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A quote from Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate (pdf):

“This grew into the modern catechism: rape is not about sex, our culture socializes men to rape, it glorifies violence against women. The analysis comes right out of the gender-feminist theory of human nature: people are blank slates (who must be trained or socialized to want things); the only significant human motive is power (so sexual desire is irrelevant); and all motives and interests must be located in groups (such as the male sex and the female sex) rather than in individual people. The Brownmiller theory is appealing even to people who are not gender {362} feminists because of the doctrine of the Noble Savage. Since the 1960s most educated people have come to believe that sex should be thought of as natural, not shameful or dirty. Sex is good because sex is natural and natural things are good. But rape is bad; therefore, rape is not about sex. The motive to rape must come from social institutions, not from anything in human nature. The violence-not-sex slogan is right about two things. Both parts are absolutely true for the victim: a woman who is raped experiences it as a violent assault, not as a sexual act. And the part about violence is true for the perpetrator by definition: if there is no violence or coercion, we do not call it rape. But the fact that rape has something to do with violence does not mean it has nothing to do with sex, any more than the fact that armed robbery has something to do with violence means it has nothing to do with greed. Evil men may use violence to get sex, just as they use violence to get other things they want.

I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence, and is getting in the way of the only morally relevant goal surrounding rape, the effort to stamp it out.

Think about it. First obvious fact: Men often want to have sex with women who don’t want to have sex with them. They use every tactic that one human being uses to affect the behavior of another: wooing, seducing, flattering, deceiving, sulking, and paying. Second obvious fact: Some men use violence to get what they want, indifferent to the suffering they cause. Men have been known to kidnap children for ransom (sometimes sending their parents an ear or finger to show they mean business), blind the victim of a mugging so the victim can’t identify them in court, shoot out the kneecaps of an associate as punishment for ratting to the police or invading their territory, and kill a stranger for his brand-name athletic footwear. It would be an extraordinary fact, contradicting everything else we know about people, if some men didn’t use violence to get sex.

Let’s also apply common sense to the doctrine that men rape to further the interests of their gender. A rapist always risks injury at the hands of the woman defending herself. In a traditional society, he risks torture, mutilation, and death at the hands of her relatives. In a modern society, he risks a long prison term. Are rapists really assuming these risks as an altruistic sacrifice to benefit the billions of strangers that make up the male gender? The idea becomes even less credible when we remember that rapists tend to be losers and nobodies, while presumably the main beneficiaries of the patriarchy are the rich and powerful. Men do sacrifice themselves for the greater good in wartime, of course, but they are either conscripted against their will or promised public adulation when their exploits are made public. But rapists usually {363} commit their acts in private and try to keep them secret. And in most times and places, a man who rapes a woman in his community is treated as scum. The idea that all men are engaged in brutal warfare against all women clashes with the elementary fact that men have mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, whom they care for more than they care for most other men. To put the same point in biological terms, every person’s genes are carried in the bodies of other people, half of whom are of the opposite sex. Yes, we must deplore the sometimes casual treatment of women’s autonomy in popular culture. But can anyone believe that our culture literally “teaches men to rape” or “glorifies the rapist”? Even the callous treatment of rape victims in the judicial system of yesteryear has a simpler explanation than that all men benefit by rape. Until recently jurors in rape cases were given a warning from the seventeenth-century jurist Lord Matthew Hale that they should evaluate a woman’s testimony with caution, because a rape charge is “easily made and difficult to defend against, even if the accused is innocent.” The principle is consistent with the presumption of innocence built into our judicial system and with its preference to let ten guilty people go free rather than jail one innocent.

Even so, let’s suppose that the men who applied this policy to rape did tilt it toward their own collective interests. Let’s suppose that they leaned on the scales of justice to minimize their own chances of ever being falsely accused of rape (or accused under ambiguous circumstances) and that they placed insufficient value on the injustice endured by women who would not see their assailants put behind bars. That would indeed be unjust, but it is still not the same thing as encouraging rape as a conscious tactic to keep women down. If that were men’s tactic, why would they have made rape a crime in the first place?

As for the morality of believing the not-sex theory, there is none. If we have to acknowledge that sexuality can be a source of conflict and not just wholesome mutual pleasure, we will have rediscovered a truth that observers of the human condition have noted throughout history. And if a man rapes for sex, that does not mean that he “just can’t help it” or that we have to excuse him, any more than we have to excuse the man who shoots the owner of a liquor store to raid the cash register or who bashes a driver over the head to steal his BMW. The great contribution of feminism to the morality of rape is to put issues of consent and coercion at center stage. The ultimate motives of the rapist are irrelevant.”

Ultimately the conscious motivation of rapists is an empirical question and some rapists could get enjoyment from wielding power over others. But as Pinker describes, the prima facae case has to be that desire for sex is an important factor in the occurrence of rape. Few people are sadists, and if power achieved through violence were the only goal, rape would only be one of many options.

Looking at it from an evolutionary point of view rather than the conscious motivation the rapist perceives themselves as having, the fitness value a person’s genes gain from their carrier potentially making a woman pregnant is huge compared with any gains from improving their carrier’s self image. For that matter, ‘power’ should only be enjoyable to have when it is useful. It might therefore be satisfying to know you have the ‘power’ to force someone to have sex with you if the alternative is not being able to have sex at all, but someone who must use violence is less ‘powerful’, impressive or high status than someone who can get sex from willing partners. There are surely few if any social benefits from having others think you are ‘powerful’ or threatening because you are a rapist; others are much more likely to avoid you and make your life difficult. For this reason it would be extraordinary if rapists preferred raping to having consensual sex.

“After more than a quarter century of debate, Yale faculty members are now barred from sexual relationships with undergraduates—not just their own students, but any Yale undergrads. The new policy, announced to faculty in November and incorporated into the updated faculty handbook in January, is “an idea whose time has come,” says Deputy Provost Charles Long, who has advocated the ban since 1983.

In his decades at Yale, Long has seen many faculty-student romances. Most turn out fine, he says, but others are destructive to students. “I think we have a responsibility to protect students from behavior that is damaging to them and to the objectives for their being here.”

Faculty-student liasons repugnant at Yale

Al Roth suggests this ban is because many find such relationships ‘repugnant’ while the Deputy Provost says it’s to prevent something which is destructive to  some and interferes with their objectives at Yale, presumably academic ones. How can we tell who is right? Well we can be pretty sure the Deputy Provost hasn’t got the right explanation. The number of activities which are destructive to some students and sometimes interfere with academic pursuits are numerous. Socialising and drinking in general would qualify and so would all relationships whether with faculty or other students. To my knowledge there is no call whatever to ban these things on the same basis. What’s more it is far from clear why undergrad-faculty relationships should on average reduce an undergrad’s success at university. Older and successful partners are more likely to help and motivate students to reach their level of education and also provide access to networks of intelligent people to help with their career.

Given this we have to turn to another explanation, and our general aversion to mixing relationships characterised by ‘dominance’ with those characterised by ‘sex’ as described by Steven Pinker, would have to be a good candidate.

Will Wilkinson has more.

This certainly gave me a good laugh:

Tiger Woods, who recently admitted to multiple extramarital affairs, said he is receiving treatment. David Duchovny, who plays a sex-obsessed professor on the TV show “Californication,” underwent rehab in 2008. Dr. Drew Pinsky has launched a reality series dealing with the subject.

Sex addiction talk seems to be everywhere. But mental health experts are split on what underlies such behavior.

Patterns of extreme sexual acting out are described variously by therapists as an addiction, as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder or as a symptom of another psychiatric illness, such as depression.

The lines specialists draw between what is sexually normal or abnormal have long been in flux. Some behaviors, such as pedophilia, are almost universally considered abnormal and have been described in the DSM for decades. Homosexuality was once considered deviant, but that reference was dropped from the DSM decades ago.

Therapists who see patients — mostly men — with problems caused by repetitive sexual behaviors, whether sex with consenting adults, pornography or cyber-sex, said the addition of a hypersexual behavior category was long overdue.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this condition exists and that it’s serious,” said Dr. Martin P. Kafka, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard University who was a member of the DSM-5 work group on sexual disorders.

“There are definitely men who are consumed by porn or consumed by sex with consenting adults — who have multiple affairs or multiple prostitutes. The consequences associated with this behavior are very significant, including divorce, pregnancy” and sexually transmitted disease, he said.

Given how much people enjoying having sex, surely it’s our failure to have sex whereever the opportunity presents itself which is the peculiar behaviour demanding hand wringing by psychologists. If a man’s revealed preference is to have sex very often with as many people as possible, why not label his residual desire for a stable monogamous relationship as the pathology requiring a cure? If the man’s desire for a stable marriage is more than just a desire to fit in, such a man does indeed have competing desires that are hard to reconcile. However, as long as they only engage in consensual sex it’s not clear why the rest of society should side with one over the other. If ‘sex addiction’ made men so impatient it was impossible for them to plan to get the sex they want, I could see the problem. However, the results listed here not sexual frustration but rather divorce, pregnancy and STIs.

Why not instead praise sex addiction? Just think of the potential benefits to women who might otherwise struggle to find sexual partners! Desire for sex is after all one of  the primary reasons men strive to become educated, rich and impressive. If sex addicted men go out and get women pregnant and have many children out of wedlock, all the better for those children who get to live who otherwise might never have been given that chance! We might just as well choose to pathologise those who so desire a sexually exclusive relationship so much that they ruin their sex lives by staying married to people who no longer excite them, killing off their creativity in the process. If we took this diagnosis seriously most boys would surely qualify as mentally ill at some point during puberty.

If any condition in the new DSM is a result of imposing a particular set of values not clearly conducive to human welfare, surely sex addiction is it.

When we’re talking about famous men like Tiger Woods, we should be least surprised that they sleep around. Satoshi Kanazawa exaggerates but is on the right track:

In the very short time since I have been a “blogger” at Psychology Today, since February 2008, there have been numerous sex scandals of politicians, athletes, and other celebrities:  Eliot Spitzer;  Silvio Berlusconi; David Paterson; John Edwards; Mark Sanford; David Letterman, and now Tiger Woods.  This is nothing new.  The only puzzle is that some of them had to pay for the sex.  At least, Berlusconi, the only non-American on the list above, does not have to face the “outrage” and “disappointment” of his countrymen; in Europe, for some reason, people know that this is normal for politicians and other powerful and resourceful men.

To recap everything I have said in the last two years on this blog, men do everything they do in order to get laid (Read Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV,Part VPart VI).  This is mostly unconscious on the part of the men; they don’t necessarily know that they do everything they do in order to get laid.  They consciously think that they want to attain the highest political office in the state or in the country; they want to become a successful businessman and make more money than anyone else; they want to practice and play hard so that they can become the best in their sport; they want to make America laugh so that they become the most successful entertainer.  Men want to do these things because they are evolutionarily designed to compete and achieve, and, when they do, women seek them out as sexual partners.

Highly successful men have sexual affairs, not because they want to (if what men want mattered, all men would have a maximum number of affairs), but because women choose them.  As I have said again and again, sex and mating among humans and other mammals is an entirely female choice, not a male choice; it happens whenever and with whomever women want, not whenever and with whomever men want.  What men want doesn’t matter, because it’s a constant.  What matters is what women want.

Added: The Onion on fire.

A bunch of people not looking for a light switch.

A major function of a dance floor is to facilitate finding and attracting partners. When we meet new potential friends and lovers we usually want to learn a lot about them quickly in order to determine whether they are people want to bond with and to suss out their intentions towards us. Given how much bars, clubs and dance floors are used to meet new people, it is surprising that they are often poorly lit, crowded and noisy to the point where conversation is impossible. Strobe lights seem purpose built to ration what little we can see of others. This all makes it harder to work out whether another person is attractive to us or not, and to suss out how they feel about us. In other words, a club would be a terrible place to conduct a job interview. Why design them this way when a major purpose of dancing in the first place is in assisting informed mate selection.

Others can’t assess you as closely either. Of course, if you’ve got something to hide this is great, but if your concealed traits are positive this is no good at all. Shouldn’t such an environment attract an undesirable number of people with features they’d like to hide?

Dancing can occur in well lit, low volume, spacious locales, so why the switch to environments that mask our signals?

Such an environment does have the upside of making it possible to inconspicuously approach others; the rest of the dance floor can’t clearly see who you are approach, or if you are rejected, so each approach carries a smaller reputational risk. Perhaps it’s because we drink and spend more when we can’t have conversations, and enough people a just out with familiar friends? Perhaps we specifically want to deaden our standards? The less we know about the other person the more likely we are to find them acceptable partners for a single night at least. Perhaps drunk people are so transparent we hardly need the assistance of good lighting?

What do you think?

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Robert WiblinHi! I am a young Australian man ostensibly interested in the truth and maximising the total number of preferences that are ever satisfied, weighted by their intensity. I also enjoy reading and writing about the topics listed above. If you share my interests, friend me on , , or or subscribe to my RSS feed .

All opinions expressed here are at most mine alone, and have nothing to do with any past, present, future or far future employers.

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