Have you ever thought about how unusual humans look? Our nearest cousins, the apes, seem to have a consistency and cohesiveness of design that we completely lack. Our lumbering, awkwardly bipedal limbs have none of the elegance of fish, snakes, or birds as they effortlessly navigate their environment. Our bodies are a collection of evolutionary wrong turns and dead ends, all piling up in a twisted wreckage of mismatched DNA. Like the English language, the human form is too muddled and eclectic to really be beautiful.
Consider the case of a hairless cat. Cats are animals that, we can probably agree, look much nicer with a smooth, even coat of fur. Without fur, they look fairly appalling. Humans are the simian analogue of the hairless cat, although with thick hair in weirdly specific places – Imagine a hairless cat with isolated tufts of hair on top of its head, above its eyes, stuffed away in its armpits (assuming cats have armpits), and its feline genitalia. It is not a kitty that you would wish to stroke affectionately.
I sometimes ponder the instincts at play when I find myself attracted to a woman (or, if you prefer, a human female). Instinctively, I feel a strong attraction to this strange-looking organism. (Men are arguably even stranger-looking with their flopping phalluses, but as far as I know I’m not attracted to them.) But when I step back and try to reflect on and analyze my impulse, I find it quite weird that I feel a burning desire for a semi-hairless ape that walks around on its hind legs like some sort of featherless mammalian bird.
So if humans are ungainly, unsexy creatures, what kind of organism is really worthy of our aesthetic and sexual appreciation? Maybe a swan, or a tiger. Now mind you, I don’t feel an attraction to swans, tigers, or any non-human animals (well, maybe some orangutans), but I recognize that this is because my reproductive instincts have, in their infinite wisdom, drawn me to reproduce (or, uh, reproduce without reproducing) with animals of the same species. But if attraction were a true beauty contest, rather than simply a manifestation of our zombielike urge to mate, I totally know some gazelles I’d like to get with. (But maybe not tigers – that would be taking the phrase “love hurts” a bit too literally.)