Jump to content

Why is red hair unattractive in males, but neutral or attractive in women? Is there an evo psych explanation?


Recommended Posts

I'm wondering of there is an explanation in evolutionary psychology (or some other field of science) to the curious phenomenon that red hair in men is regarded as unattractive while in women it is neutral or attractive.

Seems to me, from an evolutionary psychology perspective, however it is regarded, so it should be regarded in both sexes, because both have an equal chance of passing the trait on and whatever fitness effect it has it should be equal in both sexes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

36 minutes ago, Alfred001 said:

I'm wondering of there is an explanation in evolutionary psychology (or some other field of science) to the curious phenomenon that red hair in men is regarded as unattractive while in women it is neutral or attractive.

I reject your premise, as well as your font choice. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

There does seem to be a misconception at the heart of that nearly unreadable post.

I assume they don't want us to read what they wrote.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a trick. Select the text and it comes out:

2022-04-09.png.3cbea2cbdd098f8d87ad09b04685d356.png

 

Regarding the topic itself, every part is questionable: is it indeed so? why the chance of passing it on should be the same? why the effect should be equal?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Red hair is more correlated with very low melanin than other shades.  Redheads are most prone to melanoma and other kinds of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous, etc.) and sunburn very easily.  The only way I can see values of attractiveness attached to this would be in cultures where people favor men looking outdoorsy and tanned and thus where more melanin would help to having that look.   There was more tolerance for women having pale skin and culturally embedded steps for them to avoid sun - divisions of labor, sun bonnets and other protective hat fashions, parasols, etc.  So a redheaded female would fare better, than a male who due to his very pale skin would spend a lot of time looking parboiled and peeling.  At higher latitudes, however, this UV tolerance factor could flip over, as redheads can better absorb vitamin D from the weak sunlight and would be less likely to burn or have cancers.  

Also, redheads have a slightly higher pain tolerance, which might be of more use to men in traditional cultures.  Here's a clip from wiki on that interesting link...

 

The unexpected relationship of hair color to pain tolerance appears to exist because redheads have a mutation in a hormone receptor that can apparently respond to at least two types of hormones: the pigmentation-driving melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), and the pain-relieving endorphins. (Both derive from the same precursor molecule, POMC, and are structurally similar.) Specifically, redheads have a mutated melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene that produces an altered receptor for MSH.[64] Melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in skin and hair, use the MC1R to recognize and respond to MSH from the anterior pituitary gland. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone normally stimulates melanocytes to make black eumelanin, but if the melanocytes have a mutated receptor, they will make reddish pheomelanin instead. MC1R also occurs in the brain, where it is one of a large set of POMC-related receptors that are apparently involved not only in responding to MSH, but also in responses to endorphins and possibly other POMC-derived hormones.[64] Though the details are not clearly understood, it appears that there is some crosstalk between the POMC hormones; this may explain the link between red hair and pain tolerance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 minutes ago, Genady said:

is it indeed so?

There is some reason to think so. In the middle ages in Europe, apparently, red hair was associated with witchcraft http://www.themythsandhistoryofredhair.co.uk/heresy.html

Both men and women were equally suspect, but more women were prosecuted - for several reasons having to do with the times. I think the reason is rather about ethnicity and religion: the Celts were pagan longer and more stubbornly than other subject peoples; they kept their language and religion, in spite of the power of Holy Roman Empire.

OTOH, in modern aesthetic tastes, the situation is entirely different. The phenotype usually includes pale, sensitive skin, very fine facial hair, freckles and susceptibility to sunburn. Women can use makeup and parasols to improve their facial definition and protect their complexion; for men, it would be considered effeminate, so they fade out in winter, burn and flake in summer, have spots and inconsiderable eyebrows and lashes. Also, many women who have red hair were not born with it: brunettes, even olive-skinned ones, can have flaming hair colour without the genetic price.    

17 minutes ago, TheVat said:

this may explain the link between red hair and pain tolerance.

Wow! I did not know that!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The factors pointed in the comments above are possible, and informative, explanations for why such a difference between sexes exists, if it exists. I just don't think it does.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Genady said:

Here is a trick. Select the text and it comes out:

Still looks like garbage on mobile. Either way, +1 for the latest post not quoted here 

 

image.thumb.png.1e367211baefd0b48d0b7e5589b1509a.png

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It has been my experience that most red-headed women have freckles on their boobs, which I personally don't find very attractive.
But that's just a personal preference, and i'm known to be very shallow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, MigL said:

It has been my experience that most red-headed women have freckles on their boobs, which I personally don't find very attractive.
But that's just a personal preference, and i'm known to be very shallow.

That shallow we can't see you sideways on. :) 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, Alfred001 said:

I'm wondering of there is an explanation in evolutionary psychology (or some other field of science) to the curious phenomenon that red hair in men is regarded as unattractive while in women it is neutral or attractive.

!

Moderator Note

Establish the premise as having validity

 

(horrendous text color choice corrected)

 
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, MigL said:

It has been my experience that most red-headed women have freckles on their boobs, which I personally don't find very attractive.
But that's just a personal preference, and i'm known to be very shallow.

References? ;)

The OP is basing the premise on a social perception (my emphasis):

14 hours ago, Alfred001 said:

I'm wondering of there is an explanation in evolutionary psychology (or some other field of science) to the curious phenomenon that red hair in men is regarded as unattractive while in women it is neutral or attractive.

 

Unfortunately there aren't, to my knowledge, any salient features results/mechanisms of evolutionary biology that allow one to talk with any degree of confidence on how this or that peculiarity "is regarded" this or that way. I don't think, for example --and correct me if I'm wrong-- that sexual selection has been understood to the point of being related to molecular bases, or even to evolutionary dynamics in the way of population dynamics, etc.

Edited by joigus
added diacritics+better term choice
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, StringJunky said:

It's not described to that level of finesse.

What I don't understand is, in what way sexual selection would be "special" on a molecular level. Isn't molecular process behind evolution the same? Doesn't selection work rather on phenotypes?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sexual selection can only be considered in specific contexts. The northern Celtic tribes were able to preserve a sizeable presence of red-haired people simply because there was little infusion of more dominant genetic strains.  So the red-haired people (who, yes, do tend to freckle everywhere on their bodies, especially if exposed to sunlight.  This is sometimes considered endearing in small children, alluring in young women, off-putting in men and repulsive in the elderly. People have fickle tastes in other people's appearance!) continued. 

In a large, diverse population like the US for or UK,  the selection would have to be very selective, to insure a the long-term prevalence of a recessive trait. This has been the case among some aristocracies, as well as elite pockets. In the general population, however, there is more genetic mixing.

There has been speculation that this phenotype will disappear, either in response to the climate  https://www.irishcentral.com/news/are-redheads-in-danger-of-extinction-scientists-say-yes or genetic pressure from more dominant traits https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-02-redheads-blue-eyes-extinct.html

but as the recessive trait persist for generations, it will keep popping up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Specific cases of any selection can only be considered in specific contexts. General mechanisms can be considered under general conditions.

Sexual selection comes in two forms: intersexual preferences and intrasexual competition. Sexual dimorphism can result from sexual or from natural selection.

In any case, AFAIK, both forms of selection work on phenotypes, while underlying molecular mechanisms are the same. On top of this, human behavior can be driven by cultural factors too short to have an effect on biological evolution.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes.  Allele frequency changes in northern Europe have likely been mostly due to genetic drift.  I don't think the attractiveness factors are significant enough to affect those frequencies.   No intersexual preferences on hair would be significant because tastes are so varied and many phenotypic traits besides hair color attract the attention to the opposite sex.  From a selective intrasexual competition perspective, the UV sensitivity and skin damage doesn't reduce fertility rates because most of the harm, like carcinomas, comes after people have passed reproductive age.  And it certainly wouldn't nowadays, where sunblock is readily available.  

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, Genady said:

General mechanisms can be considered under general conditions.

Then no general mechanism can be considered for human reproduction, which never takes place in general conditions.

 

41 minutes ago, Genady said:

Sexual selection comes in two forms: intersexual preferences and intrasexual competition. Sexual dimorphism can result from sexual or from natural selection.

Both of which take place in a given population. If there is only one type to select from, that's the type that will be selected. If there is a bigger genetic pool to select from, more choices are available and more variations can occur. If they are allowed to, young people choose according to personal fancy, rather than cultural norm, so there will be more mixing. That's why tribalism, racialism, etc. is always enforced with legal and moral sanctions, up to and including pain of death: sexual attraction is natural and cosmopolitan.  

 

44 minutes ago, Genady said:

while underlying molecular mechanisms are the same.

and play no part in selection or regional preference or cultural bias, which is why I ignored it. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Then no general mechanism can be considered for human reproduction, which never takes place in general conditions.

I don't understand this.

6 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Both of which take place in a given population.

Yes, of course.

9 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

and play no part in selection or regional preference or cultural bias, which is why I ignored it. 

"Molecular bases" was brought up in a joigus' comment above. That it has no special role here, is my point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, Genady said:

"Molecular bases" was brought up in a joigus' comment above. That it has no special role here, is my point.

Okay, and I agree, but why make a point of it? Same with the general conditions, which don't exist. Seems like an unnecessary distraction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Okay, and I agree, but why make a point of it? Same with the general conditions, which don't exist. Seems like an unnecessary distraction.

OK. I think TheVat's comment above, which I'm going to +1 now, closes the topic nicely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes. Unless the topic was societal attitudes to this particular trait, which is the more interesting aspect of the topic. I'm aware of the very strong bias in medieval Europe. I would presume an absence of such bias in modern North America and slight positive bias in, say 19th century Canada. I haven't looked any farther afield. 

15 hours ago, Genady said:

The factors pointed in the comments above are possible, and informative, explanations for why such a difference between sexes exists, if it exists. I just don't think it does.

One way to check would be a photo gallery of movie stars. Assuming an equal number of red-haired babies of either sex are born and reach adulthood in a given population, and further given that theatrical talent is spread evenly, how many men and how women become celebrities.  

I think I do see a suggestive ratio 7 women/3men,without any consideration of the kind of roles they play.  https://www.imdb.com/list/ls066580547/ 

Edited by Peterkin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.