Friday, June 13, 2014

Does Spirituality Mix with Sexuality, or Do They Clash?

By Spencer Dryden

Executive summary: They should but they don't


Analysis and discussion:


What a great topic for my first blog. It goes right to the heart of my TOE (Theory of Everything).
As a writer, I have incorporated the subject into one of my short stories (The Gueschtunkina Ray Gun) and blogged about a related topic on the ERWA Blog (Is There a Man in the House?). My answer to the question goes all the way back to the dawn of mankind.

I believe sex is what brought us down from the trees. It is the most powerful force at work in shaping civilization and certainly the most powerful force acting on our psyches. Something happened when we were only two feet tall that caused our kind to go from near extinction to exploding over the planet like an invasive species. In my TOE, two things happened in close proximity among females: a switch from seasonal to monthly estrus and the anterior migration of the vagina. Not exactly the stuff of erotic romance but stay with me.
The switch to monthly estrus meant that females were available for mating on a year round basis. Remember how it used to be. Females came into heat emitting pheromones that drove the guys to frenzy trying to get some nookie. We pounded on each other trying to be first in line, then the alpha males pounded nuggies on our heads and took all the females.  The pheromones died down and everything went back to normal. That system worked successfully by Darwinian standards and continues to work among our cousin apes.  Shifting to monthly estrus broke the cycle of the dominant alpha male getting all the sex, now males were crazy for it all year long. Some of us other dudes had a chance if we brought stuff to women.
The second change was more subtle. With the anterior migration of the vagina, males and females could face each other during copulation. Sexual cues became visual rather than chemical. We guys saw pretty faces everywhere. Females grew larger breasts. Males became mesmerized by the holy triangle of breasts down to the pubic mound. The image  and the wanton desire it triggers is never far from the male mind.
In my case I have been enchanted by female allure since the first time I felt the stirring in my pants at the sight of a naked woman. Female allure has colored my life and often led to horrible decisions. There is simply not enough blood to serve the big head and the little head. The color is fading now, which has allowed me enough cranial circulation that I try to write stories about human sexuality and  make stupid postulations.
Why did this happen? Consciously or unconsciously females did this to make their lives easier. Guys had to bring them stuff all year long, especially food, protein dense food for our growing brains. Guys had to keep bringing more and better stuff to get laid. The disaster we call civilization ensued.
Things went wrong with one part of the plan though. Females kept mating with big harry brutes who eventually enslaved them in order to keep control of sex. They shoulda mated more with us sensitive caring guys who would respect them in the morning and treat them like equals. Just sayn'.
I think one day science will bear out my theory. But the way I see it, who ever controls fertility, controls destiny. The story of civilization is a story inexorably mixed with the control of women and fertility and therefore sex. If order is to be maintained in the kingdom, then a rational was necessary to imprint compliance on the followers. So the rulers created god in their image and likeness. A god that was hostile to sexual inclinations, otherwise women would go around having babies by whom ever they chose. We certainly can't have that or how to you keep a kingdom together?
Sound harsh? Look at that part of the world where women are tortured, raped and murdered for the crime of wanting an education. The misogyny is so deeply ingrained in the culture that women are clothed from head to toe to keep from tempting men. Our weakness is foisted on them.
My silly little theory may seem ridiculous but please offer me another explanation for  the utter inhumanity to women. which began when we first started living in large groups and continues to this day.

21 comments:

  1. Hey, Spencer! Welcome to the Grip and thanks for an intriguing post.

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  2. Certainly offers some interesting insights

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  3. Welcome Spencer. Thought-provoking first post. Your theories sound more plausible than the ones I hear from most religions, for sure. Have you read any of Robert Ardrey's work? "The Territorial Imperative" and other books he's written about early hominid evolution have lots to say about how we acquired our mating and other characteristic behavior.

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  4. Hi Spencer! Interesting analysis, but not wholly convincing. For one thing, I think it's quite possible that civilization was responsible for oppressive patriarchy rather than the other way around. Once property and goods could be accumulated, and a man had something, whether wealth or status, to bequeath to his offspring, it became a bigger concern to be sure his kids were actually his, which led to possessive sequestering of women. And then the religious requirement for sons to perform rituals for his afterlife caused even more trouble. (Women were probably better off before men figured out their own importance for procreation, but maybe not, since men were more likely to stick around and help provide for a family they considered their own, which was essential to raising slow-growing children with brain power that needed time to develop.)

    Not all civilizations started out with gods condemning sex per se, though. Think of Zeus with Leda, and Europa, and Io, and...and... Sure, Hera punished those girls, but out of jealously, not because of sin. I imagine jealously goes way, way back.

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    1. Perhaps when gods and goddesses of mythology prevailed, it was more closely referencing animist, or more worldly belief systems than the more modern, out-of-this-world religions, which rely on fairy tales and unworldly nonsense to convince the populace.

      And I don't think it too much a stretch that an early woman would choose a big, strong man to procreate with, for all the obvious reasons. Of course, when so-called civilization came along, everything went awry.

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  5. Excellent post! And I'm a dedicated hetero-sexual like you, since the first time I realized that every man on the planet has a dick, size can be judged by his fingers (width is really more interesting than length), and if I wanted to, I could get as many of them as I wanted to just by letting them know. In so many ways getting sex is much easier for women. The hard part is when you fall in love and the man decides you were just a hook-up, hence not "good enough" to bring home to mom or want to have babies with. Luckily that was never an issue for me with my husband, and we'll celebrate 30 years next week.

    But the virulent hatred of women is very unsettling. If men really are that weak that they can't control themselves in public around women, why are the women the ones who have to be kept at home, not allowed out on the street? Shouldn't it be the men, the uncontrollable brutes, who are kept off the street for everyone's good?

    My late dad used to argue with me when I was in high school. He'd tell me I couldn't go out of the house wearing skimpy clothing because it would make men want to have sex with me. As I pointed out to him then, he'd also told me that if I went out of the house totally covered, it would drive men crazy wondering what I was hiding, so they'd want to have sex with me. So no matter if I was naked, clothed, or completely-covered, men would want to have sex with me. So what was I supposed to do? Stay in the house? He'd nod.

    We also had the "boys do, girls don't" argument. I asked him if boys do, but girls don't, who do the boys do it with? Each other? He'd grimly inform me, "Other people's daughters". Sigh. I hated to disillusion him at that point, and went away to college as soon as I could, so he wouldn't know what I was doing.

    I don't know what the solution is to end the virulent misogyny that infects so much of the world, even in our country. Men who are secure in themselves don't fear strong women, nor do they expect to be "serviced" by any random woman they choose. I place a lot of the blame on organized religions which are mostly patriarchal. Early men must have been so jealous that the woman bleeds but does not die. And she produces new lives out of her body. So in order to make themselves feel better they did two things: enslaved her so she felt guilty about any desire of her own to have sex, so her body would be under their control...and then they perfected how to kill, since if they can't create life, they damn well will excel at destroying it. What a fucked-up mess we've inherited!

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  6. Comment Part 1 of 2
    Whew, what a start. Welcome, and happy to have you!

    Now I'm going to respect you enough to go at this honestly, rather than giving you a smile and nod.

    First, the science. Gender roles, human nature, evolution, etc, are all incredibly complicated subjects, and I don't think it does anyone any favors to oversimplify them (for a great discussion of this issue, see this post from Science Blogs: http://scienceblogs.com/oscillator/2010/05/31/sex-gender-and-evolution/) To quote briefly from the post, "By trying to explain differences between male and female in terms of natural selection, we more often end up showing how our society has nurtured us to think about different gender roles than anything about evolution."

    It's a huge pitfall. And I think it's what's going on here. As an example, I'll talk about how chimpanzees mate, since you referred to alpha males beating up on each other and taking all the females (regarding humans of the past and apes currently). That's a very oversimplified description. According to Primate Info Net, a library and information service run by the National Primate Research Center at the University of Madison at Wisconsin, chimpanzees actually use a variety of reproductive strategies. While groups are generally male dominated, females mate promiscuously with multiple males. There are cases of restrictive mating, where dominant males control access to females in the community, but there is also consortship (an adult pair leaving the community for a period of time) and cases of females leaving their communities to mate "furtively" with males from other communities. See longer discussion here: http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/chimpanzee/behav I am cautious of drawing too many conclusions from chimpanzees, but just looking at chimpanzees at a surface level, we can see that there's complicated stuff going on.

    Also, the "alpha male" concept itself is questionable despite its popularity in paranormal romance and elsewhere. Here's an interesting quote from a book I read recently called The Soul of All Living Creatures, by Vint Virga, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior: "Contrary to popular myth, there is no alpha wolf in nature. This outdated notion is coined from old research based on studying captive wolves grouped by humans—instead of by their instincts—and forced to live with one another. … Wolves in a pack don't rule by conquest, directing others by will and force. … Evolution favors the wolf who focuses on what matters most: finding food, remaining healthy, resting, breeding, caring for young—not confronting and dominating others. The same is true for every species. The dominant alpha never existed—neither did his subordinates—except in the minds of human observers imposing structure on the pack."

    There is anthropology to be had as well. As Sacchi pointed out, there were many early religions that didn't function the way you describe. I don't have time to collect a comprehensive set of links and quotes but I'm quite skeptical of evolutionary accounts of gender roles for reasons that I hope are clear from what I've already presented (on top of that, we haven't discussed things outside of a heteronormative perspective, and we also haven't talked about how humans might be expected to display more self-determination than could be accounted for by evolution alone).

    I'm hitting you hard on this because lazy appeals to nature are used to justify much sexism. Your science is very off, and by throwing it around this way, you're drawing shallow conclusions and expressing misogynist ideas even when that doesn't appear to be your intention.

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    1. Comment Part 2 of 2
      I'm going to move on now and address what you said here: "Consciously or unconsciously females did this to make their lives easier. Guys had to bring them stuff all year long, especially food, protein dense food for our growing brains. Guys had to keep bringing more and better stuff to get laid. The disaster we call civilization ensued. Things went wrong with one part of the plan though. Females kept mating with big harry brutes who eventually enslaved them in order to keep control of sex. They shoulda mated more with us sensitive caring guys who would respect them in the morning and treat them like equals. Just sayn'."

      Later in your post, you discuss misogyny as something over there, existing in other cultures, but I think the statement above illustrates the misogyny we've got at home. Women do this stuff to themselves, you see—domestic violence and rape and low pay and all the rest—because we keep deciding to fuck big hairy brutes. If only we weren't so stupid and attracted to the wrong men, all these problems wouldn't exist. (sarcasm)

      I've got about a million problems with the bit I quoted. First, the statement normalizes the idea that men want sex and women want stuff. It erases the possibility of women wanting sex in itself by presenting sex as something that's awarded to men in exchange for goods and services. It essentially presents women as gatekeepers of sexual transactions. I have devoted my erotica career to battling that concept first and foremost and claiming and expressing the fact that women enjoy and want sex, as opposed to sitting back and cynically using it for manipulation. In my life, I have been slut-shamed and humiliated for admitting to wanting sex for itself (for "giving it up," for "being too easy," and many other things). I've also had a great deal of fun thanks to claiming my own desires and meeting others who wanted to explore them with me.

      I know you're presenting this as a fairy tale at the roots of civilization, but in fact in the present, day to day, we are living with many who believe in that fairy tale and treat it as their theory of everything. That's been harmful in my life and in the lives of many people I care about. I do not owe people sex for giving me a ride home or offering me a present, and yet I have met many people who thought I did. On the other side of it, if I choose to have sex because I want to and feel like it, I'm not being "cheap." We are deeply burdened with this transactional stuff, and I really think it's irresponsible to toss it around. Even as a fairy tale.

      And now we get to the end of that statement I quoted—that women prefer jerks and are missing out on sensitive, caring guys. Whether that is intended to apply to the women of the present or the past, the thing that really raises my hackles here is that this idea functions in your post to blame women for our culture's misogyny (we fuck the wrong guys!). With no evidence behind it (it's just an idle theory of everything). This is Nice Guy Syndrome. It's a statement that sounds well-intentioned, but when it's examined further, it reveals blaming, an underlying belief in transactional sex, the demonization of female desire, the view of women as simultaneously manipulative and foolish.—This post describes it well, though harshly: http://www.shakesville.com/2007/12/explainer-what-is-nice-guy.html

      I can't let this stuff pass unchallenged at OGG. And I'm writing all this to you because I believe that you're better than unexamined misogyny, and I'm going to challenge you to find that higher place.

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  7. I'd challenge the notion that we (females) somehow decided to switch our estrus to monthly from seasonal (without even having access to tampons yet!) and anteriorize our vaginas (which I suspect had more to do with walking erect on two legs than anything else,) but Annabeth is doing fine in the challenge department, so I'll be quiet.

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  8. To all of those who are offended or skeptical about my post. You may wish to read a book titled "Sex, Time and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution" by Leonard Shlain. It is well researched and articulately presented.

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  9. Thanks for giving a clue about the source of what you laid out above. A citation was certainly needed. I will, however, point out that this book does not represent a general scientific consensus. Shlain was a writer and surgeon (not a scientist specializing in anthropology) and reviews from the time of the book's publication (such as this one http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/28/books/books-of-the-times-evolution-on-the-meat-sex-exchange.html) note the very speculative nature of his ideas (the reviewer I cited, Meredith Small, is a professor of anthropology who was trained as a primate behaviorist, so I'm inclined to trust her criticisms). It sounds like the book was an interesting read and it captured your imagination, but it is far from authoritative, and it cannot serve as an automatic refutation of all objections.

    I'm disappointed that you've hidden behind Shlain and elided all objections to the adjectives "offended" and "skeptical." I meant what I said that it takes respect to engage rather than dismiss. My objections were not only to the evolutionary theory but also to the way you framed things in your post, playing into misogynist tropes. You seem concerned about misogyny and interested in being one of the "good guys"—I noticed that your book with Breathless also concerns feminism and misogyny. As such, consider what's going on here—it's condescending to challenge people to prove you wrong but then behave as if it's not worth your time to even read the objections people have made. Whether conscious or unconscious, that behavior bears the hallmarks of misogyny and disrespect.

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  10. Annabeth:
    This is pretty harsh stuff. I didn't know that I was supposed to respond to each post made.

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    1. No, you don't have to respond to each comment. However, the way you did respond at the bottom of the thread really disappointed me. You handed out a homework assignment and gave no acknowledgement that any point made had any impact whatsoever (even a platitude about lively debate would have been more respectful).

      I consider it harsh to blame women for misogyny. I truly believe that you are well-intentioned, which is why I put careful work into showing you how your argument functions to do so. As the main objector, I've got to assume that my reaction is what you're describing as offended and skeptical, and yet that's really a reduction of what my reaction is. Offended, in particular, is a word that's used these days to dismiss people.

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  11. My I've really had quite a day. I guess I never thought of myself as a disappointing dismissive misogynist. There is a valuable lesson here and I thank you for it. Steven King warns that once you release something in writing you lose control over how it is interpreted. I say, if it can be written, it can be misunderstood. You have completely misunderstood my point that natural selection could easily have played a role in this regretful human condition. Natural Selection is amoral, what ever works to achieve reproduction is what prevails. Sexual dimorphism is clearly a result of selection. Was it chosen or imposed? While you doubt my source, there is plenty of good science to show that women who are ovulating are more attracted to the alpha male type. The second point you missed was that throughout civilization who ever controls fertility controls destiny and that is how the mistreatment of women became engrained in culture. Yes I am disappointed that in my bombastic approach I wasn't able to make that more clear. But I think labeling me as a dismissive misogynist is a little out of line. I don't think I would paint you with such a vile label based on one blog post.

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    1. Wow, okay. The first thing I have to say is that there's a really important distinction between calling out behavior and attitudes and giving someone a label. I've been pointing to ways that your argument plays into misogynist tropes (and calling out behavior that I thought was disrespectful). Because we all live in a misogynist culture, we all play into misogynist tropes (myself included). Here's what John Scalzi says on the subject (he is a science fiction writer who considers himself a feminist): "What makes us not a sexist, or a racist, or a homophobe, or whatever, is what we choose to do when we recognize our discriminatory behaviors or attitudes (or have them pointed out by others). If you work to minimize them going forward, in yourself and in your larger world, then you’re probably not a sexist/racist/homophobe/whatever." (full link here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/04/17/the-four-levels-of-discrimination-and-you-and-me-too/). I've been giving you the full benefit of the doubt on all of that. In every comment I've written, you will see me going out of my way to say that I believe in your good intentions, that I can tell that you care about misogyny, and that I believe you're better than playing into it.

      It's disingenuous to take things I've said and apply them to yourself as a victim. (I said I was disappointed, because that is truly the way I was feeling. You're the one who flipped that into saying that you're disappointing as a person.)

      As far as your quote about writing, King is correct. But I don't think that's what's going on here. Part of putting writing into the world is that one must take responsibility for it and be accountable for what's been said. I'm not misunderstanding your points, I'm disagreeing with them. And I'm not seeing you make any effort to understand me—not even enough to disagree in return.

      And your science is still questionable and outdated. A recent meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Southern California investigated evolutionary psychology's predictions about women's mate preferences (including that ovulation makes women more attracted to alpha males). They found that the reports did not actually support popular conclusions about menstrual cycle effects (and were mostly due to research artifacts). The link to the paper is here: http://emr.sagepub.com/content/6/3/229 and a more readable summary is here: http://universityofsoutherncalifornia.createsend1.com/t/ViewEmail/j/ADD47DFBEA32FEE0. I'm not saying this is the last word on the subject, but I think it behooves us to be particularly careful of arguments depending on natural selection because they are vulnerable to influence from societal prejudices.

      I have not labeled you in any particular way, but I will say that the impression I'm getting of you is not based on one blog post. It's based on how you've reacted to my good-faith efforts to engage with and respond to what you've said.

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  12. Hi Spencer!

    Welcome to the band! You;re the drummer no doubt. You covered a lot of topics in a small space. I think for me the one that stood out was the migration of the vagina. I hadn;t heard that before, but it makes a kind of sense. There is definitely a sexual signaling that goes on in the arrangement of female bodies. Some of the earliest art objects created are images of women with big butts and breasts.

    When you get a chance take a look at Jared Diamonds first book "Why is Sex Fun?" and he also theorizes on a lot of this early stuff which I think is a really interesting subject..

    Well Spence - welcome buddy. Do well. Write.well.

    Garce

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  13. You also got me thinking about Bonobos, a matriarchal species of chimpanzee, The lady Bonobos rule, and of all the Chimpanzee species they are the least violent and apparently the most happy. Male dominated Chimpanzee tribes can be extremely violent, capable of enforcing dominance through homosexual rape and sometimes murder.

    Bonobos are quick to settle disputes and use promiscuous copulation for a variety of favors including peace keeping. I wouldn't mind being reincarnated as a male Bonobo in that kind of place. Might even be an improvement.

    Garce

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    1. I can just see you as a male Bonobo. In fact, why not write a story about that - the next chapter of Love's Tender Gender Fender Bender?!

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    2. I did not know this. I also believe that female bonobos are closer in size to the males. Correct me if I'm wrong.

      I don't know if I can picture you as a male bonobo, maybe someone should be offended-not saying who, but given your skill, I think you could easily write a story from a bonobo POV.

      For my part I participated in the 23andme genetic profiling before they got all sideways with regulators. I am 5% Neanderthal. I'm trying to figure out how to make that into a story-how they became extinct-it's sure to be filled with BAMbosity.

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  14. Hello, everyone,

    I've been away, so I'm just reading this dialogue now. Annabeth, I think you make some excellent points, but I also think (correct me if I'm wrong) that Spencer didn't intend this post to be taken entirely seriously. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I strongly doubt he intended to imply that woman deliberately changed their estrus cycles, or that women deliberately choose big, burly guys and thus invite rape, etc. If you've read any of his stories, you'll know that he adores women - and respects them. This is not just an attempt to burnish his feminist credentials.

    "They shoulda mated more with us sensitive caring guys who would respect them in the morning and treat them like equals." I hear this refrain from lots of "nice guys". Garce has expressed similar sentiments in many of his posts.

    I don't know that it is misogynist to point out how incredibly popular "alpha males" are in erotic and romantic fiction. It's a simple fact that a large fraction of the female reading public openly admit to loving the big, muscly, taciturn, rather bossy heroes who are staple characters in romance. Personally, I've always preferred the nerds, which is one reason why my erotic romance isn't all that popular.

    Why do women want this kind of guy? That could make a long post in itself. It's not clear there's anything wrong with thing kind of desire, anyway - except that it leaves the less burly and bossy guys like Spencer and Garce feeling a bit frustrated. And I think you're sensing some of this frustration in his post - treated a bit satirically.

    I don't want to be seen as taking sides but I think you're reading things into Spencer's post that he never intended.

    Okay, I'll shut up now.

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  15. I can't accept this view of what's happened here. At every turn, I've been as generous and respectful as possible while also expressing myself clearly and firmly. Whatever the intention of the original post, I truly found it damaging and hurtful, and the discussion that followed has only reinforced that. This has, however, been a terribly painful conversation for me, and I understand the need for all of us to walk away from it.

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