Little girls in our culture begin absorbing and emulating their mother’s preoccupation with physical adornment (earrings, mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick, nail polish, etc.) from a fairly early age.
This preoccupation with appearances is largely a cultural phenomenon, but is doubtless fueled by a primal drive to enhance sexual desirability. Also, in cultures where women significantly outlive their procreative years, cosmetics serve to help mask signs of aging…and thus sustain an illusion of remaining procreatively competitive.
Although cosmetics and other decorative physical adornments are widespread,* there are at least a few (mostly primative) cultures that have no apparent need for them. And why not? Possibly because women find it just as easy to attract attention, produce children, and successfully raise families without them. In fact, from their point of view, a preoccupation with appearances would be considered comically promiscuous.
Of course people who live within an ‘adorned’ culture don’t find it peculiar at all. Yet their reaction to a culture that sports adornments unlike their own is revealing. For example, women in western cultures, who routinely suspend imaginative objects from their earlobes, find absurd a similar preoccupation with ‘procreative advertising’ that’s practiced by males in Papua New Guinea. There, men traditionally encase their penis with a tapered carrot-like root that ranges from 12″ to 36″ long. They then tie their root-sheathed penis to a cord around their waist to keep it erect. And thus they spend all their waking hours sporting a chest-high “carrot-dick” waving about in front of them; removing it only as needed to urinate, perform intercourse, or sleep.
In reality, to an outside observer, there is little difference between painted faces, pendulous earrings, or root-sheathed weenies. The question they invariably ask is the same: “What the hell is that for?”
*In the United States alone, it is estimated that more money is spent on beauty products and physical adornment than on education or social services.