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:

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Hypergamy: social-behavioral concepts

October 15, 2012 § 17 Comments

I’ve been writing a series of posts taking a look at the “manosphere” and “Game,” an area with which I’ve only recently become acquainted.  In the previous post I talked about the hypothesis or theory of hypergamy, the background concept underlying “Game”, in descriptive terms.   Before we can come to grips with Game itself we have to layer a model of social/behavioural tendencies on top of the basic theory.   Keep in mind that I’m not particularly interested in whether or not Game is useful to modernity’s sexual garbage collector, the pickup artist (PUA).  I’m interested in whether, underneath the rather plastic label “Game”, there are any basic complementarity-of-the-sexes truths of interest to Christian men and women.  That makes marriage integral to the analysis.

The first thing to be said here is that we are discussing social tendencies.  Both the word “social” and the word “tendency” are indispensable.  With respect to the former, it is important to point out that these are not implied (by me) to be universal tendencies in all women all the time; rather, they represent aggregate tendencies like “most people seem to like sweets”.   In fact a substantial number of people do not like sweets.  This disclaimer is represented in manosphere discourse by the acronym NAWALT, meaning Not All Women Are Like That.  Despite the disclaimer many men in the jackassosphere, my nickname for manosphere comboxes, seem to think of these tendencies as iron rules; or at least to write their posts as if they were iron rules.  This is exacerbated by the determinism implicit in the evolutionary psychology (hereafter evo-psych) “frame” with which many manosphere commenters seem rather taken.   Any long term reader knows that I have my issues with evo-think in general; and adding “psych” into the mix turns the tommyrot meter into a fan strong enough to keep a Virginia mansion cool in August.  That’s my “frame” and I’m sticking to it.

Furthermore, the tendency to say “NAWALT” with one face  while invoking biological determinism with the other is just a way of denying women moral agency.   If y’all want to jump off that cliff you can have a ball; but make sure you’ve got your chute packed right and count me out, ’cause I’m just gonna laugh at you as you bounce off the cliffside on the way down.  Women are moral agents just as much as men, and are at least as intrinsically capable of introspection and self-control, in general, as men.  I’m not going to let any man or woman off the hook for their choices by invoking evolution or implicitly assuming determinism.

But I believe in trying to extract the best from any group rather than treating the worst as representative; so NAWALT is an important limiting principle to keep in mind.  At the same time, from the fact that NAWALT it cannot be deduced that the tendencies described are unreal, insignificant, etc.   The key lesson from the disclaimer isn’t “don’t take manosphere claims seriously”; it is “don’t take manosphere claims personally.”  In order to take manosphere claims seriously one also must take the NAWALT disclaimer seriously.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, one of the first things to keep in mind is that at least in modern conditions, the Beta himisphere tends to be composed of more steady, reliable men than the Alpha himisphere.   This sets up a kind of paradox: the men that young women find themselves the most attracted to are men who are not likely to make good providers for the long term, and who most likely would never settle down with her anyway.

When our Pocahontas is young and free, out “dating” and getting her feminist merit badge (a degree and a career), she is using up her marriage capital in more ways than one.  In the meantime, the nice guy she will eventually marry can’t get a date: he may be her “Beta Orbiter” friend, but she is not interested in him romantically.  He sits on the other side of an impenetrable “LJBF”  wall of her making.   Meanwhile she “dates” and bonds to the alpha males that she finds attractive, who are just using her with no intention of ever marrying her.  Often enough she is perfectly aware that this is what she is doing: she understands that “bad boys” are for fun, and she will “settle down” later if that’s what she decides to do.  A nice prince will come and carry her away when the time comes; life is good, and her decisions are validated by just about everyone around her.

Then she crashes violently into that wall she built to keep out the nice guys.  Rather suddenly even men she isn’t really attracted to, but who are good long term provider prospects, aren’t as interested in her.  Still, if she plays her cards right she hopes to land a good Beta provider when the time is right.   She spends her time with her nice-guy husband as an “alpha widow”, pining away in her own thoughts for the men she has been with who truly excited her at the time, but who would never have married her.  As the years of being married to someone she isn’t attracted to grind on she eventually realizes that she is very unhappy, divorces him, and pursues an “Eat, Pray, Love” fantasy.  Everything about the modern world supports her in this decision, including her Christian friends.

This is the basic narrative: hopefully I haven’t left anything crucial out.  It is in this social context that the specific prescriptions of Game are said to be useful to Christian men.


October 11, 2012 § 74 Comments

“Hypergamy” is a term used in the manosphere to refer to the fact that women tend to be attracted to high status men. The hypergamy theory posits that social status in men is, for women, what physical attractiveness in women is for men. A man losing social status is like a woman getting fat. Men without social status become invisible as attractive men, although they can still fill other roles in a woman’s life.

The female zone of attraction is to men they perceive as being in the pink zone. The population of characteristics of actual men is the green gradient. (It is a gradient, denser toward the bottom and less dense toward the top, like the air in the Earth’s atmosphere). Notice that in this model, the great majority of men are invisible (in the pertinent sense) to women. Women have a tendency to be offended at the thought of men outside their own zone of attraction even considering the possibility of a love connection. Invisible men however can be in the “friend zone”, not pictured: in this case the woman finds his “beta orbiter” doting validating but he remains outside of her zone of serious prospects. The pertinent acronym is LJBF, “lets just be friends”.

As sexual mores have collapsed this has resulted in a situation where the great majority of men get little or no female attention as anything other than “Beta orbiter”, while the great majority of women spend their time in the “soft harems” of a relatively few “Alpha” men.

The premise of “Game” is that our modern feminist society trains men to live their lives on the bottom half of the model, and that there are specific steps a man can take to move himself into the top half, and especially the top right.

Those meth heads have it so much better

March 28, 2017 § 38 Comments

Liberalism – making freedom a political priority –  is, at bottom, rationally incoherent.  But it is easy to see how folks committed to it might come to see having more options – independent of whether those options are or are not of any objective value – as something to be encouraged and pursued. Doctrine abstracted and analyzed in itself is one thing.  As an active social force in a population of real people it is another.  Under liberalism authority and tradition come to be (selectively) seen as something to be overcome, so the number of available options tends to proliferate in direct proportion to the amoral trivial banality of those options. You can live in any kind of city you want as long as it sports modern architecture, Starbucks, gay pride parades, and its own vibrant Little Somalia.

Against my better judgment I got into a combox back and forth with a commenter on donalgrame about whether modern men have a harder time pursuing the good in marriage and family than modern women: whether women, objectively speaking, have better options available than men when it comes to pursuing the good in sex and marriage.  I’ve noted before that modern people can get as much sexual stimulation as they want: what has become increasingly difficult is pursuing the good in sex and marriage, not pursuing ultimately self-destructive and unsatisfactory hedonism.

One of the things that constantly comes up is that, because men and women are different, the kind of immoral sexual stimulation available to women differs from the kind of immoral sexual stimulation available to men. Sure, men can immerse themselves in pornography and masturbation all they want, and can even go to a strip bar or hire a hooker.  But the average woman has greater empowerment to fornicate specifically than the average man, because in modern hookup culture 80% of the women are fornicating with 20% of the men.

It follows (!) that men have a harder time pursuing the good in sex and marriage than women.

But at the end of the day, this is like arguing that meth heads have it so much better than heroin addicts.  Modernity does indeed produce a marketplace of all sorts of degenerate choices; but anyone who can’t see that making good choices has become harder for everyone is living under a rock.

Fifty Shades of Barry

March 15, 2014 § 9 Comments

Dave Barry does a book review of a popular bit of femporn.

You need to have an honest, no-holds-barred conversation about sex with the special woman in your life — provided you’re a superhot billionaire who can move without being seen.

So why did I read it? I read it because, as a man with decades of experience in the field of not knowing what the hell women are thinking, I was hoping this book would give me some answers. Because a lot of women LOVED this book. And they didn’t just read it; they responded to it by developing erotic feelings—feelings so powerful that in some cases they wanted to have sex with their own husbands.

The tree of knowledge and a girl called John

October 2, 2013 § 52 Comments

I’ve proposed the idea before that modern romance novels and movies are a form of pornography for women, and that the main difference between pornography targeted at women and pornography targeted at men is that the latter is still subject to at least some degree of social stigma, whereas the former is celebrated.

I’ve also suggested that beta orbiting behavior in men corresponds to slutty behavior in women: that some women have “harems” of beta orbiters in much the same way that some men have “harems” of sluts.  Again, the main difference is residual societal stigma of the latter.

Men and women are different, so when it comes to matters of moral vice they tend to play different roles in society.  In some parts of the blogosphere which discuss our modern sexual dystopia it is often stated, as some kind of big point of existential outrage, that women can get sex any time they want, while men cannot.  But this isn’t actually true.  A man of modest means can get sex as quickly and as easily as a woman of modest looks, provided neither is particularly picky.  She just has to use her looks to attract a cad; he just has to use his money to purchase the services of a prostitute.

So another vicious symmetry in amoral modernity is between the pickup artist (PUA) or cad, and the prostitute.  This implies symmetry between the slut and the john: a slut is the female equivalent of a john.  Once again the main difference is residual disproportionate disapproval of male bad behavior versus female bad behavior.  Fornication and adultery used to be illegal in many or most jurisdictions; prostitution still is.

What further follows is that men going to cads to learn about women is rather like women going to hookers to learn about men.   Sure, you might learn a thing or two.  But watch what you catch in your filters.

There’s a whole in your reductionism

April 19, 2013 § 19 Comments

One reasonable criticism of the notions of a “sexual marketplace” and a “marriage marketplace” is that as reductive concepts they fail to capture the full reality they purport to describe.

But of course this is true of all reductionism.  Reductive methods can be extremely useful as a way of finding or describing partial truths.  Reductive descriptions of real things are never complete: it is literally impossible to capture a part of reality and bottle it up into formal expressions.

At the end of the day, the concept of an economic marketplace is every bit as problematic as the concept of a sexual or marriage marketplace.  They are useful concepts, and they help us come to grips with true aspects of reality.  But they are also inherently limited, and the modern tendency is to be blinded by reductionism.

I realize I’m not saying anything especially new or novel here – hey, welcome to blogging.  These thoughts were prompted by reading this post over at Siris.  Whether “hypergamy” is or is not a good term for a largely intuitive and not rigorously researched-and-documented notion of the operation of the sexual marketplace and (distinctly) the marriage marketplace is certainly a legitimate question.  (Every time someone in the manosphere says “game theory” I think of John von Neumann and get mildly annoyed at the cooption of the term.)

But terminology aside, a lack of scientifically reductive rigor and comprehensive social science documentation isn’t enough to make me dismiss a whole set of ideas – especially ideas about as squirrelly a subject as sex – as moronic.  In fact when it comes to matters of sex, I tend to find pretensions to scientific rigor rather suspicious.

Newtonian Game in a Lorentzian world

April 6, 2013 § 7 Comments

Simplicity can be both a strength and a weakness.   Static models can be helpful in getting a picture of the world that remains fairly consistent from the perspective of a particular  person.  But they are only a starting place, a way of grasping concepts without having to take in everything all at once.

Consider the ideas of “alpha” and “beta”.  The hypergamy model predisposes us to think of them as absolute categories; but most of the time this is not really the case.  For example, there are likely many men who seem “alpha” to less attractive women and, at the same time and in the same man, are “beta” orbiters of more attractive women.  Most people find themselves dissatisfied because they know that something “better” is on offer — they can see it, right there, just beyond their grasp.

The trashy cafeteria approach is a consequence of the universalization of our modern, atomized, self-centered consumer society.  Instead of going to a mechanic we go to an oil change place, a brake place, and a tire place; and that is fine in itself, applied to automotive needs.  But then instead of courting a whole human being on a track to marriage, modern amoral people get their sexual needs[1] fulfilled through a composite of different “products” offered by different “providers”.  The reductionist approach has become totalizing, and the world has become a cafeteria.

Christendom took a cafeteria approach to God a few centuries ago, during the Protestant Revolt, laying Him out on a buffet table where everyone gets to take what they find appetizing in the Christian religion while rejecting the rest.  So is it really any surprise that we find ourselves simmering over a can of sterno?


[1] I use the term “sexual needs” very broadly here to include all of the wants and needs traditionally fulfilled through courtship and marriage.

Women have harems too

March 23, 2013 § 351 Comments

The term “slut” is a female-specific insult referring to a woman with loose sexual mores. Egalitarians are frustrated by the supposed fact that no insult with equivalent social sting applies to men, which, like all double-standards, is just not fair. The unfairness of it all has become so acute that, taking their cue from militant homosexuals, sluts now literally organize themselves into parades proclaiming their sluthood. The only way to rid themselves of the unfair and hypocritical stigma associated with their evil behaviour is to shout to the heavens that evil is good and good is evil. Otherwise they’d have to do that whole repentance thing; and what fun is that?

The manosphere, impressed by the unfairness of the double standard and doing its level best to help, has proposed that there actually is a roughly equivalent insult for men: coward. This is a useful comparison in terms of the social sting of the evaluation: a man labeled coward bears an approximately equivalent social sting to a woman labeled slut. It is also useful because sluthood is unladylike behavior and cowardice is unmanly behavior, generally speaking.

But sluthood refers to specific concrete behaviors and attitudes, while cowardice is a much more general category. Furthermore, cowardice is not a specifically sexual behavior. So we may be able to gain a deeper insight into what is going on in the modern dysfunctional intersexual dynamic if we look at the male side of the dance a bit more concretely.

The punch line for those who need a motivation to read my further rambling – or a reason not to – is that from an intersexual behavior standpoint, the male equivalent of a slut is the beta orbiter. Modernity has turned sexuality into a buffet: what used to be a loving commitment for life to a particular person, where sexual intimacy and provision formed the mutual society of a family, has turned into cafeteria sexuality wherein people are encouraged to assemble their ideal virtual mate from the disparate contributions of different real people. Like the slut who gives away her sexuality on the cheap, accepting sexual attention with no commitment or provision, the beta orbiter gives away his provision and commitment without any corresponding receptivity to his sexual attentions.

In what follows I will use the term “sexual attention” to refer to those interactive behaviors wherein a woman takes a man seriously as a potential mate. I will leave it deliberately vague; but it doesn’t have to imply escalation to intrinsically immoral behaviors. As usual on this subject I am attempting to clarify the theory: how well or comprehensively that theory corresponds to reality is something about which I’ve expressed any number of doubts myself, though I do think it is useful as a foundation for discussion.

The theory of hypergamy proposes that the top (say) 20-ish percent of men are more than willing to shower sexual attention on the top (say) 60-ish percent of women[1]. That doesn’t mean that the average male nine is generally willing to marry or commit to the average female six: just that he is willing to give her sexual attention. So at one point in the buffet line the average socially functional female six can scoop some male eight or nine onto her social plate.

Because the modern world is a sexual cafeteria the notion of monogomous pairing in marriage to one partner for life is largely dead, and as a result the modern woman can assemble her ideal virtual man from the disparate contributions of different real men. This results in a situation where most young women find it relatively easy to attract sexual attention “above their marriage grade”. They become accustomed to finding the men actually in their marriage grade unattractive.

Beta orbiting is a male behavior which is symmetrical to slutty female behavior: mirror image graphics could probably be drawn. (I haven’t thought through exactly what they would look like, but if there is interest I may give it a go). The key difference is found in the premise (goes the theory) that women are the gatekeepers of sexual attention, while men are the gatekeepers of commitment and provisioning. In the modern sexual cafeteria attractive women are generally willing to accept some providing attention from less attractive men, while rejecting their sexual attention. Attractive men, on the other hand, are willing to shower sexual attention on less attractive women while rejecting commitment to those less attractive women.

In addition to being a form of lie on the personal level this results in a very dysfunctional social dynamic, especially as virginity-at-marriage becomes almost nonexistent. Women become accustomed to sleeping with men who would never marry them; they find the men who are willing to marry them unattractive. And even when a woman has managed to stay chaste she has become accustomed to getting male sexual attention well above her marriage grade.

What this gets us to is a definition of slutty behavior that doesn’t require a reductionist accounting of certain kinds or numbers of sexual acts, and at the same time is not reducible to some ineffable interior disposition or attitude. Slutty behavior is when a woman accepts sexual attention from a man without any corresponding commitment and provisioning. This raises another interesting point: the female version of caddish behavior is the LJBF (lets just be friends) acceptance of the unrequited attentions of beta orbiters.

Just as the cad doesn’t feel a social sting for having his harem of sluts, LJBF-girl doesn’t feel a social sting for having her harem of beta orbiters. And what follows, I think, is that things will just keep getting worse unless and until fewer women engage in slutty behavior and fewer men engage in beta orbiting behavior. Shaming the cads isn’t going to work.


[1] For the sake of simplicity my graphic only shows a single slice of what is actually a set of multidimensional gradients. The ‘picture’ viewed from the point of view of an average male nine and an average female six will look different from the picture viewed from the perspective of an average male seven and an average female four; but the relative shapes of everything, and the intersexual dynamic it generates, remain more or less how I’ve drawn it.

The neighbors are playing their stereotypes too loud

January 12, 2013 § 16 Comments

It is hard to believe that it has been fourteen years since the publication of Jim Kalb’s seminal essay on stereotypes.  Contrary to the demands of the zeitgeist, stereotypes are inevitable.  It doesn’t really matter what one thinks of them: being morally opposed to stereotyping is akin to being morally opposed to oxygen.  Human life isn’t possible without them:

What is to be done? The simple and obvious answer is frank acceptance of stereotypes and discrimination. Such things are often oppressive, just as government, private property, social standards, individual self-assertion, and many other things are often oppressive, but in one form or another they are necessary and inevitable. Treating women as different from men, taking ethnic kinship into account, and treating a judge with special consideration should all be acceptable as expressions of legitimate principles of social organization. Abuses can be dealt with piecemeal; to reject stereotype and discrimination in principle, however, is useless, since we will rely on them in any case. The attempt makes serious political thought impossible, and benefits only those with something to conceal.

At the same time, it is important to understand that our various modes of thought have limits.  In the manosphere, the term “apex fallacy” is just a specific invented label used to object to how women stereotype men without realizing the inherent limitations of the stereotype.

Now I could be a good conservative/reactionary and point out that this is not substantively different from feminists griping about the stereotyping of women, and I actually did point out that the more radically anti-women elements in the manosphere are engaged in their own version of the apex fallacy.

But the reality is that people who object to stereotyping (including the men who gripe about women committing the apex fallacy) do have a valid point: not that stereotyping is objectionable or avoidable, but that it does have its inherent limits.

One of those limits is that a stereotype loses its usefulness as one gets to know individuals better.  I’ve pointed this out before: when talking about hypergamy or the Meyers-Briggs test or any other social model we are basically creating stereotypes.  These are useful in understanding what things are happening in aggregate, and, absent more specific information, they are additionally useful in personal encounters with people, places, and institutions you don’t know (or don’t know very well).  But that usefulness has limits, and it decays as specific knowledge replaces the stereotype.  If I have worked with you for ten years and am still relying on knowing that your Meyers-Brigges evaluation categorized you as an INTJ it is probably a sign of something wrong with my ability to learn.

A second limitation on the value of stereotypes is the one called out by the apex/trough fallacy: that the stereotype is typically constructed based on the most visible members of a group, and therefore will provide a false reading about the less visible members of the group.   Those less visible members will inevitably feel unfairly pigeonholed or ignored, and not entirely without justification.

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