How blank slatism led to the demonization of heterosexuality
I wonder to what degree compulsive lib owning leads to cons accepting the lib Equality/blank slate framing. In my early 20s I was at a party where a drunken girl French kissed me before passing out. The next several times I saw her I told her I was traumatized by her sexually assaulting me to which she profusely and sincerely apologized. I wasn't actually bothered at all, but I wanted to stick it to a lib. I eventually gave up and "accepted" her apology since I felt guilt about my needless, partisan driven sadism. It was only later when my dad said "she was probably into you before your stunt" that I realized I might have fumbled a chance to have sex with an attractive, nice girl because I wanted to own the libs.
Hard to disagree with this essay. A lot of unpopular truth bombs. I'd add 2 points:
1) The biggest problem with the teen boy older woman dynamic is the fact that a teen boy can't fully think through the ramifications of pregnancy. If my teenage son got a teacher pregnant and she chose to keep the baby, there is nothing I could do about it even if I wanted her to terminate the pregnancy (which, hypothetically, I would not). " But Jose!" you say, "Your son could just as easily get a classmate pregnant!". But me being the authoritarian patriarch that I am, I can control to some extent my son's ability to spend alone time with the opposite sex. A teacher attracted to my absolute Chad of a son could potentially manipulate circumstances beyond my control in order to seduce him.
2) With respect to fertility, traditional Christian teaching on sexuality had a pretty awesome track record prior to the sexual revolution and contraception, and I think it will continue to outpace the Nietzschean libertarian rationalists. Let me know if Aella successfully raises 2 children with active fathers and I'll buy u a beer.
Seems to me what's going on with the young boy/older woman thing is far more reasonable. For good reasons we recognize the danger of older men taking advantage of and hurting young women. But, for very understandable reasons, men don't like the idea of being treated worse by the law because they are men so there is a demand to impose the same formal demands on women.
Rather than being a product of the most extreme left (who probably wouldn't mind if the law institutionalized an understanding of male sexuality as dangerous but not female sexuality) this feels like the result of a demand for fairness before the law that isn't particularly left wing and is pretty understandable. Ok, you want to say I'll go to prison if I sleep with a 15 year old then surely, at a minimum, you should be willing to impose that on women too.
On "50 Shades of Grey" - one empirically observed difference between women's and men's sexuality is that women are more likely to be excited / aroused by pornography that doesn't represent what they want sexually. There's more of a disconnect between the stimulus and the desire. For instance, lesbians are sometimes turned on by gay male porn. The sadomasochism in "50 Shades" clearly excited a lot of female (and male) readers, but figuring out how many of those readers would actually like to have that kind of relationship - somewhere between 0% and 100% - would take research, not just intuition.
I see this kind of thing all the time on Reddit, where even people on the right have adopted a blank slate worldview in order to “own the libs”.
I believe ultimately conservatives want to live in a common sense world where men are hanged if they violently rape a woman, but that women need to meet society halfway by accepting that the world can be a dangerous place and that they need to drink less, dress more modestly, have less sex with strangers, maybe even have chaperones (remember chaperones?), and just generally be more careful about how they conduct themselves publicly.
But they absolutely refuse to take any responsibility for the bad things that happen to them. I’m a father of two daughters and they’d be in real trouble if I ever found out they passed out drunk on a street, because I know the world is full of bad men who can’t just be taught that “rape is wrong” or that “no means no”. A minority of men are hardwired to do these things; we are still apes after all.
I think what conservatives have seen over the last few years is men being shamed by leftists (and especially feminists) for acting in traditionally male ways. And because the right wanted to own the libs they started engaging in purity spiraling, taking glee in holding ostensibly progressive female teachers to the same standards as male teachers who do the equivalent with a girl.
That’s not a world I want to live in though. I don’t want to live in a world where a 30 year old man having sex with a 14 year old student is the same as a 30 year old woman having sex with a 14 year old boy. I’ve had sexual encounter with scores of women and enjoyed every single one of them. Regret? Shame? Not even once. My feeling is that quite a few of those women sometimes felt regret and shame though—because men and women are wired differently.
I don’t want to live in that fake blank slate world because it’s a world of lies and biological denial, and my fear is that conservatives have been boiled like frogs into accepting it.
Because sex can still bring some negative lifelong consequences (babies, STDs), I think it is fair game to prohibit sex between adult women and minor boys. The question is what the appropriate punishment should be. These women probably should lose their jobs as teachers. They should probably suffer some kind of legal penalty, although I don't think jail or prison is appropriate. I would be fine with a much smaller penalty than adult men would receive for statutory rape.
Overall, great essay.
I do have to challenge you on the absolutism of the young boy/older woman sex theory. In general, I agree, but don't you think there are exceptions where young boys are manipulated into sex by an older woman in positions of power? In those cases, should the women go to jail?
And when considering this, don’t think about a woman like the one you used as the example in your piece; nearly all boys would have sex with her. Think about it being Rosie O’Donnell.
It looks like recent research supports your argument:
"In a third illustration, the kind of situation portrayed in the film classic Summer of ’42 was modelled: a 15-year-old boy in 1942 is strongly erotically attracted to an adult woman 5–9 years older, with whom he becomes friends, and is then initiatory in the sex that eventually ensues, which involves vaginal intercourse once in the absence of any coercion. The likelihood of subjectively reacting positively here would be 99%. If this scenario had been a 15-year-old girl with a young man instead, the likelihood would fall to 21%."
Of course, all of this should be common sense, but it's not.
Consider this case (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWPtAJS1kro): a 19-year-old woman, at a party, has sex with a 14-year-old boy who she thought was older. He initiated the sex. The boy's mother is pissed, and files against her. For this, she's placed on a life sex offender registry, at the highest level of offender, and it basically permanently ruins her life.
The age of consent was raised in the 20th century to reduce teenage pregnancy and to prevent older men from taking advantage of young girls . Women who get punished for sleeping with teenage boys are basically just collateral damage of laws that were instituted to protect girls.
You seem to be assuming that there are two disjoint sets of women: a feminist minority with unusual preferences to whom current norms are tailored, and a majority that are sexual ‘traditionalists.’ In fact many ‘ordinary’ women who are attracted to strong dominant men etc. also want to reserve the right to deploy the feminist model (socially usually, though sometimes legally) against hated ex-boyfriends/husbands. And why not? If society will let you have your cake and eat it too you’ll probably take it. The costs of such norms are too abstract and the benefits too immediate for most to turn down. Hence I doubt that there’s a silent majority of women that want to reverse feminist norms or laws, even among the 50 Shades fans.
It's nice to read something that I actually mostly agree with for once.
"Unfortunately, the opposition to blank slate ideology over the last half century has often come in the form of Christian conservatism, which defends traditional norms regarding sexual matters as a matter of religious dogma rather than pragmatic adaptations through which to navigate inherently difficult issues. Christian conservatives unfortunately can’t take a consistent stand against blank slatism because they are uncomfortable with evolutionary psychology and have often found gene-denial useful for their own purposes, like when arguing that homosexuality is a choice or has completely environmental causes."
Probably the most important passage in the article, to me. I am a Christian but I try to never, ever engage in "because God said so" as the reason for anything. First, because that paints God as a petty tyrant demanding compliance simply for its own sake. Second, if it's true that all the things God wants of you will generally lead to a more fulfilling life if you do them, that should be readily apparent in terms that any atheist could recognize. As such, you should be perfectly capable of explaining why all of these things such as marriage, family, personal responsibility, acknowledgment of moral standards, et cetera, are desirable without ever having to actually reference the Sky Daddy himself.
"Human relationships are complicated, which is why there seems to be a tendency to either revert to religious dogma or to try to reason about them in a way that ignores unpleasant truths and inherent contradictions in what men and women actually want."
And this passage captures the difficulty posed by the proposition of just expecting people not to be stupid. It seems like it shouldn't be that hard for people to just not be stupid. But we are. It seems to me that when it comes to anything even slightly political, people tend towards a single-factor analysis of the topic and then just run with whatever single factor they've identified straight off a cliff. You've correctly identified this as religious dogma in some cases, or in others, an absolute unshakeable adherence to absurd denials of human nature such as "blank slatism," which is of course simply religious dogma of a different sort.
I suppose it makes sense that we suck at thinking about political issues if we put things in terms of evolutionary behavior. I doubt that having the ability to reason through the nuances of public gender relations policy was of much value to our ancestors.
Yes there are words that differentiate between attraction to prepubescent people and pubescent people and early adolescents (and being able to accurately identify, define, and use those words makes you sound kind of like a pedophile), but the fact that pedophilia doesn't technically apply to a relationship doesn't mean the relationship is desirable or unworthy of punishment.
A 14 year boy that has sex with an adult woman is usually going to be somewhat messed up by the situation. Not as badly as a 14 year old female will be on average, but it's still not a good thing and perfectly appropriate to criminalize, especially when you are talking about a person like a doctor or teacher that has some sort of position of trust and responsibility over the minor child.
I agree that "Fifty Shades of Grey" more accurately represents the kind of romantic/sexual relationship the average woman wants than the ideal relationship portrayed in the Ezra Klein article. But I think you're committing the naturalistic fallacy. Just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's good. We don't have to be blank-slatists to acknowledge that some of the behaviour that comes "naturally" to humans is morally wrong. In fact, evolutionary psychology sort of presupposes that. Evolution doesn't care about what's right or wrong: it optimised our bodies (including our brains) for behaviours most likely to ensure self-preservation and reproduction, regardless of whether those behaviours are morally good.
For example, for most of human history it was common for 12-year-old girls to get married off to much older men. The strongest predictive factor in the likelihood of a female human to be a victim of sexual assault by a man is her age: it peaks very shortly after the average age of menarche and falls off dramatically past the age of 30 (https://web.archive.org/web/20181226044312/https://quillette.com/2016/01/02/to-rape-is-to-want-sex-not-power/). This is an evolutionarily sound strategy: if you're male and you want to pass on your genes to the next generation, your best bet is to have sex with the most fertile females available to you.
But the fact that this strategy is "evolutionarily sound" doesn't mean that it's not evil. If your 12-year-old daughter was raped by a man much older than her, I very much doubt that you'd shrug and say "well, that's human nature, objecting to it would be like legislating against the tide". I doubt that your opinion would change if your 12-year-old daughter had suffered no physical harm during the incident, if she insisted that she loved her rapist, if her rapist insisted that he loved your daughter and was committed to caring and providing for her for the rest of his life. I think you'd be furious that someone had violated your daughter, and the fact that his sexual desires are "natural" would have zero bearing on that fact.
I am no more likely to be persuaded that raping children is okay because it's "natural" than a vegetarian is to be persuaded that eating meat is okay because it's "natural". The fact that something comes naturally to humans is completely orthogonal to whether it's morally right.
It never ceases to amaze me how impossible it is for people in my age group (25, yes it is bad) to understand that Mr. Death and Mr. Rape are more likely to visit people who do not take reasonable precautions with regards to their own safety.
In Hungray, the age of consent is 14. It was when I was growing up and it still is.
It seems to conform to biologial-social reality much better than 18, as we lack the tension in our public discourse that seems to propel such hysteria over sex.
"When instincts are this deeply embedded in human nature, it requires totalitarian methods to stamp them out, which is probably why there is such a strong connection between belief in blank slate ideology and support for speech controls."
Very well put for a Westerner, who never had Socialism force progress on their society.
It's a shame that civil rights legislation (our "shadow constitution") explicitly prevents lawmaking from acknowledging obvious biological differences between men and women.
Do you think that the path forward is to normalize discourse about overturning certain Supreme Court rulings and repealing CR laws? I feel like those two actions are the most productive policy outcome we could get from the conversation Richard is trying to have on here.
Oh – and carving out an enlightened space apart from our silly culture – that too.