Lesson Objectives:

  1. Explain the biological principle of sexual selection
  2. Apply the principle of sexual selection to mate choice
  3. Differentiate the biology of beauty from cultural ideals

When deciding upon a list of physical characteristics associated with mate selection, we need to first set the mood. Start with music, and be sure to choose a classic song. Go to and download “Homosapien” by Pete Shelley. This song is about our species, this week’s topic of investigation. Next, dim the lights, take a deep breath, and picture an image of your ideal mate.

Many of us have been taught that choosing a mate is based upon cultural ideals and social cues. Check out this site to see what traits are often identified as eye candy in our culture, (Links to an external site.).

The truth is that mate selection is not just a cultural phenomenon, but rather, biological determined. To understand the biology of beauty, you must always remember to head straight for the genes.

Sexual Selection:

Charles Darwin taught us that mate selection is not a random process. It is determined by a biological mechanism or force of evolution known as sexual selection. Sexual selection is made up of two components, competition (between males for females) and advertising. You can observe Homo sapiens demonstrating such actions at coffee houses, clubs or even in your school quad.

Competition allows a male to court a female and to possibly gain access to her limited number of eggs. If a male possesses physical signs to attract a mate, he increases his likelihood of passing along his genetic material and influencing future generations. Culturally, a man may attract a mate with a shiny new car or a fancy gold watch. From an evolutionary perspective, he may have a pronounced chin, which is a sign of a higher testosterone level.

A female may advertise by wearing tight clothing or extra make-up. But we know that from an evolutionary perspective, to attract a mate she should have symmetrical facial features and a hip to waist ratio of roughly .8.

We do not randomly choose someone as a mate. In fact, studies across cultures indicate that we look for very specific physical features. Males tend to choose females with facial features that represent a youthful, healthy appearance. Females look for males that tend to be taller (that is correct, tall men have sex earlier and tend to have a greater number of offspring than their shorter counterparts) and hunkier (but not big body builders) in order to protect and provide for their mate and children.

But wait… how does this information relate to Kim Kardashian? This television personality has high cheekbones and clear eyes, both strong indicators of youth and vitality. She also has wide hips. This physical characteristic indicates a greater likelihood of successfully bearing young. We are focusing exclusively on an evolutionary perspective. So, if humans choose certain physical traits over and over, in 1,000’s of generations, this will influence future offspring.

Some like it hot. So to witness the biology of attraction, watch “Why Sexy is Sexy” atWhy Sexy Is Sexy (Links to an external site.)Why Sexy Is Sexy


and the scholarly journal entitled “Evolution of Human Mate Choice” at (Links to an external site.).

  • Write one paragraph on each of your three physical traits and be sure to focus on the biological rather than the cultural factors.
  • Address how each of the three physical factors relate to sexual selection. Offer an example for each of your three physical features to demonstrate whether it helps with advertising or competing for a mate. Be creative, yet realistic.
  • Conclude with a paragraph explaining how these traits relate to mate selection and the passing of genetic material across multiple generation.

Additional resources can be found online by searching for biology and beauty, biology and mate selection, and science and symmetry.


MLA or APA Citations (list of references AND citations within the body of the text)

minimum of 2-3 page papers

12 pt font/ 1 inch margins

papers require a score less than 8%

Remember to avoid shallow reasons for choosing a mate. You are being asked to look gene deep.

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