of the more
attractive men by the women, although in civilised nations women have free or almost
free choice, which is not the case with barbarous races, yet their choice is largely
influenced by the social position and wealth of the men; and the success of the latter in
life depends much on their intellectual powers and energy, or on the fruits of these same
powers in their forefathers. No excuse is needed for treating this subject in some detail;
for, as the German philosopher Schopenhauer remarks, "the final aim of all love
intrigues, be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance than all other ends in
human life. What it all turns upon is nothing less than the composition of the next
generation...It is not the weal or woe of any one individual, but that of the human race to
come, which is here at stake." (1. 'Schopenhauer and Darwinism,' in 'Journal of
Anthropology,' Jan. 1871, p. 323.
There is, however, reason to believe that in certain civilised and semi- civilised nations
sexual selection has effected something in modifying the bodily frame of some of the
members. Many persons are convinced, as it appears to me with justice, that our
aristocracy, including under this term all wealthy families in which primogeniture has
long prevailed, from having chosen during many generations from all classes the more
beautiful women as their wives, have become handsomer, according to the European
standard, than the middle classes; yet the middle classes are placed under equally
favourable conditions of life for the perfect development of the body. Cook remarks that
the superiority in personal appearance "which is observable in the erees or nobles in all