February 19, 2013

Men, women, sexual objectification, #GnuAtheism, and Pop #EvPsych

Any woman who's used a dildo more than a couple of times in her life, especially one fully shaped and designed like a penis, not just a cylinder, is in no position to talk about male sexual objectification of women.

Just wondering how many of the nth-wave feminists, especially those that fit into Gnu Atheism, or its kiddie pool of Atheism Plus, this applies to.

Not saying it does, but I'm just thinking of, oh, Stephanie Zvan and Rebecca Watson off the top of my head.

But NOT from the top of my other head. Or the bottom of my heart. Or the bottom of my loins.

Sorry if you didn't want to hear that, but people who read me regularly shouldn't be surprised.

And, if you're lesbian, you can certainly objectify other women, too. So, no get out of jail free card for you, Greta Christina.

Beyond that, there's plenty of women atheist old and gnu alike, non-atheist, professed Christian, feminist or not, etc., who all fit the profile. We've all seen news stories in the past few years, especially in more politically reddish parts of the country, where female small business proprietors have been busted for running afoul of municipal or state laws by selling something much more than Tupperware at house parties. (And, it does much more than "burp"!)

Besides the fact that Pop Ev Psychers have provided plenty of evidence for that case, starting with Randy Thornhill claiming rape is evolutionarily adaptive, the whole framework of Pop Ev Psych, starting with its environment of evolutionary adaptiveness, or EEA, being based on sexist ideas about hunter-gatherer societies’ operation, as well as further sexist ideas that Homo sapiens had a long period as hunter-gatherers when we probably had just as much a period as less sexy scavenger-gatherers, has shown itself to be bathed in about as much an aroma of sexism as a bottle of Old Spice gone past its expiration date. (This long and colorful metaphor assumes Old Spice has an expiration date, of course.)

Besides, it’s fun to consign Rebecca Watson and Edward Clint to the same circle of hell, run over them with the same bus, etc. (Should a B-grade Jean Paul Sartre — who was himself the B-grade Albert Camus at times — come along today, he might remake No Exit with Clint, Watson and Christina together. Or Zvan, Greg Laden and almost anybody. Don’t worry, folks, I’ll stop now, lest I go into material for an entirely separate blog post.)

Anyway, in a sense, on its overblown, often unverifiable and likely never verifiable gender difference claims, Pop Evolutionary Psychology, as pushed to its envelope-destroying limits recently by Mr. Clint in chastisement of Ms. Watson, is nth-wave feminism’s tar baby. (It’s also a tar baby of traditionalist versions of Christianity in this way.)

All three movements put woman on a pedestal, or similarly, in a gilded cage. They seek to deny that there’s a fair amount of overlap between men and women on sexual fantasizing and related issues. They also, especially Pop Ev Psych but somewhat the other two, seek to deny that a fair amount of how, in what ways, and to what degree both men and women internally formulate and bring to coherence sexual desires, then externally express them, is culturally driven.

Now, I’m not saying there are no sex-based differences in formulation and expression of sexual desire. But, the differences are smaller than either Pop Ev Psychers, nth-wave feminists or male-hierarchy Christians will admit. And, all three are similar in throwing bullshit ideas against the wall, hoping something will socially stick, either due to religious prejudice (the Christians), reverse sex prejudice plus tribalism (the nth-wave feminists) or sex prejudice cloaked in pseudoscience (Pop Ev Psychers).

Update, Feb. 19: Per Massimo Pigliucci, it seems Michael Shermer's also still swimming in the waters of Pop Ev Psych sexism. Gee, what a shock!

Here's Shermer, in an ongoing dialogue about how much science does (Pigliucci) or does not (Shermer) need philosophy to guide discussions of ethics:
Most men, for example, are much more receptive toward unsolicited offers of sex than are women. 
Just wow. And, as Massimo notes, simply not true!  

Shermer then goes on to claim rape is scientifically shows to be immoral, ignoring that Pop Ev Psycher Randy Thornhill claimed it was evolutionarily adaptive! 

Meanwhile, it's not just differences in sexual desire. Whether it's Pop Ev Psych or John Gray-type pop psychology, the whole "men are from Mars, women from Venus," is getting more and more refutation.
"Sex is not nearly as confining a category as stereotypes and even some academic studies would have us believe," study researcher Bobbi Carothers, a senior data analyst at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement. 
Are there differences? Yes:
Carothers, who completed the research as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Rochester, and her colleagues are not denying that men and women often do differ from one another. Women, for example, are known to have higher levels of anxiety than men, on average, and to react to bad news with more stress. Studies also turn up gender differences in aggression, sexuality, frequency of smiling, and body image, Carothers and her colleagues wrote.

But researchers haven't spent much time examining the structure of these differences, Carothers wrote. It's possible, for example, that men and women usually fall into distinct groups. In this categorical world, knowing someone is a man would automatically tell you that he's aggressive, interested in short-term sex over long-term relationships, good at math and bad verbally. Alternatively, gender differences could occur more often on a continuum. You might know someone is a man, but it would tell you little about his skills with math. 

Which possibility is more likely might seem clear to anyone who has ever known a guy who can't figure out a tip to save his life. But humans tend toward categorical thinking, the researchers wrote, and gender is about as basic a category as you can get.
Bingo. And here's some specific issues where gender differences are an overlapping continuum:
Men and women fell along a continuum on such measures as interest in casual sex, frequency of thoughts about sex, and the appeal of certain traits such as virginity, looks and wealth in a mate. The same was true of attitudes toward close relationships, empathy and other interpersonal factors.

In other words, if told that a person is more than 6 feet tall, you would be pretty safe in guessing that they were a guy. If told that a person is very empathic, you'd be much harder-pressed to correctly guess their gender.
So, let's just put this "men are from horndog, women are from demure" idea on ice. It's insulting to both sexes. It perpetuates stereotypes, many of which then translate into our legal system, such as judges still occasionally admonishing rape victims about how they dress. 

Oh, and women don't talk more than men, either.

Anyway, expect a separate blog post soon more specific to this issue and more specific to Pop Ev Psych. And that post is here!

That said, nth-wave feminists, to the degree they stereotype men as non-empathetic, etc., don't help on this issue, either.

And, on the psychology side of Pop Ev Psych, let's make sure that claims aren't being made on the basis of biased psychological studies, with such bias including gender bias.

I'll also counter Shermer's "scientism" with repeated recent revelations of cheating on grants, Ben Goldacre's whole new book about selective research reporting in the pharmaceutical industry, and more.

Say, Joseph Mengele? Eugenics "research" in the US? Arthur Jensen? Shockley?

Science is, to riff on Euclid, NO royal road to morality. Period. End of story. 

Note: I apologize to any nth-wave feminist Atheist Plusers I failed to mention here. If you feel you need to be thrown under the bus, too, leave your name in comments. Even better, for people of minds like to mine, who more seriously think I forgot to name anybody, leave a name in comments.

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