Sexy Isn’t Sexist or The Allegory of the Peacock’s Train

Discussing human sexuality is a tricky, if not fraught, enterprise today. Critiques of human sexuality abound in the popular and academic press. That’s why here, I would like to do something truly radical: Celebrate it.

Today I put to you the heretical notion that in a sexually reproducing, sexually dimorphic species, men finding women sexy isn’t sexist. That the ‘battle’ of the sexes gets far too much attention these days. That men and women are not at war. No. Men and women are at phwoarrrr!

I have the perfect place to start too. Everyone’s favourite. Boobs! Also affectionately known as jugs, knockers, bazongas, bazookas, weapons of mass distraction. Or is that sexist? It seems to depend on who you ask. From Free the Nipple to No More Page 3, even feminists just can’t seem to agree about boobs. Are they sexy or sexist? Do they personify form or function?

Well, it just so happens that the peacock’s train (yes train,  not tail) helps us answer this question.

Around 1860, Charles Darwin – to some the greatest biologist in history, to others, a ciswhiteheterosexistpieceofsh!t – was developing his theory of natural selection, aka “survival of the fittest” when he wrote that the sight of the peacocks trail made him sick! Now there are some people today who feel the same way about ladies jungle pillows.

But Darwin said this because he realised that, contra to “survival of the fittest” there was no obvious survival function for the peacocks trail. It actually handicapped the dumb bird when trying to escape predators. Then the penny dropped – he realised that the train was there for decoration. For attracting attention. For attracting the attention of mates. In other words, to be sexually objectified by female chauvinist peahens.

But what has this got to do with boobs? Boobs aren’t there just to be admired. Everyone knows that boobs have a job to do and a much more noble one at that. It’s blindingly obvious to everyone that the primary job of boobs is to feed babies. The fact that men find them attractive and like to play with them, well that’s just an unfortunate side effect. That tis nothing but a murky window into the deep pit of depravity that is the toxic male psycho-sexual imagination.

Well, I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. And I think, ladies, that we might need to let the lads – and the lezzers – have their baps and eat them here.

Because, consider for a moment the fact that in of over five thousand species of mammals on the planet, we humans are the only ones to have permanently swollen bazongas. Other mammals have mammaries – and we too have mammaries – which swell with milk when needed then shrink down when it’s not, but only humans have permanently swollen “strategic gynoid fat deposits”. Why is that? Well, could it be, that though situated in the same place and, via a process called exaptation, mammaries and breasts are two separate organs with two separate functions? And the primary function of breasts isn’t for feeding babies – of course it isn’t, there ain’t no milk in these tharr hills – but is, just like the peacock’s train, to attract attention? To attract the attention of mates. To. Be. Sexually. Objectified.

Let that sink in.

Now, context is everything. In an adult sexual environment they are   completely appropriate. At the breakfast table, in a family daily newspaper, perhaps not. There’s a reason erect nips make you uncomfortable when your seven year old catches you looking at them. And that’s because breasts are a biological signal of sexual maturity in humans; signals men (and women) find impossible to ignore.

They don’t confer an obvious survival advantage. They don’t help you escape predators for example, just like the peacock’s trail, and at certain times of the month can be a decided handicap, because, well I don’t know about any of my dear lady readers, but on day 21 of my cycle, I can’t even run for a bus never mind away from a predator – sexual or not. It knacks! They do however confer a reproductive fitness advantage, one which literally means that they help you get fancied.

They don’t have to be massive chesticles. As we know they come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t even have to be real. They can be what’s called an honest or a dishonest signal depending on the ratio of fat to silicone. It doesn’t matter – the sexy trigger is embedded so deeply in male brain – and falsies have not been around long enough for men to evolve a chesticle cheater detection system – so they are still fooled. We actually have evidence – robust scientific evidence – for this in the longitudinal study that is Katie Price.

And fear not ladies, this is not a one way street! Evolution supports the equality of the sexes in sexual objectification and has allowed us to pick, choose and shape the bodies and minds of men to include the stuff we fancy as well. This is why men are typically much stronger, have broader shoulders and bigger muscles than us; primarily to fight other men, but also to kill spiders!

My point being there is a reason why more women would ‘do’ Tom Cruise than Ted Cruz, and it’s not social conditioning. And here lies the, ahem, rub for feminists. Men and women – and this includes gay men and women – fancy each other precisely because of their stereotypical sexual characteristics. In fact I will go so far to say that they are not stereotypical, they are archetypical. To paraphrase Shakespeare, they are the mark and glass, copy and book by which the sexes define one another in our psychosexual imaginations.

So, if feminists want less men in the world, stomping about doing archetypal “toxic” masculine stuff – providing for their families, doing shitty or dangerous jobs, fighting wars – if they want less of that, well it’s simple. All they have to do is get us women to stop having their babies. Because that’s where the Darwinian tire hits the evolutionary road.

So, ladies, be a good sister – don’t go for men who work, go for men who twerk!

Well, as tempting as it sounds, there’s just something wrong with this picture of a gender neutral feminist paradise because it seems to me, what’s being described here, are men who don’t like women. And I don’t want me one of those. I want one that likes me and my sugar lumps. And for him to like my sugar lumps, he’s gonna have to have a sweet tooth generally.

But what am I doing here talking to you about peacocks ttains, Tom Cruise and Jordan’s jubblies? It’s not just to disparage feminism. Honest.

It’s actually to try and find a middle ground between the rising factions of angry men’srights activists and angry feminist activists bellowing at each other, taking up all of our cultural space and leaving no room for positive, constructive, playful debate. These guys abound on social and print media, pounding away at each other – guys, get a room and hate feck each other – to death!

Because I think it’s important to celebrate why we find our romantic partners sexually attractive and, coming full circle, Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, kinky bedfellow to his theory of natural selection, helps us do that. By emphasizing reproduction and cooperation. Something the humble boob/mammary encapsulates. Form and function – depending on the handler! 

……….

This is an adaptation of my stand up comedy routine Sexy Isn’t Sexist.

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On Morals, Ethics and Abortion.

Imporant note (which is why it’s at the top not the bottom) May 2019
Since writing I have discovered the “born alive” bill was about non-viable infants. The “infanticide” hysteria on the right was manufactured which is very disappointing. We are all disenfranchised by such ideological gerrymandering.

The pendulum swings wildly between radical extremes in the abortion debate but there is a middle ground. Looking at the issue from an empirical anthropological and negative utilitarian ethics perspective (the more modest and pragmatic goal of lessening suffering not increasing happiness) helps us begin to parse the variables. From this standpoint, early, safe, medical abortion becomes an ethical cornerstone of a compassionate civilization.

The possible overturning of Roe v Wade may not be such a disaster for women’s rights. It has always been a tenuous foundation on which to balance one of the most intractable human moral dilemmas. The pugnacious feminist perspective of treating abortion as an amoral rights and entitlements issue may actually be harmful to women’s rights as their extreme rhetoric invites an equal and opposite radical response from some conservatives. Caught between these two immovable ideological objects are real people struggling with real, life changing dilemmas. They deserve better from our intellectuals and politicians.

Beyond Roe v Wade, there may actually be far stronger foundation on which to base the utility of safe, early medical abortion. Roe v Wade isn’t a lance but a straw – and it will break.

Evolutionary Anthropolgy  

The distinguished evolutionary anthropologist Sarah Hrdy, recognised as one of the most important women in science, notes in her book Mothers and Others that amongst primates, infanticide by unrelated males and females is a major contributor to infant mortality. Three species stand apart however, marmosets, tamarins and humans, as virtually the only primate where mothers have been observed to deliberately harm their own babies. Elsewhere in her seminal book Mothernature she states, “Anthropologically speaking, late term abortion and infanticide are identical.”  

Many tend to dismiss evolutionary explanations of unpleasant human behavior – things like violence, war and rape – as they often confuse a description of immoral behavior as an excuse for and promotion of immorality itself, something referred to in the philosophy of science as the naturalistic fallacy. Would they now also dismiss the work of Hrdy whose research most will not know but which has been present in our culture, seemingly in quiet ambush, for exactly 20 years: Prescient research which today allows us to draw stark parallels between our most primitive animal natures and contemporary, so-called ‘progressive’ policy. The policy I am referencing is of course  Democratic Delegate Kathy Tran’s bill on late term abortion, which effectively legalises infanticide and which has the dubious honour of placing Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal on shaky ground as satire.

Perhaps progressives thought they needed a suitably radical retort to the fetal heartbeat bill which sought to stop early medical abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat was detected, which can be as early as six weeks. The bill has been repeatedly struck down in many states as unconstitutional. Let’s hope the same fate awaits Tran’s bill.

The pro-life/pro-choice debate is a highly polarised one. Or it was. You do not need to be pro-life to find Tran’s bill repugnant. Rather than a progressive triumph for women, this bill is more a battle cry of feminist hegemony – one that actually endangers women’s hard won reproductive rights. Too often the terms “woman” and “feminist” are taken as synonyms. They are not. Feminists are defined by their politics, not their sex or gender and as poll after poll shows, most women (and men) identify as egalitarian but not as feminist. Feminists’ stock response to this is usually to insist that this is because women don’t actually know what feminism is. I beg to differ, as I have argued in popular media here and academia here.

Morals and Ethics

Ethical considerations ask us how we live and what we do in the face of intractable moral dilemmas. Abortion is one such dilemma. Before safe, medical abortion, the spectre of infanticide has haunted our species since its own conception. The custom of baptism and naming ceremonies, for instance, are shadows cast from a time when infants were not imbued with personhood until such rituals had taken place. Before such rites, infanticide was sanctioned by the tribe. Thankfully, we have progressed since then, or had. Progressives, ironically, are asking us to take a retrograde step.

If one is concerned with ethics and wishes to either increase happiness or lessen suffering as negative utiltarianism does, then access to early, safe medical abortion is one of the ethical cornerstones of a compassionate civilisation. But is it moral? That is a different question. Often people use the terms ethics and morals interchangeably, which is something that has always puzzled me because they are not the same thing and this parsing could be useful when attempting to discuss such fraught issues. 

Moral considerations ask us to think of what we would, in the words of Kant, hope for and aspire to. We cannot in good conscience hope for more suffering or be indifferent to it. We have tolerated abortion, especially early abortion, because it lessens infanticide. We cannot invert this ethical logic and tolerate infanticide to legitimise abortion. We cannot violate moral law to prop up utilitarian ethics. Cultures the world over have tolerated abortion under strict conditions because the alternatives; infanticide, grotesque numbers of infant mortality in foundling homes, street children,  the horrors of abandonment witnessed in Romanian state orphanages, are a far deeper stain on the human soul. Early abortion is the least worst option. But it’s never good. Never moral. And we know it.

We can hope that one day contraception will be 100% effective. We can hope pregnancy proceeds without life threatening complications. That no children lose their mother in childbirth. That no woman is ever impregnated by a rapist. That no family has to weigh the health and wellbeing of their extant children with future, unplanned offspring. That all unwanted children will be adopted into a loving home, or cared for in well run and benevolent institutions. We can hope that all unwanted children will live to know love, but right now, these are futile hopes and we need ethical not ideological solutions. Yes, these solutions fall short of our moral aspirations, but they are better than the alternatives.  Early, medical abortion is not moral but is ethical. The Democrat bill violates both morals and ethics and because of that is unconscionable and must be challenged by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates alike.

Addendum 22/5/19

We do not need to be religious to value the human sacred but to think of abortion as trivial is the first step to believing human life is trivial. There’s a word for that – dehumanization. Early, safe medical abortion is ethical but it does violate the human moral sense which why it is so contentious, and, in my humble opinion, always should be. In the past, people could go to confession, pay a fine or diya (as in Islam)  or seek penance in acknowledgement that a moral transgression has occurred. Today, in the secular West, we seem to have thrown out the human sacredness baby with the religious bathwater, and as a consequence we ae in real danger of falling into a morass of moral relativism.

 

Further reading:

The Quest for Meaning, Values Ethics and the Modern Experience. Robert H. Kane PhD. The Great Courses
Many thanks to Professor Kane’s correspondence whilst writing this

Who’s Afraid of the Naturalistic Fallacy.  Oliver Curry

The Past, Present and Future of the Human Family.  Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

MotherNature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species  Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding.  Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

 

“Woman” Is Not My Slave Name (from the DGS archives)

Before vagina hats, there was the “muff match”!

1st published WEDNESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2011

 

woman slave name

Anne Snitow, Gender Diary in Conflicts in Feminism Eds Marianne Hirsch & Evelyn Fox Keller

 

 

I agreed with Naomi McAuliffe in her worry that feminism is doing itself no favours with its choice of high profile campaigns this year in Is the Muff March a cunning stunt? (For more on cunning stunts masquerading as feminism see this blog post) Where we differed was with the principle behind the march; in this case “the very real issue of cosmetic genital surgery.”

A real issue? I understand the personal is supposed to be political, but this is just a bit too personal. It may be the statistical case that “Labiaplasty, vaginal tightening, and hymen reconstruction are all on the increase”, but if women are choosing to do these things with their own highly evolved brains, where is the issue? The (apparently) oppressed women inside the Harley Street clinics were not privileged a voice to enlighten us. If they had, a curt, ‘Get stuffed and mind your own muff business’, might have been the response.

The feminists succeeded in getting headlines, but what benefit to the cause – indeed, what cause? Only WH Smiths could have benefited from the stunt, being spared a few hours of ‘radical’, ‘guerilla’ feminist activities denouncing the female form as pornographic and slapping stickers over pert boobs. In the war against sexual objectification, the next step may well be putting paper bags over pretty girls faces as they walk down the street. Come to think of it, these Object and Feministing girls would do well in Dubai, enforcing purdah.

But back to the elusive “issue”. With nobody being physically forced into anything, McAuliffe invoked the feminist context of collective female shame. Always a safe bet as, not being perfect, humans very often feel shitty about themselves whatever their sex. History is littered with ideologies which have sought to harness this nebulous power. “Women and girls have to live with accusations of smelling like fish, smelling during our periods, having vaginas that are too slack, having labia that is not neat enough, growing too much hair (as though it’s a choice), or not decorating a minge like a Christmas tree with some ghastly vajazzle. They’re reacting to these accusations with razors, wax and a surgeon’s scalpel.” 

If this is anything to go by, feminists are spending far too much time hanging around with teenage boys, (or frequenting Mumsnet – the vernacular is pretty much indistinguishable.) To take serious note of either opinion has the political weight of engaging in a debate on climate change with the Monster Raving Loony Party. There’s an adage about arguing with idiots that some feminists would do well to heed.

Another thing which jarred about this protest was the implication that such surgery was driven by vanity. Many surgical procedures in those clinics are not actually ‘cosmetic’ (as if that were a pejorative term – it isn’t) but reconstructive. But typically, these feminists jumped to the most negative opinion of women as vain, shallow, and easily led creatures. What a woman recuperating after getting a 3rd-degree perineal tear repaired would have made of their caterwauling we don’t know.

It reminded me too of the ‘too posh to push‘ myth; a myth pretty much perpetuated by women in the media. Anyone who has ever been through childbirth knows it is not about being posh, it is a genuine mortal fear of childbirth and wanting to avoid unimaginable pain. So unimaginable, in fact, it’s impossible to imagine it afterwards. That’s a neat biological trick! It’s about a series of trade-offs: between facing that fear and pain (surely an individual choice in a civilised and technologically advanced society) or having a few extra days bed rest and a sore tummy; between childbirth induced vaginal and rectal trauma or a fully functioning pelvic floor.

It’s one of the cornerstones of our civilisation that women do not have to face the mortal horrors of childbirth alone and without help if they need or want it. Why lead them up the garden path, then slam the door in their faces? I find it odd, not to say highly disturbing, that it is feminists, and not ‘The Patriarchy’, who are protesting that there should be limits to those privileges; and not based on medical or fiscal considerations, on ideological ones. Thankfully we do not live in a feminist autocracy, and our reformed patriarchy gives women the choice to avoid these traumas, and to have them surgically fixed, for whatever reason they so choose – bladder control or good sex – without the harassment of the establishment. Feminism once fought for women to have opportunities and choices such as these. Now it almost seems like it wants to revoke them.

As a society, we have come far. No man can now take to the pavement, pious placard in hand, telling women what they ought to be doing, and rightly expect to be called anything but a sexist pig. So what does that make these feminists?

Actions speak louder than words. For all the cries of feminism being a pro-women organisation, more and more it actually appears pro-feminist and anti-women. The disconnect between feminism and women is becoming more palpable as time passes. If it is for women, why won’t it listen to us? Why not take criticism where its due? Why not adapt? The feminists on the ‘Muff March’ perfectly illustrate how orthodox feminism today is not about creating opportunities for women or empowering them to make their own choices. It is about disseminating archaic 20th-century dogma and slavishly following ideology, in spite of women’s wants, needs and lived experience today.

So here’s my question: Does feminism serve women or do women serve feminism? That’s not a rhetorical question. It needs to be answered.

Too often feminism connects the word ‘woman’ in terms of weakness, victimhood and shame. If I could tell these feminists anything, it is that times have changed and ‘woman’ is not my slave name.

Follow the link to see the Facebook debate about the Muff March

An Old Sexual Manifesto from 2011

I wrote this originally in 2011 and it references another old feminist campaign from 2006 (which I had researched and referenced in my university dissertation which was an attempt to unify liberal feminist aims with evolutionary psychology). It’s now 2017 and feminists still haven’t changed the record as we see with the furore over walk-on girls in sport. I have kept the original context in to show how feminist arguments never develop, only get recycled. The links go to the orignal sources I collected along the years.

It’s worth noting that at this time I considered myself a liberal feminist in the way Christina Hoff Sommers does today. I had yet to examine the premises of feminism in detail, compare them with those of egalitarianism and come to the conclusion that there is, in actuality, no such thing as liberal feminism, only egalitarianism. For more of that analysis see this essay which is a further analysis of my contribution to this paper published in the Journal of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Vol 8(1), Jan 2014, 3–11 Note: the latter link is a live download of the full PDF. Enjoy. Px
……………

 

One might be forgiven for thinking the recent rumblings of feminist agitation within the pages of The Guardian signified a progression of some sort. In Moral panic? No. We are resisting the pornification of women, Gail Dines and Julia Long take up arms against the old foe of the ‘pornification of culture’. They repeat scripts written by feminists of decades past, “(P)ornification…perpetuate(s) myths of women’s unconditional sexual availability and object status, and thus undermine women’s rights to sexual autonomy, physical safety and economic and social equality.” This asserted in spite of the fact that women in the West enjoy unparalleled levels of sexual autonomy, control over their fertility, physical safety and economic and social equality. A similar campaign has been hosted on the pages of The Guardian before. That too ended with a live Guardian debate. That one, like this one, was basically a book promotion dressed up as feminist activism. Lets take a step back in time…

On April fools day 2006, media feminist and Guardian regular Madeline Bunting railedagainst the sexualisation of our public spaces, decorated ubiquitously with female bodies, which to her represented, “another insistent, insidious message of how culture shapes expectations of our sexuality, another reminder of one’s own powerlessness to assert other images of sexuality with anything like comparable prominence.” Buntings invective was roused by, amongst other things, a console game advertisement on the sides of UK double-decker buses which had instructed those who just happened to glance at it to ‘Paste your girlfriend’s white bits here.’ Bunting posited a brief thought experiment, “Imagine: could I have an equivalent number of double-deckers trumpeting the message that sex is the magical experience of mutual giving?”, but quickly had a reality check, “Boring … duh … The problem about our pervasive cultural sexism is that the debate is tilted all one way.” The piece signalled her allegiance to radical Marxist feminism in the title, Sex Slaves to the Market, and predictably pointed a highly critical finger at that putative symbol of western patriarchy; capitalism. “Pornography is colonising all other forms of media… a multimillion-pound industry will carry on churning out the websites, DVDs and magazines that are distorting our sexual mores.” 

A week later, Libby Brooks, another Guardian regular and fellow traveller, published a new call to arms for feminism, A New Sexual Manifesto, again, in The Guardian, “This is not about being anti-sex,” she began, pre-empting the oft-used insult of feminists being anti-sex and frigid, “It is not about being prudish, or easily embarrassed, or unliberated. But it is about anger.” 

Both articles were motivated by two recent feminist publications, the primary being Ariel Levi’s investigation into the rise of what she termed ‘raunch culture’ in the US. In the best spirit of the sisterhood, it was called Female Chauvinist Pigs. Both Bunting and Brooks had been roused into action by an attempted broadside at Levi’s exposé from Kate Taylor, Today’s Ultimate Feminists are Chicks in Crop Tops, which appeared in the Guardian on 23 March 2006, and seemed to re-run many of the anti-feminist clichés that Brooks’ attempted to foreclose in her first few sentences.

Taylor opened with, “Men, you can relax. You are no longer the enemy. Instead, judging by recent events in America, modern feminists have a much shapelier target in their sights – other women. Specifically, scantily clad women who use their sexuality to get ahead.” Taylor then subverted this sass by succinctly encapsulating the dilemma facing modern feminism; the same unresolved dilemma that emerged in the UK in the early to mid-1990s, articulated within the media-friendly ‘ladette’ paradigm:

“Levy thinks raunch culture is a feminist movement gone terribly wrong. We are, in her eyes, doing all these things merely to show the men that we are “one of the guys” and “liberated and rebellious”. Naturally, she finds this confusing. “Why is labouring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? The answer is, labouring to look like Pamela Anderson is not empowering. We’re not trying to be empowered. The twentysomething women I know don’t care about old-style feminism. Partly this is because they already see themselves as equal to men: they can work, they can vote, they can bonk on the first date. For younger women, raunch is not about feminism, it’s just about fashion.”

Here we had some dissent from the ranks, some space for real debate to emerge, not simply the usual rhetoric regurgitated for a new generation. Here was a voice from that generation, disrespecting the matriarch with a message from the front. But Bunting was not about to privilege this particular female voice, “They may recruit a naive cheerleader – such as Kate Taylor on these pages last week – but she’s only a token; this phenomenon is driven by the market. While the cash rolls in, millions of lives are muddled, sometimes even ruined, by the multiple misconceptions being peddled.”

That was Kate told. She was a ‘token’. The ‘pornification of culture’ was a problem only Marxist feminists could solve. The message was clear: Don’t you dare disrespect the non-hierarchical sisterhood! The title of Levi’s book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, invoked a similar, uneasy paradox. The elephant in the sisterhoods room; female intrasexual competition. Yes, once again, the great nemeses of feminism, other women, play footsie with patriarchy while Amazionia burns.

Pigs, was ostensibly a ‘new’ broadside against the ‘pornicopia’ of the West, but which suspiciously looked to me like a Stateside reworking of Imelda Whelehan’s Overloadedwhich charted the rise of ‘Loaded’ magazine and lipstick feminism in 1990s UK. In it, Levi railed against women living in the false consciousness of sexual liberation. The message was: You’re not liberated. You’re still being exploited and to make things worse, you are willfully abetting the patriarchy! To a feminist, there could be no greater crime.

So, not being able to parade these women for shame with heads shaven in the marketplace, Levi levelled at them the accusation of being not just chauvinists, but pigs too. Talk about tough love. Not since Faludi’s ugly-sisterly rant against Betty Friedan in Backlash for having the gall to be a (spit) liberal feminist, had feminist competition been so disseminated.

All this would not have appeared so ironic if there was any sort of agreement within feminism about female sexuality. But the truth is, now as it was then, that orthodox (aka ‘radical’) feminists object to ‘false’ representations of female sexuality in the media, even though they, within the multitude of feminisms, can’t actually agree on what female sexuality is. All they can do is agree on what it is not. A tenacious attachment to such stagnant and conservative feminist values is very well documented within the published articles of media feminists over the years in the Guardian, and more than illustrates just how little the discourse has adapted to changing times.

Taylor’s lonely dissenting voice found support however in the unlikely form of Lynne Segal in A Misguided Manifesto. Segal attended the live event even though she, “was reluctant to join the fray, feeling I had been here many times before.” She charted her journey to such weariness, ending with a defence of the young women castigated by Levi and co, bringing with her a healthy dose of historical perspective, “Superficially, it is easy to see the appeal of this attack on raunch culture: young girls are not “liberated” by wearing thongs, waxing their bodies…or buying sex toys. But then again, I’m rather glad they feel free to do this without getting stoned alive, without being arrested as whores and hookers.” Refreshingly free of feminist cultural relativism also.

Fast forward five years and we have a re-run; same script, same stage, different characters. Moral panic? No. We are resisting the pornification of women. No you’re not, your co-opting feminism to sell your book. Having read the script already many times before, I’m not buying it. Feminism was in crisis in 2006 and it still is today. The last thing it needs is the cynicism and, yes, conservatism of Gail Dines. Re-reading Brooks and Bunting, Dines and Long, it’s easy to forget true pioneers like Olympe de Gouges who in 1791 wrote one of the first feminist tracts, Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens; who spoke out for her sex and against the Terror and was guillotined for it; or modern-day feminist pioneers like Egyptian Aliaa Magda El-Mahdy. Dines, Brooks and Bunting & co cannot support El-Mahdy as her chosen weapon, her young, naked female body, is precisely that which they do not understand – the unbound power of female sexuality.

It’s easy to forget that feminism desperately needs a new manifesto, one that reiterates its duty of care and allegiance to all women (not just card-carrying feminists) above and beyond defunct 20th-century ideologies. It’s easy to forget that feminism is an essential movement in a world where we know men will attempt to constrain female choice if cultural mores allow them to. It’s easy to forget that we in the West are the exceptions to the global rule of female oppression, that we should stop navel gazing and use our power and influence to help less fortunate women, and by proxy their children and menfolk, enjoy the rights and privileges Dines, Bunting and Levi seem to take so much for granted.

Back at the Guardian debate in 2006, Segal came away with a subversive message:
“Let me share a little secret with you, something that hampers any attempt to rectify sexual behaviour: sex is all about wanting to be objectified, wanting to be the object of another’s desire, another’s gaze (even if, like a traditional straight man, we pretend that this is not the case). However, it is about wanting to gain this attention in ways that are reasonably safe from risk, harm or hurt – except, perhaps, for when these are the very things that turn us on.”

Predictably, after much sound and fury, the event ended up signifying nothing. I could not attend, but I did email Bunting asking her if the debate would be published. In a brief reply, she reported that she thought there would be a podcast on Comment is Free. After waiting some months for it to appear I emailed again to be told ‘I don’t think there is any podcast’. I have a feeling this next event will similarly be lost to history, and survive only as a strategy to be re-run with the next publishing deal. More fool us if we fall for such cynical, superficial nonsense masquerading as feminism.

In Defence of Reformed ‘Patriarchy’.

 

To begin I am setting out the fundamental reasons why I, as an evolutionary scholar,  fight feminism as briefly as possible in the hope everyone reading will immediately grasp the thesis. It’s all about patriarchy – what it is and what it is not.

As I have written elsewhere feminism is not the battle for equality between the sexes but a movement to “smash patriarchy”. This might have been a noble endeavour had feminists ever hit upon a theory of patriarchy that could begin to be falsified. The following are the starting premises for an evolutionary model of patriarchy, with this in mind. The feminist conception of patriarchy is woefully lacking (see a previous essay here). Examining patriarchy via evolutionary theory, which includes but is not limited to ecology, biology, anthropology and psychology, reveals a much more fascinating and complex picture. Through this lens, ‘patriarchy’ is our fitness landscape. It differs from place to place depending on ecological constraints. These constraints are myriad, but not infinite and so can be plotted. Neither are these differences arbitrary, they dance around a constant, evolutionary, fire.

I assert that ‘patriarchy’ exists on a continuum from malign to benign. Strong (malign) patriarchies appear in areas of ecological duress and appear to constrain female choice because competition between men is so fierce and women are often caught in the crossfire though they are rarely the primary target: this is what I call unreformed patriarchy. Unreformed patriarchies are dangerous places to live in for both men and women – but especially men. Unreformed patriarchies often practice institutional polygyny which contributes to male intrasexual competition as the operational sex ratio (OSR) is skewed (high-status men have more wives, low-status men have none.) We recognise these cultures in the world’s strict theocracies.

In the Western cultures, we live mostly in ecological release through both geographical luck and human technological innovation. Competition between men is not so fierce (though in some poor enclaves it is). Men generally cooperate and society is stable and safe – as safe as it has ever been in human history. Institutional monogamy helps this stability and the OSR is in equilibrium most of the time (again, except in high crime/high male mortality enclaves) though some mate switching still occurs.  These western, benign societies appear to facilitate female choice under what I call reformed patriarchy. In both these societies ‘patriarchy’ appears to manifest itself in men over-represented in positions of power but this is not true, they are overrepresented in positions of the most fierce competition which has the result of elevating them up the dominance or (as Jordan B. Peterson correctly parses) competence hierarchy. Men want power and resources not to dominate women but to attract them.

Women take part in the creation and maintenance of these systems for reasons of their own ultimate fitness. They are not victims of it. They compete with other women as fiercely as men compete with other men for the resources they need to stay alive, find the best partners and successfully reproduce. They do this in very different ways than men however and this will be the subject of another essay (but which is touched upon here).

Crucially for my thesis in defence of reformed patriarchy is that reformed patriarchy protects against unreformed patriarchy. Should feminism ever succeed in its stated goal of “smashing patriarchy” in the West, unreformed patriarchy will inevitably rush in to fill the void it leaves and western civilization will fall.

Therefore, it is vital we fight feminism. In defence of reformed patriarchy.


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A Short Review of Wonder Woman with an Evolutionary Slant.

ww

Despite all the feminist/SJW chatter around Wonder Woman, a marketing strategy which is far more likely to turn me off any product attached to it, I enjoyed the film.  The character embodies femininity unhitched from biology and evolution. In the real world, we know women are just as competitive as men, but employ more covert, less aggressive strategies to get what they want. We know women are more risk averse and attuned to possible danger than men, on average, because this is adaptive. Every one of our female ancestors successfully out reproduced women who were not so risk averse. Competition is a blast, but losing (for women) especially in our evolutionary past, would have had serious reproductive consequences for their (and their male partners) evolutionary fitness. And contrary to what many people think about evolution, differential reproductive success trumps differential survival success. Which is why men are more ‘disposable’ in evolution than women. Globally, men are overwhelmingly represented as victims of violence as they are in risky dangerous jobs, defence and policing; everywhere you see high risks you see more men than women. This is an evolutionary injunction, not a cultural one.

The evolutionary reason most cultures are gynocentric is that women are the key to the next generation. They are mothers and carers. Men are disposable protectors in comparison. And here’s the rub for feminists: Women can’t simply reject their evolutionary role and expect men to maintain theirs. It’s a two-way street.

Diana Prince is an immortal who need not worry about the risks of open aggression on her reproductive fitness. She can let her aggression run free and enjoy the thrill of fierce competition. I wonder if the frustration women express about the damsel trope stems from the aggression many women do feel but must suppress?

Wonder Woman’s theme is the perfect embodiment of this release of suppressed energy. The full force and thrill of female aggression which most women dare not fully manifest for deep evolutionary reasons.

 

For further reading on the mechanisms of female aggression see the lifetime of research by Professor Anne Campbell of Durham University (one of my mentors).

For further reading on the anatomy of female competition see The development of human female competition: allies and adversaries by Joyce Benenson and follow the refs.

MP’s report on sexual harassment in schools ignores female intrasexual competition

I had to rattle this off quickly  as a counter-point to the media frenzy today about this report.  Apologies for typos – there will be many!

Toxic masculinity or female intrasexual competition?

“MPs seek better plan to fight school sexual harassment

Sexual harassment and abuse of girls are too often accepted as part of daily life, according to a Commons Women and Equalities Committee report.”

Key findings are:

stat2

The committee chair, Conservative MP Maria Miller, is popping up on my radio every hour on the news bulletins and is explicitly pointing the blame at boys and pornography. She repeats the most shocking and salacious findings as if they were the most prominent findings in the report.

The report had already piqued my interest so I have been looking at it today. Here are some pertinent points from the list of conclusions and recommendations from the report itself

“1.Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is a significant issue which affects a large number of children and young people, particularly girls, across the country. Evidence shows that the majority of perpetrators of this abuse are boys, and the majority of victims are girls. However it is essential that the negative impact on both boys and girls is recognised and addressed.”

“2.There is insufficient data to conclusively demonstrate that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is a growing problem. It is true that such behaviour has occurred in schools for many years, as in wider society. However, significant qualitative evidence suggests that increasing access to pornography and technological advances, including online platforms, can facilitate harassment and violence and thus exacerbate the problem.”

(Yet somehow, in light of this lack of evidence, the government should non-the-less…)

15…create a statutory obligation in the forthcoming Education Bill for all schools, primary and secondary, to develop a whole school approach to preventing and tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence. We also recommend that the Department for Education remind all school Governors of their legal obligations to address sexual harassment and sexual violence in school. Guidance and support on how to achieve this most effectively should be provided to Governing Bodies.”

(Echos of Title IX, anyone?)

24.By the time they reach secondary school children often have entrenched views about gender norms. It is therefore important that children are educated about gender equality, consent, relationships and sex in an age appropriate way starting in primary school.”

(In other words, an entrenched political and  ideological organisation wants government funding to go into schools to teach young and impressionable boys and girls how to interact)

“30.Too often, SRE ignores the position of boys and young men. It must be broadened to challenge harmful notions of masculinity and reflect boys’ experiences. It should also support boys to challenge and reduce sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

“31.We welcome the Government’s interest in supporting boys and young men to be part of the solution to the problem of sexual harassment and sexual violence. We recommend that the Government fund research to establish the most effective ways to achieve this.”

You get the implicit picture; girls are victims, boys perpetrators of sexual harassment. In case this wasn’t clear enough, they included a visual signpost.

Girl, interrupted by sexism

Girl, interrupted by sexism

Of course the feminist Twittersphere is going nuts. If there was a flag representing “the patriarchy”, they’d be in the streets gleefully burning it.

So lets review:  the report itself states there is no evidence to support the problem is a growing problem, yet the rhetoric I’m hearing on the radio makes it appear out of control and endemic. Which is nothing new:

endemic

And indeed further down the page we find this statement:
tip-of-iceberg
I’ll come back to this later.

Firstly, I was particularly interested in the following claim, number 1 on their page of findings and recommendations:

major-girls

Further down this page it states:

major-girls-2

Note the reference. I followed it. It took me here:

cross-2

Lets just be clear. The cited reference is to support the claim that “Evidence shows that the majority of perpetrators of this abuse are boys, and the majority of victims are girls.”

It took me a while to find a break down of the sex of the harassers – in all graphs they are referred to in sex and gender neutral terms – but when I did, it revealed something very interesting:

harasser-sex
The findings here clearly state that even if girls are more harassed in total, they are not more harassed by boys, they are harassed by other girls.

Spending more money on teaching kids about consent, as is in the recommendations, will not help victims. Demonising boys, toxic masculinity or “laddism” – all deemed problematic in the report – will not help anyone. The claim they want to help boys is hollow.  The claim they want to help girls even more so. Who commissioned this report? How much were they paid and was it from the public purse?

Note above boys appear to “harass” other boys more than girls. This is a finding because in their definition of sexual harassment they include name calling and banter as harassment. “Calling someone “gay” or “lesbian”…was the most frequently mentioned type of sexual harassment”

The numbers on female abusers here appear to be in line with the findings of a 2014 Demos report on internet misogyny which found that 50% of online abuse came from females.

demos

Lets revisit this comment in Crossing the Line…

“Because girls reported higher rates of sexual harassment than boys did, this finding raises questions. Why didn’t boys or girls admit to sexually harassing girls when more girls than boys said they had been sexually harassed? Why does it seem to be more acceptable to sexually harass boys? These questions are critical to developing new strategies”

Now read this again in light of this new information:

tip-of-iceberg

Indeed.

I research female intrasexual competition, something I frequently call the pink elephant in the feminist room. Female competition and rivalry exists but takes a very different form from male competition, which is more open. What these reports are uncovering is not the tip of the iceberg of endemic male chauvinism but of endemic female passive aggressive bullying of their female rivals.

The main strategies of female competition are well documented; targets are socially ostracized, she is the subject of pernicious gossip, her character attacked, her sexual history discussed, her reputation ruined and crucially, boys are recruited by the female bullies to join in the attack. This is the well documented anatomy of how females compete – by stealth. The effects on the target are utterly devastating. It is this phenomena that feminists should be looking into if they genuinely wish to help young girls thrive at school. It is this research that needs more government funding not feminist sex education.

Logic dictates that if there actually is such a thing as toxic masculinity, there must also be a female analogue. And there is. There is also evidence that it is feminists, not “the patriarchy”, who seek to suppress and control female sexuality, especially in the West. (See Baumeister & Twenge, 2002).

The recommendations in this report do NOT support the papers findings. Feminists want access to young women in schools, to police their sexuality via fear – when the main negative effect on their self esteem is their female peers. These are all questions I am working on as a researcher, but many people have come before me. Female intrasexual competition is not new. It’s just taboo.

In spite of the feminist insistence that toxic masculinity is the problem, as a society, we need to widen the debate to include discussion about toxic femininity. If you want to see everyday evidence of female enmity in action, just look online at the bitter rivalries between feminist sects.

Orwellian Feminism

Orwellian Feminism

How can a movement with so little insight into itself or female competition be of any help to us?

If feminism is a humanitarian movement before a political one, it will face up to its own shortcomings.

The question needs to be asked: does feminism exist to help women and girls, or do women and girls now exist to help feminism?

Shoddy reports like this make me suspect the latter.

I am an egalitarian because I believe in the equality of the sexes. I am not a feminist because I do not support feminisms central aim which is to dismantle a fictional Western patriarchy, not, as many people believe, to promote sexual equality. For more in depth analysis on this issue see When is a Feminist Not a Feminist? 

More reading on female intrasexual competition:

The development of human female competition: allies and adversaries
Joyce F. Benenson
http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1631/20130079

Female competition and aggression: interdisciplinary perspectives
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 Dec 5; 368(1631): 20130073.
Paula Stockley1 and Anne Campbell2

A Mind Of Her Own: The Evolutionary Psychology of Women
Anne Campbell
https://global.oup.com/academic/product/a-mind-of-her-own-9780199609543?cc=gb&lang=en&

Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes
Joyce F Benenson
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Warriors-Worriers-Survival-Joyce-Benenson/dp/0199972230/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473767339&sr=1-1&keywords=warriors+and+worriers