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Culture War Roundup for the week of December 5, 2022

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So I've been spending some time on the radfem pipeline. It's been my opinion for some time that radical feminists, like Marxists, are correct on their analysis of their subjects, with no regard to one might think about their solutions. Take the topic of promiscuity; a trait that was historically seen as far more taboo in women that it was in men. Double standards?

The argument is that the male desire seeks virgin wives and prostitutes. The whores will provide sexual release without reproduction and emotional investment to minimise the demand on men’s resources. On the other hand, virgin wives are meant to provide both sexual and reproductive services but exclusively to him so that his resources and labour are spent on his family and progeny alone. While relations with promiscuous women are intended to be secretive and secondary. Essentially, they play the role of sexual garbage collectors who clear the excesses when no one's watching. This is especially true for fighting men, who are separated from their families for extended periods in foreign places and under hard conditions. They miss female company, they seek comfort, relief from loneliness, sexual desire, and recreation. War-like conditions create a huge demand for such promiscuous women, who either seek financial reward in exchange, or security, or both. And so, when a woman has multiple partners, she is slotted into the whore sub-class automatically. This sub-class doesn't demand respect or commitment, they knows their place and that they're not likely to move up the ladder, and so they're viewed as the lowest value women. And in an age before industrialisation when paternity tests weren't even a twinkle in anyone's eyes, and of constant conflict and strife, such promiscuous women with kids especially would lose out of the support structure. Perhaps these standards did make sense in this period. But what role do such standards play now, in ultra societies like the West, with large populations, high levels of specialisation, divisions of labour, lasting peace and advances in medicine? The breakdown of families comes to mind, which is of course for a myriad reasons, to a point where families are becoming far too expensive to sustain. We still have sufficient demographics and functional infrastructure and institutions to keep civilisation alive, even if we reach SK levels of atomisation.

So here's where I'm less certain; will decadence necessarily mean decline? Or maybe we'll just draw out the inevitable and decline will come very slowly, say over a few centuries? Should we turn to traditional norms to reverse this trend? If so, how can traditional norms become tenable enough to be a potential solution?

So I've been spending some time on the radfem pipeline. It's been my opinion for some time that radical feminists, like Marxists, are correct on their analysis of their subjects, with no regard to one might think about their solutions. Take the topic of promiscuity; a trait that was historically seen as far more taboo in women that it was in men. Double standards?

Yes, but as Aristotle reminds us, unequal treatment of unequal things can be called for. Women stand to lose much more from sex than men and are hence much choosier. Being chosen for sex by a woman translates to "you are so attractive that the risk of carrying your offspring is a price I am either willing to pay or actively seek". Being chosen for sex by a man just means you are above a certain fuckability threshold.

This differential means that women have always been able to garner favours in exchange for (the promise or suggestion of) sex. Most feminist activism after the first wave is about how this transaction is to be structured. The traditional marriage model exchanges security of paternity plus household chores and child rearing for a wholsesale package of protection and provision. Social changes of the past couple of decades have lead to most women now getting most of that for free, via the state taxing (mostly male) productive labour.

So now we have two battlefields: one is to extract more favours for women as a class (favourable hiring conditions, female-exclusive professional perks, female quotas, all kinds of handouts) in exchange for... women existing. And the second is an inter-sex fight: should attractive women be allowed to collect additional favours from men via trading (the promise of) sex away? Isn't that mean to the women who can't or won't do that? And doesn't that lower the exchange rate of sex? This is what it is mostly about, all the window dressing about this being all about the big ol' mean patriarchy is a distraction.

Yes, but as Aristotle reminds us, unequal treatment of unequal things can be called for. Women stand to lose much more from sex than men and are hence much choosier. Being chosen for sex by a woman translates to "you are so attractive that the risk of carrying your offspring is a price I am either willing to pay or actively seek". Being chosen for sex by a man just means you are above a certain fuckability threshold.

This differential means that women have always been able to garner favours in exchange for sex.

And this dynamic of women being able to garner favours in exchange for sex is what leads to the generalised condemnation of promiscuity in women. Contrary to basically all established belief, it is women and not men who stand to gain from the repression of female sexuality. The fact is that restricting women's willingness to provide men with premarital or extramarital sex through several methods serves women's interests in an important way. It restricts men's ability to access sex, and since the supply has been restricted this means women can push the price of sex up to incredible levels (demanding long-term commitment through marriage, transfers of wealth and resources, and so on). The more they restrict their sexuality, the more they can relitigate sex relations in their favour. Even when she is already in a partnership the widespread suppression of female sexuality can benefit her by indirectly restricting her mate's sexuality - it prevents her partner from simply going out and finding another woman (an especially salient risk once she is old and her mate value has declined). So the promiscuous woman is scorned, not primarily by men, but by other women. It is a female sex cartel, a union enforced for the interests of the group as a whole. Here is a blog post containing plenty of evidence in favour of this view.

As a case study that allows us a glimpse into a very extreme version of this dynamic, we can look at the phenomenon of FGM, responsibility for which often erroneously gets shifted onto men. The fact is, the practice is most zealously supported by women, and the female peer group teases girls who have not had the operation. There are studies of men in these countries which do not indicate that they prefer women with the operation (so this can't be argued to be a reflection of their preferences), rather, they actually prize women without the operation because they enjoy sex more. Link. Fieldwork in villages that at the time were newly beginning to adopt FGM as a practice shows that the impetus for the practice comes from the girls themselves. The girls were going out to other villages and getting excisors to cut them regardless of the fact that their parents and the tribal chiefs hated the practice and strongly condemned them for doing so, and over time it became culturally entrenched. Link 2.

All this seems congenial to the theory that the cause of female genital cutting and its subsequent spread likely comes from females themselves, with male acceptance and support for the practice (and their consequent attitudes surrounding it) merely being secondary to and following from widespread female uptake of and support for the practice. Really it's very clear to me that the feminist viewpoint of "patriarchal oppression" is just utterly misleading, and I'm a bit dismayed (though not surprised) that people still give it the time of day.

So the promiscuous woman is scorned, not primarily by men, but by other women.

This always made sense to me and seemed to match what I encountered and saw in the world. That is, until gen-z men started to become visible to me on the internet about 5 years ago, who seemed to be the ones lashing out at women with shaming language about 'thots' and 'thirst-traps' (any women publicly using their good looks on youtube/twitch/etc). By my priors, I would have expected men to be quite fine with women dominating instagram/streaming/asmr/whatever, while some women would be trying to enforce against the defectors with various levels of slut-shaming. And by my reading, the young men aren't simply playing catch-up with new norms and trying to signal their new virtues -- it's more like: "damn you for tempting me to donate my hard earned money!" Am I misreading this as a phenomenon?

I'm pretty certain that this is a selected very online group you're looking at, because the loudest voices on the internet will tend to be people who are not representative of the general population. A huge portion of terminally online people will likely be lonely men who are suffering from lack of sex and companionship and relationships (which I think is something that's very important to people), and who will be frustrated that they can only obtain any semblance of these things through a paywall. They likely see women starting accounts, getting huge amounts of attention from men around the world, and they compare and contrast that with their own situation where they get so little attention that they're tempted to pay for a simulacrum of attention and desire. I can imagine it feels miserable, and it's hard for me not to be at least a little bit sympathetic.

In other words, I think there is a massive difference between the lashing out at Twitch thots you're describing and actually wanting to restrict female sexual behaviour. The lashing out is not because they think women make themselves too sexually accessible and want to restrict their activity, it's precisely because of the opposite reason: because women are not accessible to them. Furthermore, I doubt this attitude can be extrapolated to the general male population out there for the aforementioned reasons, and would caution against any hasty generalisations.

Fieldwork in villages that at the time were newly beginning to adopt FGM as a practice shows that the impetus for the practice comes from the girls themselves.

Forgive me, but I've looked at your links and read your comment multiple times. Do we actually know why girls would go seek out surgery themselves, seemingly believing that it will benefit them individually? It seems that it would be something to be imposed on the young, not something the young volunteer for. Thank you.

It certainly is bizarre, but we can theorise on the reasons why. In both villages covered in the article, male desires certainly do not seem to have driven it. In Myabe, the prevailing view at the time of adoption was that men prefer uncut women as sex partners. Similarly, in Bakum, where the practice was adopted at an earlier date, whether a girl was cut or not had little effect on her ability to marry, and that only changed once the practice was already entrenched. Parents and authority figures do not seem to have been the driving force, either, in fact parents and chiefs were extremely strongly opposed to the practice and its spread. In Bakum, their acceptance and participation in the cutting ceremonies only happened after it was already common. So the pressures leading to its emergence have to come from somewhere else.

Some evidence in the article seems to suggest that other girls do, even at an early stage of adoption of the practice, provide pressure. For example in Myabe, where female genital cutting was a recent phenomenon at the time of the study, "The girls attribute their desire to participate in the cutting ceremonies to pressure from peers and to the spectacle of the coming-out ceremony that follows the period of healing. The event draws a great deal of attention in the village." Although there are few long-term consequences for not getting cut, girls do admit to "teasing friends who opted not to attend" cutting ceremonies, so there is evidence there that seems to suggest that the girls were experiencing some level of soft social pressure from other girls who did have the operation. Similarly, in Bakum, some of the first girls in the village to be cut were taunted by their friends "on the other side of the river" and enticed by them into participating.

It makes sense to me that it would be primarily the female peer group promoting it, and not parents or authorities or some shadowy patriarchal cabal. As mentioned earlier the female peer group at large benefits from restricting female willingness to provide sex and girls would therefore be concerned with getting those in their peer group to adhere to a set of sexuality restrictions. So I think this looks like the organic bottom-up emergence of the "female sex cartel" I mentioned earlier.

Because adolescent girls are extremely susceptible to social pressure?

Incidentally, the west currently has a lot of adolescent girls seeking double mastectomies under the mistaken impression that it will benefit them.

I disagree with what I think the thrust of your post is, namely that social pressures are artificially "restricting" or "repressing" female sexuality. I think it's pretty much entirely biological.

I would hazard to guess that in an imaginary society where female sexuality was completely unfettered and unstigmatized...that female humans would still want sex less than male humans, and would still be choosier in their partners than males. In every mammalian species this dynamic exists, especially for placental mammals - because the investment necessary during pregnancy is so high. Female humans have particularly invasive placentas, very risky pregnancy and birth because of head size, and particularly helpless young that demand an extreme amount of care relative to other mammalian young (even other great apes). It is not surprising, therefore, that female humans have been selected to be discerning rather than horny.

You're correct but most FGM research openly acknowledges this. Historically, female sexuality has obviously been policed primarily by women. This is why the sexual revolution was, broadly speaking, about men changing the nature of sex relations in their favor. A society in which promiscuity is more socially acceptable doesn't serve women or women's interests. The sexual revolution and its consequences were a disaster for the female sex etc etc..

I don't have too much to say here because I don't have too many opinions on how society should look on this issue, but I will note that I always find it pretty funny how people on both ends of an issue (like sex-positives and sex-negatives) will often frame their preferences in terms of how it would benefit women, without too much concern for what that would do to men. On the other hand, a benefit to men is generally framed as negative and generally contextualised with how it would hurt women. It's based on a foundational idea that women are the appropriate beneficiaries of social norms, so rigging the system in women's favour is viewed as legitimate, whereas doing so for men (or even just relaxing women's attempts at rigging things to benefit themselves, like their attempts at artificial price-fixing in the sexual marketplace) is bad.

EDIT: clarity

It’s interesting how even in in this comment you buy utterly into the ‘women as a class’ Marxian conception of “gender conflict”.

It’s interesting how even in in this comment you buy utterly into the ‘women as a class’ Marxian conception of “gender conflict”.

Given that this is how the conflict is presented and fought and how its spoils are distributed, it rather becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What makes it different from other class conflicts though is that there is absolutely no class solidarity on the other side. Men see other men as friends or rivals, not as brothers-in-arms in the sex wars.

Men see other men as friends or rivals, not as brothers-in-arms in the sex wars.

I'd say the same thing about women, honestly.

For women it's:

Women see other women as friends or rivals, AND as sisters-in-arms in the sex wars.