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War of the Genders

A confrontational soapbox for rants and politically incorrect manifestos regarding feminism, chauvinism, dating and gender issues.

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Location: Jerusalem, Israel

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Venture Capitalism

Part I: Stereotypes

In the previous article, I explored a general psychological phenomenon amongst many modern women who seem to be desperately valuing themselves based on whimsical fashion and pedantic cosmetics. Instead of playing the blame game, I was analyzing the phenomenon. I was more interested in seeing how deep it goes, not where it comes from.

But looking at it again, I suddenly notice the obvious clues: Worthiness based only on looks, instant sexual attraction based on visual influence, sex as power, etc. Stereotypically, this would point at men as the ultimate source behind this phenomenon. Not that women necessarily do it for men, but that a man's way of thinking caused this to happen in the first place. But is this fair?

Think about most men's dating behaviour. It is true that a woman can attract them instantly, that they fall for looks, that it only takes a mini-skirt to distract them, that at first sight many men judge women by their looks, and that some even marry purely for looks. But the majority of men I know are only easy to get, not to keep. Look at the popular relationship self-help books out there for women; They all deal with how to keep or marry men, not how to attract them.

It's easy to get a man in your bed, it's slightly harder to make him stay until the morning, and quite a challenge to get a marriage vow out of him no matter how pretty you are. You may argue that this only proves men are interested in looks or in the excitement of conquest, but while this may be partially true, I believe that it's usually a case of not awakening the appropriate drives in the man. If all a man is interested in is beauty, then why bother getting married? And why does beauty by itself rapidly lose its power over time?

After the initial superficial attraction, there has to be much more to keep a man interested. I also argued that in many cases, unless the sugary power of instant attraction isn't rationed, the relationship loses its chance to develop naturally. The phenomenon that is ignored by these misandric stereotypes is that some men need to work and to be worked on in order to bring out the best in them and make a permanent relationship, the good news being that a healthy woman has just the right natural powers and character to do this. The bad news is, I think things are getting so twisted nowadays, most relationships are going to be weak and frail at best, or doomed from the start at worst.

I must emphasize that I'm not saying that women have to do all the work and men are just annoying, badly designed relationship-machines that have to be tinkered with constantly to get something good out of them. But I do think that part of a man's work is to choose a healthy woman that will bring out the best in him.

But all this finger-pointing begs a few questions: Were women really once less superficial than men? Or are they simply socially trained and better at hiding or controlling their urges? Or perhaps a woman's superficiality shows itself in other ways? And were men always this superficial or is this a stereotype projected onto the past? In fact, this blame game assumes that women and men don't have equal split personalities and superficial drives - which sounds like a stereotype to me.

One possible argument towards blaming men is that it's well known that they are much more influenced by visuals. But this doesn't mean visuals are the only superficial influence. What is the exact difference between a mini-skirt and a confident, virile charm? Do women bother to discover the man behind this manly, charming fa├žade to see whether he is worth marrying or are they just as superficial when it comes to attraction as well? If he makes her feel sexy and safe, does the fact that he has a deeply disturbed personality or that he is a horrible father enter the equation before she goes to bed with him? When she focuses on how he makes her feel, how is this a deeper evaluation than a man's need for beauty?

Just because it takes more work or different tools to seduce a woman than it does to seduce a man, that doesn't mean men are more superficial. And just because men are more attracted to beauty, that doesn't mean women make better judgements. If this were true, women wouldn't be finding themselves stuck with jerks so often.

Besides, nowadays, not only do many women judge themselves based on looks, they are adopting the male need for instant attraction and are increasingly and exclusively judging men by the same standards. Which created, amongst other things, the metrosexual male.

These are somewhat moot points however so let's just assume that men always had two needs: a superficial, instant need, and a long-term, deeper need based on character, sometimes love, and perhaps even morals. Women, with their natural tendency to take things slower, tamed the wild beast in man and encouraged the better, deeper side of him to emerge and merge with his physical needs. This, as I will explain later, helps create a deeper relationship. Not because women are less superficial, but because of the effort involved.

So whereas it may be argued that men are the predominant source of this behaviour, there is still a missing mechanism that brought this phenomenon to the forefront. If a man's needs includes a healthy woman to build a family, and women have exchanged their superficial needs for a man's, then there is something we are missing that must have switched the emphasis onto instant attraction.


Part II: Buying Love

Perhaps we can blame today's problems on an increasing focus on materialism. But materialism has been a goal in many cultures and periods and is too easy and generalized a target.

I believe the unique drive that is challenging our current society is the emphasis on instant gratification: Speed, fast-food, instant cellular communication, internet, ubiquitous porn, microwaves, express deliveries, nuclear bombs, catchy pop hits, real-time media feeds, revealing clothes, fast sex, social power based on fashion, and relationships based on looks. Thank goodness they haven't found a way to speed up education yet.

My theory is that patience was lost, speedy results became more important than quality, and women fell into the trap of gaining more attention with the instant power of sexual attraction. Why catch a single man in a crowd with seductive charm and personality when you can attract 100 men in seconds with a push-up bra? Men's superficial but faster drives for pleasure were accentuated and encouraged by the power of women, and before you know it, women are acquiring the superficial side of men themselves, and men, like women, are now under pressure to enhance their instant cosmetic allure.

You may say that men are now getting a taste of their own medicine but men have this specific duality in them by nature, whereas when most women get their nature twisted and adopt a man's behaviour, it's exactly that: twisted. Or as that quote said: "When a woman behaves like a man, why doesn't she behave like a nice man?".

Result: a topsy-turvy world with confused gender characteristics and gender strengths turned into weaknesses. I hear that in a puzzling recent sex survey in England, it was found that more men than women now think that some love or romance are necessary criteria before sex. This may or may not be true, but somehow it doesn't surprise me.

I'm not saying that a woman doesn't need some looks to at least get past first base, but somehow, the rest of the relationship stages and tools were mostly forgotten and abolished. It became all about looks to the extreme where women do it for self-confidence, hurt themselves to get that longer glance, and base their self-worth on what the fashion defines as attractive. And all this because looks supposedly get you instant results. Not that the effort is less, but the results are faster and the mechanisms it reaches are easier to access.

And I'm not basing this conclusion only on the emphasis on looks. There's speed-dating. There are also the techniques used in marriage counseling and advice columns: Typical relationship advice is conveyed in two lines or less and provide generic advice that, they hope, may start a slow change at best, or bring about some good but temporary results at worst. Who has time to dig into the core of the problem inside each of their personalities when you can pull out standard solution #47, declare Mondays as 'her orgasm' day, and hope it makes them happier? Why bother to understand the relationship when you can just say 'go tell him your problem and talk about it'? Or worse: why bother fixing the problem when you can just make the advice-seeker happier about themselves and their feelings, and thus justify the service they are getting?

But what exactly is the problem with instant gratification? Healthy women are instinctively very pleased when their dates say they want to take it slow. Why is this?

Taking things slow and having to work at something means an investment of time, effort, pain and thought in another being. This investment is what creates devotion, loyalty, belonging and even ownership. In Hebrew, the verb to buy is 'liknot' which comes from the root of 'lekanen' (to nest) or 'ken' (a nest). This is because ownership is defined as something you invest in and make a home in. When you spend your money, your time, your work, your nurturing, you have nested. A part of you is in it, or to be more precise, it becomes part of you.

Even the extreme of slavery is treated as a responsibility in the original bible, something you have to invest in in order to 'own'. If circumstances are so bad that somebody sells himself to you, you haven't acquired a slave, you've acquired a responsibility. You have to give him your best pillow, your good food, your attention. Ownership is not a matter of control and fun, it's a matter of attachment, bringing something new into your being, responsibility, dedication.

Given this definition then, it should come as no surprise that Judaism calls marriage a purchase (i.e. a nesting). In order to extract the proper devotion from man, he must invest something of himself in her and go on from there. Controversial wording aside, to 'buy' yourself a woman is indeed a serious matter and quite romantic. He nests a part of himself in her, she, in return, devotes herself to him.

It's also interesting to note that originally sex was considered enough of an investment or act of marriage, but rabbis later adjusted this so that he must do other things before marriage is considered consummated. There were several reasons for this but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was because men forgot how to have sex in a way that would be considered a proper investment.


Part III: Boundaries and Dependencies

This investment of self often creates a dependency, a healthy one which is based on giving. Not all dependencies and submissions are bad, in fact a good dependency such as this creates a beneficial symbiosis which increases power and growth. This runs contrary to the modern admiration for pure independence and self-contained strength.

It can be scary to invest a part of yourself inside a volatile human who can now hurt you using this attachment. But unless one is expecting something in return, to beneficially give of oneself should never be a bad investment, even when unrequited.

For the sake of precision, I shall define two diametric forms of healthy attachment which I won't explore here: An Inclusive Attachment that depends on the other for specific development and anchorage, and a Dedicative Attachment that depends on the other for navigation and inspiration.

But what about giving to the wrong person or attaching yourself too strongly to someone you shouldn't? What about giving something that's bad for the other person, even though they may want it? What about other, more extreme forms of submission and giving? There are also plenty of issues with attaching yourself to someone who becomes unhealthily attached to you.

To clarify further using an educational extreme, let's explore the Domination/submission world. This should provide some ingredients to adequately define healthy boundaries in each specific case. I will use the female gender as the submissive because this covers the majority of cases:

The D/s scene claims that the submissive is the ultimate giver. In fact, there are many variations in this world that cover a wide spectrum, and much like the 'vanilla' world, there are ideals, variations, distortions and deviations.

On the one side of the spectrum we have an ideal where a supposedly healthy woman is extremely sensitive and needs to fulfill the needs of others to be complete. She is not a victim or a weak person, but feels the needs and emotional tones of others, and this empathy creates consant impulses to satisfy them. As a solution, she partners with what is called a nurturing Dominant who understands this and uses this need to make her happy, without doing anything to harm her because he is responsible for her. Also, all healthy D/s relationships are based on a consensual submission. Sounds great doesn't it? I will point out the flaw in this scenario soon however.

On the other extreme of this spectrum we have victim submissives who are so insecure or neurotic, they only feel worthy when being abused or when they are making other people happy, or empty people who have no passion and only feel when they are being hurt. We also have control-freaks, perverts that only get off on violence, histrionics, narcissists, and healthy submissives that are pushed over the edge into guilt, insecurity and despair. There are also plenty of victims who aren't even submissive, and controlling sex addicts who aren't dominant.

If both are unhealthy for example, it's like a vampiric society: The submissive is empty and desperately clings to any superficial passion she may get out of him, and he just uses her as a toy.

In between there are various combinations. Say he is normal but coddles a leech: He has concern for her and tries to help, she leeches on his life-force by letting him do whatever he wants and getting passion out of it that she doesn't have. He has to invest so much to figure out what she needs and feed her black hole that he becomes very dependent. In an ironic twist, she is in fact the dominant. Another close variation is when she is so boring that she merely calls herself a submissive to get off and make him do the work and contribute his imagination. Again, it looks like he is dominating her but the reverse is true. Or say the submissive is healthy but he isn't. This creates a classic abusive relationship: She has submissive needs but tries to submit herself to someone who really doesn't care and just uses her. She becomes unhealthily dependent on his abuse because that's all she will get from him.

Speaking to people in the scene on the internet brings up all kinds of variations such as these that are quite distant from the aforementioned ideal.

When submission is based on being taken or on constant yielding, there is no active choice or investment involved respectively, and therefore no love. To submit by cancelling one's self and letting the other take whatever they want is not giving, and it both cancels the investment of the submissive (because they are not actually giving anything actively) and it is not allowing the taker to invest because the submissive is cancelling his or her needs.

The key issue in D/s is that the Dominant's needs are paramount. Although the D/s crowd claim that the submissive is the ultimate giver and the Dominant gives by satisfying the need of the submissive to give of herself without harm, the real dynamic in this kind of relationship is that the Dominant is not forced to get out of his skin to understand her needs and the submissive is coddling him, not giving.

In order to give there must be something to give, something that exchanges hands. A healthy submissive may actively give of her body and services at best, but why not also give of her wisdom, experience, instincts, advice, viewpoints, and specialities? And why not give by allowing him to give in return? How can a submissive be the ultimate giver if she cancels all these things and sticks to giving only her body and services? What kind of benefit is it to him if she coddles his every weakness and whim instead of helping him grow?

In a D/s relationship, the status quo is worshipped and whims are tyrants. In a normal relationship, people grow in a mutual and dynamic submission to appropriate authority.

In a sense, the submissive relationship is also based on instant gratification because instead of getting an investment by working hard at it, it's an attempt at a shortcut by saying that the submissive gives all and the Dominant gives by taking. But, as shown, this is a troubled imitation. Giving is much more than just 'take me' or 'use me'.


Summary

It's all up to us. How much quality do we need and how hard are we willing to work for it?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Power of Women

I keep thinking about a scene in the TV show Ally McBeal where Richard Fish, with his inimitable sophistry and amusing touches of chauvinism, argues in court that women are victims and must be protected. Later when he is confronted by Georgia in the elevator, he asks her to remove her high-heeled shoe and asks something like 'what person in their right mind would wear something like this unless they were a victim'.

So why do women wear impractical things and go to so much trouble and pain to be what the fashion world and society has deemed to be attractive? I've watched girls in amazement while they scream in pain and wax themselves, I stare at women almost spraining their ankles a few times a day because of high heels, and I wonder about ladies that spend hours applying makeup every day.

The fact is, women can attract men with one tenth of their arsenal and they know it. I'll never forget the time I started a mini-campaign to convince this female acquiantance that she looks attractive without all her makeup. I got her husband and another male friend whom we were hanging out with at the time to confirm this. Her facial expression said something like 'yes, that's all very nice but totally irrelevant and I have to wear this makeup so leave me alone'. Why?

My instincts tell me a typical woman loves attracting men not because she catches men in her net and gets many dates, but because their attraction to her makes her feel powerful and special. She attracts men solely for the looks and compliments.

In other words it makes them feel good about themselves and this deceives them into thinking that they do it for themselves. But you can't possibly convince me that wearing uncomfortable shoes or going through all this pain is for 'themselves'. If this were true, a woman would wear high heels on a desert island. Somehow I doubt this.

Of course one can argue that a woman does not get looks and compliments on a desert island and that perhaps she is doing all this out of insecurity, but again I must ask: why wear high heels when she can get the same attention in other ways? Society portrays attractive women as ones who wear heels and they all run to the shoe store to torture themselves. This has nothing to do with attracting men or getting compliments!

Other forms of behaviour are also too extreme to be explained away this easily. Case in point:

Nobody criticizes a woman's looks like another woman. Every time I hear a woman's unrestrained remarks about another woman, the harshness shocks me. If beauty was a thing women do for themselves, other women's looks wouldn't be so important.

For example, this thing about wearing the same dress as another woman at a party - what psychological drive does this come from? It's obviously not because this would ruin their chances with men; Many of the men wouldn't even notice what kind of dress they have on. Why are men content with wearing the same old elegant suit as 100 other men in the room yet women have to wear all the colors and shapes under the rainbow to ensure uniqueness?

Why this desperation to be unique and special in looks? Why do I get the feeling that women compete with each other for more and more sexual allure and power while men are an almost irrelevant gawking audience?

And why do women whine about being treated as sex-objects yet let themselves be exploited a million times a day for consumerism for a chance to be looked at and admired by more people? Why are many women so happy to pose for cameras? Have you ever looked at their behaviour in front of a camera and compared it to men's?

I'm almost afraid to take all this to one of two logical conclusions: Either it's plain vanity that is so strong it even pushes women to harm themselves in the name of fashion. Or it's the fact that many women feel their only source of worth and power is their sexual allure so they grapple for every ounce of it and it becomes a life-goal in itself.

This would also drive women to compete with other women to the point of knocking them down for every fashion faux pas. Fashion exploits this drive and gives women a weapon with which to rise above other women by buying a more expensive purse.

The argument that women are insecure, need compliments or are pressured by society may explain some behaviour but doesn't adequately cover the issues I raised.

And if the latter is true, then does this make the radical feminists, that out of idealism don't wear attractive clothes, makeup or shave, healthier than the rest? Or is this just another extreme? In some cases it may be a hateful reaction to a bad experience with men and has nothing to do with living an ideal. Some would even argue that the women who do this are the angry ones that aren't pretty in the first place and this is just a rebellious reaction akin to 'if I can't be the best then I'll live the other extreme and stick it in your face'. Or in other words it's a defensive behaviour that is instigated by the exact same pressure that other women are under to enhance their sexual allure.

As usual, I think the only healthy solution is the balanced one. In the meantime, I'll just gawk and giggle at you women while you flex your over-developed cosmetic muscles and knockout each other. Why not? After all, my opinion is irrelevant unless it's useful to get an edge over your competitor.