Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear Ioana...

Ioana said...
Firstly, I want to apologize on behalf of Western women for indulging in man-hating, supposedly-feminist ideologies.

Secondly, I am a Western woman, and I am a feminist, also, I'm eighteen years of age. Before you decide to glide over the rest of this post, I'd like to make a case for myself. Heretic, I absolutely agree that men and women ought to pursue symbiotic relationships that foster mutual development and continued learning. I don't believe women are legally oppressed. However, I do find that men tend to base the value of a woman primarily upon her appearance.

I suppose under the veil of internet anonymity, you could peg my beliefs as having arisen from bitterness caused by my possibly being unattractive. You have nothing but my word that this is not the case. Assuming, for the sake of my argument, that I'm being genuine, I don't feel it's just that even an attractive woman of reasonable intelligence and merit ought to be regarded by men who're far less intelligent than her as naught but a piece of meat. I'm not saying you've done so, but it happens to me often. There is no denying that there are many men whose sole interest in choosing a mate is appearance. In fact, I commend you for boycotting feminists; at least you'd take the time to listen to what a woman has to say before deciding whether or not to date/marry her. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that if the average man were watching TV, and he came across an unattractive man who was saying something intriguing, the TV-watcher would disregard the man and consider his ideas. If it were an unattractive woman saying the same thing, I believe the TV-watcher would take into consideration only the way the woman looked.

Perhaps I'm being long-winded. What I essentially mean to say is that I don't believe feminists today are still pining for more legal leverage. In fact, I believe child support, among other things, is an abomination of modern justice. I do believe, however, that women are still faced with much more pressure than men to tend to their appearances before they're considered good mates, and often before they're even hired.

I'd like to hear your take on this.


Dear Ioanna,
Thank you for your post. You sound like an intelligent and thoughtful person. It is a breath of fresh air to receive a message of this kind from a feminist, instead of the usual childish rant. I commend you for your honesty in particular.

I apologise for the fact that it has taken me so long to answer you, and my answer has turned out to be rather long. I hope you will take the time to read it.

“There is no denying that there are many men whose sole interest in choosing a mate is appearance”.

A little evolutionary theory would clarify things for you here.

Briefly, we are chimpanzees, and we live in hierarchical social groups. Our selfish genes are telling us to maximise their chance of survival by reproducing as much, or in the best way, possible. The aim is to leave the greatest number of surviving offspring after your death. High-status individuals tend to leave more surviving offspring than low-status ones, although in modern Western societies, the Welfare State tends to distort this fact.

Men and women are different, and have different attitudes to sex. This is not just due to social conditioning, it is due to the fact that we do not have the same roles in reproduction. We do not differ only in terms of ‘hardware’, or what we have between our legs. This hardware also comes with ‘software’ to make it work effectively; we have different evolved psychological motivations and behaviours which complement our sex.

These psychological drives evolved, along with our bodies, tens of thousands of years ago, and have not changed since. The wheels of human evolution turn slowly. We still have the brains of stone-age people. In order to understand relations between the sexes well, we need to look at the subject using this evolutionary perspective.

Given the best conditions, a woman can only get pregnant once at a time, and produce about one baby a year. This is a potentially life-threatening experience, and even without complications, the baby remains dependent for many years, requiring constant support. Consequently the decision to have sex is, for a woman, a very serious one.

For men, on the other hand, it is very different. In the period of a year, he could potentially father hundreds of babies. His capacity for reproduction is limited only by the availability of women.

For men, a good strategy is just to impregnate as many females as possible. For women, having a hundred men is no better than having one; arguably it is worse. It is in a woman’s interest to mate with the highest-status male she can find, and to stay with him exclusively, and expect that he will provide support for his own children.

He will probably be willing to do this if he is sure that the children are his; one of the greatest evolutionary failures for a man is to be a victim of paternity fraud, and to unwittingly provide economic support for another man’s children. If the mother is unfaithful, this is a possibility, and the man is more likely to refuse to give support, as he cannot be sure the children are his. If she is loyal to him, or he believes that she is, then he can be sure that the children are his, and has no reason to refuse support.

Although promiscuity works as a strategy for men, most men do not have the opportunity to impregnate large numbers of nubile females; those few who do tend to be extremely high status men, like rock stars, movie stars or football stars, and in the past, kings and politicians. The rest of us men will succeed best by remaining loyal to one wife. That way, we can expect a regular supply of sex, and to leave at least some surviving offspring. By refusing to commit to one woman, most ordinary men would probably remain celibate and childless.

Thus, both men and women have a vested interest in monogamy, but we are also not above committing adultery on occasion, women as well as men. Men benefit from adultery in an obvious way. If he impregnates a passing female, there is a chance that she will bear his child, and what is more, he will not have to provide any economic support for that child; in evolutionary terms, it is a quick win.

For women, the situation is a little more complicated. They want to give birth to healthy children, and they want to have those children cared for by a high status husband. These two requirements may be in conflict. It often takes men a very long time to accumulate wealth and status, by which time they are relatively old. Older parents of both sexes are more likely to produce children with birth defects. It is in a woman’s interest to get good quality sperm. Sperm quality diminishes with age, as copying errors accumulate. Good quality sperm means younger men; high status provider means older men.

As a choice of husband and father, the middle-aged tycoon is a good choice socially and economically, but a poor choice genetically. His young gardener, on the other hand, is a virile, handsome youth with good quality sperm, but he is penniless. A good strategy for a woman is to marry the middle-aged Lord and then shag the gardener. Get good quality sperm, and then persuade a high-status husband to pick up the bill. Adultery thus carries benefits for both sexes, but is somewhat risky.

To return to your original question. Youth and appearance actually are much more important for women than they are for men. Men really do judge women by their appearance more than women judge men by theirs. The reason for this is that beauty equals fertility. A woman’s fertility is short-lived; it starts to diminish at age 27. By the time she is 45, it is almost entirely gone. The fertility of men, and that of other apes, including females, tails off gradually throughout later life. With human females, there is a menopause; a sudden, sharp cessation of fertility. A ‘beautiful’ young woman is one who shows all the outward signs of fertility. If you are a man looking for a mate, a fertile one is the best kind to choose. It is a waste of energy having sex with a woman who cannot get pregnant. People used to die young. Women used to die in childbirth a lot. A woman who is at the beginning of her child-bearing years is the most desirable. She has not yet had any children, and will probably live long enough to see her children reach independence. If she loses one child, she still has time for another attempt. Older mothers are more likely to produce children with birth-defects. It is in everyone’s interest to have children young. Remember, these are very old instincts produced by evolution.

So, men have two mating strategies which they can apply both at the same time; ‘Look for wife’ and ‘Look for casual sex’. Men who judge you purely by your appearance are using the latter strategy. If he wanted a wife, he would judge you by other criteria as well.

When a guy propositions you in the street, you are offended because you are looking for the highest-status long-term mate you can find, and you believe that you can command a higher price than he can offer, and that in any case, he is not looking for anything more than casual sex. Look at it this way: even if the casual propositioning of passing females only paid off one time in a hundred thousand, that is enough, over the course of evolutionary time, to make it worthwhile. Don’t be too hard on him; he doesn’t know you. He fancies himself as a dashing young buck, and for all he knows, you might be married to an elderly tycoon, and be on the lookout for some better quality sperm. He might get lucky one day. Just say no. It is his responsibility to take no for an answer. Just let it go at that.

What are you complaining about anyway? There is only one thing worse than men finding you attractive; and that is men not finding you attractive. You wouldn’t mind if Brad Pitt propositioned you for casual sex. You only object to this guy doing it because you consider him to be low-status, and yourself to be better than him. Isn’t that so?

Further reading:

The Mating Mind, by Geoffrey Miller

The Evolution of Desire, David M Buss

Why is Sex Fun?, Jared Diamond.

You expressed the view that women are under greater social pressure than men to look good, or are judged by their appearance to a greater extent than men. I think what you say is largely true, but is far from being the whole story.

Firstly, I have already discussed reasons why women are judged by their appearance to a greater extent than men. But this does not mean that men are not judged at all. We are judged by other criteria. We are judged by our physicality, not just in terms of good looks, but also in terms of athleticism, soldierly qualities, whether we are ‘scary’, and can physically and socially dominate other males, whether we can satisfy a woman sexually, whether we will produce handsome sons. We are judged on our education and intelligence. We are still judged on our clothes like women, but also by our cars and other possessions. We are judged by how funny or talented we are as entertainers. We are judged very harshly on our moral character; soldierly qualities of self-discipline, motivation, mental strength, resilience and emotional stability. We are judged very harshly on our sexual continence. We are used to being characterised as violent sexual predators, even as we do our best to live lives of work and family, and strive to have positive relationships with women. We are judged in terms of what other males think of us, and by our capacity for work. Most of all we are judged by how much money we have. Women are not judged by any of these criteria. Overall, men are judged much more harshly than women. A woman who does not have a job is exercising a positive lifestyle choice. A man who does not have a job is a pathetic loser.

Secondly, this pressure on women that you refer to does not only, or even mainly, come from men. It comes from other women. It is the shop-girl who will smirk knowingly when you ask her for a bigger size, it is the female fashion-police in your peer group who will publicly humiliate you because you are carrying the wrong kind of handbag, the jealous co-worker who will give you an unpleasant task to do because she is jealous of your shoes. Most of the pressure to be thin also comes from other women. Women will starve themselves into emaciation in order to compete with other women, and because they are scared of other women calling them fat, and humiliating them.

Men tend to be fairly straightforward, uncomplicated creatures. If we look at a woman, we probably just decide that she is more or less sexually attractive. The finer points of fashion do not register.

In the talent competition of life, men are generally the performers, and women the judges and critics. That’s pretty much how it is, and there are good evolutionary reasons for that.

You say: “However, I do find that men tend to base the value of a woman primarily upon her appearance.” Well, some do, just as some women base the value of a man purely on his bank balance. But those are not the sort of men you would want to get involved with, I’m guessing. Yes, there are shallow and dishonest people in the world, it will always be so. Learning to deal with that is an essential life-skill.

“I am going to go out on a limb and assume that if the average man were watching TV, and he came across an unattractive man who was saying something intriguing, the TV-watcher would disregard the man and consider his ideas. If it were an unattractive woman saying the same thing, I believe the TV-watcher would take into consideration only the way the woman looked”.

Well, I think I must disagree. I don’t know what kind of men you hang around with, but it seems as though you are judging the entire male population by them, whoever they are. I for one appreciate good ideas, and I do not judge the idea by whether or not I find the speaker sexually attractive. Couldn’t men make the same complaint? A woman is going to be more appreciative of a story, idea or joke if it comes from a handsome, high-status man whom she finds attractive, than if it came from a poor, unattractive one.

“women are still faced with much more pressure than men to tend to their appearances before they're considered good mates, and often before they're even hired”

Your thinking clearly is influenced by feminist thinking, because you evidently never consider men’s perspective, you believe that everything is worse for women, that this is some kind of evil conspiracy, and that you are under-appreciated.

Feminism has done a spectacularly poor job. It presents itself as the leading authority on all matters concerning sex and relations between the sexes, and yet the quality of its analysis is utterly piss-poor. Not only has it ignored evolutionary psychology, the most significant new intellectual tool to emerge since Freud in the 19th Century, it has actively resisted any mention of Darwinism, and is being dragged kicking and screaming into the Darwinian age. It sees new ideas as a threat. It is bad enough that it demands a monopoly on discourse, but it also maintains its monopoly by coercion. This is an outrageous imposition on to any democratic culture, which absolutely cannot be accepted. The feminist movement is a crypto-fascist dinosaur which has dominated all Leftist thinking for decades, and is demonstrably leading to catastrophic social outcomes. It is based on nothing but a lie of truly Hitlerian proportions, that women have been systematically discriminated against for millennia. This is, at worst, a travesty, a perversion of the truth, and at best, a very poor theory. Personally, I would like to hear some better ideas from the women, attractive or not.

Best regards,
Heretic

13 comments:

StV said...

Nice job summarizing the stuff on evolutionary psychology, Heretic.

BrusselsLout said...

A good one this, women being "under pressure" to look good!

Women LOVE looking good. And even though women are naturally lazy (they are!) they can still usually find the energy to make themselves up to look good.

But "pressure"? Is it pressure because there's some WORK involved? Of having to go to the trouble of moving one's arms to put lipstick on?

Ioana, it's only pressure because someone's TOLD it's pressure.

Anonymous said...

Most of the pressure to be thin also comes from other women.

Fairly well-known finding that men's ideal size for a woman is larger than a woman's estimation of a man's ideal size. I could hunt down an example study, if you desire.

Heretic said...

>I could hunt down an example study, if you desire.

Yes, please.

BrusselsLout said...

There are men who love BBW's, for example.

Skinnyness in women seems to originate from the media -- from weightless supermodels like Kate Moss.

But many agents of these supermodels are gay. So maybe rexy isn't so sexy!

Heretic said...

>But many agents of these supermodels are gay.

I think this is right. The fashion industry is significantly run by gay men, and when they choose women to model clothes, they choose women who look like boys.

That and the fact that women call each other fat as a form of aggression, thus putting pressure on women to be thin.

Thinness has really nothing to do with the male hetero community. Just look at the kind of women portrayed in men's magazines - big hair and big tits - surgical if necessary. The idea that men like emaciated women is another feminist lie.

Paddy Brown said...

One thing I'd like to add. I don't think anyone would deny that men judge a woman's sexual attractiveness on how she looks. But I can't for the life of me work out how that equates to regarding her as an object, as the typical feminist would view it, or as "naught but a piece of meat", as Ioana put it. To my mind it's a deliberate feminist campaign to demonize and de-legitimise male sexual desire, and should be opposed as the gender libel it is.

Heretic said...

Good point Paddy

Miss Ondrya said...

Heretic: "I think this is right. The fashion industry is significantly run by gay men, and when they choose women to model clothes, they choose women who look like boys.

That and the fact that women call each other fat as a form of aggression, thus putting pressure on women to be thin.

Thinness has really nothing to do with the male hetero community. Just look at the kind of women portrayed in men's magazines - big hair and big tits - surgical if necessary. The idea that men like emaciated women is another feminist lie.
"

You see, there you go again, saying exactly what I was thinking. I ought to sue you really!

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed with the feminists. They have so much political clout but they can't deal with the fashion industry? It's one of the few areas where I actually agree with them: putting pressure on girls to be thin rather than to be themselves is cruel, but they don't seem to be able to do much about it.

BrusselsLout said...

@MissOndrya

It's one of the few areas where I actually agree with them: putting pressure on girls to be thin rather than to be themselves is cruel, but they don't seem to be able to do much about it.

Probably because they're UNWILLING to try to do anything that might just be beneficial to men as well!

Anonymous said...

Thompson, K.J. (1992). Female and male ratings of upper torso: Actual, ideal, and stereotypical conceptions. Journal of social behavior and personality, 7, 345-354

http://www.zshare.net/download/71849559c041b2e6/ = the paper

Matt K said...

"'I am going to go out on a limb and assume that if the average man were watching TV, and he came across an unattractive man who was saying something intriguing, the TV-watcher would disregard the man and consider his ideas. If it were an unattractive woman saying the same thing, I believe the TV-watcher would take into consideration only the way the woman looked'.

Well, I think I must disagree. I don’t know what kind of men you hang around with..."


Ioana, if my personal experience is anything to go by, you will find that men's emphasis on looks will decline as you get older. The reasons for this are

1) at 18, you're still so young that you haven't really had chance yet to do much in life so even among potential suitors who get to know you, there's only limited information by which they can judge your suitability.

2) Most potential suitors will be young themselves and thus will be yet to develop a full understanding of the importance of other factors--integrity, intelligence, sense of humour, loyalty, fiscal responsibility, pleasantness of disposition etc.--, so will over emphasize looks due to their own inexperience of life.

3) As you get older, those 'other factors' will likely not fade while your looks will. The effect is that looks will be overly important at the beginning of life and largely trivial by comparison at the end.

4) At 18, potential suitors look at you as a girlfriend but are unlikely to give much consideration as to what you would be like to live with. Believe me. One of my housemates is quite cute, but when she never ever cleans up after herself for months on end, it gets old REALLY fast.


In your personal case, a clear intelligence, degree of inquisitiveness and objectivity comes through in your writing and that will certainly stand you in good stead. Remember, there are more guys at BOTH ends of the IQ curve so the further to the right you are, the more heavily outnumbered you will be by guys of the same intelligence or better and thus the greater the choice you will have among the most able guys. Your challenge as I see it is to put yourself into a position to meet those guys while developing some of the intellectual tools (econ and stats will help) to insulate yourself from the bitter poison of feminism. Good look and if in your later life it does come to pass that you are forced to live under Sharia, remember the part today's feminists had in attacking at every turn the very people who would otherwise have defended you from it.

Factory said...

I've pilfered your article for use in my mag, assuming that's OK...