Beautiful Minds

Musings on the many paths to greatness.

Lindsay Lohan: Manufactured by Mattel, Made Randy by Evolution

Why do redheads have more sex?
Satoshi Kanazawa
This post is a response to Barbie: Manufactured by Mattel, designed by evolution VI by Satoshi Kanazawa
imageRedheads

Forget Barbie. There is no doubt that redheads are also considered sexy. Let's start with the present and work backwards. In 2008, redheads Julianne Moore and Isla Fisher made People magazine's list of 100 Most Beautiful people in the world. Both Moore and Fisher remarked in their interview that they once tried to dye their hair blonde, but were not pleased with their decision. The old adage "once you go red, you will never want to change your head" seems to be true.

During the Elizabethan era in England, red hair was fashionable for women. Queen Elizabeth I of England was a redhead.

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Various painters throughout the history of great art have been obsessed with red headed women. Look at The Birth of Venus (below), painted by early Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. His depiction of the Roman goddess Venus as a redhead is stunning.

image

Going back further still, the name of the first man of the human race, Adam, is related to the Hebrew word Edom, which means red. Since only God could have named Adam (no one existed before Adam to give him a name), it may be that God has a thing for redheads (although in this case it would be a redheaded man, which I admit opens up a whole different can of worms)!

According to the groundbreaking research [pdf] of Dr. Jonathan Rees at The University of Edinburgh, the red headed recessive variant gene MC1R may have evolved-and therefore exists today-as the result of sexual selection. Rees's research suggests that the first human redheads walked the earth 50,000 years ago but then spread like wildfire. Rees proposes that the genes spread because men wanted to mate with women with red hair. Badly.

But why?

There are various competing hypotheses. The first two are from a psychological perspective; the latter two are from an evolutionary perspective.

1. Redheads are extremely rare. In the United States they make up 2-6% of the population. Scotland has the largest proportion of redheads, but still only 13 percent. It's all about supply and demand. People like scarce resources. Therefore, according to psychological principles, people would be more psychologically attracted to redheads.

2. Red hair grabs attention. In a crowded room, the women with the brighter hair will be noticed first, which gives her a competitive advantage in the mating game.

3. Red hair is an indicator of youth and fertility. As women age, their hair turns gray. And who wants to mate with grandma? Therefore, to make sure that men keep their eye on the reproductive prize, evolution has hardwired men to look at hair color as an indicator of how likely a women is to bear children. And what better way to gauge such a thing than red hair! Red hair comes in many shades, from bright hot tamale red to auburn. As redheads age, their hair darkens. Indeed, in some countries such as India, Iran, and Pakistan, women use henna to make their hair appear hot tamale red. In fact, red hair is the most preferred hair color in Islam. Forget mood rings, red hair may act as a walking fertility ring!

4. Redheads have evolved a greater capacity for horniness. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman argues that since the red hair gene variant is so rare, selfish redhead genes made the body of redheads hornier than the body of any other hair color. The notion that redheads actually have more sex is supported by good hard data. A study conducted by Hamburg sex researcher Professor Dr. Werner Habermehl investigated the sex lives of hundreds of women--blondes, redheads, brunettes alike--and found that redheads were the most sexually active. When interviewed, Professor Werner chuckled and said, "The fiery redhead certainly lives up to her reputation." Furthermore, cutting edge research at the McKinsley Institute shows that men like women who like to have sex. Thereby providing a potential answer to the great "why are redheads attractive?" debate.

imageFor reaction, I decided to get the opinion of sexy redhead, Lindsay Lohan. I do warn you, the outcome wasn't pretty. When I asked her why she thought that she was manufactured by Mattell, she slapped me in the face and said, "I have a brain too, you know! I'm not just a doll with red hair! There's more to me!" Then she undid a button on her blouse and said, "Much more." It was awkward, to say the least. I decided not to push things by probing further.

Hoping for a less emotionally-laden answer, I decided to consult a serious scientist. Perhaps a scientist would offer a more impartial statement. So I approached Dr. Bumbledorf at the Fiery Redhead Institute of Evolutionary Studies. When I told the Professor about Lindsay's reaction, he huffed and replied, "Such political correctness is precisely what prevents serious science from taking place."

I then asked him which hypothesis he liked the most. He proceeded to smile (in a way that made me a tad uncomfortable), and replied, "Why, the redhead horniness hypothesis makes the most sense, obviously." As I started to raise my eyebrow, he cleared his throat and quickly added, "From an evolutionary perspective, of course." Of course, of course. I had to know though, how was he so sure that the horniness hypothesis was the truth. Why was he so committed to this one particular hypothesis? It seemed to me like the competing hypotheses were equally as plausible. To this, Professor Bumbledorf took a few moments to reflect, and then answered, "Because I'm a redhead fundamentalist." Amen.

© 2008 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved

Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

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