While Desmond Morris is probably a pretty nice guy with good intentions (as well as a mediocre-to-pretty-OK surrealist painter, according to the internet) his opinions of human sexuality are slightly fucking stupid. He’s responsible for theorizing the popular anthropological idea that the color red is an important sexual cue with humans, as it reminds men of a women’s vagina. He’s even taken it as far as overtly proposing that red lipstick attracts men because of its fundamental similarity to a woman’s labia, and shiny lip-gloss similarly to vaginal secretions.
Now, granted, the man is 84 years old, and popularized most of his opinions in a series of seminal books during the late 60s and early 70s (particularly The Naked Ape and The Naked Women) but men and women aren’t apes. And more importantly, I don’t tell my girlfriend that I like her red lipstick because it makes me think that there’s a vagina where her mouth should be.
Anthropologist Sarah Johns doesn’t exactly agree with his opinion on vag-masks either. According to her, most people in her field don’t, even though it’s never been thoroughly disproved. So, Jones and a group of progressive anthropologists from the University of Kent recently released a paper refuting what they’ve coined the “sexually salient hypothesis.” The results were presented in a paper called “Red Is Not a Proxy for Female Genitalia in Humans,” and should, if we weren’t already assured, squash Desmond Morris’s silly opinions on the sexualizing nature of the color red.
Now before I further disregard anything that Desmond Morris has said in his lifetime of groundbreaking work (since he is a highly regarded anthropologist with a show on public television and whatnot), I must admit that there is some broad basis for his Bloodhound Gang “Bad Touch” philosophy. As Johns points out in the paper, “Humans share close phylogenetic relationships with other primate species that show enlarged, conspicuous sexual skins to signal sexual receptiveness.” Furthermore, that “Chacma baboons show increased levels of masturbation when presented with ovariectomised females fitted with red, artificial sexual swellings.”
However, human beings aren’t exactly Chacma baboons, and despite what would seem to be obvious misinformation, no one has gone out of their way to fully and overtly disprove Morris. People have done ample research on the color red in reference to human interaction, but never has anyone done enough to fully compromise Morris’s claim. Because of this, Johns made an almost sarcastic attempt at refuting the “sexually salient hypothesis” by selecting four pictures of vaginas, manipulating them so that they each had a different shade from pale pink to red, and asking men if they liked them. She says that it was pretty tough to find “non-pornographic, similarly-oriented” images of vaginas, so they used images from vulvavelvet.org--which, from what I can tell, is a site dedicated to creating the most diverse menagerie of vagina pictures in modern existence. The site’s primary purpose is to remind women that regardless of loose or tight skin anywhere, all vaginas are beautiful. You’re hyperbolically reminded of this on the landing page by a picture of fragile baby-blue butterfly hovering over some chick’s well-groomed crotch.
According to the paper, each vagina was “hairless to account for current fashion,” and presented to 40 males to rate each color’s sexual attractiveness. The group of 40 gentlemen was kept in a strict control group to assure the most opportunity to discredit Morris’s silly opinions. Johns and team considered the participants’ age, sexual orientation, amount of sexual partners, and, of course, whether or not the men were colorblind; partly because it would obviously skew the results, but also because colorblind people are lesser human beings, undeserving of the opportunity to watch a vagina PowerPoint presentation. *
As virtually everyone but Desmond Morris may assume, the more red the vagina, the less attractive it was ‘(‘x̅= 35.37+/−21.61’ if you’re wondering). Clearly, men don’t really like a red vagina, and therefore, probably don’t like women with red hats because they think their heads looks like a murdered clitoris. Johns doesn’t really shy away from the obviousness of this conclusion in her paper, saying, “If men show an aversion to red in the context of female genitalia because it signals increased disease risk to themselves, poor female condition, or sub-fertility, it is difficult to defend a hypothesis that holds that the increased attractiveness of women associated with strong red signals is a response to a proxy signal for genitalia.” Johns is a polite and friendly academic. Really, this is just a genteel way of saying, “Men don’t like vaginas that remind them of diseases and menstrual blood, so it’s ridiculous to think that red lipstick is a women’s attempt at reminding men of their tortured and bleeding crotch.”
So what I really mean to say is, sorry, the domain name “vulvavelvet.org” is unavailable for purchase.
*This is only the author’s overdramatized opinion on colorblind people. In fact, most (slightly more than half) colorblind people are decent.
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