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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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221 Responses

  1. Becca Stareyes
    Becca Stareyes April 12, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    I remember reading a critique of evo-psych in Scientific American which pretty much said ‘anything said about human gender and sexuality should be taken with an ocean of salt’ because our nearest living non-human cousins (chimps and other great apes) don’t act like we do sexually, and our dead non-human ancestors didn’t leave any books on sex lying around for us to find, what with writing not being invented yet. So really, you’re working with animal models who live in totally different environments and totally different lineages and trying to somehow relate them to humans, despite the fact that whatever evolution did to our views on sex, it was definitely happening after we split from proto-chimps, let alone after we and the primates split from proto-rodents.

    Add in the selection of bias that you get when dealing with a subject close to home — because if you want to be good at science, you better except you have biases and your first job is not to fool yourself — and you can easily go down the road o’ crap.

    It’s a lot easier to look at leg bones and skull bones and say ‘obviously bipedalism came before increased cranial capacity’.

    (Disclaimer: not a biologist.)

  2. Lori
    Lori April 12, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    I read this yesterday, Jill, and thought of this site and thought of sending it to you, but I didn’t know if doing so was permitted. So I’m glad someone else sent it to you. I read the whole Psychology Today article, rolling my eyes. Please. Submission fantasies. Romance novels.

  3. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 12, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    But she’s behind him, totally grabbing his titties! So… is he submissive here?

    The whole post was a win, but this was my favorite part. As for animal positioning being a sign of submissiveness, I never understood this. I can’t figure out for the life of me how else those animals would fuck. It’s not like they can try missionary or reverse missionary because animals are round and they roll. And if they face each other on their sides, I can’t imagine it’s really all that comfortable. I mean, I don’t like to be on my side fucking a dude who’s facing me, and sex is apparently generalizable across species, right?

  4. ozymandias
    ozymandias April 12, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    I’m turned on by dominating people in bed. I’m female. I have a submissive boyfriend. In my experience, roughly equal numbers of men are submissive, dominant or just plain vanilla. I mean, you can’t talk about hypnotism porn without talking about Men in Pain, you know?

    Also, if fanfic is now evidence of Evolutionarily Derived Female Sexuality, I am kind of amused to discover that Evolution ™ made women inextricably turned on by the Winchester brothers fucking each other. Sorry men! You have to make out now! Biology says so!

  5. Jadey
    Jadey April 12, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    Yes to all of this. It should also be pointed out that Gaddam and Ogas are notorious in fandom for the surveyfail incident in which they attempted to collect data from fandom members (including underage members) while misrepresenting themselves (both not disclosing the existing book deal that the data was for and implying that they were affiliated with a university and had undergone ethical review, which was not true). Also, general skeeviness and horrific transphobia. Fandom proceeded to fuck with them. The Amazon tags for their book are truly hilarious and accurate.

    In general, a couple of douchwads.

  6. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm |

    Also: Just because someone seeks out a particular kind of pornography doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to do that in bed (any more than reading a romance novel means you actually want to bang Fabio). A lot of people, I think, enjoy porn because it’s an escape. And also, porn can be a reflection of the worst aspects of our culture — which is why rape-but-not-calling-it-rape porn is so popular.

    (Possibly triggering for mentions of rape fantasy?)

    Yes! For so long I was troubled by the fact that I get turned on by rape porn (though it’s not the only kind I like). But the only porn I really like is…drawn porn. Real life porn, for me, is more instructive and less of a turn-on. Porn is better the less realistic it is. So I finally chilled out and said, “Ok, it’s fine. You don’t get turned on by rape reports or anything. You’re disgusted when you hear about it in the news. You even get ill watching it acted out by real people. It’s just a fantasy.”

    And it’s true. This is not to denounce people who enjoy these things with play or more realistic porn. I do think there’s a big difference between what you read/watch and what you do in bed. Of course, I also do understand the connection with high levels of violence in porn and media and violence against women. And I guess until I really talked with someone about why they liked violence and sex, I’d immediately fall back into, “Hrm, are you sure you’re not being negatively influenced?”

    Sometimes I’m not sure how to make my own enjoyment and this broader knowledge work together. I guess I’m just a hypocrite?

  7. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    I do think there’s a big difference between what you read/watch and what you do in bed.

    Lord, I’m not typing right. I meant read/watch/do consensually in bed vs. if you’re actually a horrible person.

  8. LC
    LC April 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Ozymandias, your Winchester logic is clearly irrefutable. I will try to find a cute boy to make out with to display my fitness for the Female Gaze right now… because Evolution!

  9. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin April 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm |

    Funnily enough, Feminism validated the ideas towards sex that I already had. So it made me feel human, rather than some sort of space alien from the planet Neptar, which essentially is how I felt for large swaths of time.

  10. April
    April April 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm |

    “Why? Because Romance Novels.” “Because Rats.”

    Thank you, Sady Doyle, for unintentionally creating the newest form of internet speak. I think I like this one the most.

  11. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub April 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    Ozymandia, Wincest for the win!

  12. Macha
    Macha April 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    Of course, if women have sexual problems it must be their problem. Let’s not address the fact that a majority of sexually active men in the US are circumcised and all the negative sexual effects that this entails. Let’s not talk about the socialization that teaches men and women to behave in specific ways that inhibit healthy relationships, and denies young people comprehensive sex education.

    Let’s just blame the chicks. Because that’s just way easier, and hey, we’ve been doing it for like, thousands of years, and like, it’s worked out so well for us in the past.

  13. Florence
    Florence April 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    Girl, I love the way you talk rat sexx.

  14. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus April 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    In my experience (and I know that this is just anecdote), I had better sex with partners who were more openly feminist and I suspect that’s because their feminist views made them more inclined to talk about sex with me. That helped a lot because I could ask about what they liked (or they would tell me), I would do it, we had a good time, etc. They didn’t just assume that I knew because “real men just know and women don’t talk about that shit anyway”.

  15. Lis
    Lis April 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    Did they even address men who have submissive fantasies?

    The romance and fanfic communities can (and have) run rings around Ogas and Gaddam when it comes to explaining what their stories say about female desire. But I guess rather than broaden their view of what constitutes masculinity, these guys just looked at the “woobie” phenomenon and just said, “Oh, they’ve turned him into a woman.”

  16. sossajes
    sossajes April 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    um, liar liar pants on fire: “Avon Books and Ellora’s Cave feature no heroes who are kindergarten teachers, accountants, or plumbers.”

    harlequin has several series that feature blue-collar or working class heroes, and many, many other authors use the sensitive blue-collar or brilliant idealist hero. it’s not like these are difficult to find, but these books would contradict the authors’ ridiculous premise so we’ll just ignore a huge swath of the very thing they are purporting to study.

  17. La Lubu
    La Lubu April 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Well, let’s see: Dudes who couldn’t find a clitoris with GPS and GoogleMaps?

    Oh, THANKS for not putting a coffee-monitor warning on this one, LOL!! C’mon, would putting a “warning: coffee-spewing moments ahead” be too much?

    WTF is a dominant scent?! Every single time I’ve smelled a so-called “dominant scent” coming from a human being, it was the polar fucking opposite of attractive.

  18. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar April 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm |

    Wow. The cherry-picking starts in the first paragraph. By the second, he’s already claiming that the Sleeping Beauty novels support his thesis, when in fact there are men and women both topping and bottoming throughout the three-book series. (The Splendid Equipage chapter, about a pony-boy, from the second book, is a personal fave.)

    There’s a fundamental problem with using a data-set drawn largely from fiction: it’s fiction! And it’s not necessarily representative. If 80% of fanfic is written by 5% of fans, does it overrepresent the interests of those 5%? Who knows! We don’t know how the part relates to the whole, because it’s not representative! Same thing with romance novels and porn. We can make some limited claims about the fact that a piece of work is produced, and that it is consumed, but there are a lot of things that intermediate, like what the money people in say publishing or filmmaking are receptive to, what advertisers will accept and what ratings boards or the government might have a problem with that distort the connections between producer and audience such that we can’t really tell what an audience likes from what it consumes without first accounting for what’s available to it.

    They make an empirical claim about me, too:

    “But here’s the intriguing part. In humans, the hormonal vagaries of prenatal development appear to cause a substantial portion of men to be born with active submissive circuitry. These men find sexual submission as arousing–or, quite often, far more arousing–than sexual dominance. Such submission-wired men are fans of the equally popular, inventive, and varied genres of male submissive erotica, such as femdom porn, transformation fiction, golden showers, CBT (penis and testicle torture), and CFNM (clothed female naked men).”

    This is their attempt to keep the number of bottom-leaning kinky men from invalidating their stupid theory. They make a dramatic claim: that we are how we are because of prenatal hormones. They can’t prove that. They assume it because it’s the conclusion they can most easily deal with. In fact, research has so far come up with pretty much a goose-egg in trying to determine the etiology of BDSM interest in humans. Folks’ favorite pop-psych theories didn’t pan out — not much correlation to childhood physical discipline, no correlation to history of sexual assault. Everything is fairly inconclusive, admitting of too many exceptions to have much explanatory power.

    My bullshit detector works best when authors talk about areas I know well, and when Ogi Ogas proposes a cause for men’s interest in bottoming or submission … well, I know the terrain, and so I know he’s full of shit, making offhand claims about something that’s completely unresolved. He didn’t say “promising research suggests …” which might indicate a study I have not read yet showing brain differences in men who bottom (and given the people I know I probably would have heard about it and had someone pull it from Medline for me). he said he has the answer and it’s settled. That’s bullshit.

  19. Olivia
    Olivia April 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    As a feminist AND an erotic romance author — who writes for Ellora’s Cave, even — I would like to weigh in.

    You know what you find in erotic romances? Female orgasms. Lots and lots and lots of them. (Especially the f/f romances — which don’t get talked about much when romance as a whole gets name-checked in shallow ways like the above — but I digress.) That’s the one trait that holds true across every subgenre of m/f romance: the hero is always good at getting the heroine off, and vastly excited about doing so. So the ideas of dominance/submission are somewhat complicated by the centrality of female pleasure.

    Dudes who couldn’t find a clitoris with GPS and GoogleMaps? Women who are taught to be self-conscious about their bodies and especially their lady-bits? Dudes who assume that if they put it in they’ve done their part? Women who don’t feel the same sort of entitlement towards sexual enjoyment as men? Men who see sex as something that they “get” rather than as a dynamic and highly variable set of acts between two people? Women who are raised believing that being too sexual is slutty, but that sex is something that they have to do for men, and that sex is centered on male pleasure? The construction of sex as between men and women, and something men do to women, and purely penetrative, and beginning when the dude enters and ending when he ejaculates? The many wonderful but sometimes frustrating complications of the human brain and body?

    I’d like to answer this point by point.

    1. Romance heroes always know how to find the clitoris.
    2. They always find the heroines exciting, whether she’s plump or skinny or matronly or what-have-you.
    3. Foreplay is a given, and there’s many a scene where the hero pleasures the heroine and doesn’t get to get off himself.
    4. Pleasure is often depicted as something the hero gives to the heroine, in a reversal of the standard cultural line of sex as taking something away from the woman.
    5. “Dynamic and highly variable” is a fairly accurate description of the way sex scenes ideally work in erotic romance — if you write scene after scene of regular missionary sex, no matter how hot, your editor will have strong things to say to you about revising your manuscript.
    6. M/m and f/f romances (not to mention m/m/f and variations) are increasing in visibility and popularity.
    7. Oral sex and mutual masturbation are common, though (it’s true), they’re often presented as not-quite-full-sex — however, some of this might be my own reading biases, since most of my experience is with historicals and those tend to put a higher premium on the heroine’s virginity, so that penetration has more weight than it does in a contemporary erotic romance.
    8. As for complications of the human brain and body — well, even in romance, sex doesn’t always go like you hope it will.

    Listed out like that, it looks extra ridiculous to use romances as proof of some universal female desire for sexual submission.

    And yes, some romance novels are sexist, and it’s part of the genre’s history. But there is an increasing resistance to this, and a vocal readership who will tell you plainly that they want their heroines to be as strong as their heroes — regardless of who’s doing what to who in the bedroom.

  20. Jadey
    Jadey April 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar: “promising research suggests …”

    Dollars to donuts he’s referencing his own “to be released” research in the style of pseudo-cognitive neuroscience batshittery using bizarre logic and “trendy” data sources, like romance novels. These guys are out for fame and a paycheck from pop science, not solid publications. Blech.

  21. Scott
    Scott April 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    I think they’re confusing “being dominated” or “submissive” with “feel desirable”. Being chased isn’t so much submissive as it is asking “Do you want me?”

    And when “domination vs. submission” is converted simply to “show desire” then it works more universally. Works especially for that romance cover — she’s grabbing his chest, he’s grabbing her leg.

    Let’s say instead of sex, it was food. If I showed a room of people a chocolate cake, and told them it’d be served downstairs — everyone who goes downstairs is showing desire for chocolate cake. They’re not trying to dominate the thing, they just want it.

  22. banshee
    banshee April 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm |

    Do a lot of women really have difficulties in bed? I’m a woman in her late 50s, and I no longer overthink things. I do what I want to do, because life is too short. I have a lover my age who thinks pretty much the same way.And there is *nothing* he can’t find! I guess my point is that I wouldn’t take that article very seriously but just keep on doing what works. Analysis is overrated, I think. Cheers. :)

  23. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar April 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    What I said above, said longer and with links.

  24. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    “Do a lot of women really have difficulties in bed?”

    -ish? It can be hard to tell, because a lot of studies and literature define “difficulties in bed” in a way that bleeds into a woman wanting penetrative sex less frequently than a male partner, which is not really the same thing there. Though it is important not to underestimate the cumulative effects of all the stuff listed in the OP on women-in-general’s libidos.

  25. Debbie
    Debbie April 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    So Twillight and a lot of romance novels are all about submissive women huh? Well Twillight I’ll grant you, but right now I am reading The Southern Vampire Mystery Series-the books that inspired the hit TV show True Blood…and Sookie is not exactly submissive…..

    In other words, they are cherry picking!

  26. Debbie
    Debbie April 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    So Twillight and a lot of romance novels are all about submissive women huh? Well Twillight I’ll grant you, but right now I am reading The Southern Vampire Mystery Series-the books that inspired the hit TV show True Blood…and Sookie is not exactly submissive…..

    In other words, they are cherry picking!

  27. queenrandom
    queenrandom April 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm |

    When I read articles that wax on the difference between men and women having “difficulty in bed*”, the first thing I always think is – what about reporting bias? That is, do more women than men report having difficulties, but the numbers are actually more even? From personal experience it seems actually fairly evenly split, and it seems to happen to most people at some point in their lifetime. I’m not convinced there’s this huge looming sex difference in “difficulties in bed,” whatever that means.

    *Whenever I see this phrase I imagine someone trying very hard to lay down in bed, and having terrible difficulties doing so. It’s very Pythonesque.

  28. Sarah
    Sarah April 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm |

    It’s funny, because I just was re-reading “Perfect Madness”, which talks about the plight of contemporary American mothers, and one thing it mentions is how many moms find their sex life gone down the drain because either

    a) they’re too tired and drained from the never-ending work of being a “perfect” mom without decent daycare or help from their husbands or respect in the workplace to even THINK about sex, or
    b) they’re resentful towards their husbands for barely lifting a finger over childcare or housework and treating them as lower-status because they’re stay-at-home or treating their careers as more-expendable-than-the-man’s.

    In other words, they’re having trouble getting turned on because of a toxic combination of sexism and capitalism. It doesn’t much help to be the Ultimate Sexy Dom Alpha Male if your wife is running on 3 hours of sleep a night and worried sick over finding a good/affordable school and babysitter, no matter how submissive she is in bed normally.

    Also: if you go by the examples of romance novels vs. het-male-oriented porn, you’ll see that there are probably tons of straight submissive women and straight dominant men who will never be happy with each other, because their sexual fantasies don’t even remotely match.

    From what I can see, your typical romance novel has a dominant man paired with a “feisty”, “free-spirited”, i.e. NOT EVEN REMOTELY SUBMISSIVE woman, who fight a lot before finally “taming” each other and settling into a relatively equal relationship. The dominant man typically is filled with admiration for the woman’s strength, courage, strong will, etc. (This makes sense from an evo-psych point of view, because Doormat Woman is also likely to end up Sabretooth Tiger Lunch.) And in the sex scenes, he physically dominates her while emotionally submitting: he’ll either tell her outright or say in his head that he’s losing control of his senses in the face of her amazing sexiness.

    On the other hand, your typical straight porno will have a dominant man who turns an “haughty uptight bitch” into a “dirty submissive whore”. The man will not praise the woman, but call her humiliating names. He will not lose control, but revel in his control over her, his ability to make her do sexual acts she doesn’t want to do. At the end, they don’t live happily ever after: she’s a broken mess, and he’s on to the next one.

    Naturally, a sub woman expecting her partner to throw her down and fuck her hard while saying “you’re so beautiful, I’ll do anything to have you” is not going to get along well with a dom man expecting to throw down his partner and fuck her hard while she says “use me like the dirty slut cum whore I am”.

    How do you twist THAT to be All Feminism’s Fault?

    PS since the body of the essay is about women’s lack of desire, why does the title call feminism the “Anti-Viagra”?

    PPS doncha just love how the examples of “cross-cultural female erotica” the authors give is all geared towards white American women? They could’ve at least mentioned Zane. Or girl-oriented manga/anime.

  29. wembley
    wembley April 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    LOL, these guys. I’m glad someone mentioned Surveyfail… yeah, they decided they were going to study slash fanfic and write a book somehow connecting erotic fanfic to evopsych bullshit. And I thought *my* degree was useless. Apparently their research/survey/whatever methods were really terrible. They were soundly mocked by the fangirls they were trying to “study”. (Btw, I’m all for academic studies of fandom, I think it’s interesting, but these guys were ridic.)

  30. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni April 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm |

    @macha – spooky. I was just discussing that issue last night. I was describing to my GF (for dykes we spend a lot of time talking about hetero sex) the problem of the ‘death grip’ in cut men, and also, their decreased sensitivity being less likely to clue them in on something like a yeast infection.

    On the first issue, the death grip – no vagina can replicate that. I’ve talked to a lot of (US) women and girls who feel inadequate because they cannot bring him to orgasm and feel physically ‘loose’, and mentally they feel unattractive. After all, if they really were desirable then he’d be able to get off, right? I never fail to be surprised at how often the cries for help are repeated.

    On the yeasties – in lots of vag-owners they’re asymptomatic (usually external YIs) with the only clue being painful sex. They ask for help, get treatment for their yeastie, and feel great… for about a week. “It’s happening again!”, more cream, another diflucan pill, things are great and then… “Oh no it’s back!” Then someone will dig further – turns out the person has condom-free sex with just the one guy, “And, you had him treated, yes?”. It’s virtually always a “No”.

    When I worked in the British health service, guys would almost be in tears from the pain of yeast infections. “Oh the pain and burning is terrible, and my foreskin feels so tight, I feel raw”. Admonitions to abstain from PIV or PIA sex until the infection had been cleared would receive a cry of “Oh no way, fuck that, just walking hurts!” and they’d tootle off with their prescription in their hands. But, from anecdotal reports from US women dating cut guys, I’ve seen them say “Well it is a bit sore-looking, and he scratches it a lot, but he says that’s normal for him.” And our friend the YI goes back and forth, back and forth, like a lovely little gift exchange. Obviously this aint definitive, just observation.

    But, back to “Why women find sex unsatisfying”, why it’s our old friend heterocentric, male-gaze media, YAY! The narrative goes thusly: cock is whipped out of pants, woman trembles and swoons (that’s foreplay over with then), penis goes into vagina, two thrusts, and BOOM simultaneous rapturous orgasms.

    Too many women honestly believe that they are broken if they cannot orgasm from penetration alone, and that, so-called ‘researchers’, is why women have ‘difficulties’ in bed. It’s got bollocks-all to do with rats, and Mills and Boon, and Fabio, and everything to do with the fact that sex is portrayed as one man, one woman, penis-in-vagina, at night, in bed. It’s because the Freudian nonsense of any orgasm other than those brought about by a penis in the vag are somehow wrong is *still* being perpetuated.

    None of that is feminism’s fault.

  31. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    I want to expand on what Scott said, above. I do think an (unsurprisingly) common fantasy, amenable to any gender combo, is being no-holds-barred crazy-desirable. Of course, that fantasy — which strikes me as less biological than psychological in that you have to be a smart enough animal to have a complex ego to get off on the idea of others finding you wildly attractive — gets processed through the culture in which you live. For straight men, it’s the corny porny room full of ladies begging you for it! For straight women, it’s the “rape” fantasy (and I put rape in quotes here to mean, it’s not really about rape because fantasy is voluntary; rape is not).

    Anyway, I don’t think either of these are really about domination or submission; they are (like many fantasies and daydreams) hugely egotistical. Like, they really, really are not about relations to others but mental exercises in “and then everyone thought I was funny/smart/sexy/generous/awesome/irresistable”.

    something really tricky about sex — like about life — is getting the egotistical bit to line up with the relations-with-others bit; if men get off more easily, well duh for the reasons everyone has pointed out.

  32. Nahida
    Nahida April 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    The title of this post perplexes me. (After it stopped making me laugh.) Is a sad boner still a boner?

  33. Pidgey
    Pidgey April 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    My reaction to anyone who uses “Alpha males” in a serious context is to laugh hysterically in their face.

    Fun game: Anytime you see men complaining about how women prefer dominant men replace “dominant” with the word “confident”.

  34. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom April 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    I’m pretty sure whales do it belly-to-belly. I’m also pretty sure that whale sex has fuck-all to do with people sex.
    Also, this quote:

    “These include some of the most inventive and varied genres of male erotica, such as hypnotism porn (where Svengalis hypnotize woman into having sex), drunk porn (where men trick inebriated women into having sex), sleep porn (where men take advantage of sleeping women)”

    Yes, that is certainly inventive and varied, isn’t it? Rape, three flavors. Possibly I am missing the more subtle distinctions.

  35. Xenu01
    Xenu01 April 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm |

    I don’t know- I watch a lot of Parks and Recreation so I must want to have sex with my local government.

  36. cat
    cat April 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    Wait, no plumbers in erotica? These dudes must be reading radically different sites than I am (and I lean heavily kinky). Plumbers and construction workers pop up routinely in rape-fantasy erotica. Typical scenario of cheesy erotica-plumber/electrician comes to the house, fixes something, homeowner has not cash, plumber/electrician insists on “payment” in the form of sex. That one is a totally overused trope there.

    Also, for people who claim to spend a lot of time with rats, these folks do not seem well acquainted with rat behavior. I have had pet rats and know others who have as well. Female rats respond agressively to unwanted sexual contact with teeth and nails. In my observation, male rats are more likely to just roll over (metaphorically) and let their cage mates hump them than female rats. Female rats are in general more active. Male rats, if properly fed and housed (have space and toys), are fat lazy social things normally. Getting them to exercise at all can take some work (especially as they age). Male rats are more inclined to be terrified of disturbing stimuli than female rats. Submissive is not a term I would use to describe typical female rat behavior, period. Oh, and female rats who are not fixed go into heat every four of five days (they do not discharge), so they are horny little beastlies. (Seriously dudes, a quick check on the google will tell you that those who raise rats have a strong consensus that females are more active and less timid on average).

    Consider rats indeed. Join me in scoffing, former and current rat owners!

  37. Phelos
    Phelos April 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    As I guy I gotta say the reasons I think women have trouble in bed are
    1. most guys suck as lovers (this stems a lot from the masturbation practices of adolescent males)
    2. sex is as psycho-social-neuro-physical experience. Its more complicated then just ‘getting it in’
    3. Society teaches women to be ashamed of their sexuality and that if they enjoy sex they’re sluts
    4. guys are greedy bastards and care more about getting themselves off then how much their partner is enjoying the experience.
    Could be wrong but thats my (totally unscientific) take on the whole thing.

  38. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni April 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    Nahida – Google image search gave me this result for ‘sad boner': http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTcwC8tFIlTo035n7D4wwd4vltSeE1VuMRg8dSgB54dpsDfI9fnAA

    (safe for work, unless you really hate Republicans or Oompa-Loompas)

  39. Michelle
    Michelle April 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    That is hilarious what Psychology Today said about rats, because research has shown that proper pacing of sexual behavior (a little copulation, a little rest, a little more copulation) is super important to female rats. They get pregnant more easily with “paced” mating than with continuous mating, which is what males try to do if they are one-on-one. (In the wild, rats mate in big orgies of partner-switching, so females get lots of breaks.) So the females control the pace of mating if they can, and careful studies show that the females prefer paced mating to non-paced (i.e., controlled by the males) mating. They even have greater dopamine release in the ventral striatum, which reinforces behaviors that feel good, with paced compared to male-controlled mating. Not exactly “getting turned on by submission”! If these folks are going to make an evolutionary psych story based on rat sex, they should actually read some research about rat sex. I guess that is why, as a psychology researcher, I generally stay away from Psychology Today… Makes me too mad!

    The rest of this post is also spot-on.

  40. latinist
    latinist April 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm |

    Probably no point in just piling on the ways that article is wrong, but a sort of pet peeve:

    One of the only nods they make at trying to prove that these “hard-wired” characteristics are actually, you know, hard-wired, rather than culturally produced, is talking about “cross-cultural” surveys, done over the internet. But “cross-cultural” isn’t a binary characteristic: they’re obviously limiting themselves to contemporary cultures with internet access, and the thing about cultures with internet access is that, BY DEFINITION, they are all interacting and influencing each other. You know, through the internet.

    And of course, if you know anything about, e.g., any pre-modern cultures, this kind of thing always gets much more complicated. I mean, anyone who’s read the Thousand and One Nights knows that they present ideal women as ones with fabulous wealth and magical powers, who rescue their husbands and fathers from all difficulties without any male help whatsoever. And none of the men being rescued ever (as far as I can remember) whine about the women being insufficiently submissive.

  41. willa
    willa April 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm |

    WOW. Wow wow wow.

    Thanks so much for that surveyfail link! It made me laugh, hard.

    As to this horrible Psychology Today article, I have only this to say:

    Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable. You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman!

  42. Opheelia
    Opheelia April 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm |

    @Jadey

    Those tags are awesome. And it appears that one person disagreed with a couple of them. I feel like maybe that person is one of the authors.

  43. Submit Thyself! Because…rats? « The Rambling Feminist

    […] You should read the great (and wonderfully funny) article at Feministe I quoted from. Seriously, […]

  44. The_RamblingFeminist
    The_RamblingFeminist April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    Their article is basically:
    “Alright, so let’s talk about submission and why as a woman you’ll never have another orgasm in your life if you don’t find a good enough caveman to cover you with his hulking body, press you to a hard surface, and spear you repeatedly with his manhood!”

    I also continue to be annoyed at people using BDSM to argue sexist points.

  45. Dana
    Dana April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    I am genuinely horrified this was published. How do these people have jobs? I could write a better article than that with no qualification. None of that constitutes anything remotely resembling proof, and it couldn’t be any more obvious they’re just pulling random examples to “prove” what they already believe. That is not how science works >:(

    Also, have they never seen female rats hump the hell out of each other/neutered males/entire males who are failing to get on with it as quickly as she’d like? Hahaha.

  46. Aidan
    Aidan April 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    Psychology today is seriously my arch enemy among magazines…lots of magazines are racist and sexist and all kinds of nasty, but i hate hate hate it above all others because unlike other magazines it says these blatantly, ridiculously irresponsible, sexist racist things and then *calls it science*.

  47. dudley
    dudley April 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm |

    I love evolutionary psychology, but these people need to talk to anthropologists and travel some more before they start claiming anything about all of humanity. Further, some sort of economics training would help too, (studying tropes etc).

    They chose popular erotica (romance novels), thinking that market success = source of information about female desire. Here is an excellent study to find out about male desire. Take the most popular (top fifty?) pornographic video titles of this year and analyze them for evolutionary trends: Every hetero sex act will contain a component of anal sex. So obviously, human men are aroused by specific anal scents of women because in a hyena study, the olfactory component of courtship relies strongly upon “scenting.”
    Nevermind if you start with the 1970’s and proceed through the 1980’s into the 1990’s and beyond, a remarkable rise of heterosexual anal sex will show up. WHY? Porn is an industry, with tropes, (temporal) memes, industry standards, and novelty. In commodities, novelty is important because it translates into profit (it explains the current trend of choking/gagging or glory holes) because at the end of the day, there are a limited number of ways to videotape people doing it, so a “unique” perspective is at a premium.
    Back to erotica, pushing sexual envelopes will of course skew the drama of sex towards “submission” as well as adventure, piracy, cattle ranching, and anything else that appeals to a consumer base. In porn videos, submissivification of women appeals to the consumer base. In erotica, brave attentive confident men of achievement/potential appeal to the consumer base.

  48. Kelli Collins
    Kelli Collins April 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    Point of clarification: EC does, in fact, have accountant and plumber heroes. Just exceedingly hot, manly accountants and plumbers. :) And with over 4,000 stories published in the last decade, I’m sure if I dug long enough, I might find a kindergarten teacher or two.

    Our readers are unrepentantly vocal in their love of alpha males. But it should be noted there’s been an increasingly avid interest in very strong, independent heroines as well. Readers are less attracted to (and have seemingly little patience for) weak, fragile heroines in need of saving, and more interest in female leads who kick ass…including the hero’s, if he needs it.

    Kelli Collins
    Editor-in-Chief
    Ellora’s Cave

  49. Susan
    Susan April 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    I was going to simply marvel at how amazingly unwilling some people are to examine social context when they conduct their research, opting instead to blame everything on brain stems and dominant scents. Then I realized that hey, you don’t have to do actual nuanced research that takes social context into account if you can just throw in a few pages about romance novels!

  50. drst
    drst April 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    Ledasmom: I’m pretty sure whales do it belly-to-belly. I’m also pretty sure that whale sex has fuck-all to do with people sex.

    Repeated for awesomeness.

    As for the cross-cultural approach on the internet… barely 30% of the global population has access to the Internet. Most of the 30% is in North America, Europe, China and India along with the more prosperous countries of Asia and South America. But we can safely assume these researchers didn’t read pretty much anything on the web not written in English. Cross-cultural? Not so much.

  51. An Open Letter to Boners Re: Feminism « What Men Dare Do!

    […] there Boners.  How you doing?  I couldn't help but notice that Feministe has a blog post called "Feminism Makes Boners Sad," about an article by Doctors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam in Psychology Today called "Why Feminism is the […]

  52. rae
    rae April 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

    @Paraxeni

    In Britain they will treat men whose partners have recurrent yeast infections?? And this is considered standard????

    Oh I am so terribly jealous. Here in America I have not yet found a doctor willing to perform any type of yeast treatment on a male, even in those circumstances…they just tell me they can’t do anything because there’s “no evidence” that my partner could pass the infection back to me, ESPECIALLY if he’s asymptomatic.

  53. Bushfire
    Bushfire April 12, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    Almost every quality of dominant males triggers arousal in the female brain: dominant scents, dominant gaits, deep voices, height, displays of wealth. Romance heroes are almost always high status alpha males–billionaires, barons, surgeons, sheriffs. Avon Books and Ellora’s Cave feature no heroes who are kindergarten teachers, accountants, or plumbers.

    Well I don’t know who this dude polled*, but if he would have asked me, I would have reported that my romance heroes have consisted mostly of women in caretaking professions: teachers, babysitters, etc, and also men and women in creative positions are directors of arts organisations (and if you know me personally you know exactly who they are ;-). Never have they included anyone in positions of Power with a capital P. Those people tend to turn me right off. As for men/women dominant/submissive, I think all the guys I’ve been with (and most of the girls) love being submissive, but also love being dominant when the time is right. I’ve never noticed a correlation to gender.

    As for all this nonsense about women wanting to be submissive and being trained not to respect their own sexuality, blah, blah, blah…. is it the seventies or what???? My friends and I discuss our sex lives in great detail, tell each other how many orgasms we’ve had today, tell each other when we’re open for business, and never assume we know someone’s sexual orientation or relationships style until told. Are we unicorns or what?

    *I’m being facetious. Of course, the dude didn’t poll anybody, he just polled some magazines in the check-out line and a few of his favourite porn sites. Always reliable sources if you want to uphold the patriarchy viewpoint.

  54. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |

    I remember Surveyfail. I remember being taken in by those bastards, and then reading the reactions in the fanfic LJ communities and thinking, “oh shit … wait, they were funded by Department of Homeland Security? WTF?!?!?!”

    That Evo-Psych Yesterday would publish an article by them confirms for me that the magazine is a pure stinking pile of shit, and one that does more harm than supermarket tabloids (f’rex) because they pass themselves off as “scientific”.

  55. orgostrich
    orgostrich April 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm |

    Does anyone know how the link between lordosis behavior and “submissiveness” in rats came about. Mostly, I’m wondering how they decide a rat is being submissive and not just preparing for anatomically-possible sex. Or really, how would you measure submissiveness in rats at all?

  56. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm |

    orgostrich:
    Does anyone know how the link between lordosis behavior and “submissiveness” in rats came about.Mostly, I’m wondering how they decide a rat is being submissive and not just preparing for anatomically-possible sex.Or really, how would you measure submissiveness in rats at all?

    They know female rats are being submissive because they behave just like human females do, cuz all human females are submissive. Which they know because all female rats are submissive. Which they know cuz … they’re male and they aren’t about to submit to any stinkin’ IRB.

  57. Daniel
    Daniel April 13, 2011 at 12:00 am |

    Men are as much victims of this system of sexual labeling as women are. The pressure is great on men to perform in a sexual manner, to perform in bed, or to take a certain attitudes towards sex, and in the same way women who don’t obligatorily ‘perform’ in a certain way are sadly considered ‘prudes’, so are men expected to ‘perform’ in a certain way too. Those that don’t are ridiculed by other, equally insecure men.

    Men are not nearly as interested in sex as we are made out to be. The dissemination of false data such as ‘men think about sex every four seconds’ is a good example of the modern proliferation of media that turns men into brutish morons, good for nothing but putting shelves up and watching football. Either that or we are labelled as depressed misanthropists.

    Fact is, most men are not interested in cum-shots. We’re just told we are. We want to feel wanted too, desired, lusted after, and so on. Male sexual expression has as many facets as it does for women, we’re just told not to explore them. A burgeoning generation of children grow up on a steady diet of sexual misinformation, reticent parents and increasing social pressures. The issues know no gender boundaries. I want to make it clear that I’m not supporting or tolerating the kind of pressure that young males place upon young females to perform, to be ‘freaky’ and so on, but I’m saying that they are much victims as the young women are.

    We’re all victims and we’re all perpetrators of the problem. Both genders must be educated and jointly explore this new landscape of sexuality and sexual expression. I feel isolating men and women as either victims or oppressors is detrimental to the cause of equality, which is the ultimate objective (I hope)

  58. Ninja
    Ninja April 13, 2011 at 1:00 am |

    One issue I have is that there seems to be a confusion with “submissive” and “weak.” Someone who has a submissive approach to relationships is not inferior to someone who does not. So even if “the majority of women” happened to be submissive, it would not reflect badly upon women.

    Evolutionary psychology does not entail an “anything goes” attitude towards data interpretation. Scientists examine behavior and connect it with particular psychological traits. As the context broadens, the interpretation becomes more justified. Trying to generalize rat psychology to humans is a problem, but the interpretation of the rats is the logical interpretation to draw from the data. Rats don’t have the complexity of humans. The male rat is not a submissive who reluctantly agreed to a strange roleplay game. There may be an unlimited amount of interpretations but some are better than others.

    Serious scientists accept the existence of homosexuality among animals (though sexuality labels might be only applied for our purposes). Science is a force of truth. While some scientists are corrupt, the days of science being an anti-women, anti-minority institution are gone. The “seed spreading” hypothesis is not far-fetched. The quality of a child is not determined by the effectiveness of the sperm in being impregnated. An weak idiot will produce evolutionary undesirable offspring, but he may have an extremely high success rate at giving a women a child.

    Women don’t have unlimited resources when it comes to raising children, and there are time and social incentives to be more selective. Social factors come into play for men and women. Men often have similar selection practices. More intelligent couples have fewer children, perhaps for resource allocation purposes. But the benefit for men to pursue sex with multiple partners, assuming they will make the women do all the work, is quite high. If women were lining up for a man then conserving sperm might be an issue that would promote selective decisions (royal marriages might be a case). But otherwise, giving an undesirable (evolutionarily speaking) women a child is still putting one more of your offspring into the world. Women lose time, resources, and even their lives. It’s important to remember that on an evolutionary scale, we are in many ways still the same beings that evolved to live in primitive conditions.

    I don’t know if women are more submissive, but the study is pretty ridiculous, overall. I just felt the need to defend real scientists. I’d suggest that many men care about female orgasm because they are genuinely concerned about the happiness of their partner. Failing to make a women as happy as they made you, in many ways, makes a man a failure. Some men may be compensating with arrogance or avoid the issue out of fear (then women don’t say anything for other reasons). Nonetheless, I think it’s untrue that most men are not concerned with their partners, even if they act in a way that might suggest that.

  59. Avida Quesada
    Avida Quesada April 13, 2011 at 1:06 am |

    Totaly agree with Jill. This is madness or even worse a vehicle for justifying rape or sexual violence in general. Even if you don’t want to see it there is also a ton of submissive male porn on the internet too (i have not read the article so maybe my argument is nill since most of this porn is for men not for women). I do believe that feminism has some complex interwillings with heterosexual activities, there are tons of literature that basically microanalyses every heterosexual act with a tinted glass in search for evil. But this is a conversation for an intergenerational feminist article. The one in Psychology today is more damaging for human rights that ridicule and that a lot of saying.

    By the way in my opinion this:

    4. Pleasure is often depicted as something the hero gives to the heroine, in a reversal of the standard cultural line of sex as taking something away from the woman.

    Is in no way better that the other way around. I don’t want to conceive sex as something that my partner gives to me. What next I have to pay the dinner because, you know, he is giving me sex?

  60. Feminism makes boners sad. — Feministe « hahayourefunny

    […] Feminism makes boners sad. — Feministe. I mean, we could show these guys pictures of actual human beings having sex, and they could see that human beings have sex in so many ways, and that a lot of the time women are on top (and sometimes there aren’t even women involved, or there are only women involved, and then the whole world falls apart)….But the point is, a photo of rat sex doesn’t really prove that women love submission, since “submission” is something that’s being projected onto the rats who are just trying to do their thing without getting stuck in the middle of some gender war bullshit. […]

  61. Li
    Li April 13, 2011 at 3:32 am |

    So, I reaaally don’t want this to derail from the epic lolz it is providing so far, but could people please hold off from using mental illness as a metaphor for stodgy research? Some of us mad people would also like to make fun of the obnoxious evo-psych, and without having our oppressions reiterated.

  62. The Amazing Kim
    The Amazing Kim April 13, 2011 at 5:35 am |

    Why do so many American women have problems in bed? “American women desire submission” doesn’t really answer that question, does it? I think the idea is that we all desire submission, but we fight it, or something?

    We want submissive sex, but are too timid to ask for it, because we’re too submissive. Obs.

  63. nyxe
    nyxe April 13, 2011 at 6:25 am |

    Going back to the rats…

    After breeding rats for 6 years (err, rather letting them do the breeding), I can honestly say I’ve never seen a “rat rape”. If the female isn’t into it, and she doesn’t like the male, she’ll let him know it with her teeth, and he gets the message loud and clear.

    The male doesn’t try to do the female while she’s asleep or otherwise incapacitated. The female plays just as active a role in the courtship as the male. They prance around, with the male chasing the female but that doesn’t mean he’s chasing her against her will, because a female that isn’t in heat will just stand her ground and tear him apart if he comes too close with ‘those’ intentions. So her running is a sign that she’s game and arching her back is the only position they can “do it” so sticking her booty up in the air is necessary. If she’s not into it, she flips on her back so her teeth and claws protect her. My female rats have always been the more dominant ones, and just because biology gave them the bottom position doesn’t make them submissive in the slightest.

  64. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage April 13, 2011 at 7:34 am |

    Shorter evo psych: because patriarchy exists, it must have been naturally selected, and thus men being pigs and women being property is Just Right.

    Shorter shorter evo psych: life should be like John Norman novels.

  65. Simone K.
    Simone K. April 13, 2011 at 8:25 am |

    A wonderful analysis and deconstruction that must be applied to every evo psych study out there masquerading as science but supporting the status quo and current gendered and sexist power dynamics withing Western society.

  66. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 8:34 am |

    A number of people are taking this…article? OpEd? Book ad? as an excuse to attack evolutionary psychology, so I think it is worth pointing out that this is not an example of evolutionary psychology.

    First, it comes from Psychology Today – a popular (ish) magazine not a peer-reviewed journal. One should expect roughly the same level of accuracy from Psychology Today that one would expect from Time, Newsweek, or People. And it is actually a blog post and not even from the print edition of the magazine, so it probably has even less stringent editorial checks (then the already less than academically stringent controls in place at Psychology Today). Nothing published at Psychology Today should be taken as an example of science, it is, at best, an example of science reporting.

    Second, the authors are not evolutionary psychologists. Both have their Ph.D. in a filed other than evolutionary psychology. To borrow from their bios at Psycology Today he first author is a “computational neuroscientist” and the second studies “biologically inspired models of machine learning” – both have backgrounds that are in the intersection of computer science and psychology, not evolution (or even biology) and psychology. Neither has published any peer-reviewed research (that I could find) of any sort, let alone in the field of evolutionary psychology.

    Third, the article, doesn’t even reference any peer-reviewed articles to back up their assertions, and it certainly has no references to actual articles on evolutionary psychology. It has one footnote, and that footnote sites the sexual practices of a character in the TV show Breaking Bad as their evidence.

    In short, this is many things but it is not evolutionary psychology.

  67. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 13, 2011 at 8:50 am |

    Ooooohhhhh, Aaron. It IS evolutionary psychology right down to its toenails. Evopsych is a pseudoscience that keeps running away from its own humiliations (it stopped calling itself sociobiology after that became too synonymous with “full of poo”). There are, to my knowledge, no PhD programs in “Evolutionary Psychology” — if there are any, they are of quite recent vintage and are inevitably going to turn sour in short order (the next name change is a given — the silliness is piling up fast and furious around EvPsy). It’s a made-up enterprise without a real disciplinary home (biology doesn’t want it, nor anthropology, and I’m kind of doubtful psychology wants it either).

  68. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 13, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    I like to take every opportunity to attack the biological determinism that pervades evo psych. These specific people may not have gotten their PhDs in the field but this article is just one of I don’t know two gazillion that proceed to justify unethical behavior based on unfounded conjecture.

  69. Kex
    Kex April 13, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    You know what’s funny about that whole “women are genetically submissive, romance novels prove it” besides what has already been brought up in this post. I’m from Sweden. I am currently doing a sample translation for Harlequin to make some extra money. In the guidelines for the English to Swedish translation, we are instructed to actually remove or change parts where men are overly dominant or women are overly submissive. Because Swedish women do not get off on that apparently. Guess we are bad women.

  70. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    Kathleen,
    A quick look at Google scholar finds articles on evolutionary psychology dating back to at least 1973, including one by Stephen J. Gould (no scientific slouch and an opponent of sociobiology) from 1991 (arguing, based on the abstract, that evolutionary psychology is an improvement over sociobiology). So it has been around at least 20-30 years, hardly a recent phenomena. This is especially true when you remember that The Origin of the Species was published in 1859, so evolutionary theory is just over 150 years old and psychology, as a science rather than as an art or as philosophy, has been around a mere 100 years (give or take) – so evolutionary psychology has been a field of study for at least 20% of the time it was possible for there to be an overlap between the sciences of evolution and psychology.

    A quick Google search for “Ph.d. Evolutionary psychology” brings up several places to get Ph.D.s in evolutionary psychology, and even if such programs did not exist one could get a Ph.D. in, for example, psychology, for work that would be properly classified as evolutionary psychology. So, that the author’s backgrounds are in fields other than evolutionary psychology and that they have never published on evolutionary psychology is a relevant fact for judging what this is.

    Sure it looks like some of the crap that gets passed off as evolutionary psychology by the popular press, but so what? Why on earth would you judge a field of science based on the writings of people who are not part of that field? Actually, why would you judge a field of study based on the writings of people who are not part of that field?

  71. William
    William April 13, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    I like to take every opportunity to attack the biological determinism that pervades evo psych.

    And thats the center of the problem not just with evolution psychology but with academic psychology in general.

    *warning: soap box ascension immanent*

    Psychology is the study of human behavior and thought. Human behavior and thought is influenced by context, intersection, and experience. These things are radically different in even people who appear very similar. The biological determinism that pervades evopsych is just another example of the logical positivism underlying psychology’s bizarre attempt to call itself a science because it was afraid no one would respect it if it owned up to being applied philosophy and the use of empathy to improve the quality of human life.

    We’re talking about human behavior here. We can manage impressive feats if we accept that anything we do is likely to be idiographic, but we can’t quantify love or desire or fear or hate. Trying to eke objective truth out of the realm of subjective experience isn’t only ridiculous but its missing the entire goddamn point of the exercise.

    So really, the problem here isn’t that these guys didn’t cite their sources (because those sources would be rooted in the same problems), it isn’t that they didn’t submit to an IRB, it isn’t that they don’t hold degrees in evopsych, it isn’t even that what they’re doing isn’t really science. The problem is that studies like this are asking the wrong kind of question, using the wrong methods to observe, and expecting an answer that conforms to the wrong kinds of assumptions about what they’re studying. They’re looking for the statistical mean of human experience, trying to understand a fiction while imagining that somehow its a transcendent truth.

    And they wonder why so many clinicians don’t bother to join the APA…

  72. William
    William April 13, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    Sure it looks like some of the crap that gets passed off as evolutionary psychology by the popular press, but so what? Why on earth would you judge a field of science based on the writings of people who are not part of that field?

    Because the problems these authors have are virtually identical not only to the problems which are common in evolutionary psych as a field but in the farce of academic psychology as a whole. The problems with the way hypothesis testing is done in psychology have been well known for going on 60 years and have been actively discussed within the field for at least a generation. We’ve got 60 years worth of numbers that are basically worthless even before you begin to consider the epistemological problems facing academic psychology as the wolves of postmodernism gather at the gates and an increasingly pluralistic society renders the utility of generalizations more questionable by the day.

  73. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 13, 2011 at 10:40 am |

    Aaron,

    twenty or thirty whole years? I stand so corrected.

    about those programs (none of them being even 20 years old) — the degree granting department is typically a psych department, with a few faculty doing ev psych. If you trace their histories, they go straight back to sociobiology. And keep this exchange in mind — I promise you in 10 years they aren’t going to be calling themselves ev psychologists anymore, as it will have become just too embarrassing to do so. Those programs will also quietly disappear, while psychology, anthropology, and real evolutionary research in biology will sail happily on.

    You might try reading the full text of various article by Gould on ev psych. He does not say what you think he says.

  74. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    Kristen J.,

    I’m with you on opposing biological determinism, but I don’t think it “pervades evo psych”. I think it pervades bad reporting on evolutionary psychology, but that is a problem with science reporting, not the science itself. It certainly is not inherent to the field.

    As far as this article justifying unethical behavior—I honestly don’t see that in the article, but assuming it is in there and I’m missing it, it seems to me that your problem is with people who commit the naturalistic fallacy (and I have a huge problem with those people, so if I’m reading your objection right, again I’m with you) not with evolutionary psychology. Most (though not all) evolutionary psychologists are well aware of the naturalistic fallacy and try to avoid it (though they sometimes fail). Again, that these two authors have fallen prey to the naturalistic fallacy is not evidence of anything about evolutionary psychology (the fallacy is common, predates evolutionary psychology, and, in this case, is being committed by people who are outside of the field).

    Again my point is not that evolutionary psychology is perfect, or that it is even true. I suspect that, like most (if not all), science it has some things right and some things wrong. My point is that this article doesn’t provide any evidence about evolutionary psychology, because whatever this article is (my best guess is that it is a poorly conceived book advertisement) it is not evolutionary psychology.

  75. munditia
    munditia April 13, 2011 at 10:53 am |

    Kex:
    I’m from Sweden. I am currently doing a sample translation for Harlequin to make some extra money. In the guidelines for the English to Swedish translation, we are instructed to actually remove or change parts where men are overly dominant or women are overly submissive. Because Swedish women do not get off on that apparently. Guess we are bad women.

    Bah. Everyone knows that Scandinavia has already been ruined feminism. Your readers are obviously no longer in touch with their true womanly nature.

  76. Jadey
    Jadey April 13, 2011 at 11:03 am |

    Kathleen: You might try reading the full text of various article by Gould on ev psych. He does not say what you think he says.

    For anyone who doesn’t have access to that article, Google turned up a fairly accessible sum-up with quotes of a later critique of evo psych that Gould wrote (with links to more detailed accounts). Even if he thinks it’s an improvement over sociobiology, he still thinks it’s subject to the same methodological and epistemological faults and is hardly a proponent of it in its current state. I think a lot of the Feministe commenters espouse pretty much the same view as Gould on this topic – biology plays a role, but it’s not deterministic all on its own.

    I like evolutionary theory. I like psychology. For all their faults, theoretical and practical, I find them fascinating ways to engage with the world. Putting them together ought to be like peanut butter and chocolate for me, but it just brings out the absolute worst in both, which never fails to piss me right the hell off.

  77. Jadey
    Jadey April 13, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    @ Aaron

    A quick selection of the editorial reviews from Ogas and Gaddam’s book:

    “The idea behind this book is simply brilliant: Find out how people use the internet to search for, and to display, sex-related content. After all, the internet is where many of us spend much of our day. The result is a compendium of fascinating findings about human sexuality that makes a serious scientific contribution to human sexuality, beautifully written to boot.”
    -J. Michael Bailey, Psychology Professor, Northwestern University, author of The Man Who Would Be Queen

    […]

    “In a stroke of ingenuity, Ogas and Gaddam circumvent the deepest limitation of standard psychological surveys: that they merely tap undergraduates’ socially acceptable responses, a flaw nowhere more damaging than in the touchy realm of sexuality. A Billion Wicked Thoughts is a goldmine of information about this hugely important topic, and, not surprisingly, gripping and sometimes disturbing reading.”
    -Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate

    […]

    “Every invention in communication technology–the printing press, photography, motion pictures, videotape, the Internet–was quickly co- opted to produce and disseminate erotica. Just as the microscope and the telescope illuminated for the first time the very small and the very large, A Billion Wicked Thoughts uses the power of the Internet to illuminate with unprecedented wattage human male and female desires. Ogas and Gaddam analyzed a mountain of Internet data to produce a breakthrough in the study of human sexuality.”
    -Donald Symons, Professor Emeritus, University of California Santa Barbara, author of The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    “A Billion Wicked Thoughts provides a brilliant, thoroughly researched, and totally engaging analysis of human sexuality using vast and original analyses of the Internet. It furnishes an x-ray of male and female sexual minds and explains why they differ so profoundly. The insights it yields are often surprising, sometimes shocking, and never boring. I couldn’t put the book down.”
    -David M. Buss, author of <Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind and The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating

    "On the Internet, the evolutionary past meets futuristic technology, enabling the blossoming of all manner of sexual tastes, fantasies, and desires. Ogas and Gaddam have mined these new sources of information- arguably the world's largest experiment on human behavior–to produce a fascinating and terrific book on human sexuality, in all its timeless mysteries and ultra-modern manifestations. This well-written, entertaining book is packed with information, ideas, and insights. There is no better way to understanding your desires, your partner's, or anyone else's."
    -Roy Baumeister, Professor of Psychology, Florida State University, author of Is There Anything Good About Men?

    […]

    "Ogas & Gaddam mine the power of Internet for expressions of male and female mating psychology that are unfiltered by social expectations. In the process, they unearth A Billion Wicked Thoughts, many of which depart radically from our standard script for human mating psychology. These counter-intuitive insights into the sexual psyche of our species should provide much fodder for discussion among sex researchers."
    -Paul Vasey, Professor of Behavioral Science, University of Lethbridge

    (I excluded five attributions which appear to have been made by novelists, possibly journalists, not scientists. These can be found on the amazon page for the book quite easily.)

    All psychologists or otherwise affiliated with evolutionary psychology. Evo psych is a cross-disciplinary field that looks far afield in its search for data and methods (the creativity of the field is something I almost admire, if they weren’t such assheads about accounting for the limitations to which all data sets and methods are subject to) and is quite welcoming to people from various disciplines. The break from the parochialism of some traditional psychology fields is actually refreshing in and of itself (again, not so much with the continuing logical and methodological flaws). Being cognitive neuroscientists does not disqualify these gents from representing evolutionary psychology research.

    Not to mention, it’s not hard to find definitively-identified evolutionary psychologists spouting the same crap and doing the same crap research.

  78. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 13, 2011 at 11:31 am |

    Kathleen:
    There are, to my knowledge, no PhD programs in “Evolutionary Psychology”

    In 1993, I was in a Ph. D. program for “Psychobiology”, which is a different name for the same thing. For all I know it still exists.

    Evo psych, like psychology itself was at the beginning of the 20th century, is a child-science. It has the potential to grow into a mature science, but right now, it’s full of bias, woo, and temper tantrums. It’s taking an extremely challenging topic to try to prove anything about — evolutionary origins of *anything* are hard to prove, but evolutionary biology *is* a real science, and the psychology of anything is difficult to grasp, but psychology has grown into a real science — and it’s mostly failing to get a good grasp on the techniques that would let it succeed in doing so.

    Aaron:
    The “seed spreading” hypothesis is not far-fetched. The quality of a child is not determined by the effectiveness of the sperm in being impregnated. An weak idiot will produce evolutionary undesirable offspring, but he may have an extremely high success rate at giving a women a child.

    Women don’t have unlimited resources when it comes to raising children, and there are time and social incentives to be more selective. Social factors come into play for men and women. Men often have similar selection practices. More intelligent couples have fewer children, perhaps for resource allocation purposes. But the benefit for men to pursue sex with multiple partners, assuming they will make the women do all the work, is quite high. If women were lining up for a man then conserving sperm might be an issue that would promote selective decisions (royal marriages might be a case). But otherwise, giving an undesirable (evolutionarily speaking) women a child is still putting one more of your offspring into the world. Women lose time, resources, and even their lives. It’s important to remember that on an evolutionary scale, we are in many ways still the same beings that evolved to live in primitive conditions.

    One of the problems with evopsych in general is basically summed up here, Aaron. I don’t mean to pick on you, but this is a great illustration.

    The research that has demonstrated that male animals, in general, are less selective than female animals is well supported. Ostentatious (and often disadvantageous, such as the peacock’s heavy tail) displays by males to attract females are common in the animal kingdom. Overall, among male animals, they compete with each other to attract females by attempting to be more and more attractive and enticing to the female, often through physical displays which seem to serve the same function as human “beauty”.

    But as soon as you look at humans it stops working like that, because human *females* are the ones putting on ostentatious and physically disadvantageous displays to attract *males.* Men don’t wear uncomfortable and impractical clothing to show themselves off to women; women do so to men. And men are very selective. Men routinely exclude as potential sexual partners any woman who appears to be over the age of 40 (which, if they really were willing to mate with any woman who *could* possibly bear their children, would be a bad idea, as menopause hits different women at different ages and a 40-something woman might very well bear a child), and women who do not match whatever the current cultural beauty standard is (for example in our culture, men routinely exclude overweight women as potential sex partners, but women do not do so toward men to nearly the same degree), and women who show obvious visual deformities.

    So the theory of “indiscriminate male, choosy female” is just obviously wrong when applied to humans because we can *see* male choice in operation. Now, that means one of two things. Either men are under tremendous selection pressure to pick the right woman, and are very choosy (maybe not *as* choosy as the women are, but then, women seem to display in a pretty indiscriminate manner and only choose from the pool of men who have already selected and approached them – if women were choosy, wouldn’t they choose to display specifically only to the men they wanted to attract as mates, and so wouldn’t the display characteristic be something less broadly obvious than beauty and something more focused on the specific man, like for example singing him a song or baking him a cake?) Or, we can’t say anything about how human men behave “naturally” because culture is distorting their behavior from whatever the “natural” form of it would be.

    Now, if men were under selection pressure to choose the best possible mother for their child, what traits would they be looking for?
    Healthy and fairly young, because humans take a long time to grow up, so she needs to live long enough to make sure the kid survives — check. Willing to raise a child, so traits such as nurturance and compassion would be valuable — check. Willing to raise *your* child, so is very interested in mating with you… uh, not check. If men are picking women on the basis of who would make the best mother, assuming they’re going to love ‘em and leave ‘em, rape would be a very poor strategy because most rape victims would probably leave their infants behind in the bushes and reserve their energies for young they conceived with men they chose to mate with.

  79. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 11:32 am |

    William,

    First, it is worth pointing out that, contrary to your claims, these authors did not conduct a study here and are not testing a hypothesis, so anything you find objectionable in the underlying methodology of psychology as a field is not especially relevant to the discussion because whatever this blog post is it is not a study or the testing of a hypothesis (or anything else that could reasonably be placed under the rubric of “science”).

    Second, a rejection of logical positivism and rejecting psychology on postmodernist grounds seems to entail rejecting all science, not just psychology – the epistemological problems the postmodernists say we have accessing Truth are real across the board (or not at all) and if they are grounds for rejecting one science they are grounds for rejecting all science. Though, I think it is wrong to treat this as a settled debate, there is no consensus that postmodernism is right or true and that logical positivism is wrong or false. There is still real work to be done on that so it seems to be a mistake to treat it as a settled question. In the meantime, psychology seems to work, it provides us with information we did not previously have about how the brain functions, provides us with testable hypotheses about the brain and neurochemistry, and from those hypotheses we can create things in the real world which have real effects on that same world. For example, without the understanding of neurochemistry provided by psychology the SSRIs I take would not exist.

    Third, even if you are right and psychology isn’t science and it’s assumptions are all wrong and all the data for the past 60 years is worthless, that still doesn’t have any bearing on what this article tells us about evolutionary psychology. Because, even if you are right about all of that, this article is not an example of evolutionary psychology.

  80. Evolutionary Biologist
    Evolutionary Biologist April 13, 2011 at 11:41 am |

    A lot of these comments are mindless cheerleading. The study being critiqued does have its flaws, but the underlying principle is supported by a lot of research coming out of the field of evolutionary biology. There is indeed a biological basis for gender roles (natural selection pushed males into being violent and aggressive and women to be receptive of that behavior, mostly because male dominance is tied directly to reproduction in most species of animals on earth). It is clear that the author of this post needs to learn a thing or two about how evolution works.

    Another thing: Chimps are useful for studying early human behavior because we are nearly genetically identical. We have been naturally selected for many of the same activities (look at chimp behavior if you don’t believe me, it is exceedingly similar to so called primitive tribal behavior). Rats are used for studying human neurobiology because our brains are exceedingly similar on a chemical level (this is why neuroscientist experiment on rats more than any other animal).

    I’m not saying that evolutionary history is an excuse for present violent behavior in men. Just rape occurs in nature (Chimps rape girl chimps in the wild) doesn’t mean rape is ok for humans. We fortunately have evolved enough that we can make these sorts of decisions.

    That doesn’t mean you can write off overwhelming evidence though. Once again, this particular study that the author of this post is cherry picking to make a point may indeed be flawed, but believe or not, human females were naturally selected to be receptive of and attracted to dominate males.

  81. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 13, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    Alara Rogers: Now, if men were under selection pressure to choose the best possible mother for their child, what traits would they be looking for?
    Healthy and fairly young, because humans take a long time to grow up, so she needs to live long enough to make sure the kid survives — check. Willing to raise a child, so traits such as nurturance and compassion would be valuable — check. Willing to raise *your* child, so is very interested in mating with you… uh, not check. If men are picking women on the basis of who would make the best mother, assuming they’re going to love ‘em and leave ‘em, rape would be a very poor strategy because most rape victims would probably leave their infants behind in the bushes and reserve their energies for young they conceived with men they chose to mate with.

    Whoops, hit submit way too soon.

    – Healthy and fairly young, because humans take a long time to grow up, so she needs to live long enough to make sure the kid survives — check.
    – Willing to raise a child, so traits such as nurturance and compassion would be valuable — check.
    – Willing to raise *your* child, so is very interested in mating with you… uh, not check. If men are picking women on the basis of who would make the best mother, assuming they’re going to love ‘em and leave ‘em, rape would be a very poor strategy because most rape victims would probably leave their infants behind in the bushes and reserve their energies for young they conceived with men they chose to mate with.
    – Proven fertility, and proven skill at mothering, so has at least one child already (though not too many, because she has to have resources to spare for your kid)… not check. In most cultures, human males seem to prefer virgins or at least women with no children.
    – Physical strength, because she will be carrying your child around a lot, and will often be called on to help the child or protect them from minor threats… not check.
    – Intelligence, because an intelligent mother will pass intelligence to your offspring (for humans, *the* most valuable trait we have), and because an intelligent mother will have more skill at obtaining the resources the child needs to survive… not check. Many human men, cross-culturally, are either put off by educated women, or actively seek to prevent women from becoming educated.

    So, uh, men are not selecting for the best possible mom. Physical beauty, which codes for youth and health and good genes, is only a small part of the constellation of traits that the person raising your child needs to have in order to maximize your child’s fitness, and in fact it’s not even the most important part… a high-status, highly educated 35-year-old midwife who is respected and makes a lot of money/can call on the aid of many, many women for assistance with her child would be a much more “fit” mother than a 15 year old who is beautiful but has no status, no resources and isn’t very smart.

    So what *are* men selecting for? Well, choosing the traits of extreme youth (we’re not talking “healthy child bearing years” of 20s, we’re talking teens), physical beauty (good genes), lack of education (fewer resources to give to the kid, but less ability to resist you and what you want), virginity (no proven fertility, but no ability to figure out that you suck in bed, either), and less physical strength (less ability to protect your child, but less ability to protect herself from you) are excellent traits to select for if what you need is not a mother for your children, but a slave you can easily control who will bear children that *you* will be responsible for providing the resources for. And the empirical evidence bears this out — the more patriarchal a society is and the less status women have, then the younger they prefer their wives, the more they resist educating women, and the more they emphasize female virginity. And if a woman is your slave, and thus has no resources of her own to give to your child, so they must all come from you, then of course it’s important to make sure she never bears another man’s child, so strong emphasis on both virginity and faithfulness within marriage comes into play.

    Now, evo psych often tries to explain this by saying that men *need* to enslave women because they have to make sure they are only providing for their own children, but this is putting the cart before the horse. Men don’t need to provide for their own children at all. Women working together in kin groups, with the assistance of their fathers and brothers, can provide for a child as well, sometimes better, than a biological father can. There is no biological need women have to accept being enslaved as the price of having children, and there is no biological need men have to enslave women to ensure the fitness of their children. So the proven, real-world tendencies of men to choose women as mates, based on their perceived value as breeding slaves, must arise from culture, not biology. In which case, nearly everything we know about male sexuality is originating from culture.

    Perhaps biologically, we are a species where men *should* be strutting around showing women how handsome they are, and then women who are impressed will have sex with them, and then the women will raise the resulting offspring with the aid of biological kin while the men hare off to impregnate more women and perhaps assist their sisters with their sisters’ children, or else the men hang around the women and help them with their kids because whether the kid belongs to that man specifically or not, he likes the woman he’s sleeping with and making sure she likes him back makes it more likely that the kids she bears *will* be his. Perhaps biologically, women are attracted to men showing traits of youth and handsomeness, intelligence, confidence, strength, and gentleness toward children (because you need to know that he’s not going to kill *your* kids, something primate males do sometimes do, before you invite him into your territory for sex), and men are attracted to women showing traits of youth and beauty, intelligence, confidence, strength, nurturance and compassion, and the ability to kick ass in defense of her kids… but the patriarchal culture has fucked everything up, so now men look for women who are weak-willed doormats because they’re easier to control, and women look for men who are rich and will provide well even if they are ugly and smell bad, and all evo psych can suggest to us is maybe we would all be healthier if we got rid of the patriarchal culture so we could function with the biological impulses evolution gave us rather than the ones we need to survive in a culture that makes women the slaves of the men they sleep with.

  82. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    Kathleen,
    How long does a field have to be in existence before it becomes a science?
    The point is, this is a real field of study that has been around long enough to be subjected to the scientific method and is, so far, surviving that testing. In 10 years, I’d bet it is still around, but the important thing is that right now it is sufficiently well established to be a part of the sciences and if you are right that in 10 years it doesn’t exist it will be because it was replaced by a better model not because it was never science to begin with.

  83. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm |

    Alara Rogers — of course evolutionary biology is a real science. Ev psych is not; it’s the heir to sociobiology and it is going to flee the new label just like it fled the old one. Seriously, put $10 on it, set it aside, and then go buy yourself a Starbucks small coffee with the winnings in 10 years :)

    It already kind of is fleeing the label — “culture and cognition” coming into fashion. Its m.o. is always the same– it injects ideology into realms in which there is an absence of positive knowledge, and as soon as real research advances into those realms (neuroscience, evolutionary biology, evo-devo, epigenetics) it retreats in shame. Over and over and over and over and over. So it’s not a baby science — that is far too kind. It is a fake science. It does not conduct real investigation and it does not contribute to the advance of positive knowledge. Thus it does not grow; it packs its bags, changes its name, and runs like hell.

    Aaron — when you speak of these terrible postmodernists and their awful conduct, could you name some names? Otherwise, one could easily substitute the term “witches” for “postmodernists”: non-existent evil beings conveniently invoked at opportune moments.

  84. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm |

    Aaron — you too can put aside that 10 bucks and thank me in 10 years.

  85. Li
    Li April 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm |

    Ugh, Jadey, any mention of J. Michael Bailey makes me want to PUNCH MY OWN EYEBALLS WITH A FIST MADE OF ACID. Just saying.

  86. Jadey
    Jadey April 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm |

    Li:
    Ugh, Jadey, any mention of J. Michael Bailey makes me want to PUNCH MY OWN EYEBALLS WITH A FIST MADE OF ACID. Just saying.

    I will punch your eyeballs if you punch mine. Or we could just punch Bailey’s.

  87. William
    William April 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    First, it is worth pointing out that, contrary to your claims, these authors did not conduct a study here and are not testing a hypothesis, so anything you find objectionable in the underlying methodology of psychology as a field is not especially relevant to the discussion because whatever this blog post is it is not a study or the testing of a hypothesis (or anything else that could reasonably be placed under the rubric of “science”).

    I’m not a scientist, I’m a psychologist. One of the freedoms that gives me is to look past what is manifest and instead consider what appears to be happening on the grander scene because I’m not terribly interested quantifying. The two men who published this article have done research, they exist in the context of a system which does a lot of research, that research grants them the social legitimacy to make the kinds of claims they make here. Sure, I can attack the claims they’re making but other people have done that already and I have little to add to that discussion besides a pile on. They ride this horse so they can do more research so they can ride the horse so they can do more research. Its part of a system and Im willing to critique the system rather than the specific instance.

    Second, a rejection of logical positivism and rejecting psychology on postmodernist grounds seems to entail rejecting all science, not just psychology –

    Thats an old, dead trope. Aside from the trend in the hard sciences away from the epistemological assumptions of logical positivism (which doesn’t mean abandoning all knowledge), psychology has the enormous problem of working with a subject which does not easily lend itself to quantification. Psychology isn’t well suited to nomothetic observations because there are too many variables and too much variance. Trying to find laws of human behavior is an exercise in exceptions. Power, patriarchy, privilege, kyriarchy, sentiment, all the little things that go into making any given individual do what they do, do not follow simple and predictable patterns. Often they don’t even follow trends. They almost certainly do not submit to universal laws. They are contextual and fluid in ways that physics or chemistry simply are not. Rejecting the use of a given tool in one field does not mean rejecting it’s use in a field with radically different objects of study.

    the epistemological problems the postmodernists say we have accessing Truth are real across the board (or not at all) and if they are grounds for rejecting one science they are grounds for rejecting all science.

    You’re arguing against postmodernism using words like “real” and absolutist thinking. Beyond that, you seem to be missing the actual thrust of my critique. Its easy to observe how much of a given antibiotic it takes to kill off a given infection in a fairly uniform system like the human body. There are identifiable quantities at play which have little to do with underlying assumptions based in opinion and sentiment. As a result science is a very good tool for studying and improving upon those antibiotics.

    Why Dick likes to get tied up while Mary likes to peg, on the other hand, requires that you study Dick and Mary as individual subjects rather than men and women as some universal group because there are so many layers of society, socialization, experience, and temperament that biology tends to be little more than background noise.

    Though, I think it is wrong to treat this as a settled debate, there is no consensus that postmodernism is right or true and that logical positivism is wrong or false.

    I think you mean “because” instead of “though.” More importantly, you’re also still fundamentally misunderstanding the postmodern critique by framing it as a question of what is “true” rather than a question of what is useful.

    In the meantime, psychology seems to work,

    Freud still seems to work. I can even show you a pretty compelling meta-analysis to back that up. I could also show you case examples. What you do with it comes down to epistemology and power.

    it provides us with information we did not previously have about how the brain functions,

    That would be neurology. I would also like to point out that we still don’t really have any strong grasp on how something like Schizophrenia works on the neurological level, much less reliable treatments. We have things that work sometimes for reasons we’re not really sure about. We also have things that shouldn’t work but sometimes do.

    provides us with testable hypotheses about the brain and neurochemistry,

    Except the methods we use to test those hypotheses are badly flawed. More, the ways in which we form hypothesis are informed by the ways in which we ask questions, the kinds of knowledge we seek, the persons who have the power to attract grant money, the prejudices of the tenure process, the assumptions of researchers about how the world works, and the clinical reality on the ground that what we learn in labs often doesn’t port well to what we see in consulting rooms.

    and from those hypotheses we can create things in the real world which have real effects on that same world.

    Sometimes, with some small degree of success. For something to work in, say, engineering it has to work pretty much every time under a given set of circumstances. A calculator which can correctly tell you the square root of X to Y decimal point 50% of the time is a worthless calculator, it is a failure of engineering. Even if its right 99% of the time you’re talking about a potentially lethal design flaw. Human beings rarely offer ideal circumstances.

    For example, without the understanding of neurochemistry provided by psychology the SSRIs I take would not exist.

    Except psychology doesn’t develop that understanding, biology does. More importantly, the SSRIs you take work for you, they’re utterly worthless for me. They fail for more people than they succeed. They were developed in a highly questionable process involving a lot of businesses with a lot of money burying a lot of studies before finding one that looked good and going to the FDA. Does that mean they offer no utility? Of course not, if they’re good for you then they’re good for you. Personal experience is important and brain chemistry is wildly variant. Does that mean they offer some special insight into a universal Truth? Probably not.

    Third, even if you are right and psychology isn’t science and it’s assumptions are all wrong and all the data for the past 60 years is worthless, that still doesn’t have any bearing on what this article tells us about evolutionary psychology. Because, even if you are right about all of that, this article is not an example of evolutionary psychology.

    I don’t think psychology is worthless. As I’ve said, this is literally my business. I’m just critical and a bit more humble about what psychology does and does not actually tell us. Evolutionary psychology, like most academic psychology, has some major problems when it comes to methodology, epistemology, and orientation. This article shares and reflects those same problems. In other words: sloppy science used to shield fundamentally philosophical arguments needs to drop the philosophy or drop the pavis.

  88. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |

    Since this is more my current field of inquiry and Kristen said “bored already,” I’m stepping up. As a caveat for the last year or so I’ve been researching psychology, biology, evolutionary theory, etc from the perspective of understanding our biological – broadly defined – needs to construct a needs based social ethical theory.

    Simply stated, since Alara & William among others have covered the details in my reading of their comments, my objection to evo psych is that it (1) regularly anthropomorphizes animal behavior – using value laden descriptions of behaviors, (2) fails to recognize what I view as the social component of ongoing human evolution, and (3) most critically, is basing its view of human evolution on an evolutionary theory that is incomplete and a neuropsychological theory that is at best incomplete. Consequently, while interesting, evo psych has a lot of work to do before it can be even marginally useful.

  89. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |

    Jadey,

    That’s…unfortunate…especially coming from Pinker who I rather respect.
    I guess it is possible the book represents better science than this—I hope it does, but I honestly doubt it.

    As far as the rest goes: I don’t mean to say that cognitive neuroscientists can’t represent evolutionary psychology, of course they can, but given that neither of these authors have a background in the field it is not fair to place the shortcomings of this post at the feet of the field. I don’t disagree that the field has problems, based on what you have said about the field I think we likely agree more than we disagree on that, but what is wrong with this article is a different issue than what is wrong with the field.

    Re: the other blog post you liked to, my other objections to Psychology Today still stand, and again no real citation to research there. Some evolutionary psychologists are misogynist jerks who don’t understand feminism, and their research should be subjected to extra scrutiny for the influence of subconscious bias, but that doesn’t prove that all evolutionary psychologists are or that the field is fundamental flawed (though it provides better evidence for that claim than the current article does).

  90. Jadey
    Jadey April 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |

    William: Psychology isn’t well suited to nomothetic observations because there are too many variables and too much variance. Trying to find laws of human behavior is an exercise in exceptions. Power, patriarchy, privilege, kyriarchy, sentiment, all the little things that go into making any given individual do what they do, do not follow simple and predictable patterns. Often they don’t even follow trends. They almost certainly do not submit to universal laws. They are contextual and fluid in ways that physics or chemistry simply are not.

    William, I respect you a lot and agree with a number of your criticisms, but I disagree with you on the potentiality for psychology to be a science. I think you are vastly oversimplifying physics and chemistry, the subject matter of which are also quite contextual and fluid and difficult to pin down once you get past the Newtonian mechanics stage and into quantum theory and beyond. Also, I think you are misrepresenting science (and psychological science) as the search for universal laws. Laws are conditional, not universal. Laws are also not replacements for theory – they are descriptive, not explanatory, and while they are useful for generating theories, they are not absolutely requirements. Plenty of “hard” science theories are just as complex, rife with disagreement and different interpretations, and lack of definitive “proof” as psychological theories. Like, say, the theory of evolution.

    I can’t find an open-access version of this 1976 article by Schlenker, “Social Psychology as Science”, but if you have access and you haven’t read it before, I recommend it for its critical analysis of the standard “psychology can’t be a science because humans can’t be studied that way” arguments. It’s social psych specific, but it covers a lot of ground nonetheless.

    I’m a psychologist and a scientist. I do not take it for granted that being one automatically makes me the other, but neither does being one exclude me from being the other.

  91. Bunny
    Bunny April 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |

    There’s also the fact to consider that sexual assault can have a huge impact on how a person approaches sex and desire, and a ridiculous percentage of women experience sexual assault, rape, attempted rape and so on.

    Sure, I could take my tendency towards rape fantasies and an odd compulsion to view sex as love to mean that WIMMIN IS JUST LIKE THAT COZ EVULUSHUN, but it is probably more likely to be connected with the pre-puberty sexual grooming and assault by a family member, and the during-puberty sexual assaults by strangers that occurred during my formative years.

  92. Jadey
    Jadey April 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |

    Aaron: That’s…unfortunate…especially coming from Pinker who I rather respect.
    I guess it is possible the book represents better science than this—I hope it does, but I honestly doubt it.

    It’s not. I personally fucked with some of their data after their unethical treatment of me as a research subject. I don’t even know if they threw that data out or not. I wouldn’t assume they did. Overall, their approach was methodologically and ethically absurd, and their motivation clearly profit-driven rather than knowledge-driven. There’s more details and rebuttals to be found among the links on the survey fail post I linked in my first comment if you feel like digging for more.

    As for Pinker and co., I find it more than unfortunate – I find it indicative. There’s politics to contributing jacket blurbs, to be sure – no one wants to be the asshole who doesn’t play nice – but it still tells me something about the level of attentiveness and critical reflexivity among researchers.

    Kanazawa regularly publishes problematic research. If you have access to academic journals, you can track his stuff down as well as rebuttals to it. The logic he employs in that post is the same kind of logic he uses in his peer-review published articles. A number of his Psych Today posts are riffs off of his published work as well.

    The reason that we’re all tying this back to the bad practices of evo psych is that we’re all capable of using deductive logic. No, it’s not spelled out as being evo psych work, but the connections are there – Ogas and Gaddam’s views are acceptable within and resonate with the mainstream of evo psych research. I resent the hell out of it, but I don’t deny that it’s true.

    Also, all the people here objecting to evo psych *would be objecting anyway* even without this article. The article is silly. It reminds us of the way that evo psych is silly. Connection made, conversation underway. Ogas and Gaddam didn’t turn us against evo psych. We were already there. Even if you dispute the connection with this particular article, we’ve shown ourselves more than able to dispute evo psych on every other crap thing that’s come out of it.

  93. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    Alara Rogers,

    FYI, the text you quoted did not come from me, but from Ninja. I don’t actually agree with what Ninja said there, nor do I disagree with what I take to be your overall point about those comments. But I don’t see any of what you said as a problem with evolutionary psychology (you do point to some difficulties the field has to overcome, but nothing I see as insurmountable).

  94. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    Kathleen: Aaron — when you speak of these terrible postmodernists and their awful conduct, could you name some names? Otherwise, one could easily substitute the term “witches” for “postmodernists”: non-existent evil beings conveniently invoked at opportune moments.

    I didn’t have a particular postmodernist in mind when I responded to William’s comment about postmodernism showing that psychology was fundamentally flawed, rather I had in mind the view I think most people are pointing to when they suggest that postmodernism calls some field or another of science into question. Namely, I suspected William was pointing at the common understanding of postmodernism which holds something like “the inherent subjectivity of human perception prevents us from ever knowing the absolute truth.” Or “All knowledge comes to us through an inherently subjective lens and so we can never be sure that what we think we know is the truth”. I see below that I misunderstood what William was saying and that his position requires a more nuanced response than I initially gave it (one I hope to provide after work today).

    That being said I don’t think postmodernism is awful or terrible (nor do I think witches are awful or terrible but that’s another discussion), I think it gets some things wrong, and I think some postmodernists get some things very wrong, but on the whole I think it is a valuable field of inquiry. I do object to the position of extreme epistemological defeatism that many people read into postmodernism (along with the extreme cultural relativism that tends to come with it), but that is more an objection to how people understand the postmodernists rather than an objection to what they have to say (broadly speaking).

    P.S. I’ll take that bet.

  95. tomoe gozen
    tomoe gozen April 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    i wonder how evolutionary psyche would explain asexuality… i admit that i’m only a layperson with scientist relatives and friends, but it’s hard to detect their (ep’s) ‘holy grail'; the production of offspring- in such behavior.

  96. Blue Jean
    Blue Jean April 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    And if any man wants to be Fabio, MST3K has a handy kit to turn yourself into a big buttery slab of Fabio, much to the amusement of the only woman character, I might add.

    Yes, it’s a comedy sketch from “Outlaw of Gor”, and yes, I’ve already read its (unintentional on the author’s part) hilarious views on how women want submission, since I spent an college evening reciting various punchlines like “Oh, please, Master, let me kiss your whip!” while my dorm mates laughed.

  97. Florence
    Florence April 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    Evolutionary Biologist: Just rape occurs in nature (Chimps rape girl chimps in the wild) doesn’t mean rape is ok for humans.

    How do wild chimps react when a learned scientist shows up and names chimps as the standard and “girl chimps” as a secondary creature on wild chimp feminist blogs? I’m sure it probably undermines the learned scientist’s credibility inasmuch as it reveals his/her chimp-gender biases.

  98. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    Aaron: Alara Rogers,FYI, the text you quoted did not come from me, but from Ninja. I don’t actually agree with what Ninja said there, nor do I disagree with what I take to be your overall point about those comments. But I don’t see any of what you said as a problem with evolutionary psychology (you do point to some difficulties the field has to overcome, but nothing I see as insurmountable).

    Whoops, sorry about that! And I also apologize to Ninja for misattributing.

  99. Liz Farsaci
    Liz Farsaci April 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    Along with the obvious romance novel and rat reasons , I think women sometimes have difficulties with sex because we live in a society that tells us every day that we are not beautiful.

    We live in a society where cutting up our healthy bodies and giving us breast implants in acceptable. We get all kinds of messages all the time that says we are not sexy. The fact that we can feel any sort of confidence in our bodies and in our sexual relationships is a testament to women’s strength.

    I talk about these issues and others on my blog, http://lizfarsaci.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/menage-a-trois/. It’s part of a year-long project I’m working on, which examines the personal and social construction of feminine beauty.

  100. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    tomoe gozen: i wonder how evolutionary psyche would explain asexuality… i admit that i’m only a layperson with scientist relatives and friends, but it’s hard to detect their (ep’s) ‘holy grail’; the production of offspring- in such behavior.

    Evolutionary psychology explains asexuality in one of two ways:

    – it’s an outlier, we don’t need to explain it. Kind of like we don’t need to explain what the evolutionary value of getting cancer in childhood is. There isn’t any; it’s a mistake. Life sometimes does that. The proportions of asexuality in the population seems low enough that this is probably a credible theory (whereas it doesn’t work for gays.)
    – similar to the good gay uncle theory, evolutionary psychology may suggest that an asexual person can contribute to the “fitness” of genetic kin, and therefore to the transmission of their genes, without actually having sex. The idea is that evolution doesn’t select *against* it, because people who have it contribute more to their family’s well being than people who are off making families of their own, therefore the selection pressure against it isn’t strong enough to make it disappear. (This is the primary theory for why gays hover around 2-10% in every human population… of course, another really good explanation for that is that being gay doesn’t mean you don’t reproduce, if there’s *cultural* reproductive pressure. But that wouldn’t explain gay penguins, so…)

    My explanation: humans are incredibly complicated. Evolution can only go so far in explaining us.

  101. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    Aaron — which postmodernists get what very wrong?

    the reason I’m pressing you is this term gets thrown around in debates without any names ever being attached. It’s the “some might say” approach (seen often in politics and journalism), which allows one to present oneself as the voice of reason by attributing crazy talk to non-existent others.

    It’s a classic move in evolutionary psychology literature, which creates a space for itself as “science” in opposition to booga-booga imaginary postmodernism. One of the hallmarks of real vs. pseudo science is real science doesn’t need to pull that kind of crap to legitimate itself b/c it actually has content, not just form. you will never see a legit researcher wasting a second of precious energy battling imaginary opponents.

    So, again. Which postmodernists, exactly, get what very wrong, exactly? Name names and arguments or else it’s just rhetorical invocation.

  102. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom April 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm |

    Also (continuing my musings on animals and how they Do It), I wonder why these two have decided that rats are an appropriate model for human behavior rather than, say, guinea pigs. Guinea pigs mount each other all the damn time, in any possible combination – it does appear to be dominance behavior, which doesn’t stop the guinea pigs from having their fun at the same time (which can be a bit of a grooming problem with more than one male in the same cage: look up “boar glue” if you don’t believe me). If you have females and males together, generally the females are dominant, including mounting the guys.
    So why is it that rats are supposed somehow to be relevant to how people screw, and guinea pigs aren’t? I’m pretty sure I’ve never had sex with anything that even remotely resembled any sort of rodent, anyway. Besides, if we’re attracted to men who have the charateristics of dominant male rate, explain the paucity, among modern male Homo sapiens, of guys with gigantic naked tails, perpetually growing teeth, and testicles bigger than their heads.

  103. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    Ninja: the days of science being an anti-women, anti-minority institution are gone.

    Oh, is that right? Is that why trans* folk are still classified as mentally ill simply for being trans*? Is that why scientists advocate throwing up roadblock after roadblock that keeps the vast majority of trans* folk from getting the treatment and support that we need, simply because we don’t meet cis hetero scientists rigid definitions of gender performance and “passibility”? Is that why health insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid continue to refuse to cover transition-related expenses?

  104. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar April 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    All this reasoning about the resources men and women have to raise children assume that children are raised primarily by a dyad of one male and female and that the resources of the parents are the primary resources of the child. Immediate return hunter-gatherers are often radical egalitarians where children are raised and fed almost entirely communally, so that there is no evolutionary advantage to the child from access to a particular adult’s resources. Also, immediate return hunter-gatherers often don’t even recognize individual parenthood the way societies that have inherited property do. They don’t need to.

    All reasoning from chimps has to cope with bonobos, who are equally close relatives and have radically different and less violent behavior. Also, violent chimps may be a result of the presence of ripe food they cannot eat (i.e. a surplus) at Gombe, and may not be reflected in other environments.

  105. William
    William April 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    William, I respect you a lot and agree with a number of your criticisms, but I disagree with you on the potentiality for psychology to be a science. I think you are vastly oversimplifying physics and chemistry, the subject matter of which are also quite contextual and fluid and difficult to pin down once you get past the Newtonian mechanics stage and into quantum theory and beyond.

    I’m a hardliner when it comes to psychology not being a science today. As for the future, I lean a bit more agnostic. I don’t believe we’ll ever get to a point where we can adequately track variables and be able to get to the point of science but I recognize that thats a prediction based on my own values. Give it a generation and who knows. I still think that, from a value perspective, trying to turn psychology into a science is the wrong road to take. Others have a different opinion and I’m kinda glad that they’re out to challenge me because dissent makes everyone better in my opinion.

    As for oversimplifying, well, from my (admittedly very limited) understanding of modern theoretical physics cause and determination break down into probability and all sorts of messy, math-heavy, odd effects start cropping up, right? Maybe that point is a bit nearer for psychology than it is for the physical sciences? Its really not my area and I wasn’t trying to either drag the banner of postmodern critique or defend positivism there. Sorry if it sounded like I was.

    Also, I think you are misrepresenting science (and psychological science) as the search for universal laws.

    You’re right, I was conflating science as a whole with the idiosyncrasies of positivism that psychology seems to have confused with science. That was just plain lazy rhetoric.

    Laws are conditional, not universal. Laws are also not replacements for theory – they are descriptive, not explanatory, and while they are useful for generating theories, they are not absolutely requirements

    I think that depends pretty heavily on who happens to be involved. The strict behaviorists weren’t looking for descriptive laws, they were looking for universal ones. Freud certainly treated his theories as requirements, something which lead to a significant fracturing of the early clinical movement. For me the problem comes from the relationship we Americans tend to have with the idea of Truth. We imagine that science generates Truth and that Truth is final. The physical sciences have the benefit of numbers to help their scientific revolutions (in the sense of Kuhn) along. I think that for psychologists, though, numbers tend to be dangerous because they’re more abstracted.

    I’ll admit that part of my opposition to psychology-as-science is rooted in a particular political point I’m interested in advancing. That has a lot to do with my role as a clinician, something to do with my tendency towards oppositionalism, and a fair bit to do with the kinds of theories I’m steeped in (some things simply don’t submit themselves to quantification).

    I’m a psychologist and a scientist. I do not take it for granted that being one automatically makes me the other, but neither does being one exclude me from being the other.

    Fair enough. I’m a psychologist and a philosopher. I do take it for granted that one automatically makes me the other, but that doesn’t exclude you from being something radically different with neither of us being wrong. That, for me, is the beauty of postmodernism.

  106. Ninja
    Ninja April 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    “So the theory of “indiscriminate male, choosy female” is just obviously wrong when applied to humans because we can *see* male choice in operation.”

    That theory is not intended to be applied directly to modern contexts. It’s a hypothesis related to ancestral humans to make a case for biological differences in sexual behavior. There hasn’t been a considerable time period where humans could be expected to have completely evolved new sexual patterns. The idea is simply one of resource distribution. A women knows she can get pregnant so she will try to “at least” choose one that will stick around. The idea that a women will just leave a child of rape in the bushes is an exaggerated notion stemming from Rousseau (who argues women only raised children to alleviate pain in their breasts).

    It’s difficult to deny that both men and women are greatly influenced by social constructions. The theory is relating to a time period where the amount of social constructions would be minimal. Things like birth control and child support complicate things. A women enjoys sex but instead of being pursued, she can adjust her strategy (I would still argue that beauty standards are a passive strategy for acquiring a mate). If women were actively pursued by potential partners, they had little evolutionary incentive to pursue men rather than, say, be beautiful and simply attract them. Compare social standards where women “learn” behavior to orient to a male-dominated society. The point is that evolutionary pressures operate much like social pressures and can lead to genetic influences on behavior.

    I don’t think the issue is particularly relevant outside scientific interest, personally. Men should treat women as human beings and not make assumptions about their sexual preferences and behavioral dispositions.

    “Oh, is that right? Is that why trans* folk are still classified as mentally ill simply for being trans*? Is that why scientists advocate throwing up roadblock after roadblock that keeps the vast majority of trans* folk from getting the treatment and support that we need, simply because we don’t meet cis hetero scientists rigid definitions of gender performance and “passibility”? Is that why health insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid continue to refuse to cover transition-related expenses?”

    The insurance companies are discriminating because we live in a society that lets them get away with it. They’ll refuse a six year old kid life saving treatment if they can legally get away with it. That’s business, not scientific method.

    As for the classification, it’s tricky. Depression is a disorder. I’m not a bad person because I have it, but there is something about me that is undesirable. Gender Identity Disorder is undesirable. It would be much better if sufferers had been born with the correct body or felt comfortable in the current body they have. The cause of GID isn’t going to be related to the heart. A computer can work differently with simple changes to the internal mechanisms. If there is a change in how the computer operates, changing the case isn’t the issue, generally. Now consider the possibility of an enlarged organ where, in theory, we altered the size of the person’s body to accommodate. GID could be like that, but there is little reason to believe that’s the case. I’m not advocating finding a neurological explanation and making everyone accept their current body. I think that would entail a fundamental change in identity. But it’s theoretically something neuroscience could probably examine.

    It is naive to believe science never discriminates or promotes discrimination, but I think that on the whole, it does more good than harm. It did discriminate against homosexuality, but it also evolved and found evidence of genetic causes. In many ways, it reflects the cultural values of its time. If someone already believes transsexuals are ill, they can make research that is completely false because of the one bad assumption. This happened with IQ testing and racism, but the research in the field itself eventually helped discredit racist views. Science can’t be perfect, but if done properly, he gets things correct eventually. If one criticizes science (and legitimate scientific fields) instead of bad science, one is left with little of value for adjudicating disputes and resolving problems.

    I don’t know how to classify transsexual individuals in medical terms. I’m not a medical classifier by any means. But I should end by noting that the outrage over the “mental illness” label is probably legitimate (from what I can see of neurological/mental illness classifications in medicine), but it is important to distinguish between rejecting classifications on technical grounds and stigma against mental illness. If something about a person is a mental illness, it doesn’t mean it can be completely cured or that the person is inferior. Even treated conditions, to my knowledge, do not eliminate the person from still being considered mentally ill (as they have the underlying condition).

    My intent wasn’t to offend. I do that accidentally. I like exploring different angles of issues and trying to see if unpopular positions might be justifiable (there are so many people with crazy views, I find it useful to try and understand them in the most sane way). Not talking about you. Fundamentalists, generally.

  107. Jadey
    Jadey April 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    William: Give it a generation and who knows. I still think that, from a value perspective, trying to turn psychology into a science is the wrong road to take. Others have a different opinion and I’m kinda glad that they’re out to challenge me because dissent makes everyone better in my opinion.

    Part of my bias is trying to *be* that generation. Fingers crossed.

    But I take your point about science possibly being the wrong road. That’s a thought constantly at the gates of my mind, which I’m kind of hoping will make me be a better scientist. Maybe not. Agreed on the value of dissent.

    William: I think that depends pretty heavily on who happens to be involved. The strict behaviorists weren’t looking for descriptive laws, they were looking for universal ones. Freud certainly treated his theories as requirements, something which lead to a significant fracturing of the early clinical movement.

    True enough. Historically (and currently) many psychologists have misrepresented and misunderstood the aims and goals of science (from my perspective) and argued that psychology can and will do things that it can’t and shouldn’t.

    William: but that doesn’t exclude you from being something radically different with neither of us being wrong. That, for me, is the beauty of postmodernism.

    It is, indeed. :) I’ll just be over here with my radical, existentialist, academic, contradictory bad self.

  108. William
    William April 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    . Namely, I suspected William was pointing at the common understanding of postmodernism which holds something like “the inherent subjectivity of human perception prevents us from ever knowing the absolute truth.” Or “All knowledge comes to us through an inherently subjective lens and so we can never be sure that what we think we know is the truth”.

    You suspected right. I do not believe that we have the ability to ever obtain absolute truth because we’re so deeply mired in our own subjective experiences. We might come close, we might get something that works well enough for our purposes that it becomes indistinguishable from truth, but at the end of the day we’re creatures of values and oppression whose senses and sentiments are filtered not just through what we’ve lived but also what has been lived around us and what has not yet been allowed to be lived. Just because we cannot know what is True does not mean that we cannot develop useful technologies.

    I think, as Kathleen is suggesting, you’re jousting at a flavor of postmodernism that few people actually hold. I would argue that that has less to do with postmodernism than it does with your inability to consider the fundamental assumptions that go with postmodernism. You’re talking about postmodernism as if it was a perspective which was still basically positivistic but which simply argued that we cannot know. You’re substituting one truth for another because you’re arguing from a system rooted in competing ideas which are either judged true or false. Postmodernism isn’t about judging what is true and what is false but rather what is useful and what seems to be happening in a given, very subjective and specific, instance. Its about being open to the idea that you do not know while at the same time not loosing what you have experienced. It is to epistemology what unpacking privilege is to human experience: just because you give up the idea that what you believe is universal or right doesn’t mean you have to give up who you are. Postmodernism doesn’t attack knowledge, it attacks power.

  109. William
    William April 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    Gender Identity Disorder is undesirable. It would be much better if sufferers had been born with the correct body or felt comfortable in the current body they have.

    What about genderqueer persons? Also, fuck your undesirable. Values are what make something desirable or not. If society didn’t demand a rigid gender binary based on a specific (and not even biologically universal) anatomical markers being tied to specific behaviors and roles there wouldn’t be a disorder. The disorder, the abnormality, is forced upon persons by a society which defines experience by biology and brooks no deviance. It would be much better if society didn’t fucking do that. Chances are we won’t be seeing that anytime soon though because someone deeply committed to forcing children into the “right” gender because of their “disorder” is in charge of the committee writing the Gender section of DSM-V. His values will become how disorder is defined.

    But it’s theoretically something neuroscience could probably examine.

    Except gender identity, like sexual orientation, does not exist in a vacuum. It is not the pure product of our meat. It is deeply influenced by our society and our culture, by the values of those who wield power, by the kinds of knowledge we have about what it means to be male and female. At best neuroscience could examine a tiny portion of temperament which will then be subjected to an idiosyncratic barrage of culture, experience, and oppression.

    It did discriminate against homosexuality, but it also evolved and found evidence of genetic causes.

    Umm…no. Psychology discriminated against homosexuality because society did. Freud and Jung changed their minds too late and too privately, the behaviorists didn’t believe in nature, American psychiatry was a tool of power and oppression with no interest in challenging the status quo, nothing evolved until a group of gay psychiatrists made an impassioned plea and the DSM board decided to make a political statement. We still don’t have a clear genetic cause for homosexuality and both research and a quickly evolving society seems to keep prodding us back to human beings as fundamentally bisexual creatures who, for some reason, have one door or another closed to them.

    This happened with IQ testing and racism, but the research in the field itself eventually helped discredit racist views.

    And how did it do that? By exposing IQ testing as largely an exercise in privilege. Why? Because the way IQ tests are designed tests not “intelligence” but those things of value to those developing the tests. White people tended to be better at the things that white people developed, so white people did better on the tests. Much of the research that pushed that wasn’t science but rather critiques of the obvious racism inherent in test design.

    If something about a person is a mental illness, it doesn’t mean it can be completely cured or that the person is inferior….there are so many people with crazy views, I find it useful to try and understand them in the most sane way

    Ahem…

  110. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar April 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    Ninja:

    “A women knows she can get pregnant so she will try to “at least” choose one that will stick around. ”

    No. Not in a band of immediate-return hunter-gatherers where parenting resources and food are distributed equally across the band. If the band eats, the kid has food. If there are adults around, the kid will get parented. That’s the reality of people who store no food resources.

  111. anna
    anna April 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    In any case, speculation about prehistoric societies which can never be proven correct is a horrible reason to prop up horrible sexist myths like “Women are all golddiggers. Men just want to get laid. Women see men as walking wallets and men only look at women’s tits. Women are all naturally monogamous and don’t care about sexual pleasure, but men are programmed to fuck young hotties every chance they get.”

  112. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    Ledasmom: I wonder why these two have decided that rats are an appropriate model for human behavior rather than, say, guinea pigs.

    Because the Rat Pack were “the coolest cats of all time”, with a 12-piece band and everything.

    But no one tells the same kind of stories about the Guinea Pig Pack.

  113. Athenia
    Athenia April 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    Unless women are being pressured to don dominatrix outfits and cracking whips and pegging their man on a daily basis, I doubt secretly wanting to be submissive is the problem.

  114. tomoe gozen
    tomoe gozen April 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm |

    i can’t imagine rats have very similar cerebral cortexes to our own… why not pigs, mongooses, or the super intelligent elephant ?

    on another note, certain supposedly ‘postmodern’ critics of science- bruno latour most prominently- have abandoned social constructionism explicitly because it gives shelter to things like the intelligent design movement.

    i’d like to say more about his epistomological aboutface and the historical cherrypicking in his earlier work on science in france but i have some important translations to tie up.

  115. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    Ninja: As for the classification, it’s tricky. Depression is a disorder. I’m not a bad person because I have it, but there is something about me that is undesirable. Gender Identity Disorder is undesirable. It would be much better if sufferers had been born with the correct body or felt comfortable in the current body they have. The cause of GID isn’t going to be related to the heart. A computer can work differently with simple changes to the internal mechanisms. If there is a change in how the computer operates, changing the case isn’t the issue, generally. Now consider the possibility of an enlarged organ where, in theory, we altered the size of the person’s body to accommodate. GID could be like that, but there is little reason to believe that’s the case. I’m not advocating finding a neurological explanation and making everyone accept their current body. I think that would entail a fundamental change in identity. But it’s theoretically something neuroscience could probably examine.

    Thanks for cisplaining that all to me, as if I didn’t already know enough about my own body and mind that “fixing” my “Gender Identity Disorder” isn’t as simple as flipping a switch.

  116. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm |

    Ninja: I don’t know how to classify transsexual cissexual individuals in medical terms.

    T,FYFY.

  117. Reuben
    Reuben April 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm |

    This article falls into a familiar trap – the idea that somehow sexuality represents a “primal” or “original” state and that therefore our tastes in porn/erotica reflect some pre-linguistic form of desire. It entirely overlooks the fact that sexual desire is informed by culture. So certainly porn may be changing the quality of our sex lives but I don’t think the influence goes in the direction assumed.
    Our relationship with sexuality is not a simple procreative act – anyone who thinks it is, is doing it wrong.

  118. Nahida
    Nahida April 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm |

    You know, I talked to people today, in real life, about this article. (This is news because I normally have no life.) And they blamed feminism.

    I was kind of amazed. I was certain it was just, like, 3 people on the Internet.

  119. Reuben
    Reuben April 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    Nahida:
    You know, I talked to people today, in real life, about this article. (This is news because I normally have no life.) And they blamed feminism.

    I was kind of amazed. I was certain it was just, like, 3 people on the Internet.

    Blamed feminism for the article or bad sex?

  120. Nahida
    Nahida April 13, 2011 at 8:56 pm |

    Bad sex.

  121. AK
    AK April 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm |

    This thread has been very interesting for me. What is very clear to me is that “objective” science often fails with regard to actual human experience…it seems to tell much more about the lives and mentality of the scientists than that of those they study. Also, as someone who works with animals for a living, I think scientists often take a limited and biased view of animal sexuality–I have certainly seen dominant heterosexual males and submissive females, but also dominant heterosexual females/submissive males (even though conformation often dictates that the male must mount the female to actually copulate–“practice” mounts by females onto males are not uncommon, however), homosexuality in both males and females (and variations on dominant roles within those interactions), apparently egalitarian relationships, asexuality without desexing, intense sexual behavior after desexing, even apparent transgender behavior (usually females who display male sexual behavior and lack any female sexual behavior, although I can think of three cases where males showed clear female sexual behavior as much as they were able since that often requires female genitalia in the species I know…I wonder how many of the asexual cases I have seen might actually be transgenders in species which physically cannot display it). I think most “evolutionary biology” studies that base themselves on animal behavior are absolutely absurd, because their view of animal behavior is so ridiculously limited. Hell, those of us who devote our lives to that very subject (even those with doctorates in various animal related fields) are still learning about it and even within those fields it’s often shocking how intelligent and self-aware animals often appear to be, and how much variation there is between individuals and specific communities–including in sexual expression.

    Of course, I’m also a woman who sometimes gets off on abstract “rape” (in scare quotes because of course it’s a fantasy so I’m willing)/submission fantasies but in bed is usually quite dominant…and someone who once wrote romance novels for a living (and btw my more egalitarian books or books with strong heroines sold better, for whatever that’s worth)…this whole idea is so limited and is such bullshit I almost feel sorry for the authors for believing it.

  122. Nahida
    Nahida April 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    AK: Of course, I’m also a woman who sometimes gets off on abstract “rape” (in scare quotes because of course it’s a fantasy so I’m willing)/submission fantasies but in bed is usually quite dominant…and someone who once wrote romance novels for a living (and btw my more egalitarian books or books with strong heroines sold better, for whatever that’s worth)…this whole idea is so limited and is such bullshit I almost feel sorry for the authors for believing it.

    SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF THIS! I’m always frustrated when people say they/others have rape fantasies. You are consenting in the fantasy! There is consent! A game of yes-means-no or something of the like isn’t a “rape fantasy.” I feel like this term is really problematic.

  123. Li
    Li April 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm |

    Ninja: As for the classification, it’s tricky. Depression is a disorder. I’m not a bad person because I have it, but there is something about me that is undesirable. Gender Identity Disorder is undesirable.

    Aaaaand, no. I am cis, but my being cis isn’t desirable. I don’t desire being cis, I am just cis. In fact, I’m sometimes quite undesiring of how my particular history and experience of being cis gets in the way of my interest in vaguely femme fashion, in that I self-police my gender expression a whole fucking lot and unpacking that is super difficult within a culture which violently punishes percieved gender transgressions and men’s femininity and in which I am already exposed to pretty major risk of violence. And yet, “Is Unable To Wear Floral Print Without Heaps Of Practice And Feelings Of Intense Fucked-Uppedness Disorder” isn’t in the DSM. Like, weird? Why aren’t there official metrics on the undesirability of my cis hang-ups?

  124. suspect class
    suspect class April 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    As for the classification, it’s tricky. Depression is a disorder. I’m not a bad person because I have it, but there is something about me that is undesirable. Gender Identity Disorder is undesirable. It would be much better if sufferers had been born with the correct body or felt comfortable in the current body they have. The cause of GID isn’t going to be related to the heart. A computer can work differently with simple changes to the internal mechanisms. If there is a change in how the computer operates, changing the case isn’t the issue, generally. Now consider the possibility of an enlarged organ where, in theory, we altered the size of the person’s body to accommodate. GID could be like that, but there is little reason to believe that’s the case. I’m not advocating finding a neurological explanation and making everyone accept their current body. I think that would entail a fundamental change in identity. But it’s theoretically something neuroscience could probably examine.

    It is naive to believe science never discriminates or promotes discrimination, but I think that on the whole, it does more good than harm. It did discriminate against homosexuality, but it also evolved and found evidence of genetic causes. In many ways, it reflects the cultural values of its time. If someone already believes transsexuals are ill, they can make research that is completely false because of the one bad assumption. This happened with IQ testing and racism, but the research in the field itself eventually helped discredit racist views. Science can’t be perfect, but if done properly, he gets things correct eventually. If one criticizes science (and legitimate scientific fields) instead of bad science, one is left with little of value for adjudicating disputes and resolving problems.

    I don’t know how to classify transsexual individuals in medical terms. I’m not a medical classifier by any means. But I should end by noting that the outrage over the “mental illness” label is probably legitimate (from what I can see of neurological/mental illness classifications in medicine), but it is important to distinguish between rejecting classifications on technical grounds and stigma against mental illness. If something about a person is a mental illness, it doesn’t mean it can be completely cured or that the person is inferior. Even treated conditions, to my knowledge, do not eliminate the person from still being considered mentally ill (as they have the underlying condition).

    Coming out of internet quasi-retirement to ask you to please, go fuck yourself now.

    Thank you.

  125. AK
    AK April 13, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    Li: Aaaaand, no. I am cis, but my being cis isn’t desirable. I don’t desire being cis, I am just cis. In fact, I’m sometimes quite undesiring of how my particular history and experience of being cis gets in the way of my interest in vaguely femme fashion, in that I self-police my gender expression a whole fucking lot and unpacking that is super difficult within a culture which violently punishes percieved gender transgressions and men’s femininity and in which I am already exposed to pretty major risk of violence. And yet, “Is Unable To Wear Floral Print Without Heaps Of Practice And Feelings Of Intense Fucked-Uppedness Disorder” isn’t in the DSM. Like, weird? Why aren’t there official metrics on the undesirability of my cis hang-ups?

    Amen. I’m totally heterosexual in my sexual desires, yet I dress an act in a manner that often gets me labelled as a lesbian. I lose out on sexual partners, and I am expected to behave in manners that aren’t comfortable for me because I am straight. This isn’t a “woe is me” thing, but just that what is “desirable” is so variable that it’s pointless to discuss. The desirability of sexual/gendered behavior really depends on the experience of that individual.

    From a societal standpoint some gender and sexual expressions are more desirable than others, but that is a negative aspect of rigid sexual norms. There is no reason why any LGBT/genderqueer expressions should be less “desirable” than cis expressions except for societal expectations.

  126. AK
    AK April 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm |

    …and it should go without saying that societal expectations are artificially constructed and worth nothing…

  127. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm |

    William,

    You say that my understanding of your position is correct (that I “suspected right”), but then go on to accuse me of “jousting at a flavor of postmodernism that few people actually hold”. If, I’ve correctly understood your position, as you say, and I am responding to you and your position, what does it matter that you are among the minority of postmodernists? (In point of fact, I don’t think you are, you are espousing a version of postmodernism I have heard often enough that I doubt it is that rare, but even if it is I don’t think it matters).

    You say that you “do not believe that we have the ability to obtain absolute truth”, yet you constantly write as if you do not believe this. (This, by the way, is one of my major objections to this flavor of postmodernism.) Your posts are full of declarative sentences and assertion of facts (facts offered to counter what I perceive to be the truth), yet you do not qualify those assertions—suggesting that you believe that they are, in fact, true. Not that they are merely in some sense more useful than my assertions of fact. The second problem I see with your position is that you suggest that the correct standard on which to judge truth claims is their usefulness — but how are we to know what is useful? Can you even offer a definition of usefulness without appealing to some truth, some fact in the world? My third objection to this form of postmodernism, is that it eliminates the possibility of meaningful discussion. You, for example, assert that postmodernism is a useful way to perceive the world (I’ll be charitable and assume you don’t think it is actually true), I say that postmodernism is false, that all my experiences lead me to believe that postmodernism is false – and so that there is some clash I also happen to think that it is not useful. Ok, so there we stand. And that’s as far as we can go if we are to use the postmodern rubric, because there is no way to decide if one of us is right or not without an appeal to the truth of the matter (either the truth of postmodernism or the usefulness of it, either rubric we use requires an appeal to some actual truth, some fact in the world). This is true for all disagreements, if we accept your postmodernist framework we can only say what our experiences are and that is where we are stuck (we can’t even rely on the testimony of others since I can’t say that it is true that X said Y only that my perception is that X said Y).

    Putting aside the issue of postmodernism. I think the remainder of our disagreement boils down to a difference of what we mean by “psychology” (I’m talking about experimental psychology and you seem to be talking mostly about clinical psychology) and probably what we mean by “science”.
    You assert that psychology is not a science, and as far as clinical psychology goes I agree with you. But I’m not talking about clinical psychology, I’m talking about experimental psychology. Experimental psychology has for many many years produced falsifiable hypotheses, experiments which could falsify those hypotheses and data which do, in at least some cases, falsify those hypotheses. To me that makes it a science (falsifiablity being what I take as the cornerstone of science). I take it that you have in mind some other definition of “science” but without knowing what it is I can’t really respond to your position.

  128. Lis
    Lis April 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm |

    This was SUCH A FUNNY THREAD yesterday.

    What the hell, people. Evopsych and transphobia ruin EVERYTHING.

  129. Today is the day to have both your cake and eat it. « A Smile Like The Sun.

    […] I thought I’d go to Google Images and grab some appropriate (or should it be inappropriate?) photos to illustrate this most joyous of days. Hey I’d even be happy to go buy a nice greeting card for the occasion if I thought Hallmark did one. But I was shocked, appalled and totally o_O by the result I got. I typed in “Cunnilingus” (Safe-Search set to moderate) and the first photo I got was of new born panda twins. WTF! Now you can make some sexist generalisation about chicks liking cuddly pandas and all things cutesy BUT NOT WHILE SHE’S HAVING HER PUSSY EATEN! No wonder so many women are unsatisfied in the bedroom and don’t tell me it’s all because of the romance novels and rat porn. […]

  130. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm |

    Kathleen: It’s a classic move in evolutionary psychology literature, which creates a space for itself as “science” in opposition to booga-booga imaginary postmodernism.

    Which evolutionary psychologists do this, name names and cite arguments otherwise it’s just rhetorical invocation.

    But to answer your question.
    First, to be clear I did not invoke postmodernism, William did. My discussion of postmodernism was in response to what William said about it—I have no interest in invoking postmodernism as a boogieman, imaginary or real. But once the subject was raised I felt it important to respond to what I understood (apparently correctly) to be William’s position (which William described as postmodern, not me).
    Second, I think William’s position gets a lot of things wrong – see my response to William above.
    Third, my comment was rather general I said I think they get somethings right, somethings wrong and somethings very wrong. (That statement was intended to refute your claim that I was making some sort of claim about “these terrible postmodernists and their awful conduct”, which I was not – not because I was trying to raise the specter of a postmodernist boogey). But since you ask, I think that Irigaray’s The Sex Which is Not One is badly flawed (I recall it being very biologically reductionist, among other problems), Derrida’s analysis of the gift in Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money is very wrong and rests on a fair amount of etymythology to boot, and I think the weight Heidigger places on language (“language is the house of being” and all that) in Being and Time is mistaken (though you may argue that he is a proto-postmodernist rather than a postmodernist). (In other words, yes I actually have read postmodernist philosophy, I’m not rejecting aspects of it out of ignorance, but because I think they are wrong).

  131. Aaron
    Aaron April 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm |

    Alara Rogers,

    No worries, it happens to the best of us. I wouldn’t have said anything, but I was afraid I saw the direction Ninja’s comments were going and I wanted to be sure to be proactive in distancing myself from them.

  132. Natalia
    Natalia April 14, 2011 at 12:59 am |

    Man, I come here to talk about boners and rat porn, and things are all serious and shit.

    I am disappoint.

  133. Natalia
    Natalia April 14, 2011 at 1:00 am |

    But hey, at least “jousting at flavours” is an interesting imagine to take away with you. I mean, jousting. At flavours.

  134. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom April 14, 2011 at 1:13 am |

    Yeah, every time a good rat porn thread gets going, this sort of thing happens.

  135. Chantelle
    Chantelle April 14, 2011 at 7:04 am |

    Yonmei: Ledasmom: I wonder why these two have decided that rats are an appropriate model for human behavior rather than, say, guinea pigs.Because the Rat Pack were “the coolest cats of all time”, with a 12-piece band and everything.But no one tells the same kind of stories about the Guinea Pig Pack.

    That has got to be the funniest thing I have read today! :D

  136. William
    William April 14, 2011 at 8:14 am |

    You say that my understanding of your position is correct (that I “suspected right”), but then go on to accuse me of “jousting at a flavor of postmodernism that few people actually hold”.

    Theres a scene in The Princess Bride where, after the Vizzini shouts “inconceivable” one too many times Fezzik turns to him and says “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” I think you’ve got a good handle of how postmodernists tend to characterize their point of view, I’m just not sure you understand what it means.

    When I say “everything is subjective and there is no truth” you seem to be hearing “because nothing is right nothing is wrong and so theres no point.” You seem to be conflating postmodernism with nihilism. Your responses suggest that you see postmodernism as demanding a radical rejection of causality because it argues that nothing is True and everything is based on values and sentiment. Thats the flavor that really only seems to exist in the minds of postmodernism’s opponents.

    You say that you “do not believe that we have the ability to obtain absolute truth”, yet you constantly write as if you do not believe this.

    Just because I do not think anything is True does not mean that I do not have values and a desire to promote those values. By way of for instance, I do not think it is True that women have the right to an abortion. I do, however, deeply value the right of bodily autonomy. As a result, I operate as if such a right were True because I would like to see it promoted, preserved, expanded, and socially supported. Taking an objective position of right and wrong out of the equation doesn’t prevent me from having a position, it only demands that I be aware (even if only internally) that I’m arguing from sentiment rather than some divine mandate.

    The second problem I see with your position is that you suggest that the correct standard on which to judge truth claims is their usefulness — but how are we to know what is useful?

    That comes to values. There isn’t a correct standard thats more generalizable than any given individual. In a society you might manage to thatch together some generally agreed upon rules, but even then you’ll have your dissidents and revolutionaries. It makes for a chaotic and unpredictable world.

    Can you even offer a definition of usefulness without appealing to some truth, some fact in the world?

    I’d argue that you’re demanding I defend postmodernism with empirical observation and operationalization. Still, I’ll hazard one. That which is useful is that which supports and promotes the values you hold. Nietzsche would have argued for that which was life promoting and enhancing. Freud would have said “love work and play.” Your mileage, obviously, will vary.

    My third objection to this form of postmodernism, is that it eliminates the possibility of meaningful discussion.

    If you’re trying to figure out who is right, then yes. Thing is, thats not what I’m interested in doing in a discussion. I’m interested in learning, in increasing what I know about my own values and the values of those around me. I’m not terribly interested in figuring out who got to win (unless that plays into one of my values). Its a scary place to go because it demands the loss of some amount of privilege and it makes arguing from a position of power much more difficult. Your constant attempts to reframe suggested you were struggling with that a few posts ago. Your continued use of subtle phrases like “I’ll be charitable” suggest that you’re trying to reestablish the upper hand. Thats unfortunate.

    Experimental psychology has for many many years produced falsifiable hypotheses,

    Not generally, at least not mathematically. We’ve known that the way we do hypothesis testing doesn’t work since at least the 50s and the vast majority of published studies still don’t have the kind of power they need to be able to even suggest they tell us anything useful from a mathematical, let alone epistemological, standpoint. Cohen’s article is better at explaining the problem than I could be:

    http://www.ics.uci.edu/~sternh/courses/210/cohen94_pval.pdf

    In other words, yes I actually have read postmodernist philosophy, I’m not rejecting aspects of it out of ignorance, but because I think they are wrong

    I find it interesting that, in a discussion of psychology and postmodernism, you left out Nietzsche (who pioneered the deconstruction of values), Lacan (who brought some aspects of postmodernism into clinical theory), and Foucault (who was rooted in psychology and presents one of the best examples of how to use postmodern theory to make an argument), not to mention the legion of psychologists (both academic and clinical) who have argued about the subject and are only an EBSCO search away.

  137. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar April 14, 2011 at 11:38 am |

    William, I’m afraid you have your facts wrong. It is Inigo who tells Vizzini says to Vizzini, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo has many of the film’s best lines, including “if I use my right, is over too quickly. I will not be satisfied.”

  138. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    Chanterelle: That has got to be the funniest thing I have read today!

    I aim to please!

    Also, I joust at flavours.

    Did you know guinea-pigs are frequently raised for meat, but rats are only ever eaten out of dire necessity? Perhaps the behaviourists who use rats to illustrate human sexual behaviour think that human sex is slinky and sly and has scaly tail and is reputed to be stinky, rather than cute and cuddly and (apparently tastes great roasted with honey, er, perhaps we shouldn’t go there) and makes WHEEK! WHEEK! noises?

    “if I use my right, is over too quickly. I will not be satisfied.”

    I JUST GOT that double-entendre. After YEARS of loving the book & the movie.

    Damn Spaniards.

  139. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm |

    Aaron: comes back 10 hours later with a dismissal of Irigaray (I haven’t read Irigaray, so maybe your critique is breeliunt. erm), Derrida (etymythology?!?!), and Heidegger. I love the smell of frantic Google searchiness in the morning.

    The part about Heidegger — that his “emphasis” on language is mistaken: hahahahahahahahahahahahahah haaaaaa haaaaa haaaaa

    oh, mercy.

    I liked the Godfather, but I thought its “emphasis” on the mafia was mistaken.

    French fries are delicious, but the “emphasis” on potatoes — soooo mistaken.

    Baths are nice, but their “emphasis” on water? Mistaken.

    Somehow I think you aren’t gonna be whipping out the “postmodern” critique so easily in future, out of well-justified fear of being asked to explain just exactly what it is you think you are talking about.

  140. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar:
    William, I’m afraid you have your facts wrong.It is Inigo who tells Vizzini says to Vizzini, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”Inigo has many of the film’s best lines, including “if I use my right, is over too quickly.I will not be satisfied.”

    Oh noes. Postmodernism defeated.

  141. Aaron
    Aaron April 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    William: When I say “everything is subjective and there is no truth” you seem to be hearing “because nothing is right nothing is wrong and so theres no point.” You seem to be conflating postmodernism with nihilism.

    That’s not what I’m hearing (or saying) at all. I’m well aware of the distinction (for one nihilism makes an affirmative truth claim, or rather it makes an affirmative truth claim non-hypocritically). I don’t think postmodernism (even the version you advocate) requires a rejection of causality (and I’m not sure what I said to give you that impression, but for the record I do not hold that position), I think that postmodernism (of the sort you hold) entails a level of epistemological doubt and uncertainty that no human being actually lives with. I also think that it entails extreme moral relativism which I reject and which I think is dangerous.

    Aaron: You say that you “do not believe that we have the ability to obtain absolute truth”, yet you constantly write as if you do not believe this.

    William: Just because I do not think anything is True does not mean that I do not have values and a desire to promote those values.

    That’s fine, but it doesn’t address my point. My objection is that your posts are full of positive truth claims. You write as if you believe that there are facts in the world which you know.

    For example, you write on the falsafiablity of psychological experiments:

    William: Not generally, at least not mathematically. We’ve known that the way we do hypothesis testing doesn’t work since at least the 50s and the vast majority of published studies still don’t have the kind of power they need to be able to even suggest they tell us anything useful from a mathematical, let alone epistemological, standpoint.

    These sentences are full of claims about external truths which you claim to know. More than that, they are full of claims about whether or not other people know these facts. From your professed postmodernist standpoint you can’t honestly say any of that.

    William: I’d argue that you’re demanding I defend postmodernism with empirical observation and operationalization. Still, I’ll hazard one. That which is useful is that which supports and promotes the values you hold.

    I think that when you suggest that we judge truth claims based on your usefulness it is not unreasonable to ask what you mean by usefulness, so I appreciate your response despite your objection. However, the answer you offer is one which requires recourse to external truths. To be able to say that X supports and promotes the values I hold I have to know that it does so. More importantly, since you offer usefulness as a way to judge competing claims you have to be able to say X supports my values better than Y and that clearly requires knowledge of some external truth.

    Aaron: My third objection to this form of postmodernism, is that it eliminates the possibility of meaningful discussion.

    William:
    If you’re trying to figure out who is right, then yes. Thing is, thats not what I’m interested in doing in a discussion. I’m interested in learning, in increasing what I know about my own values and the values of those around me.

    I would argue that part of what it means to have a meaningful discussion is to figure out the truth. But, even if you reject that and argue that discussion is about “increasing what I know about my own values and the values of those around me.” Then that is still impossible under the version of postmodernism you advocate for. You can’t (under your version of postmodernism) know anything about my values – ever. To know something about my values is to have some understanding about the truth of a thing (in this case the truth of what I value), heck you can’t even know something about your own values since that too would require reference to some truth about the world.

    As an aside. You are moving the goalposts here:

    William: I find it interesting that, in a discussion of psychology and postmodernism, you left out Nietzsche (who pioneered the deconstruction of values), Lacan (who brought some aspects of postmodernism into clinical theory), and Foucault (who was rooted in psychology and presents one of the best examples of how to use postmodern theory to make an argument), not to mention the legion of psychologists (both academic and clinical) who have argued about the subject and are only an EBSCO search away.

    I was responding to a very specific question:

    Kathleen: Which postmodernists, exactly, get what very wrong, exactly? Name names and arguments or else it’s just rhetorical invocation.

    I wasn’t being asked to write a dissertation on postmodernism and psychology, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I didn’t list every postmodernist thinker potentially relevant to the field.
    But since you ask I didn’t mention Nietzsche because I consider him more of an existentialist than a postmodernist and because I don’t recall reading anything by Nietzsche that I thought was “very wrong”. I didn’t mention Lacan because, honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve read anything by Lacan that I have no memory of anything he said—it made zero impression on me (I assume this means I didn’t think he got anything very wrong, but honestly I have no clue). I didn’t mention Foucault because I think that for the most part he was right – he is actually who I had in mind when I said I thought some postmodernists got some things right (but I wasn’t asked about that). I don’t, I hasten to add, think that what he said supports your position, but that’s getting very far afield.

  142. Aaron
    Aaron April 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

    Kathleen: Aaron: comes back 10 hours later with a dismissal of Irigaray (I haven’t read Irigaray, so maybe your critique is breeliunt. erm), Derrida (etymythology?!?!), and Heidegger. I love the smell of frantic Google searchiness in the morning.

    You asked that I name some specific post-modernist that I thought got some specific things wrong. I named those (after I got home from work and after dinner and drinks with friends—thus the delay), it did take me a full 10 hours to respond to you, but I do notice that it took you well over 12 to respond to me, am I to assume based on your rubric I can safely dismiss your response?

    If you haven’t read Irigaray’s The Sex Which is Not One, I rather think you should it is an important work of postmodernist feminist thought. But it does rely very heavily on the structure and nature of genitalia to define the nature of the “male” and “female” experience. In The Sex Which is Not One Irigary argues (among other things) that what it is to be a woman is defined by the experience of the labia touching and that what is is to be a man is defined by the experience of penetration with the penis. I think the fact that there are women who do not and have never had labia and men who do not and have never had a penis points to a very serious flaw in her argument.
    Etymythology – a mythological etymology (not my neologism, but one I’m very fond of). Derrida, in Counterfeit Money, makes a great deal about the supposed etymological links between the words for “gift” and “poison” in various languages. I tend to think that: one the history of words teaches us very little about the metaphysics of gift giving (as if our ancestors had a clearer and more direct access to metaphysical facts) and two Derrida plays a bit fast and loose with the truth here.
    Heidegger – Heidegger argues (or asserts—I don’t recall ever being able to find a good argument for this claim) that “language is the house of being”. That is, that we come to know being through language. I think this is a mistake—I think we come to know being through experience. (An aside: I said I though he place to much “weight” not “emphasis” on language, if you are going to mock me at least do me the courtesy of not putting words in my mouth.)

    I also note that you didn’t respond to my request to name any evolutionary biologists that point to postmodernism as a way to “creates a space for itself as “science” in opposition to booga-booga imaginary postmodernism.” If the move is, as you state, “classic” surely you could point to at least one example of it happening. It’s been well over 14 hours since I asked you about this – “frantic Google searchiness” should have turned up something by now.

  143. William
    William April 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    William, I’m afraid you have your facts wrong. It is Inigo who tells Vizzini says to Vizzini, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Is it really fucked up that I’m genuinely ashamed that its been so long since I’ve seen it that I mixed up Inigo and Fezzik’s names? I will have to fix this when I get home.

  144. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    okay, I am back because I feel that what I just said was way too mean. Aaron, you seem genuinely intellectually curious and I am imagining you as young (late undergrad / early grad). I’m guessing your denunciations of “postmodernism” were learnt at the feet of (reading) people like Pinker, Buss, Thornhill, Tooby & Cosmides, and so on; it’s a signature move across all of evolutionary psychology. It appeals to an adolescent sensibility of wanting to be the smartest!!!!! winnerest!!!! of all arguments!!!!!

    there is no easier way to do this than to invent fantastical opponents who are super stupid and then trounce them for the stupidity you have attributed to them (see also: Donald Rumsfeld’s mode of answering hard questions).

    It’s no accident that people like Dawkins and Dennett, whose prior assertions about evolution have been laughed out of town by evolutionary biologists, have turned to the safe territory of passionate advocacy of atheism, where the evidentiary standards are for obvious reasons extremely low.

    That place is not a very interesting place, it’s okay to get lured on to it for argument’s sake but you really would not want to waste a life or a intellectual career there.

  145. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm |

    Aaron — I think to understand Derrida’s ideas about gift and poison you have to have read Mauss. Only you know for sure whether you have actually read Heidegger but it doesn’t sound like it. I am sorry for being so mean to you (I hadn’t yet read your response when I posted again) — I get that you might be feeling wounded and I apologize.

  146. Patty
    Patty April 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    “Almost every quality of dominant males triggers arousal in the female brain: dominant scents, dominant gaits, deep voices, height, displays of wealth.”

    You know what turns me on? A man around whom I can BE MYSELF. How come there’s no frickin’ research showing that? I can’t possibly be the only straight female on the planet who feels similarly.

    “Romance heroes are almost always high status alpha males–billionaires, barons, surgeons, sheriffs.”

    Of course they are, and that’s because in A FANTASY I HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER, I would want that man around whom I can BE MYSELF to ALSO be a super-hot billionaire with his own castle.

    Let me repeat the most important part of my previous sentence: A FANTASY I HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER. Unfortunately, in real life, super-hot castle-dwelling billionaires are notorious playboys who run through women faster than race cars burn rubber, which is why women looking for love often look elsewhere.

  147. Saurs
    Saurs April 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm |

    It’s no accident that people like Dawkins and Dennett, whose prior assertions about evolution have been laughed out of town by evolutionary biologists, have turned to the safe territory of passionate advocacy of atheism, where the evidentiary standards are for obvious reasons extremely low.

    Kathleen wins the thread.

  148. Aaron
    Aaron April 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Kathleen,

    Thank you. I apologize for responding meanly. I should not have done that.

    I appreciate your perception of where I’m coming from, but you are mistaken. I’m 31. My B.A. is in philosophy, as is my M.A. I dropped out of the Ph.D. program to get my degree in law (in part) because my program was too hostile to postmodernism and postmodernist thinkers. My objections actually come from two places. First, I actually believe in some of what the postmodernists had to say (I have a comment awaiting moderation where I express explicitly my respect for Foucalt). I think they got a lot right—not everything, but a fair amount. The part of me that is still a philosopher believes that I am obligated to critique them for the things they got wrong – I believe this is how we test ideas and how we move closer to the truth (which I believe in). Second, I spent a lot of time hearing that postmodernism=we can’t know truth – I think this is a bad reading of postmodernist thought as a body – and it is this reading of postmodernism that leads far too many people to dismiss postmodernist thought out of hand. I dismiss that position because I think it is false, because I think it is a bad reading, and because I think it lets people (including far too many of my instructors) ignore the real and valuable contributions that postmodernism has made.
    In short I critique from a place of love not one of hate.

    I understand that it looks like I am arguing against a straw-man (I’ve accused people of doing that when arguing against the positions I’m now arguing against in the past), but I’ve heard far far too many people advance the view that I am arguing against to believe it is a straw-man any longer. I may not be expressing my objections clearly—the slow pace of internet communication and the fact that it lends itself to discussing several points at once rather than focusing in on a point at a time hinders good philosophical discussion – but I am honestly attempting to refute what I believe is a real position (I think it is the position that William is advancing).

    To come back to evolutionary psychology, I do see what you are saying. And I think you have a valid point, but I am worried that people are too quick to throw the good out with the bad. Yes, absolutely, some very bad science gets done under the rubric of evolutionary psychology (and some even worse science reporting and science popularizing gets done under that banner), but there is real science to be done under that banner too, and I don’t think we should foreclose a potentially valuable field of study simply because some people have misused it.

  149. Hugo
    Hugo April 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    Late to the party, but this is the post of the year and the thread of the year here at Feministe. Well done Jill, well done all.

    Is my daughter (age 27 months) too young for Princess Bride? I think we’ll find out soon.

  150. Aaron
    Aaron April 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm |

    Kathleen: I think to understand Derrida’s ideas about gift and poison you have to have read Mauss. Only you know for sure whether you have actually read Heidegger but it doesn’t sound like it. I am sorry for being so mean to you (I hadn’t yet read your response when I posted again) — I get that you might be feeling wounded and I apologize.

    Thank you again. I was and it does mean a lot to me for you to apologize, and again I’m sorry that I lashed out.

    Honestly it has been some time since I read Heidegger and I could be misremembering or misreading him—I never had the firmest grasp on what his argument in Being and time was (I don’t think that makes me unique, but…still I was probably talking beyond my knowledge and I should not have done that, and it was fair for you to call me on it).
    I think I read Mauss (and Levi-Straus) on gift giving when I was working my way through Counterfeit Money—but I only have vague recollections of it so, in an attempt to learn from recent mistakes I’ll refrain from commenting.

    Anyway, thank you again.

  151. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar April 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm |

    William, in my house it rises to the level of cultural core curriculum, along with Joan Jett and Elmore James.

  152. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom April 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    “Because the Rat Pack were “the coolest cats of all time”, with a 12-piece band and everything.But no one tells the same kind of stories about the Guinea Pig Pack”

    Never properly appreciated, the Guinea Pig Pack. Their only movie, “Run Around the Floor Emitting Poop and Shrieking”, was universally panned, although the current success of Judd Apatow suggests that they were merely ahead of their time.

  153. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm |

    Saurs — thanks :)

    Aaron — wait wait, a civilized conclusion to a discussion of ev psych on the intertubes? We must have entered a worm hole :)

    Ledasmom: everyone should live their life the guinea pig way:

  154. William
    William April 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    I dismiss that position because I think it is false,

    And that, to me, is the root of the problem not just with what you’ve been saying about postmodernism but about the kinds of assumptions I’ve been critiquing in general. When you get caught in thinking about things as true or false you begin to move towards the kind of binary position that leads you to dismiss rather than attempt to understand.

    For me, when nothing is true that frees you up to examine what seems to be happening rather than get caught up in the kinds of self-serving cheerleading that creates blindspots. That doesn’t mean I can’t hold strong opinions, it doesn’t even mean that I cannot fight for what I believe to be valuable, it simply means that I try to understand the kinds of values I want to preserve and promote while realizing that they are values rather than Truth. It makes it easier for me to shift perspective, it makes it easier for me to not take checks of privilege personally, and I believe it puts me in a place where I can potentially move away from more power-based motivations to motivations that are more egosyntonic.

    I suppose the bottom line is that I find my life improved by avoiding the shorthand of “false” because I feel that is more likely to lead to intellectual laziness.

    I think it is the position that William is advancing

    I’m not so sure. It seems that we’re using the same words for very different purposes. I think you’re reading a nihilism into my position that isn’t intended.

  155. chava
    chava April 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm |

    Oy vey.

    Hi. Ph.D. in CompLit here. So we’re pretty much In Your Society, Destroyin Your Dominant Paradigmz. Sorry about that.

    A lot of French feminist thinkers, including J. Irigaray: very biologically reductionist. It comes from the heritage of Freud via Lacan. Nonetheless, some good things there. Nice thinking about birth in Irigaray that no one else does.

    Derrida: DID MUCH MORE SHIT THAN TALK ABOUT THE GIFT. JESUS CHRIST. I don’t agree with everything he said either, but my *word.*

    Heiddegar: Well, Nazi. That aside, I do think you can bring him up on charges of obscurantism (WHICH DERRIDA DID HELLO AND ALSO THOUGHT THROUGH WHETHER HIS NAZIISM WAS SO DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC THAT WE SHOULD STILL TEACH HIM). Ahem. But I’m not sure that language is where I would go in there….

    Look, tl; dr. Shorter version I tell my students:

    Truth with capital “T.” Not accessible. (Believe it or not, this is not a conclusion unique to postmodernism). But yet, the bridge does not fall down, eh? Things *are* discoverable and quantifiable through their appearances to us, and insofar as we can manipulate those appearances, we’re golden.

  156. chava
    chava April 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm |

    Also, evopsych? Still crap. Because science is done by PEOPLE, and people can make crap hypothesis informed by the kyriarchy. Which they do with alarming bloody frequency in that particular field.

  157. Repugnancy | odds and otters
    Repugnancy | odds and otters April 15, 2011 at 8:15 am |

    […] We don’t yet live in that world. though.  We live in a world where speaking of a submissive woman brings to mind pornified images of women, whether from actual porn or from the ads we see every day.  We live in a world where domestic violence is described as “forcing a woman to submit.”  We live in a world so deeply steeped in the notion that women are naturally submissive that this paradigm is applied, without a hint of irony, to rats. […]

  158. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 9:04 am |

    William,
    I have a longer reply to you that is hung up in moderation, and I don’t want to retread that ground, but I do want to say, just to be explicit that I am not reading nihilism into your position. I do think that your position is epistemologically defeatist and rather gloomy and I can see where my objections would sound like they were objecting to nihilism when they are objecting to that, but I do see the difference.

    What it boils down to is that, fundamentally, I think we can know the truth (at least about some things) and I think that saying we can’t is incoherent (“We can’t ever know the truth” is a truth claim).

  159. William
    William April 15, 2011 at 9:05 am |

    Hi. Ph.D. in CompLit here. So we’re pretty much In Your Society, Destroyin Your Dominant Paradigmz. Sorry about that.

    Never apologize for doing a public service. Unless you have something to gain from the apology, I suppose…

    biologically reductionist. It comes from the heritage of Freud via Lacan.

    I’m not so sure calling that heritage biologically reductionist is quite accurate, although a lot of people have certainly read it as such. As Freud moved from neurology to psychology what he meant by anatomy began to move into the internal world, there were plenty of big name analysts (Horney, Jung, and the British Object Relations movement spring to mind) who challenged the centrality of anatomy even during Freud’s lifetime, and Lacan was so deep into the world of symbol and image that I’m not sure you could call his conception of gender anatomical by the time it had matured (that is, even if anatomy was the genesis point of a recognition of sexual difference, what happened as a result of that recognition was pretty decisively cultural and linguistic for Lacan). I think one of the big miscommunications that happens when non-analysts read analytic work is that analysts have a very bad habit (probably based in hedging bets) of using common words and concepts in ways that their readership might not be expecting. I’m not familiar enough with Irigaray’s writing to make a stand on whether she was actually talking about biology but if she studied directly under Lacan I would guess that when she talks about anatomy theres a very good chance she’s talking about it in context of societal meanings rather than as hardwiring in the meat.

    It sounds like you’re a lot more familiar with her work, do you think would this be accurate?

  160. chava
    chava April 15, 2011 at 9:25 am |

    @ William–
    That’s a very good point, actually. As far as surface meaning/what they actually “meant”–I think the more correct wording would be “gender essentialist”–which IMO is a fair charge to lay at the feet of a lot of older analysis.

    Now, when I read Freud and Lacan as someone from my discipline (and thence to, say, Kristeva) I can’t say I see them making a clear distinction between the two, however. I’d even go so far as to say that there is a strong undertow of biological language/metaphor (pigeon gonads, anyone?) which, traditional in analysis or not, redraws that biological binary in the mind of the reader.

    Annnnnd now I have to go teach Levinas. Blargh.

  161. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 15, 2011 at 10:09 am |

    chava:
    @ William–
    That’s a very good point, actually.As far as surface meaning/what they actually “meant”–I think the more correct wording would be “gender essentialist”–which IMO is a fair charge to lay at the feet of a lot of older analysis.

    Now, when I read Freud and Lacan as someone from my discipline (and thence to, say, Kristeva) I can’t say I see them making a clear distinction between the two, however.I’d even go so far as to say that there is a strong undertow of biological language/metaphor (pigeon gonads, anyone?) which, traditional in analysis or not, redraws that biological binary in the mind of the reader.

    Annnnnd now I have to go teach Levinas.Blargh.

    *Sigh* I miss teaching. My first semester without a class in 5 years, I think. Perhaps an “Ethics Tutor Available” sign would be helpful. Or merely sad. Either way.

  162. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    Chava,

    Just to be clear I was responding to a very specific question. I was asked to name some places I thought particular postmodernist thinkers got something very wrong (given your response it seems you agree with me about 2 of the 3 I mentioned). I realize that Derrida had plenty more to say than his analysis of the gift but that happens to be one thing he wrote on that I think he got wrong—it’s not the only thing I suspect he got wrong, it’s just the thing he got wrong that I am most confident that he got wrong. I’m not trying to represent that because these thinkers got some things wrong, they got everything wrong. As I’ve said repeatedly I think postmodernists get a lot of things right.
    As I said above I critique things I think postmodernism gets wrong, in part because I think that we can learn a lot from postmodernism, and we can learn a lot more from it if we weed out the stuff it gets wrong and focus on what it gets right.

    But yes I do object to the reading of postmodernist thought that says all Truth is inaccessible to us (and the fact that postmodernism is not the only school of thought that advances this position does not make it any less false). I don’t think this is the only reading of postmodernist thought – weaken your claim to “some Truth is inaccessible to us” and I’m with you, change it to “human subjectivity interferes with our perception of the Truth” and I’m with you (with the caveat that this interference is not insurmountable), but I object to and reject any epistemology which holds all truth is inaccessible.

    I used to teach logic and as I used to tell my students: A or not A, not (A and not A) A v ~A ~(A & ~A) . These sentences are True and human beings are all capable of coming to know their truth. More complex truths may be beyond our reach, but I reject any epistemology which says all truths are beyond our reach.

  163. What Captain Awkward is Reading, Watching, Eating, Listening To, and Over The Moon About « CaptainAwkward.com

    […] Feminism makes boners sad!  We know this because of rats. A hilarious debunking of terrible evo-psych pseudoscience, via Feministe. […]

  164. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 11:32 am |

    Kathleen: wait wait, a civilized conclusion to a discussion of ev psych on the intertubes? We must have entered a worm hole :)

    :) Seems like it’s worth a try, you know, just for a change of pace.

  165. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 11:32 am |

    Kathleen: wait wait, a civilized conclusion to a discussion of ev psych on the intertubes? We must have entered a worm hole :)

    :) Seems like it’s worth a try, you know, just for a change of pace.

  166. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 11:40 am |

    Gah! Sorry for the double post.

  167. chava
    chava April 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |

    Aaron:
    I used to teach logic and as I used to tell my students: A or not A, not (A and not A)A v ~A~(A & ~A).These sentences are True and human beings are all capable of coming to know their truth.More complex truths may be beyond our reach, but I reject any epistemology which says all truths are beyond our reach.

    Not all truths. The one true Truth. I’d argue that what you represent above is more of an a priori category of knowledge, anyway. Which, point of interest, is a major base of departure for Kant, thence to Husserl, Heiddeger, then Derrida, thence postmodernism.

    I tend to depart pretty radically from Kant on the idea of the a priori, anyway. I believe (and yes, I said believe) that we know even things like “the universe is finite or not finite” through experience. That’s following more towards analytic philosophy and Hume, but in any case.

    I am a pretty firm believer in the power of science to approach Truth, when done correctly and with humility. But I think “approach” is the key word–like a limit function in calculus. I also don’t see how you can truly advocate that we have direct access to the world of objects, btw, but that’s a different discussion.

    All that said, I don’t doubt you’ve had some bad experiences with post-modernism, deconstruction, what have you. I’m reacting partially to your use of “post-modernism” as an unspecific catch-all phrase to describe several different things, but none the less–there are real grievances with the ways in which some contemporary Continental philosophers stage access to truth, abuse scientific metaphor, fall in love with their own language, etc.

  168. PharaohKatt
    PharaohKatt April 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |

    ozymandias:
    Also, if fanfic is now evidence of Evolutionarily Derived Female Sexuality, I am kind of amused to discover that Evolution ™ made women inextricably turned on by the Winchester brothers fucking each other. Sorry men! You have to make out now! Biology says so!

    You just made my night! #watchingS6rightnow

  169. William
    William April 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    I think the more correct wording would be “gender essentialist”–which IMO is a fair charge to lay at the feet of a lot of older analysis.

    Absolutely. I’d argue that mainstream psychoanalytic theory didn’t really start to move away from that until the feminist critiques of the 60s and 70s dragged us over the coals.

    Now, when I read Freud and Lacan as someone from my discipline (and thence to, say, Kristeva) I can’t say I see them making a clear distinction between the two, however.

    I can see that. Freud and Lacan (to a slightly lesser degree) were primarily writing for analysts and, well, the distinction between anatomic and deeply cultural is large academic when you’re actually in the consulting room. Its actually, to my mind, one of the bigger problems modern psychoanalysis faces today: even though analytic ideas have been picked up by other disciplines we still tend to assume that our readers are clinicians and we tend to write as though everyone has the same knowledge base.

    I think a lot of the distinction comes in the way we orient ourselves to patients. Modern Lacanian analysis, for instance, sees everything as pathological. Everyone is either neurotic, psychotic, or perverse because those are the basic ways personalities are structured and the idea of “normal” or “healthy” is something that exists as a function of language, power, and ideal rather than as something occupying the Real (Patricia Gherovici’s “Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism” is an excellent example of this kind of thinking, though fair warning its heavily clinical). Freud didn’t subscribe to the same view, but as his theory progressed he found it increasingly difficult to maintain some of his prejudices. Patients have a way of making you question what you used to assume.

    I’d even go so far as to say that there is a strong undertow of biological language/metaphor (pigeon gonads, anyone?) which, traditional in analysis or not, redraws that biological binary in the mind of the reader.

    If it can be redrawn I’d argue that it was never biological in the first place, even if everyone agrees that it was.

  170. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    chava: Not all truths. The one true Truth.

    I think that may be a position I would endorse, depending, of course, on what you mean by “The one true Truth”.

    chava: I’m reacting partially to your use of “post-modernism” as an unspecific catch-all phrase to describe several different things

    Fair enough, I was insufficiently precise. My objection is to postmodernism as the term is being used here by William:

    William: When I say “everything is subjective and there is no truth” […]

    As I said, I’m not troubled by a position which says there are some things we cannot know. What I am troubled by is the position which says there is no truth or which says there may be truth but humans can never know any of it. I think those positions are logically incoherent and that our experience shows they are false.

    Again, I was imprecise in my use of “postmodernism” and I do apologize for the confusion that caused.

  171. Jadey
    Jadey April 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    chava: I am a pretty firm believer in the power of science to approach Truth, when done correctly and with humility.

    Yes, this. Quoted and bolded for truth. Humility is the bit that keeps getting overlooked, IMO. Everything is better with humility.

    I can’t tell anymore if I love or hate this thread. On one hand, it’s gone on forever and kind of around in circles and off-topic and so forth. On the other hand, it’s full of some seriously fantastic stuff, both thoughtful and hilarious. I think if it’d happened over espressos in a cosy cafe, I’d love it unreservedly. Needs more ambiance!

  172. Danielle C.
    Danielle C. April 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    Haha! I like bending over with my butt in the air and having a guy (or girl) behind me. But usually with their tongue out. I must be super submissive!

    I thoroughly enjoyed the article, humorous and full of good points. Who the fuck do these men think they are telling us why we have problems in bed? And then not look into any of the reasons you listed. Ha. A feminist who is true to herself, other women, and her surroundings should be giving us a lot of boners, not killing them lol!

  173. chava
    chava April 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    If it can be redrawn I’d argue that it was never biological in the first place, even if everyone agrees that it was.

    Ah, I think slight misunderstanding. I meant “redrawn” as in “the language reinforces pre-existing assumptions of biological binaries.” E.g., “to draw again, more deeply” rather the “to draw again, differently.”

  174. Reuben
    Reuben April 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm |

    This is a far more productive thread than the one about chimp testicles…

  175. William
    William April 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    Aaron:

    What I am troubled by is the position which says there is no truth or which says there may be truth but humans can never know any of it. I think those positions are logically incoherent and that our experience shows they are false.

    But how do we get to that truth, how do we form it, how do we recognize it? If you attempt to determine what is true by consensus you end up with circular logic (it is true because we have said it is). If you try to use observation and measurement you run into the twin problems of consensus (enough people agree that what has been observed is true) and methodology (how do we know that what we use to measure actually measures, how do we know its calibrated correctly, how do we trust our lying eyes). I think it could probably argued that you can come close enough to Truth for pragmatic purposes, but I think its still valuable and useful to be constantly skeptical and open to the idea that when we say Truth what we might really mean is Law.

    I spend my days working with psychotic patients. They do not see the world as I do. Their perceptions about the world and how it works have been judged to be not merely wrong but sick. Yet the terror they experience as they flee from their persecutors is not false. The trauma they have endured is not a lie. The words they use to describe what they feel are not somehow false because they do not conform to the same conventions of language as I do. In a place like this Truth is very often a means of engaging in coercion and dehumanization without guilt. More than that, what gets defined as true is generally the experiences, values, and technologies of those who have privilege enough to enforce their Knowledge-Power.

    One of the reasons I take a hard line against the idea of Truth is because, to me, the privileged place that Truth occupies is precisely that: privilege. I worry that when we talk about Truth we use science as a feint to defend kyriarchy. We say “I reject the idea that we can know no Truth because…airplanes!” but what we really mean is “Goddamn it stay the fuck away from my cognitive privilege!” Truth implies a dismissal, a foreclosure that I think is dangerous and ultimately anti-intellectual because it allows those who conform to the dominant Power-Knowledges to more easily perpetuate them.

    Science will not fall because we reject the idea of Truth. Those things that work will continue to work and we will continue to develop them to work in different ways that conform more closely with our needs and desires. Physics has not only survived but thrived despite the injection of uncertainty. I reject Truth because I reject coercion when it can be avoided because I value human autonomy and find chaos beautiful. I promote uncertainty because I believe that it is a means towards allowing more people to express more things in more ways and I believe diversity of thought and experience to be valuable in itself. I don’t see that as being fundamentally opposed to knowledge or learning or science because I don’t really mind someone else finding something useful which I do not and I don’t fear that that dissent will somehow lead to something terrible. Its only threatening if you’re being threatened and its worth examining what lies beneath that sense of loss.

    Chava:

    Ah, I think slight misunderstanding. I meant “redrawn” as in “the language reinforces pre-existing assumptions of biological binaries.” E.g., “to draw again, more deeply” rather the “to draw again, differently.”

    Ah, that makes a bit more sense now. Still…

    Has it been drawn more deeply or has that etching created a flaw in the entire structure of gender binaries? One of the interesting things about psychoanalysis, to my mind, is that it ended up doing things that Freud never really expected or intended. Freud opened the door to thinking about the unconscious, he also dealt (what I think was a potentially fatal) blow to taboo. Even if Freud himself was stuck on biological binaries I believe is theory, especially that fundamental assumption of bisexuality, ultimately leads to their collapse. Here we are, less than a century out from Freud’s theory maturing, and psychoanalysis has been taken out of the hands of physicians, the status of homosexuality has been radically changed, even understanding of trans* presentations have begun to evolve into a more pluralistic conceptualization. I remember at the convention this time last year several very well attended presentations which treated gender construction as a given. Freud’s technique has it’s problems, but people have picked it up and played with it, pushed it, stretched it, dragged it (sometimes kicking and screaming) into a place it needed to go. Those changes trickle down not only to our patients but to trainees. I can say that during my education gender essentialism was basically treated as an embarrassing history even by some of the more strict and conservative professors I had.

  176. Aaron
    Aaron April 15, 2011 at 11:07 pm |

    William,
    When you argue for your rejection of the existence of truth, I think you are conflating two separate ideas.

    The issue of all the bad things that can and do happen as a result of truth claims is a separate issue from whether or not there is truth. I don’t disagree that truth claims are often used to reinforce dominant power structures. But, that a thing can be used to do evil things is not a reason to think the thing does not exist. Guns are often used to reinforce dominant power structures, but that is not a reason to think there are no such things as guns.

    The issue of how we come to know truth is I think separate from the postnatal bad results of truth claims. I think we come to know truth through reason, experience, and a combination of the two. I know that either “A” is true or “A” is not true and that “A” is not both true and not true at the same time through pure reason. I know that I have an itch on my foot right now through pure experience. I know that flipping the light switch causes the lights to turn on from a combination of reason and experience.
    The big truth claims, the ones that are more complex, like how airplanes work (I have no idea how they work) are potentially problematic, there is a great deal of room for error and both the problems you point out are very real. But, they don’t apply to all truth claims. When your patient tells you that they are experiencing terror that is a truth claim and they know that it is true (or conceivably false if they are lying). When I say my foot itches, or I am depressed, or I am in pain, or I am in love I know at that moment that what I am saying is true (or again false if I’m lying) simply because I am having that direct experience. There is no problem with consensus or methodology here. If you are willing to say that someone can accurately report their experiences as experiences and know they are doing so accurately, you are willing to admit that we can know some truths.

    And from little truths we can build to bigger ones. Knowing that I am experiencing pain and that I am a sentient being (both from pure experience) along with some basic logic (from pure reason), I can now know that at least some sentient beings can experience pain (and love and fear and itches). And knowing that I have some of these experiences predictably when I have other experiences (when I have a “putting my hand in fire” experience I usually have a “feeling pain” experience) I can begin to start to have more complex knowledge (putting my hand in fire causes me pain). And sure error creeps in and sometimes it stays in for far too long, but that is reason to doubt particular beliefs and to examine all beliefs closely, not reason to doubt that we can know truth at all. And yes, maybe we will never know if Special Relativity is true or merely a close enough approximation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t know at all and it doesn’t mean we can’t know whether or not it better fits what we know than competing theories.

    William: Physics has not only survived but thrived despite the injection of uncertainty.

    Yes. But this is a truth claim. And uncertainty is a truth claim (it says here are some limits on human knowledge that we know exist). And I don’t think the human capacity to know the truth is unlimited, but that we can know our limits is proof that we can know.

    I don’t think that science will teach us everything, I don’ think that everything claimed by science today is true, and I do think that the way truth is used in the world is deeply problematic. But I do think humans can and do know some truths, I do think that whether or not something is true matters, and I don’t think that we have any reason to believe that humans can’t ever know any truths at all.

  177. Odin
    Odin April 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |

    I know this thread has more than addressed this, but I’m saying it because it cannot be said enough. Not because I’m the arbiter of all things Science, but because maybe if we say it enough, then it will be more broadly recognized that this is not science. (Also, 30 years from now, I don’t want people pointing to this crap and saying “But but science is 100% evil and sexist because 30 years ago this was accepted as science!”)

    This is not science. This is not science. Psychology Today is not a peer-reviewed scientific publication. This is not science. The methodology is piss-poor. The hypothesis (not that it really deserves that title, because they haven’t _really_ bothered to test it) was drawn from a misunderstanding of rat sexual behavior, which really shouldn’t be taken as a guide for humans since for the most part female rats are only interested in sex when they’re fertile, and human females for the most part _are_ interested in sex at times when they’re not fertile.

    Evo-psych _can_ be done as science, but here it’s definitely not. Psychology can be done as a science, but this is definitely an example where it’s not.

    This is not science. This is not science.

  178. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 16, 2011 at 10:32 am |

    Aaron,

    William made this point above that I don’t think you may have gotten. There is a fundamental difference between a Truth claim and a truth claim (as stated by postmodernists*). A Truth claim says essentially that X exists/has certain properties independent of the human experience or observation of X. A truth claim by contrast says that the belief that X exists/has certain properies is useful to me in rationalizing my experiences.

    When I say “people have no access to Truth,” I am not making a Truth claim. Instead, I am making the claim that the belief in the non-accessibility of Truth is useful to me in rationalizing my experiences.

    So: (1) there is no conflation, that’s the whole point and (2) there is no logical flaw in postmodern understandings of truth.

    *although object to this claim being label as postmodern when its really a old school vein of skepticism.

  179. William
    William April 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    The issue of all the bad things that can and do happen as a result of truth claims is a separate issue from whether or not there is truth.

    But thats where the rabbit hole starts. The problem is that, once you’ve recognized the bad things that can happen because of Truth, you begin to wonder just how many of those coercive outcomes you don’t notice because they’re so deeply ingrained into our culture. I’m not convinced that they’re two separate issues but even if they were I find the damage done by Truth to outweigh it’s potential utility because I just don’t see Truth as being particularly useful in my life.

    But, that a thing can be used to do evil things is not a reason to think the thing does not exist. Guns are often used to reinforce dominant power structures, but that is not a reason to think there are no such things as guns.

    But guns are material, they are real and directly observable, they are as close to Truth as I think we can get without ending up talking about our lying eyes and someone accusing someone else of solipsism. Still, there are people who do actively campaign for the elimination of guns. To continue your analogy, agitating to restrict small arms sales to known oppressive governments is unlikely to eliminate the existence of guns but it might work to challenge the existence of guns in this one specific situation. One could even agitate for such a restrict with a basement full of guns back home because the meaning of the physical object is very different from the Truth of it’s use and context.

    Thats my issue with psychology as a science. There are too many contextual factors, too many variable to track, too many layers of meaning and sentiment and human fallibility, too much at stake internally for objectivity to even be approached. There is a lot less social investment in whether Newton, Einstein, or Heisenberg was right. As a result physics gets to sidestep some of the challenges to objectivity and call itself a science. Psychology, on the other hand, is always looking at human behavior and motivation. We’re always up to our necks in prejudice and so looking for objects gets you garbage research which does little more than service the kinds of power the researchers lean towards.

    I think we come to know truth through reason, experience, and a combination of the two.

    Except people are not fundamentally reasonable or rational and experience can often lead to radically different accounts of what happened. That really is my basic objection to your argument: people aren’t reasoned, they’re prejudiced in specific ways for specific tasks.

    I know that either “A” is true or “A” is not true and that “A” is not both true and not true at the same time through pure reason.

    Schrödinger’s cat is one way I would respond to that knowledge with. I could also challenge with basic psychoanalysis: my wife is not my mother and neither could ever be the other but beneath the comforting narcissism of pure reason lies an unconscious which responds to different aspects of what I encounter and sometimes sees them as the same.

    I know that I have an itch on my foot right now through pure experience.

    I know a schizophrenic who knows they have a chip in their brain through pure experience.

    When your patient tells you that they are experiencing terror that is a truth claim and they know that it is true (or conceivably false if they are lying).

    I don’t see the utility in playing the truth game. I don’t see how it advances the quality of their life. I can empathize with their experience, I can even join with their terror, but at the core I think that trying to understand it through the lens of truth or falsehood is limiting. Parts are true, parts are false, parts are something else entirely, and those parts shift fluidly. Any understanding I develop is temporary and as the patient evolves those things which were true might now be those which are false. Understanding how things appear to relate to one another, with the acceptance that it is transitory, is more useful to me than trying to figure out what is right.

    There is no problem with consensus or methodology here.

    Tell that to a patient who doesn’t understand what this feeling they are experiencing is because a man cannot love another man. The problem of consensus and methodology can certainly influence what we experience.

    but that doesn’t mean we can’t know at all and it doesn’t mean we can’t know whether or not it better fits what we know than competing theories.

    I’m not sure Truth is the same thing as subjective knowledge and I’m uncomfortable with knowledge that seems to try to distance itself from it’s purpose because what that likely means isn’t that its approaching some greater Truth but that we’re missing the power being pursued.

    I do think that whether or not something is true matters,

    And, fundamentally, I don’t because I know that I’ll change what I treat as true or project to be true based on what changes I’m trying to make. Yet even that knowledge works only so far as it maintains its utility to me. For me it all comes down to competing values, not competing theories.

  180. Aaron
    Aaron April 16, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    Kristen J.,

    Assuming that is what William meant:

    There is still a conflation going on. That bad things (or things William thinks are bad since there is not such thing as an objectively bad thing on this account) happen as a result of believing in the existence of truth and knowledge, would (again on this account) be a reason to not believe in the existence of knowledge. But, then the fact that there are epistemological difficulties with science would not be. Unless and until William provides an account for why epistemological difficulties are bad things. On this account “X is circular reasoning” is no reason not to believe “X” since we are not judging truth claims based on reason or their relation to reality, but rather their usefulness, and, absent an account of why all things arrived at through circular reasoning are bad, it is not relevant on the account you are giving.

    So yes I think there are two separate issues at play here (and I think this shows that no one is able to actually live as if there is no such thing as truth, which I take as a very real indightment of the position).

    Kristen J.: When I say “people have no access to Truth,” I am not making a Truth claim. Instead, I am making the claim that the belief in the non-accessibility of Truth is useful to me in rationalizing my experiences.

    I think I responded to this above, but for the sake clarity, let me try again.

    If this is true all conversation becomes meaningless. You say, for example, “there is no logical flaw in postmodern understandings of truth.” By which you mean “It is useful to me, in rationalizing my experiences, to believe that there is no logical flaw in postmodern understandings of truth.” And I say, “There is a logical flaw in postmodernism” by which I actually mean “there is a logical flaw in postmodernism” but which you may or may not understand me to mean “It is useful to me, in rationalizing my experiences, to believe that there is a logical flaw in postmodernism.” Either way we are talking about two different things. There is no disagreement, there is no clash of ideas, and there is no possibility to talk about the issue.

    And again no one behaves as if this is true. When you object to me saying conflation is going on you don’t point to why it would be useful for me to think it isn’t (or why it is useful to you to believe it isn’t since you lack epistemological access to what is useful to me), you point to why you think it isn’t (facts in the world, which you behave as if you know). And I think this too is a problem for the position you outline: under the rubric you propose it shows it isn’t useful for you all the time so, at least some of the time, you should believe it is false, and under the rubric I propose it shows that it differs so much from our lived reality that it does not accurately reflect reality and so it is false.

  181. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    I think you are failing to understand what “Truth claim” means. Truth claim is not an observation, its not a contingent statement of belief…its a positive, non-falsifiable claim. “X exists or has certain characteristics outside of subjective experience” is not falsifiable.

    You can make all the *small t* truth claims you want and I think most people can have conversations around truths without the belief that they have access to Truth.

    As to your other points: (1) the outcome of circular reasoning is not usable to me therefore bad (based on my value system) and (2) I was not making a Truth claim about conflation I was providing an alternative perspective.

  182. Aaron
    Aaron April 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    William: The problem is that, once you’ve recognized the bad things that can happen because of Truth, you begin to wonder just how many of those coercive outcomes you don’t notice because they’re so deeply ingrained into our culture.

    So don’t. “Bad things happen because of Truth,” is a truth claim. “I may be missing some of the bad things that happen because of Truth,” is another truth claim. If all you mean is that it is useful to you to behave as if Truth causes bad things or as if you may not notice all the bad things Truth causes I would ask why? Why is it useful to behave as if that is that case?
    Is it because Truth does cause bad things? That can’t be your answer because “Truth does cause bad things” is another truth statement. Is it because behaving as if truth causes bad things helps you see otherwise invisible power structures? That can’t be because “There are otherwise invisible power structures” is a truth claim. Heck, even “It makes me happy to think truth causes bad things,” contains an additional truth claim.

    William: But guns are material, they are real and directly observable, they are as close to Truth as I think we can get without ending up talking about our lying eyes and someone accusing someone else of solipsism. Still, there are people who do actively campaign for the elimination of guns. To continue your analogy, agitating to restrict small arms sales to known oppressive governments is unlikely to eliminate the existence of guns but it might work to challenge the existence of guns in this one specific situation. One could even agitate for such a restrict with a basement full of guns back home because the meaning of the physical object is very different from the Truth of it’s use and context.

    This! I think this is exactly right. “Guns are material.” That is a truth claim, one we both seem agree on. It isn’t that in some way it is useful to believe in guns absent an appeal to truth, it is useful to believe in guns because we know they are real, we know they are material, and we know that can cause us harm. And that some campaign for the elimination of guns suggests that they too know guns are real and material and potentially harmful. And if some day every single gun in the world is eliminated then it will be true that guns used to exist and that guns no longer exist. But it won’t mean that we never really knew that guns existed.
    And to go on from there and analyze the power structures that use guns to oppress people is to acknowledge further facts in the world, further facts we can know. (And I think doing so is useful because I don’t think we can eliminate oppressive power structures without identifying them first).

    William: Except people are not fundamentally reasonable or rational and experience can often lead to radically different accounts of what happened. That really is my basic objection to your argument: people aren’t reasoned, they’re prejudiced in specific ways for specific tasks.

    I don’t disagree with the claims you make here (though again note you make a lot of truth claims here); I just disagree with your conclusion. The conclusion I draw from these facts is that it is hard to get at the truth and that we have to work to make sure we are actually getting at the truth and not just support for our prejudices when we think we are getting at the truth.

    [I’m splitting my response into two parts for length.]

  183. Aaron
    Aaron April 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm |

    William: Schrödinger’s cat is one way I would respond to that knowledge with.

    Depending on the interpretation of the equations you favor I have different answers to this. But the short version is that I don’t think it does. At most it suggests that we are mistaken in treating “X is dead” as the same truth claim as “It is not the case that X is alive”. Which really when you think about it is obvious. “It is not the case that my computer is alive” is not the same claim as “My computer is dead.”. Schrodinger’s cat points to a semantic confusion but not a problem with logic.

    I honesty am not following your comments about psycoanalisys here. I’m not ignoring them, I just don’t know what to make of them. I’m sorry.

    William: I know a schizophrenic who knows they have a chip in their brain through pure experience.

    So take it out (assuming they do not want it in there).

    Unless your point here is that this person does not, in fact, have a chip in their brain. In which case, why do you believe that? I assume there is some reference to what we know about reality underlying this. That there is, in fact, not a chip in this person’s brain. But that requires a reference to a truth that you know.

    Assuming there is not a chip in this person’s brain, I would answer that they have simply made a mistake about the kinds of things they can have direct experiential knowledge of. It is the case that they know they feel a “chip in the brain” sensation, but that is not the same as knowing the cause of the sensation. I frequently feel “bugs crawling on my skin” sensations they are not always caused by bugs crawling on my skin, it would be a mistake for me to say “a bug is crawling on my skin” based on that experience alone, but not to say, “It feels as if a bug is crawling on my skin.” Assuming the person you know is, in fact mistaken, it seems they have made a mistake in reasoning about what they can conclude from pure experience, not that we can’t know things through pure experience.

    William: Understanding how things appear to relate to one another, with the acceptance that it is transitory, is more useful to me than trying to figure out what is right.

    I’m willing to believe that. But that does not entail that you can’t figure out what is right.

    William: For me it all comes down to competing values, not competing theories.

    But competing values are merely a subset of competing theories.

  184. Aaron
    Aaron April 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm |

    Kristen J.: I think you are failing to understand what “Truth claim” means. Truth claim is not an observation, its not a contingent statement of belief…its a positive, non-falsifiable claim. “X exists or has certain characteristics outside of subjective experience” is not falsifiable.

    I think you are wrong here. A truth claim is a positive claim, but it is not non-falsifiable. Some truth claims are non-falsifable, sure but that does not entail that they all are.

    For example, I could make the truth claim, “I am omniscient”, and you could falsify that by showing me something I don’t know. That would be a falsifiable truth claim. Or I could make the truth claim, “The Earth is the center of the Universe” and you could falsify that too. Lots and lots and lots of truth claims get falsified, it happens all the time. The whole history of scientific progress is the history of falsifying truth claims.

    Kristen J.: (1) the outcome of circular reasoning is not usable to me therefore bad (based on my value system)

    Why can’t you use it?

    “The outcome of circular reasoning is not usable to me” is at least two truth claims. First, it is a claim that circular reasoning exists. Second it is a claim that it has certain characteristics outside the subjective (in this case “usable to [you]”).

    Kristen J.: there is no conflation

    Kristen J.: I was not making a Truth claim about conflation I was providing an alternative perspective.

    “There is no conflation” is a statement that conflation did not exist where I said it did, and a truth claim by your definition. An alternative perspective would have been something like “I perceive no conflation” but if that was all you meant why bother laying out the facts why bother presenting an argument as to why there is no conflation? Because if you say “I perceive no conflation” and I say “I perceive conflation” there is no disagreement.

    But even in responding to this you are making a truth claim. “I was providing an alternative perspective” is a claim about the nature of what you did. Truth claims, like this, pervade our discourse, which (I’ll ay again) suggests that the claim “we cannot know the truth about anything” is false.

  185. Tawny
    Tawny April 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm |

    Juuust dropping by to say that I think it’s hilarious that Aaron’s commented like three times in the past hour! Way to use your time well, brah!

  186. Despite Ogi Ogas, Why Feminism and Submission Are Great Bedfellows « Sex Positive Activism

    […] to the article, though if you’d like to read a good response, you should try Jill’s Feminism makes boners sad or Thomas’s Inherent Female Submission Follies: Why Ogi Ogas Is Full of Shit.  Instead, I […]

  187. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |

    Aaron: I think you are wrong here. A truth claim is a positive claim, but it is not non-falsifiable. Some truth claims are non-falsifable, sure but that does not entail that they all are.

    This is a definitional issue, not an arguable one. When I use the phrase Truth claim…I mean a positive, non-falsifiable claim. You may use what definitions you like, but those are the statements that skeptics or “postmodernists” typically object to.

  188. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 17, 2011 at 12:31 am |

    Aaron: I know that either “A” is true or “A” is not true and that “A” is not both true and not true at the same time through pure reason.

    Ok, riffing off of William here, and using the terms “small-t truth” and “capital-T Truth” to make clear the separation, since you, Aaron, constantly conflate the two.

    Then you had better do some reading about quantum physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and quantum entanglement.

    Quantum entanglement is a property of the state of a quantum mechanical system containing two or more degrees of freedom, whereby the degrees of freedom that make up the system are linked in such a way that the quantum state of any of them cannot be adequately described independently of the others, even if the individual degrees of freedom belong to different objects and are spatially separated.

    Which ultimately means that no thing can be considered in isolation; that every thing is only defined in the context of other things. Therefore, there *cannot* be a capital-T “Truth” that stands in isolation of everything else.

    “either “A” is true or “A” is not true and that “A” is not both true and not true at the same time” is *a* – not The, but *a* – small-t truth that you accept because it *works* for you in your life. I accept that small-t truth the vast majority of the time too, because if I spent every second of every day looking through the lens of quantum physics, I wouldn’t be able to eat or take a pee! But in the back of my mind, I believe that said small-t truth is not the be-all and end-all of reality.

    It’s important that I said “I believe” rather than “I know” in that previous sentence, because it gets down to belief, which is shaped by our experiences as part of society and as part of life. Just as you cannot examine an electron in isolation, nor can you a person.

    To a quantum physicist, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a small-t truth that does a good job of explaining some of their observations and that guides their work life, but I’m sure when it comes time for said physicist to plop down in front of the boob tube for some down time, zie is not operating by that particular small-t truth, but by a different small-t truth that is useful to hir in the context of just hanging out and relaxing.

    I mean, you claim that science is capital-T Truth; but Newton’s theory about gravity got blown out of the water by Einstein’s theories – and yet, in my day to day life, Newtonian gravity is the small-t truth that I operate by, because *it works for me* (and for a lot of people, including, I dare say, the quantum physicists when they’re not at work).

    How you get “post-modernism = nihilism” from the concept of a universe made of of multiple small-t truths is beyond me. There is no capital-T Truth; there is only what each of us *believes* is small-t true.


    How’d we get so far away from the point of the OP? That is, evo-psych is bunk, Psychology Today is a rag on the level of the Daily Mail, Ogas and Gaddam are laughable manboys, and those poor, poor limp boners.

  189. Paisley Smith
    Paisley Smith April 17, 2011 at 10:21 am |

    I write f/f romance for Ellora’s Cave. In my girl on girl romances, I usually choose a dominant woman and one who enjoys submission. In my own sexual relationships, I have never been bound, blindfolded or spanked. I am neither dominant nor submissive but I certainly have very submissive fantasies. To me, the submissive is the one in control. The submissive, in every day life, is usually a strong person, and can be somewhat of a control freak. It takes an equally strong person to be a dominant and this is what the submissive desires. Their equal. Someone to ease the realities of life away and allow the submissive to enjoy living in a physical body.
    To blame romance novels is bullshit. Women are turned on by mental imagery. Their sex organ is between the ears.
    What rat’s and other animals lack is reason – the true viagra for women.
    I would venture to guess that an equal number of men and women enjoy submissive fantasies.

  190. Odin
    Odin April 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm |

    @ GallingGalla:

    To a quantum physicist, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a small-t truth that does a good job of explaining some of their observations and that guides their work life, but I’m sure when it comes time for said physicist to plop down in front of the boob tube for some down time, zie is not operating by that particular small-t truth, but by a different small-t truth that is useful to hir in the context of just hanging out and relaxing.

    Um… So, I’m not up on postmodernism, but… Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is essentially a mathematical theorem. (Actually, it’s a corollary, but I digress.) It doesn’t just “do a good job explaining some things”, it’s something any decent undergraduate quantum mechanics course will prove. IIRC it took about three lines.

  191. kelli Scott
    kelli Scott April 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |

    I think they’ve made their point that men are dirt bags.

  192. Aaron
    Aaron April 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    Kristen J.: This is a definitional issue, not an arguable one.

    I’m in the words have meaning camp.
    I think definitions are arguable.
    If you were to say to me that “all squares are triangles”, I would tell you that you are mistaken. And if you said that by triangles you meant “4 sided two dimensional objects” I would respond that you have the wrong definition of “triangle”.

    Kristen J.: When I use the phrase Truth claim…I mean a positive, non-falsifiable claim.

    But you were objecting to my use of it, and I certainly don’t mean that. So, I’m not sure why that is even relevant, if, as you maintain definitions, are non-arguable.

    More importantly, what do you mean by non-falsifiable. When I use the word “falsifiable” I have, roughly, Popper’s sense of the word in mind. But that can’t be what you mean since, for you, we lack the epistemic access to the world to falsify any claim (Since we need to know some thing, “x”, such that if a theory “T” were true, then ~x would be true to falsify a theory in Popper’s sense).
    Falsification:
    T → x
    ~x
    ∴ ~T

    But, on your account, we can’t ever know any “~x” so all claims are non-falsifiable in Popper’s sense. So, you must have some other meaning of “falsifiable” in mind, otherwise it would be trivially true to say that a claim is non-falsifiable.

    That’s glory for you!

  193. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    Falsifiable has an accepted meaning. Look it up. It is roughly Popper’s understanding and it corresponds precisely with the definition of a Truth claim and to the skeptics critique of Truth.

    Falsifiability: Subject to rejection based on (human) observation or (human) experimentation.

    Non-Falsifiability: Not subject to rejection based on (human) observation or (human) experimentation.

    Truth claim: A positive, non-falsifiable claim

    Claim Re: Access to Truth (AtT): X exist/has characteristics irrespective of human observation or human experimentation.

    Skeptical Objection: AtT is positive, non-falsifiable statement.

    This is stuff that should be covered in a good intro philosophy course.

  194. Aaron
    Aaron April 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    GallingGalla: Ok, riffing off of William here, and using the terms “small-t truth” and “capital-T Truth” to make clear the separation, since you, Aaron, constantly conflate the two.

    For there to be conflation there must be a relevant distinction which is being ignored. No one up thread has suggested such a distinction and I certainly don’t see one, so I’m hard pressed to see where the conflation is.

    You seem to suggest that things which are “True” are true in isolation from everything else. But I’ve not been talking about anything which stands in isolation from anything else. I rather think all truths are, at least in some sense, relational. And you seem to contrast that with things that are “true” and subjective, but “true in isolation” and “subjectively true” don’t fill out the space in which truth could exist and neither one of them captures what I mean by true.

    Roughly, when I say a statement is “true” (or “True”) I mean that it is an accurate reflection of reality (“things as they actually are”). I take William and Kristen J. to mean roughly the same thing when they argue that we can’t know the truth. So I don’t think there is any conflation going on.

    GallingGalla: you claim that science is capital-T Truth

    No I don’t.

    At best some modern scince probably is true and some modern science is false. I do claim that modern science is more true than science 100 years ago (in that it comes closer to accurately reflecting reality). But I never said and I never maintained that modern science is all true (or True).

    GallingGalla: How you get “post-modernism = nihilism” from the concept of a universe made of of multiple small-t truths is beyond me.

    Again, I don’t. I said at least twice above I don’t think that postmodernism=nihilism (see my comments at 140 and 156).

  195. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    Aaron: No one up thread has suggested such a distinction and I certainly don’t see one, so I’m hard pressed to see where the conflation is.

    Both William and Kristen made such a distinction. One that is at the very heart of the skeptical critique you’ve been arguing against for most of this thread.

    Kristen and William already explained what they meant when they say a statement is true and it is not “an accurate reflection of reality (“things as they actually are”).”

  196. Aaron
    Aaron April 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Falsifiable has an accepted meaning. Look it up. It is roughly Popper’s understanding and it corresponds precisely with the definition of a Truth claim and to the skeptics critique of Truth.

    I’m well aware that “falsifiable” has an accepted meaning. In fact, I expressed that meaning in my comment above. But Kristen J. seems to be using it in some other sense. Because in a world where humans can’t access the truth all things are non-falsifiable (In the accepted sense) so, as I said above, it is trivial to say that a claim is non-falsifiable. So, it seems that Kristen J. has some other meaning of “falsifiable” in mind.

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Truth claim: A positive, non-falsifiable claim

    As I said above this is not the standard sense of “truth claim”. I even looked it up, as you suggested I do with falsifiability, and wikipedia has no reference to non-falsifiability in the definition it gives. Now (with minimal googleing) I was able to find a text-book of the sort that would be used in an intro philosophy class which defines making a truth claim as “making a claim to be true”, it goes on to say that truth claims can be shown to be false and be falsified. (I don’t know how to link here, it is the 9th result down for a search for “truth claim”, the book is Critical Thinking: An Introduction to the Basic Skills and the authors are both professors of philosophy). At the very least that means that the definition you suggest is not generally agreed upon. I’d be interested in knowing which thinkers you are thinking of when you suggest that this definition should be taught in intro philosophy.

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Claim Re: Access to Truth (AtT): X exist/has characteristics irrespective of human observation or human experimentation.

    This is not a claim about access to truth. It is, at best, a definition of truth – but it is one which I reject. Some truths are about human observation. For example, “my foot itches” is true, but it is meaningless to talk about what it would be for a human foot to itch without any reference to human observation.

    Kristen J.’s Husband: This is stuff that should be covered in a good intro philosophy course.

    I really don’t think so. I think you’ll be hard pressed to point to a single philosopher (let alone one of the stature and accessibility necessary to make them good material for an intro course) who holds the positions you outline.

  197. Aaron
    Aaron April 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Both William and Kristen made such a distinction.

    I don’t see either of them making a distinction between “Truth” and “truth” can you point me to where they do so?

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Kristen and William already explained what they meant when they say a statement is true and it is not “an accurate reflection of reality (“things as they actually are”).”

    I also don’t see that above. I see both of them explaining that they prefer to use “usefulness” rather than “truth” in judging a claim, but that suggests that usefulness is not the same as truth, and it is not at all clear that they suggest a definition of “truth” in the above. (Again, if you can show me where they say that, I’ll respond to what they say, I just don’t see it, even after reviewing the comments)

    Absent a definition from either of them, I take them to have the normal meaning of “truth” in mind when they use the word (but again, I’m a words have meaning person), which is more or less what I tried to provide.

  198. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |

    No, Aaron…I defined truth (small t) in the context of usefulness. And that was the definition of falsifiability I was using. Seriously, go read up on the skeptics/postmodern critique that you keep referencing in this thread. Even a wiki search will probably point you to this idea and these definitions. That’s what skeptism is about, this debate about knowledge is not buried in the philosophy it IS the philosophy.

    Also, my husband is a philosophy professor…so arguing with him about philosophical definitions that he uses in his peer reviewed, published work is a bit ridiculous. And I am not going to do the work for you. These definitions are relatively standard and used routinely by skeptics in their academic work.

    If this was not the point you were making you shouldn’t have invoked the postmodernists in your argument.

  199. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    To be clear: “Truth claim” is more of a philosophical short hand. In published work I use something like absolute truth, but Truth claim is used particularly amongst religious philosophers. Critical Thinking is an excellent intro text, but it is not discussion of skepticism.

    You don’t teach thinkers in intro philosophy, you teach ideas. Otherwise your students will begin cutting your class after Plato. Skepticism usually comes after knowledge and includes a reading of Hume and then Nagel as a segue from skepticism to determinism.

  200. Aaron
    Aaron April 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    Kristen J.: If this was not the point you were making you shouldn’t have invoked the postmodernists in your argument.

    As I’ve actually said repeatedly (this was mostly when you were “bored” with the thread so you may have missed it) I didn’t invoke postmodernism. William invoked postmodernism and I responded to that invocation.

    Kristen J.: I defined truth (small t) in the context of usefulness.

    I’ve reread your posts twice now. I don’t see you defining truth (big or small “t”). The closest you come is in your discussion of “truth claims” vrs. “Truth claims”, but you read such strange things into that concept (and then assert that it is not something that can be discussed) that it’s hard to see where (or if) you actually made that distinction.

    But, if you meant that “truth”=”useful”, then, 1) you could have said “useful” rather than “true” (again, words have meanings), and 2) you still have to explain how you know what is useful, without reference to some external set of facts.

    Further, if you meant “Truth” = facts that exist independent of humans, then 1) you should have said that rather than Truth (words have meanings) and 2) it seems that you have to explain how there can be facts that reference humans (like “my foot itches”) these truths (in the colloquial sense) are true and are meaningless without reference to human beings.

    Kristen J.: Also, my husband is a philosophy professor…so arguing with him about philosophical definitions that he uses in his peer reviewed, published work is a bit ridiculous.

    First of all, I’d love to see a citation, so I can know whether or not this is true. I’m skeptical of this particular claim. Certainly I need to know this to evaluate the weight I ought to give to this fact, otherwise it’s nothing but a naked appeal to authority.

    Look, I have my MA in philosophy, I taught for 3 years. So, it’s not like I don’t know what it looks like when someone is trying to steam-roll me rather than actually support their position (“I am not going to do the work for you.” in response to challenges to the position is, by the way, a dead giveaway). Your husband asserts that his definitions are so basic that they should be part of “any good intro philosophy course” ok, provide me with the name of a single philosopher worthy of being taught in an intro course who holds the views you describe. One. If they are as non-controversial as you claim, that should be trivial. (Assuming your husband teaches intro they should already be on his syllabus.)

  201. Aaron
    Aaron April 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm |

    Kristen J.’s Husband: You don’t teach thinkers in intro philosophy, you teach ideas.

    I taught intro philosophy, you may teach ideas, but I taught thinkers (or ideas through thinkers). I also took intro philosophy where we studied thinkers. Either way, I never once taught or took an intro philosophy course which didn’t rely on primary materials.
    Nonetheless if these ideas are so non-controversial as you claim, you should be able to provide me with the name of a thinker who holds them. If they go all the way back to the “old school skeptics” as Kristen J. claims, then you have, what 2500-3000 years of history to chose from.

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Otherwise your students will begin cutting your class after Plato.

    Actually, my experience was that attendance improved after Plato – once my students realized philosophy was not an “easy A” they showed up to class and (from what I could tell) learned.

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Skepticism usually comes after knowledge and includes a reading of Hume and then Nagel as a segue from skepticism to determinism.

    In any case it sounds like you do use primary sources when teaching these ideas, so again, what primary source, what thinker would you point to as holding the views you claim.

    Kristen J.’s Husband: To be clear: “Truth claim” is more of a philosophical short hand. In published work I use something like absolute truth, but Truth claim is used particularly amongst religious philosophers. Critical Thinking is an excellent intro text, but it is not discussion of skepticism.

    You are moving the goal-posts here. If, as you claimed, the definition you offered was so non-controversial that “it should be covered in a good intro philosophy course”, then it wouldn’t be the case that “an excellent intro text” provides a definition directly at odds with the one you offered.

    Now if all you meant was, “when I use the phrase ‘Truth claim’ I mean …” Fine, but since the objection was to my use of it (and since I’ve been very clear about what I mean by it) I hardly see how that is relevant. What does it matter what you mean by the phrase “Truth claim” if there are more than one accepted uses of the phrase, and I was using an accepted usage (one in “an excellent intro text” even)? It seems like you are trying to shift the grounds of the debate, if you are objecting to what I am saying, then object to what I am saying not what I would be saying if I meant what you would mean if you were using the words I was using. If you object to my definition, that’s fine too, tell me why your definition is superior, why I should adopt it – don’t merely assert that it is superior (and that it is so obviously superior that it would be taught in “any good intro” class), and certainly don’t state, as Kristen J. did, that definitional issues are “not arguable” (as it seems both of you are attempting to do just that).

  202. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 18, 2011 at 1:14 am |

    You’ve been using appeal to authority this whole freaking time (Mr. My MA is in philosophy, so I KNOW). And refusing to listen when people explain what they mean. Give me a break. You want me to prove that’s the languaged used…I just checked the damn wiki article and it has that discussion in it. You want a source for the ideas, try Hume. He discusses it at length. Skepticism forms an entire school of philosophy (a few of them actually), why is it our job to educate you about it? You brought them up and mischaracterized their points of view. I tried to explain that you were either misunderstanding or misattributing and you began to argue with my definitions. I explained my meaning in 175 with specific definitions and you simply ignored it. If you didn’t like the definition you could have worked with the meaning I provided, but instead you plowed on. So let me be clear, I don’t care what definitions you use just stop mischaracterizing other peoples ideas to score rhetorical points.

    And M’s response: I gave you a source. If you want more I recommend rereading Popper in the context of the Pyrrhonic Skeptics. As for moving the goal posts, that is the product of your misreading my post. The skepticism and knowledge should be covered in an introductory philosophy course. My comment laid out the skeptical critique of knowledge. The idea, not the definitions. You asked how I taught the ideas, I explained. That’s my teaching philosophy. I also think intro should be an easy A that focuses on building critical thinking rather than reading old dead white dudes. So we have different perspectives. Shall we argue over which one is True, has truth value, represents an absolute truth, or is a valid Truth claim?

  203. Henry
    Henry April 18, 2011 at 1:46 am |

    It’s clearly the rat’s fault. They have been manipulating humans into doing all sorts of things ever since we domesticated the first lab rat.

    This of it people…you get a prescription from a doctor..why? because it cured a rat. You have submission fantasies…why? because the rats tricked you into wanting doggy style. Clearly it’s a plot by the rats. (I have to give credit here to an old comedy book – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy..which apparently these two authors never read, or maybe they would stop extrapolating rat behavior to humans automatically) I’m hungry, I need some cheese…O.O

  204. Aaron
    Aaron April 18, 2011 at 9:20 am |

    Kristen J.: You’ve been using appeal to authority this whole freaking time (Mr. My MA is in philosophy, so I KNOW)

    This is an excellent example of the fallicy of tu quoque. But, fair enough, I should have said that my experiences lead me to believe you are trying to steam roll me, rather than that I knew that. Though my claim that you were trying to steam roll me was backed up with other evidence and was not central to my argument.

    But, since that was my last comment (and since I didn’t appeal to my background in philosophy in support of any of my other points) it hardly seems fair to characterized that is doing so the “whole freakin time”.

    At any rate, we are still left with your naked appeal to authority. Care to provide any citations?

    Kristen J.: You want a source for the ideas, try Hume.

    I’m sorry but those ideas are not in Hume. Hume thought humans could know the truth and he certainly thought he knew the truth about humans. Hume certainly didn’t think that for a thing to be “True” it had to be independent of human observation, and he didn’t think that “true” things were judged based on their usefulness.

    Hume’s discussion of the missing shade of blue, for example, makes it clear that 1) he thinks he knows a number of truths about the nature of the human mind, 2) that there could be truths which are not independent of human observation and experience, and 3) that humans could know at least some truths independent of experience (and probably observation).

    Hume’s discussion of the problem of miracles makes it clear that usefulness is not at all what he has in mind when he is discussing truth—rather he is interested in reality. He doesn’t ask, “is it more useful to believe in the miracle” or “is it more useful to believe I am being lied to”, he asks which is more likely to be a reflection of reality. And again, this shows he thinks we know enough about reality to make this judgment.

    I don’t think you can point to Hume as a philosopher who holds these ideas.

    Kristen J.: Skepticism forms an entire school of philosophy (a few of them actually), why is it our job to educate you about it?

    I never said it was. I said that if you are refusing to provide support for a position you are arguing (“I am not going to do the work for you.”) it was good evidence that you are trying to steam roll someone.

    If you are advancing a position, I think you have the burden to provide evidence to support that position. Asking you for evidence that supports your position (something you presumable have) is not asking you to “do the work for” me or “to educate” me.

    Kristen J.: You brought them up and mischaracterized their points of view.

    No, as I said above, I didn’t. I know you weren’t paying attention to the discussion at the time, but a quick “find” search of this thread will reveal that William brought them up (comment 71) and that I accurately described the point of view he had in mind when he did so (comments 93 and 107).

    Kristen J.: I tried to explain that you were either misunderstanding or misattributing and you began to argue with my definitions. I explained my meaning in 175 with specific definitions and you simply ignored it.

    Let’s be clear here, you supplied a definition for what I was saying (not what you were saying) to argue the point that what I was saying was wrong and then when I told you that you were using the wrong definition you said it wasn’t possible to argue definitions. Then Kristen J.’s Husband jumped in to say (as if definitions could be argued) that the definitions you wanted to use were so obvious that any good intro to philosophy class would cover them.

    At any rate, whatever the definition you want to use for “Truth claim” or “truth claim” the point I was making, and which you ignored is that you (and William and Kristen J.s Husband) constantly use language which suggests that you think there is some external knowable “truth” some reality beyond ourselves which we can (and do) make reference to for adjudicating whether or not a particular statement is “true”.

    For example, you say your husband has published peer reviewed articles. By this I take you to mean there is a thing in the world which is an article that appeared in a peer reviewed journal and which your husband wrote. That such a thing actually exists. I don’t take you to mean that it is useful to you to believe that such a thing exists, because that gives me no reason to think that such a thing exists (and you clearly seem to think you are giving me a reason to believe it exists). That is what I meant when I said your language was full of truth claims. And it is, and that suggests that you don’t really believe that the way to judge an assertion of truth is whether or not it is useful to you (or at the very least that one of the things that makes an assertion useful to you is that it correspond to reality, which is enough to show that you think humans can know the truth (meaning things which correspond to reality). So rather than arguing about definitions, which you assert isn’t possible anyway, why not respond to the point I was making?

  205. Aaron
    Aaron April 18, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    I’m assuming “M” is “Kristen J.’s Husband” based on the context. If that is a mistake please let me know who “M” is and I will respond accordingly.

    Kristen J.: I gave you a source.

    I reread your posts and I see you point to Popper and Wikipedia for “falsifiability” (in comment 189) and to William and Kristen J. (in comment 191) for their understandings of truth. No where do I see you pointing to any source for the specific claims you were making. So, I’m going to say you didn’t give me a source.

    Kristen J.: If you want more I recommend rereading Popper in the context of the Pyrrhonic Skeptics.

    This comes close to what I was asking for and I’ll certainly look up the Pyrrhonic Skeptics, since I am unfamiliar with them.
    But, I do think it’s clear that Popper would reject the claim that we can’t know anything about reality. To be able to falsify a scientific theory we have to be able to know some things about reality. (Even if we can never know that a given scientific theory is true). I just don’t see how you can find those claims in his works (you may find reasons to belive those claims in his work + the work of others, but that is not the same as finding him espousing those views, nor is it to say that he would have endorsed those views)

    Kristen J.: The skepticism and knowledge should be covered in an introductory philosophy course. My comment laid out the skeptical critique of knowledge. The idea, not the definitions.

    In a comment that starts with “Falsifiable has an accepted meaning. Look it up.” And then quotes verbatim the definition Kristen J. gave as the definition of “Truth Claim” you were trying to express the ideas not give definitions? I don’t buy it.

    Kristen J.: You asked how I taught the ideas, I explained. That’s my teaching philosophy.

    Except you didn’t lay it out as your teaching philosophy. You said “This is stuff that should be covered in a good intro philosophy course.” And “You don’t teach thinkers in intro philosophy, you teach ideas.”. You laid this out as if it were so basic that every good instructor of philosophy would do it and that every instructor of philosophy follows your teaching methods (disparaging the way that I taught in the process), and only when I called you on that it suddenly become about your teaching philosophy.
    At any rate, even if you do teach it in your course, and you do only teach it as an idea not the work of a particular thinker, you should be able to point to a particular thinker that held the views you expressed. I’m willing to say that if an idea is worthy of being taught as an idea in an intro class taught through the lens of ideas not thinkers than the instructor should be able to point to a thinker who actually advocated for the idea.

    Kristen J.: So we have different perspectives. Shall we argue over which one is True, has truth value, represents an absolute truth, or is a valid Truth claim?

    I’m happy to do any of those, though it seems to be a side issue. Or, if you’ll stop stating your personal teaching philosophy as if it reflected a universal truth and start stating it as your personal philosophy, then I’ll be happy to stop arguing the issue all together. Either way.

  206. chava
    chava April 18, 2011 at 9:55 am |

    William:

    Chava:

    Ah, that makes a bit more sense now. Still…

    Has it been drawn more deeply or has that etching created a flaw in the entire structure of gender binaries? One of the interesting things about psychoanalysis, to my mind, is that it ended up doing things that Freud never really expected or intended. Freud opened the door to thinking about the unconscious, he also dealt (what I think was a potentially fatal) blow to taboo. Even if Freud himself was stuck on biological binaries I believe is theory, especially that fundamental assumption of bisexuality, ultimately leads to their collapse. Here we are, less than a century out from Freud’s theory maturing, and psychoanalysis has been taken out of the hands of physicians, the status of homosexuality has been radically changed, even understanding of trans* presentations have begun to evolve into a more pluralistic conceptualization. I remember at the convention this time last year several very well attended presentations which treated gender construction as a given. Freud’s technique has it’s problems, but people have picked it up and played with it, pushed it, stretched it, dragged it (sometimes kicking and screaming) into a place it needed to go. Those changes trickle down not only to our patients but to trainees. I can say that during my education gender essentialism was basically treated as an embarrassing history even by some of the more strict and conservative professors I had.

    Hm. Well, I as much as anyone certainly understand the drive to see one’s field and its history as a progression towards progress. I’m not positive if I would give analysis the kind of credit you are describing, but it certainly is a fascinating idea.

    From my end, psychoanalytic theory has given us some very useful ways into texts, new ways of looking at gender, homosexuality, etc. Nonetheless, I’ve seen a lot of unaware re-hashing of gender essentialism, esp (as started this whole thing) among French feminists–and I would still argue that the heavily biological language of the older analysts has s.t. to do with that.

    Which! Is a very long way of saying that it’s a mixed bag, with some very good things and not-so-good things that have remained a niggling problem.

  207. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    Given your disingenuiousness in this thread and your trolling comments in the other thread, I’m done arguing with you. As far as I can tell from this conversation, you are a troll rather than an interested person and I got better things to do than argue with a brickwall.

    Anyone actually interested in Hume’s writings on Skepticism can see the Enquiry. If memory serves, his treatment of “reality” is in part 10 or 11.

    @M, feel free to continue, love, but check out his comments in the sex thread before you devote any more time.

  208. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm |

    Kristen J.:
    Given your disingenuiousness in this thread and your trolling comments in the other thread, I’m done arguing with you.As far as I can tell from this conversation, you are a troll rather than an interested person and I got better things to do than argue with a brickwall.

    Anyone actually interested in Hume’s writings on Skepticism can see the Enquiry.If memory serves, his treatment of “reality” is in part 10 or 11.

    @M, feel free to continue, love, but check out his comments in the sex thread before you devote any more time.

    I’m pretty sure that the Aaron in the other thread is a different Aaron (note that he has a link to his website whereas the Aaron in this thread does not) who is buddy-buds with QRG and that trolling gang. The Aaron on this thread commented on the sex thread to clear up the confusion. This thread’s Aaron might be rather annoying for the reasons that Kristen J mentions, but I don’t think he qualifies as a troll.

  209. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm |

    Crap, I jumped the gun. My apologies. As he just clarified, Aaron in this thread is not the Aaron in the other thread.

    Okay, I take it back. I will try explaining this idea.

    There is a distinction between the things that are perceivable/knowable and the way things are outside of human experience. Science often sets itself up as attempting to explain or define the “way things are” rather than the “way we perceive things”. This is my reading of the skeptical critique of knowledge. So as a skeptic I distinguish useful or observable truths from absolute, beyond observation Truth. The first is how I interract with the world around me. From my perspective, this smart phone exists, journal articles exist, my dog exists; but the existence of those things in the form of absolute Truth (as defined herein) is unknown and unknowable as far as I can perceive.

    What is the inherent contradiction in that point of view?

  210. Aaron W.
    Aaron W. April 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    Kristen J.: Crap, I jumped the gun. My apologies. As he just clarified, Aaron in this thread is not the Aaron in the other thread.

    Thank you. I really don’t want to be associated with that other poster’s position.
    And I want to apologize to you too—my behavior in this thread clearly lead you to think I was capable of expressing such hateful nonsense and I apologize for that. I will try to do better in the future.

    Kristen J.: So as a skeptic I distinguish useful or observable truths from absolute, beyond observation Truth.

    I think this is where I was getting hung up on your argument before. If I am reading you correctly now, I understand you to be saying that observable truths are true (in that they correspond in some way to reality) but we do not know whether or not those truths line up with some larger beyond observation Truth. I understood you previously to be saying that observable things were useful but we had no way of knowing whether or not they correspond to reality at all. If I’m reading you correctly now, I don’t see an inherent contradiction in your position. I disagree, I believe that we can know some truths that are beyond observation (I’m a big fan of the law of the excluded middle). But, I don’t think that there is inherent contradiction in what I now understand you to be saying.

  211. Aaron W.
    Aaron W. April 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    GallingGalla: This thread’s Aaron might be rather annoying for the reasons that Kristen J mentions, but I don’t think he qualifies as a troll.

    Thank you.

    I am sorry that my behavior was annoying, I’m going to try to be more careful about that going forward.

  212. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm |

    In the spirit of cooperation, citations: Rorty’s Objectivity, Relativism and Truth. Kristen cited Hume, it is Section XII of the Enquiry. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. There is a flavor of it in Nietzshe’s Beyond Good and Evil. If you want to go “old school” you can review the Academic skeptics – like Kristen – with my favorite Erasmus’ Praise of Folly or Cicero. The pyrrhonists – like myself – started with Sextus and sputtered from time to time. You might try Zeller’s Stoics as a good starting source.

    I will not be citing my work as that would out Kristen who is not permitted to blog/comment under her name as per her employer’s policy.

    My comments reflected my perspective on teaching, not universal truth. It somewhat amusing to accuse a skeptic of reporting universal truth.

  213. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband April 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    Also to be clear: The inclusion of a philosopher on this list, in no way indicates that I agree with everything, or even most things, they espouse merely that their writing includes a critique of knowledge.

  214. Aaron W.
    Aaron W. April 19, 2011 at 11:14 am |

    Kristen J.’s Husband,

    I have posts in response to Kristen J. and GallingGalla waiting in moderation (understandably) but I feel I owe you a reply as well since I don’t want to ignore your post, which I appreciate. First, I think I owe you a general apology for my behavior on this thread. I certainly shouldn’t have asked you to out yourself (or your wife) and I want to apologize for that in particular.

    I hope that if and when the other posts clear moderation you’ll see that I think I misunderstood the points you were making – and I think I now see where you are coming from. In light of the thinkers you suggest I take a look at, I suspect I now have a better understanding of the position you are advancing and I think I see how my critiques were off base.

    I appreciate the spirit of cooperation and I’ll take a look at some of those works (it’s been far too long since I read any classical philosophy anyway) and perhaps revisit this at some point in the future. In the meantime, I think it is probably best for me to step away from this conversation before I put my foot in my mouth again. (Of course, I’ll be reading anything else you or anyone else has to say and trying to learn, and if you ask that I continue the discussion I will – I’m not trying to prematurely end the discussion, or flounce off – I’m just guessing that this is a place where everyone would be happy to leave things).

  215. Helen
    Helen April 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    I can’t quite believe I made it to the end of this thread, but hey, what a discussion. But I think it’s going round in circles.

    Aaron, please understand the difference between a ‘truth claim’ with a small ‘t’ and a ‘Truth claim’ with a large T as you seem to be completely missing this in a very lengthy way.

    As far as I understand it, the postmodernist relationship (or at least what William and Kristin are trying to discuss) with ‘Truth’ and ‘truth’ is as follows.

    When we grow, learn and figure out ways of being in the world, we develop systems of understanding to aid us in our lives, in predictability of events and so forth.

    These will be based on a mixture of reasoning and direct experience: we develop frameworks of understanding based on ‘evidence’ – the evidence of everything we ever learn in our lives, filtered through our subjective senses and prejudices.

    How do we decide what counts as ‘evidence’ and how do we decide upon our frameworks for understanding evidence? We decide, because it is ‘useful’ to us. Now, what we consider to ‘aid us in our lives’, i.e. is ‘useful’ to us, exists only in accordance with our subjective purposes. So, something may be ‘useful’ in terms of, it seems to explain and bear good relation to the reality we experience, therefore it is usable in predicting what will happen.

    For example, it is useful to us to consider fire as hot, because this tends to be right enough of the time for us to use that knowledge to do things with fire, i.e. cook, or, not burn ourselves.

    However, not everyone experiences the heat of fire in the same way – not everyone will be burned by the same flame, i.e. my mum who has very heat resistant hands, will not be burned, while I might well be. The framework is subjective.

    On the other hand, our purposes may be different – religion is one framework, for example, that people find ‘useful’ for their purposes, but these purposes have very little to do with predictability in the material world. They find it useful as it gives certainty or guidance to their lives, or whatever.

    But generally, we all have as a purpose, to understand the material world, so that it may guide us in our actions so we do not get burned and so forth. And I think this is what Kristen and William are saying when they talk about ‘useful’.

    So ‘useful’ is not just some whim of, ooh that seems like a nice thing to believe right now. It is useful because it seems to hold (according to what we have experienced) explanatory power and aid us in achieving our subjectively defined purposes. These are the ‘truths’ with a small t.

    HOWEVER. That means nothing about absolute Truth with a capital T, though some might argue that it indicates that there is an absolute Truth that exists outside of human experience that we can begin to approach with our methods, and that there is a relationship between ‘truth’ and ‘Truth’. But that is not necessarily the case.

    We can then build upon such frameworks to do other ‘useful’ things – like reasoning or debates. So for example, Kristen, based on her experience, has decided that circular argument is not a very useful way to go about arguing, because it doesn’t help you understand anything. If she suddenly decided to believe in circular argumentation for the sake of making a single point, that would undermine her entire framework for understanding the world (values, as she has called it but I think that’s a confusing term to be honest) and render it less useful to her. Therefore, it is ‘useful’ to maintain consistency on what has been ‘useful’ for understanding the world, again, within the context of lived experience. Not in the context of absolute Truth.

    Therefore, all the things which you keep pointing out as, ‘oh look a truth claim’ are truth claims with a small ‘t'; things that we take as ‘true’ because they seem to be true enough to be useful for understanding the world. But what we always keep in mind is that while they may be ‘true’ for now, that does not mean they are ‘True’, which would be forever and irrespective of our perception of it.

    So coming back to science, we might believe in the methodologies of science because sofar they have proved useful in understanding the world as we see it, because we can use it to do things that we have decided would be good. It’s usability is the test of its accuracy (or the definition) – for example, building a plane for the subjectively defined purpose of transportation. But, the plane may fly for reasons we think we understand but don’t, and therefore a change in conditions might produce unexpected effects and make our current understanding un-useful, or un-true. So, on the quantum or molecular level (and I might be out of my depth here…) it is useful to treat atoms as particles which operate in continuous movement because that is how they function in the context of larger systems (and therefore it is useful for understanding their behaviour in that context), yet somehow when you get down small enough you see that it isn’t really like that – you have discrete, rather than continuous movement of electrons. But we still model atoms in that way, not because it is True but because it is useful enough for our purposes, and ‘true’ that they move that way. But it isn’t True – we still don’t understand the relationship between the quantum and atomic level.

    And such things never could be True, to us, because it will always be filtered through human experience, and the methods which we use to observe change the realities we observe – whether it be evo psych bullshit reinforcing the patriarchy, or whether it trying to measure the wave/particle dynamics of shooting electrons through a double slit.

    So the real point of contention is, does ‘truth’ bear any relation to ‘Truth’, if such a thing could be said to exist, and if so, what is it? Postmodernists would say there is no ‘Truth'; or, that in any case it is inaccessible to us. We only have what is useful, the small truths.

  216. Been There 0828
    Been There 0828 April 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    That was us!

    From what I can see, your typical romance novel has a dominant man paired with a “feisty”, “free-spirited”, i.e. NOT EVEN REMOTELY SUBMISSIVE woman, who fight a lot before finally “taming” each other and settling into a relatively equal relationship.The dominant man typically is filled with admiration for the woman’s strength, courage, strong will, etc.(This makes sense from an evo-psych point of view, because Doormat Woman is also likely to end up Sabretooth Tiger Lunch.)And in the sex scenes, he physically dominates her while emotionally submitting: he’ll either tell her outright or say in his head that he’s losing control of his senses in the face of her amazing sexiness.

    On the other hand, your typical straight porno will have a dominant man who turns an “haughty uptight bitch” into a “dirty submissive whore”.The man will not praise the woman, but call her humiliating names.He will not lose control, but revel in his control over her, his ability to make her do sexual acts she doesn’t want to do.At the end, they don’t live happily ever after: she’s a broken mess, and he’s on to the next one.

    Naturally, a sub woman expecting her partner to throw her down and fuck her hard while saying “you’re so beautiful, I’ll do anything to have you” is not going to get along well with a dom man expecting to throw down his partner and fuck her hard while she says “use me like the dirty slut cum whore I am”.

    How do you twist THAT to be All Feminism’s Fault?

    PS since the body of the essay is about women’s lack of desire, why does the title call feminism the “Anti-Viagra”?

    PPS doncha just love how the examples of “cross-cultural female erotica” the authors give is all geared towards white American women?They could’ve at least mentioned Zane.Or girl-oriented manga/anime.

  217. StarWatcher
    StarWatcher April 22, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    I suspect that’s because our inner cavewoman knows Doormat Man would become Sabertooth Tiger Lunch in short order.

    Okay, I really want to write a story where a Big Bad Aggressive Dominant Caveman — and three of his cohorts — go after a sabertooth, are overwhelmed and become lunch. Meanwhile, Doormat Man, who was helping his woman friend move all her stuff to a nicer part of the cave, got his legs tangled in one of the twisted grass ropes she made for tying up things for carrying, and tripped. Then, when all the BBADC have been killed off by bigger, stronger, toothier prey, Doormat Man figures out a new way to hunt — they can make loops out of the ropes and, when animals step in them, said animals will be held captive while the Doormat Men and all the women kill them easily. Thereafter, all the women want their babies to grow up super-smart, so they invite (notice: women are the instigators) all the Doormat Men into their furs for mutually satisfying sex, while the few remaining BBADC slink away to cry in their beards.

    The End

  218. Melissa
    Melissa May 4, 2011 at 11:56 pm |

    it’s interesting that the question of MEN having problems in bed is not on the menu. When you get right down to it, equally as many men have issues with hypersexuality that lead them to erectile dysfunction, inability to actually ejaculate, whiskey dick (to be quite vulgar), the list goes on and on. at the end of the day it is not why WOMEN are unsatisfied, it’s why AMERICANS are unsatisfied.
    I could go on a feminist rant, but i’ll leave that for the feminists, and just stick to gender inequality issues.

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