Monday, January 29, 2018

Bad Sex Is Always Men's Fault: The Hazards Of The Blank Slate

It is rare I get to lance a boil this large for free, but Lili Loufbourow's The Week essay, largely focusing on Andrew Sullivan's tangent following the Aziz Ansari story, certainly qualifies. The Ansari story, which Caitlin Flanagan accurately labeled "revenge porn", describes a first date gone bad after the pseudonymous "Grace" decides to visit Ansari's apartment. Bad, fumbling sex ensues, which she resists in part and accedes in part. She eventually leaves.

Sullivan's response aims not so much at that incident — covered elsewhere more extensively — but at the problem that male nature poses to academic gender studies that is, well, nature, i.e. genetic and driven largely by testosterone. "All differences between the genders [in the gender feminist telling]," he continues, "... are a function not of nature but of sexism." Loufbourow leaps from her feminist studies coffin to declare this bit of sunlight "beyond vapid", and his "attempt to naturalize the status quo is so damaging", as though acknowledging biological realities are somehow a political act.

In fact, it is. Loufbourow's main argument is that
The real problem isn't that we — as a culture — don't sufficiently consider men's biological reality. The problem is rather that theirs is literally the only biological reality we ever bother to consider.
That is, we needn't consider why men might have a very strong internal motivation to copulate with any available desirable woman; we should instead look at why women have such a hard time with sex. While it's important for men to have empathy with someone you propose to bed (!!!), it is also absurd for women to ignore nature. That "Grace" decided to join a man at his apartment on a first date, ignoring the implications for such a meeting from the male perspective, rates no mention. So when she complains that
... PubMed has almost five times as many clinical trials on male sexual pleasure as it has on female sexual pain. And why? Because we live in a culture that sees female pain as normal and male pleasure as a right.
what she is missing is that male sexuality is exactly as Sullivan describes it: very goal-oriented. "[M]ale pleasure as a right" is the wrong way to describe it: male pleasure is a goal. Pursuit of that goal will sometimes result in very regrettable outcomes for women. Note I do not here endorse such behavior, but women sleeping with men they barely know play a dangerous game.

Loufbourow is on firmer ground when she describes the medical research disparities between men and women, though if she were honest, she would have to acknowledge that breast cancer research receives over twice as much funding as prostate cancer, both the number two killers of their respective sex. (This has equalized considerably since 1994, when prostate cancer received one-fourth the research dollars as breast cancer.) That is, the terrain slopes nowhere near as steeply as she claims. And if "culture" were to blame for indifference to female pain and suffering particularly, how is it that male occupational deaths represent 93% of the total (as of 2016)?

But at bottom of this stew of resentment lies the typical hand-wave of female agency: the lady could have said "no", or better still, could have declined the offer to visit the apartment of an acquaintance on a first date. Loufbourow explores these options not at all. Is this old-fashioned? Yes, of course. But it also bows to the powerful reality of male sexual impulses. Not every man is a cad, but relying on the good behavior of strange men is a losing proposition, and sometimes, fatally. Also, holding a man accountable for reading your mind is not only unreasonable, it's insane and childish. "Grace" nowhere makes clear what she intends to do on the night, giving and receiving oral sex, but withdrawing when Ansari presses for actual intercourse. Talk about mixed messages! As Flanagan put it, "Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab".

Loufbourow spends her final paragraphs sputtering about the "lessons society teaches", which is really a restatement of the blank slate theory of human nature. Blank slate-ism relies on teaching as its foundation, rejecting the prospect of innate nature. The notion of an innate, genetically-determined human nature is deadly to gender feminism, for the reason Jerry Coyne cited:
[Claims that no innate differences between racial groups or the sexes] are based not on biological data, but on ideological fears of the Left: if we admit of such differences, it could foster racism and sexism.  Thus. any group differences we do observe, whether they reside in psychology, physiology, or morphology, are to be explained on first principle as resulting from culture rather than genes.
That is, it threatens the ghost stories underpinning gender feminism. Meanwhile, the women who ignore the powerful realities of testosterone put themselves at risk for disappointment at a minimum, and real danger at worst.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Andrew Sullivan And The Feminist Rejection Of Nature

Andrew Sullivan has a fine new column in New York magazine's website that deserves attention, about the nature of being male, and how nature — or perhaps, more fittingly, Nature — is not to be denied:
... [I]n the years of being HIV-positive, my testosterone levels had sunk, and I decided, given my lassitude, depression, and lack of sexual desire, to go on hormone replacement therapy to get me back in a healthy range for a 30-something male. It was a fascinating experience to witness maleness literally being injected into me, giving me in a sudden jump what had been there all along, and what I now saw and felt more vividly. You get a real sense of what being a man is from an experience like that, as the rush of energy, strength, clarity, ambition, drive, impatience and, above all, horniness overcame me every two weeks in the wake of my shot. It was intoxicating. I wrote about this a couple of decades ago, in an essay I called “The He Hormone.” The visceral experience opened my eyes to the sheer and immense natural difference between being a man and being a woman, and helped me understand better how nature is far more in control of us than we ever want to believe.
Sullivan goes on to observe that it is now "taboo" to discuss naturally occurring differences between men and women, particularly ones with demonstrable biological origins. The belief that such differences are not inherent but socially constructed are a fundamental tenet of much modern feminism, gender feminism particularly. Steven Pinker attacked this in The Blank Slate in 2003; it has made little difference in the academy, and in lay feminism. "It is strikingly obvious", Sullivan continues, "that for today’s progressives, humans are the sole species on this planet where gender differentiation has no clear basis in nature, science, evolution, or biology. This is where they are as hostile to Darwin as any creationist."
If most men are told that what they are deep down is, in fact, “problematic” if not “toxic,” they are going to get defensive, and with good reason. ... And men, especially young men in this environment, will begin to ask questions about why they are now routinely seen as a “problem” ....

This week, in the New York Times, Tom Edsall bravely exposed the politics of this. He looked at the data and found, believe it or not, that gender-studies feminism is not shared by all women by any means, and is increasingly loathed by men — and not just older men. “2016 saw the greatest number of votes cast by young white men in the past 12 years — markedly higher than their female counterparts,” says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, a psychologist at Tufts.
... Trump understands this dynamic intuitively. Bannon believed it was integral to the Trump project, and wants the slanted elite discourse on men to continue and intensify. I think this issue was an under-acknowledged cause for Clinton’s failure. At some point, Democrats and liberals are going to have to decide if they want to “problematize” half the voting population.

The recently deceased Ursula K. Le Guin populated an entire world with an androgyne race in her novels set in the Hainish universe. That was fiction, of course, but feminist theorists who start every explanation of male behavior with "men are taught to..." apparently believe we live in such a universe. Certainly Laurie Penny, who can be counted on to ignore every major point Sullivan made, has not disappointed in that regard, and neither Jessica Valenti's impressively lazy response.

Meantime, we have an election later this year. It will surely be interesting to see who shows up for it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Women In STEM's Dog That Didn't Bark

Pew Research has lately published a wide-ranging poll on people's opinions about STEM, which are mostly not worth knowing, save for the questions they ask of people not in those fields.
The survey asked those non-STEM workers why they did not end up pursuing this interest. The most commonly cited reason for not pursuing a STEM career was cost and time barriers (27%), such as high expenses required for education or a lack of access to resources and opportunities. One-in-five (20%) say the reason they did not pursue a STEM career is they found another interest, while 14% say they found STEM classes were too hard or they lost interest.
More interesting was the question about sexism as a cause chasing women out of the field:

One of the bigger issues I have had with most of the "women aren't in STEM careers because of rampant sexism" is that no one has ever bothered to ask people not in such careers why they hadn't considered STEM careers. The overwhelming answer is that hardly anyone cited that as a cause, and so the Sisters of Perpetual Grievance must needs look elsewhere for their sustenance.

The Political Teflon Of Academic Feminism

James Lindsay's Quillette essay "Why No One Cares About Feminist Theory" could stand an editor, but he makes a vital connection between academic feminism's intentional duckspeak and what he calls its "un-care-about-able" nature; allow me to propose "political teflon" as an alternative. While it isn't quite the same thing (more effect than cause), the net from the outside remains the same: people outside those departments simply do not care what gets written inside them. That is unfortunate, because as Lindsay notes, the consequence is horrible regulation like the Title IX perversion "Dear Colleague" letter. "Like the myriad details describing the island universe of a video game you’ve never played ... feminist theory bears almost every hallmark characteristic of the un-care-about-able:"
  • It’s properly esoteric like many well-developed academic disciplines.
  • It seems to describe an alternate universe that looks kind of like ours but fantastically distorted in a way that makes it hard to suspend one’s disbelief (and this is consequential).
  • It involves tragically two-dimensional Manichean struggles of good (allegedly emancipatory feminism) against evil (human nature, masculinity, men, “patriarchy,” women being themselves, “oppression,” science, pornography, media portrayals of essentially everything, emojis, and so on).
  • It sounds like conspiracy theories (because it utilizes several, such as “patriarchy,” “hegemonic masculinity,” “rape culture,” and “hegemonic femininity”).
  • It gets presented in obscurantist technical jargon (like that you only disagree because of your “privilege-preserving epistemic pushback”) and its own specialized colloquial language that excludes the uninitiated.
  • It’s filled to the brim with confusing turf wars (materialist/Marxist feminist, radical feminist, intersectional feminist, gender critical feminist; liberal feminist).
  • It goes almost completely unread, not only by everyone outside the field, but also by almost everyone inside the field too (more than 80% of its papers do not receive a single citation).
  • It absolutely refuses to listen to anybody else.
Modern feminism is first a political movement rather than a scholarly discipline; otherwise, it wouldn't be so hot to deny biological causes for behaviors its adherents want to change. This is something they only admit to themselves in the privacy of their own journals, where such matters may go unexamined for years. Its roots, as Lindsay notes, are entirely unfalsifiable, by design; the ghost stories of patriarchy and rape culture are first principles, in exactly the same way that creationists take the Genesis story as literal truth. Engaging their proponents is counterproductive:
Creationists want to debate biologists for the simple reason that some of the imprimatur of biology accidentally scrapes off on the creationist from the moment the debate is scheduled. “See, I’m doing science too! This scientist wants to debate me!”
The only way out is defunding — and demanding actual academic rigor of academic programs in the university. This is unlikely to happen.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Late Friday Links

  • Traditional Male Roles Are Awful, Except If You Want To Date Me Dep't: Nonscientific poll of OKCupid users shows a significant minority (45%) wants to be pursued in dating. 75% of female members responding identified as feminists, opposite 23% of women in a 2013 poll.
  •  Finally, SciAm gives some editorial space to rational views on sexism in science.
  • Pussy hats are so 2017.
  • Kamala Harris Is A Monster, Part 3236: her fake feminism problem.
  • Sorry, Conor, Moira Donegan Is An Amoral Monster. Sully explains:
    The essay is, to my mind, eloquent, beautifully written, even moving at times, but baffling. I read it waiting for the moment when she took responsibility for what she did, or apologized to the innocent people she concedes may have been slandered. But it never came. It’s worth recalling here exactly what she and others did. They created an online forum in which anonymous people could make accusations about men whose careers and reputations would potentially be destroyed as a consequence. There was absolutely no attempt to separate out what was true or untrue, what was substantiated and what was not. “Please never name an accuser” she advised upfront in the document. And then: “[P]lease don’t remove highlights or names.” No second thoughts allowed. The doc openly concedes its grave claims should be “taken with a grain of salt.” In her essay, Donegan actually cites this as exonerating evidence, as if reckless disregard for the truth were a positive virtue for a journalist, and not actually a definition of libel.
    It's garbage, the ultimate confession from an apparent proponent of "believe the victim" ideology that assumes the presence of a vagina makes the speaker somehow immune to self-deception, narcissism, or vanity.
  • Defund The Women's Studies Departments, #3,645 in a series.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Equality's Asymptotes: The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone Of The Gender Wage Gap

The American Association of University Women has a surprisingly good study of the gender wage gap which breaks down the disparity in a number of ways, but I wanted to focus particularly on this graph:
What's most interesting is the aggregate earnings gap (which is what is generally discussed, without diving down into specifics) from 2001-2016. The gap is on a long-term diminishing trend since 1960, but that longer-term regression line is on a steeper slope than more recent decades. That is, change is slowing down. While a lot of this report spins its wheels with the usual intersectional nonsense that adds nothing to the discussion, knowing that we have reached or can project some kind of possible upper limit of what women collectively are liable to do in the labor marketplace is valuable. Women do not sign up for STEM careers generally (engineering and computer science particularly) that pay better than a lot of other degreed careers. They take time off from careers for motherhood, further pressing down on wages. The refusal to deal with these kinds of crucial details hasn't deterred the wage gap vooodooists, who believe absolute numerical gender parity is not only possible but desirable. Never mind that women themselves prefer to marry men with higher incomes than they earn, and demonstrably place a higher value on male earning power than any other single polled trait of either sex. The wage gap may narrow, but it will never vanish — precisely because women reward men for maintaining it.