Category Archives: science+technology

The Body Agenda Doesn’t Lie

One of the major keys to my game-fueled understanding of women and mating is the concept of the Body Agenda. I have to give a hat tip to Athol Kay for articulating it in a way that resonated with me:

“Body Agenda: It’s very common to think of the “real you” as living inside your body, and your body as some sort of a transportation system for the “real you.” The reality though is that your body has its own agenda that it’s pursuing… it wants to make babies… and your highly intelligent homo sapiens brain is in fact a tool it uses to get that job done. To be sure, we can think logically and make decisions, but we’re not nearly as in control of ourselves as we’d like to think we are. Hormones and neurotransmitters are our bodies’ way of telling us what to do.”

Contrary to overwrought romantic ideas that love “just happens,” our brains have very specially evolved (or designed if that’s your bag) neural hardware dedicated to determining the fitness of any potential mates and driving our behavior towards mixing those genes with our own. This hardware is constantly checking a candidate’s physical fitness, pheremones, gait, voice, speech patterns, parenting ability, social framing, all manner of characteristics inside and out that your body needs to make a decision as to whether you should want to mate with that person.

One level up, our rational minds have further mechanisms to evaluate the best genes and influence our behavior, as well as acting as a diplomatic proxy for our visceral systems – convincing ourselves and others that we’re justified in our actions in ways other than naked self-interest. This papering over our subrational motivations in the name of social niceties is the major workload of the Rationalization Hamster (thank you Roissy), one of the most powerful metaphors in the last wave of game writing.

As I see it, there’s a bit of a paradox in the Body Agenda. Genes tend to want to mate with strong genes – because offspring will be more fit – but also with genes different than themselves, because this genetic diversity helps insure broader survivability – not putting all your genetic eggs in one chromosomal basket. However, if the target genes are too strong, they will dominate your genes in the final product, and genetic diversity undermines the primacy of your own genes. So it’s a matter of seeking fitness and hedging your bet, but not so much that your own genes recede to the background.

ATTRACTION CAN’T BE FAKED

In my last post, we debated Vox Day’s assertion that “a man can’t fake an erection,” by which he meant to tell women that if their husbands were coming at them with sex on their minds and boners in their pants, they were still attractive to their husbands.

On the other side, the Body Agenda that drives the limbic system’s attraction process can’t be reasoned with. You can’t talk yourself into being attracted to someone no matter how much as all the other positive factors of a person line up.

This lesson is most often told from the female side (“he’s a great catch, I know, but I’m just not into him/there’s no SPARK!!”) but it goes for men, too. I recently had a few dates with a woman who seemed like a very good prospect. She was a PhD scientist, similar sense of humor, very interesting, hard-working, low-entitlement, high-energy but also easy to get along with. I really enjoyed spending time with her.

However, something was off. Every time I touched her things felt amiss. Whenever I kissed her, she tasted funny…not like smoke or gum or bourbon or something tangible, just a weird trace of something unpleasant. It wasn’t like she had an unusually fleshy, doughy body. It wasn’t a case of high standards, as other women of her sex rank had previously lit my fire.

It was just that, for whatever reason, my Body Agenda rejected her. My subrational instincts judged her an unfit mate and told the rest of me to stay away from her. What was weird about the whole thing was that from as close as three feet away, I found her aesthetically pleasing and attractive. It was only when actual sexualized contact was made that my Body Agenda cast its vote.

At first I felt a little bad about this whole deal. But then I snapped out of it and realized that this was a feature, not a bug – why was I trying to shame myself for not being attracted to someone my body didn’t like? She eventually LJBF’d herself, overtly recognizing and citing my lack of escalation and (thankfully) not wanting to have a conversation that ended in me declaring my lack of attraction.

Now that I’ve deployed my example, let’s cross-check sex rank against individual preference.

SEX RANK IS ONLY PART OF THE MATING EQUATION

There’s a lot of talk in the Manosphere about sex rank, usually punctuated by the scoring of attractiveness on the old-school 1-10 scale. One of the main tenets of theoretical Game is that there are prototypical traits that each gender finds sexually attractive about the other in the aggregate, and that how an individual stacks up against the overall market preferences (a demand matrix, if you will) can be codified, to first order, in a Sex Rank or Sexual Market Value. Big boobs, curvy hips, long hair for women; physical strength, social dominance, access to power for men.

However, sex rank doesn’t tell the whole story, because even when you’re screening a series of mates of more or less equal sex rank, some are a lot more attractive to you than others. Within the sex rank, there’s an extra element of Body Agenda match that has veto power over the whole operation.

I’ve had plenty of experiences where a conventionally “hot” girl, or my buddy’s girl who he’s crazy about, is just meh to me. It’s a bit like a sports team that gets a really talented player who doesn’t fit in the team’s system and winds up not being as productive as his skill (or salary) would suggest.

Or it’s like buying albums by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Led Zeppelin. All great bands, but odds are you’re going to like one of them a lot more than the rest – and your equally musically astute buddy is liable to have a different preference.

SOCIAL PRESSURE INFLUENCES DECISIONS THAT MAY GO AGAINST THE BODY AGENDA

Also in my last post, some discussion came up about sleeping with girls low on the sexual totem pole, including a remark from the great Kane:

“I don’t know a single man who hasn’t bagged a fatty or two in his day. Do fatties have it? I don’t think so, but every now and then desperation combines with cheap gin to make it seem like they do.”

Kane has a good point – desperation and deprivation can cause a man to do unusual things – however Rock Throwing Peasant (who has started a promising paratropper-themed blog) countered:

“As far as fatties or whatever, you were sexually aroused by the situation. Own up to it, for Pete’s sake. You may never be aroused by the same situation again, but you’re not going to sustain wood without having some sick part of your mind saying, “This is so nasty, it’s arousing.””

They can certainly both be right. It’s hard to read much into drunk and desperately horny guys taking a number at the local watering hole, but shirley there’s a subset of men who are turned on enough by their conquests, but for social reasons, can’t and won’t be seen with them in public.

Radio host Tom Leykis had a hilarious episode about “fat booty calls” where he and many callers talked about hot sexcapadaes they had experienced with women who were conventionally unattractive. Though their Body Agenda approved, their social engines couldn’t have them be seen with someone of such low sex rank in public.

(Because of the effects of preselection, I wager that women will judge such a man much more harshly than men will.)

On the other side of the coin (also mentioned in a previous post here), sometimes guys stay with the wrong woman because the social cachet of having a “hot” girlfriend or being the envy of the other guys is powerful in its own right. They don’t want to admit it’s not working out, because they’d have to face questioning from the guys about how they let such a great girl go.

NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT IT

In a sort of interesting irony, the primacy of the “body agenda” offends two key yet conflicting tenets of our modern mindset:

1. The conviction that we are highly rational beings by virtue of living in a modern, technological society. The fact is that we are 90% animals and a large portion of our rational energy goes toward satisfying our subrational needs or rationalizing already-performed actions whose true motivations are visceral in nature.

2. The romanticized notion that love “just happens” between two people who meet by the grace of the heavens, and that any speedbumps can be rationally negotiated or mitigated if everybody just tries hard enough. The fact is that one’s base attractiveness and Body Agenda matchup have a lot to do with “falling in love,” and the tenets of game and transactional analysis dictate behaviors and habits that are conducive (or destructive) to a relationship no matter how long it’s been going.

(People seem really hooked on the “if you love someone hard enough it will work out” even though all the leads in the romantic comedy movies are stunningly handsome and gorgeous.)

Any way you look at it, our society doesn’t want to suborn the raw self-interested drive of our natures. This is all well and good when it comes to putting aside our natural drives to build a cooperative society, but ignorance of the truth is a real threat to the proper care and feeding of interpersonal relationships. There, because you can’t fake attraction and bonding, the Body Agenda still rules.

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Steve Jobs, Alpha Male

It’s a little late coming here at the Hut (I sketched this post out late last year, but it lost its immediacy and I moved on to other topics), but Steve Jobs’ passing late last year was a sad (if not unexpected) event for almost anyone with a kick for technology.

Very few people are so intimately identified not just with their company, but with the company’s products themselves. Jobs’ shadow over his field was unlike any other in the western world. Politicians get identified with policies and programs – the New Deal, Reaganomics, Obamacare. CEOs might get identified with campaigns, slogans and overall brands – the Choice of a New Generation comes to mind, as does Lee Iacocca’s leadership of Chrysler. But even good technology is so often esoteric and impersonal, no human stamp can be done justice associated with a lump of plastic and silicon. But Steve Jobs was so instrumental in the development of his company’s flagship products (the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad), and so personally identified with the life and times of his creations, he carried a cult of personality into mainstream technology that has rarely been approached by other inventor/designer/manager/entrepreneur personalities.

Now you might say that it was all an image job, a media manipulation to buy him lo-fi geek cred in an otherwise buttoned-up and socially awkward industry.

You might be partially right. But that’s part of my point. Jobs cultivated a public persona that itself sustained his influence and gravitas in a field where it’s very easy to get typecast as a geek (whose products are too difficult to use for average customers) or as a pointy-headed bean-counter out of touch with the needs of customers (who is unresponsive to customer’s desires). People in business and technology know who Larry Ellison is, the founder of database giant Oracle. But people on the street know Steve Jobs, and they don’t see him as a businessman, his public image is that of a 21-st century Thomas Edison, creating new things that make the average person’s life easier and better.

Jobs has already gone down as one the most influential personalities of two eras – Generation X (whose technology revolution he fueled) and Generation Y (whose icons he designed) – and will probably wind up the most historically recognized technology figure of the information age, with the possible exception of Microsoft founder Bill Gates (more on him later).

THE REALITY DISTORTION FIELD

Even in his early 20′s, Jobs was renowned for his “reality distortion field” – the ability to impress his own viewpoint on anyone in his vicinity, no matter how insane it was with regard to feasibility, cost or time. The broad shadow of his personality could pull the most logical person out of their mind.

One of the stories that went around about Jobs was that the worst place to be in Apple was in an elevator with him. He would start interrogating employees about their work, and if he felt you weren’t adding value you might be fired before the ride was over. Whether it was true or not, it served a purpose – everyone at the Infinite Loop worked under his vision, and wouldn’t be allowed to forget it.

Another story went that Jobs and an underling were interviewing a candidate when Jobs asked “when did you lose your virginity?”

“Excuse me?”

“How many women have you had sex with?”

The interview ended abruptly.

VISION

Real vision, and the discipline to carry it out, is what separates a business leader from your average middle-management douchebag.

Did Steve Jobs lay out the circuit boards and glue the cases together? Hell no, he had thousands of people working under him to do that (prime among them the great Steve Wozniak and Jef Raskin). But they wouldn’t have been working on it had he not brought the concept to the fore. Jobs knew where he wanted the company to go, kept everyone focused and their spirits up, and got rid of people who stood in the way of the prize. He won respect because he didn’t court it – he was great with people, but he wasn’t afraid to cross people in pursuit of the goal.

The most lucid parable of his vision came in the mid-80′s when he was courting Pepsi president John Sculley to join Apple. Sculley protested that he had a great gig going. Jobs replied “you can sell sugar water to kids for the rest of your life…or you can come with me and change the world.”

That’s a ballsy thing to say. It’s ballsier to follow through. Jobs did. So did Sculley (a good leader knows another leader when he sees one).

Forget these fools who say that tech entrepreneurs are betas. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ve been hanging around with too many flip-cupping frat guys who’ll spend the rest of their lives as circle-jerking brokers or shilling tires to suburban housewives, or they never knew what a real leader was in the first place.

Has Steve Jobs changed the world? That’s an unqualified yes. He’s an alpha male.

STEVE INVENTED HIPSTERS

Ever since the original Macintosh, Apple had aggressively marketed its graphics capabilities and rounded user interface to designers and other “creative” workers. They didn’t balk at the price tag and had a personal sensibility that appreciated the soft nature of the user interface.

In keeping with the Internet era’s trend of democratizing everything, in the early 2000′s a new niche sprung up not of graphic designers or semi-professional film editors, but of regular fledgling youth who wanted to entertain the self-concept of being in the creative class. This built on the popularity of the white iPod design scheme, and coincided with the switch to OS X (a stable, kickass operating system that leveraged large amounts of well-worn and highly efficient Unix software).

It quickly became a trend that to own a Mac and display it proudly was itself a signal to society that you were “creative” and “artistic.” You might never had even opened iMovie or Garage Band, but it didn’t matter – image is image, and Apple catered to the kids’ desire to finally make the A/V club cool. Then finally, Apple built up the iTunes store, enabling the granular distribution of indie music to warm the cockles of the young aesthetes’ hearts.

In other words, Steve Jobs opened the door to today’s modern hipsters.

THE PHOENIX OF THE VALLEY

Two-time success at the top is really not a common thing. Douglas MacArthur** vowed “I shall return” when he fled the Philippines – and he did, to final victory in the Pacific, but ultimately to ignominious censure and dismissal after his arrogant diplomatic actions in Korea. Then-vice president Richard Nixon lost a nail-biting race to Kennedy, and returned to the White House in 1968, only to be run out of town in the wake of Watergate.

Jobs founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in a garage, built the Apple II, rolled out the Macintosh, and was then fired by the CEO he himself had hired. After his technologically-notable but commercially-limited startup (NeXT)*, Jobs returned to the leadership of Apple in 1997 for the celebrated salary of $1. Thus began an aggressive program of simplifying Apple’s product line and image, and making long-term-oriented background investments to advance Apple’s core technologies which ultimately culminated in OS X, the switch to Intel processors and the horizontal unification of music players, computing and media distribution.

Roissy (or one of his commenters, I don’t exactly recall) witnessed countless women at bars and clubs glued to their iPhones, completely oblivious to the men who wanted to talk to them, and nominated Jobs as Cockblock of the Decade. That’s being at the top in my book.

*NeXT was notable for being the platform on which the first-ever web server was deployed.

**Edited – I had put George MacArthur, confusing the five-star with George McClellan, who also served as head of the Union Army twice only to be sacked both times and then get crushed by Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election.

COMMENTS ON MICROSOFT

In Robert X. Cringley’s excellent documentary “Triumph of the Nerds,” filmed during Jobs’ exodus from Apple, Jobs waxed on his former company’s bitter rival. “My problem with Microsoft is not their success. I have no problem with their success. It’s that…it’s that they have no taste.”

In an extraordinary side-by-side interview before Jobs’ death, Bill Gates repaid Jobs by saying he had always admired Steve’s aesthetic sense.

Such was the complementary dynamic of the two men’s companies – one guy eating up market share that no one could argue with, the other selling it better and cleaner than the other guy.

As long as we’re on the topic, I want to mention that I believe Bill Gates’ popular-culture image as a geeky computer programmer to be one of the greatest public relations hoodwinks in modern American history.

Only in the very beginning was Gates’ primary contribution that of code, of direct product. Gates’ value to Microsoft has overwhelmingly been his business acumen and willingness to make aggressive and even ruthless deals with other market players to acquire technology, dictate licensing terms or push competitors off the table. Gates, like Jobs, liked technology but ran on vision – the vision to have a computer on every person’s desk.

Vision is especially important in high technology because you’re marketing a product that literally didn’t exist before, a disruptive offering that requires fundamental changes in the way people go about their daily lives. Lots of people will say no, unable to imagine why they need it, only coming around when the product has caught on with more risk-tolerant, novelty-seeking citizens.

Although Gates apparently fancied himself a code expert (as alluded to in the opening sequence of Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs), he’s always been front and center anticipating the features and products average people would need and figuring out ways to get those products into schools, businesses and government offices where his dream of universal computing could come true.

Like Jobs, Gates’ image serves as self-reinforcing for his business needs. While Jobs’ artistic shtick opened customers’ hearts, the geek image is disarming, and hides the spectre of the one-sided deal that is about to unfold. To get an insight into the feisty nature of the management team, consider that Microsoft president Steve Ballmer’s Harvard roommate was none other than manic financial journalist Jim Cramer (maybe baldness is contagious?)

It has been discussed in several arenas that Gates has no game and may be horrifically awkward around women. This has led to some pronouncements that Gates is a hardcore beta, a true geekboy. I think it’s better to view Gates as a corner case – a high achiever who has changed the world with his ability to navigate business and society from the top, who was never good with women but nonetheless never felt the need to leverage his success to bag chicks with supercharged beta-provider/rich-guy game. Not a paper alpha, a guy who is superficially successful but lacks the ability to take advantage of it, but a guy who was probably not that interested in the game in the first place, and with the demands of his enterprise never had time to develop the skills that would make the game worthwhile (or to taste enough success to motivate getting more of it).

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Don’t Pay Attention To Psych Surveys That Amount To Self-Fortune Telling

Frequently, news stories herald the results of “studies” that involve asking people to discern:

  • How they would act or react to certain situations
  • Rational reasons why they made certain decisions which are most likely made emotionally and subconsciously and then rationalized after the fact

“Study: 41% of men would lie to get sex”

“88% of Millenials would rather be respected than wealthy”

“Women say they prefer equalist marriage to male-leadership model

(These are made up from my head but analogous to what you’ll see in media headlines.)

I have completely stopped paying attention to these studies that query people with hypotheticals. Their theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, their methods are sloppy and their conclusions are highly questionable.

Context: In reviewing this Dalrock piece for my last post, I came across a comment from “Lily” that linked to the summary of a book entitled “Why Men Marry Some Women And Not Others.” The book had the provocative (to women) but rather simple (to men) thesis that there are strategies women can employ to increase their likelihood of becoming married, and behavioral traits a woman can exhibit that will greatly increase the chance that a man will want to make her his wife. In other words, girl-game for ladies-in-waiting.

(It’s funny how much crap women at large give the idea of game, when in fact guys teaching other men how to be attractive to the opposite sex is simply copying the blueprint that women have used for generations.)

Dalrock found the piece interesting, but reminded us that “he is going on surveys which have the problem of people answering why they think they did something.”

I have three major objections to this kind of junk science.

1. People can’t predict with their minds how their gut instinct will react to a choice; only when the choice is put in front of them can they be sure what they’ll choose.

As I have commented several times around the Internet: if people could accurately predict their responses to decisions and stimuli, the entire field of research psychology would not exist at all. We wouldn’t have to run experiments to examine how our minds operate if we could just trust people to ascertain and then reveal the exact mechanisms of their operation.

Salesmen understand this as a core aspect of their trade – that customers can be influenced through social traits like reciprocation, likability or social proof to make decisions against their rational self-interest in a dollars-and-cents way. They walk onto the lot to buy one thing, or “just to browse,” and walk out with a purchase. Whether we want to admit it or not, we make decisions with our right brains far more than with our left brains. Rationalization is the art of convincing oneself that you’ve made a left-brain decision when in reality your limbic system did all the work.

Much of research psychology concerns itself with constructing creative head-fake experiments to keep the participants from catching on to what is actually being studied, and thus invoking their rationalization engines. I’m convinced that this focus on actually performing the science is part of the reason so many psychology majors seem wholly clueless as to the actual imperatives of human behavior.

One very famous study, the Milgram experiment, involved telling subjects they were participating in a study of memory when in fact the researchers were examining the response of people to authority when asked to abuse other human beings.

This experiment was spoofed in the opening sequence of Ghostbusters, in which the cynical and opportunistic Peter Venkman hit on a woman while giving electric shocks to examining “the effects of negative reinforcement on ESP ability.” The effects according to the male subject, was “pissing him off.”

His colleague Dr. Egon Spengler performed more sadistically absurdist research in Ghostbusters II, inviting a couple to “marriage counseling” and then forcing them to sit in a waiting room for hours while steadily increasing the temperature in the room.

2. There’s never a true binary choice to be made, the choices are among people with a range of traits we are trying to balance.

A major failure mode of popular studies is trying to examine a trait or a tradeoff in isolation.

Guys get asked stuff like “would you rather have a girlfriend who is sexually attractive or very intelligent?”

I don’t care what your teachers told you, there are stupid questions and this is one of them. People just don’t make decisions based on an isolated factor or pair of factors to the exclusion of everything else. Anybody in the sexual marketplace is looking at a range of traits in each potential partner and trying to balance them to get the optimal combination that’s gettable.

Women get asked stuff like “would you rather date a doctor or an accountant?” It’s impossible to answer the question without considering the other traits of the two men (not that the answer would be expected to be accurate, see point #1 above). What if Bradley Cooper wants to do her taxes and the doctor is C. Everett Koop?

Another silly variant of this binary-choice idea is “all else being equal, would you prefer X or Y?” There aren’t two men of exactly the same personality and job status except one is bald and the other has a mullet, or two women with the same nurturing traits and chocolate addictions but one has big boobs and the other has great legs. You’re going to get bad data if you ask people to choose in the frame of non-existent option spaces.

The one caveat to this is that almost no one will date someone who doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of attractiveness, so that trait absolutely has to be met.

However, the bar for attraction in men is not that high; once you meet that standard, it becomes a battle of relationship fitness. In other words, if you want a relationship with a guy, you don’t have to be hotter than the other girls he’s considering; you just have to be hotter than the least attractive woman he’s willing to be with. Which unless he’s a guy with a lot of options, is usually pretty meager. Hungry men gotta eat and all that.

In short, I’ve very rarely heard of a man who picked the hotter girl for a relationship on that basis. Commitment is earned by others means (see that book about who men want to marry).

On the other hand, modern young women seem to mentally separate men into hopeless betas and dashing alphas at a moment’s notice. Roosh actually just tweeted to that effect tonight: “The game is so fucked up in USA that if you push the wrong button on your phone and accidentally call her, she may write you off completely.” (I have many thoughts on this issue that are better suited to another post – TL;DR: an entire generation with daddy issues.)  This means they price themselves out of the opportunity to take advantage of the wide spread of alpha-beta balance options. So women are often observed to date men of poor long-term fitness, because by the time she’s found a man who meets her attractiveness standards she’s committed herself to sacrificing almost all other considerations. There are men who exhibit a range of tradeoffs between core attraction and comfort traits but most of them are invisible to the Millenial girl.

3. People tell pollsters what they think they should say, and what flatters their own sensibilities and self-concept

Finally, there’s the problem that we don’t want to admit our wicked thoughts to other people. We instinctively want to give answers that fit our egos, that flatter the pollster so we can please them and avoid upturned eyebrows and dirty looks. I’m such a noble person!

Interestingly, I’ve noticed personally that this effect doesn’t disappear when you take away the in-your-face questioner. Even on anonymized Internet surveys or work feedback sheets with no names, I find myself asking “is this how I want to answer this? Am I the type of guy who would say this?”

My experience is backed up by a celebrated study (analysis liked here) that suggested that women dissemble about their partner counts even in anonymous surveys. (The differences in men’s counts were concluded to not be significant.) It appears this effect can be mitigated by introducing the spectre of objective truth via a polygraph or something like it.

JUST SAY NO

So those are three reasons to not put a lot of stock in these person-on-the-street style of surveys, even the ones done in labs under the guidance of PhDs. They don’t qualify as anything close to scientific or even informative; all you get with these studies is a good idea of what people will say when asked questions about a particular topic, not what they really think or how they will truly act.

It’s interesting to note that while we in the Manosphere are quick to criticize women who give rationalized, face-saving and bogus answers to these sorts of surveys or to classic questions like “what do you find attractive in a man,”  in the case above case Dalrock (and me) are calling the veracity of men’s answers into question. (The cheap joke here would be to posit that married men are habituated into saying what women want to hear.) The fact is, however, that there’s only a limited amount of rank dishonesty going on; seriously, what is the overt incentive to lie on a survey? Rather, the nature of the study itself intrinsically taints the results with cognitive biases that are almost unavoidable.  It’s like driving in the snow without chains – it doesn’t matter if you’re a Rain Man level of excellent driver, it’s just a fundamentally flawed setup.

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Female-Directed Adult Films Feature More Aggressive Women

Eric Barker muses on a study of male- and female-directed pornography (emphasis his):

We conducted a quantitative analysis of 122 randomly selected scenes from 44 top-renting adult videos in 2005 (half male- and half female-directed). Findings revealed that all films shared similar depictions: Verbal and physical aggression was common, women were the primary targets of aggression, and negative responses to aggression were extremely rare. Compared to male-directed films, female-directed films were significantly more likely to portray women-only scenes and sexual acts. Even when controlling for main characters’ gender, female-directed films showed significantly more female perpetrators aggressing against female targets and significantly more depictions of women as perpetrators of aggression.

To restate the most salient point:

  • Even when controlling for the gender of the participants, female-directed porn features significantly more instances of women initiating and escalating.

I take this to mean that in male-female scenes, women are more featured as logistical escalators and sexual perpetrators, and in threesome/group scenes, women are more featured as escalating against each other rather than simply responding to male sexual aggression.

Even with all of my red-pill reading and writing, these results surprised me…I had bought the “conventional wisdom” that female involvement in porn would skew the content towards soft lovemaking, non-aggression, emotional support, relationship commitment, pillow talk, tasty omelettes, you get the idea. I had blocked out the ideas taught to me by the Internet, conversations with women and my own personal experience – that many women want to have dynamic, high-energy sexual experiences, that they often seek playful dominance in the bedroom (disregarding how they conduct themselves in “real life”) and that they will exhibit aggression if there’s enough comfort or lack of judgment to make it safe to do so.

(Incidentally, I think that is what a lot of this cheap alpha hookup sex we’ve been talking so much about provides – when it’s with a guy who is semi-anonymous, and you’re being cheered on by your friends, and there aren’t all these personal commitment expectations swirling around, it’s a lot easier to push your boundaries without being nervous he’s going to judge you or smear your reputation around your social circle.)

One layer of the onion here is the last bit of the abstract:

We highlight the importance of economic forces, rather than director gender, in dictating the content of popular pornography.

I take that to mean “directors give the market what sells, not what they think should sell.” Remember we’re talking about “top-rented” films here, so ipso facto the study results are taken from what the market wants.

We also have to consider that there’s a difference between female-marketed pornography and female-produced pornography. A woman behind the camera isn’t necessarily only seeking to address female interests in her craft. We do have to note selection bias…the type of woman who wants to direct an overtly pornographic film is herself more interested in graphic depictions of sex than in the romance-novel style of emotional pornography through the written word. And there’s probably a sex-poz feminist streak in those directors as well, which motivates them to portray women as sexually alive and assertive rather than following a man’s lead. In this way, some of these films are sexually political in nature.

Another question: are these results a matter of director gender itself, or are there underground factors that indirectly link director gender to other factors which themselves correlate to the artistic and character style of the movie? Perhaps certain movie houses that happen to cater to certain tastes also happen to have a gender skew on their film staff? It could also be the case that women engaging in girl-on-girl or fem-dom roles on film are more comfortable working with female directors, and the director gender is instead a proxy for the preferences of the actors and the needs of the script rather than being a determiner of those things.

There’s also the matter of how much influence the director has on what goes on in the movie. Is the director an auteur of sorts who controls all creative aspects of the film? Or is the director simply blocking and filming the scenes that a separate producer and screenwriter have already planned out, like a high school theater teacher bringing Guys and Dolls to the local stage? My knowledge of the operations of the porn industry is slim, so I’m guessing this varies by studio, size of project, and the director in question.

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Great Game Material: Deep Rapport Questions to Create Emotional Connection

A while back I ran across a 2008 post entitled “Deep Rapport Questions” by one Sebastian Flyte, taking the nom de guerre Elysium.  I consider it one of the most important posts on game and social interactions I’ve ever read.

The blog has since been taken down, but the content has been preserved by the Internet wayback machine and also by crasch at this post. Elysium says:

>>>>>

I read Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling. It was mildly interesting, and like many of these one-word intellectual books popping up (Yes!) had some little gems of curious research splatted here and there.

The most intriguing was a study* by Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York, who wanted to see how long takes to feel a really deep romantic connection with someone. So he got in some guys and girls, and in the space of an hour tried to create intimacy levels that typically take months or years to form. It was called the ‘Sharing Game’ – a sheet of 36 questions was presented to the participants, and they had to ask and answer them with their assigned partner. Both had to answer the questions out loud, to each other, and in the manner of a conversation. Here are some of the questions:

  • Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  • Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  • What would constitute the “perfect” day for you?
  • When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  • If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  • Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  • If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  • If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  • Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  • What is your most treasured memory?
  • If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are living now? Why?
  • What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  • Share an embarrassing moment from your life.
  • When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  • What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

There is a momentum here – if you admit you rehearse telephone calls, a minor but revealing thing, you will be more willing to answer the deeper questions. Interestingly, and proof that conventional ‘where are you from’ questions lead nowhere with women, was the control mechanism: a small talk questionnaire for other participants that included questions like “Tell me the names of your brothers and sisters, and where they were born”, and “Where are you from? Name all the places you’ve lived”.

The participants in the deep rapport experiment “didn’t want to part company afterwards; many were seen exchanging cell numbers to keep in contact”.

The participants in the small talk experiment just wanted to get the hell out of there.

These questions should be incorporated into the “truth game” comfort routine, where you say ‘Let’s play the truth game. We ask each other questions, one at a time, and have to tell the truth.” Simple. Simple. Simple.

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Over the past few months I’ve been working hard on building emotional connection** with women, exuding warmth and closeness while avoiding the crying-shoulder friend zone that so many guys fall prey to. I had noticed that in my quest to avoid wishy-washy beta-orbiter status, I had suppressed some of my emotional spark. Although I was bold and alpha and creating attraction, it was falling flat on follow-up due to my backing away from riding the emotional wave.

The breakthrough for me was one of Roissy’s Commandments:

IX. Connect with her emotions

Set yourself apart from other men and connect with a woman’s emotional landscape. Her mind is an alien world that requires deft navigation to reach your rendevous. Frolic in the surf of emotions rather than the arid desert of logic. Be playful. Employ all your senses. Describe in lush detail scenarios to set her heart afire. Give your feelings freedom to roam. ROAM. Yes, that is a good word. You’re not on a linear path with her. You are ROAMING all over, taking her on an adventure. In this world, there is no need to finish thoughts or draw conclusions. There is only need to EXPERIENCE. You’re grabbing her hand and running with her down an infinite, labyrinthine alleyway with no end, laughing and letting your fingers glide on the cobblestone walls along the way.

This is the classic sensual wordsmithing that made Roissy the unparalleled king of the the scene – back when it was called the “Roissysphere,” a nod to the fact that it was his world and the rest of us were just blogging in it.

This idea of employing the senses and running aimlessly through a forest of feelings resonated with me. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I can move between topics and spheres of discussion with the best of them.

Searching for a way to heighten my emotional energy in conversation without smiling too much, laughing too much or getting too clingy, I dialed up Elysium’s post. I couldn’t keep more than two of the questions in my head at any one time, but that was enough – one was usually enough to kick-start a conversation in a personal but still safe direction. I wasn’t asking about her past relationships, family history or kink. But I was getting her sharing details about how she worked (or how she thought she worked), building comfort and an image of myself as a deep guy in her eyes.

I’ve actually rolled one of the questions into a standard conversational rejoinder, now a part of my personality rather than a game routine. That question is “before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?” Not only does this function as a rapport builder, it clues me in to a woman’s social demeanor and possibly her introvert/extrovert balance. In two cases it even got women to tell me outright that they worked in public relations and corporate sales respectively, material I used to take the conversation in yet another direction (and not a direction about work – one thing that does not build rapport is talking about your jobs. I actually advise you never say “so what do you do?” in conversation ever again.)

Line for line, this sector of your game is very low-cost to learn. You don’t have to worry about keeping a bold frame like when delivering cocky funny lines, you don’t have to worry about shit-test responses, and you’re very unlikely to get rejected based on these questions (a woman who can’t play along is one that isn’t worth talking to anyway).

You just say the line, listen to her response, and say “…that’s interesting.” Then either follow up on what she said (“what if it was a really important phone call, like a accepting a job offer or with a guy you really liked”) or, if she’s polite, she’ll ask you back the same question and you respond honestly but be one step less revealing than she was to maintain some aloofness.

These topics are winners – women love talking about psychology, especially their own inscrutable natures (let the hamster spin for fun), and so many guys flag out in conversation with the same “where are you from/what do you do/how long have you lived here” boilerplate. Don’t be that guy – be the interesting guy who taught her something about herself.

*The blog author gives the academic citation in a comment: “The procedure is described in the “Personality and Social Bulletin”, 23,33-377. The experiment itself was by Slatcher, R. B. (2007) “Party of Four: Creating closeness between couples”, University of Texas. He has a 2008 summary called “Effects of couple friendships on relationship closeness”.”

**Great minds think alike.

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A Christmas Wish: Correct Use of Terminology

Being the Myers-Briggs J that I am, the improper or ignorant use of terminology drives me up a wall. We’ve evolved complex language skills that have the side-effect use of communicating concepts between people, and we insist on muddying it up by intentionally overloading* phrases with new and confusing re-definitions.

One example of this I’m running into is the 80-20 Rule. I heard a piece of public speaking advice that went “use one posture 80% of the time and another, edgier posture 20% of the time,” packaged as “use the 80-20 rule.” I’ve also seen wardrobe advice to wear conservative dress 80% of the time and wacky stuff on 20% occasion, also cited as the 80-20 rule.

The 80-20 Rule is not a restatement of the equation “80% + 20% = 100%.” The Pareto Principle (from which we get “the 80-20 Rule” as an aphoritic restatement) is the rule of thumb that in many systems, 80% of the effects will come from 20% of the causes. The 80 and the 20 are two different metrics, apples and oranges. Old Messr Pareto himself allegedly observed that 80% of Italian land was owned by 20% of Italians. My pal Susan Walsh used it as a basis to examine college sex distributions and evaluate a well-worn pop-culture hypothesis that 80% of the girls are screwing 20% of the guys (a theory partially supported by STD studies among other things). I probably get 80% of the joy in my life from 20% of the people I know. The list of examples goes on. It’s an incredibly powerful way to understand the world, and to organize your own strategy, so long as fools don’t insist on stealthily re-defining it.

I’m also seeing a lot of references to “game theory” around the manosphere, used to refer to the principles of interpersonal psychology pioneered by pickup artists (PUAs) and disseminated into wider culture by a network of intrepid bloggers like Athol Kay, Roissy and yours truly.

There are two problems with this blurring of language.

The first is that the term “game theory” is already defined – game theory is a branch of mathematics concerned with analyzing the interests, actions and rewards of competing agents. The prisoner’s dilemma is a classic example of game theory. (For those who saw “A Beautiful Mind,” the vignette of which woman to hit on to maximize group benefit is another example of game theory.)

The second problem is that game is not really theory at all – in fact, it may be the most empirical proposition of modern times. Game as we know it was developed and honed through thousands upon thousands of hours of experimentation and observation by scores of men. Sure, there is evolutionary psychology involved to shore up the explanation of the behaviors being observed, but practically speaking evo-psych really functions more like folk etymology than an actual scientific basis to the results of the experiments – if you will, a sort of rationalization hamster to soften the shock-blow of learning how people really function underneath all of that rational mythmaking.

I feel like I see the phrase “game theory” from critics far more than from its actual practitioners, so I think calling it a “theory” is supposed to subtly discredit it – a la those who would tell you that “evolution is just a theory.”

I’m not even going to get into the subject of people who don’t know what “the immaculate conception” actually refers to.

*”Overloading” is indeed a technical term for a case where words, symbols or functions have different meanings and effects depending on the situation.

 

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Reader Exercise: Sexual Function Indexes for Men and Women

Too-good-to-not-include photo from Barker's latest post.

Eric Barker’s excellent Barking Up The Wrong Tree blog describes, in short pithy posts, dozens of psychological truisms and well-being lifehacks with research to back them up. I’ve linked him several times.

In a pair of posts outlining how yoga improves sexual performance in both men and women, he cites studies which use two indices of sexual function to measure the effect of lifestyle habits on men’s and women’s sexual health. (A significant part of psychological research canon is the development of measurement systems for human behaviors that can’t be expressed with rulers, clocks or scales.)

The Male Sexual Quotient or MSQ is a ten-question exam distilling sexual functioning into a single numerical metric. This abstract from Johns Hopkins noted that the average time to complete the exam was 11 minutes, and that 46% of men taking the survey exhibited, um, premature finishing. It took half the guys longer to finish the exam than to finish.*

The Female Sexual Function Index or FSFI uses 19 questions to rate female function in six categories: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain. (I suppose that’s a testament to the complexity of female sexuality.)

OK, so out with it – take the appropriate exam and post your numbers!

Ladies first:

The Male Sexual Quotient exam was cribbed from a Google Books link here.

Answer this questionnaire honestly based on the last 6 months of your sex life, rating your answer as follows.

1 = infrequently or rarely
2 = sometimes
3 = nearly 50% of the time
4 = most of the time
5 = always

1. Is your desire high enough to encourage you to initiate sexual intercourse?

2. Do you feel confident in your ability of seduction?

3. Do you feel that foreplay is enjoyable and satisfying for both you and your partner?

4. Is your own sexual performance affected by your partner’s sexual satisfaction?

5. Can you maintain an erection sufficiently in order to complete sexual activity in a satisfactory way?

6. After sexual stimulation, is your erection hard enough to ensure satisfying intercourse?

7. Are you able to consistently obtain and maintain an erection whenever you have sexual activity?

8. Are you able to control ejaculation so that sexual activity lasts as long as you want?

9. Are you able to reach orgasm during sex?

10. Does your sexual performance encourage you to enjoy sex more frequently?

TOTAL MAXIMUM SCORE: 50. Add up the numbers and multiply by 2.

82-100: Highly sassified.**

62-80: Partially sassified.

42-60: Average.

22-40: Dissassified.

0-20: Highly dissassified.

*Waka waka!

**”Sassified” is not in my browser’s spelling dictionary.

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Dr. Marcus Conant on Modern AIDS Epidemiology

Jacksonville native and Air Force veteran Marcus Conant was a dermatologist working in San Francisco in 1981 when he began seeing young male patients exhibiting a rare skin cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Because KS was one of the first two opportunistic infections to be characteristically identified with AIDS-related immune suppression (the other was the fungally-induced pneumocystis pneumonia, or PCP), Conant’s specialty and proximity to the gay community put him directly in the path of a then-baffling new disease.

It was an interesting fit for him, as early in his career in San Francisco he worked at the Haight-Ashbury STD clinic triaging the fallout from the experimental free-love community. Conant says this clinic witnessed one of the first epidemics of genital herpes, an unfortunately common disease among sexually active Americans today.

(WordPress won’t let me embed the fora.tv video, so here is the link – it is absolutely worth watching.)

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in here, from transmission patterns among truck drivers to the politics of foreign aid, doctors who don’t want to know if their patients are positive to the effect of crystal meth on casual sex to “black and Hispanic America have not yet come out of the closet.” Conant also gives specific medical recommendations – testing of every sample of blood that is drawn and aggressive monitoring of viral load in patients.

To head off questions I feel I need to disclaim my interest in the subject. I’m not gay, I’m not bi, I’m not bi-curious or anything like that. I’m not involved in any activism when I’m not blogging, and I’m not a doctor on the front lines. I became interested in the AIDS epidemic as a pre-teen and teen as it was a major factor in what they were teaching us in the the nascent “safe sex 90′s.” It was only after a full medical understanding that I became interested in the social environment and fallout of the disease, which dovetails nicely with my amateur study of sexual dynamics (otherwise known as this blog). AIDS is also interesting in that it’s one of the only diseases to completely emerge under the scope of modern medicine and epidemiology, meaning its origins could be rather conclusively traced and its various treatments completely recorded and studied.

While medically and socially it’s wrong to approach AIDS as a gay man’s disease, the fact is that since the first months of its appearance, AIDS has been an ever-present specter in the gay male community, a more singular demon than almost any threat facing any other first-world demographic group. I recently saw an estimate that even today, a sexually-active gay American man has a 1 in 5 risk of becoming infected with HIV in his lifetime.

AIDS, even before it was named such, quickly caught the notice of the Centers for Disease Control, which internally characterized it as the “4-H” disease – referring to its first classes of victims: homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs and Haitian immigrants. It’s morbid to consider that AIDS fairly quickly shut down the fast-lane lifestyle of young gay communities in the Castro, New York’s Fire Island and a dozen other North American gay villages, for two reasons: the disease forced behavioral changes in risk groups, and many of the lifestyle’s evangelists themselves died of the disease. It’s fair to note that many young gay men were not participating in the hyper-promiscuous behavior the culture was known for, but after a certain point, it didn’t really matter; the second wave of cases started to hit relatively chaste men, who in the course of a sensible serial-monogamy lifestyle would come in contact with a “reformed bathhouser.”

Public health authorities have long played a tightrope game of trying to contain risky sexual behavior, but not shaming it so much that it simply goes underground where health and social services can’t reach them. This is something like what has happened in places like Washington DC where gay black men (“on the downlow”) are extremely circumspect in their behavior, difficult for public health services to find, and are trafficking the virus between gay and straight communities.

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The Mathematics of Love Are Mysterious

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Real Men Of Alpha: The Moon Landings

“Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”

“Roger Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch a guys about to turn blue. We’re breathin’ again. Thanks a lot.”

As long as the Hut is running American history week, it’s well worth noting that today is the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11′s splashdown, bringing home with it the first men to walk on the moon. Stop and think hard about that one. Atop a bazillion gallons of rocket fuel, we sent a crumpled can to the moon; two guys got out, walked around the surface, then got back in and came home.

The men selected for these missions were among the top specimens America had to offer. Drawn from the pool of military test pilots – those brave and risk-seeking enough to fly aircraft nobody had flown before – they were too young for World War II, although some had seen action in Korea.

Sometimes arrogant and petulant, always confident and ready for the challenge, they had deep respect for each other and for their Russian cosmonaut counterparts; but they were fiercely competitive at the same time. Were disaster to befall any of them (and it did), without a doubt the rest would be racing back from the funeral to get in line for the next flight. Even in one of the most exclusive groups in history, no one wanted to be second place.

“The first man to walk on the moon walked into this room today.”

“FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION”

The alphatude necessary to go to the moon doesn’t stop with the guys in the capsule. The flight controllers running the mission from the ground had their own needs for serious leadership and gravitas.

The guys with the pocket protectors and slide rules weren’t just geeks off the street; they were exhaustively trained technical officers whose job it was to act as emergency responders for any – any – issue that might come up during a flight, guiding the mission through its flight plan and its contingencies.

If a controller patched into the flight director loop, his words and tone of voice had to reflect his absolute confidence that he knew what he was talking about – whether it was rocket burn data, a go/no-go on a critical mission step, medical information or whatever, it was his job to be the expert, and he better act the part. The best of them were dubbed “steely-eyed missile men.”

And when Gene Kranz, Chris Kraft or any of the other flight directors responded, everyone listening had to hear that he was in complete control of his staff and his flight, rapidly assimilating often-conflicting reports against the mission rules and making a sound, well-informed, quick decision that more often than not had better turn out to be right.

When the capsule communicator (CAPCOM, the only person who actually spoke to the spacecraft and always staffed by an astronaut) spoke to the crew through the ether, they had to hear in his voice the absolute certitude of the entire flight control enterprise.

The technology of the Apollo program is famous and continues to be studied and applied; we would not have gone to the moon without the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo guidance computer. But we also would not have been able to go without the tremendous interpersonal achievements of the astronaut, controller and engineering teams, strong, courageous personalities on the ground and in the air. (While we’re at it let’s not forget the domestic teams, the astronaut wives.)

If you don’t have time for all these videos, just watch this one which half the time describes my reaction to the whole thing:

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