A virtue-based explanation for hypergamy
December 14, 2012 § 35 Comments
One of the weakest links in the ‘manosphere’ critique of feminism is its materialist basis. Materialist explanations which attempt to sweep from bouncing molecules to human behaviour are frankly ludicrous. I took some graduate courses in bioinformatics, biophysics, and molecular biology a few years ago. They are fascinating subjects; but anyone not an evolutionary kool-aid drinker who is paying the slightest bit of attention will immediately see how completely irrelevant evolution is to the nuts and bolts of the day-to-day biological sciences even at the molecular/cellular level, and how terrifically oversold it is as an explanatory view of origins.
I’m sure I won’t convince those who hold to materialist Darwinism as their religion; but try to bear with me nonetheless. My fight isn’t really with you in this post, because even the staunchest Darwinist must concede that often more than one theory can sufficiently explain a given set of data.
Having noted that data almost always underdetermines theory choice, I’ll further observe that the materialist explanation of hypergamy and its social implications as the consequences of a hard wired evolutionary imperative has significant explanatory problems. Chief among those problems is the fact that hypergamy has only manifested itself as a major social problem in approximately the past five minutes of history. The way around this – goes the materialist theory – is to propose that while hypergamy is the natural state of womankind evolved in uncivilized nature, patriarchal civilization has kept it artificially in check. Before that – which is to say, in pre-civilization barbarian tribes and what have you – there was no “reliable” birth control, so women who were too hypergamous faced terrible consequences for herself and her children. A woman’s awareness of potential consequences counterbalanced her evolutionarily derived hypergamous tendencies.
In addition to begging the question, this just-so story fails to take into account that there are still terrible material consequences for slutty women and their illegitimate children. For example, the murder of a woman and often her children by her ex lover is such a common occurrence that many times it doesn’t even make the news; and there are plenty of manifest consequences short of being murdered. To solve this dissonance in the theory some additional explanation – beyond reliable birth control and welfare programs – is required as to why women in the deep evolutionary past were putatively more rational, more in touch with the objective welfare of their offspring, and more aware of long term cause and effect than today’s women. My own well-known view is that evo-psych be crazy.
What I would like to do is take a step back from all of this and propose an alternate explanation for hypergamy based on a more traditional understanding of virtue and vice. I naturally still take it as a given that there is a basic nature to what women find attractive in men, and that there is an at least partially biological basis for it. True moral theology, as we know, does not deny the existence or imperatives of the flesh. True moral theology provides greater explanatory power, not less, than question-begging materialist gibberish.
So, without further ado:
First I must distinguish between different kinds of “attraction”. A man might find a woman’s willingness to do the dishes and laundry “attractive” in the sense that, other things equal, he finds living with such a woman more pleasant than living with a woman who does not have that quality. But that is not the sort of attraction I am talking about here. I am talking about the kind of attraction that a man must learn to control, learned control which takes time, prayer, and dedicated effort, in order to avoid the vice of lust. Any man who puts “she reliably does the dishes every day” on the list of primary characteristics that he finds attractive in that sense is probably either not being truthful or has some sort of mild psychological disorder.
As an aside, when you ask women what they find attractive in a man they are almost always going to answer the wrong question. She probably isn’t being dishonest: she may not even know herself what it is that makes her feel weak in the knees. But she knows what chores she wants done around the house. Ironically, doing the things she finds “attractive” in the one sense is often likely to kill her attraction to you in the relevant sense.
Second, I will make it clear that I am discussing tendencies and generalities. “It is cold in the winter” is the sort of statement I am making here, not “two plus two is four”. Not All Winters Are Like That.
Women’s attraction triggers are different from men’s: this is obvious, but our society is so perverse that it needs to be stated out loud. Women’s attraction triggers are socially conditioned to a greater extent than men’s. This does not mean that she is capable of being conditioned to respond with involuntary weak-in-the-knees attraction to a wimp. It does mean that her understanding of the cues of social dominance is a learned understanding. She subconsciously learns the social hierarchy over time, and – involuntarily, abstractly like (but different in concrete particulars from) a man’s involuntary attraction to the opposite sex – finds herself attracted to the men who are higher up in the de-facto (not de jure) hierarchy.
Now, given that women’s attraction triggers are fundamentally different from men’s attraction triggers in terms of substantive content – everyone knows that men are more visually oriented than women in this regard, for example – it follows that women have their own class of pornography which is different from the primarily visual/sensory pornography targeted at men. The Catechism condemns pornography in part because “it immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world”. The women of today are saturated in media – I’ll call it “femporn” – which immerses them in a fantasy world, re-calibrating their attraction triggers to a fantasy world which does not exist. This is made all the worse by the fact that most femporn is not considered pornography. Even the blatantly pornographic 50 Shades of Grey books are not treated the same way that visual pornography targeted at men is treated: 50 Shades femporn lines the shelves of Barnes and Noble and supermarkets everywhere, in clear view of girls of all ages. Girls of all ages attend the Twilight movies. Eat, Pray, Love divorce fantasy is mass marketed in a way that Larry Flynt could never get away with for Hustler magazine; yet the former is if anything more harmful than the latter. At least everyone is aware that visual porn targeted at men is pornographic unreality. I remember being disgusted at the way many ostensibly devout Catholic women talked openly about how much they enjoyed watching Desperate Housewives, as if it were just so much harmless entertainment.
I’ll ask men to imagine what it would be like if they were brought up from an early age constantly surrounded by hardcore pornography. It is a difficult thought experiment to even undertake: I have no honest answer for myself. I just don’t know what it would be like.
It is frequently claimed that men have started to lose their attraction to real women because of porn. I expect there may be some truth to that, but I propose that the male drive is more primal and “in the moment” and less likely than the female to get ‘recalibrated’ over time through porn saturation or other fantasy. Couple that to the social acceptability of porn for women as contrasted to porn for men, and it may be that today’s women are growing up in the middle of that very experiment. Seeing porn around them all the time, they are not even aware that it is porn. We as a society don’t call it porn and don’t shun it as porn. It is just the reality they expect for themselves. The hunky multimillionaire handyman Mr. Right isn’t a fantasy in her mind: it is her base expectation. The men she meets aren’t competing with other men: they are competing against the fantasy in her mind. She is literally insane, in the sense that her perceptions and ingrained subconscious expectations are grossly distorted and do not reflect an accurate perception of what actual reality is really like. As a result she is literally incapable of being attracted to most men, despite the growing unease, over time, with which she faces the bleak possibility that the hunky millionaire handyman God has set aside just for her doesn’t really exist. She ultimately has to “settle” for an actual, flesh and blood man who is actually willing to marry her; has to convince herself that she loves him, even though she does not have that primal opposite-sex attraction to him. Otherwise she will end up a spinster.
So that’s the basic hypothesis: femporn has conditioned modern women, including chaste Christian girls who are genuinely trying to do the right thing, to be sexually frigid when face to face with a real man who is a real marriage prospect as opposed to the fantasy that has been imprinted upon her from a young age. The manosphere tends to gloss over the fact that even good girls generally won’t give any but the top 10% of men the time of day. I think it is true that promiscuous women ruin themselves when they miscalculate their own value, conflating the willingness of bad boys to fornicate with the willingness of a good and yet equally exciting man to marry her, and keep that level of thrilling romance and drama throughout marriage. But that doesn’t explain the full breadth of the phenomenon of hypergamy.