I was cruising around in my Bimmer coupe this morning and thinking
It's unhealthy. I was thinking of a subject from recent postings on
newsgroups - which means that newsgroups are spilling into 'real
life'. I really have to stop. But still the point is a very
After an energetic exchange with helenuhm at soc.culture.korean, and
inspired by Drydem's post at soc.culture.china on how to upgrade the
NSX to a fake Ferrari in Japan, I was left with a question of why men,
especially younger guys, love cars, and why women *pretend*
not to get
I was also struck by why some older people of both sexes only see
cars as utility vehicles used for getting from point A to point B. And
why I personally think of it more as a drifting toy (and less of a drag
toy......as the 330Ci doesn't go fast enough.......shucks) and much
a status symbol.......until some university friends helpfully oriented
me to reality.
But why? RichAsianKid's not-so-original hypothesis: Sexual selection.
What are the most important things or "vectors" in life? In
biological terms, it's fitness and fecundity. Fitness is Darwianian
survival; fecundity is the ability to mate and multiply fruitfully.
See this very readable Wikipedia entry:
"Another, more recently developed theory, the Handicap principle due
to Amotz Zahavi, Russell Lande and W.D. Hamilton, holds that the fact
that the male of the species is able to survive until and through the
age of reproduction with such a seemingly maladaptive trait is
effectively considered by the female to be a testament to his overall
fitness. In literature, as in the 1925 novel gentlemen prefer blondes,
the blonde protagonist Lorelei Lee forced suitors to spend vast amounts
of money on her, to show how much they really had. It's the handicap
principle: people who cannot afford it will not be able to show it,
thus the good itself becomes a useful index of a guy's wealth. The
principle of costly display, i.e. some kind of financial handicap, is
in fact imposed by women, who for his men to show how much they have
and this review of themselves. A less costly display would be of less
discrimination value, and be prone to cheating."
In fact, even the human brain may be considered as such - not because
of historical survival value in the Pleistocene, but perhaps because of
so-called runaway selection and the above Handicap Principle. This is
also addressed in the Wikipedia entry above. A girlfriend of mine
reiterated the clichéd adage that the sexiest organ is the brain.
Then, in the field of economics, there is this idea of conspicuous
consumption, as promulgated by Veblen's Theory of the Leisure class
in 1899. In modern urban societies, where strangers come and go, people
increasingly advertise their wealth by ornamenting themselves with
costly luxuries to demonstrate their status and for show.
And if they can get away with it: perhaps to fake it: like upgrading
from an Acura NSX to a Ferrari, as drydem indicated.
So why are females choosier? Well, biologically, women do most of the
work in terms of childbearing. Think about this:
Men only need a few minutes of recreational sex and 2 ounces of
Women need nine months of procreational sex and 2 gallons of
Some sort of paternal investment may be called for to balance out the
biological equation! So women get to choose. But there needs to be a
sieve with sufficient discriminatory ability to weed out real the men
vs boyz........getting a suit from Brooks Brothers vs a pleated tee
from Walmart is not of much discriminatory power. Ask men how much they
have, and they lie. Diamonds, until recently, however, don't lie.
And this explains why cars are so important for young guys. Like
antlers of deer and the peacock's tail, it is a conspicuous - and until
now, difficult to fake - display of a male's financial health, and
status, and hence marketability and perhaps innate biological quality.
(By the way, there is *nothing*
to be ashamed of the Acura NSX. I'd
drive it gladly...though the chassis is too 1990s, and yes it's
overpriced [even *I*
say that]. But since cars are now possible to
then this additional noise factor will need to be factored in the
The two male-female worldviews are simply different, and feminists
will be soooo very delighted I'm sure: men shoot (no pun there) for
and women shoot for quality.
Not surprisingly cars are less meaningful in North America - they are
cheaper and practically everyone can afford a car, and thus the
discriminatory ability and hence their utility as an index of measure
of the financial fitness of a male is correspondingly less. In upper
middle class circles and near-rich circles cars have lost their
discriminatory value as ornaments: *everyone*
can afford a "luxury"
car, and differences reflect utility value and personal tastes, like
whether one prefers blue to green, not financial capability. Guys who
love driving and drifting may get a, say, BMW, and those who love
offroad utility may get a Hummer.
And that explains why women don't buy flashy cars - men don't dig
rich but post-menopausal old women. They are of little reproductive
value. Men's efforts may well be directed at additional matings with
younger, poorer but fertile women.
And that's why older people (of both sexes) don't need or want flashy
cars either. They're past their age of reproduction, and are not driven
by the same biological imperative.
I now love my bimmer even more. In selected circles of course. I never
thought of this topic so explicitly in evolutionary terms before, but I
now realize that cars are more than just toys.
Think of cars as courtship in motion. Or if you prefer, mating gear.
That is, the love of cars is firmly grounded in biological reality.
And that's just common sense. ;)