Responses to Real Manhood

In an earlier post, I criticized Hugo Schwyzer’s use of the phrase “real manhood.” Amanda at Mousewords commented on my post, mostly agreeing with me; Hugo himself then replied to me, drawing on his inner Bly; and Stentor at Debitage responded to Hugo’s reply, suggesting a different approach Hugo could take to defending the concept of real manhood.

Anyway, I’m planning to respond as well; but I haven’t yet found time to write a substantive post, and rather than putting off linking to the above (especially Hugo’s reply) any longer, I thought I’d better post this update.

Update: Soulful Blogger Joe Perez, who (like Hugo) comes from a mythopoetic perspective, disagrees with me.

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179 Responses to Responses to Real Manhood

  1. 1
    Don P says:

    Amanda:

    Pft. I don’t think that all evolutionary psychology is nonsense, but I’m waiting for the day that one of them can explain to me why women’s desires to be promiscious are ignored before I start listening to this nonsense.

    Women in general do not desire to be promiscuous. Yes, some women desire it, but they are the exceptions. The existence of exceptions does not invalidate EP theories of differences between male and female sexual psychology, since those theories do not require every single man and every single woman to exhibit the difference that applies to men and women overall.

    As I said before, the EP parental investment theory does predict some propensity for polygamy amoung women, but it is much, much weaker than the propensity for polygamy amoung men. And the theory is overwhelmingly confirmed by cross-cultural studies of human sexual desire and behavior, not to mention animal studies, genetic studies, psychological studies and the other lines of evidence I have mentioned. In all human cultures, sexual promiscuity is overwhelmingly a male preoccupation. EP also explains why pornography (especially visual pornography) is an overwhelmingly male interest. It just makes no sense in evolutionary terms for women to be easily aroused by sexually explicit imagery, whereas it makes perfect sense that men are so aroused, given the different investments that men and women make in reproduction.

  2. 2
    jstevenson says:

    Monica:” I genuinely don’t understand by what kind of reasoning male children and male children only are supposed to live in a vacuum where only their father or male father figure is the one person they grow up to imitate and care for, no matter if he’s a jerk.”

    That is not what I said. Male children and female children will look to the people in their lives to determine how to act. They may see, like in my case that abuse is bad. I saw that it was bad and unfortunately I have struggled not to act out in violence, even though I knew it was bad. I am sure someone who did not grow up in the same environment that I did would have the same challenges in suppressing abusive behavior. Just like someone who is overweight, generally their parents were overweight. Should we not take this into consideration when forming societal norms? Perhaps we should treat those who grew up in a household where tv watching, eating fast food and non-activity were the norm, just like the Mannings (Pro Football quarterback family). “He fatso, you just need to be active.” We tell people that everyday, does that change the situation. Trust me, I am a Marine and work out fifteen hours a week just to stay under 15lbs overweight. Sure, treat boys as if differences don’t exist. The bottom line is that redefining the ideal man is a good tool for teaching young boys. Because they don’t necessarily respond as well to “well, just be nice to them” crap. We have been telling boys to be nice for years while bombarding them with images of “real men” who are not so nice. Are they going to listen to what a woman tells them or what they see. Trust me — their mother figure is the only woman who will have a significant impact and that is not even close to the impact that their father will give them. Whether they look at him and say “a real man does not do that” or “that’s a real man” does not matter because they are going to look at him for the majority of their formation — period.

    Why you can’t see how that is the case exemplifies the point that men have different perspctives that women will not understand. Defining the “ideal man” is a good thing if it makes an “ideal citizen”.

  3. 3
    David M. Chess says:

    Don P: “I’m not sure why I’m wasting time on this silly point.”

    It’s surprising how much difference “silly” things like phrasing and word emphasis have in debates, especially in debates where people feel themselves to have a really personal stake in the issue.

    I mean, I’m a rational person myself, but I can tell you firsthand that someone saying “men are more aggressive than women” bothers me and leads me to tend to object in ways that “in the majority of statistical studies, the mean of the aggressiveness distribution for males is significantly higher than the mean of the distribution for females” does not.

    Connotation is at least as important as denotation, especially in online discourse. I apologize if you feel the issue has wasted your time; but I comfort myself with the thought that by spreading the idea I may be helping to make some future debate more civil and on the issues, rather than heated and distracted by phrasing…

    *8)

  4. 4
    zuzu says:

    Pft. I don’t think that all evolutionary psychology is nonsense, but I’m waiting for the day that one of them can explain to me why women’s desires to be promiscious are ignored before I start listening to this nonsense.

    So true. And I’d like to see a serious discussion of why the social consequences of sex for women across cultures are so much greater than for men — in some cultures, a woman who has been “dishonored” can be killed (Nicholas Kristoff wrote a recent column about a Pakistani woman who’d been gang-raped by members of a higher-status clan for something that her male relative did, and when she didn’t do the honorable thing and commit suicide, she had to be placed under government protection because she is in danger of being killed).

    Why is there so much control of female sexuality across cultures if females are not inclined to promiscuity? I certainly don’t buy that it’s because they’re being protected from men — you’d think that the consequences would then fall on the men who violated the woman’s chastity rather than the woman herself. Why is virginity prized? Why is family honor bound up in a woman’s chastity and modesty, while a man is encouraged to sleep around? And why is the control of female sexuality greater in those cultures that view the differences between the sexes as absolute?

    It would seem to me that when inclination to be promiscuous butts up against dire consequences (shame, exile, death), the consequences will win out and your sample will be skewed. But whence the consequences in the first place?

    If there’s been any serious discussion of these issues, please let me know.

  5. 5
    Don P says:

    David Chess:

    I mean, I’m a rational person myself, but I can tell you firsthand that someone saying “men are more aggressive than women” bothers me and leads me to tend to object in ways that “in the majority of statistical studies, the mean of the aggressiveness distribution for males is significantly higher than the mean of the distribution for females” does not.

    So whenever anyone says something like “blacks face more racial discrimination than whites” or “women earn less than men” or “blacks have a lower life expectancy than whites” you are bothered by those statements, too, are you? And you think instead that the speaker ought to say things like “in the majority of statistical studies, the mean of the income distribution for men is significantly higher than the mean of the distribution for women.”

    I think you’re being ridiculous. Yes, in a technical paper on income disparities by sex, such precise language may be justified. But in ordinary public discourse, it’s just silly. Do you really think that people–especially the readers of this blog–don’t realize that a statement like “women earn less than men” is intended to mean that overall, in general, on average, women earn less than men, rather than that every single woman earns less than every single man?

  6. 6
    Don P says:

    zuzu:

    Why is there so much control of female sexuality across cultures if females are not inclined to promiscuity?

    Because men are inclined to promiscuity, of course, and women are the object of their desire. The primary risk to a husband from failing to control sexual access to his wife is not that she will coerce or seduce other men into having sex with her, but that those men will coerce or seduce her into having sex with them. The overwhelming pattern, not only in human cultures but amoung virtually all mammal species, is competition between males for sexual access to females, not the other way around.

    I certainly don’t buy that it’s because they’re being protected from men — you’d think that the consequences would then fall on the men who violated the woman’s chastity rather than the woman herself.

    The consequences fall on both of them. In most cultures, both the man and the woman are punished for adultery. A married woman who commits adultery is usually punished more severely than a married man because his act imposes no bastard on his wife, but hers may impose a bastard on her husband.

    Why is virginity prized?

    Because there is no risk that a virgin is carrying, or has already given birth to, another man’s child.

    Why is family honor bound up in a woman’s chastity and modesty, while a man is encouraged to sleep around?

    Married men are not encouraged to sleep around. As I said, institutionalized monogamy probably arose primarily as a way of reducing conflict between men for sexual access to women. If each man gets only one woman, then every man can have one. If some men each get more than one woman, then others will go without, which incites conflict. Unmarried men are encouraged to find an eligible woman, preferably a virgin, and marry her. Family honor is bound up in a woman’s chastity and modesty because men don’t want to marry women non-virgins (for the reasons I explain above.) The word “adultery” is related to “adulterate” and refers to making a woman impure.

    And why is the control of female sexuality greater in those cultures that view the differences between the sexes as absolute?

    I don’t know what “view the differences between the sexes as absolute” is supposed to mean. Control of female sexuality is greater in cultures in which women are subject to greater subordination to men, because those cultures view women more as property (first of their fathers, then of their husbands) than cultures in which the social status of women is higher.

  7. 7
    monica says:

    “Why you can’t see how that is the case exemplifies the point that men have different perspctives that women will not understand.”

    Oh great. Now I’m a token representative of all women. Yeah, and you won’t find a man who could be saying the same things I’m saying. Nope. I believe you, because you are a Male and I of course being a Female have no knowledge of the Male species. Any more generalisations? Pretty please? There’s not enough in this thread!

    Jstevenson, I’m sure we come from different backgrounds, as well as different cultures and countries and continents, which is probably the more relevant thing here, as I’m starting to suspect more and more, but see, I don’t think you represent anything other than your own views, and if they are different from mine, I won’t ascribe it to your being a different sex. Maybe I should, just so we can break the cliché-meter.

    Maybe I misread your point about role models, I’m genuinely still not sure what it is, but you seem to have misunderstood my view too. I never said gender plays NO part in someone’s life, I never said, let’s “pretend differences don’t exist”. Ridiculous straw men. I’m only saying, the male-female difference is not the main factor influencing a person’s overall behaviour and choices and preferences as different from another person’s. I’m disagreeing with the notion of a real manhood, real womanhood, or even ideal, of a precise set of traits that are supposedly predominantly male or female, and ascribed to biology.

    That’s not even feminism, that’s the basic observation that individual differences – as well as social, cultural, religious, national, political, economic, etc. – count a hell of a lot more than gender differences. That’s difficult to deny, yet it’s very easy to ignore.

    Boys hang out with boys and girls hang out with girls as well as mixing with each other as they grow up – so? how is that supposed to confirm that there’s a real manhood and a real womanhood? You’re talking of men and women as if they were different species, not different sexes.

    The bottom line is that boys are going to look at male role models.

    Yeah, but surely that’s not something so fixed and categorical as to require exclusively male models for learning something like basic behaviour in a civil society?

    The original discussion was on rape and manhood. Unless you too like Don P consider rape as a sexual instinct, then I don’t know how you can claim it takes a man to teach another man not to rape or abuse. As if the default was abuse. As if men are by nature wild beasts and need male-specific ideals to correct that. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, is it? Then *what* exactly are you saying?

    I don’t get your parallel between being overweight, and being abusive. Very confusing. Attribute my confusion to my chromosomes, if you will.

    The bottom line is that redefining the ideal man is a good tool for teaching young boys. Because they don’t necessarily respond as well to “well, just be nice to them” crap.

    Oh ok, so young boys as these wild feral creatures faced with the alternative of either listening to patronising victorian speak about women or behave exactly like some macho movie action figure. No in between! Fathers have this absolute magic power of mesmerising over their male offspring’s behaviour *even if* they happen to be psychos who use their mother are target practice. Nevermind that spousal abuse often goes hand in hand with child abuse so it would make it even more obvious, first-hand, that violence is not a pleasant way to treat people.

    What kind of ideal of manhood is that, considering men like idiots?

  8. 8
    monica says:

    “Married men are not encouraged to sleep around.”

    I strongly suspect Don P has been secretly sent here on a satirical mission.

    I think we should sacrifice two virgins to his powerful wit. Where can we find volunteers?

  9. 9
    jam says:

    evolutionary psychology is so much fun!

    It just makes no sense in evolutionary terms for women to be easily aroused by sexually explicit imagery, whereas it makes perfect sense that men are so aroused, given the different investments that men and women make in reproduction.

    i’ll be sure to mention this to my women friends who enjoy & use pornography… i’m sure they’ll be very interested to know that they are out of step with evolutionary psychology theory.

    luckily, they can take comfort in the fact that they are exceptional – just like all the trannies, sissyboys, bulldaggers & other freaks who don’t fit into the tidy little categories of such theories & who are therefore statistically insignificant… which is, it seems, less than a step away from plain ol’ insignificant.

    including, incidentally, me! at least, according to Mr. Pinker, who talks about how the “fear of snakes” is hardwired into our DNA… except i’m not & have never been afraid of snakes, even when i was just a wee babe. wait… maybe i don’t have any DNA!!!

    well, whatever, i can deal with being exceptional too…

    … *ouch* i think i may have sprained my sarcasm muscle … ;)

  10. 10
    Don P says:

    ampersand:

    Everyone agrees that rape is a crime of violence in that the nature of the act is violent. Forcing a person to have sex, whether that person is a man or a woman, is an act of violence.

    The “rape-is-not-about-sex” line refers to the feminist claim about the motives and intent of the rapist (for male rapists of women, at least). The claim is that men rape women not because of a biological urge to have sex, but because of an urge to dominate, subjugate and hurt women, and that this urge is the product of socialization by a patriarchal culture. The mantra was first announced, or at least popularized, by Susan Brownmiller in the 1970s, and has become the conventional wisdom amoung liberal feminists since then.

    The problem is that the claim is simply not supported by the evidence. It is contradicted by the evidence. The overwhelming conclusion from the evidence is that the primary motive of men who rape women is the urge to have sex with them, and that this urge is biological, not socially conditioned. There may also be some degree of desire to dominate and harm the victim, in some cases at least, but the central motive in most cases is sexual gratification.

  11. 11
    zuzu says:

    Because men are inclined to promiscuity, of course, and women are the object of their desire. The primary risk to a husband from failing to control sexual access to his wife is not that she will coerce or seduce other men into having sex with her, but that those men will coerce or seduce her into having sex with them.

    Don, you keep saying that men are inclined to promiscuity and women are not. What’s the basis for this? What kind of data sampling was used?

    How do you account for higher rates of sexual activity, with more partners, among young women post-sexual revolution? Are you seriously going to argue that every last one of these women was seduced or coerced, that desire had nothing to do with it?

    I also think your reasoning is tautological, if what you’re saying is that because men have sex more often with a greater number of partners than do women, that means that women lack the desire to engage in sex? How does that fit in with societies where women are not permitted to see men they are not related to? How does that fit in with the pressure to be a “good girl?” How does that fit in with being labeled a slut and a skank ho for following one’s desires?

    Saying that women are locked up for their own protection against those rascally other men is a convenient way to explain a phenomenon, but it doesn’t explain why the women are locked up instead of the men. It doesn’t do anything to explain why women’s sexuality is hemmed in and controlled instead of men’s.

    Your explanation of why virginity is prized:


    Because there is no risk that a virgin is carrying, or has already given birth to, another man’s child.

    But that doesn’t at all address the woman’s desire and why it must be squelched by making the consequences for loss of virginity so serious. All it does is address a man’s property interest in a woman’s body.

  12. 12
    zuzu says:

    So whenever anyone says something like “blacks face more racial discrimination than whites” or “women earn less than men” or “blacks have a lower life expectancy than whites” you are bothered by those statements, too, are you?

    Now, this is dishonest because aggression is an innate characteristic susceptible to interpretation, and discrimination, pay rates and life expectancy are all measurable external factors.

  13. 13
    Don P says:

    Monica:

    I strongly suspect Don P has been secretly sent here on a satirical mission.

    I assume this is your obtuse way of saying that you disagree with my claim that married men are not encouraged to sleep around.

    Please show me your evidence that married men are encouraged to sleep around, both in our own culture, and in human cultures generally. The simple fact that adultery is socially stigmatized and legally punished in virtually all human cultures illustrates that such behavior is strongly discouraged.

  14. 14
    jstevenson says:

    Monica: “[R]eal manhood, real womanhood, or even ideal, of a precise set of traits that are supposedly predominantly male or female, and ascribed to biology.”

    Perhaps I see the disconnect in our positions. As in traits, there are characteristics good and bad in all people. Are those characteristics a part of nature, perhaps — perhaps not.

    My point of the portrayal of an “ideal man” is situational in manner not necessarily characteristic.

    I just use this as an example of my opinion. Boys will look to others on how to treat a woman. They will look to all types of people with varying perspectives on life. Most importantly they will look to those people who share their experiences.

    Men went through puberty just like boys will. If they want to know what is going on with their body, they will took to other boys and men for advice. Why because they know (as opposed to read or seen before) what they are going through. So the characteristic of how one should treat another human is more relevant to boys from the man’s perspective, because someday they will be a man. Now is being good to people a trait monopolized by a “man” or “woman” it is common to both sexes. However, a woman cannot “show” a boy how to be a good man. She can only give what she thinks are the cultural and biological inputs that make a boy a man. He will not look to her regarding the outcome of the traits necessary to be an ideal man. That does not mean that the traits are different — be good to people. What it means is that the biological and cultural inputs that create those traits are different. It is not like telling someone who is short that they can’t play basketball. It is more, saying you are short and therefore must jump higher, but you can use your height to ensure you maintain possession of the ball.

    Take their genetic difference and use it to their advantage in teaching. Ignoring the genetic difference will only cause them to disregard that fact when making personal decisions and lead to failure.

  15. 15
    karpad says:

    Don P:
    for starters, there’s the definition of adultery in biblical law (and, therefore, most western law up until fairly recently) wherein adultery is the crime of a married woman having sex with another man.
    a married man having sex with another woman is just doing what’s natural. any man having sex with a married woman is an adultery, and only those men.

    there’s the institution of prostitution, which is historically excused by everyone (even the Church) as being nessicary. because “men want sex constantly, but women don’t really, so it’s ok for men to cheat on their wives.”

    men are allowed to cheat. it’s still more socially acceptible for a man to cheat on his wife.
    and that’s not “sleep around” which hands down, women get the raw deal on. think about how often you hear about people celebs, noncelebs, and others, where some guy cheats on his wife. “that dog, tsk tsk, the poor girl” everyone says. and no one is surprised when he gets remarried to someone else. he may even cheat on HER then, and the cycle will repeat, but it’s pretty rare that you hear “no one should marry that man, because he’s cheated so many times.”
    a woman getting remarried after being publicly exposed for having cheated on her husband? rare.
    I think Fergie. maybe.

  16. 16
    jstevenson says:

    Monica: “Yeah, but surely that’s not something so fixed and categorical as to require exclusively male models for learning something like basic behaviour in a civil society?”

    I am not advocating exclusive male models for learning. I am recognizing that males will be the primary role model in early childhood development of boys on what happens when they grow up and how should they act. That does not mean women do not play a role at all. Of course, women could shave their face everyday, thereby showing their son from the time he is two that men shave their face. I am sorry, but that is ludicrious. Boys from the time they make cognitive thought look to the people in their lives both male and female to determine their course. We can say that we should teach boys that there is no difference in men and women. When do you suggest that start? As he is looking at his mother pulling out her penis and peeing? All she can do is tell him how to do it. Is that a bad thing, will her words not have affect on him? That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that boys look at what the males in their life do. The basic fact that boys will become men will never change. We can define, by our actions what is a man or we can allow boys to naturally come to that conclusion. We have been trying the natural approach since the beginning of time and most modern, western women are not happy with the outcome of that approach. Don’t you think it is time to try something different, like redefining what is manhood?

  17. 17
    zuzu says:

    jstevenson:

    Now is being good to people a trait monopolized by a “man” or “woman” it is common to both sexes. However, a woman cannot “show” a boy how to be a good man. She can only give what she thinks are the cultural and biological inputs that make a boy a man. He will not look to her regarding the outcome of the traits necessary to be an ideal man.

    Why the disconnect between “man” and “person”? A woman can certainly show a boy how to be a good person, and that’s really what you’re talking about, isn’t it? When you get right down to it, the basics of being a decent person are common to both genders. The rest is social construct.

  18. 18
    Amanda says:

    Don, I still have to question if you know that women really don’t desire mulitple partners like men or if they simply don’t feel as free to act on or even admit that desire as men. Because I myself have access to the inner feelings of exactly one more woman than you, I am inclined to think that it’s a safe bet that some of us are just lying when we say we don’t have those thoughts/behaviors.

  19. 19
    Don P says:

    zuzu:

    Don, you keep saying that men are inclined to promiscuity and women are not. What’s the basis for this?

    A mass of evidence from anthropology, sociology, psychology, zoology, evolutionary biology and other sciences.

    What kind of data sampling was used?

    I don’t know what this question means.

    How do you account for higher rates of sexual activity, with more partners, among young women post-sexual revolution?

    The decline of social and legal sanctions against casual sex, the rise in the social status of women, and the widespread availablity of effective contraception, amoung other things.

    Are you seriously going to argue that every last one of these women was seduced or coerced, that desire had nothing to do with it?

    No, of course not. Desire had a lot to do with it. But the desire amoung women for casual sex and multiple sex partners is vastly lower than the desire amoung men for those things. Sexual promiscuity is overwhelmingly an interest of men, not women. (Note, I didn’t say “exclusively,” I said “overwhelmingly.”)

    I also think your reasoning is tautological, if what you’re saying is that because men have sex more often with a greater number of partners than do women, that means that women lack the desire to engage in sex?

    I’m saying that the fact that men have or would like to have many more sex partners than women is evidence that the desire for lots of different partners is much stronger and more common in men than in women. There are also other types of evidence that support this conclusion. The weight of evidence is enormous, in fact.

    How does that fit in with societies where women are not permitted to see men they are not related to?

    I don’t understand why you think there’s a conflict. It is precisely because there are so many men wanting to have sex with women that fathers and husbands in the kind of societies you mention severely limit contact between their daughters/wives and other men. They want to minimize the risk of a sexual encounter.

    How does that fit in with the pressure to be a “good girl?” How does that fit in with being labeled a slut and a skank ho for following one’s desires?

    Again, I don’t understand why you think there’s a conflict. Those labels are symptoms of the social stigma attached to female promiscuity. For the reasons I explained in my last post, men want women without a sexual history, preferably virgins.

    Saying that women are locked up for their own protection against those rascally other men is a convenient way to explain a phenomenon, but it doesn’t explain why the women are locked up instead of the men.

    Men are bigger, stronger and more aggressive than women and dominate positions of social and political power in all human cultures. Men also want more sex partners than women, and so men compete for sexual access to women, not vice versa. That’s why the women are locked up rather than the men.

  20. 20
    jam says:

    DonP: The “rape-is-not-about-sex” line refers to the feminist claim about the motives and intent of the rapist (for male rapists of women, at least). The claim is that men rape women not because of a biological urge to have sex, but because of an urge to dominate, subjugate and hurt women, and that this urge is the product of socialization by a patriarchal culture. The mantra was first announced, or at least popularized, by Susan Brownmiller in the 1970s, and has become the conventional wisdom amoung liberal feminists since then.

    in answer to Ampersand:

    Can you name any prominent, published feminist who has said “rape is about violence, not sex” in the past ten years, and who (read in context) meant it in the simpleminded way you describe? Not an anti-feminist like Pinker who says that feminists say it – a direct quote from a publsihed, well-known feminist.

    let’s see…

    prominent published feminist
    Susan Brownmiller, prominent published feminist. very true!

    who has said “rape is about violence, not sex
    well, it’s a ridiculous oversimplification of her book, “Against Our Will” but maybe we can let it slide…

    in the past ten years
    erm… the 70s. nope. not really in the past ten years. oh, but wait, maybe should we count that such a “mantra” has become conventional wisdom amoung liberal feminists since? does this count? or does it seem like a vague generalization backed up with no documentation at all…?

    and who (read in context) meant it in the simpleminded way you describe?
    see above, re: ridiculous oversimplification…

    a direct quote from a publsihed, well-known feminist.
    still waiting on this one i guess….

    survey says…. BZZZT!

  21. 21
    Don P says:

    zuzu:

    Your explanation of why virginity is prized:
    “Because there is no risk that a virgin is carrying, or has already given birth to, another man’s child.” But that doesn’t at all address the woman’s desire and why it must be squelched by making the consequences for loss of virginity so serious.

    I don’t know why you think it needs to address the woman’s desire. You asked me why virginity is prized and I told you. The answer doesn’t have anything to do with the woman’s desire; it’s about men’s desire. Men want virgins because there’s no risk that a virgin is encumbered with another man’s child. If you think this answer is wrong, explain why you think it is wrong, what you think the right answer is, and we can continue from there.

  22. 22
    Amanda says:

    DonP, you really don’t see how enormous social pressure on women to seem uninterested in sex might have a little something to do with why they claim to be uninterested in it?

    Anyone remember that study that came out awhile ago where three groups of students were asked how many sex partners they had? One group was asked directly, one was given a piece of paper they had to turn over to another student and one group was given a secret ballot. In the first two groups, the men on average had a good deal more admitted sex partners than the women. In the last group, it was about even.

    The pressure to appear less interested in sex than we are is, to my mind, the single biggest factor in determining what kind of answers you’ll get from women when asking them about their sex lives.

  23. 23
    Don P says:

    amanda:

    Don, I still have to question if you know that women really don’t desire mulitple partners like men or if they simply don’t feel as free to act on or even admit that desire as men.

    Yes, we do know it. There’s a mountain of evidence that men want more sex partners than women. The hypothesis that women secretly want just as many partners as men but for some reason are unwilling to say so or behave in a way that manifests that desire is simply not credible in light of the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

    Because I myself have access to the inner feelings of exactly one more woman than you, I am inclined to think that it’s a safe bet that some of us are just lying when we say we don’t have those thoughts/behaviors.

    You seem to think I said that no women are interested in promiscuity or that women in general have no interest at all in multiple sex partners. I have not said that. I have said, repeatedly, that some women are promiscuous and that women in general have some degree of evolutionary incentive for sex with more than one man. But these tendencies are dwarfed by men’s much greater interest in promiscuity arising from their much lower investment in reproduction.

    To elaborate on the female case, the evolutionarily ideal arrangement for women is to have sex with men with the healthiest genes, and to raise their children with men who are the most loyal/dependable, and who have the highest social status (and would thus make the best providers). That way, women will maximize their chances of producing the greatest number of surviving offspring. It’s all ultimately driven by natural selection. The optimum reproductive strategy for men differs so radically from the optimum strategy for women because men and women play such radically different roles in the production of offspring.

  24. 24
    jam says:

    DonP (again, he’s got a million of them): Please show me your evidence that married men are encouraged to sleep around, both in our own culture, and in human cultures generally. The simple fact that adultery is socially stigmatized and legally punished in virtually all human cultures illustrates that such behavior is strongly discouraged.

    this from a man who has apparently never spent any time in a locker-room… sorry, it’s true, i don’t have any studies to cite. maybe there’s some out there, but i sorta doubt it, given the topic (i know, i know, SCIENCE is all about objectivity. i just can’t shake this feeling that centuries of patriarchy might have had some small, itsy-bitsy effect on it’s practice. call me crazy).

    anyways, what i do have is just that ol’ devil: personal experience. i have overheard & heard directly married men encouraging each other to pursue women who they think are potentially “bed-able” or “fuck-able”.

    where have i heard this? in office break-rooms, in locker-rooms, on construction work-sites. basically, everywhere i have ever worked where there is a space in which men don’t have to worry about what they say, this kind of puerile bullshit comes up.

    howzabout this: the simple fact that women’s autonomous sexuality is socially stigmatized and legally punished in virtually all human cultures illustrates that such behavior is strongly encouraged.

  25. 25
    zuzu says:

    Don:

    Yes, we do know it. There’s a mountain of evidence that men want more sex partners than women.

    What is this mountain of which you speak? Links, man, links! Make the mountain come to Mohammed, er, Amptoons.

    You wonder why I mention female desire in relation to virginity and say that the prizing of virginity has to do with male desire. I think you’re not understanding what I’m saying, and what Amanda expressed quite succinctly above. Your model seems to take for granted that women, young ones in particular, do not as a rule possess sexual desire and are passive recipients of male desire. You aren’t explicitly acknowledging the huge social pressures — death in some cases, death! — that are placed upon women to suppress their desires.

    You implicitly acknowledge it, though, when you admit that the loosening of social mores and taboos results in a greater number of sexual partners for women and nonmarital sex. Isn’t that indicative that outside, cultural factors have much to do with the expression of female desire?

    You also acknowledge the existence of societal pressure when you say that “slut” and “skank ho” are “symptoms of the social stigma attached to female promiscuity.” Why should there be a stigma attached if it doesn’t exist?

  26. 26
    Don P says:

    Karpad:

    for starters, there’s the definition of adultery in biblical law (and, therefore, most western law up until fairly recently) wherein adultery is the crime of a married woman having sex with another man.

    No, the western legal tradition (and the legal position in most cultures) has been to criminalize adultery for both the man and the woman. Both were subject to legal sanctions. Both were also subject to social stigma (and still are in our culture today). The legal and social status of adultery does not support the claim that married men are encouraged to sleep around, it contradicts that claim.

    there’s the institution of prostitution, which is historically excused by everyone (even the Church) as being nessicary.

    This claim is also false. Prostitution has also been subject to social and legal sanctions against both the prostitute and her customer in most human cultures (including our own). Again, this evidence contradicts Monica’s claim.

    men are allowed to cheat. it’s still more socially acceptible for a man to cheat on his wife.

    It’s not socially acceptable for either men or women to cheat on their spouse. Again, this social stigma contradicts Monica’s claim that married men are encouraged to sleep around. That claim is so absurd, in fact, so obviously at odds with the evidence, that it’s hard to understand how anyone could take it seriously. Yes, there are certain subcultures in which extra-marital sex is encouraged or celebrated (“swingers,” “wife-swappers,” etc.), but the overwhelmingly dominant social attitude towards sexual infidelity is to criticize it.

  27. 27
    Don P says:

    zuzu:

    What is this mountain of which you speak? Links, man, links! Make the mountain come to Mohammed, er, Amptoons.

    Read, woman, read! I have already provided links to two websites containing a wealth of information on sexual psychology and behavior, cited four books that discuss the issue in detail and provide additional literature citations, and briefly described some of the most compelling lines of evidence from anthropology, sociology, zoology and evolutionary biology. Where are the citations to scientific support for your claims?

    Your model seems to take for granted that women, young ones in particular, do not as a rule possess sexual desire and are passive recipients of male desire.

    I never said that. I never said anything like that. Of course women possess sexual desire. The nature of women’s sexual desire differs dramatically from men’s sexual desire. One of the ways in which it differs is that women are much less interested in sexual promiscuity than men.

    You aren’t explicitly acknowledging the huge social pressures — death in some cases, death! — that are placed upon women to suppress their desires.

    Whatever social pressures there are on women to suppress their sexual desires, social pressure is not a remotely plausible explanation for the differences found in male and female sexual behavior and interest. The odds of all human cultures just happening to have developed the same way in this respect are astronomically low. The odds of virtually all animal species that share the human model of reproductive investment just happening to have developed in this way are even more astronomically low (are you seriously suggesting that females of all these other species are also hiding their true sexual desires as a result of “social pressure?” The idea is absurd on its face.) Your hypothesis is also inconsistent with the predictions of well-supported evolutionary theory, and with the knowledge of sexual behavior amoung prehistoric humans that we have acquired from genetic studies. In short, essentially all the evidence from the natural and social sciences points to a primarily biological cause for this aspect of human behavior.

    You implicitly acknowledge it, though, when you admit that the loosening of social mores and taboos results in a greater number of sexual partners for women and nonmarital sex. Isn’t that indicative that outside, cultural factors have much to do with the expression of female desire?

    Yes, culture has an effect on the expression of all desire, including female sexual desire. But for the reasons I state in the previous paragraph, amoung others, social conditioning is not a remotely plausible explanation for the observed differences in sexual interest and behavior between men and women.

  28. 28
    jam says:

    DonP (#1,000,001): The optimum reproductive strategy for men differs so radically from the optimum strategy for women because men and women play such radically different roles in the production of offspring.

    & these different roles assigned by “evolution” are what…? fucker & fuckee?

    “optimum strategies”? at first this confused me, bu then i thought about it & realized that, i have to admit it, that when i’m feeling that way about a certain special someone (i mean, of course, a female someone, someone evolutionarily appropriate for a biologically determined male such as myself) i really do personally conceive of it in such militaristic terms…. after all, the object is to win!

    oh, right, & then there was that time you said:

    Yes, there are certain subcultures in which extra-marital sex is encouraged or celebrated
    that was great! more of those exceptional people, eh?

    That claim is so absurd, in fact, so obviously at odds with the evidence, that it’s hard to understand how anyone could take it seriously.

    dude, i love it it when you talk this way. it’s so… manly.

    anyways, DonP, i’m wondering: does the school of evolutionary psychology you’re currently channelling account for or acknowledge the work of scientists such as Sarah Hrdy…? & if yes, a link or somesuch other method of verification would be most appreciated (y’know, something other than outraged proclamations concerning the status quo of common sense &/or strenuous exhortations concerning veritable mountains of uncited research).

    once again, AlasABlog commenters, mucho gracias. this has been a most stimulating discussion!

  29. 29
    Amanda says:

    You mention hanging around a men’s locker room–true, I’ve never been in one. But how much time do you spend around only women? Well, technically none because your very presence changes the all-female nature of any such gathering.

    It’s does give one pause to realize that mostly male scientists have discovered that nature made it so that they were naturally inclined to sleep around while luckily their mates were naturally inclined to stay at home and wait. But I have yet to ever see a study of human behavior that manages to record people without culture to influence them. Until someone coughs up the men fuck around while women get dinner ready gene, I will be skeptical of any evidence that purports to show instinct by offering up people who grew up in cultures.

  30. 30
    mythago says:

    It’s does give one pause to realize that mostly male scientists have discovered that nature made it so that they were naturally inclined to sleep around while luckily their mates were naturally inclined to stay at home and wait. But I have yet to ever see a study of human behavior that manages to record people without culture to influence them.

    In the last year or two, the NYT Science edition ran an article on a group of evolutionary psychologists who published a study, done in China, finding no gender difference in jealousy. Many previous studies found that men are more jealous of sexual than emotional infidelity; this one contradicted that (finding no difference, men were equally jealous). When asked about this study, which called some of his questions into finding, Dr. David Buss (a grandee of sociobiology) called them fifth columnists and compared himself to Galileo. Really.

    I don’t think evolutionary psychology is all quackery; but it’s also true that there seem to be an awful lot of its adherents who have a definite agenda, and who get antsy if the facts do not fit the theory.

    No, the western legal tradition (and the legal position in most cultures) has been to criminalize adultery for both the man and the woman. Both were subject to legal sanctions.

    Don. C’mon. Surely you know that in the “Western legal tradition,” while adultery was a crime, traditionally adultery by married women has been treated much more harshly than adultery by married men. Part of that “legal tradition,” by the way, was considering a wife’s (but not a husband’s) lover to be a co-adulterer under the law, and treating discovering a wife (but not a husband) caught in adultery as sufficient emotional provocation to reduce or eliminate criminal liability for, say, homicide.

    It’s easy to forget that it’s only the last few decades in which Western law even pretended to care about fairness between the genders.

  31. 31
    Amanda says:

    You know, every time I see those studies, I again have to wonder–how the hell do they separate emotional and sexual jealousy? That seems way up to interpretation to me. For instance, I see my boyfriend flirting with a girl, odds are that would be recorded as “emotional” jealousy, but vice versa and his jealousy would be recorded as “sexual” jealousy. Odds are it’s the same feeling but possibly worded differently in no small part due to social restrictions on what kind of language each sex will use.

  32. 32
    monica says:

    jstevenson – Of course, women could shave their face everyday, thereby showing their son from the time he is two that men shave their face. I am sorry, but that is ludicrious.

    Did I say that?? Did anyone say that women should shave etc.?

    Of course it’s ludicrous, it’s even more ludicrous you make it sound like I was suggesting anything like that.

    We can say that we should teach boys that there is no difference in men and women. When do you suggest that start? As he is looking at his mother pulling out her penis and peeing?

    Ha, there you go again – I did *not* say we “should teach boys” or girls for that matter that “there is no difference in men and women”. Please, if you care anything about discussing honestly, go back and re-read the thread and maybe you’ll get the point I and others were making against biological *determinism*, it’s not denial of obvious sexual differences, it’s denial of the accuracy and *usefulness* of ascribing behavioural traits to one gender or the other, of putting gender before all other kinds of factors and individual differences, of ignoring social and economic and cultural and political factors, etc. If you’re not interested in serious discussion, at least, avoid putting ridiculous words in my mouth, ok?

    We have been trying the natural approach since the beginning of time and most modern, western women are not happy with the outcome of that approach. Don’t you think it is time to try something different, like redefining what is manhood?

    I don’t care how *you* define and redefine *your* manhood, whatever it means to you, it’s not how every other man on earth wants to define it. You’ll find plenty of men who do not think there is one “natural approach”, and do not want anyone telling them what manhood should be, and do not agree with your political views on the matter, and do not want to live by social models from the beginning of time. There’s plenty of men and women who do not want to erase or deny any sexual differences, but simply do not want to have one single sex-behaviour correlation that’s supposed to be good for all, across all societies, because it just doesn’t do any good, because life is more complex, and individuals are more varied than group A or group B, and because unlike thousand of years ago individuals are freer to be what they like, if they’re lucky enough to live in societies where they get this chance. The larger parts of the world are still struggling to get out of repressive ideas about society, gender, authority, etc. and you’re here pretending the biggest problems are caused by feminism. Please.

  33. 33
    monica says:

    zuzu – ? A woman can certainly show a boy how to be a good person, and that’s really what you’re talking about, isn’t it? When you get right down to it, the basics of being a decent person are common to both genders.

    Exactly, but that’s not what people like the Fathers4Justice group want, they want their sons to grow up thinking climbing up the Queen’s palace dressed like Batman is a SMART thing to do for a guy, dude. That’s exactly the kind of father the courts should give more rights to, even if he has a criminal record, because the boy needs his father at all costs, no matter if he’s a jerk! He can’t possibly get a positive upbringing from his mother, larger family, teachers, friends, and plenty of male role models from all around him, nope, he has to get Batman. Otherwise, it’s injustice and emasculation and bloody feminists’ fault.

    I don’t think that’s what jstevenson was arguing for, I sure hope not, but that’s what some people mean when they use that very same argument.

  34. 34
    jam says:

    hello Amanda,

    You mention hanging around a men’s locker room–true, I’ve never been in one. But how much time do you spend around only women? Well, technically none because your very presence changes the all-female nature of any such gathering.

    the reason i brought this up was in response to DonP’s statement that Married men are not encouraged to sleep around. i wanted to show that there is a culture among at least some men that both encourages & promotes sleeping around, even when married. it simply surprised me that he apparently had no experience of such. in terms of general socialization, men often encourage one another to view sex as a matter of pleasure only, with little if any responsibilities. there is also a similar form of encouragement for regarding sex as a kind of contest, as in racking up “notches on the bedpost”.

    anyways, i’m not sure why you’re asking me (maybe you’re not?) how much time i spend around women? but, since you asked: quite a lot, because almost all of my friends are women. in fact, a good number are lesbians, which might seem strange for a straight guy, but there you go. and we have talked quite a bit about many of the issues that get discussed here.

    but it’s true, i have not been party to “all-women” gatherings, nor would i want to. i support & believe in the importance of women-only spaces & wouldn’t want to infringe on them.

    anyhoo, i claim no special knowledge regarding women’s lives & thoughts (hopefully nothing i said conveyed this impression… if so, i’d like to retract it). what i do feel i know & feel comfortable in conveying is what has been told to me by women. well, that & what i’ve read in history books….

    Until someone coughs up the men fuck around while women get dinner ready gene, I will be skeptical of any evidence that purports to show instinct by offering up people who grew up in cultures.

    i couldn’t agree more…

  35. 35
    Amanda says:

    Shoot, jam, I’m sorry. I misinterpreted what you said….and you’re absolutely right. Even around women, there is a noticeable difference between how male and female infidelity is treated.

  36. 36
    karpad says:

    DonP
    ask a rabbi, not about CURRENT application of biblical law (which many times carries the interpretation of “we apply it to both sexes so as to be fair”), but about what the text actually says and what it forbids (Christian Church leaders, as they use the english text, aren’t going to have any basis upon which to work.)
    It’s the same thing with homosexuality. NO WHERE in the bible is Lesbianism actually forbidden. it’s only taken by implication that if male homosexuality is forbidden, so too must female.
    if you really, REALLY want it, I’m sure I could spend several hours looking up the papal bulls which established whore houses owned and operated by the church inside vatican city. or, you could take my word on it, until such time as the Documentary “Sex in the Middle Ages” appears somewhere on TV again, where it is both discussed and elaborated on the reasoning (that male sexuality is like a dam, and if it does not have periodic release, release the wife couldn’t possibly be interested in, as it’s not reproductive in goals, he’ll go nuts and start raping women left and right).
    it’s also possible to cite a bunch of cultures where prostitution is thuroughly institutionalized. and when prostitition is legal, common, and possibly state run, it’s really, REALLY hard to pretend it isn’t accepted (Japan, China, India, The Ottoman empire, Greece, Rome: pre and post Constantine, Victorian England). unseemly and seedy does not mean “illegal” or even nessicarily “frowned upon.”
    in fact, Illegal doesn’t nessicarily mean “frowned upon.” is can and often is, simply a means of additional control.
    and men ARE allowed to cheat on their wives. don’t believe that? Bill Mother-fucking Clinton. for every moralizing “he’s a bad man grr” in the media and government there were easily three people on the street saying “give the guy a break, all he did was get a little action on the side.”

    and “nuh uh, no they didn’t” isn’t a counter arguement, DonP

  37. 37
    mythago says:

    We can say that we should teach boys that there is no difference in men and women.

    It’s interesting how all the Chicken Little discussions about this tend to focus on boys, not girls.

    Men also want more sex partners than women, and so men compete for sexual access to women, not vice versa. That’s why the women are locked up rather than the men.

    Well, that makes no sense. If women want sex less, then you wouldn’t have to lock them up, would you?

  38. 38
    Amanda says:

    Ha! Well, I guess it makes more sense than the old-fashioned theory that men lock up women because men have power over women and want to keep them under control. ;)

  39. 39
    mythago says:

    karpad, you probably know that until quite recently, Western philosophy–and the Church–held that women, not men, were the horndogs. Men were creatures of reason; women were creatures of emotion, and that included lust. “All witchcraft is driven by carnal lust, which in women is insatiable,” and all that.

  40. 40
    Don P says:

    jam:

    I’m not going to waste much time responding to you, since your posts to date consist primarily of sarcasm and snarky comments rather than any attempt to engage my posts seriously. When you do attempt to make a serious statement or ask a serious question, it invariably shows that you have not read my previous posts with even minimal attention or thought. I’ll respond to just the one example I quote below to illustrate the point. If you’re interested in a serious discussion, I’ll address what you say. But if your posts are just more of the same dismissive nonsense, I’ll just ignore them. If you ask me to explain something that I have already explained two or three times, I’ll ignore you.

    & these different roles assigned by “evolution” are what…? fucker & fuckee?

    No. As I have already explained at length, the relevant difference in male and female reproductive roles is the magnitude of the investment they make in producing offspring. In our species, the minimum male investment is a few minutes of sexual activity and a small amount of semen. The minimum female investment is a precious egg, nine months of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. The magnitude of the woman’s investment far exceeds that of the man. Parental investment theory predicts that the sex that makes the greater investment should be less promiscuous and the sex that makes the lesser investment should be more promiscuous. The theory is confirmed not only in human beings, but in studies of hundreds of animal species. In most species, and in virtually all mammal species, females invest more than males, so females should be less promiscuous. And that is what experiment and observation has shown. In a small number of species, males invest more than females. In some fishes, for example, males brood the young in a pouch. In some birds, it is males rather than females who sit on the eggs and feed the young. In these species, the typical investment pattern is reversed: males invest more than females. And in these species, just as the theory predicts, the females are more sexually aggressive and the females court the males, who select their partners carefully, rather than the other way around.

    Now, there are other factors that also affect sexual promiscuity. Parental investment isn’t the only one. And in some species, even greater-investing females exhibit high degrees of promiscuity (though still generally lower than that of the lesser-investing males). So it’s more complicated than just investment in offspring. But the basic pattern explained and predicted by the theory has been massively confirmed through empirical research.

    The idea that human beings are free of the evolutionary and biological mechanisms that govern the mating habits of other species is preposterous. We share a common biological heritage with all other life. We are related to all other species. We share a huge proportion of our genes with even distantly-related species (and more than 90% of the genes of the great apes). Our bodies and brains are the product of evolution just like their bodies and brains are the product of evolution. Our sexual psychology was designed by the same processes as their sexual psychology.

  41. 41
    Don P says:

    mythago:

    “Probably”?

    Yes, probably. I’m not sure. Even if EP doesn’t have the largest proportion of female scientists, it is close to doing so.

    “Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology … is perhaps the most bi-gendered academic field I am familiar with. Its major figures include Laura Betzig, Elizabeth Cashdan, Leda Cosmides, Helena Cronin, Mildred Dickeman, Helen Fisher, Patricia Gowaty, Kristen Hawkes, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Magdalena Hurtado, Bobbie Low, Linda Mealey, Felicia Pratto, Marnie Rice, Catherine Salmon, Joan Silk, Meredith Small, Barbara Smuts, Nancy Wilmsen Thornhill and Margo Wilson.” –Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate

    Serious scientific challenges are hardly rare–

    Yes they are. As I said, the vast majority of attacks on EP are personal, political and ideological, not scientific.

    it’s just that the EP that fits people’s preconceptions, the kind where a preliminary finding done on thirty undergrads is heralded as proof of Mars and Venus thinking–gets the most publicity and, no doubt, the best funding.

    You keep making these ridiculous claims. This one is as silly as your previous allusion to John Gray. The evidence for the biological differences between men and women that I have described is overwhelming. It consists of research from many different scientific disciplines, as I have said. You’re wrong even about the evidence from sociology, which comprises hundreds of studies involving thousands of subjects spanning dozens of countries and cultures, not “thirty undergrads.” Again, if you would actually try to learn something about the field rather than just reflexively attack it because its findings do not conform to what you want to believe is true you might come to see its value and merit.

    But if women don’t want sex much, they won’t be allowing men sexual access to them. Since we’re all about the free-market theory of sexual exchange, of course.

    It’s obviously not a free-market theory of sexual exchange. Men have the greater power. Even if a woman is not forced to have sex she can be subject to varying degrees of coercion. But in any case, for the umpteenth time, I have never said that women only want one sex partner. I’ve never said that women are monogamous. What I have said is that women want many fewer sex partners than men. “Many fewer” does not mean only one. “Many fewer” does not mean none. So, as I said, a married man is at some risk of being cuckolded from his wife’s own desire for multiple sex partners, but by far the greater risk comes from the desires of other men.

  42. 42
    mythago says:

    Men are bigger, stronger and more aggressive than women. As a result, men dominate positions of social and political power

    Social and political power tends to be dominated by older men–not necessarily the biggest, strongest, youngest and most aggressive.

    The woman has generally been punished more severely than the man because she risks imposing another man’s child on her husband but the male adulterer does not risk imposing another woman’s child on his wife.

    He risks diverting resources away from his wife’s children, which is something women take rather seriously. (In East African polygamous cultures, it’s common for men to publicly divide up allotments to his wives, so none of them get the idea that one is getting more than another.)

    You’d think that with all those “Sex? Eh…” women around, men would simply lock up the weaker, smaller of their sex, or kill them off, so that there would be a surplus. Then the big, strong guys have more pussy. Everyone’s happy.

  43. 43
    Don P says:

    Amanda:

    The notion that men lock up naturally chaste women to keep them from getting raped is laughable

    Women are not “naturally chaste.” I have never said that women are naturally chaste. I have said that women want many fewer sex partners than men. That’s not the same thing as “chaste.” It’s not the same thing as “monogamous.” Is this clear yet, or do I have to repeat it another ten times before you will stop responding to me as if I had said that women are by nature chaste or monogamous.

    Men “lock up” women to prevent other men from gaining sexual access to them. That is the primary risk to women’s chastity or sexual fidelity, not the woman’s own desires.

    And to get away from this inaccurate “locking up” language that zuzu introduced, in most cases men’s sexual control of their wives and daughters has involved measures much less restrictive than actual physical imprisonment. These include chaperones, veils, wigs, chadors, social segregation by gender, genital mutilation, foot-binding and chastity belts. Sometimes, women are actually physically confined, but that is not the usual practise.

    –repeatedly throughout history women’s lacivious nature has been touted as the reason to keep them under lock and key.

    So what? The fact that the false claim that women are inclined to sexual promiscuity has been “touted” by some people obviously does not make it true. I suspect that many people who have touted that idea did not even believe it themselves, but advanced it for social or political reasons–to justify the sexual control of women without attributing the primary risk to their sexual fidelity to the desires of men.

  44. 44
    Amanda says:

    Don, I think marriage probably stays with us through different societies to stabilize society, but mostly through controlling ownership of the women and their property and also to determine what man owned what children. Men’s sexual appetites are not necessarily controlled by marriage. A mere century ago progressives were agitating to control prostitution because married men were infecting their wives with syphilis and killing them. People scoffed because it was assumed that keeping men faithful to women was impossible. Married men have been allowed to cheat so much throughout history that many societies didn’t even recognize the concept of male fidelity. Marriage is not to control men, but to control women.

  45. 45
    mythago says:

    Prehistoric human societies most likely bore considerable resemblance to contemporary gorilla or chimpanzee societies.

    Would that be bonobo chimps?

    Brute aggression has less to do with leadership than does social status and, in most cultures, age. You won’t find many Council of Elders that decide matters by arm-wrestling; as with our own society, older men tend to control the wealth. And, historically, the women.

    As I said, anthroplogists believe that institutionalized monogamy–the publicly recognized right of exclusive sexual access by one man to one woman–most likely arose primarily as a means to reduce conflict between men for sexual access to women.

    Except that institutionalized monogamy is not the norm. There’s no reason to think our ancestors were monogamous; chimps aren’t.

  46. 46
    Amanda says:

    What scientists say women are naturally does tend to reflect the mores of the time–in Victorian times, many doctors felt that women had no sexual feelings and some young women who did display sexual feeling were treated like they suffered from a disease. Nowadays, women are expected to have a few steady boyfriends and then settle down with a husband. Men are given more leeway to screw around–visit prostitutes, have one-night stands, etc. When married, both men and women are to stay faithful, but in daily practice it’s expected that women will not have a wandering eye but men will. Strip clubs, pornography, and just gawking at other women are all acceptable ways of relieving men’s “natural” tendency towards promiscuity. There are no acceptable outlets for women’s urges to have sex with men other than their husbands–fantasy materials for women like romance novels and soap operas are both loaded down with preposterous story lines to distract from their function as fantasy materials and still are treated with contempt by our society. High class men are still able to partake of porn and even have “classier” erotic materials, but women of the “educated” classes generally have no outlets.

    We aren’t so different from the Victorians in this way. High class women are expected to be more chaste than lower class women, men are given leave to indulge their sexual appetites more,and science is there to say that all this is just a function of nature.

  47. 47
    Don P says:

    mythago:

    Social and political power tends to be dominated by older men–not necessarily the biggest, strongest, youngest and most aggressive.

    I never said it was dominated by the youngest men. But it has tended to be dominated by the strongest and most aggressive men. Before civilization arose (which was only about 10,000 years ago, a small fraction of the history of our species), the dominant individuals in human societies most likely tended to be the physically biggest, strongest and most aggressive. The “Alpha Male.” Prehistoric human societies most likely bore considerable resemblance to contemporary gorilla or chimpanzee societies. After the rise of civilization, qualities other than brute size and strength became more important, but aggression was still very important, and still is today. That is why political and social leaders have also tended to be military leaders.

    He risks diverting resources away from his wife’s children, which is something women take rather seriously.

    So what? Why does that mean that, given the facts of human difference I have described, we would expect the norm to be men locking themselves up rather than locking up their women in order to prevent illicit sexual encounters?

    As I said, anthroplogists believe that institutionalized monogamy–the publicly recognized right of exclusive sexual access by one man to one woman–most likely arose primarily as a means to reduce conflict between men for sexual access to women. If you want, you can think of this as a kind of “locking up” that men imposed on themselves. Not “locking up” in the literal, physical sense, but a way of restraining male promiscuity through social and legal sanctions.

  48. 48
    mythago says:

    Actually, foot-binding was not meant to guard women’s chastity. Like pale skin, it was a sign that the woman was high-status and her husband was wealthy; she didn’t need to walk around doing common work. Status and wealth have always been seen as sexually desirable in human societies, everywehere.

    the false claim that women are inclined to sexual promiscuity

    I think we need a working definition of promiscuity (other than “more sex than I want”, which is the usual definition) here. Not to mention a definition of “many fewer.”

    If women really did want so few partners, the control would be unnecessary. You wouldn’t have to control your wife–you, the generic promiscuity-wanting husband, would be easily keeping her satisfied with more to spare. So she wouldn’t be wandering off. The only thing you’d need to worry about would be rape, not infidelity.

  49. 49
    jstevenson says:

    Monica: I think we are speaking of the same issue and the same problems just viewing them through a different prism. The “Batman” dads and their “hapless” reproductive partners is going to be a regular phenom. The point is that society will break down to shared experiences.

    A woman may not know the exact emotional turmoil another woman is going through when she is pregnant, but her guess is much better than the male doctor who has studied if for years. The reason is not primarily social, cultural, or political, the reason is biological.

    Men do not have as strong an indicator of the various changes they go through. But, I just ask you to trust me on this. Men do have various physical and pyschological changes that they go through based on their gender. A woman can only speculate when providing advice regarding these changes. A man can truly say, “I know how you are feeling”. Maybe not specifically, but in the general sense in biologically we go through similar changes that women do not. In my opinion, it is better for the boy to get answers regarding these physical and psychological changes from a man who values “ideal personhood” than from “Batman”. The truth is that he is going to get assistance and guidance from some man, whether that man does it consciously or subconsciously. David Beckham and Britney Spears teach boys and girls what it is to be a “woman” and a “man” everyday. We can ignore these influences and hope for some utopia or recognize that they are going to look to someone of similar demographic and teach better models of “man” and “woman”.

    It seems that you understand what I am saying is true. You don’t like that it is true. Even though you say that we do not ignore gender — your utopia is that we should. I agree with you that ideally we should not have gender differences. Unfortunately as long as biology has gender differences people will look to their gender for guidance. To say that we should teach everyone to be an individual is fine and dandy, but it is just not realistic. Even when you go out with a group of friends, every will ask — hey, what are you getting. We ask — hey, what are you doing; was that good; what kind of person is he? All of these questions say that people are not individuals they are an amalgamation of their friends, culture, experiences with family members and their gender. To say that we should take part of that and improve the influences negative impact is a good thing. Sure we can fix negative gender stereotypes by making everyone the same, but how does that account for the kid who asks why am I feeling this way and his mom (because she does not know how he is feeling — gives him an speculative answer based on her experiences with men). He is going to be missing the true answer to the question and will seek it out. Whether it is in a Bill Paxton (the typecast male victim) movie or from Ludacris’ misogynistic lyrics. Which one do we want him to look at for answers. Hugo’s suggestion is that the latter is shunned as unmanly, therefore, when boys look to that answer they will shun Ludacris’ as not the right answer. Trust me there are boys who believe Ludacris and Beckham are the right answer to “real manhood” and all of our belief as how it should be will not fix it. What will is to villify their behavior. Villifying it as unmanly is what may work, because we have already villified it as improper for good citizen’s and that tack has not been productive in any sense.

  50. 50
    monica says:

    The thought of Dick Cheney going through puberty is too much. I know I shouldn’t have mentioned him.

    Women — he is doing it just to keep control of me. Men — she is doing it just because I slept with the Nanny.

    jstevenson, ever heard of the amazing concept of different people, different experiences?

    since you mention custody battles – last night, I watched the special on Fathers4Justice with a few members of the male sex, or rather, that sub-species genetically programmed for herdish behaviour (your view, not mine!), and you know, there was not a single person who didn’t think they were the most ludicrous bunch of reactionary tossers after the UKIP and the BNP. Must be because we all hate right wing nuts, which I can assure you is a force stronger than the oh so strong gender divide. These Batman dads are people you wouldn’t want to bring up a plant, let alone a child. The amazing thing is, they’ve had their own marriage screwups, maybe their wives were even more stupid and despicable human beings, who knows, the choice of partner speaks a lot already, but the thing is, instead of taking personal responsibilities and looking at their own situations, they have to turn it into an ideological battle! and go after the tabloid attention like the wannabe starlets who slept with David Beckham. It’s pathetic. It’s got nothing to do with their being “men” (some men!), it’s got to do with their being idiots. Simple as that. Why would anyone insist on citing the *worst* possible people and behaviour as proof of a biologically fixed behavioural divide across the sexes, I don’t know. Yet, a lot of the same “real manhood” folks support these wankers. Parenthesis closed.

    Religion, money and access to women is why most of the wars of the world were started.

    Oh, I think you’re over-estimating the role of women in history (am I being sarcastic? nah). One woman was reportedly a factor only in the war of Troy, some thousands of years ago, and even that may have been vaastly exagerated for literary purposes.

    That is the most important reason to redefine manhood — to change the views and make them “better person” standards instead of “real man” standards. Do you really think that is a bad thing?

    Yes. For the simple reason *any* attempt to define one “real” behaviour for one gender or the other is impossible, useless, restrictive, etc. everything already said above. The only motive to want to do that is a repressive reactionary one. There’s no use dressing it up in pseudo-feminist bollocks, it’s still the same old crap, motivated by precisely the same old crap. I personally don’t care much for any “real man”, or woman, who needs their personality defined by somebody else than *themselves*. Certainly not what I personally want to teach kids. Here, love, be a copycat, see how happy it’ll make you. I think not.

    Anyway, final thought (really): how about each person – individual, being, citizen, etc. – will redefine whatever they want to redefine in the way they want to, and believe whatever they like? (if they live in a society where they do have that luxury, which would be an entirely different discussion) There’s room for all gender theories and all sorts of beliefs, from the simple to the complex, from the reasonable to absurd, it helps sells more books, it provides fodder for more cliché-ridden movies, some of which may even be actually funny, and everyone is happy. Until we get a Minister for the Enforcement of Real Manhood, I’m perfectly happy to share this planet with people who think male and female are two different species. As long as they don’t cross my path, which, fortunately, so far, they haven’t really done. Shalom.

  51. 51
    jstevenson says:

    Lastly — “The larger parts of the world are still struggling to get out of repressive ideas about society, gender, authority, etc. and you’re here pretending the biggest problems are caused by feminism. Please.”

    I never even mentioned feminism. Sometimes zealous defense of a cause creates such myopic views to other opinions that one actually harms the cause they so passionately defend.

    The goal of “ideal manhood” accepts the confines of reality and tries to change attitudes for the good of all people within those parameters. To try to make change outside of the parameters will only convience the convienced not those who actually need conviencing.

  52. 52
    jstevenson says:

    Mythago: “It’s interesting how all the Chicken Little discussions about this tend to focus on boys, not girls.”

    Mythago, you may have missed the topic of this post and the point of Hugo’s post (the premise for this one). The reason this discussion focuses on boys and not girls is because the main post was about redefining, for young men and boys, the definition of “real manhood”. It would seem that when speaking about whether boys should get a different view of “real manhood” from men that the conversation would focus on girls.

    Just to let you in on the memo, in case you did not get it.

  53. 53
    Lauren says:

    While I think EC has a few fine points, if one looks deeply, I find it hard to believe that the invisible hand of evolution is applicable to most of our daily actions and interactions.

    When defending EC a lengthy explanation of a statement, like this one, “women want many fewer sex partners than men,” might do Don P a better job than just repeating it several times in bold.

    What does it mean that women “want” “many fewer” sex partners? What is “many?” Is “want” biological? Is this a simpler way of saying “lower sex drive?”

    What is an average acceptable mean of sexual partners, by gender, to an EC? Are we talking four or five partners? How do we account for the scads of women out there who rank themselves far into double and triple digits?

    Does EC account for men and women who hold traditional values and those who hold progressive values?

    When studying behavior of the genders, does EC account for the amount of agency particular members of a culture is able to enact?

    How does EC explain the gap between sexual stats and gender identity? Is identity, considering that we are a cognizant sort of being, part of the EC equation, or is cognitive ability ruled out in favor of ape-like behavior?

  54. 54
    monica says:

    Teaching each person what a good citizen is, in the same fashion would not be productive because it does not account for their differing perspectives.

    jstevenson, *that* to me is the biggest nonsense of all, it’s nonsense at a level that comes far before discussions on gender, it’s something ideological, political, philosophical. Good citizenship is about society, laws, politics, ethics, it’s got nothing to do with gender. Not because I say so, but because if it wasn’t like that, we’d have had *no* form of modern democracy and civilisation whatsoever. We’d all live in tribes and clans, actually though I suspect even the Vikings and Huns might have had a more elaborate view of society than that which you’re suggesting.

    You can’t put a gender on something like citizenship, or ethics, or basics of what makes a person, an individual, a human being.

    The term “real man” is going to be there. It is not going to go away

    Well I hate to disappoint you, but in my life, I’ve never heard any real (existing) men under 70 say it or use it with a straight face. As with all stereotypes that come attached with reactionary ideas, only reactionary or old people are that fond of them. No need to picture comic apocalyptic scenario.

    People say they are from America, Europe, or Asia. People say they are from just South of Georgia. We can ignore that people are going to do that and say that we are all humans

    That is most bizarre. Surreal. Those differences are depriving us of our common humanity, not enriching it?

    You can say that everyone should just show a good citizen, the bottom line is that boys are going to look to men on certain aspects of being a good citizen that will differ in men because of their shared social, political, emotional, environmental experience of being a man.

    Political? Environmental? Can you tell me what Dick Cheney and your random anti-war male protester in London have in common, aside from a penis? Doesn’t he have more in common with his fellow male and female protesters, with whom he shares the same environment and politics and interests? What do I as a female have in common with Madeline Albright? Or Mother Theresa? Or Madonna? You can’t equate gender with national, cultural, economic, social, linguistic, political differences – not to mention, individual. We are all humans, biologically and socially, and laws and ethics and philosophy and religion and art and every construct of the human mind belong to all, we can all share that, if we want to, but the larger and neater divisions in practice, from our backgrounds and cultures and social class, are far more complex and fare more far-reaching, for better or worse, than male or female. It’s ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

    Now, we as a culture can do one of two things, redefine what men are going to tell their son’s or ignore they are going to show their son’s what a “real man” is. I think the former is the better course of action. You cannot ignore reality.

    Pot, kettle… jstevenson, each man, like each woman, is going to find their own inspiration and role models they like, each person is going to define and redefine themselves as they see fit, “we as a culture” are not one monolithic culture. Bringing up kids is something that extends beyond the family, and in a modern industrial urban society whatever you want to call it there’s thousands of influences on people, and the best course of action is to stop being so obtusely attached to fixed, arbitrary, archaic ones of what makes a “real man” or a “real woman” (curiously, that doesn’t seem to be an issue, as if it’s only men that need defining?). Of course kids look up to other people, of course bonding with people of their own gender becomes a step in growing up, but role models are not a matter of mechanical imitation, they are not confined within the family, they are certainly not confined within one sex, to make it so stiff is precisely what causes screw ups, because individuals are more complex, and no one is really happy with conforming to a stereotype, unless they really ARE that stereotype, poor things. You can’t ignore that defining “real manhood” is precisely the kind of thing that is used to perpetrate sexism, homophobia, repression, authoritarianism, etc. There is no need of one definition of gender behaviour, it will never work unless by cultural and authoritarian pressure, and it’s the most reductive, disparaging notion of humanity (not to mention of “manhood”) one can have. You must think very poorly of humans in general, and men in particular. The irony. Cos that’s precisely what stereotypes do, they are limiting and scorning to those they are applied to in the first place.

    I got nothing more to add, this has been rehashed over and over and there’s only so much surreal stuff I can argue with. Cheers.

  55. 55
    monica says:

    The goal of “ideal manhood” accepts the confines of reality and tries to change attitudes for the good of all people within those parameters. To try to make change outside of the parameters will only convience the convienced not those who actually need conviencing.

    That’s another instance of what I mean by surreal. I don’t even understand what the hell that means. Literally. Bah?

  56. 56
    jstevenson says:

    Monica: “Political? Environmental? Can you tell me what Dick Cheney and your random anti-war male protester in London have in common, aside from a penis?”

    That anit-war protester in London had to go through puberty, just like the V.P. That experience affected him, just like it affected the V.P. He may have had different political, economic and social influences that changed the output of the various biological inputs, but I can guarantee that the biological inputs are more similar than the female counterpart. How can you say that we should not ignore gender differences and in the same paragraph say that they do not play a part in our social make-up. Gender differences play just as much a part in our social make-up as does the different meaning of “pissed” have in our cultures. Same word — completly different meaning. The same goes for men and women. In general, men and women will end up, due to cultural influences have a different perspective on some things than women. As such, it is better to acknowledge that this will happen and work with it than to ignore it. You are British and I am American if you tell me that you are pissed, I will ask you why and you will reply b/c I drank too much. I will then think it was odd to be pissed because you drank too much. You can’t tell me that even your closest male friends have not, due to their male experiences, come to a different conclusion than you did.

    I can guarantee you that if a London anti-war protester male and the V.P. were in a custody battle with their respective wives — each one would view the catalyst for her desire for custody as punishment. How a father or a mother fights for their child brings a different perspective that either party can only guess what the other’s motives are. That may go true for all sexes, but the guess for the motives are universal. Women — he is doing it just to keep control of me. Men — she is doing it just because I slept with the Nanny. Same result, different path and that path is generally the same in a gender sense with both cultures.

    You acknowledged earlier that when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex that is where there may be a difference between men and women. That is exactly my point. Religion, money and access to women is why most of the wars of the world were started. That is the most important reason to redefine manhood — to change the views and make them “better person” standards instead of “real man” standards. Do you really think that is a bad thing?

  57. 57
    jstevenson says:

    Monica: He can’t possibly get a positive upbringing from his mother, larger family, teachers, friends, and plenty of male role models from all around him, nope, he has to get Batman.

    I am not saying that only the boy’s father is the best role model. I am saying that boys will look to men in their lives to determine their course. We, as men, can choose to be a good role model or a bad one. They will look to fathers, uncles, cousins brothers and friends on how they should act. Of course he can get a positive upbringing from his mother, but there are just some emotional/psychological issues that his mother cannot teach him. He will seek that gap out. The point is that whoever he seeks assistance from on those pubescent feelings inside of him better have had a good role model on what those feelings are and how to deal with them. You can say that everyone should just show a good citizen, the bottom line is that boys are going to look to men on certain aspects of being a good citizen that will differ in men because of their shared social, political, emotional, environmental experience of being a man.

  58. 58
    Q Grrl says:

    “The idea that human beings are free of the evolutionary and biological mechanisms that govern the mating habits of other species is preposterous. We share a common biological heritage with all other life. ”

    If we take this as your standard, then your earlier claims that men are more visually stimulated than women would fall completely on its face. Which way do you want to have it?

  59. 59
    jstevenson says:

    Monica:
    Monica – again a communication gap. I am not saying that gender differences should be above all else. What the original threads stated and you alluded to was that a female’s specific definition of a good person was the same as a man’s definition. My point was that it is not the same. Just as the individual’s definition will be different there are similarities between individuals of various demographics. People of different economic backgrounds have different views on being poor and people who have been disadvantaged socially have different views on social equality. Someone from the Communist Party of China should have the views of what is a good person than someone from the Mandarin rice fields. The fact of the matter is that they do not. Teaching each person what a good citizen is, in the same fashion would not be productive because it does not account for their differing perspectives. The same goes for men. Teaching a boy what is a good citizen in the same way you would teach a girl without taking into consideration their differing perspectives, due to social, economic, cultural and political influences would not be as effective as taking gender into account.
    The term “real man” is going to be there. It is not going to go away, unless all the men die and women have the sole impact on all new boys. The point is that some men will always – in most cultures — tell their son’s that they must grow up to be a man. Now, we as a culture can do one of two things, redefine what men are going to tell their son’s or ignore they are going to show their son’s what a “real man” is. I think the former is the better course of action. You cannot ignore reality. Sure in a utopian world we would teach everyone to be an ideal person, but the bottom line is that we categorize. People say they are from America, Europe, or Asia. People say they are from just South of Georgia. We can ignore that people are going to do that and say that we are all human. But I would like to know when you gave the answer to the question – where are you from – I am from my mother’s womb. An ideal person is nice, but people are going to go further than that. It is human nature. No scientific study is needed to identify the obvious. In that case let us be positive and work for change instead of tearing down an honest attempt to be better (women seem to always do that with men, that was a joke BTW).

  60. 60
    hydropsyche says:

    Don P:
    Just wanted to point out that to back up your point that many scientists who study evolutionary psychology are female you gave a very long list of names without any reference to what they study. Among them was Patty Gowaty, who, as Ampersand mentioned far above, studies these topics but is one of the many evolutionary ecologists who does not agree with the theory being presented as monolithic.

    Another scientist of note on this topic is Joan Roughgarden, whose book Evolution’s Rainbow looks at the same studies you are referencing and comes to the opposite conclusions than those drawn by the original researchers, due to the obvious biases in the way their hypotheses were framed. I’m an ecologist, though not focused on evolution, and my experience is that few biologists who study these issues daily view the evidence as nearly so clear cut as you are presenting it to be.

  61. 61
    jam says:

    jam: I’m not going to waste much time responding to you, since your posts to date consist primarily of sarcasm and snarky comments rather than any attempt to engage my posts seriously.

    yah, it’s true. i’m afraid my inner snark gets provoked when i see people treated with arrogant condescension & patronizing disdain … sorry, i’m sure it’s all just me.

    I’ll respond to just the one example I quote below to illustrate the point. If you’re interested in a serious discussion, I’ll address what you say. But if your posts are just more of the same dismissive nonsense, I’ll just ignore them. If you ask me to explain something that I have already explained two or three times, I’ll ignore you.

    sir, yes sir!

    As I have already explained at length, the relevant difference in male and female reproductive roles is the magnitude of the investment they make in producing offspring“…. yaddayaddayadda.

    yes, i know you’ve explained this “elegant evolutionary theory”. but explaining a theory, even two or three times, does not make it magically true nor does it automatically induce agreement in all parties. i happen to think that it’s little more than a theory, despite its “elegance” & that the countless massive overwhelming mountains of evidence you’re talking about aren’t nearly as massively overwhelming or countless-mountainous as you’re claiming.

    i think statements like Anthropolgists classify this difference between men and women as a “human universal,” a difference that is observed in all human cultures, which is further evidence that it is innate. evince a strange confusion concerning what constitutes “evidence” not to mention a lack of historical consciousness concerning the, shall we say, uneven development of such disciplines as anthropology. i find your speculations on gay & lesbians to be laughably misinformed, relying on, well i don’t know what, but the stereotypes you mention are just that: stereotypes (not all gay men hang out in discos, not all lesbians show up on the second date in a UHaul… despite what you may have seen on TV). and your comment on prison rape being an aspect of promiscuity has to have been one of the more ignorant statements i’ve heard in a long time. do you really think the phenomena of prison rape has to do with reproductive strategies?

    y’know, it’s true that in general, science as a practice subscribes to a “contempt for the particular” but i have rarely seen anyone offer such actual literal contempt for anything that doesn’t fit into their understanding of a given theory. you posture as if your views & ideas are unassailable truths & sputter with outrage (“Utter nonsense, For goodness’ sake, you’re just spouting nonsense) whenever someone disagrees. you claim mountains of “evidence” exist, as if you were talking about chemistry or physics when in fact you are mostly talking about disciplines like psychology & ethology, both of which are based primarily on observation, which for all its peer review, is a subjective occurence, one that can be & has been shown to be tainted & interwoven & imbued with all manner of “unscientific” factors. and this can be true even when you use all manner of “hard” terminology, like “mechanism,” “investment,” “strategem,” etcetera. animals & people are not machines, nor are they economic systems, nor are they a set of military tactics. such a map doesn’t even begin to address the complexity & diversity of the territory you claim.

    The idea that human beings are free of the evolutionary and biological mechanisms that govern the mating habits of other species is preposterous. We share a common biological heritage with all other life. We are related to all other species. … etc etc

    i never denied that we share a common biological heritage with all other life, did i? wait, lemme check… um, nope… could it be that you have not read my previous posts with even minimal attention or thought? or is this last part just for everyone’s edification? then again, i can’t seem to find anyone else on this thread saying it either

    anyways, here’s the thing: i just don’t buy that you & the EP crew have even begun to tap the complexity of systems involved in “all other life”. yes, despite those hundreds, even thousands, of studies that exist of various species of animals… true, such studies may show that some beasties of a particular type act a certain way, but when compared to the millionbilliontrillion individual critters swarming all about this planet, (& let’s just ignore the fact that 99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct, & so are generally unavailable for examination, categorization & analysis), given all this well, maybe some folks (like me) would like to wait until some more of the results are in. in short, there is more to heaven & earth than is even dreamt of in EP theory. (an unscientific claim, i know. but it sounds elegant, don’t it?).

    and until i see more EP folk deal seriously with the critiques of feminists and sociologists who question & want to ensure that EP theorists are not suffering from a predetermined ideological committment to the notion that there are significant psychological differences between men and women…. well, given EPs illustrious heritage, stretching back to those original party animals, The Social Darwinists, who helped justify all manner of oppression in the world through appeal to “science,” i think my eyebrow will remain firmly arched.

    y’know, it seriously blows my mind that data & conclusions drawn from disciplines like EP which are only a few decades old are so easily inflated into claims of universal truth… you’d think that everything ever discovered in the history of science has remained absolutely accurate & true. that history itself was open book, that reading is a simple act. and this all while we as a species have yet to figure out even how to engage an efficient/sustainable/renewable energy resource not to mention how to live in relative peace with one another…

    let’s finish off for now with a good quote:

    I would also suggest that if you cannot provide a clear and concise defense of a term or an idea that is sexist and demeaning on its face, you probably ought to take that as a sign that it’s not worth defending.

    at least we agree on something…. ;)

  62. 62
    Amanda says:

    There’s no substantial evidence that men have more sex partners on average than women, especially not in situations where both men and women enjoy some amount of freedom to have sex with who they like. There’s only evidence that men *claim* to have more sex partners than women *claim*.

    There’s also a theory that women are promiscious in order to increase the number of men that are involved in their offspring, Don. Surely you know about those theories, right? Those are based more in observations of the bodies of men and women rather than questionaires, namely the size of men’s testicles, the amount of sperm they make, and the fact that humans are the only species where the females don’t go into heat. While those theories are amusing, I think they are bunch of crap, too.

    What gay men and lesbians do can hardly be used as evidence of what straight men and women naturally feel, I would think. The mere existence of homosexuality and bisexuality should give one pause when considering whether or not humans are hardwired to have elaborate sexual practices at all. Comparisons to other animals is handicapped significantly by the fact that we don’t have heats, unlike all other mammals.

    We’re so far from even beginning to have the tools to understand ourselves, I find it hard to believe that we have clue one about what our inherent sexual natures are.

  63. 63
    zuzu says:

    Don: It obviously follows from the differences between men and women that I have described.

    Sigh. Nothing you’ve said is obvious, nothing can be taken for given. You haven’t provided a shred of support for your contention that women naturally desire fewer partners than men.

    What I see you doing is taking a certain observation — men tend to have more sex partners than women — and imposing a biological reason on it — that men are naturally more promiscuous than women. And because you take this as a given, you explain things like purdah as a man’s attempt to shield his woman from the agressive advances of other men.

    And yet, I haven’t seen you provide any evidence for your basic assumption, from whence all of this flows: that women are naturally less promiscuous than men. Despite all the references to yon mountain of evidence.

    Others on this thread have argued that another explanation of the differences in the number of sex partners between men and women is that men, who traditionally have controlled things, have worked to keep women’s sexuality under control through various social constructs, from disapproval to breeding to purdah to genital mutilation.

    However, you seem wedded to your position, so I can see that it’s pointless to try to convince you to consider other explanations.

  64. 64
    mythago says:

    It would make no sense for women to be promiscuous, given the relative size of their investment in producing offspring.

    Not seeing how you get from A to B here. Why would being promiscuous harm women? Because men won’t support their offspring? Bonobos manage.

    I really am reading you, Don, but you present evolutionary biology as though it is one monolithic body of science with but a single thought–with no dissenters, no variation in opinion, or at least none that matter because anyone who disagrees is probably a feminist nuture-loving waffler. That’s not the case, and I don’t think you’ve read very widely if you think it is.

  65. 65
    mythago says:

    In the brief fraction of human history during which civilization has existed

    Now, why on earth did we evolve civilization when arm-wrestling was going so well? How did the wimpy boys take power away from the powerful ones who have run evolution for so long?

    (Interestingly, social competition based on things other than strength–like weaker males tricking the stronger ‘alpha male’–has been observed in apes as well.)

    Institutionalized monogamy is a fairly recent invention.

    Again, why the recent invention? It doesn’t seem to work very well, we had ages of perfectly functional polygamy, and somehow the guys managed the competition.

    I am reading what you write, Don, but you keep going back and forth on this one: apes did this, but we recently invented that; competition works, but we needed to reduce competition.

    And there’s not much need for men to reduce competition, anyway. Women want less sex, so men can easily keep them satisfied (thus, no adultery). Men can have sex with one another, as they have done in virtually all cultures in some form. Everybody’s happy, nobody needs funny stuff like monogamy, you don’t have to follow wifey around.

  66. 66
    Don P says:

    mythago:

    Attributing all of that gap to biology is kind of silly if you know anything about lesbians.

    It’s probably not all due to biology. It is mostly due to biology.

    Why would multiple sexual partners be “oblivion” for women? That makes no sense.

    Yes, it makes perfect sense. It would make no sense for women to be promiscuous, given the relative size of their investment in producing offspring. It would make no sense for the females of most species to be promsicuous. That’s why female promiscuity is rare.

    I have explained parental investment theory at some length in at least two previous posts. I’m not going to keep explaining things that I have already explained two or three times.

  67. 67
    Don P says:

    mythago:

    Would that be bonobo chimps?

    Both bonobo and common chimps.

    Brute aggression has less to do with leadership than does social status and, in most cultures, age. You won’t find many Council of Elders that decide matters by arm-wrestling;

    It’s as if you don’t read anything I write. Social status is in part a function of aggression (and size and strength). For most of human history, the social rank of males was determined by “arm-wrestling” (that is, physical conflict), just as it is today amoung the apes. In the brief fraction of human history during which civilization has existed, strength and aggression have lost relative importance and other factors, including knowledge and experience, have gained importance. That is, in part, why age has become an important factor in determining social rank.

    Except that institutionalized monogamy is not the norm. There’s no reason to think our ancestors were monogamous; chimps aren’t.

    You continue to respond with statements that are total nonsequiturs. “Except” that institutionalized is not the norm? I never said it was the norm. Institutionalized monogamy is a fairly recent invention. For the vast majority of the history of our species, as I have already explained, polygamy was the social norm. Some men had many sex partners and others had few (or none).

  68. 68
    mythago says:

    That is why gay men are so much more promiscuous than lesbians.

    Attributing all of that gap to biology is kind of silly if you know anything about lesbians.

    First, unlike men, women in our culture are not taught it’s OK to approach other people. Adult women generally do not have a history of having learned how to make the first move or deal with a no, unlike adult men. Second, having been on the receiving end of unwanted advances, lesbians also tend to be more afraid of “what if I’m a creep to her”? So you have the Lesbian Sheep problem. Gay men, on the other hand, have no question that it’s OK to hit on somebody you want–that’s what men DO if they’re normal donchaknow–and probably do not have a history of prying groping straight women off them throughout their teenage years.

    But if you wanna buy the Andrea Dworkin hypothesis about penetration being men’s destiny for oppressing others, be my guest ;)

    Why would multiple sexual partners be “oblivion” for women? That makes no sense.

  69. 69
    Don P says:

    So, if men are so much more the promiscuous ones and women so much the lesser, then who are all these promiscuous men being promiscuous with?

    Women, if they can get them. In many cases of course, men’s desires for promiscuity go unfulfilled, because women are not willing to have sex with them. That is why there is such a large market amoung men for prostitutes and pornography (and virtually no such market amoung women). That is why gay men are so much more promiscuous than lesbians. That is why men rape women but women virtually never rape men. That is why male prison rape is such a serious problem but female prison rape is not.

    Quote:

    “With respect to human sexuality there is a female human nature and a male human nature, and these natures are extraordinarily different…Men and women differ in their sexual natures because throughout the immensely long hunting and gathering phase of human evolutionary history the sexual desires and dispositions that were adaptive for either sex were for the other tickets to reproductive oblivion….”

    “Human males appear so constituted that they resist learning not to desire [sexual] variety despite impediments such as Christianity and the doctrine of sin, Judaism and the doctrine of mensch, social science and doctrines of repressed homosexuality and psychosexual immaturity, evolutionary theories of monogamous pair-bonding, cultural and legal traditions that support and glorify monogamy, the fact that the desire for variety is virtually impossible to satisfy; the time and energy, and the innumerable kinds of risk–physical and emotional–that variety-seeking entails; and the obvious potential rewards of learning to be sexually satisfied with one woman.”

    –Donald Symons, The Evolution of Human Sexuality

  70. 70
    alsis38 says:

    I’m still getting over the fact that Duke Ellington was a huge fan of Richard Nixon’s, and I found that out over ten years ago. :o

  71. 71
    mythago says:

    However, there will be some attributes that make his mother an ideal human that are not relevant to him and some that she is missing.

    Same-sex parents deal with this all the time. Think of all the mothers you know who wanted a girl so they’d have tea parties and dress-up and feminine things, and got a tomboy they didn’t know what to do with. Or all the sons who just wanted to be left alone to read and build K-Nex models, but couldn’t get Dad to participate or talk about anything but football.

  72. Pingback: Log: David Chess

  73. 72
    zuzu says:

    What do you do when you invest your role model with ideal characteristics and find out that he or she isn’t really ideal?

  74. 73
    jam says:

    i’ve always found that to be a hard & difficult question, zuzu. discovering flaws in anyone you admire is always an unsettling & sobering experience.

    for me, i can remember my reaction upon discovering that Jack Kerouac -whose writing, cliche as it sounds, opened up whole new worlds of literature, music, & possibilities for me when i was young- ended up a bitter lonely man dying drunk on the toilet. i couldn’t reconcile the two men in my head for a long time.

    the same for discovering that Miles Davis terrorized & abused the women in his life. again, i couldn’t listen to his music for a long time. despite its beauty (& it is beautiful) all i could think when i heard it was that somewhere within it all lurked a vicious thug.

    and then there was the discovery that L. Frank Baum advocated genocide against native americans. that threw me for a loop, lemme tell ya.

    anyways, the list could go on. luckily, it’s not the case for everyone… at least for me. some of the people i’ve looked up to & admired have remained admirable through the years, no sneaky skeletons making their presence known. still, i tend to believe we all have such bone rattlers, to one degree or another. maybe it’s all just a lesson in accepting imperfection. not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. like monica said, no one wants to emulate anyone completely. maybe one has to approach such with a scavenger’s ethic, i.e., take what’s worthwhile & good, leave the rest behind. in other words, bag the idea of “ideal” because it’s inevitably going to run you right into the fact that you are not whoever you’re wanting to be (other than yourself, that is). no one can serve as a perfect fount of inspiration & guidance. best to sample from a wide diversity instead.

    mmm… diversity….

    just a random two cents.

  75. 74
    monica says:

    jstevenson – I do not want to get rid of any biological differences, even if that were possible, I’m not saying anything that absurd, I’m not even saying we should “ignore” them, but every animal species has females and males (well, nearly every) and they’re still the *same* species. So it’s precisely biology that says the sexual differences are only *a fraction* of what makes us what we are. There is no scientific answer on how much sexual differences would influence one kind of behaviour over the other, we do on the other hand have the undeniable answer that belonging to the same species is far more relevant to our behaviour as humans, and that cultural and social differences are powerful influences on our behaviour as social beings, given the amazing variety of socities and cultures across human history and across the planet.

    You said a man cannot know what pregnancy and childbirth feels like. Well, duh. But pregnancy and childbirth are not what defines a woman, either as woman, or as human being. Whether you think gender is such a relevant divide or not, having children is not the by and end all of being female! And, you know, a lot of women don’t have children. They don’t know what it feels like either. I don’t do scuba-diving, I don’t know what it feels like, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.. If a scuba diver talks to me about their scuba-diving experiences, how they feel and how their body feels when doing it, I have no way of relating to that except indirectly. That goes for a lot of human experiences, from the more physical to the less physical. Doesn’t stop humans being humans and sharing those different experiences.

    For instance, he may see that an “ideal parent” provides natural nourishment for their baby. Fortunately, he cannot provide that nourishment — is he not an ideal parent?

    Come on, jstevenson, that is a rather ridiculous example. You seem to identify being female with getting pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not “ideal”, it just happens, it’s a physical thing, or is a woman who doesn’t breasfeed less ideal? Besides, a kid who sees his mother feed his younger sibling is not even thinking of becoming a parent himself, and if he is, I don’t know why on earth would he feel inadequate by knowing he doesn’t have tits and can’t breastfeed! That’s just bizarre. Pregnancy envy?

    Of course a guy will look at other males as he grows up, so do girls with other females. They’re all still humans, as humans, there is a lot more shared experience than separate. And if they do decide to have kids, they’ll have tons of different bits and bobs of role models to look to as well as their own individual character, desires, instincts, etc. I don’t know why do you have to make it sound as if that would create such a water-tight divide. Everyone will build their own idea of what makes an ideal parent, it doesn’t have to be so gender-specific, we get inspired by ideal traits in women or men, it’s not either/or.

    He would have to look for an “ideal father” to find, in his view, characteristics that emulate an “ideal father”. I believe that when he finds the “ideal father” to emulate in certain respects — that person should be “ideal” and not “Batman”.

    But there is no one “ideal” person, of either gender, there are lot of desirable traits and then there’s ethical principles and common sense that people “ideally” grow up with, and then, their own desires and character. (See the link, I think it has a rather accurate idea of the function of “role models” in modern society.) No one wants to emulate their mother or father completely, even if they were the best people. They’ll know how to behave as mothers and fathers when they themselves get to it, there’s no way to pre-programme anyone for parenthood. It’s perfectly ordinary to look at other people we admire – your own gender, or the other – but we don’t copy them bit by bit.

  76. 75
    jstevenson says:

    BTW — I agree with JAM. That question deserves a post in itself. Most certainly the column does. My first question would be “who is Gail Porter?” I’m sorry, I am acting like a “real man” lol :-)

  77. 76
    jstevenson says:

    Monica: My mother was my greatest positive role model in most aspects of my life. I also see where you may be coming from.

    I do not advocate one type of “model” for all to emulate. Of course I see a problem with that idea. However, I do recognize that every person lives several roles in their life. I think that an attempt to create positive implications from one of our life roles is a good endeavor.

    The role of “man” or “woman” are biological conventions influenced by society. We cannot get rid of the biological differences. What we can do is redefine what is a man — to make it more positive and inclusive. You asked what is the difference between an “ideal human” and an “ideal man”. A man can meet all of the attributes he, as an individual makes an ideal man. He cannot meet all of the attributes that he may ascribe to an ideal human. His failure to meet all of the attributes he, as an individual, ascribes to an ideal human, is a result of his gender.

    Biology makes gender impossible to ignore. Nature has made certain experiences in our life inherently male and inherently female. We develop from our life experiences and there are situations we encounter as men and women encounter as women that account for the different perspectives we have.

    So when a boy strives to be an ideal human and he looks to his mother to see what those attributes are, he may find them. However, there will be some attributes that make his mother an ideal human that are not relevant to him and some that she is missing. For instance, he may see that an “ideal parent” provides natural nourishment for their baby. Fortunately, he cannot provide that nourishment — is he not an ideal parent? He is an ideal parent, but his mother is emulating his view of an “ideal mother” and not just any “ideal parent”. He would have to look for an “ideal father” to find, in his view, characteristics that emulate an “ideal father”. I believe that when he finds the “ideal father” to emulate in certain respects — that person should be “ideal” and not “Batman”.

  78. 77
    jam says:

    that fifth question:

    Can a woman be a role model for a man? If so, how?

    deserves a thread all its own… i can already think of more than a few women that i could nominate

    hell, it deserves its own website

  79. 78
    monica says:

    It seems that you understand what I am saying is true. You don’t like that it is true.

    There, that’s what 15+ posts of painstaking discussion get you. Yes, jstevenson, you are right, I trust you, you are speaking the Truth, there is only one truth, and that is jstevenson’s. Amen.

    Btw, as it is, I don’t have any problem with Beckham or Spears, actually, Beckham in his glory days was accused of not being a real man because he wore sarongs, posed for gay magazines, wore his wife’s underwear, was caricatured for letting her boss him around, was perceived a softie family man instead of whoring and drinking and taking drugs like all self-respecting star players should – after which came the cheating revelations and he was brought back to earth as one of the lads, but for a while, he was definitely not the epitome of “real manhood” as understood in the highly mysoginist world of football. So I have no idea what you were trying to say there, but I think you picked the wrong example.

    Maybe you’ll find this interesting, pay attention to the 5th question. There is still a slight possibility you might be getting my point, if you should care, but keep in mind, I’m perfectly happy to agree to disagree, because we do disagree. I know what I think and I know it’s not what you wrote. ‘Trust me’ on this one. Ok? Merci.