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Heymatt:

Okay, I’m sure there are more pressing questions out there but, what causes bubble butt? For some people, it’s like their body weight accumulates disproportionately around the hips and booty, even if they don’t appear to have what we might conventionally call a “weight problem.”

— Gluteus Minimus, via email

The secret to what’s in your jeans is, well, in your genes! Excess deposits of adipose tissue in and around the hips and thighs lead to what we colloquially call “bubble butt,” often with a hint of derision. The phenomenon is more common in women than in men because female sex hormones tell the body to store fat in the buns and thighs. For men, excess fatty tissue tends to accumulate in the abdominal region, which is why men are so much more prone to beer bellies than are women. Technically speaking, having a bubble butt is a lot better than a lot of belly fat. Excess visceral fat, stored around the internal organs, correlates more strongly to health problems than does subcutaneous fat lying around the hips and thighs.

For a little anecdotal proof of genetic tendencies toward large posteriors, consider the extreme example of the Khoisan peoples of southern Africa. Khoisan women have a strong tendency towards steatopygia, which is a kind of super-bubble-butt syndrome, the effects of which are considered tres sexy by Khoisan men, and which goes to show you that an inability to deny liking big butts is hardly unique to Sir Mix-a-Lot. During the late 19th Century, when science and racism collided to create an unfortunate culture of Social Darwinism, Khoisan women were characterized as a kind of ur-human and a link to ancient cultures. This unusual association is because, if you go back 10,000 years or so, architectural records of prehistoric people turn up all these little idols of fertility goddesses. They’re stone figurines of beyond-bootylicious female forms — glorified buttcheeks, breasts, and uteri with legs — thought to signify a kind of ancient ideal of womanhood, a primal mother and sex goddess all rolled into one. That’s taking it all the way back to the time when the exact nature of human reproduction was dimly understood. Prehistoric people had only vague intuitions about biology and the idea of women as magical, fertile beings capable of creating life. The most fertile females were held in high regard by ancient cultures, bubble butts and all. Nowadays, it’s just a way to sell pants with extra material in the seat.

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