Thursday, April 30, 2015

Polygamy Kills

As I have often suggested, true believing Freudians are cult followers. This means that they have sacrificed their rational faculties on the altar of unshakable conviction.

The truest of the true believers, those who belong to the Lacanian movement and the Wholly Freudian Church repeatedly mouth phrases they do not understand, the better to affirm the truth of their conversion.

Unthinkingly, they believe that Freud’s myths, accompanied by Lacan’s elucubrations thereupon are gospel truth.

Had they given the matter some thought they might draw different conclusions.

Consider Freud’s myth of the primal horde. True enough, Freud believed that it was a fact, but this merely shows that Freud could not distinguish fact from fiction.

In Freud's myth, the human community was initially structured like a patriarchal tyranny, with one father possessing all the women. This man refused to allow his sons any sexual access to their mothers and sisters

The tyranny was such, Freud posited, that the sons banded together and rose up to smite the first father, thereafter to consume his warm, dead body, cannibalistically.

Recent research from Saudi Arabia suggests that they did not need to go to so much trouble. If they had had a little patience, the tyrannical first father would have died… from heart failure.

The Daily Mail has the story:

Having a wife can improve a man's chances of a long life - but having more than one can seriously damage his health, research shows.

A study into the health effects of polygamy has found men who had up to four wives were nearly five times more likely to suffer heart disease.

Previous research has shown that people who are married suffer less stress, are physically more active and have a better diet….

The research showed that men who practiced polygamy had a 4.6-fold increased risk of coronary artery disease and a 3.5-fold increased risk of Left Main Disease - narrowing of the left main artery.

They also had a 2.6-fold elevated risk of Coronary Microvascular Disease, which effects the walls of small blood vessels in the heart.

The study is not yet definitive, but it does suggest that monogamy is better from your health than polygamy. 

For the moment we do not need to worry about the latter becoming common practice in America, but, who knows?

Coerced Sexting

All parents and all teachers warn children against the dangers of sexting. The admonitions are as pervasive as the practice. At the least, this suggests that children do not pay very much attention to what adults are telling them.

Ask yourself this: is anyone encouraging children (i.e. high school and junior high school students) to send photos of their private parts to their friends? Has anyone told these children that what they are doing is a good thing? Has anyone told them that it’s a normal part of exploring your sexuality?

In truth, some people have condoning, even encouraging sexting. Among them is radical feminist firebrand, Amanda Marcotte:

It's time for a nationwide reckoning on sexting. It's clearly not a temporary fad but, like oral sex and Rule 34, a permanent part of modern American sexuality. We need to move onto the second phase, which should involve educating people—especially young people—on how to sext responsibly. While some risk reduction should be taught (only sext with people you trust, consider keeping your face out of pictures), the bulk of this education should be focused on respect and consent. 

Marcotte and her ilk are at war against shame. They favor sexual liberation and they believe that hiding your sexuality from public view constitutes repression.

If you want to practice the highest degree of shamelessness you should put your private parts online. Of course, you run the risk of having your boyfriend share the images with his closest friends… perhaps with the school… but that would be entirely his fault.

The teenage girl is simply exploring her sexuality, and perhaps even preparing for a career in sex work. The boy is a monster.

Marcotte wants girls to be taught “risk reduction.” She believes that boys should be taught how to keep secrets.

But, how can she promote the value of discretion while she is countenancing indiscretion?

When did radical feminists come to believe that boys can or should be trusted? How can Marcotte counsel young women to trust members of a gender that she and her cohorts have been excoriating as moral swine for the past few decades?

If a woman’s sexts are exposed in public by a perfidious male, ought she to believe that she is not responsible? Is that the feminist consolation prize?

Does it make any sense from a feminist perspective to declare that women are not responsible for how they choose to live their sexuality?

Take another example: imagine that a couple has an intimate relationship. Imagine that the female member of the couple decides to write a graphic memoir about their more private moments.

If all is fair in love and publishing, if a woman has a right to betray intimacy in order to get a book contract, why would a man not have a right to share pictures of the private parts of his beloved?

Somehow or other, Marcotte has gotten it into her mind that the royal road to a fulfilling sex life is to be as open and honest and shameless about one’s sexuality.

Perhaps she is dumb enough to believe this, but intimacy exposed in public is no longer really intimacy. Every parent and every individual who cares about the moral character of children knows this.

Some women exhibit their sexuality in public. Some of them have satisfying sexual relations. How many of them get involved in satisfying long term relationships?

For most women, being involved in a committed relationship is the sine qua non of the best sex.

Marcotte is telling young girls that sharing pictures of their private parts with a boy they love (today) is a natural and normal part of growing up.

This means that Marcotte’s feminist derangement syndrome has caused her to countenance destructive behavior. If she had been a raving misogynist, trying her best to find a way to hurt pubescent females, she could not have done very much better.

To put it all in perspective, we turn to a new report from Indiana University—home to the Kinsey Institute, a leader in research about human sexuality. The report involves college students, young adults who are presumably capable of exercising moral reasoning. That is to say, people who would likely be less vulnerable than pubescent teenagers.

The Washington Post reports the alarming results:

Parents and educators expend a lot of energy trying to stop kids from sending each other nude photos of themselves. They run workshops on “digital citizenship.” They preach, frequently, about online reputation and good judgment and the long-forgotten value of “self-respect.”

But they might be missing the real, and really dangerous, sexting scandal — the one that few people, besides kids themselves, see. According to new research from Indiana University, as many as one in five sexters are actually coerced into sending sexual texts by threats or manipulation from their partner. The practice is so widespread among young people — and so deeply traumatic — that the developmental psychologist Michelle Drouin thinks it constitutes a new form of intimate partner violence.

“I think it is a surprising finding,” Drouin said. “Coercion into sexting caused more trauma, for both men and women … than coercion into actual physical sex.”

Let’s repeat that quote again, because it’s a pretty alarming conclusion:

“Coercion into sexting caused more trauma, for both men and women … than coercion into actual physical sex.”

It is notable that, according to the study, boys are as likely to sext as girls. Some boys even feel coerced into sending the pictures. Think Anthony Weiner. And yet, most boys seem to be less concerned about these pictures being passed around by a group of girls. I may be naive but I suspect that it is more common for a team of boys to ogle an image of a naked girl than it is for a team of girls to ogle the image of a naked boy.

After all, most consumers of pornography are male.

Of course, Marcotte does not and would never accept coercion as a motive for sexting. And yet, when a boy tries to coerce or bully or even persuade a girl to send him a few nude pictures, he might very well argue that everyone is doing it and that it is a normal and accepted part of modern sexual experience.

How pervasive would the practice of coercing girls to sext be if everyone believed that sexting was a bad thing, to be avoided, to the point of not even being subject to consideration?

The Indiana University study discovered that 71% of the students had sexted recently, which suggests that the practice is as pervasive as Marcotte believes. And yet, twenty percent of those say they had been coerced into doing it.

For those who had been coerced, the mental health consequences were severe. Describing the psychological trauma that this produces, the Post reports:

More surprisingly, when Drouin ran the numbers on the rates of anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms among her respondents, she found that victims of “sexting coercion,” male and female, were more traumatized than people whose partners had coerced them into actual, physical sex.

For female victims, sexting coercion was more traumatic even than “traditional forms of partner aggression,” like verbal abuse and physical violence. That toll makes sense to Cindy Southworth, the executive vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, who points out that a nude picture lives in eternity — it’s an artifact of trauma, and an object of blackmail, that never goes away.

Why were those who were coerced into sexting more traumatized than women who had been sexually assaulted?

Southworth is clearly correct here. Once the images are in the public domain they represent a permanent threat to one’s dignity and self-respect. They cannot as easily be forgotten or dismissed.

Individuals whose private parts have become public property suffer an assault on their dignity and their sense of shame.

But, if this applies to those who were coerced into sexting, why would it not also apply, to a lesser extent, to those who sexted voluntarily and who broke up with their boyfriends? Surely, a number of girls and young women have sexted voluntarily, only to have found their confidence betrayed.

The researchers are especially concerned that sexting is now considered to be normal. Once people believe that sexting is normal and healthy it becomes that much easier to coerce people into doing it:

Both researchers like Drouin and advocates like Southworth worry that it normalizes abusive behavior — it tells other kids, essentially, that they won’t be punished if they bully their boyfriends or girlfriends into taking nude photos. Everybody does it, right?

“Because sexting is common among youth and young adults today, individuals may believe that sexting coercion is normal and even harmless,” Drouin’s paper concludes. And that, frighteningly, could not be further from the truth.

Of course, there are degrees of coercion. When a boy can tell a girl that she should send a picture of her private parts because if she does not do it she is abnormal, is not a good feminist or is ashamed of her body, the coercion might very well feel more like persuasion.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"A Lively Exchange of One Idea"

From the Onion:

BOSTON—Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus. “Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here.” Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

Why Is Johnny So Badly Educated?

In America, people like Frank Bruni attack the Tiger Mom and Chinese educational methods because they believe that children who do too much schoolwork and perform too many rote exercises will suffer severe emotional disturbances, even to the point of committing suicide.

We Americans may not know how to teach our children or even how to bring them up to become good citizens of the Republic, but we are aiming at a higher good: their mental health.

When British educators saw that their own schoolchildren were falling behind Chinese students in all measures of academic performance, they sent a delegation to teachers to China to find out why.

Business Insider reports their conclusion:

Given China’s success in international tests such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS, it seems we have been misguided in abandoning the traditional, teacher-directed method of learning where the teacher spends more time standing at the front of the class, directing learning and controlling classroom activities.

Great Britain and America adopted “a more collaborative approach to learning where students had greater control.”

The advent of the new pedagogical techniques dates to the time of the Vietnam counterculture.

Business Insider describes what happened:

Traditionally, classrooms have been organised with children sitting in rows with the teacher at the front of the room, directing learning and ensuring a disciplined classroom environment. This is known as direct instruction.

Beginning in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, teachers began to experiment with more innovative and experimental styles of teaching. These included basing learning on children’s interests, giving them more control over what happened in the classroom and getting rid of memorising times tables and doing mental arithmetic. This approach is known as inquiry or discovery learning.

Influenced by the self-esteem movement, teachers started handing out large dollops of praise, regardless of whether or not it had been earned.

The result:

Based on this recent study of classrooms in the UK and China and a recent UK report titled What makes great teaching?, there is increasing evidence that these new-age education techniques, where teachers facilitate instead of teach and praise students on the basis that all must be winners, in open classrooms where what children learn is based on their immediate interests, lead to under-performance.

Studies in Australia, where the new age techniques were also implemented, drew a similar conclusion:

Many in Australian education believe children are only really learning when they are active. As a result, teachers are told it is wrong to sit children at their desks and ask them to listen to what is being taught.

Again, the evidence proves otherwise. The UK report suggests that even when sitting and listening children are internalising what is being taught. Learning can occur whether they are “active” or “passive”.

Often derided as “drill and kill” or making children “parrot” what is being taught, the UK report and other research suggests that memorisation and rote learning are important classroom strategies, which all teachers should be familiar with.

The UK report states that teachers need to “encourage re-reading and highlighting to memorise key ideas”, while research in how children best learn concludes that some things, such as times tables and reciting rhymes, ballads and poems, must be memorised until they can be recalled automatically.

Ah yes, automatic recall of multiplication tables, classroom discipline, teachers who exercise authority… these are the basis of education.

Business Insider concludes that there is a place for more individualized instruction, but that the foundation for good education resides in rote memorization:

In the early years of primary school, children need to memorise things like times tables and poems and ballads so that they can be recalled easily and automatically. Education is also about curiosity and innovation and there will be other times when rote learning will be unsuitable – for example, when students explore a topic that excites them and where they undertake their own research and analysis.

Depending on what is being taught, what has gone before and what is yet to come, whether students are well versed in a particular area of learning or are novices, and even the time of day, teachers must adapt their teaching to the situation and be flexible.

The problem arises when teachers and teacher education academics privilege one particular approach to the detriment of all others.

But, how many American educators are capable of admitting that they got it wrong? When they denounce techniques that are producing better results—on the grounds that these techniques are fomenting mental illness-- they are defending themselves and refusing to change their ways.

We will see what effects this study has in Great Britain and Australia. As for America… American educators’ skill at critical thinking vanishes when it is directed at them.

Can Hillary Lead?

Yesterday, David Brooks called out independent American voters for their poor judgment. Having seen a Quinnipiac poll in which 60% of independents agreed that Hillary Clinton had strong leadership skills, Brooks responded by explaining what it means to have leadership skills.

Since 61% of these voters declared Hillary not to be honest and trustworthy, clearly they do not understand what leadership entails. Or better, they believe that all leaders are corrupt bullies who push people around.

Worse yet, many Americans admire the Clintons for their amorality, their ability to get away with things. The American character has been corrupted to the point where people believe that the Clintons are role models for success and that they should become like the Clintons.

It’s the price of idolizing amoral individuals. It’s the price of extolling shamelessness.

Thus, when riots break out in a great American city more than a few commentators rush to the airways to explain it away, to plead for understanding, to try to redeem it by finding the meaning behind it all.

Brooks gives voice to the thinking of those who voted in this poll:

Politics is a tough, brutal arena. People play by the rules of the jungle. Sometimes to get anything done, a leader has to push, bully, intimidate, elide the truth. The qualities that make you a good person in private life — kindness, humility and a capacity for introspection — can be drawbacks on the public stage. Electing a president is different than finding a friend or lover. It’s better to hire a ruthless person to do a hard job.

And then he essays to enlighten them:

People who are dishonest, unkind and inconsiderate have trouble attracting and retaining good people to their team. They tend to have sleazy friends. They may be personally canny, but they are almost always surrounded by sycophants and second-raters who kick up scandal and undermine the leader’s effectiveness.

Leaders who lack humility are fragile. Their pride is bloated and sensitive. People are never treating them as respectfully as they think they deserve. They become consumed with resentments. They treat politics as battle, armor up and wall themselves off to information and feedback.

You might think to yourself that this excellent analysis also pertains to other politicians-- ones that Brooks has praised-- who surround themselves with sycophants, see all politics as a zero-sum game and who never get anything done.

Such politicians are in it for themselves. If they are not in it to fill their coffers, they still believe that it’s all about them. Call it the triumph of ego over the duty to serve the public:

You may think they are championing your cause or agenda, but when the fur is flying, they are really only interested in defending themselves. They keep an enemies list and life becomes a matter of settling scores and imagining conspiracies. They jettison any policy that might hurt their standing.

It is a paradox of politics that the people who set out obsessively to succeed in it usually end up sabotaging themselves. They treat each relationship as a transaction and don’t generate loyalty. They lose any honest internal voice. After a while they can’t accurately perceive themselves or their situation.

What does a good leader look like? Brooks explains:

We live in a world in which power is dispersed. You can’t intimidate people by chopping your enemies to bits in the town square. Even the presidency isn’t a powerful enough office to allow a leader to rule by fear. You have to build coalitions by appealing to people’s self-interest and by luring them voluntarily to your side.

Modern politics, like private morality, is about building trust and enduring personal relationships. That means being fair, empathetic, honest and trustworthy. If you stink at establishing trust, you stink at politics.

People with good private morality are better at navigating for the long term. They genuinely love causes beyond themselves. When the news cycle distracts and the short-term passions surge, they can still steer by that distant star. They’re less likely to overreact and do something stupid.

People with astute moral sentiments have an early warning system. They don’t have to think through the dangers of tit-for-tat favor-exchanges with billionaires. They have an aesthetic revulsion against people who seem icky and situations that are distasteful, which heads off a lot of trouble.

Of late Americans have gotten in the habit of casting votes that will make them feel good about themselves. They elected the first African-American president because they believed that it would show that they held to the right beliefs and that they would feel that they had purged their souls of all traces of residual racism.

Now they are seriously considering voting for Hillary Clinton because they feel that it will make them feel good about themselves.  They will show the world that they have overcome all traces of residual sexism.

If they have no qualms about electing manifestly unqualified candidates to do it, so be it. Such actions show a higher level of moral virtue, a willingness to sacrifice the nation to an ideal.

And yet, when you perform an action in order to feel good about yourself you will most likely fail to consider how it will look to other people. Then you will quickly create problems for yourself.

America may feel good about itself for having elected Barack Obama to the presidency, but it should have known that in order to function as leader of the free world the American president would have to command the respect of other foreign leaders.

In Obama’s case, it has not happened. Nearly all world leaders quickly understood that the Obama presidency was amateur hour, that Obama was not even close to qualified for the job.

The same will apply to Hillary Clinton, the world’s most famous cuckquean. What is there in Clinton’s performance as secretary of state that tells us that government officials around the world will respect her leadership?

An America that might elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency will feel good about itself while the rest of the world is adjudging it as amoral, decadent and corrupt.

The surviving remnant of world leadership will pass beyond our shores.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Greatness of Women

Christopher Hitchens insisted that God is not great. It’s not so clear that God got the message.

Now, Melvin Konner insists that women are Great. In his view women are better than men at just about everything.

Blinded by the light Konner believes that with the ascendance of Woman, the glorification of women, the empowerment of women, we will all be entering a new era. Let’s call it the Age of Aquarius.

Konner appears to be a scientist. He teaches anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. This allows him to gussy up his ideological predispositions with scientific terminology. This used to be called scientism, and I see no reason why we should not continue to call it thus.

Those who begin with a preconceived idea tend to cherry picks the facts that will sustain their argument. They are the idealists and ideologues.

Real scientists begin by observing facts and collecting data. They formulate hypotheses and test them against experiments. They scrupulously report their findings and remain skeptical of the conclusions.

Konner begins with an encomium to women. It is not a scientific fact. It is not a hypothesis. Saying that women are better at everything, that they are the embodiment of goodness while men are the source of all human evil is not science. It is ideology masquerading as science.

Worse yet, it is moral judgment. Everyone who has read David Hume knows that ethics and science do not mix. The latter is about what is, the former is about what should.

In Konner’s words:

I mean that women are fundamentally pragmatic as well as caring, cooperative as well as competitive, skilled in getting their own egos out of the way, deft in managing people without putting them on the defensive, builders not destroyers. Above all, I mean that women can carry on the business of a complex world in ways that are more focused, efficient, deliberate, and constructive than men’s because women are not frequently distracted by impulses and moods that, sometimes indirectly, lead to sex and violence. Women are more reluctant participants in both. And if they are drawn into wars, these will be wars of necessity, not of choice, founded on rational considerations, not on a clash of egos escalating out of control.

And also:

In addition to women’s superiority in judgment, their trustworthiness, reliability, fairness, working and playing well with others, relative freedom from distracting sexual impulses, and lower levels of prejudice, bigotry, and violence, they live longer, have lower mortality at all ages, are more resistant to most categories of disease, and are much less likely to suffer brain disorders that lead to disruptive and even destructive behavior. And, of course, they can produce new life from their own bodies, to which men add only the tiniest biological contribution — and one that soon could be done without.

If you need more:

Contrary to all received wisdom, women are more logical and less emotional than men. Women do cry more easily, and that, too, is partly biological. But life on this planet isn’t threatened by women’s tears; nor does that brimming salty fluid cause poverty, drain public coffers, ruin reputations, impose forced intimacies, slay children, torture helpless people, or reduce cities to rubble. These disasters are literally man-made. They result from men’s emotions, which are a constant distraction to them.

Does Konner really believe that nothing distracts women from their work in the marketplace? While he worries about men being distracted by the presence of comely women, he fails to notice that women are very often distracted by child-care responsibilities.

Konner glories in the fact that women can produce new life from their bodies, but he fails to consider that most women also undertake to raise those children, to function as mothers to those children. He ignores the fact that parenting concerns often distract from work tasks.

A woman who takes her role as mother seriously will likely spend less time on the job and will be less apt to work as hard. These distractions do not comprise all of a woman’s work life, but they comprise a significant amount of it.

You do not have to be a scientist to see this. You need to blind yourself willfully in order not to see it.

And let’s imagine that women are empowered to the point that they are in charge, that they run everything. Or better that they share authority and power equally with men. 

In places where it has come to pass, places like America’s inner cities, the results are not very encouraging.

What happens when men lose their power and authority and position to constitutionally weaker beings? Do you really imagine that they simply become housewives?

As it happens, Konner does not have a great deal of real world evidence to prove his assertion. He does, however, observe that the reality of human history contradicts his beliefs.

Apparently, his mind has fallen prey to the contemporary religion of worshipping the Mother Goddess.

Konner gives lip service to men’s accomplishments, accomplishments like liberal democracy, the Industrial Revolution, science, technology, modern medicine and great art.

Why have women not accomplished as much? Konner can only explain it by evoking a conspiracy:

But — another objection goes — men have accomplished great things! Yes, although given that men have blocked women’s paths to greatness in all fields for thousands of years, it is hardly a fair comparison. So let us concede: Most men are not destructive, and not all women are cooperative and nurturing; women have their own means of creating conflict and oppressing others. But in science we ask whether generalizations are possible, and in the domain of sex differences in brain and behavior, they are not only possible but also fully justified by the evidence.

For all their greatness and their inherent superiority in all things, women have apparently allowed themselves to be oppressed for thousands of years. Doesn’t this count as something of a flaw?

Having no concrete evidence to prove his point, Konner conjures up a vast conspiracy that has oppressed women because it fears their greatness and success.

Men do it because they are sick. They have been poisoned by an excess of androgen or testosterone. They suffer from oxytocin deficiency:

The main mechanism is androgen poisoning. I call it the X-chromosome deficiency syndrome, and a stunning 49 percent of the human species is affected.

It is also called maleness.

Konner does not consider the possibility that women’s testosterone deficiency makes them less apt to compete successfully or even to want to do so. In a competitive world and a competitive marketplace this might well be a natural male advantage.

Konner disagrees:

Brawn mattered for those centuries, but in spite of their greater strength, men had to make laws to suppress women because on a truly level playing field, women were destined to compete successfully and very often win.

Which sport is Konner thinking of: basketball, baseball or football? Does he believe that women are better at fighting wars? If he does, he needs to show some evidence. Does he believe that women are better at high technology? If he does, he should show us the record of the Silicon Valley high tech firms.

As for the brave new world where women will have more opportunities to show off their superiority, Konner sees it this way:

As women gain in influence, all else being equal, the world will become more democratic, more socially compassionate, more equal, less discriminatory, less sexually casual, and less pornographic.

Now, Konner believes, with Hanna Rosin, that this new world is currently dawning. He sees women taking more positions of leadership in business and government.

Does he really think that, in this new world, there is less pornography?

Monday, April 27, 2015

What Is Rape Culture?

The proponents of what is called rape culture assert that over 20% of college women have been raped. The statistics are subject to serious doubt. Scholars like Christina Hoff Summers have questioned the statistics, noting that women are safer on college campuses than they are in the society at large.

The notion that white male fraternity brothers are conspiring to abuse, humiliate and rape college women does not hold up to scrutiny. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story of a gang rape at a fraternity at the University of Virginia was a lie.

And yet, those who want believe that privileged white males are a crime wave embraced the story uncritically.

Even though the statistics have been distorted and the evidence for “rape culture” is questionable, this does not mean that American college campuses do not have a sex problem. In fact, they have a very serious sex problem. It might not be the one that the rape culture activists see, but it is there.

University of Virginia professors Vigen Guroian and WilliamWilson begin an in-depth analysis of the problem by pointing out the “sexual chaos in student life.”

They write:

But it is not credible that before the piece, the administration was unaware of the sexual chaos in student life. For nearly a decade, Bill Wilson was dean of the Echols Scholars Program at the university. He and others in similar positions reported to the administration what they had heard. Dozens of bright young college women told Wilson that they had been sexually humiliated, assaulted, or raped.

They offer further evidence:

A recent female graduate of the University of Virginia wrote the following for a class assignment:

Sex pervades almost every aspect of dorm life that I have experienced. I have seen “dorm incest” (the entire floor hooks up with everyone else on the floor), [been] “sexiled,” by my roommate having sex on my dorm bed, and witnessed date rape . . .

They quote another woman’s description of life in a coed dorm:

Most of the people in your dorm were in the “friend zone.” Everyone was a “guy.” But even with sweatpants on we recognized we had different body parts and late at night with a couple of beers things got more intimate. We were not so much male and female as we were xx who logically should give xy what they want and what we have. We were all one mutually using and abusing non-family.

Sexual license was actively encouraged and funded by the university. From “Spring-break fun packs” full of condoms and forms of contraception handed out at the student center with a cute note from a pudgy sunshine face wearing shades saying “Have a Fun Spring Break!” to “Sexual Arts and Crafts” flyers plastered on the dorm halls—the message is clear: college is a parent-funded motel party of casual and impersonal, but, yes, “safe sex.”

The problem did not begin yesterday. It began with the sexual revolution of the Vietnam Era and the advent of second-wave feminism.

The professors explain:

Fifty years ago, when the great campaign against single-sex education commenced under the banner of the sexual revolution, it was promised that by bringing the sexes into closer proximity, a healthier environment for relations between young men and women would form. It is possible that this might have happened had our schools not taken down the conventions and institutional arrangements that for generations had brought the sexes together in a more or less orderly and purposeful way.

Back then, we were told that the old order must be abolished because the standards and conventions it embodied favored men. Young women would be sexually liberated and the “playing field” leveled. Therefore, parietal hours were eliminated and mixed-sex dorms, once inconceivable, became the norm. In the process, the new unisex coeducational colleges and universities that are so familiar to us today came into existence. These institutions committed themselves to dismantling the culture of courtship that until then colleges had accepted and in a variety of ways fostered within an educational environment.

The idea was even bandied about that in a coeducational setting, women would be better able to “domesticate” the men. That goal was soon forgotten, once marriage no longer figured as a social value and was replaced by the monolithic aim of success in a career.

Think about it for a moment. Do women living in coed dorms feel that their space is being violated? Do they feel that they feel that their modesty and intimacy are being invaded?

Apparently, the new arrangement allows young men to believe that they can take advantage of young women. When colleges do not put any real barriers between men and women they encourage this misapprehension. When they do not provide institutional protections for women they are suggesting that women do not need protection, or even that those who abuse women will not suffer any consequences.

And yet, if a woman feels violated and invaded by the presence of males in her dorm, it would not count as rape within the criminal justice system. Surely, it is a problem, but it is not going to be solved by guilt-tripping young men and policing their behavior more vigorously.

Guroian and Wilson explain that the new living arrangements militate against the old customs of dating and courtship:

Our unisex colleges and universities have abolished those spaces. What remains, what they have gone about creating, are spaces that invite and accommodate hook-ups and casual cohabitation—and open opportunities for forms of sexual violence that were not likely to happen on campus grounds in the past.

The sexual revolution and feminism conspired to kill off courtship and dating. If women were going to put career ahead of marriage, they would be liberated to seek out sexual pleasure for the sake of sexual pleasure. That is, they would have sex like men. They would do their best not to get involved in the kinds of relationships with men that would draw them away from the career track.

Many young women have chosen to act accordingly. Thus they actively created the hookup culture.

How many women are really hooking up? Surely, fewer than the mania about it would suggest.

And yet, the question is not so much statistics as reputation. Once a significant number of young women choose voluntarily to engage in sexual acts with men they do not know and do not even care to know—the better to have sex like a man—word gets around.

If it were just an occasional woman here and there, it would be one thing. But when a significant number of women hook up, anyone who belongs to the group gains a certain reputation.

It may feel perfectly old-fashioned, like something a mother would say, but reputation does matter. Once a woman or a group of women gain a reputation for giving away their sexual favors promiscuously, men begin to treat them accordingly.

Worse yet, many women who engaged in hookups did not really want to do so. They had to get themselves severely drunk or stoned in order to do it.

Did they feel that they were then really consenting? Did they then feel that boys should have known that, in their inebriated state, their word should not be respected?

In some ways, as I have long suggested, the rape culture is an effort to put an end to the hookup culture and to restore some sense of honor to young women who abandoned theirs too quickly and now regret it.

You may think that the now well-known walk of shame was a sign of a failure to accept women’s new liberated sexuality, but, in truth, young women who had hooked up or who had too much sexual experience too soon must have discovered that it did not make them feel very good about themselves.

Some of them required medication. Few of them got to the point where they admitted that they had been duped by the sexual revolutionaries and used by the second generation feminists.

Following the prescribed narrative, they blamed it on white male fraternity brothers.

Women might imagine that they are now free to write their own narratives, but they have been captured by the feminist narrative. In it men are to blame and women (to say nothing of feminists) are blameless.

Telling themselves on the one hand that no one has a right to judge them and seeing on the other that many men are treating them in a certain way... they are at a loss.

The moral code of courtship behavior had evolved over centuries. Feminists decided that it demeaned and diminished women. Some even thought that it was a conspiracy designed to keep women out of the workplace.

Were you to suggest that the code of gentlemanly and ladylike behavior was designed to protect and safeguard feminine modesty and intimacy you would have been dismissed as patriarchal swine. Feminists insisted that these codes, coupled with parietal restrictions, assumed that women were weak and needing protection. The only protection a woman really needed was a condom, don’t you understand?

The authors explain:

… before the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, the “yes” and “no,” ­now­adays promoted as the be-all and end-all of sexual etiquette, were given moral force by a restraining and clarifying ensemble of conventions and threshold spaces that the colleges and universities saw fit to sweep away virtually overnight.

Having attended the university at a time before courtship and dating were undermined, Guroian and Wilson recall the reality of the ancient regime:

The truth is that never did we feel the ideal of being a Virginia gentleman licensed us to treat young women as inferiors with whom we could do whatever we pleased. Just the opposite. The ideal of a gentleman had the moral power to put the brakes on our most tawdry and aggressive male proclivities and to make us take pride in our manhood. Some of us took seriously one line of a poem titled “The Honor Men,” which we hung in our rooms. It said “pursue no woman to her tears.”

They continue to point out that these codes of behavior were designed to protect women from sexual violence:

Back then, everything possible was in place to prevent a rape or any other form of sexual violence from being committed in a fraternity house or university housing. Women were not permitted in dormitory rooms or fraternity bedrooms. Those notorious University of Virginia gentlemen at the “Playboy School of the South” enforced their own parietal rules, and housemothers could be found at fraternity parties until 1968. Young women who visited for an overnight stay were assigned to “approved housing” that their institutions selected, rooms more often than not in the homes of widows who had space to let. If a young woman was uncomfortable with her date, a refuge was available, and there was a curfew. “No” had the force of strong conventions and in loco parentis. There wasn’t the need for draconian rules and punishments, because the university and women’s colleges represented real standards that were reflected in the arrangements they had put in place to bring the sexes together in an orderly fashion.

Unfortunately, universities are incapable of accepting that their grand social experiment did not work out as expected:

Our colleges and universities have not fessed up to the sexual anarchy and formless sex that they helped bring into existence when they sponsored and institutionalized the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies. Even as the evidence has mounted to undeniable proportions that something has gone horribly wrong with relations between the sexes on our campuses, colleges will not admit culpability for the ugly scene. Most important, they will not admit that the great experiment of institutionalizing the sexual revolution has failed at the cost of many, many ruined lives.

Finally, in the anarchy created by the absence of customs that determine courtship, schools have imposed their own guilt narrative. They have replaced a shame culture with a guilt culture… not knowing that the latter is far less efficient and effective at regulating human behavior.

The authors write:

Consequently, when an act of sexual misconduct, violent or otherwise, is alleged, an avoidance of moral standards under the pretense of extending freedom to young adults quickly and perversely turns to finding guilt in any party conveniently at hand….

The same persons who in their youth supported the liberation of the sexes from so-called Victorian inhibitions and morals are now rushing to impose at colleges complex codes of sexual conduct that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. These codes reveal well the dilemma they face. When equality of the sexes became the epicenter of the sexual revolution, activists removed all of the conventions and arrangements that shielded females from aggressive male behavior. They had to do so, or else they would have appeared still to respect differences between men and women. But now, faced with rising numbers of damaged students, they must produce rules of sexual engagement that will stop the abuses and traumas. The dilemma is this: How do you acknowledge the special vulnerability of women to men while disallowing distinct codes of conduct for men and women? The current solution is to adopt a formal and abstract language that ­maintains the unisex ideal and keeps silent about male–female ­differences.

On the one hand women insist that they are in every way equal to men. On the other hand women insist that they are especially vulnerable to men and in need of the kind of special protection that only the state can provide:

In January of this year, the National Panhellenic Conference, an association of national sororities, instructed sorority women at the University of Virginia for their own safety not to attend the annual Boys Bid Night fraternity parties. This prompted an immediate counterreaction that has not yet played out entirely. Female students protested that this directive contradicted the gains women have made to stand on equal ground with men in social and sexual matters.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Do you ever feel misunderstood? Do you ever feel that-- try as you might-- people are misreading your feelings?

If you do, you are not alone.

Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson has written a book about it. Emily Esfahani Smith opens her discussion of the book with this anecdote:

In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.

But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.

There’s something strange here.

Have you ever told yourself that you need to put on your “active-listening face” in order to convince people that you are listening to them? Clearly, there is something wrong with Tim’s way of showing people that he cares about what they are saying.

For my part I would like to know where Tim heard about the “active-listening face.”

In truth, he was putting on a mask. He believed that the mask accurately expressed his intentions, but he later discovered that there is more to listening than adopting a pose.

Surely, Halvorson is correct to say that there is a major gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Smith explains:

This gap arises, as Halvorson explains in her book, from some quirks of human psychology. First, most people suffer from what psychologists call “the transparency illusion”—the belief that what they feel, desire, and intend is crystal clear to others, even though they have done very little to communicate clearly what is going on inside their minds.

People believe that everyone can read their emotions, so they do not bother to communicate them. One suspects that this is a cultural attitude.

Many people have overcome the idea that they should hide or mask their feelings. They have been told that it is bad to keep up appearances and to maintain a stiff upper lip.

This implies that we have reached a cultural apotheosis where we are perfectly transparent, to the point where we do not even need to express ourselves very clearly. Everyone knows what we feel without our expressing it.

It’s variation on the cultural attitude that tells us to express ourselves openly, honestly and shamelessly. Only, in the advanced lesson, we feel that we are perfectly transparent, that we do not hide anything and thus that everyone should know how we feel.

But, is that really Tim’s problem? Tim thought he knew what he was showing that he was listening because he had read in a book or heard from a consultant that the best way to show you are listening is to put on a specific kind of facial expression.

He did not think that he was transparent. He thought that he needed to put on the right mask in order to show that he was listening. One wonders how he got to his exalted executive position.

While Tim was sporting his “active-listening face” those who were talking to said “face” believed that he was scowling at them, that he was angry with them.

Why might this be so? One suspects that Tim was not reacting to what they say. He did not change his facial expression as a function of what he had heard. And he remained mute, seeming to give people the silent treatment.

If you want people to know that you are listening to them, you cannot adopt a mask that does not change regardless of what you are hearing. (Obviously, this shows why someone who is conversing with a friend whose face has been Botoxed will have an eerie feeling that his interlocutor is somehow not there.)

Also, if you want to show people that you have listened attentively to what they are saying, how about asking a question that reflects your understanding? Better yet, if you are an executive listening to your staff's opinions, how about adopting some of their ideas?

We show that we are listening by the way we respond to what is being said. If someone’s remarks merely elicit a blank stare, he will feel that he has been dismissed.

Of course, there are other kinds of misunderstanding. Smith offers some of Halvorson’s examples:

One person may think, for example, that by offering help to a colleague, she is coming across as generous. But her colleague may interpret her offer as a lack of faith in his abilities. Just as he misunderstands her, she misunderstands him: She offered him help because she thought he was overworked and stressed. He has, after all, been showing up early to work and going home late every day. But that’s not why he’s keeping strange hours; he just works best when the office is less crowded.

These kinds of misunderstandings lead to conflict and resentment not just at work, but at home too. How many fights between couples have started with one person misinterpreting what another says and does? He stares at his plate at dinner while she’s telling a story and she assumes he doesn’t care about what she’s saying, when really he is admiring the beautiful meal she made. She goes to bed early rather than watching their favorite television show together like they usually do, and he assumes she’s not interested in spending time with him, when really she’s just exhausted after a tough day at work.

Beyond our tendency to believe that those nearest and dearest to us can read our minds, we have a tendency to prejudge, to jump to conclusions, to believe that a specific gesture can only have one meaning.

In these examples, the problem lies in the assuming. The person seeing the gesture assumes that it can only mean one thing. He or she does not ask, does not inquire, does not engage a conversation.

Why do we make such assumptions? First, we believe that some faces can only mean one thing. Second, we believe that they are necessarily only relevant to the two people present.

It’s all about the here-and-now. One can only surmise where people might have gotten that idea.

And, oh yes, there’s our culturally-imposed narcissism. Having been taught that we are all the same, we read the emotions of another person as though we had been having the same emotion. We empathize, but do not ask the most elementary questions and do not even consider alternative interpretations.

A final point, one that Halvorson might have discussed in her book. Since I have not read the book I do not know whether she did.

In a multicultural world the possibilities for misunderstanding multiply. Since verbal and non-verbal gestures belong to localized social codes, when different people from different communities are following different social codes, they will have more misunderstandings.

Two people from two different cultures will need to offer more detailed explanations of what is on their minds.

People who have been brought up in the same community, who have the same social codes, who follow the same customs will be less likely to misunderstand each other.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Overcoming Narcissism By Asking for Advice

Some people know how to take advice. Others do not.

Those in the first category will invariably do better on the job and in life than will those in the second.

It stands to reason. Anyone who is sufficiently humble to know that he does not know everything will do better than someone who is so arrogant that he thinks he knows it all.

Psychiatrists diagnose those who refuse to take advice to be narcissists. The diagnosis rings true, but it needs to be qualified.

For decades now therapists have been encouraging people to introspect, to get in touch with their feelings, to follow their bliss… thus, to become more self-absorbed, more self-involved and more narcissistic.

Therapists often pursue a political and ideological agenda, regardless of whether it is best for their patients. They encourage their charges to defy authority, to rebel against experts, to disrespect age and experience, to assert their independence and autonomy.

This suggests that medical science or psychological science is telling us all not to take advice. It also denigrates anyone who would dare ask for advice.

People who have suffered the influence of the therapy culture do not understand that refusing to take or to ask for advice makes them look incompetent, self-absorbed and disrespectful.

Therapy has convinced people that when they ask for advice they are looking subservient and dependent.

When someone faces a difficult dilemma, he might well repair to his neighborhood therapist. In many cases he will find someone who refuses to offer advice.

If your therapist feels your pain but does not offer advice he is telling you that it is futile to try to find a way to resolve your dilemma by taking action in the world. He is rendering you more passive.

If the prospective patient makes the “mistake” of consulting with a therapist who is willing to offer advice, he might very well reject it out of hand and reject his therapist for lacking empathy.

It’s one thing to diagnose narcissism. It’s quite another to encourage and foster it.

When therapists are not encouraging you to become more narcissistic they are bemoaning the fact that your narcissism is so intractable. They might even believe that it has been caused by traumatic events from your childhood.

As long as they are encouraging you to be more narcissistic, they should dispense with the effort to recall the past and turn their attention to the old saying: Physician, heal thyself!

If you want to overcome your narcissism, you should develop personal habits that bespeak the opposite of narcissism. You might start thinking in terms of “we” or “you” over “I.” You might start doing unto others as you would have others do unto you. You might perform a good deed for someone else every day.

Or else, you should start learning how to take advice.

Begin by asking for advice. If your gut or your bliss is directing you to do this or that, you do well to run your plan by someone who is older and wiser.

Taking advice does not mean doing what you are told. You might hear a piece of advice and recognize that neither it nor your prior inclination is best. 

Surely, you can take the advice as given. But, if the discussion causes you to think up a new and better plan--better than both plans-- you are free to follow it.

If you seek out advice, you can take it or you can use it to formulate a better plan. Taking advice means that you will not be following your initial inclination, your gut or your bliss.

If you are starting out on your career, you should always give full consideration to the views of those older and wiser than you. Often they will offer advice, whether you like it or not. If they do not do so, ask for it.

If you actively ask for advice you are humbling yourself. If you have only been on the job for a month, no one will expect that you know everything... yet. 

Also, when you ask for advice you show respect for the other person, for his age, his wisdom and his experience.

If you do not respect people, you have no right to expect that they will respect you.

By asking for advice, you are striking a blow against your narcissistic tendencies.

Better yet, when you ask for advice, you will look smarter than the guy down the corridor who believes that he must make his own mistakes.

New research has shown that people who ask for advice are considered to be smarter and more competent.

There is no special virtue to making your own mistakes. It is best to avoid avoidable errors when it is at all possible.

Of course, this only works when you ask someone for advice about something in which he or she possesses expertise. Asking an auto mechanic for advice on how to cook lasagna does not make you look exceptionally bright. Asking a chef for advice on an oil change does not make you look very smart.

Naturally, some people ask for advice because they want to flatter their superiors. Some people follow advice because they have told—by people like me—that’s it’s the right thing to do.

None of it matters. It’s better to ask for advice for the wrong reason than not to ask for advice at all.

If you are not in the habit of asking for advice, if your narcissism is such that you find it distasteful to ask for advice, if you feel like you are selling out and making yourself look weak… then your first effort to ask for advice will not feel very good or very right. It might feel fake and insincere, as though you are acting like a sycophant.

If you ask for advice and act as though nothing has changed, then you are, by definition, being an insincere flatterer. If you ask for advice and then take it you are being sincere. This is true even if you do not believe that the advice is very good.