December 22, 2013

Why is the urge to impress women called a "ludicrous tendency of men" in The Wall Street Journal?

Perhaps you've noticed this column by Robert M. Sapolsky titled "The Cheerleader Effect: What Men Do to Impress." Read the whole thing. There are a number of interesting angles. I just want to highlight the depreciation of male desire:
[M]ales can be kind of pathetic.

When women are present or when men are prompted to think about women, they act differently, research shows. Well, duh. But in unexpected ways. A 2008 study in the journal Evolutionary Psychology showed that in the mere presence of women as witnesses, men become more likely to jaywalk and to wait until the last second to dash on to a bus. This reflects, no doubt, the well-known belief among men that jaywalking means you're a Roman gladiator of irrepressible virility. As I said, pathetic....

There is also a darker side to the tendency of men to show off in the presence of women....
Evidence of this "darker side"? One study showed that the presence of women made men more likely to make "loud blasts of noise" while playing competitive games. Another showed that the presence of women made men "more likely to endorse aggressive stances about war."

Now, other research shows that the presence of women also moves men toward more charitable giving and service. So Sapolsky concludes that "There's an important point here":
The allure of the opposite sex makes men more violent, but only, it seems, in circumstances where violence is rewarded with higher status. 
That's a weird way to talk about football games, but let's continue.
When status can be achieved in a more socially desirable way, things work differently. 
What's not socially desirable about athletic success? Why be dismissive of that? Because:
In short, with the right social arrangements, this ludicrous tendency of men can be harnessed not only to encourage a ferocious goal-line stand but to make the world a kinder place.
Harnessed! So maleness has (or tends to have) a psychological structure to it, but the point of understanding that psychology is to craft it into a harness so society as a whole can most successfully turn male energy into benefits for the group. This idea of manipulating men is supposed to seem justified because the male psychology is ludicrous. Meanwhile, females are the means to the end. They too are useful for these manipulations. But somehow this harnessing and exploitation of the individual makes the world "a kinder place."

It's not kinder to think about human individuals this way. Our deepest sexual urges are not ludicrous. They are fundamental to the beauty and meaning of our lives. To ridicule our minds and bodies like that and to throw away what is most basic and real because it seems possible to extract more charitable giving and service, that is beyond ludicrous. It's evil.

66 comments:

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Sapolsky is playing the part of canis-metrosexual as he circles his garden, peeing on the trees to stake his territory against those horrible males who deign to compete for the favors of females.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

And let Mr. Sapolsky read Wendy Lower's book, Hitler's Furies. What would his metrosexual view be of the half-million German women who went east after 1941 to actively assist in suppressing, enslaving and liquidating the Jewish population in their new East European residences? Might they have been competing for the favors of aggressively military males?

surfed said...

All womens mine.

SGT Ted said...

I bet this study is junk science, based on past performance of the sociology industry promoting studies that arrive at predetermined conclusions.

Bob Boyd said...

Sapolsky wrote this piece to impress women.

SGT Ted said...

Based on the anti-male sexual supremacist notions of popular feminist culture, trying to impress women may very well now be a "ludicrous tendency".

Bob Boyd said...

The playground probably sucked for this guy. He went thru grade school dreading recess.

EDH said...

Isn't Mr. Sapolsky striking a bit of a pose himself writing this piece?

Except instead of a bold display machismo, he's adopted the supine posture of gender inferiority.

He's no less attempting impress women by describing the flaws of men using the third person, yet tacitly claiming personal supremacy over those other men through his ability to see how "pathetic" men really are.

You see this on campus all the time.

Pathetic.

Tarrou said...

There is no more basic tenet of Feminism than that male sexuality is perverse, dangerous and should be eliminated entirely. Of course, men like Mr. Sapolsky just use this tenet to try to raise their social status to get laid.

Jason said...

I LIKE FOOTBALL! AND PORNO! AND BOOKS ABOUT WAR!

Illuninati said...

Althouse said:
"To ridicule our minds and bodies like that and to throw away what is most basic and real because it seems possible to extract more charitable giving and service, that is beyond ludicrous. It's evil."

This passage nails it. What more is there to say?

Jason said...

If Shouting Thomas and Heartiste had logos, searchlights would be beaming it against the clouds over Metropolis.

Crimso said...

For these studies to be more definitive, shouldn't they also look at the behaviors of gay men? Or would they see that as strolling into a minefield?

Robert Cook said...

I don't have any reason to doubt the results of the study, though perhaps the results will be refuted or adjusted with further studies. However, it's likely to be correct, as it describes preening or display behavior common in males of many species. It is a way if demonstrating desirability as a mate...as, in most (or all?) species, it comes down to the females to make her selection of mate. There are many ways of preening, so displays of "macho" or aggression or bravado cannot be singled out as the only display behaviors that are enacted throughout the human (and animal) kingdom.

It seems incredibly ignorant to ridicule behavior that is common throughout the animal kingdom, that is innate, wired into the brain, imprinted in the DNA.

Paul said...

"Sapolsky wrote this piece to impress women."

Exactly. Check out his picture. He's an omega and like many low status males he hates alphas and their behavior.

Especially because they are successful with hot women.

Bob Boyd said...

Human sexual energy is public resource and as such should be subject to plans and policies developed through the expertise of properly credentialed libidocrats.

The Drill SGT said...

right again Cookie.

"...the last thing a trooper hears before a drop (maybe the last word he ever hears) is a woman's voice, wishing him luck. If you don't think this is important, you've probably resigned from the human race."

Heinlein
Starship Troopers

betamax3000 said...

I Will Ask My Harem of Swimsuit Models What They Think of the Article.

betamax3000 said...

Once They Have Finished Washing the Dishes, Of Course.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Solipsistic Sapolsky puffs his power and prowess.

[must you always alliterate when women are reading? - ed.]

El Pollo Raylan said...

"The Wall Street Journal" should change its name to "The Mall Street Journal" to reflect the new tender tendencies.

betamax3000 said...

All of this has Previously Been explained By the Bee Gees:

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk,
I'm a woman's man: no time to talk.

Bob Boyd said...

When compared with clubbing a woman and dragging her back to your cave by the hair, jaywalking looks pretty...uh... pedestrian.

whswhs said...

That agenda sounds awfully familiar. Wasn't it called "chivalry" in legends about medieval knights?

Fritz said...

"Bob Boyd said...

Sapolsky wrote this piece to impress women."

That should have been the end of the comments.

traditionalguy said...

Female wiles need men to be that easy to trick.

Vive la difference.

chrisnavin.com said...

So all of your desires and behaviors can be expressed by that evolutionary theory, Cook?

Friggin' socialists, working to one day be watched over by a class of people observing them like animals.

lemondog said...

Sapolsky wrote this piece to impress women

Bob needs more than a WSI article.
He needs a Shave!

Roger Sweeny said...

In different hands, Sapolsky's attitude could be considered right-wing and anti-feminist.

Early George Gilder ("Sexual Suicide") called marriage a device for domesticating male sexuality. He thought there would be major social problems if women didn't require men to marry and provide for them, in exchange for sex and offspring that are genetically his.

William said...

There's something to what he says. I myself have SAT scores far superior to that of many NFL quarterbacks. Despite this, I have never met any Victoria Secret models eager to share my DNA. Until women, and especially Victoria Secret models, realize how much more desirable high SAT scores, and especially the verbal part, are than some shiny trinket like a Superbowl Ring, then humanity is doomed to lurch around in squalor and mediocrity.

Crazy Jane said...

In the 19th-century mining towns of the West, men outnumbered women by a great margin. The arrival of a new schoolteacher or a family with an attractive daughter was a big event. It was not uncommon for single men seeking wives to form civic associations, dress in their best clothes, avoid curse words and employ table manners, such as they understood them. Sometimes they even went to church.

Of course there were prostitutes within these outposts of chivalry, but many of them found husbands as well.

RecChief said...

yet ludicrous behavior impresses women, to get men what they want. why do you think I put in for jump school? And it worked.

Michael K said...

He has an interesting resume" "Dr. Sapolsky, now a professor of biology and neuroscience at Stanford University, chronicles the stresses, the heartaches, the political intrigues, the dalliances and the backbiting (literally) among the baboons he has come to know and even love."

I doubt it is junk science but he has an odd way of promoting what are pretty basic behavioral matters. He spent years living with gorillas and may be extrapolating a bit.

Many years ago I read a book called Why Men are the way they Are".

I tried to get my wife to read it but we got divorced instead. It is still in print and what he says is similar to Sapolsky but in a less sensational way. Women choose high status and high income men. Men, to get women interested, do things that accomplish that, like working 60 hours a weeks as I was doing at the time.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that one term for this is ritualized combat. Males must compete for breeding opportunities, in order for the females to determine which males have the superior genes. That is part of how evolution advances - some males get to reproduce more than others based on their perceived fitness as viewed by the females of the species.

It is good that our ancestors at some point moved from actual to ritualized combat, because actual combat with a tool using species like ours would be insanely bloody. We don't need 90% of the males eliminated from breeding through combat with the remaining 10% essentially breeding 10 women each. Indeed, many, if not most, higher animal species have moved somewhat in this direction with a stylized element to their competition for mates.

One of the problems I think that we see these days is that women seeing the rewards of these competitions have in many cases pushed their way into different avenues of male ritualized combat, such as business, military, etc, making them less attractive for the males to use as such, as the female participation has increased.

n.n said...

Statistical inference is the leading cause of misunderstanding individual behavior.

SGT Ted said...

"Statistical inference is the leading cause of misunderstanding individual behavior."

This. It is what makes a lot of these studies "junk science".

Paco Wové said...

"I doubt it is junk science but he has an odd way of promoting what are pretty basic behavioral matters"

True. Is he flogging a new book? It sounds like he's trying to spin Male Mammalian Behavior 101 for the NPR listener crowd (i.e., upper middle class middle-aged women). Maybe he's got something out for the holiday trade.

Michael K said...

"Is he flogging a new book? It sounds like he's trying to spin Male Mammalian Behavior 101 for the NPR listener crowd (i.e., upper middle class middle-aged women). "

He's probably writing this for some money to make his wife happier.

El Pollo Raylan said...

It's almost like this guy is ignorant of Twain's description of Tom Sawyer's behavior around Becky Thatcher.

Lauderdale Vet said...

Brava.

Thanks, professor.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Recent science suggests that the absence of cheerleaders would probably alter quality of play.

As tax payers, we should all wonder whether this breakthrough started as a hunch or hypothesis and proceeded through the normal grant-funding channels (with generous Stanford overhead written in).

Just wondering.

Anglelyne said...

Yeah, his way of framing it is lame (we get it, Psychology Man, of course you hate football and the kind of guys who play it and like it), but aren't people getting a bit too butthurt about this? The stupid things human beings do to attract the opposite sex has been comedy fodder since forever.

C'mon, like we never sneer at bad boob jobs, moronic food obsessions, or women desperately pretending to a youth they no longer possess? I'm sure the next time you see some haggard old cougar with a creepy face-lift in a miniskirt, you'll be somberly reflecting about how "our deepest sexual urges are never ludicrous". I'd say there are few things in life more ludicrous than they way some of us express our deepest sexual urges.

I also don't see why the idea that sexual energies can be channeled for good ends or bad would be news to anybody.

Skeptical Voter said...

Oh come on Althouse. So much male effort for so little reward.

Valentine Smith said...

I always thought jaywalking was the shortest distance between 2 points. Now I know I'm preening.

The do-ers ask How? the be-ers ask why?

The do-ers are young, the be-ers old, infirm and weak.

Once you describe the thing that DOES you need to integrate and subsume its opposite the thing that DOESN'T. You know like the altruistic gene or the superego.

HARNESS, get it?

It's all a circle jerk to quiet existential terror.

John Lynch said...

Gee, human nature exists. News at 11.

Valentine Smith said...

All things are about LOVE, eros, caritas, and filia.

And all fuck-ups are about LOVE gone wrong.

campy said...

Why is the urge to impress women called a "ludicrous tendency of men" in The Wall Street Journal?

Women are superior to men. I'm sure you know that. It's been in the news and everything.

If men's behavior differs from women's, it is ipso facto wrong, unenlightened, and ludicrous.

traditionalguy said...

Aphorism that applies in the normal world: a man chases a woman until she catches him. For more details,ask Meade.

Freeman Hunt said...

I once saw a store clerk start juggling to impress a girl.

betamax3000 said...

I once saw a store clerk start jiggling to impress a guy.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why not call it a charming tendency of men?

It must be. That's why they do it.

n.n said...

SGT Ted:

Junk science, perhaps. It should be presented with a disclaimer: don't miss the tree for the forest. Also, human behavior cannot be modeled as a random process. It is a chaotic process, which is affected by many sinks and sources, not the least of which is freewill. Statistical models are only valid within a limited frame of reference (i.e. context), which have a variable scope.

William said...

The human primate is also Homo sapiens. He observes himself observing himself as he struts and frets. He is actor, audience, critic as he acts out the instinctual scripts.........In the Middle Ages, a large sector of humanity got themselves to nunneries and monasteries. I don't think this was because people had greater faith or even that they were repressed. I think it was because they were more willing to express their reluctance to engage in the kind of turns and curtsies and counter turns that are so much a part of the Darwinian boogie. Just about every person at some point in his life has the epiphany that the game isn't worth the candle. We need to find a way to establish secular monasteries and convents for those who think it's all a pointless sham.

William said...

Betamax: Good one. I was impressed with your word play, but, sadly, I'm not your target audience.......Some of mankind's most impressive achievements don't register with Victoria Secret models.

Carl said...

Good essay, Althouse. Nicely put.

What a shame it is that modern women allow themselves to be impressed by this kind of miserable cramped cynical crap.

I put it to the young women: wouldn't you rather be allowing yourself to be impressed by courage, adventurism, derring-do, confidence, success, panache? Sure, you might have to smack down arrogance and ill manners from time to time, but...is this really the kind of limp cold fish sugar-free Sprite of a man you want to encourage? Gah.

Bob Ellison said...

Does he wear shorts?

rhhardin said...

Consider the blue booby.

Inga said...

Oh I don't know, I think male desire is still desirous. I always appreciate signs of such desire in those I desire, lol.

Anglelyne said...

Carl: I put it to the young women: wouldn't you rather be allowing yourself to be impressed by courage, adventurism, derring-do, confidence, success, panache? Sure, you might have to smack down arrogance and ill manners from time to time, but...is this really the kind of limp cold fish sugar-free Sprite of a man you want to encourage? Gah.

I guess I'd have my panties in a twist about this article, too, if I thought "loud blasts of noise" were right up there with courage as a high expression of masculinity, that the mildly impulsive act of jaywalking is deserving of the name of derring-do (talk about "defining down"), and that being impressed by masculine generosity indicates a girl wants (or thinks she wants) some candy-ass metrosexual.

Jesus, people, are we all PMSing today or something? Such hypersensitivity and eagerness to take offense. The problem with the article is that it's not saying anything original or telling us anything we didn't know about sexual competition, its highs and lows and ridiculous moments. Tell me you don't smile or laugh when seeing a young man do something goofily impulsive when a pretty girl appears. Tell me you don't condemn when male sexual competition manifests as thuggishness. Or ever considered any incidences of the above behaviors, yes, ludicrous. OMG, you must all must be haters of the great manly virtues!

Let's all go write letters to the editors of the WSJ expressing our outrage at Sapolsky's shaming language and complaining about the lack of a trigger warning.

The only thing vaguely "anti-male" about this is that the author didn't quibble with the obviously bad design of a study that couldn't figure out how to uncover and measure the tendency of female behavior to take a turn for the ludicrous when attractive men are around (as if none of us had ever seen such a thing).

Robert Cook said...

"So all of your desires and behaviors can be expressed by that evolutionary theory, Cook?"


I'd say, pretty much. We're just mammalian animals, after all.

David said...

I think you're way off here, the author seems to be talking about something that used to go without saying about actual manhood. Real men are expected to take a break from chest-thumping and actually get things done once in awhile, and throughout ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY it's been recognized that when you have the meeting where you decide what actually has to be done NO WOMEN ARE ALLOWED IN THE ROOM. If women had been around for the planning of the Normandy invasion, we'd have done it with crossbows and gladiator outfits or something. It's nice that role-playing gets your clits hard, but I reiterate, at some point men are expected to actually get shit done.

THIS IS FUNNY warning: humor is subjective

karl said...

I agree with the studies conclusion. 80 percent of females reproduce vs 40 for males. Men have to swim up that stream like salmon. The problem for females is whether they stay.

Joe said...

To impress women (and make money) men do silly things like invent airplanes, computers and smart phones. Those assholes.

John Lynch said...

Camille Paglia wrote a whole damn book about this, except she thinks it's cool.

Elise Ronan said...

The truth happens to be that men impressed women because they wanted them to carry their children. Child bearing not only is hard (personal) but used to be as close to an early death sentence as humans experienced. You had to impress a women to get her to put herself in that position on your behalf. As society has progressed (at least in the first world) child bearing, while not without its dangers, is less and less a threat to the mother's life. Plus as our society has "progressed" motherhood is considered something of no value and those who choose motherhood over Office are considered ignorant and backwards. So it is not surprising that there would be some inane study showing the "idiocy" of men trying to impress women.

I remember my husband trying to continually impress me while we were dating and I would expect no less of my sons when they find a woman they want to marry. There is nothing wrong with it, infact any man not willing to work hard to impress your daughters are unworthy of them.

Mountain Maven said...

WSJ has descended into unreadable foolishness. It is the official publication of RINO's. They are working with the left in its long march through the institutions.