The perfect lips?
I promised that I would write about the rest of the female body parts as so beautifully analyzed by Desmond Morris in his book, The Naked Woman, A Study of the Female Body. This time I’m happy to introduce one of my favorite topics, the female lips. If you’ve read either one of my books about wrinkles then you already know how I feel about the subject matter. But for the purpose of this blog, I will write about the author’s enlightening research, and indulge you with some very surprising facts as well as my own personal observations.
Humans are the only ones to have inverted lips in the animal kingdom. Primates for examples have the fleshy, shiny surface turned toward the outside, while ours is hidden from view. To answer the question of why our lips look different we must revert back to our evolutionary path. Morris explains that females have retained childlike features, known as neoteny, also a quality that enhances their appeal to males. For this reason their lips are more conspicuous, baby-like, thus drawing more attention to themselves. With the chimp embryo, the fetus at sixteen weeks old has a human-like mouth, sporting the big lips etc., but at twenty six weeks old those lips disappear and become dramatically thinner. However, with humans that initial fetal design of bigger, swollen lips is carried on. From an evolutionary perspective, the big lips serve us well when having to cling onto our mother’s breast to feed on milk.
Why do our lips still remain the same when we are no longer in need of our mother’s breast?
In adult males, the lips do become a bit thinner and many times they disappear completely under a thick mustache or beard, while females on the other hand continue to show their fuller and softer lips. When a woman begins to develop sexually, whether she realizes it or not, she tends to treat her lips as a sexual signal, pampering them and enhancing their appearance. Her lips are the tool she uses for expressing her moods and desires. Lips have a very big role to play in facial signaling, in the way we move our lips around it gives us an enormous range of oral expressions, transmitting complex moods. When our lips are curved at a certain angle it may suggests an invitation to kiss, or contempt, or grief etc. It’s the most powerful tool of expression. A feature of the happy face is the creasing of the skin around the lips and cheeks area, the personalization of our smiles is an important visual factor in strengthening bonds and relationships. The female’s face has the richest cache of signals among any other living being.
The role of lips in facial signaling.
The lips are the first body part to touch a lover’s mouth, so women have placed a great degree of importance in the way they have presented their lips. They will pay attention to them, beautify and moisten them; the use of lipstick has been prevalent for centuries. But Morris goes on to explain why the female lips are considered sexual in the first place. Lips mimic our other lips, duh, I for one never made the analogy, but how could I ignore the fact that labia in Latin means lips? When a female gets sexually aroused, her labia becomes red and swollen but at the same instance the lips on her face become swollen and red and much more sensitive to the touch. Lips are considered the number one erogenous zone on a woman’s body; erotic mouth kissing has its origins in primeval times when tribal women would pre-chew their food before placing it in the mouths of their babies with their tongues. Gradually, the tongue probing became associated with a loving act as well. In Kinsey’s studies about female sexuality, he states that the nerve endings are so refined in the mucous membranes of the lips, that when a woman touches her lover’s body with her lips, it also sends powerful stimuli to the woman. For this reason as well, the woman is considered the most highly developed of all primates.
In earlier times, women learned how to use this physiological outcome to their advantage; Egyptian prostitutes would put red ochre on their lips, understanding that redder lips, made them more conspicuous to men and more desirable. In a papyrus drawing from 1150 BC, a scene in a Theban brothel shows a scantily clad woman holding a mirror to her face and applying color to her lips, while a man with an erection moves his hand toward her genitals. The drawing illustrates the connection between red lips and erotic activity. In Ur, now southern Iraq, about four and a half thousand years ago, Queen Puabi was buried with a huge supply of make-up; there’s no doubt that she wanted to look good during her afterlife.
Some of our early lipsticks, were in the form of powder made from fruit and plant juices.
The first lipstick was produced by grinding red ochre to a powder and mixing it with some animal fats. In the fourth century BC, the Ancient Greeks added plant dyes, human saliva, sheep sweat and crocodile dung to the mixture.
Enhancing one’s lip color has been going on for centuries, except in puritanical regimes which sought to suppress sexuality altogether. At times, even unadorned lips have been deemed threatening, so women have worn veils to conceal them from the public. It has never been a religious based custom, but rather one imposed by male dominated societies where women were regarded as male property. The Christian church over the centuries has also censured red lips, equating them to the “Badge of a Harlot,” the kind of lips that for sure would seduce an innocent man. In England, during the eighteenth century, there was a law which banned lip coloring; obviously those red lips could falsely seduce anxious males into wedlock. Aha! No wonder my (then) British boyfriend proposed to me almost immediately. When I look back at my photos around the time we met, I was indeed wearing red lipstick. It’s news to me that I won him over with good old-fashioned trickery. All this time I was sure that it was my intelligence and sense of humor.
When I Used to wear red lipstick.
Nevertheless, despite the interference of religion and state the lipstick refused to disappear from sight. In 1820, a lady’s magazine introduced a lip shape that quickly became all the rage, and it was known as Cupid’s bow. The new design resembled a baby’s pout, yet another way to signal men that they needed their protection. In the Victorian era the red lips were associated with “houses of pleasure,” the color a man would readily encounter before returning home to his dull, colorless wife. During WWI, lipstick became prevalent among the Bohemian societies. During The Roaring Twenties and then closely followed by the thirties, the use of red lipstick quickly spread among women, soon to become the norm. Clara Bow was known as the “Hottest Jazz baby in Films,” notice the association with hot and baby, she was notorious for wearing Cupid’s bow.
Clara’s cupid’s bow lips.
During WWII the patriotic posters featured red lipped women cheering the men going to war. In 1945 lipstick became a trivial luxury. In France and Italy during the 1950s, a new brand of paler lip colors was introduced. The 1960s denoted the sexual revolution and women experimented with new colors and shades. The Feminist Movement in the 1970s did away with women’s need for lipstick; its use was seen as a sort of catering to the male’s sexual desires. After the Vietnam War, women reclaimed their sexuality, feeling much more liberated and strong, but wanting to look feminine once again, and so lipstick became popular once again.
WW ll pinup girl with red lipstick.
In tribal societies lip mutilation has been their way of ensuring social status among the rest of the tribe. The Surma women of southwest Ethiopia, are known as “plate-women.” Six months before a woman is to marry, the lower lip or upper lip is cut away from the rest of her face, and a small plate known as a “labret” is then placed in the incised hole. Gradually, this plate is replaced by a larger one and so forth until the plate is as big as a dinner plate. The size of the plate indicates a woman’s worth, the larger the plate, the more beautiful—also determining how many cattle she is worth. It’s a practice that exists in many other African tribes, but also it’s been seen in the west coast of Canada among the Tlingit Indian women in British Columbia. The methods of lip enlargement may vary, but the purpose is still the same: Attention. When looking at photos of these women, the initial reaction is one of shock; however, some people might think that it represents the look of ultimate beauty. After reviewing their photos I wonder why these plates do not come in different colors and designs apart from the rudimentary brown and plain surface?
A Surma woman from southwest Ethiopia ready to dine anytime.
Of course when it comes to trends in the modern world there is no greater leader than Hollywood and their idea of what constitutes beauty in our times. When it comes to lips though, the same idea holds true today; bigger, luscious lips are deemed more beautiful than thin, colorless lips. The advertizing world has placed a greater emphasis on big wet looking lips, therefore making it impossible to ignore the underlying biological message of intense sexual arousal, leading to genital secretions. Naturally, women these days rely on modern medicine to help produce their newly improved look. Morris says that the doctors who have helped women achieve their goal of bigger lips have helped create the “Super labia,” in many ways these women are advertizing to the world that they LOVE sex. The methods to accomplish this are always changing, but basically, women use fillers and implants to give their lips a general fullness or forward projection.
Modern-day lip enhancement, Lisa Rena is a great person from what I see on TV, and she stands by her lips.
I think that Hollywood has gone tribal. Okay, so they’re not so much into the “labret,” but come on, am I the only one to see the similarities here? At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of taste, and as much as I love Lisa Rena, in my opinion the look of enhanced lips acts as nothing more than a distraction, which in tribal terms is exactly the sought after response. I doubt that women today care to demonstrate how much cattle they are worth by the size of their enhanced lips. It never looks real to an outside observer, albeit the person sporting the big lips has grown used to the look and sees nothing artificial about it whatsoever. The little curve on the top lip disappears when a smooth curve results instead. Mostly, their new lips do not suit their facial features. Sometimes, it seems that surgical intervention does nothing more than turn us into caricatures of ourselves. Anyhow, from now on I don’t think that I will be able to look at surgically-enhanced lips without thinking “Super Labia.”
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