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.