Magritte, Woman Bathing    

The Science of Sex

Theory and Practice of Signals

Types of Signals

Excerpts from Section 11 of

The Tyranny of Ambiguity

The more masculine the society the less ambiguous are the signals. Thus in a more aggressive society the signals will be less subtle. One of the reasons females are attracted to males is because their signals are plain and uncomplicated.

All signals have at least two meanings. Comparatively unambiguous signals include the wave and the smile, but even these have multiple meanings. Interpretations of a simple smile include:

  1. Happiness: ‘I’m happy’;
  2. Conceit: ‘I’m gloating’;
  3. Obfuscation: ‘I don’t want you to see that I’m upset’;
  4. Confusion: ‘I don’t know what else to do’;
  5. Nothing: the smile is a habitual and compulsive response in sympathy or synchronization with others, particularly females, who inspire it.

INTEGRITY OF COMMUNICATIONS. Signals are already the most ambiguous and least reliable form of communication and can be so expertly subtle as to be sly and almost reptilian in character: subtile. However signals are the fastest form of communication between people. Different forms of communication possess different levels of integrity.

BASIC CATEGORIES OF SIGNALS. The analysis of signals, which are inherently ambiguous, is perforce difficult but nonetheless the following is a determined attempt. Given the ambivalent nature of signals the following categorization is considered to be an achievement.

A signal is called discriminate if it is directed at a particular individual and indiscriminate if it is not. The four signal groups below – Honest, Erroneous, False and Dysfunctional – are divided into two major categories, the Valid Group and the Invalid Group. A signal is called valid (“soundly based”) if it has a sincere origin. Honest and Erroneous signals are valid while False and Dysfunctional signals are not. All signals are compulsive to a greater or lesser extent.

THE BASIC SIGNAL. The proposed Basic Signal is looking or pointing at something for someone to respond by doing something with it. Examples are a guest looking at a kettle as a cue for the host to take it off the boil, or pointing to a lighter to have it passed to the hand.

SIGNALS. By signals may be meant ‘body language’ but a distinction is made between body language and signals: we shall say that signals are relational (that is, sexual) and discriminate, while ‘body language’ generally describes indiscriminate non-sexual signals.1 An example of an indiscriminate non-sexual signal is putting a hand over the mouth while speaking to a group of people, which can inspire distrust. Here we are primarily concerned with sexual signals, with a small number of other signals mentioned because of their especial significance.

The following is a listing of the various forms of female signalling in a tentative (and somewhat arbitrary) order of importance:

  1. Signals proper – mostly discriminate, especially those employing the eyes;
  2. Dress – mode of dress – indiscriminate;
  3. Location – where the female is – indiscriminate;
  4. Accompanied – whether she is accompanied and by whom – indiscriminate;
  5. Smell – artificial or natural smells – both discriminate and indiscriminate.

HONEST SIGNALS. Honest signals are involuntary and normally unconscious. This category includes displays of bashfulness or shyness, indications of emotion and accidents which are signals for male help. Honest signals are valid.

ERRONEOUS SIGNALS. Erroneous Signals are uninhibited, valid but inappropriate. A decision is likely to have been made not to inhibit them: they may be deliberately uninhibited. This is what is meant here by deliberate signals.

It may be debatable whether mistakes occur in signals at all; in a thoroughly well-adjusted individual all signals might be Honest, but ambiguity may be an essential component of human relationships. It might even be that an individual who was so perfectly well-adjusted as to only emit Honest Signals would be so dull that you would not wish to know them.

Erroneous Signals are valid but should not be emitted. There can be a conscious recognition of the innate tendency to signal with, at the same time, an awareness that some signals should be suppressed. A decision is made whether to emit the signal or not. Habit also plays a role in the inhibition of signals. In other words, Erroneous Signals are consciously or habitually uninhibited.

A female, when emitting an Erroneous Signal to a male, has no capacity or intention to accede to the proposal which is made in response to it. The signal is certainly valid; she is genuinely attracted to the male and has indicated that attraction: this was the instigation of the signal. However a distinction can be made between a signal which starts involuntarily and is thereafter restrained and one which starts involuntarily and finishes deliberately. These two cases can be distinguished. The former is an Honest Signal combination while the latter is Erroneous and it is simply that the individual was too lazy or self-indulgent to restrain it. A proposal might be made in response to an Erroneous Signal but be rejected; the female may be signalling when she already has a partner, for example. This was the closest that could be obtained at the time of writing to an exemplar for the Erroneous Signal.2

In another common scenario, the male reaction to a signal is rejected or rendered ineffective (and thus the signal is rendered Erroneous) by the pre-emptive reply of a female companion.

FALSE SIGNALS. Some animals, birds and even insects emit False Signals as part of their normal strategy, particularly as a defence mechanism. In humans, False Signals may be consciously deliberate; they are often knowingly emitted as invalid whether their emission is intentional or not. False signals are purposefully, but not necessarily deliberately, invalid.

THE BASIC FALSE SIGNAL. The Basic False Signal is leaving a light on when no-one is at home due to a rational or irrational fear of being burgled. Clearly something is amiss in its origination: either the fear is rational, in which case there is too much crime, or it is irrational, in which case there is too much fear.

The smile exhibited by a male following rejection by a female in Inverted Transmission of Diminishment is proposed as another example of the False Signal: the signal is invalid but not dysfunctional.

DYSFUNCTIONAL SIGNALS. Dysfunctional Signals are involuntary, unconscious and invalid. Dysfunctional signalling may be due to subconscious emotional confusion. This acute form of signalling may arise from sexual abuse, sexual disorder and possibly also excessive neurosis. It certainly seems that a particular kind of excessive signalling is indicative of abuse in childhood: then it seems that dysfunctional signalling is more pronounced and the harm the more severe the earlier the abuse takes place. The signalling appears to be for attention or sex or, very likely, a confusion between the two. In this case the signals are likely to be valid for attention but invalid for sex.

SUMMARY OF SIGNAL GROUPS. For clarity the following summary is made.

Postulated classifications of the smiles at the beginning of this section are thus as follows:

  1. Happiness: Honest;
  2. Conceit: Erroneous;
  3. Obfuscation: False;
  4. Confusion: Dysfunctional;
  5. Nothing: Erroneous.


1. This distinction is comparable to Darwin’s Primary and Secondary Sexual Characters. Hence the female breast is a Primary Sexual Character, being directly connected with reproduction, while the male beard, which is not, is a Secondary one.

2. More controversially, the Basic Erroneous Signal is girl-children giving the Open Legs Signal. Females are totally sexual creatures and the emission of sexual signals by non-reproductive females (young and old) confirms this.

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