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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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A Journay Towards Resilience: Part 1 “Awakening”

It’s a cold, rainy morning in Tokyo. I have all my heaters on, included my electric carpet, and a pot of ginger chicken broth simmering on my kerosene stove. My weasels are in all likelihood cuddled up deep in the folds of my goosedown winter comforter. With a pot of tea at hand and my home filled with the warm smells of winter, this is the perfect time to share the cumulation of many years of thinking on the subject of happiness, health and the future of our planet. So pour yourself a mug, put on your fluffy socks and grab a blanket; this might be a long post.

To say my journey started when I decided to get divorced would be a simplification of the process. Indeed I have felt a strong need to be resilient ever since I was a child. I had asthma and I had to wear glasses and I lived in a house in a suburb surrounded by concrete. I grew up in Miami and hurricane Andrew arrived when I was ten years old. Much to my dismay, I slept through the whole storm. However, when I woke up the world around me was pulsing and shuddering with the aftermath of natural force that had just blown through the city. I felt alive walking through the debris covered streets, climbing over and under fallen trees and feeling the wet exhausted wind against my skin. My house was old, made of solid concrete and we had bolted it down well. We had plenty of water and food so I did not feel afraid, only exhilirated by the jungle that had grown around my neighborhood overnight. To me, the days after hurricane Andrew were not a calamity, but a brief foray into the wilderness where all things truly alive reside.

I remember walking the streets and thinking to myself: I have to do something about my glasses. If a true disaster were to befall us I would be crippled without my glasses. When five years later Lasik became a thing, I couldn’t get the procedure done fast enough. While my Grandma encouraged me to see a doctor for my asthma and always carry an inhaler with me, I chose a different route. At twenty I decided I was done with being physically handicapped and so I began running. It was terrible. I couldn’t make it to the end of the block without a stinging pain spreading through my chest followed by an acute sense of hardening in my lungs. I was ashamed of my weakness and so I would run alone and in spurts. Sometimes not running for months at a time because it was just too difficult for me. My lungs were my weakest point back then and somehow I knew I had to make them strong. Eventually I ran a full marathon and raced a half-century. It took me nearly ten years but now my body is finally strong enough that I can say I am ready.

Ready for what? I am only now beginning to see what it is that I have somehow always known I needed to prepare for. As a child and then as a young adult in school, and even now as a professor of economics, I keep hearing the same story over and over: our world is dying. The foxes have disappeared from the neighborhood, the fish are disappearing from the oceans, the trees are disappearing from the forests and the mountains are disappearing from the horizon. I know that “global warming” is a subject of political debate and many treat it like a religious belief, too, “Do you believe in global warming?” I don’t need scientific proof and I know better than to believe that the health of our planet can only be observed through the minute fluctuations (+/- 4ºC) of the average annual temperature. I can see the death and destruction all around me. Never once in my life have I seen a building torn down and a forest or a park put in its place. It has always only ever gone one way. To me, the growth of human civilization is undifferentiable from the death of the planet. Economists talk about the efficient “allocation” of resources, but we don’t allocate them, we just use them up. We don’t move a rainforest to build a cattle pasture, we simply burn it down.

If you look at the history of humanity it is tempting to conclude that this destruction and greed is just human nature. The endless and single-minded pursuit of profit is built into our DNA. The commercial conquest of the world is simply a modern expansion of our Darwinian need to survive and become fitter. Just as the Europeans outsurvived Africa in the colonial era, and men everywhere have outsurvived women always, today the countries with bigger and more profitable corporations will outsurvive those who have not caught up to technological speed.  Underlying this story of human nature, conquest, growth and destruction is the belief that over time humanity has only ever improved its lot over what it had when it first branched off from the rest of the apes. This belief, however, is dead wrong.

While the old story that women are subservient to men because we are physically weak and therefore necessarily reliant on the stronger sex for protection, food and shelter never sat well with me, I could not until recently put into words my objections. If you believe the story that humans have always and forever been a selfishly competitive lot, then the historical use of women as breeding livestock makes perfect sense. So it wasn’t until I read Sex at Dawn that I learned that humans were, in fact, profoundly happy, healthy, lazy and incredibly promiscuous right up until we figured out how to farm and store food. It’s certainly not an expected connection to make, but it was in my efforts to understand human sexuality that I made my first discovery about the reality of our global economy: The damage that we have caused over the last 10,000 years is not the inevitable result of our evolved human selfishness, but instead it is the result of putting humans who were evolved to be carefree and lazy into a world where they had to work and compete with each other for survival.

My own field can be described as behavioral economics. I study “anomalies” of human behavior that have been evolved into our decision making process, but have not adapted to the modern world of global trade, advanced marketing, financial assets and long range economic planning. Because most economists are still very antagonistic towards the use of behavioral theories in their traditional models, much of my effort goes into justifying why I am not studying a world composed of homo economicii (my pluralization of homo economicus, the fictitional human that embodies the economic ideal of decision making). One of the major sub fields of behavioral economics is what is called “other regarding behavior.” In essence, whenever a person chooses an action that benefits other people when they had the opportunity to benefit themselves even more by ignoring those people, we call it other regarding and label it an anomaly. Most people who are not economists are familiar with this type of behavior and use the colloquial terms “having manners,” “showing respect,” “loving,” or “being decent” instead.  It really isn’t a foreign concept at all, and yet it is aggressively defended against in areas of public policy and economics.

In the process of researching my dissertation on violence, I came across a lay article on biological taxonomy and evolution. Many animals have physical features that cannot be explained well by the simple application of “survival of the fittest/strongest.” In this case, the article was talking about social versus solitary distinctions. The degree of cooperativeness of a species can be measured very reliably by the amount of white that shows around the colored parts of their eyes. The theory goes that a lone hunter would not want to give away the location of its quarry by allowing another hunter to see where it was looking. On the other hand, animals who act as a group for protection or for hunting would want their clan to know where they were looking in order to better coordinate. Among all mammals, human eyes are the easiest to read, moreso than dogs, wolves or even the great apes, considered most cooperative among mammals. Humans, therefore, can be proved on a sound scientific basis to be profoundly cooperative.

In addition to being strategically cooperative, humans participate in what Professor of Sociology R. Collins calls interaction rituals. By participating in a common and ritualized activity, we synchronize our emotional states with each other. A successful ritual leads to greater cohesion in the group while an unsuccessful ritual leads to feelings of isolation or even existential unease. Broadly defined, even sexual intercourse falls into the category of these interaction rituals. Church, spectators sports, and drum circles are other less ubiquitous examples of the same. By synchronizing our emotions we also synchronize our incentives and are more inclined to act towards the unified interest of our group rather than in an independent selfish direction.

Anthropologically, biologically and psychologically humans are clearly a cooperative species hardwired to care for each other and take group actions to benefit the whole. So why is our world so bloody fucked up? Let’s go back to the Story of Isolation*. Even though the science says one thing, “history” says another. History says that we have always been selfish and single minded, but the problem with relying on the historical record is that it does not include the part that happened before we started keeping track. It does not include the part where we did not have civilization and instead lived in relative, albeit primitive, harmony. In essence, history is a biased data set on the nature of humanity.

Now that I know that the wisdom and common sense that I was brought up on is built on the invalid conclusion that humans are selfish utility maximizers, I can begin to unravel the many layers of “fact” that have clouded my perspective over the years. For example, consider the “fact” that land prices always rise. For those of us who love the unbridled wilderness, we must accept that nature is a scarce resource like oil, gold, and leg room on airplanes. That it gets more expensive every year is the inevitable byproduct of human population growth. Those who are most willing to pay for it are those who will be able to enjoy it, and for those of us who “can’t afford” to buy our own piece of nature we must just accept that the rich obviously appreciate it more than we do.  Moreover, not only do the rich and the corporate appreciate the land more than we do, they also put it to better use by ripping it up and consuming its natural resources. For years I thought this was the truth about everything I loved. Sad as it was, I thought it was an unyielding fact about the human condition.

If anything, I think the progression through agriculture, feudalism, colonialism, industrialism and globalism was inevitable, but I don’t think that this is the end of the story for us and I don’t think that the future will follow quite the same course. Instead, what I see as the only sustainable future course for us is one of deep appreciation for the natural world and for each other. Money has proven ultimately inefficient at allocating resources when they are truly scarce. Until now there has always been another continent, another ocean, another oil field… but there are no more places to expand to anymore. Furthermore, we are consuming the earth’s resources at so great a rate that we can no longer afford to make decisions independently of each other. In economics we talk about the Tragedy of the Commons which is the simple premise that if everyone has to share and no one regulates how much each person can use, we will all take too much and cause the collapse of our community. What we are looking at now is a global tragedy which is here because we have repeatedly failed to regulate the use of our shared resource, the planet.

Community will be key in the future to survival on a very very basic level. The tower we have built our civilization on is swaying terribly in high winds and very soon we will have none of the far reaching support we have grown accustomed to. International bananas and avocados, Canadian tomatoes in winter, American beef in Japan, all these things will go away because they will simply become too expensive to continue to consume. Many other luxuries that depend on oil as a material input or for transportation will become very scarce and this is almost everything we consume on a daily basis, right down to the shrink wrap our food comes in. The only viable alternative is one of community resilience. Without the tentacles of a bloated government and commercial system to sustain us from thousands of miles away, we are going to have to make do with what we have available nearby.

This making do is what I call resilience**. It is the ability to live, indeed to thrive, on what is available with what one has on hand. I know now that my calling all this time has been towards personal resilience. Ironically, it is not towards hermithood somewhere far removed from society, but in fact it is towards a strength of spirit and body that will complement the community around me. Because the crises we face are multifaceted and immense each in its own right, the solutions will have to be holistic ones. I believe at this point my body and my spirit are ready. The remaining steps will be to put myself in the right position to act when the storm finally breaks.

Part 2 “Preparation”

*words given to me by Charles Eisenstein.
**words given to me by Chris Martenson.

Things That Don’t Sit Well

I know it’s a vice, but I was browsing the Savage Blog this morning. What can I say? When I’m home alone even reading about people complaining about their lives feels like company. Anyway, I found a link to this article about the evolution of sexual intercourse. Apparently a species of fish native to Scotland is now believed to be the first animals to reproduce via internal fertilization. In the article published on the topic, Professor John Long, from Flinders University in Australia, said:

 “We have defined the very point in evolution where the origin of internal fertilisation in all animals began. That is a really big step.”

Something about the idea that we could know, observe, document the “origin” of an activity so fundamental to life as sex, and that we could claim to have done this for “all animals,” stank of such hubris that my stomach turned over inside me when I read these words.

I will not hide the fact that I don’t believe evolution as truth. People today, especially noisy liberals who publish syndicated blogs on the internet, like to use people like me as an example of the stubbornly ignorant. They say things like, “there are people today who don’t believe that [insert some scientific claim that is supposed to be nearly self evident] is true, just like there are still people today who don’t believe in evolution!” As a Ph.D. holding member of the upper stratus of intelligence on this planet I have the confidence in my deductive skills to not take this type of comment personally. Personally, it actually irks me that the way people talk about evolution is so similar to the way they talk about religion: “Do you believe in God?” “Do you believe in Evolution?” Evolution is a scientific theory of how life organizes itself on this planet, and in the greater universe in general. It’s a theory with axiomatic suppositions and empirical predictions that can be measured and rejected with data. What many people don’t understand about science, though, is that you can’t actually verify a theory with data. You can only fail to reject it. I’ve read the published articles that supposedly prove the validity of evolution and quite frankly I don’t think they’ve proven anything other than that within a framework of belief people can find data that parallels their expectations.

When I read this comment about the supposed origins of sex in an animals I couldn’t help but feel the same sort of repugnance as I experience when people make claims to have discovered ancient relics from the Bible, particularly ones that should not exist according to scientific rules. For example, Noah’s ark. Some people claim to have discovered it on the top of a mountain somewhere. If you believe the Bible word for word then perhaps you take a boat on a mountain as unrefutable scientific proof that the Flood really happened. If you don’t believe the Bible word for word, then a boat on top of a mountain might very well appear to you like a dilapidated log cabin. It’s the same with evolution. If you believe that evolution is the One True Story of how life came to be the way it is, then you most certainly believe that fossil remains of a fish with a boner prove that ancient fish invented sex.

Me? I don’t believe the theory of evolution to have a monopoly on the Story of Life. I believe that scientists who study the fossil record are very skillful. I believe they have robust and precise techniques for measuring the age of things that they discover. I also believe that scientists are generally eager for fame. They all want to be the ones to discover the “missing piece” of the evolutionary puzzle. It isn’t once that scientists have faked evidence with methods so base as to have actually glued separate fossils together to create the evidence they wanted to discover. But whether or not the evidence is reliable isn’t even the point. The point is that there is a movement today within the People that seeks to overthrow God’s thrown and replace it with hard, cold, unrelenting and merciless Science. Frankly I don’t want to worship science any more than I want to worship a god who creates an imperfect creature and then punishes it for its failings.

The hubris, the mere suggestion that we could in any way observe the origin of All Life Everywhere, this doesn’t sit well with me. Those people who would tie themselves to this Story, they frighten me.

True Love

This is the third time I’ve tried posting to my blog this week. It’s been a rough month. Between my teaching responsibilities resuming, my partners meeting each other, and me realizing that a dream is building in my that will take me away from everything I know, but that I know I can’t ignore…

well, it’s been a rough month.

My boyfriend and I have been having difficulties lately. My SLAMpig came to visit me in Japan for the second time and he stayed in my apartment, just like before, but this time my boyfriend was also living there. When my boyfriend moved in I was clear with him that we would have to tread carefully and see how things work out; and I was also clear with him that Mr. Pig was coming to visit and that I had at the time already offered him to stay in my place. The boyfriend said he was ok with it all, and at the time I really think he believed he could handle it, but my god! did it explode!

My Pig was, and still is, incredibly patient through it all. My boyfriend and I have also since the explosion (which included threats of suicide and much ignoring and twisting of my words) begun the meticulous steps necessary to repair and move forward. I don’t have a lot of experience with people being willing to work on relationships with me. Most of the time things go great until there’s a critical build up and a critical explosion. I discover that I’ve been making accommodations that I’m not really ok with and the other person turns out to be unwilling to compromise or even listen to my needs. It all just goes to hell from there and I end up running away. I hope that we are able to work things out, but I was so blindsided by the explosion that right now I feel wary and uneasy around him.

At this point in my life I’m incredibly frustrated with how hard it is to have relationships with people. I get it, relationships come and go and they’re fun for a while and they end and then it hurts, but why does it feel like I’m the only person* in the world who actually practices active listening, self awareness, and honesty in my relationships? Why is it so hard, even when you ask point blank, to find people who understand how polyamory works and who have the presence to recognize the difference between “this isn’t working” and “you’re an awful person, you never loved me and you never will!”? That’s the way my marriage went down and that’s what the explosion with my boyfriend was alll about. No matter how many times I tried to explain, “This is nothing new and, no, I will not compromise on it in any way. I care about you and want you to be happy. Please tell me what you need so that I can try to make it happen,” it felt like there was a filter in his brain that converted everything I said into “No, I don’t love you any more, and by the way, no one will ever love you again because I’m the only one”. It’s maddening!

I read this book a few months ago with an unfortunately long title. The author talks about how we need a new Story of the World. Bryan and Cecilda talk about the Standard Narrative which includes notions of finite resources, working hard to earn your keep, and one true love forever. Maybe I’m universalizing my experience, but I really do believe that we need a new Story. It felt like everything I said to my boyfriend had to get converted and muddled because in his world it was impossible for my feelings for him and my actions to coexist. It was just outside of his reality.

More and more I’m beginning to inhabit the idea that normal isn’t just boring, it’s killing us. For many years now I have fought with the ever present sense that I am not human, but some kind of alien species. The feeling has been so strong for me at times that I really believed that a clever enough scientist might even be able to detect it in the molecular structure of my being. I used to despair that as an alien species among humans, I would always be alone. Thanks to the language given to me by Charles, Bryan and Cecilda, I can say that it is not my nature which is alien, but that my story is different. Seeing how the Standard Narrative is destroying the planet we live on, it gives me comfort to know that nearly anything that is considered good, successful or virtuous by normal standards is most surely going to kill us. I find freedom and peace in the knowledge that, if you want to save the world, weird is really the only way to be.

So, in the light of “weird is the only option”, I am embarking on a journey to discover what it is that calls me so urgently in the quiet hours. The first step on my journey is to cut the ties between my mind and my colleagues’ notion of what it means to be a good economist. I know that economics has much to say about the world and how we can save it, but I also know that fighting to be successful in a job defined by the Standard Narrative is a surefire way to miss my chance to save the world. In order to free my mind I have come up with a list of duties that constitute the minimum I need to do to still be in compliance with my employment contract. Research is not on this list. In place of the energy I used to spend trying to produce publishable research, I am going to let my mind wander to the places that call it. I believe that only by listening will I be ready to understand what it is that I need to do. Already the path is becoming more clear, though I have no idea where it leads.

I’ve said this before and it is no less true now: I am frightened. To follow my heart is to step into the unknown, but the known is a path to destruction. It is a clear path and a simple one to follow, but it goes straight into oblivion. Those who follow their hearts sometimes arrive in a place of fame and success. History looks at where they are and traces the steps they took to arrive there. Sometimes those steps become absorbed into the Narrative as another acceptable path to take. People will then encourage others to attempt to reproduce that journey in the hopes that similar success will be achieved. But we know better, right? Freedom of the heart comes because we choose our own path regardless of what company it brings.

I talk about following my calling and about saving the world and about loneliness. I can’t explain to you why but I know that these three are one and the same. My heart aches for company, but the Narrative tells me I have no company and that other than my One True Love, all other human affection is an illusion created by the forces of evolution over millenia in order to for us to better compete against each other. I see the destruction that the global economy wreaks on the oceans, the forests, and the humans that depend on them for life, but the Narrative tells me that this is inevitable and even acceptable because if it really mattered someone could make a profit from fixing it. Yet somehow, some part of me knows that if I follow my calling I will feel a communion with the world around me and I will have love and that, somehow, love is really all we need.

An Economist’s Critique of How Much Size Matters

Several articles in news media have recently reported on the new “definitive” findings that penis size really does matter. An article published in the National Academy of Sciences claims to have found evidence that females prefer males with larger flaccid penises and that these preferences expressed by cave women are responsible for the abnormally large penis-to-body ratio of the human male among primates.

…or does it? As a general rule I am skeptical of any research that extrapolates modern human behavior onto prehistoric ancestors in an attempt to justify them using evolution. The greatest difficulty is one which anthropologists appreciate keenly, and that is of viewing the evidence without the lens of our own cultural upbringing. As Americans, we have certain values built into our psyche that, try as we might to deny them, influence our every day thinking. For one, Americans are pretty obsessed with size, and bigger is better. The Japanese, on the other hand, value details over gross quantity. For another, Americans have inherited certain beliefs from Victorian England regarding the inherent moral, sexual and physical differences between men and women. While our official position is that men and women are the “same,” except for perhaps body size and genital arrangement, our perception of human behavior rests in a large part on the structure of female frailty and male ruggedness.

In addition to contemporary differences in human behavior and preferences, we are also compelled to view any evidence in its appropriate historical context. We have the difficulty that human preferences have not been stable over the few thousand years for which we have historical records, and in addition to that we have the larger problem of inferring from our historical records what the millions of years of human evolutionary history may have held. The first fossils of homo erectus are claimed to be 1.89 million years ago, while neanderthals did not appear until approximately 200,000 years ago, and disappeared by 30,000 years BC1. So before we claim that a mere sample of a few hundred humans today, representative of less than one tenth of today’s cultures, and known to be only one of many realizations of historical values, can represent all of humanity on a fundamental, evolutionary, existential level, we should perhaps eat a small slice of statistical humble pie.

With a healthy serving of skepticism and a slice of humility for dessert, let us look at what the actual research says about penis size and human evolution.

Abstract

Compelling evidence from many animal taxa indicates that male genitalia are often under postcopulatory sexual selection for characteristics that increase a male’s relative fertilization success. There could, however, also be direct precopulatory female mate choice based on male genital traits. Before clothing, the nonretractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates. This observation has generated suggestions that human penis size partly evolved because of female choice. Here we show, based upon female assessment of digitally projected life-size, computer-generated images, that penis size interacts with body shape and height to determine male sexual attractiveness. Positive linear selection was detected for penis size, but the marginal increase in attractiveness eventually declined with greater penis size (i.e., quadratic selection). Penis size had a stronger effect on attractiveness in taller men than in shorter men. There was a similar increase in the positive effect of penis size on attractiveness with a more masculine body shape (i.e., greater shoulder-to-hip ratio). Surprisingly, larger penis size and greater height had almost equivalent positive effects on male attractiveness. Our results support the hypothesis that female mate choice could have driven the evolution of larger penises in humans. More broadly, our results show that precopulatory sexual selection can play a role in the evolution of genital traits.

Let’s understand what the scientists who carried out this research were trying to do. To begin with, many animals have penises that are in some ways equipped to increase the likelihood that the female they just mated with actually gets pregnant. Some people have suggested that the flared head on the human penis, as compared to the smooth head on a dog’s penis, is designed to scoop out the semen of other males, replacing it with whoever’s penis is in that particular vagina most recently. This “postcopulatory” characteristic affects reproduction regardless of who mates with whom. “Precopulatory” characteristics are ones which would increase the likelihood of a male being able to mate at all.

Some features of the human penis, when viewed in contrast to the penises of other mammals, make more sense when viewed as part of the attraction and wooing part of reproduction than in the actual act of coitus. Motivated by this observation, the researchers designed an experiment  to answer the question of whether or not the modern human penis shape could have been influenced by how females decide who to have sex with.

In any statististical study it is necessary to choose which variables we will measure and which we will ignore. These researchers chose three variables: height, shoulder-to-hip ratio, and flaccid penis size2. Many other factors could play into male attractiveness and female choice, but out of necessity, only a few could be measured in the experiment. The restriction to these three variables may or may not have been benign. With such a small source of variation, it is possible that the women participating in the study were able to perceive what the underlying question was. As a result, they could have hyper focused on penis size, or either of the other two variables, artificially increasing the effect within the experimental setting. Psychologists have long been aware of the ability of framing, or suggesting the goal of the experiment to the participants, to bias the statistical outcomes, and have developed methods like double-blind testing in order to reduce it. With such a simplified, stylized experiment, one must wonder whether or not this effect was properly controlled for.

Without access to the original article (sorry, I don’t have a subscription), I cannot speak to the actual significance levels of the findings. Most news articles reporting on this research don’t mention it at all. They only talk about the relationship between penis size and attractiveness. In any statistical test there is always the possibility that a relationship is found when there is no underlying cause. This is called “spurious correlation” and is simply a feature of random variables: flip a coin enough times and you’ll get a string of 20 heads in a row. This doesn’t mean that heads is suddenly more likely than tails, it’s just a thing that happens. We already have reason to doubt the strength of these findings based on the experimental design, but we can still analyze the findings, temporarily suspending our disbelief.

The first reported relationship is that penis size has a quadratic effect on attractiveness. This means that to a small extent, bigger is better, but eventually it’s not really that much better. To those men and women who are just itching for evidence that a bigger penis is always better, remember that there are downsides to a large penis such as women who plainly refuse to be penetrated by it. So what this article is saying is that as you go from smaller to larger, you consistently appear more attractive, but you may not be improving your chances for better or more satisfying sex. Also consider that twelve-inch flaccid penises were not featured in this experiment, so it could easily be the case that there is a maximally attractive flaccid penis length and that beyond that bigger is definitely worse.

Next, the article reports that having a larger penis was more important for taller men than for shorter men. Another way to report this finding is by saying that proportional penis size matters. It isn’t as flashy as saying that size really does matter, but flashy is not what makes the news. The next two claims state that a more masculine body was associated with greater penis size effect, and that height and penis size had approximately the same size of effect on attractiveness. So it seems to be the case that a large flaccid penis is more of an added bonus than it is a deciding factor. A short man with a pear-shaped body would be out of luck, even if he had a huge wang. As a final note, the article concludes that its findings support the hypothesis of female mate choice as a factor in evolutionary traits — not that bigger is better.

So what can we take away from this research? Certainly it is the case that modern women consider penis dimensions as a feature in male attractiveness. It is also the case that women consider height and other body proportions. We might just conclude that women consider physical features of men that are considered to be attractive as attractive, but not all to the same degree. It’s a pretty watered down conclusion from the overblown “Neanderthal women mated with men with big penises and so size does matter (and see? we knew you small pricked losers were, well, losers)” that the news has been reporting. But the goal of the research was not to say that bigger penises are better. It was motivated by the modern western notion that bigger is better, but it asked an entirely different question. In the end it could not even conclude that penis size was a deciding factor, merely that it enhanced what was already considered generally attractive.

  1. Source for claim on evolution timeline
  2. The abstract uses the word “size” but many articles refer only to length, ignoring girth.

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