Monday, December 20, 2010

Beautiful Women Are Dangerous

Is it true? Does the presence of a beautiful woman cause men to throw caution to the winds and become risk-taking maniacs? Can feminine beauty magically transform Casper Milquetoast into Evel Knievel? Or, do beautiful women make men simple-minded and stupid?

We know many stories of men being enticed to disastrous ends by great beauties. In a recent post Adam Alter named: Lilith, Delilah, Cleopatra, and Salome. Link here.

Yet, even in fiction, these stories do not always end in calamity. The beautiful Beatrice led Dante to a better place.

And pious Aeneas did manage to exercise enough discipline and willpower to resist the feminine wiles of his beloved Dido, the Queen of Carthage. His love for Dido notwithstanding, Aeneas does fulfill his destiny and make his way to Rome.

Not all beautiful women are fatal. Some lead you to salvation. And some can be resisted.

When we read a story of a man suffering a fatal attraction are we reading a cautionary tale about what might happen to the man who allows himself to risk it all for beauty? Or, do the stories show some men failing a challenge where other men might well succeed?

The influence of feminine beauty is not a new story. Lately, it has elicited considerable research from behavioral economists.

The studies conclude that men are prone to succumb to feminine beauty and thus, when they find themselves in the presence of a beautiful woman, they become weak and myopic.

Note the moral coloring of Adam Alter’s explanation: “A spate of recent studies suggests that beautiful women can indeed provoke dangerous outcomes unintentionally, because they induce men to take risks, make mistakes, gamble more freely, and generally behave impulsively.”

When Alter uses words like danger, mistakes, gamble, and impulsive, we have moved out of the realm of science into a world of moral judgment. In that world men are so weak and foolish that they cannot resist temptation.

Is it too much to imagine that there are more than a few men who are inspired to do great things because of the presence of a beautiful woman?

To be fair, we must mention that the behavioral studies were focused on skateboarders and chess players.

Unless I miss my guess, skateboarding is the province of the young. Adolescents excel at skateboarding; adults avoid it. The older you get, the less likely you are to take unnecessary and gratuitous risks to life and limb.

If most skateboarders are hormonally challenged adolescents, then perhaps they chose the sport because they get a rush out of putting themselves in danger.

I am willing to admit that the presence of a beautiful girl will motivate adolescent males to risk with life and limb, but does this mean that all men will behave the same way?

Researchers have been aware of the specific characteristics of skateboarders, so they repeated the experiments with chess players. No one is going to break an elbow by playing chess. Thus, chess players would seem to be a good control group,

And yet, chess is a game of symbolic warfare. It may look peaceful and charming, but it is really about capturing your opponent’s King and putting him out of commission.

And chess is a game that you can learn and master when you are young.

If we were to look at video games, a modern adolescent’s version of chess, we would also see that while the players do not risk life and limb, they are still involved in symbolically violent actions.

I would happily admit that skateboarders and chess players are more susceptible to feminine beauty, but I do not think it fair to present this as a sign of weakness and myopia.

Even Alter recognizes the point. Skateboarders who see a beautiful woman do riskier tricks and succeed at them more often. But they also “don’t know when to quit,” and tend to push themselves to the limits of danger. Fair enough.

Does that prove that all men become fools for love, or does it tell us that adolescents tend toward excesses. Does it mean that men are simple-minded risk takers or that adolescents lack discipline and self-control?

If so, the latter were true, it would hardly be a surprise. It would not, however, be a reason to condemn the male of the species.

For all we know, the presence of a beautiful woman might motivate a man to work harder, to strive for excellence, and to will himself to greater and greater success.

Even in the midst of a testosterone rush, a man still retains his free will and his good character. These might make him foolhardy risk-taker, but they might also make him a more fierce competitor.

As the old saying goes: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

8 comments:

Dennis said...

My take would be that age and maturity ameliorate to some degree the affect that beautiful women have on men. It is not that men do not notice, we are all capable of falling of our white horse so to speak, but that experience begins to take hold.
One of the things many of us learn is that a beautiful woman seldom has to develop a personality or a sense of connectedness to one man. There is always another male who will provide what she desires no matter. A pretty girl may be like a melody, but many other women are like a great overture that has harmonic as well as melodic attributes to give meaning to ones life.
I have noticed that in many cases it is not beauty that grabs one attention. In fact I am not really sure what one would call it. In many years of marriage there have been four women who have just literally took my breath away and just seemed to have a control over me that was wonderful and scary. I had to stay away from them until I could see their faults. Maybe there is some truth to the idea that one out of every one hundred women are a perfect match for you and sometimes you meet more than one of them in a life time.
They are only dangerous if we are not wise enough to consider what is at stake. I know they are a joy to look at.

David said...

Goethe would like to say a few words:

"The Eternal-Feminine
Lures to perfection"

(Last verse of Faust. Often translated as "The Eternal-Feminine draws us upwards")

The original German is:

"Das Ewig-Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan"

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: On Beautiful Women

As the old saying goes: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. -- Stuart Schneiderman

Try this one....

Faint of heart never a battle nor a woman won.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[A beautiful woman is a picture which drives all beholders nobly mad. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson]

P.S. And whereas there may be no scientific research into this, I'm reminded of a discussion down the hall from here about how much those old folk new as opposed to our 'modern scientific brainiacs'.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Dangerous, Indeed

So....

....I just got back from a last minute run to the Class VI store because I'm throwing a party tonight and I noticed I was short on makings for martinis, e.g., gin.

While perusing the fortified wines, because I remembers I was short on dry sherry too, I'm in the aisle with the sparkling wines. There, looking over those items and consulting with a friend on his cell phone is someone who looks like an escapee from skid row.

Suddenly, this leggie, statuesque blonde, dressed like a corporate-grade call-girl shows up beside this guy and asks him if he needs some help selecting a beverage.

I was suddenly reminded of this item and thinking, now THERE is a woman to buy champagne for....if you're half-out of your mind. And she could easily drive many men there. And they'd happily buy the 'gas'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
P.S. Good thing for me that I'm married to a woman I consider overwhelming competition for that kind of 'temptation'.

Chuck Pelto said...

P.P.S. Closing tagline....

No woman ever took a man to Hell unless he had a ticket in his pocket.

And all too many men are willing to pay the 'fare'.

Retriever said...

When my late father was in rehab after a brain tumor, he was put on tons of hormones because he had had his pituitary (master gland) removed. At one point, after several healthy but ho hum years, his MDs decided to raise his testosterone to see if it would improve his physical fitness, muscle mass, aerobic capacity, etc. There had been no complaints from my mom. The first visit, he was tested on a treadmill gym a boring NHS tech in a whit coat who measured his pulse, breathing etc before, during and after exercising to exhaustion on the treadmill. Several weeks later, after taking the increased testosterone for awhile, they tested him again. This time my father scored superbly. Slight complicating factor: buxom blonde tech recording the data whom my dad (married 45 years at that point, not yet dead) wanted to impress. The third time, after a few more weeks, they were expecting amazing results. But the dull tech was recording. Ho hum results. Beautiful women are good for your health, my father says...


Good post of yours, Stuart, at RightNet on feminism and it's discontents today. My own tamer effort on KitchenAid mixers is up there now. Have a happy and blessed holiday season, all!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks so much, Retriever, and all my best wishes for a happy holiday season to you and yours.

Only one problem, you forgot to give us a link to your column on Kitchen Aid mixers, so here it is: http://rightnetwork.com/posts/are-you-ready-for-serious-cooking

I have to confess that it was pretty much beyond me, but I'm sure that it will be of great value to many others.

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