Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Traditionalism and Female Sexuality

Commentator Thursday wrote an article which I felt deserved far more discussion that what it received. How Social Conservatives and Traditionalists Got It Wrong About Female Sexuality dealt with an issue that I feel has been poorly handled by the conservative movement: Namely, female sexuality and its social implications. The traditionalist influence on the conservative movement is , I think, responsible for this. Its conception of womanhood is wrong and conservatism’s failure to rectify the issue goes a long way to explain feminism’s triumphant march through most of 20th century culture. We were fighting the wrong battles.

As a young man debating Socialists, I would be often appalled by the glib manner in which socialists would dismiss facts about Communist atrocities. I often wondered to myself, why did unjust salaries arouse indignation whilst horrific murders not? Why did some things get picked through with a fine tooth comb whilst more important things glossed over?

As I have gotten older, it has slowly dawned upon me that the difference between socialists and myself was at a more fundamental level than simple difference of opinion. What separated us lay in our relationship to the concept of the truth. To put it bluntly, I believed in the entirety of the truth whilst liberals are "selective” in their acceptance of it. For whatever reason, socialists, liberals--call them what you want--all seemed to have a habit of ignoring facts which would challenge their preferred view of thew world. Take for example the racial IQ debate. Now, I believe that there are differences in racial IQ, but the implications of this fact are complex and cannot be simplistically reduced. But when the facts are presented to a liberal they are cognitively ignored either through processes which attempt to render the fact irrelevant or denied outright. Ignoring facts did not bother them. It bothered me a lot.

Orwell, who was a great chronicler of the intellectual pathology that facilitated the rise of socialism, never as far as I’m aware got around to naming this intellectual pathology. Which is a shame since I think it is the core pathology of the authoritarian mind. Socialism would have been impossible without its operation. The term I propose is Thought-filter, the ability to reject inconvenient facts which are out of line with the desired state of affairs.

In the novel, 1984, a person with a good thought-filter--(as determined by the Thought Police)--accepted party orthodoxy without question, even when presented with self evident facts contrary to their beliefs. Perfection of this state was achieved when the individual was presented with a contradictory facts yet no incongruity was noted and hatred was generated towards the “inconvenient truth”. Thought-filtering is the triumph of ideology over the truth, a state where the mind prefers its own conception of reality rather than the real world. Debate at any member of Greenpeace or Feminist and you’ll get the picture. Facts which don’t support the cause are irrelevant. Raising them, bad manners worthy of censure. It is the motive force of Political Correctness.

Now it would be false to assume that this intellectual pathology was solely confined to the Left. The Right has had its own periods of successful thought-filtering and many so called conservatives operate within a similar mindset and frequently it is a quite widespread phenomena. A lot of conservatives have a problem with “Game” and despite overwhelming and scientific evidence, dismiss it. The case in point being Lawrence Auster and his rejection of “Game”. Now I’m going to pick on Auster not out of any particular reason, rather, he is typical and high profile social conservatives who rejects Game.

Now I presume that Auster rejects the concept of Game because of:

The hedonistic lifestyle that he assumes is part of it.
The assumption it makes with regard to female nature.

Firstly, there are plenty of bloggers who believe in Game yet don’t believe in Hedonism. If Game could be given a definition then it would be; the knowledge of how women think,what women find attractive and the capability to apply that knowledge effectively. If Auster’s objection to Game is that it is inherently Hedonistic he is quite simply wrong. However what I suspect is that what Auster really objects to--and I could be wrong--are the assumptions that Game makes with regard to female behaviour. To quote from Thursday’s article;

Traditionalists have done a fairly good job of recognizing female imperfectness in areas other than sexuality, and their critiques of feminism often had traction because of this. But traditionalists haven’t really come to terms with the dark side of female sexuality. Traditionalists never really addressed why women were attracted to rakes and bad boys in the first place, nor why they would leave good men for the same. It was all chalked up to some sort of “trickery” on the part of the rake or some moral inadequacy on the part of the nice guy husband.
Now, I think Thursday is far too charitable to the traditionalists, their error is far deeper. Not only have they failed to see the “Dark side” of female sexuality, I think many of them don’t see any female sexuality at all: except perhaps for the limited necessity of childbearing. The concept that a good woman actually aches for sexual pleasure seems to either escapes them or horrifies them. To the traditionalists, women being both “lofty and high” are devoid of the base instincts that are so ever present in the male. The thought that a good woman actually may desire a good hard shag is at odds with their conception of a good woman.

Now, I think that the most vigorous proponents of Game also get it wrong. Women are sexual, but not as sexual in the same way as men. Women who have slept with lots of men, don’t seem to see it as some achievement. In fact, many of the exploits of sexually promiscuous women seem to have a “put on” quality to them They seem to have multiple partners more to prove that they are “liberated” than out of natural desire. To quote Catherine Millet:(For the pedants out there, there are always outliers)

"Yes, I f..ked for the pleasure of it," she writes retrospectively, "but didn't I also f..k so that f..king wasn't a problem?"
Anecdotally, it would seem to square up with my observations at work. Sex and love seem to be more intermixed in women than in men; where they’re discrete. In fact, a lot of the female promiscuity that goes about today is probably more a response to social pressures placed on women than natural sexual desire. Roger Scruton’s sublime insight is on the money;

Women have been shamed into being shameful.
Social pressure and culture are very important determinants of female behaviour, including sexual behaviour. But these are not the only determinants, so is natural sexual desire. And it’s this natural sexual desire that traditionalists refuse to recognise. Or when they do recognise it, they see it as a defect rather than an intended design by the Creator. Their thought-filters are working in overdrive.

Personally, I think that this Western traditional aversion to female sexuality has it roots in a residual Gnosticism in Christianity, which tended to place the spiritual at war with the corporeal. The problem is though, that man is both spirit and flesh and each has a legitimate existence. The problem with a lot of "real world" Christianity is that it tended to want to deny the legitimacy of the flesh. The idea of Christianity was to tame our passions, not kill them; which with regard to sex it tended to encourage.

The other big problem with this view was the assumption that what was pleasing in God’s sight was also pleasing to the opposite sex. Hard work, prudence, self denial etc, whilst all are good for the well being of the community, don’t really turn a woman on. There seemed to be a failure to recognise that moral virtues have little if any sexual attributes: Virtue isn’t a turn on. Courtly love was all about kindness, grace, supplication and romance. It was never about the knights brooding presence, good looks and sexual assertiveness. The smarter approach would have been to combine the two, but in the war of the spirit against the flesh, the spirit won.

The net result was that what arose culturally over time was the idea that the good and relatively asexual woman and the excessively polite man would be drawn to each other by the strength of their virtue. Which is not the way it works in the real world as many a polite beta male has found out.

Now some people may think that I’m being hard on Christianity, but I bring this little anecdote to my defence. During a Papal Audience, the late Pope John Paul II, raised the issue of the female orgasm (how the husband should see that wife is satisfied) to the look of astonishment of many of the cardinals. The fact that a Pope, talking about normal marital sexual relations, should elicit such a response says a lot of what the “institutional” Church thought was appropriate to say in polite company. In other words the intimacies of sex were not appropriate. His “revolutionary” theology of the body was revolutionary in that he preached that sex, and hence our animal natures, were good. The revolution lay in affirming the goodness of our sexual natures. It could be only considered revolutionary if the previous teaching did not consider it that way. It would be fair to say that the Church had a problem with sex, especially female sex. Admittedly it is now trying to rectify the situation now but two thousand years of ascetic teaching are going to take a long while change.

Where traditionalists get it wrong is in their preference for their this fictional “pure noble woman” model of female sexuality to its real world counterpart: The fantasy is preferable to reality. Though the evidence of the truth of Game is overwhelming it is dismissed by the traditionalists. Game offends the traditionalists not so much in its assertions(which they deny) but in its results.(which they try to explain away). Their refusal to acknowledge Game is in many ways like the socialists’ refusal to acknowledge the superiority of Capitalism as a system for generating societal wealth; an exercise in reality evasion. It's in this way that the traditionalists resemble the feminists, both rejecting rejecting reality for their preferred ideals of womanhood. Thoughtfilters in overdrive, willed blindness is preferred to seeing the truth.


Oddyoddyo13 said...

I believe that everyone would rather see their version of the world rather than the real world. Its natural. We enjoy glossing over what we don't like, and prefer to focus on what we know.

Of course, there is the issue of "female sexuality" that takes up the main part of your post. I can honestly say I have no comment for that, seeing as I am a female. Basically I'm biased.

But, I also agree with you in some respects.

Will S. said...

The term I propose is Thought-filter, the ability to reject inconvenient facts which are out of line with the desired state of affairs.

Exactly. Reminded me of something that ranting leftist Canadian writer Farley Mowat once said:

"I never let the facts get in the way of the truth {...} On occasions when the facts have particularly infuriated me, Fuck the Facts!"

Mowat apparently believes 'truth' can somehow be independent of the facts. One is probably hard-pressed to find a more explicit case of Orwellian 'doublethink' than Mowat's mindset.

Tom said...

While we all like to worship the facts, the truth is a lot of facts make us unhappier.

As Megan McArdle pointed out, one of the symptoms of clinical depression is an accurate assessment of one's abilities and talents.

I will admit I'm fairly utilitarian. We can argue the truth racial IQ all day, but in the end, I don't care. I think large scale acceptance of the concept (fact or not) would be fundamentally harmful for *all* elements of society.

Take another fact. The power of an individual or small group to cause wide scale destruction has been increasing since the birth of the species. The logical extrapolation of this is that we will reach a point were our own personal security can only be guaranteed by the destruction of all others.

Is that a fact worth imparting? No - a world that chose to embrace that fact would be a short-lived one indeed.

So, yes, facts is important, but they are not the be-all-and-end-all. A philosophy governed only by fact would be impoverished indeed.

Perhaps ignoring fact can lead to Orwellian double-think, but it has also lead to almost everything that is transcendental about man.

After all, fact makes us out as a bunch of meat-bags inhabiting the top few feet of a unremarkable planet circling an unremarkable star in an unremarkable galaxy. Facts make it clear that there is no meaning - that life itself is just an accident.

It is Truth that makes us man.

Tom said...

Onto the second point - Game.

I find it ironic that a post focusing on fact refers to Game.

The trouble with Game (and the whole evo-bio movement) is that it starts with a good narrative based on some observed behaviour.

And the trouble with *that* is that the human mind is constructed to find a narrative and then ignore facts that don't correspond with that narrative.

Now, there's no denying that the female behaviour that is assumed with Game exists, but as usual, reality is a *lot* more diverse and complicated, while Game believers pretty much universally claim that the reality that they know is *the* reality for everyone.

Roissy himself has made a 'Farley Mowat' like comment about the facts when confronted with the fact that the GSS doesn't back up a lot of his assertions about women. (I believe that he insists that the GSS underestimates the number of partners women have by multiple factors...)

Sadly, facts tend not to fit *anyone's* narrative because they rarely fit a narrative at all. We want most people to be good or most people to be bad. We want everybody to have been pure before. We want modern women to be sexually driven with dozens of partners.

Then reality seeps in. Most women had pre-marital sex two generations ago. (Why do you think breaking off an engagement was so serious in Victorian England?) Over 40% of 30-35 year-olds have had 2 or less partners.

Sadly, reality doesn't like comforting narratives.

Will S. said...

Hey Tom, why don't you come back when you can muster a coherent argument of whatever kind you prefer - either rational (i.e. fact-based, i.e. truth-based) or not (according to some Farley-Mowat-esque, nebulous idea of truth and facts not necessarily cohering), but at least internally consistent, and somewhat coherent rather than rambling?

I mean, your first post argues against 'worship of the facts', whatever the hell that means, then your second post takes to task those who engage in exactly the sort of behaviour you did in your first post, just like Farley Mowat and, from what you say (if correct), Roissy. Then you cite a study that doesn't appear to go back any earlier than the 1940s, then try to somehow tie that to Victorian England (!)

Come back when you're ready to make one kind of argument and stick with it, and back it up intelligently, rather than talking gibberish out of both sides of your mouth (or another orifice, as seems more likely).

Tom said...

Wow, and I had thought I was going the belt and suspenders route.

Belt: I argue that facts aren't the be-all-and-end-all and

Suspenders: Even if I failed to persuade with the belt, the facts tended not to support wide generalizations made about "kids these days".

As for Victorian England, while not a direct reference to the statistics at hand, it was an additional indication that even in an age with as delicate sensibilities as that one, there was recognition that in many cases a woman might not be entirely 'pure' on her wedding night, albeit a long way from multiple partners.

As for your last sentence, Mr. S. I'll let our generous host decide if it's in keeping with the otherwise respectful tone of this site.

The Social Pathologist said...

I don't mind a bit of vigorous debate but please, no punches below the belt.

While we all like to worship the facts, the truth is a lot of facts make us unhappier.

As Megan McArdle pointed out, one of the symptoms of clinical depression is an accurate assessment of one's abilities and talents.

That's news to me. Depression actually alters your perception so that things are perceived worse than they are, the thought-filter refuses to even perceive.

I'm going to have to fundamentally disagree with you Tom. Facts matter, even the disagreeable ones.

Facts make it clear that there is no meaning - that life itself is just an accident.

That's odd. When I look at the facts, life is no accident.


I've got to agree with Will S, your posts are logically inconsistent.

Because you're a female, your comments are appreciated.

11minutes said...

During a Papal Audience, the late Pope John Paul II, raised the issue of the female orgasm (how the husband should see that wife is satisfied) to the look of astonishment of many of the cardinals.

Interesting. Do you have a reference?

The Social Pathologist said...

@11 Minutes

John Paul describes the "beatifying experience" of conjugal union as a foretaste of the joys of heaven (see TB, Dec 16, 1981 and Jan 13, 1982). In Love & Responsibility, Wojtyla raised more than a few eyebrows by his detailed discussion of the husband's responsibility — out of authentic love for his wife — to see that she achieves sexual climax (see Love & Responsibility pp. 270-278)

Black&German said...

Hmm... Interesting post.

I myself have been personally attacked for discussing sexual intimacy in marriage on the internet. In fact, I'd argue that it is considered less risque to discuss unchaste sex, than to discuss sex within marriage. Married women are expected to be asexual, and some people are quite horrified to find out that it is not true.

Anonymous said...

I think you take for granted what previous generations new about human sexuality.

My great grandparents (from the former Austro-Hungarian empire) spoke about village shaming of adultery.

If the village found out a man left his wife, dozens of village youth would go to the house where the man was staying and bang noisily for weeks until the shame was unbearable. Elders would berate, assault and spit on adulterers.

Such a shaming mechanism was only possible if the real nature of people was known.

Tupac Chopra said...


As Megan McArdle pointed out, one of the symptoms of clinical depression is an accurate assessment of one's abilities and talents.

That's news to me. Depression actually alters your perception so that things are perceived worse than they are, the thought-filter refuses to even perceive.

The Social Pathologist said...


Economics may be a dismal science, but compared to psychology it has the intellectual rigor of theoretical physics.

The study you linked to, was intellectually, simply awful. I've got a big day today so I'm not sure if can post back an appropriate response to that article, but I just want to make one point.

The problem with depression is self-perception is distorted, not perception in general. I wonder how that study would have turned out if the photographs were not taken from the head down. Anorexics are quite able to see that others are quite thin, its just that they can't see that they are. It really is a poor study.

Tupac Chopra said...

More cites in the wiki article

Tom said...

I'm going to have to fundamentally disagree with you Tom. Facts matter, even the disagreeable ones.

I'm certainly not saying that they don't matter. I'm saying they're not *all* that matter. Big difference.

Facts make it clear that there is no meaning - that life itself is just an accident.

That's odd. When I look at the facts, life is no accident.

From a pure biological perspective, there is no fact that I am aware of that indicates life is anything but an accidental combination of chemicals. What facts would you use to support an argument against that?

Death is simply the cessation of electrical activity in the brain followed by tissue degradation. What fact makes it a tragedy?


I have a religious bent (if rather different from your own.) I also acknowledge that there will never be (in fact, *can* never be) any fact to support my belief. That in no way makes that belief any less True (for me at least).

(Here's where I desperately hope that your not into the bible as literal truth :-)).

If Truth=fact, I think you've negated much of what has made man more than animal.

And as for depressive realism, it's not surprising at all. How many people consider themselves '1's or '2's in appearance? How many people consider themselves below average drivers? While psychology is indeed a pretty iffy science. The idea that we have a self-image that doesn't match an objective reality is pretty basic knowledge.

We have a lot of well-established defenses to keep us from too much reality. Religion is probably the biggest.

The Social Pathologist said...


Firstly, I would like you to disregard my last comment to you. In my haste I had misread the article that you had linked (Damn Interesting Article)and had criticised it wrongly.

The article is still deeply flawed but not for the reasons I had stated it.

With regard to the anorexia study, the authors claimed a false conclusion from a wrong endpoint.
Anorexic women may be quite accurately able to judge their "attractiveness" compared to their overweight peers, but their link with reality is totally destroyed when you ask them why. Anorexics may quite accurately perceive that they are less attractive than other girls, but they think its because they're too fat, which is totally out of connection with reality.

Indeed if you do a Medline search, which I did yesterday, pretty much all the research confirms that when comes to the level of body fat, all anorexics are totally disconnected from reality. I also did a search on depressive realism, and once again, there seems very little to support that hypothesis.

Still, the Damn Interesting article did hint at one of the big problems in psychiatry at the moment, namely the "pathologisation" of unhappiness. Yes, lots of people really do have shit lives and are appropriately unhappy, the "cure" in this circumstance aims to change their life, not medicate them.

You're quite right. I think the accepted thinking on thew hole subject of female sexuality and desire is flawed. Nice girls aren't meant to get horny. I've had the same heat directed towards me at another conservative site I used to comment at on the same topic. I think that the default meme for a lot of conservatives is that a married couples sexual relationship should be "nice"; not hot and steamy. Which I think is wrong.

Black&German said...

I'm determined to change that view. I've got a post coming up soon to address just that.

Black&German said...

Okay, I've got the post up. It's quite entertaining and irreverent. I've called it: Chastity is a virtue. Abstinence is a noun.