takshimada + politics_and_feminism   7

Can Lysistrata Work For College Women?
So you’re happy to see me!

There are a lot of things about us women
That sadden me, considering how men
See us as rascals.
As indeed we are!

Emily Esfahani Smith has a Plan to Reboot Dating in The Atlantic, calling on  women to implement the Lysistrata strategy as a way of ending hookup culture. (Hat tip: Stuart Schneiderman) I first became aware of Smith via her excellent article HBO’s ‘Girls’ depicts wasteland of sexual promiscuity. (She’s doing incredibly well for someone who graduated from Dartmouth in ’09.) Though a feminist, Smith disagrees with Hannah Rosin’s recent assertions:

Rosin argues that the social progress of women depends on the hook-up culture. Women in their 20s and 30s are, for the first time, more successful than their male peers. These alpha females not only outnumber men on college campuses, they have also overtaken men as the majority of the work force. This would not have been possible without sexual liberation, which has let women delay marriage and child-rearing to pursue their educational and career ambitions without worrying about the emotional burdens of a relationship. Women are better off in part because of the hook-up culture, the argument goes.

Smith then goes on to offer evidence (all of which I have previously covered here) that most women are pretty miserable in hookup culture:

Part of the reason the culture is so widespread is, as Rosin correctly notes, because women are choosing to have casual sex. But in another respect, they don’t have a choice. Women make the hook-up culture possible, but men are the beneficiaries of it.
The balance of power in the hook-up culture lies with the men, an issue that has become more pronounced as women outnumber men on campuses, creating a surplus of girls and a scarcity of guys…Robert Epstein, a professor of psychology at Harvard and an expert in relationships, said in an interview with me that the more women there are on campus, the more prevalent the hook-up culture is: “You have a situation in which relationships are bound to fail and men keep switching off from one woman to the next.”
The feminist sociologist Lisa Wade, based at Occidental College…found that most of [her freshman students] were “overwhelmingly disappointed with the sex they were having in hook ups. This was true of both men and women, but was felt more intensely by women. College women today feel disempowered instead of empowered by sexual encounters. They didn’t feel like equals on the sexual playground, more like jungle gyms.”
According to a2010 study by Carolyn Bradshaw of James Madison University, only 2 percent of women strongly prefer the hook-up culture to a dating culture.
Miriam Grossman, author of the 2006 book Unprotected, reports that women long for emotional involvement with their partner twice as often as men following a hook up; 91 percent of women experience regret; 80 percent of women wish the hook-up hadn’t happened; and 34 percent of women hope the hook-up develops into a relationship.
NYU sociologist Paula England, whom Rosin cites, says that 66 percent of women and 58 percent of men want their hook up to develop into “something more.”
A 2010 psychology study out of Florida State University found that students who have casual sex experience more physical and mental health problems, defined as eating disorders, alcohol use, stress, depression, suicidal feelings, than those who are in committed long-term relationships.

Smith rejects Rosin’s assertion that “The hookup culture is too bound up with everything that’s fabulous about being a young woman in 2012—the freedom, the confidence, the knowledge that you can always depend on yourself.”

Sexual liberation may be indispensable to female progress, but the hook-up culture is not empowering for all women. This isn’t to say that early marriage or abstinence is the solution. But these are not the only alternatives to the hook-up culture, either. There is a middle way: meaningful sex in the context of a non-marital relationship.

In other words, the solution is a dating culture, which still allows women to delay marriage and pursue their careers, and also lets them have those intimate relationships with men that they don’t want to delay.

This puts Smith and me squarely on the same page, as this reflects my own views about what constitutes potentially achievable change. Smith spoke with a woman on staff at Dartmouth’s Women’s Center, who began their discussion by saying this:

The point of hooking up is for both people to get something out of it. If it’s to get off, then that’s great. . . . If it’s to work some issue out—like sexual assault—then that’s great. It’s basically to get pleasure and enjoyment out of it . . . the hook-up culture is good for experimentation, and what someone does for experimentation is up to them.

…I don’t think [love is] necessary. Yeah, you know—it’s nice. But if you’re talking about sex and the hook-up culture, it’s not needed. The point of the hook-up culture is not to get attached—no strings attached.

Aside from the deeply disturbing idea that hooking up is a good way to get past the trauma of sexual assualt, it turns out this woman doesn’t even believe in the politics she’s spewing, as she goes on to say that hooking up certainly was never right for her.

Smith retorts:

Hooking up, in fact, shares the defining feature of a sexual assault: using another person for your own sexual gratification, without any regard as to what that person wants or how he or she feels. The philosopher Immanuel Kant—who warns against using another person as a mere means to some end—was closer to the truth than many of today’s sexual health experts when he wrote that sex “taken by itself … is a degradation of human nature.”

…One friend tells me that the girls on campus would prefer a culture of dating to one of hooking up, but they would never admit it or ask for it. If girls demanded dating before hooking up, guys would be unmoved, she explained. “There are always going to be other girls for them to hook up with so we’ll just get left behind.”

These women are looking at the problem the wrong way, I think. They need to realize that, in spite of campus sex ratios and prevailing cultural trends, they hold the power when it comes to the hook up culture. They hold the power when it comes to sex.

This was the insight of Lysistrata, the shrewd heroine of Aristophanes’ marvelous play by the same name. Lysistrata was able to diagnose a problem in her society and to take actions and overcome obstacles to solve it. 

For those who have not read the ancient Greek play, it was written in 411 BCE, and is a comedy where one woman convinces all the other wives to withhold sex from their husbands as a way of pressuring them to achieve peace and end the Peloponnesian War. Hilarity ensues as men stumble around with obvious erections, and ultimately they agree to initiate peace talks. 

Lysistrata has been a feminist favorite, as it celebrates the power of women over men, who appear to do all their thinking with their dicks. However, it also portrays women as using their own genitals to get what they want. There is perhaps some truth in both of these caricatures, as evidenced by the play’s popularity for 2,400 years. 

I first mentioned Lysistrata as a possible model for change years ago here at HUS, but readily acknowledged that such a plan could never work. The strategy amounts to the creation of a cartel, where a small group of suppliers agrees to fix prices in order to share the wealth rather than drive one another out of business via competition. Cartels are notoriously unstable, because at any time one member can defect, drop the price, and scoop up all the demand for a larger short-term gain. The incentive to cheat is great.

To deal with hookup culture, the Lysistrata strategy would be effective only if all female participants (hardly a small group of suppliers) agreed to stop having casual sex, demanding commitment of some form in exchange for sex. We do not need to look very far to find women staunchly defending their right and desire to hook up, whether to pursue physical pleasure freely without judgment or to defend the political stance of feminists. In fact, what we have now is a free market where a small group of women offers sex for free (see: cow, milk) and a small group of men has access to that supply.

While some of those women are clearly distressed by their inability to obtain girlfriend status from their hookups, they have bet on hooking up as a better road to commitment than sitting out, and they are unlikely to forfeit the male attention they currently receive in hopes of making things better for everyone. Raising the price of sex would invite greatly increased competition from all the women not hooking up much, weakening the bargaining power of promiscuous women, limited though it is. 

However, I do think there is value in the Lysistrata concept with some adaptation. If all of the women currently not benefiting from hookup culture in any way (obviously a large majority) were to declare their unwillingness to participate and play by those rules, it would serve two purposes:

1. It would explode the myth that basically everybody is hooking up regularly and feels comfortable doing it, which is prevalent on college campuses. 

2. It would identify the women who are interested in a more traditional dating model where emotional intimacy precedes physical intimacy. 

In other words, this move would clearly identify the dissatisfied 80+% of females. Their unhappy male counterparts would have an opportunity to bring back the date. Of course, some of the women only want the players to take them on dates, but that isn’t going to happen. They’re probably better off continuing to hook up and snag whatever crumbs of affection and attention they can from men who have no desire or incentive to offer anything in return for sex… [more]
Hooking_Up_Realities  Politics_and_Feminism  Carolyn_Bradshaw  Emily_Esfahani_Smith  Hannah_Rosin  hooking_up  hookup_culture  Lisa_Wade  Lysistrata  Paula_England  Plan_to_Reboot_Dating  from google
november 2012 by takshimada
The Learned Cluelessness of Women
Nathan Harden

I finally got around to reading Nathan Harden’s Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad. Harden was a home-schooled kid whose education sort of petered out. He applied to Yale with his GED and was rejected. After doing a variety of odd jobs, he got into Yale on this third try at the age of 22. (The Admissions Director later told him that he’d simply worn her down.) In love at the time, he married, and the newlyweds set off for New Haven.

Harden’s status as a married undergraduate afforded him the opportunity to observe Yale’s sexual culture objectively. His report of that experience does not approach the quality of William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale, his inspiration for the book. He does chronicle a whole new level of radicalism on campus, though, and it’s shocking. I first became aware of Harden when I he blogged for National Review during Yale Sex Week. That series landed him a book deal and here we are.

One of the moments in his story that jumped out at me had nothing to do with the faculty or administration, but with fellow students. Studying abroad, he visited London and crashed on a female classmate’s couch while there.

The next morning I awoke to find myself sprawled out on one of the couches in the living room. Several of the girls who lived in the flat were sitting around talking…they had been out the night before and their conversation, naturally, turned to talk about boys. They started talking about the hookup scene back at Yale. Their conversation went something like this:

- Oh my gosh. Have you ever been with a football player?

- Yeah, they can be pretty awesome. They work out a lot.

- Yeah, and you know what’s best about them. They’re not that smart. If you go up to them at a party and just get them drinking, and start dancing with them and kissing them, they will totally end up sleeping with you. They don’t even know they’re being played. They have no clue.

- Ha-ha! Totally.

These are Yale women – arguably the smartest women in the country, so clueless about sex differences it’s dangerous. I once heard a wise woman say, “No matter how many times women tell themselves they don’t care, they’re still getting fucked.” 

Harden agrees:

I was amazed. Could it be possible, I thought to myself, that these girls don’t understand a fundamental fact about the human male? You normally don’t have to trick a man into having sex…Don’t [these girls] realize that’s why most guys show up at college parties in the first place?

…College girls are the special target of today’s radical sexual culture. It is a culture that asks of them everything and offers them nothing. It is presided over by a legion of academics who have been enamored of the sexual revolution ever since the Summer of Love. These academics enjoy calling themselves feminists, but they fail to see that the sexual revolution left many young women feeling powerless.

True, but even more disturbing, the culture leaves many women feeling a false sense of power. Their empowerment only gives them the opportunity to objectify themselves, not males, who rarely mind in any case. 

Sexual liberation never really empowered women in the way it was suposed to. A woman is truly objectified when men don’t even have to get to know her in order to get her into bed. Without any commitment to modesty or sexual restraint, the worthy cause of debojectifying women loses much of its gusto. I know it sounds very 1950s, but playing hard to get might not have been a bad idea for feminists, if power is what they were after. 

Feminists at the Yale Women’s Center talk about birth control as a form of empowerment…But they never talk about keeping one’s zipper up as a potential form of empowerment…It’s hard to be a randy sexpot and a deobjectified feminist at the same time.


Related posts:
A College Girl Gets Played and Shares What She Learned
The 10 Most Important Things I Learned From Dating Men I Didn’t Marry
The “Sex as Empowerment” Scam
Hooking_Up_Realities  Politics_and_Feminism  casual_sex  dating_advice  hooking_up  Nathan_Harden  relationship_advice  Sex_and_God_at_Yale  Yale_Sex_Week  from google
october 2012 by takshimada
Restricted vs. Unrestricted Sociosexuality: What Does It Mean?
“This restricted/unrestricted business confuses the hell out of me…

Am I right in thinking that it’s more of a measure of attitudes and beliefs instead of actions and results?

Just my opinion, but to me attitudes and beliefs don’t count for much when a person’s actions contradict them.”

Reader Jimmy Hendricks

 One of the most important tasks in selecting a romantic or life partner is assessing the individual’s likelihood of remaining sexually and emotionally faithful over time. Infidelity causes great and often irreversible damage to relationships and families. We can reliably predict someone’s likelihood of engaging in future promiscuous behavior by assessing their sociosexual orientation.

What is sociosexual orientation?
Sociosexuality is a personality trait. The construct of sociosexuality or sociosexual orientation captures individual differences in the tendency to have casual, uncommitted sexual relationships. The term was introduced by Alfred Kinsey, who used it to describe the individual differences in sexual permissiveness and promiscuity that he found in his groundbreaking survey studies on sexual behavior. 

Evolutionary personality psychologists classify men and women on sociosexual orientation between the extremes of unrestricted and restricted. 

Key Features of Sociosexual Orientation
1. Relative to sociosexually restricted individuals, sociosexually unrestricted individuals are more likely to: 

Engage in sex at an earlier point in their relationships.
Engage in sex with more than one partner at a time.
Be involved in sexual relationships characterized by less investment, commitment, love, and dependency. 

2. Sociosexual orientation (just like all other personality traits) is half heritable, half environmental.

A study of a large sample of Australian twins conducted by the great behavior geneticist J. Michael Bailey and colleagues shows that sociosexual orientation is another personality trait that roughly follows the 50-0-50 rule.  Their behavior genetic analysis shows that 49% of sociosexual orientation is heritable (determined by genes), 2% is attributable to shared environment, and 47% to unshared environment.  

3. Half of the men and women in the top (withinsex) 20% of sociosexuality had been sexually unfaithful to a steady partner. This is roughly double the average rate of infidelity in the population.

4. Women in the top female quintile of sociosexuality were nearly as elevated in their relevant sexual experiences as men in the top male quintile, even though the 80th female percentile was equivalent to only the 39th male percentile. This provides further support for the idea, considered elsewhere, that female sexuality constrains male sexuality. That is, given a woman and a man with similar inclinations to casual sex, the woman will realize her ambitions more readily than will the man.

Table 1. Comparison of Top  Quintiles on Self-Reported Behavioral Correlates of the Sociosexuality Scale Scores in Percentages (2000)*


Had sex with someone the same dayyou met

Got pregnant, or got someonepregnant, before marriage

Had sex after having a lot to drink

Was unfaithful to a steady partner

Had sex with two people in a 24 hourperiod

Ever had a sexually transmitted disease

*This is not the SOI, for which no scoring information is available, but a sociosexuality scale conceived by the study’s authors.

5.  While men in general are more unrestricted in sociosexual orientation than women, the variance within each sex is much greater than variance between the sexes.

Table 2. Comparison of Top  and Bottom Quintiles on Self-Reported Behavioral Correlates of the Sociosexuality Scale Scores in Percentages (2000)*

Women Bottom 
Women Top 
Men Bottom 
Men Top 

Had sex with someone the same dayyou met

Got pregnant, or got someonepregnant, before marriage

Had sex after having a lot to drink

Was unfaithful to a steady partner

Had sex with two people in a 24 hourperiod

Ever had a sexually transmitted disease

How is sociosexuality measured in the population?
The revised Sociosexuality Orientation Inventory (SOI) is a 9-item questionnaire designed to measure sociosexual orientation on a spectrum from restricted to unrestricted. 

Detailed analyses revealed a highly distinctive pattern of relationships for the three SOI-R facets, supporting their discriminant validity.

An analysis of 8,522 participants from an online study indicates that the SOIR is appropriate for individuals of any normal-range educational level, including hetero-, bi- and homosexuals, singles and individuals of any relationship/marital status, and at least the age range of 18 to 60 years. However, some facets do not work very well for sexually inexperienced and asexual individuals.

The SOI assesses three facets of sociosexuality:
A. Past Behavior in terms of number casual and changing sex partners

1. With how many different partners have you had sex within the past 12 months?

2. With how many different partners have you had sexual intercourse on one and only one occasion?

3. With how many different partners have you had sexual intercourse without having an interest in a long-term committed relationship with this person?

B. The explicit Attitude towards uncommitted sex

4. Sex without love is OK.

5. I can imagine myself being comfortable and enjoying “casual” sex with different partners.

6. I do not want to have sex with a person until I am sure that we will have a long-term, serious relationship.

C.  Sexual Desire for people with whom no romantic relationship exists.

7. How often do you have fantasies about having sex with someone you are not in a committed romantic relationship with?

8. How often do you experience sexual arousal when you are in contact with someone you are not in a committed romantic relationship with?

9. In everyday life, how often do you have spontaneous fantasies about having sex with someone you have just met?


All nine items are aggregated to form a full scale score that represents the global sociosexual orientation. 

The distinctive pattern of relationships among the three areas include the following:

Sex differences were pronounced for Desire, mediocre for Attitude and nonexistent for Behavior.
Only Desire made unique contributions to the prediction of past sexual and relationship behaviors, observer-rated attractiveness, self-perceived mate value and female flirting behavior.
Attitude appeared responsible for the effects of sociosexuality on mate preferences, assortative mating, and a romantic partner’s flirtatiousness outside the relationship. 
Desire had strong independent effects on relationships with sex drive, relationship quality, and male flirting behavior.
Behavior and Desire, but not Attitude, predicted the number of sexual partners and changes in romantic relationship status over the next 12 months.

Does Sociosexuality Vary Over Time Depending on Age or Circumstances?
Sociosexual orientation is a personality trait, and is relatively stable over the life course; in other words, people are either sociosexually restricted or unrestricted most of their lives. 

What other personality traits predict unrestricted sociosexuality?

Findings indicated that both unrestricted women and men described themselves as attractive and not ethically consistent.
Unrestricted women described themselves as not being moralistic and as varying their roles, depending on the situation.
Unrestricted men described themselves as irresponsible, unproductive, not warm, not anxious, and assertive.
Relationships were demonstrated between unrestricted sociosexuality for men and narcissism and psychopathy.

Is unrestricted sociosexuality the same as a strong desire for sexual variety?
An unrestricted individual is likely to achieve a high score in the Sexual Desire portion of the test, but will also have behaved in accordance with those desires, and exhibit liberal attitudes towards uncommitted sex. The desire for sexual variety is just one aspect of sociosexuality.

Sexual Strategies Theory (SST; Buss & Schmitt, 1993) argues that because women, compared with men, have a greater minimal level of parental investment (Trivers, 1972), they are more sensitive to resource limitations and thus have a greater stake in the success of the relationship with their reproductive partner. It follows that women’s optimal strategy for maximizing reproductive success is to establish and maintain a committed relationship with a single partner who will contribute to their offspring’s viability. For men, however, SST suggests that pursuing a variety of sexual partners may have evolved as an effective strategy for maximizing reproductive success. 

Among college students, Buss and Schmitt found the following difference in the preferred number of sexual partners:

Pedersen replicated the study in 2002, and found the same sex differences when plotting the means for each time period. However, Pedersen et al noticed that the mean values were highly skewed by a small number of individuals at the upper end. Restributing the results by median yielded the following result: 



The debate continues, and it is beyond the capabilities of this blogger to distinguish the scientific merits of each case. At first pass, the data strikes me as compatible in the sense that Sexual Strategies Theory may still apply, though the distribution of individuals would be skewed left.



Related posts:
16 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Promiscuity
Studies Reveal Players Like Their Women Dumb, Drunk and Easy
Someday My Psychopath Will Come…
Politics_and_Feminism  What_Guys_Want  Buss_and_Schmitt  pedersen  promiscuity  sex_differences  sociosexual_orientation  SOI  from google
october 2012 by takshimada
For Some Women, Promiscuity is Hard-Wired
A reader posted a graphic in the forum that really caught my eye:

Using a movie that morphs a very masculine male face (frame 1 of 700) into an androgynous face, the facial pictures and vertical lines indicate the mean location of participants’ dominant male (DOM), short-term mate (STM), long-term mate (LTM), average male (AVM) and androgynous face (AND) selections, with respect to experimentally assigned personality traits.

F1 (‘Friend’ factor) is composed of positive attributes such as sensitive, helpful and trustworthy.

F3 (‘Enemy’ factor) consists of undesirable attributes like selfish, controlling and threatening.

The ‘Lover’ factor (F2) includes sexually exciting, supportive and healthy.

The STM selection appears to be the best ‘good-genes’ choice (Lover factor), while avoiding the negative traits associated with high degrees of masculinity (Enemy factor). The LTM selection appears to trade off some ‘good genes’ attributes in favor of those required for a good friend and good father (included in F1).

This is very much in keeping with other studies I’ve covered, which explore the tradeoff female brains continuously evaluate to get the right balance of traits for mating success. Obviously, success can only be measured against a particular strategy – the woman looking for a fling is going to seek a different set of traits than a woman seeking a life partner. 

Recently, a reader asked what percentage of women are unrestricted in their sociosexuality. (Translation: How many women actually prefer casual sex?) Though I have not been able to find any data on the distribution of SOI (Sociosexual Inventory) scores in the population, the study that published the above graphic addresses a similar question. 

In Mate choice decisions: the role of facial beauty (Johnston, 2006), researchers evaluated female mating preferences in relation to their 2D:4D digit ratios. For those unfamiliar with this science, the ratio of the length of the index finger to the ring finger has been shown to correlate with a wide variety of abilities and preferences in both men and women. The ratio is a reliable indicator of the level of exposure to testosterone in utero. At 14 weeks gestation, when digit development occurs, the balance of androgen to estrogen signaling determines relative finger length. (There is no correlation to hormone levels in adults, this is strictly a prenatal occurrence.) 

Lower ratios indicate more exposure to testosterone. Here we do have some information about the distribution of ratios in the population:

2D:4D Ratios


Standard deviation

10th percentile

90th percentile


So what does it mean to have a low ratio if you are a woman? Females with a low 2D:4D ratio relative to other women:

1. Are psychologically de-feminized, as indicated by a low score on the Bem Sex Role Inventory.

2. Are physiologically de-feminized, as indicated by less regular menstrual cycles.

3. Report poor bonding to fathers.

4. Report shorter intimate relationships with males.

5. Prefer more masculine faces at ovulation and for long-term relationships.

6. Like the male pheromone 4,16 – androstadien – 3 – 01. (Christmas gift idea for your sluttiest friends!)

7. Are promiscuous, scoring high for “unrestricted” sociosexuality on the SOI.

8. Have an impaired resistance to parasites. 

9. Feel more sexual attraction for facial androgen markers in males. 

10. Resist bonding to partners.

11. Have more risk-loving preferences.

12. Have more athletic potential.

13. Have lower verbal fluency, and lower levels of emotional behavior.

14. Are more likely to be left-handed.

15. Are more likely to experience same-sex attraction.

In contrast, women with high ratios (more prenatal exposure to estrogen) tend to:

Look stereotypically female: fuller lips, small jaw, large eyes.
Bond well to males
Be sexually reserved
Seek less masculinized faces during ovulation and for long-term relationships

The exact prenatal mechanism is still not understood, but the ratio is estimated to be 66% heritable. It has been observed that mothers with a high waist-to-hip ratio give birth to daughters with a low D2:D4 ratio. I also wonder about fathers, especially as poor bonding is a “tell.” Do DOMs or STMs, aka cads, produce daughters with a greater male orientation?

Obviously, genes do not tell our life’s story in advance, but they do stack the deck. The good news is that women who fit this profile probably wouldn’t have it any other way. 

If you’re a guy, you might want to measure her fingers while she’s sleeping. :-/  

If you’re a woman with a high ratio, the message is clear:

You are not cut out for casual sex. Leave that to the long fingered vulgarians.

Related posts:
16 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Promiscuity
The Essential Truth About Female Promiscuity
Slutty Men Know They’re Hot, Slutty Women Think They Are
Hooking_Up_Realities  Politics_and_Feminism  D2:D4_digit_ratio  dating_advice  female_mating_preferences  finger_length  genetics  promiscuity  relationship_advice  sex_roles  sociosexuality  from google
october 2012 by takshimada
The Abject Failure of Sex-Positive Feminism: A Case Study
Tracy Clark Flory is a sex blogger for Salon. I first became acquainted with her writing in 2008, when she referenced Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both by Laura Sessions Stepp. That book was very instrumental in opening my eyes to hookup culture, and was one of the things that inspired me to begin blogging. Clark Flory’s essay In Defense of Casual Sex was my first introduction to the concept of sex-positivity as a political offshoot of contemporary, fragmented feminism. 

These books are just the latest result of the mounting abstinence movement, which, despite its religious roots, has recast its attack on “hookup” culture as secular, even feminist. The term “hooking up” — meaning anything from kissing to casual sex — can be traced back to the early ’80s, but only within the past few years did the hand-wringing really begin…Stepp spent years detailing so-called collegiate mating rituals — often lamenting a tendency among young women toward boozed-up hookups instead of cross-legged gatekeeping.

…Increasingly, young women are being told they are either respecting or exploiting themselves; they’re either with the “Girls Gone Wild,” sex blogger set or with the iron-belted and chaste.

Choose a side? No thanks. I’m a 24-year-old member of the hookup generation — I’ve had roughly three times as many hookups as relationships — and, like innumerable 20-somethings before me, I’ve found that casual sex can be healthy and normal and lead to better adult relationships…Hookup culture is not the radical extreme it is so frequently mischaracterized as in the media. 

[After attending a women's college] I opened those other, um, metaphorical gates of mine. OK, screw the modesty: My legs, I opened my legs…I went through a dressing room phase of trying on different men to see how they fit. 

As far as I can tell, these choices don’t form a pattern, other than a refusal to really choose. I was like a college freshman filling out the Career Center’s job placement questionnaire, making an enthusiastic check mark next to every box; except, in my case, I was checking off men. 

…There’s nothing unusual about my experience…For all the anxiety about “hookup culture” the truth is that for many people older than 20, “hookup culture” will sound remarkably like, well, “college.” 

…I learned something from all of the men I dated. Sexually, I learned plenty about what turns me on. More important, by spending time in uncommitted relationships, what I wanted in a committed relationship became clearer — and it wasn’t amorous antagonism but a partnership that didn’t trigger self-protectiveness…Perhaps young women are putting feminist ideals of equality into sex by refusing shame and claiming the traditionally male side of the stud/slut double standard.

Reading that essay, I knew that I had met the enemy, the source of Grrrrl Power and Female Chauvinist Pigs, a snarky, brash, in your face creature that would be telling me to STFU for years to come. And yet, Clark Flory was not the worst of them. She doesn’t appear to be batshit crazy, or a confirmed hater of men. In a column about booty calls, she interviewed evolutionary psychologist Peter Jonason, expressing at least a smidgen of doubt:

TCF: A lot of what you’re saying is obviously very politically and philosophically … unpleasant. I think most of us have a desire to escape our basic biology, to evolve, to be better.

Jonason: As much as you want to escape your biology, there it is, in your face. Humans have the illusion that they can escape their biology, but we’re just like any other animal, the difference is our leash is longer. It appears that we have all this freedom to make these choices, but we really don’t.

Still, a year and a half later she defended casual sex with a vengeance in Casual Sex Backlash:

As I see it, young women have fully proved that we can have one-night stands, hear us roar – and maybe we’re beginning to also allow ourselves more nuanced feelings about our hookups…We can now acknowledge regret over a one-night stand, without being considered, or seeing ourselves as, forever ruined women; if there’s been a recent change in my generation’s relationship to casual sex, I suspect it’s that we’re relaxing our defensive posturing.

By January of 2011, then 27, Clark Flory seemed rather fatigued  by the effort of keeping things casual in Does Friends with Benefits Work? 

When you talk to people who have been there and done that — and even those who are continuing to do that — the response is overwhelmingly negative. As my own former “friend with benefits” put it to me, “I’ve been in so many of these situations and, basically, they work until they don’t.”…In his self-deprecating style, he made no secret of his undatability. He was prone to post-coital declarations like, “You’ll be done with me soon. I’m a drunken emotional mess!” …Only that was kind of the point: So was I. I wanted company, warmth and no danger of attachment. 

…Except that in reality there was. I actually liked him, quite a bit, as a human being…At some point I realized that, despite my insistence otherwise, I actually wanted those sorts of intimacies, only with an actual commitment.

Now a blogger of sexploits who wanted to chuck it all for a relationship, Clark Flory scrambled to put her history of hookups in the context of normal, even healthy, 20-something behavior in Men: The New Romantics? 

I’ve been trying to explain about my “hookup” generation for years now: 35 percent of respondents report having had a hookup turn into a long-term relationship. Coontz sees this as “a very good example of the decline of the [sexual] double standard.” She points out that during at least the first half of the 20th century, it was common for a man to say, “Anybody who would do that isn’t good enough for me.” She says, “People get so hysterical about ‘friends with benefits’ and ‘hookups’ but very often these are interim behaviors.”

When, earlier this year, I read Clark Flory’s Bringing Home a Porn Star, I felt something like maternal concern even as I struggled to tamp down my revulsion. Oh, this woman’s poor mother!

I was at a neighborhood bar when in walked a man that I’d slept with before — virtually speaking. We had traded intimacies without ever having met. I grabbed my friend’s arm and whispered, “My favorite male porn star just walked in the door.” Seeing him in person, there was one thought on my mind: I need to sleep with him.

I asked my friend to tell him that I liked him and then ran and hid at the bar. Mid-sip, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I hear you’re a fan of my work,” he said — and suddenly I was starring in my own personal porno, bad script and all.

There’s no need to go into great detail — do a Google search for “porn” and you’ll find an approximate representation of what followed between us. It’s exactly what I had breathlessly watched him do many times before, but this time it seemed mechanical and theatrical. Instead of being entertained, I was doing the entertaining, and I suspect he was too — but for whom, exactly? We were the only audience.

All of which is to say: It was like nearly every casual hookup I’ve ever had. Here were two strangers connected only by their fantasies of who the other was.

Afterward, he stood up, stark naked, and strutted around my room with his hands on his hips. He nodded as he circled, taking in the belongings of the woman he’d just fucked, pro bono. Then he clapped, “Well! I better be getting home now.”

Despite the emptiness of it, I felt a sense of accomplishment over my conquest. I mean, I slept with my favorite male porn star!…Sleeping with my favorite male porn star was thrilling and fun. It’s a memory that I occasionally turn to for private titillation — when YouPorn doesn’t do the trick.

Not long after, the whole charade came crashing down, as Clark Flory confessed she’d never gotten off in a single casual encounter. From Years of Faking:

Postcollege, I became a full-time reporter, blogger—and orgasm faker. I had strong feminist political inclinations, but I was also deeply afraid of male rejection; my intellectual ideals clashed with my personal insecurities…I chose performed enthusiasm over more authentic sexual experience…in the years that followed, I moved on to faking multiple orgasms.

Around this time, I wrote an essay titled “In Defense of Casual Sex,” about how hookups had helped me explore my sexuality—and they had. But it was exploration through the eyes of men: I was focused on how my partners saw me. I didn’t mention that I’d faked it during nearly all of my dalliances. It seemed embarrassing to admit, and personally inconsequential. I just figured that I was one of those women for whom orgasms are extremely difficult, but even without them sex was a physical rush. Which is not to mention what a blast it was to date or become otherwise involved with a rainbow array of men—from a Muay Thai kickboxer to a big-deal lawyer.

Clark Flory turned out to be a fraud. In championing and justifying her own sordid sexcapades, she had sought to romanticize her experiences as empowering and deeply satisfying. In truth, it was her need for ego validation and her inability to orgasm that characterized her sexual experiences, leaving her with considerable emotional wreckage.

This month Clark Flory signals that she is ready to be done with casual sex. From Who Needs Casual Sex?:

There’s little that could shock me on a first date (or “date,” heavy on the air quotes). Not dirty talk, not sex — not even non-verbal attempts at anal. One gent announced within a couple hours of meeting me that he really wanted to stick a candle in my butt.

But being given flowers? Whoa.

When my recent date showed up at my door, minimalist bouquet in hand, I… [more]
Politics_and_Feminism  casual_sex  feminism  hooking_up  hookup_culture  sex-positive_feminism  Tracy_Clark-Flory  from google
october 2012 by takshimada
Giving Hookup Culture a Makeover
Hooking Up Smart aims to help people figure out how to navigate the hostile terrain of the contemporary sexual marketplace. I support both women and men in their search for meaningful relationships by providing strategic insight, guidance, and perspective as they manage their social and sexual interactions. 
Hooking Up Smart Mission Statement

Regular readers know that I think of myself as working on the margins here. Thoughtful people seeking relationships come here for sensible, strategic and actionable advice that they can put to use immediately. They get it in the posts, and the comment threads have a great deal of valuable information as well. That is the “bread and butter” of Hooking Up Smart. One relationship at a time.

There are also many other related topics I explore here, including:

1. Biological sex differences

2. Demographic trends around mating and marriage in the U.S.

3. Feminism

4. Hookup culture; environmental analysis and data

On this last point, I have never set my sights on actually changing the culture, as it seems impossibly entrenched 50 years after the Sexual Revolution. How might one be a catalyst for change? But after thoroughly analyzing hookup culture, and comparing it with actual hooking up behavior, it’s clear that there’s a lot less hooking up going on than most people believe, especially of the P in V variety. At the very least, there’s an opportunity to correct some misimpressions, and HUS is a potentially effective platform from which to achieve that. 

Ironically, feminists have used the low participation in hookup culture to discredit those of us who are concerned about its effect on young people. Even Hannah Rosin, in her recent column Boys on the Side, highlights the research of Stanford’s Paula England, who has gathered data from over 20,000 students:

Only 11% of  students enthusiastically enjoy hookup culture.
50% hook up, but do it rather ambivalently or reluctantly, some with extremely negative experiences.
38% opt out of hooking up altogether.

I write for the unenthusiastic 89%. I first began writing HUS for young women that got a good look at the culture and blanched, and that group is still the largest share of my readership. I’m a lot more concerned about the men and women who are sidelined, ambivalent or reluctant than I am about those who are promiscuous by choice. (They’ve already got what they want – let them go at it like rabbits.)

In a recent article The Art of Crowdshifting, author Leon Neyfakh observes:

Culture, the mix of rituals, values, and traditions that defines a group, is tenacious and sticky. Whether the culture belongs to a sports team, a neighborhood, or a country, it persists because it’s one of the main ingredients in the glue that holds the group together–because it exists in the space between people, rather than residing in any one individual. 

…What researchers have found is that there are techniques for changing a culture that appear to work, but they are not always the obvious ones. Doing so in a way that produces lasting results, but doesn’t involve destroying the group entirely, requires finesse, subtlety, and patience. It also requires a certain suspension of optimism about human nature. To really change how a group of people thinks and behaves, it turns out, you don’t need to change what’s inside of them, or appeal to their inner sense of virtue. You just have to convince them that everybody else is doing it.

“The inner conformist is stronger than the inner activist,” said Michael Morris, a psychologist at Columbia University who studies the role of culture in decision-making.

Of course, this is precisely what makes hookup culture so pervasive on college campuses. One study revealed that college students prefer dating to hooking up, but continue to hook up rather than go on dates. 

[The study author]…says it comes down to something called “pluralistic ignorance.” Essentially: Everybody’s doing it, so it must be good.

One of Kahn’s previous studies on the topic found that both men and women overestimated the degree to which the opposite gender enjoyed hooking up — described in this study as “a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night, between people who are strangers or brief acquaintances.”

Furthermore, students overestimated how much members of their own gender liked hooking up. “Because everybody else is hooking up you assume that they do it because they like it. Whereas you know that you don’t like it that much, but you do it to go along,” Kahn explains. “College students are very conformist.”

Neyfakh addresses the leverage of the human desire to conform:

We may need to stop trying to tap into people’s desire to be good or virtuous, and instead take advantage of something less lofty and, frankly, harder to admire: the powerful drive to be normal.

Alternatives include the scorched earth approach, where you destroy a culture in order to end it. Obviously, the downside is that one throws away the good with the bad. Shaming has also been used at times, but it is limiting to punishing wrongdoers rather than eliminating the deeply ingrained beliefs that produced them. 


 Luckily, researchers say there’s a workaround that produces lasting change, but doesn’t call for somehow reprogramming people’s inner values. What it does seem to require is changing their perception of what everyone else thinks.

A 2010 New York Times article about the sex ratio at the University of North Carolina featured students interviewed in bars. Hypergamous sorority chicks lamented that girls steal each other’s boyfriends, that guys don’t respond to texts after ONSs, and that they have to let cheating slide because there are so few dateable guys on campus. The message is clear: Drinking and hooking up define the scene at UNC. However, Neyfakh shares an interesting story:

The idea that we’re often mistaken about our compatriots’ beliefs and behavior has been deployed in anti-binge-drinking campaigns on college campuses, which aim to reduce the pressure students feel to drink by showing them that their peers don’t drink nearly as much as they assume. A poster campaign at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill presented students with hard data about their classmates: “Whether it’s Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, 2 out of 3 UNC students return home with a .00 blood alcohol concentration.” The program worked: After five years, people at the college were drinking less.

By educating students about what their peers were really doing, the norm was redefined, and behavior changed. This approach has also been used to encourage voter turnout:

When told about low voter turnout and encouraged to “buck the trend,” people were actually less likely to vote. A more effective approach, the study found, was to tell people that turnout had been higher in the previous election than at any in history. In other words, more people were voting — so if they wanted to be normal, they should vote.

After decades of publicizing the health risks of smoking, adults knew that their efforts had had little effect on teens, according to an article in the New York Times.

Any teenager could explain why. For them, a cigarette is not a delivery system for nicotine. It’s a delivery system for rebellion. Kids take up smoking to be cool, to impress their friends with their recklessness and defiance of adults. Teenagers don’t care about lung cancer — they’re immortal. They know that smoking is dangerous. In fact, they overestimate the chances of getting lung cancer. Danger is part of a cigarette’s appeal.

Since 1997, we’ve learned a lot about how to prevent teenage smoking. The best strategy? Make smoking uncool.

By depicting smoking as profitable for the big, bad tobacco companies, the strategy dubbed Truth cut teen smoking in half in the U.S. between 1998 and today. Kids want to rebel against adults, but they wish to conform within their peer groups.

There’s something a bit circular about the idea that we change people’s behavior by tweaking their perceptions about the behavior of others. It’s a self-reinforcing process: The more people believe that smoking is atypical, for instance, the less typical it becomes, which in turn provides further evidence that it’s atypical. The most challenging part is kicking off the cycle, by convincing enough people that deviating from existing norms will not leave them shunned by the rest of society.

This is precisely the challenge we face in trying to change the culture of no-strings sex in college. Students are ashamed to admit they haven’t hooked up, and both sexes can expect a round of high-5s on a Sunday morning as they report their exploits of the previous night. Letting students know the real facts about hooking up makes non-participants feel normal rather than the odd one out. I have witnessed great surprise (and some skepticism) when sharing consistent findings across many studies and institutions with young people. There is great potential here for cultural change.

Institutions are beginning to do their own research on hooking up behaviors among their student populations. Duke University surveyed 1,450 freshmen and seniors anonymously online and found the following:

Only one-third in each grade had ever had a hookup.
Less than half of the hookups involved oral sex or intercourse.
60% of freshmen were virgins.
One-third of students were in committed relationships.

According to researcher Wendy Brynildsen:

Our findings call into question some popular accounts as well as some social scientific ones. We find a diverse mix of campus relationships at Duke. We also find a strong association between previous relationship behavior and current relationship behavior for both freshmen and seniors.

The findings show that, of those at Duke who had hookups, many had hookups in earlier relationships, and for freshmen, that meant in high school. Drinking as well as having … [more]
Hooking_Up_Realities  Politics_and_Feminism  Art_of_Crowdshifting  college_culture  college_sex  hooking_up  hookup_culture  Leon_Neyfakh  Paula_England  popular_culture  sexual_mores  sexual_revolution  from google
october 2012 by takshimada
How Narcissism Evolved
In a recent post, Badger linked to Just Be a Man About It, a new blog that focuses heavily on the effectiveness of Dark Triad traits.

[Women] are drawn to the allure of the street smart Dark Triad males. Why? Simply because these are the males who can best extract resources from their environment. They most likely are the only males who will be able to extract resources in times of extreme scarcity. If for whatever reason the lights go dark, emergency services cease, and neighbor becomes pitted against neighbor it will be those who are predisposed to the Dark Triad traits who will be the ones that will be keeping their friends and family protected from the ensuing chaos.

This immediately caught my attention, because while people (not just males) with Dark Triad traits are good at getting what they want, they’re not very inclined to form lasting bonds, and they’re not protective of others. I would feel very insecure throwing in my lot with such a man in a time of crisis – surely he’d kick me to the curb rather than share his provisions? 

Additionally, I find the romanticization of Dark Triad traits troubling. I think we often tend to view narcissism as a sort of dominance on steroids – and if women like dominance, they must love extreme dominance, right? How do leadership, dominance and narcissism differ? While Dark Triad traits are clearly adaptive, it’s unclear why, though new theories continue to emerge.

What is the evolutionary story behind narcissism? Do narcissists make the best providers in times of crisis? Are they loyal to friends and family? JBAMAI linked to a study that provided some answers: Who is James Bond?: The Dark Triad as an Agentic Social Style. 

The researchers identify two distinctly different and mutually exclusive social strategies:

Prosocial: Characterized by agreeableness, conscientiousness and cooperative behavior. Successful for long-term mating (LTM).
Agentic: Characterized by selfishness, exploitativeness and manipulativeness. Successful for short-term mating (STM).

Here are the traits associated with the agentic style, reflecting the Dark Triad trio of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy:

High self-esteem
Low neuroticism
Low conscientiousness
Highly competitive
Low altruism
Low empathy
Low anxiety

In summary, these individuals “pursue a highly selfish agenda that is exploitative.” These traits “enable an exploiter to persist in the face of potential social rejection and retaliation.” Jonason calls this the formula for getting what you want without arousing suspicion, since people guard against exploitation and also retaliate when taken advantage of.

In a study looking at Machiavellianism and friendships, Lyons and Aitken (2010) found that “high Mach individuals of both sexes are likely to have poorer quality friendships (colder, less rewarding and more distant), a finding that in evolutionary terms seems counterintuitive for a social animal.” They suggest that the relationship between Machiavellianism and friendship could have been an adaptive response to insecure childhood attachment:

According to Mikulincer et al. (2005), securely attached individuals have a reduced need for self-protection and self-enhancement, and can afford to put energy into other behaviours, such as caring about others. Insecure attachment, in turn, fosters a personality that is characterised by having less empathy for other individuals (Britton & Fuendeling, 2005), a finding that could explain the link between Machiavellianism, empathising deficits and the lack of close social bonds with others.

Developmental evidence also points to a relationship between secure bonds and pro-social behaviour, suggesting that secure, positive friendships in children and adolescents increase their pro-social behaviour and social adjustment (Berndt, 2002; Barry & Wenzel, 2006).

Clearly, the Dark Triad traits are antisocial, yet also adaptive. How can this be explained?

Having a propensity for fewer, more distant relationships could be adaptive in a number of ways. If an individual is born into a dangerous and insecure world, it makes sense to be cautious about trusting others and investing resources in them through pro-social behaviours that are unlikely to be reciprocated (Trivers, 1971). Equally, if an individual does not really care about other‟s feelings, it is possible to form short-term pseudo friendships to one‟s own advantage. These “hit and run” relationships have significant adaptive value, particularly for males in the context of fathering offspring (Jonason et al., 2009).

In The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (2011), a chapter on the link between NPD and short-term mating, The Intertwined Evolution of Narcissism and Short-Term Mating by Holtzman and Strube, explores the latest thinking on this relationship. 

The authors point out that it’s hard to understand how such socially aversive traits could have been adaptive after humans underwent natural positive selection for pair-bonding 1.5 million years ago. It was at this time that the benefits of parental investment (LTM) began to outweigh the advantages of STM. So how did narcissism persist in the population?

Up until the occurrence of long-term pair-bonding, the two most important traits for mating were attractiveness and competitiveness. These two traits encouraged dominance. According to fossil remains, however, selection traits began to change around 1.5 million years ago to accompany LTM. Mating males became less symmetrical (a proxy for attractiveness) and smaller, reflecting “decreased selection for intrasexual competitive advantages.”

After this time, it is therefore argued (Eastwick, 2009) that a primary trait under positive selection was cooperativeness – facilitating bi-parental care, attachment and pair-bonds. This was a key turning point in human evolution. When cooperativeness began to be positively selected, contentiousness and attractiveness no longer held a monopoly on reproductive success.

In light of the available phylogenetic evidence, therefore, we hypothesize that narcissism emerged as a unique variant of dominance.

The importance and influence of learning mechanisms in the development of mating strategies cannot be downplayed; the development of narcissistic promiscuity is likely partially due to learning and the contextual effects of rearing environments or cultures. Nevertheless…the behavior genetic evidence clearly indicates a nontrivial degree of heritability…the underlying biological machinery that was shaped by evolution has reciprocally interacted with the learning mechanisms that have shaped narcissistic and STM behavior. 

While narcissistic traits clearly help in the acquisition of resources, their attraction in securing short-term mates is less clear. What were the reproductive means that molded narcissism, and why does it persist? The authors theorize that STM directly produced narcissism to compete with trends in long-term mating. The data suggests that narcissists possess greater levels of the qualities conducive to STM:

1. Attractiveness

It is unclear whether greater perceived attractiveness is innate or due to grooming. Narcissists are more likely than other males to be preoccupied with personal appearance. They may also inflate their own perceptions of their attractiveness, enabling them to pursue women beyond their realistic prospects. 

Exhibitionism is a core trait of narcissism, and also favors STM. These characteristics were favored before humans evolved to pair-bond.

2. Coercion

According to the researchers, narcissism is slightly related to behaviors that have been conceptualized as risk factors for rape. Once pair bonding evolved, narcissists who were less coercive would have had difficulty reproducing. They were ostracized from, or avoided, long-term pair-bonds.

Narcissists have more fantasies about coercion and sadism during sex, and self-report more coercion and sadism during sex.
They construe sexual behavior as involving manipulation and power.
They punish, i.e., have less empathy for, women who withhold sex.

3. Adolescence

Narcissism should peak during adolescence, when males are unable to provide for offspring, and more likely to pursue STM. However, poor attachment in childhood, combined with STM approaches during adolescence may set the stage for a lifetime of STM.

If narcissism evolved as a mechanism whereby men might cuckold one another, the researchers offer several suggestions for future research into the evolution of narcissism:

Is the sperm of narcissists different from other men?
Are their testicles larger?
Narcissists self-report larger penises. Is this accurate? (Larger penises may be more effective in scraping out a competitor’s recently deposited semen).

One final question asks whether “narcissistic tendencies are evoked in contexts where short-term mating opportunities are presented.” It seems clear to me, at least, that the proliferation of cads and players in the SMP has followed the trajectory of increased female sexual expression since the Sexual Revolution. Some narcissists are born, and some of them are self-made, apparently, but they’re all highly toxic.

Do something good for your species today. Boycott Dark Triad dudes and stamp out narcissism. 
Related posts:
Defense Against the Dark Arts: Narcissism
Guys Acting Like Jerks to Get a Relationship?
Slutty Men Know They’re Hot, Slutty Women Think They Are
Politics_and_Feminism  Relationship_Strategies  dark_triad_traits  long-term_matig  narcissism  Narcissistic_Personality_Disorder  personality_traits  Peter_Jonason  short-term_mating  from google
january 2012 by takshimada

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