Friday, November 02, 2012

The Thing About Mitt. Or Why You Should Not Vote For Him.

I will give you three extra reasons:

1.   Mitt Romney believes that he has a right to privacy but that women do not.

I don't think the right to privacy is the best defense for contraceptive and abortion access for women.  Equality of opportunity is.  But the US Supreme Court chose to use that as the justification for Roe v. Wade.

Romney doesn't want women to have privacy but he sure keeps his own affairs behind the curtain.  Thus, we are not allowed to learn how much he paid in federal taxes during the last decade.  He simply refuses to come clean.  A secretive guy.

That information matters.  Romney wants to run the budget based on taxes.  If he has carefully minimized his own contribution to our common wallet,  I want to know.  The information is relevant.  It is also relevant because Romney agrees with the view that Americans have "no skin in the game" if they don't pay federal income taxes.  Romney doesn't let people figure out how much skin in the game he might have had.

2.   Mitt Romney's tax cut proposal is a mirage.

He offers as bread and circuses, but it's only the circuses we would get:

Start with taxes. Romney has campaigned for months on the central idea that, if elected, he would implement a 20 percent income tax cut for every American (reducing the first bracket from 10 percent to 8 percent, and so on). In addition, he would reduce the corporate tax rate by nearly 30 percent and repeal the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax and certain other taxes. It’s quite simple to calculate the amount of federal revenue which would be lost through all of these cuts, and non-partisan institutions have made the calculation. They would cost the federal budget $4.8 trillion over ten years. Let’s just call it $5 trillion.
Now, Romney insists that he would cut tax deductions to offset it. Four of the biggest tax deductions are those for mortgage interest, state and local tax payments, charitable contributions and employer-provided health care. Of course, he will not disclose how far he would have to cut these back to neutralize the budget impact of the $5 trillion tax cut. That’s because only drastic reductions in them would match that sum.
Further, Romney implies that only the wealthy use these deductions so most Americans shouldn’t worry about it. That’s false. The primary beneficiaries are middle income Americans. There are 24 million middle-class families, for example, who benefit from the mortgage interest deduction. And 37 million middle-class families who don’t have to pay taxes on health care coverage through their employer. And, it is these families who would lose under the Romney tax plan.
Mitt's personal right to privacy or secrecy enters at this point, too, because he will not explain how the magical trick of implementing a revenue-neutral 20% across-the-board tax cut could happen.  It's very easy to understand that if tax rates are cut the only way to keep the total tax revenues constant is to expand the base of taxable income.

3.  Mitt Romney's ideal disaster operation consists of you with your bucket and flashlight after a hurricane

This is what he said about FEMA in 2011:
At a Republican primary debate in June of 2011, CNN’s John King asked Mitt Romney for his views on disaster relief. “FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say, ‘Do it on a case-by-case basis.’ And there are some people who say, ‘You know what, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.’ How do you deal with something like that?”
Mr. Romney responded ““Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

That's more likely an expression of his true feelings than what he might say now, right after a major hurricane and right before elections.  Because the idea that the private sector could do disaster aid alone is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

Disasters, by their very nature, require giant coordinated responses.  Small local firms could not cope and I can't see how they could charge their products.  Disasters do not occur at some predictable rate, and keeping that kind of a firm in a state of readiness would be very expensive. 

The most likely form such firms would take is what we have seen in operation when some of the Iraq operations were privatized.  Blackwater....

It would end up as a peudo-governmental giant bloodsucker with the kinds of powers which belong to the government.

Or we could always have that bucket-and-flashlight alternative. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Mysteries

Life is full of mysteries.  One of the more minor ones for me is to ask why I have just spent what amounts to a full working day reading and writing about the theories of a couple of misogynists, especially given the length of my post on all that and the fact that I get no rewards from having written it nor no solace for the pain I experienced with that forced company.

I'm going to do better in the future, I swear!

But I now have electricity!  It went away after Sandy and stayed away for three days.  Its return felt like luxury.  Clean, clean, clean scales!  Bright fangs!  Warmth!

But all the food must go into the compost heap, sadly.

If there's a lesson to learn from that it might be that we should carefully consider how concentrated we wish our sources of food, energy and information to be.  I can make a very good case for more decentralization.

The other lesson has naturally to do with the dangers of ignoring climate change and similar issues.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baumeister and Vohs Build A Market For Sex. PART 2.


The previous post introduced you to two researchers who advocate something called "sexual economics" as the explanation for gender relationships, the problem with unmotivated young men at schools and colleges and probably everything else, too.  This post will take a much closer look at the concept of "sexual economics" than is probably deserved, given that the concept is created and used by two people who are not economists.  The final and third post will look more closely at the authors' argument that essentially all organizations are created by men because women don't have what it takes.

What IS "sexual economics?"  Astonishingly, the authors fail to define the term.  I have in mind something like the term "labor economics" here.  That refers to a sub-field of economics which analyses the supply and demand of labor in various markets.  Do the authors mean that "sexual economics" is a sub-field of economics which analyses the supply and demand of sex in various markets?  If so, what are those markets?  Actual prostitution?  Marriage as long-term prostitution contracts?  What is the role of one-night stands where no money or gifts are given to the "seller" of sex?

Perhaps all that?  But then what, exactly, IS the price of sex in such markets?  Does it constitute of money only?  How is that price determined?  In some parts of the article Baumeister and Vohs seem to argue that the market supply and demand determine the price, as in a competitive marketplace.  When supply rises, the price falls.  When demand rises, the price rises.  Thus, relative scarcity of the participants in the marketplace affects the price.  But the participants in a market for heterosexual sex are roughly identical in numbers, given the rough equality of men and women of each age group in the population.  Situations of real scarcity of one gender are unusual and atypical and the current US situation doesn't conform to one of those.

Yet later on in the same piece the authors argue that women collude, create a sexual cartel, and decrease the supply of sex by such collusion.  But we cannot have both competitive markets and a cartel at the same time.  If one becomes the other, we need an explanation why that happened.  That explanation is missing.

The kindest way to interpret the Baumeister-Vohs hypothesis is that they believe the best metaphor for sexual encounters is prostitution and its markets.  Because the only real-world sexual markets consist of prostitution.  All other possible markets for sex are theoretical constructs at best.

General Problems with Applying the Market Metaphor to Sex

And there is a very good reason for that.  For the moment, abstract away from the kinds of markets where a basically sexually uninterested woman sells an intercourse or a blow job or whatever to a man who wants those services and pays for them in money.  That situation fits well into the study of labor in general though with many complications, some rather worrisome (such as sexual trafficking).   Instead of that, think of the general kind of heterosexual encounter where the parties are both at least somewhat motivated by sexual desire.

That fits poorly into the general labor economics framework.  I have tried to think of a comparable example from various economic goods and services but I can't think of one which would be routinely discussed in economic terms.  In reality, both sides in such an encounter are demanding and supplying (or buying and selling) at the same time.  The encounter has mutual benefits.

This is what Baumeister and Vohs cut out when they state:

Sexual marketplaces take the shape they do because nature has biologically built a disadvantage into men: a huge desire for sex that makes men dependent on women. Men’s greater desire puts them at a disadvantage, just as when two parties are negotiating a possible sale or deal, the one who is more eager to make the deal is in a weaker position than the one who is willing to walk away without the deal. Women certainly desire sex too — but as long as most women desire it less than most men, women have a collective advantage, and social roles and interactions will follow scripts that give women greater power than men (Baumeister et al. 2001).

They abstract away from the mutual enjoyment of sex by stipulating that women's alleged lower desire makes them the suppliers of sex and that men's alleged higher desire makes them the demanders of sex.  I'm not sure if such a transition makes sense. We move from mutual though perhaps unequal benefits to women providing sex for money.  It's worth noting, at least.

But what really should be pointed out in that quote from the article is an important but hidden shift:

By stipulating that we should use the market metaphor, the authors can then argue " but as long as most women desire it less than most men, women have a collective advantage, and social roles and interactions will follow scripts that give women greater power than men."   

That interpretation derives DIRECTLY from the assumption that sex is traded in a marketplace where equally independent and informed participants trade resources to which the property rights are clearly defined (i.e., that women "own" their sexuality and can trade in it without any punishments, for instance).

This is a crucial point.  The authors have not proven to us that sex actually is traded in some giant marketplace.  But the assumption that women, as the ones who have the sex men want, have a collective advantage depends totally on the market assumption.  It does not derive from empirical evidence, and it is implicitly based on the idea that women and men are equally unhindered in their market moves and that women alone own their sexuality.

When a market metaphor is used, the results will depend on that metaphor.  The side of the market which is scarcer has more power.  But note that antique Chinese vases are scarce in the marketplace for antique pottery, and they still have no particular power.  That's because the power is vested in the owners of the vases, not the vases themselves.  So it's worth asking to what extent women have traditionally owned their sexuality.  Have they been able to trade in it in some fairly legal-looking marketplace, without laws or societal shunning and so on putting pressure on them?

Poorly Specified Supply Curves of Sex

To me the answer is pretty obvious:  Historically the cases where women have had full ownership to their own sexuality have been less common than the cases where someone else owns that sexuality.  The usual owners include a young woman's parents, a woman's husband and even her brothers and sons.   Even in the markets for prostitution pimps may be viewed as the actual owner of the traded woman's sexuality in some cases.

Likewise, laws have traditionally criminalized both adultery and prostitution. Certain types of sexual marketplaces have been illegal markets.  In many cases the punishment has fallen more heavily on the women than on the men.  Prostitutes were in the past treated as criminals when their customers were not.  The Old Testament tells us that adulterers should be stoned but that rule applied to female adulterers.  In some countries the laws concerning adultery have been more severe on women suspected of adultery than on men.

The shaming of "loose women" is a common cultural phenomenon.  The shaming of "loose men" is something I've never come across in my reading.  Societies have traditionally punished women who engage in short-term sexual dalliances, whether they receive payment for those or not, and these punishments have been an actual cost of sex for women.

What about those costs of providing sex in general?  Baumeister and Vohs are silent about that.  In their world the only variable affecting the demand and supply is men's greater libido.  But any economic modeling of markets requires much more detail than that.  As an obvious example,  the price at which a firm is willing to sell you a cell phone depends on the costs of producing that phone.  It depends on many other factors, too, but clearly the costs of production enter into the calculus.

Using the Baumeister-Vohs market metaphor, what are the costs women face in selling sex to men, the kinds of costs men as the sex buyers do not face?  Those costs MUST be taken into account in modeling the supply of sex, even though Baumeister and Vohs do not.

I can think of at least three such costs, historically speaking.  The most obvious one is the risk of pregnancy when it is not wanted (and it cannot be wanted in every encounter in something like the metaphoric sex markets, because if it was, then a better model of these markets would be as the women demanding children and the men supplying them).  The risk of death in childbirth has always not been as small as it is in the western countries today.  Any woman selling sex in the Baumeister-Vohs scenario would have had to take into account the possibility that the encounter could lead to her death.

Even if the pregnancy and childbirth resulting from a sexual encounter passed smoothly, the woman would have faced the additional costs of taking care of the child.  In extramarital liaisons she would have been pretty much on her own.  Before paternity tests became available a man could credibly deny that he was the child's father.  The best way to do that was by arguing that the woman had had several lovers or that she was a prostitute.

A market metaphor which is based on gender differences in desire but not on the biggest gender difference in the cost of having sex?   Now that I really think of this I'm flabbergasted.

Other important costs of non-marital sex for women have traditionally been the possibility of sexual violence (especially given the illegal and semi-legal markets in which much prostitution took place and which the society hasn't bothered to police) and the societal shunning of "loose women."  Men with many partners might be called Casanovas, women with many partners might be called whores, even if they receive no money for the sex.

Today such societal punishments can be trivial.  But in the past they were certainly not trivial.  A woman who lost her reputation might have been made to stand up in church to be publicly scolded, she might have found it impossible to get employment in the town or village in which her "loose morality" became known.  In Victorian England upper-class families might fire a maid who became pregnant.  That the male participant in the sexual encounter might have been her employer, his guest or his son was of no consequence.

Legal consequences of these societal punishments just took the control of "loose women" one step further.

What is the point  about talking so much on the costs of selling sex?  It's a simple one:  If we are to build a market for heterosexual exchanges of sex, that market has to have properly defined supply and demand curves.  To replace those with just the argument that men want sex more than women do is not economic analysis.

If costs matter, how about income?  The Baumeister-Vohs model ignores that one, too.  But note that there could be no sex trade of the kind they stipulate if men had no resources to barter for sex.  For a market to exist, the buyers need to be able to pay the price the market asks.

Seeing why the sellers' incomes matter here is only one step more complicated.  If I had to model the sexual exchanges and if I was forced to view the women as the sellers of sex then I'd use some kind of a modified labor framework for the analysis.  From that angle women sell sex the same way workers sell hours of work.  The supply of those hours depends on many factors, but one of the most important ones is the level of income the worker has from other sources.  People who can afford to live without working in the labor market often do exactly that.

Similarly, a woman might not need to sell sex if she has access to other sources of income.  For instance, a woman who has a job with a living wage doesn't have to engage in prostitution or marry someone (as in a long-term prostitution contract).  Other things being the same, then, the more access women have to alternative sources of income, the less sex they would be willing to supply in the Baumeister-Vohs world.

This matters quite a bit.  In an extreme case we could turn the whole framework upside down and argue that men are selling women food and lodging and that women are buying it from men with sex, because various factors (such as men's greater upper body strength) have resulted in men having more food and lodging.  Flip the Baumeister-Vohs model upside-down and see what you get.

But the effect of alternative sources of income also provides quite different predictions inside this weird prostitution view of the relationship between men and women.  For instance, because women now have more access to jobs and incomes of their own, one would predict that the sale of "desperation sex" would have decreased.  This conflicts with some of the evidence Baumeister and Vohs think is relevant, such as the current near-orgy state of college campuses where men have all the sex they want because they are so scarce.

On the other hand, those costs of providing sex have drastically decreased for women because of improved medical care which has made giving birth much safer and, more importantly, because of the contraceptive pill.  It is a form of contraception with low failure rate and it is a form of contraception women control.  If I had to explain the change in college sexual mores I'd point my finger at the pill, not at the explanation Baumeister and Vohs propose.  Their explanation does not derive from the prostitution model at all:

The changes in gender politics since 1960 can be seen as involving a giant trade, in which both genders yielded something of lesser importance to them in order to get something they wanted more (Baumeister and Vohs 2004). As Regnerus states, partly based on our own extensive survey of research findings, men want sex, indeed more than women want it (Baumeister et al. 2001). Women, meanwhile, want not only marriage but also access to careers and preferential treatment in the workplace.
The giant trade thus essentially involved men giving women not only easy access but even preferential treatment in the huge institutions that make up society, which men created.

Incidentally, it's funny how all the academic references in that article go back to Baumeister himself.  He builds a long and respectable-looking chain involving his own work.

An actual sexual market model would have the opposite prediction.  Having access to those "men's organizations" means that women don't have to "sell sex"  to survive.   Other things being the same, the result should be less sale of sex.

But other things, of course, are not the same, because of the advent of the contraceptive pill.  It's also salutary to remind ourselves here that real heterosexual sex might not be women selling and men buying but a somewhat mutually enjoyable activity.

An Intermediate Summary

To summarize:  I have argued that Baumeister and Vohs do not actually create some new theory of sexual economics.  Their supply and demand curves remain empty of any real variables, everything runs on the assumed difference in male and female libidos and the model ignores the costs of sex provision for women as well as the impact of incomes on both the demand and supply side of sex.

Put in slightly different terms, the greater costs of sex for women and their traditionally more limited access to alternative ways of earning a living  could explain women's traditionally lower supply of sex, even if the female libido was like a blowtorch and the male libido like a glowworm in the dark.   The Baumeister-Vohs market metaphor is partial and not really an example of economic analysis.

More importantly, a market metaphor, the way it is used in their article, seduces our eye away from the proximal causes of gender differences in sexual behavior.  It also charms us into not seeing that the relative positions of men and women in the society have traditionally not fitted very well into that market framework of independent agents trading products with each other.

Finally, positing that institutions such as marriage are forms of prostitution is an assumption, not a proven fact or a conclusion from the model.  There are alternative ways of modeling marriage and the raising of children.  Indeed, there are much richer and more realistic ways of modeling sexuality itself than through the expansion of the metaphor of prostitution to the whole concept.

An Application

I can't stop myself form paying some attention to this statement because it is the most revealing one in an article full of pretty unpleasant revelations:

Meanwhile, the implications of the recent social changes for marriage could fill a book. Sexual economics theory has pointed to a wealth of data depicting marriage as a transaction in which the male contributes status and resources while the woman contributes sex (Baumeister and Vohs 2004). How will that play out in the coming decades? The female contribution of sex to the marriage is evanescent: As women age, they lose their sexual appeal much faster than men lose their status and resources, and some alarming evidence even indicates that wives rather quickly lose their desire for sex (Arndt 2009). To sustain a marriage across multiple decades, many husbands must accommodate to the reality of having to contribute work and other resources to a wife whose contribution of sex dwindles sharply in both quantity and quality—and who also may disapprove sharply of him seeking satisfaction in alternative outlets such as prostitution, pornography, and extramarital dalliance.

This is not the most enjoyable paragraph I have ever read.  It argues that "sexual economic theory" depicts a marriage as a transaction in which the male contributes status and resources while the woman contributes sex.  The reference to the "wealth of data" is to Baumeister and Vohs themselves.

But is it true that the "male" contributes status and resources  while the "woman" only contributes sex?*  Don't women do anything else in marriage but lie on a bed with their legs spread?  Who takes care of the children?  Who cleans the house?  Who cooks, does the laundry, does the dishes, shops for food?  Who takes care of ailing relatives, remembers family birthdays, organizes and caters the family get-togethers?  Even in the most traditional types of marriages the women contribute much more than sex.  Besides, to the extent that women's libidos work at all, the men also contribute sex.

Today most women have jobs outside the home.  They contribute resources and even status, I think.  But Baumeister and Vohs regard women's only contribution the sale of sex.

On top of that, they argue that women's sexual appeal is lost much faster with age than the status and resources of men.  What sort of studies could prove something of that sort?  My guess is that it's Baumeister's own personal opinion that informed him when that sentence was penned down. 

But note that men can easily lose both resources and status (just as women can, of course).  Jobs can disappear, market investments can go bad and a man can do something stupid to lose his status.  Likewise, men can lose their sexual appeal as they age, but this possibility is simply ignored in the above quote.  Because of the view of sex as prostitution where men are the buyers and women the sellers, how women feel about men's sexual appeal doesn't matter.

What about the loss of interest in sex?  That Arndt reference is to a book by an Australian sex therapist who recruited roughly 100 couples to keep diaries of their sexual lives.  She drew the conclusion that women's loss of libido is the biggest problem mentioned, though ten of the couples had the reverse problem and nowhere did I find data on how many couples had evenly matched libidos.

The problem with Arndt's study is that it's based on self selection.  Couples who have happy sex lives are less likely to enter a study where they have to keep sex diaries for months than those who are unhappy with their sex lives.

Here's an important point, ignored by Baumeister and Vohs though:

Some statistics suggest that half of all men over fifty have erection problems.  Thus, from a historical perspective, the loss of either desire for sex or the ability to engage in it has been shared by both sexes.  The introduction of Viagra and other similar drugs has changed older men's ability to have sex. But the imbalance this has created (with no comparable treatment available for women) is a new one, not some historically correct fact.

The point of this application is that the tone of the Baumeister-Vohs paper is very hostile to women, based on some loathing much deeper than that available from the use of a market metaphor for sex.  It denies women any other role, ultimately, than that of a prostitute, and it argues that older prostitutes do a shitty job while still getting paid.   Inside marriages, that is.

The Sexual Cartel Of Scheming Women

My final contribution to criticizing the Baumeister-Vohs sex-as-prostitution model has to do with this:

It is worth pointing out that the cultural suppression of female sexuality is a particular victory for sexual economics theory. The two dominant theoretical perspectives about sex, evolutionary psychology and feminist/constructionist theory, both strongly predicted the opposite. In a rare agreement between those two, both views proposed that cultures suppress female sexuality to serve male interests, and so male influence has been paramount. Evolutionary theory said that the cultural suppression of female sexuality arose because men wanted to restrain women’s sexuality so as to be sure that their partners would be faithful (so the men could be confident of paternity). Feminist theory almost always harks back to male oppression, and so the cultural suppression of female sexuality reflected men’s desires to dominate women, possess them, and/or prevent them from finding sexual fulfillment. In both cases, the cultural suppression of female sexuality should come from men. Yet the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that the cultural suppression of female sexuality is propagated and sustained by women (Baumeister and Twenge 2002). Only sexual economics theory predicted that result. Similar to how OPEC seeks to maintain a high price for oil on the world market by restricting the supply, women have often sought to maintain a high price for sex by restricting each other’s willingness to supply men with what men want.

Bolds are mine.

I went and dug out the reference given in the bolded sentence, to see what the overwhelming evidence is that tells us women culturally suppress female sexuality.  It was a fun read.

One thing needs clarification before I tell you about the evidence, and that is what the authors might mean by the "cultural suppression of female sexuality."  The concept in the 2002 Baumeister and Twenge article varies a lot.  It begins with the idea that this cultural suppression is an attempt to lower women's libido directly.  It then applies the same name to husbands jealously guarding their wives in order to stop being cuckolded, and finally applies the term to phenomena such as mothers warning their daughters not to sleep with boys as teenagers.  It also argues that Female Genital Mutilation is part of this female OPEC cartel:  Older women in countries which practice FGM do it because it serves to reduce the supply of sex from women and thus raises its price**.  Finally, women are more moralistic than men and more opposed to things like the sexual revolution as well as nastier about other women's reputations than men are.***

The description of how women collude to decrease the supply of sex focuses on mothers.  If mothers warn their daughters about the dangers of pregnancy or the dangers of social ostracism of becoming the girl who f**ks all the boys at school, then she is colluding to reduce the supply of sex.  If fathers don't give this type of advice to their daughters, then men are not limiting their daughters' sexual lives.

Likewise, girlfriends who stigmatize a teenager with an atypical sexual life are viewed as nasty OPEC-type monopolists, even if the stigmatization might apply equally well to girls who remain virgins as to those who have sex with many boys.  That the girl's OWN boyfriend is usually found to encourage her to have more sex (though of course only with him), is seen as evidence supporting the absence of any kind of male control of female sexuality!

I had lots of fun reading through the list of evidence.  It looks like the only way for women not to restrain other women's supply of sex to men would be if they urged those women to go on and have more sex.  That, too, takes place.  But to interpret all the female discussions about heterosexual intercourse as a competition-limiting move does take a very weird kind of mind.

What about laws which criminalize prostitution and female adultery more than male adultery?  Those laws have existed a long time before women had any access to law courts or voting booths.  Baumeister and Twenge don't have a very good counterargument for the fact that this is at least one part of the cartel-building which appears to belong to either men alone or to both men and women.

What do they do instead?  Wait for this because it's really hilarious.  When it turns out that laws, indeed, have punished female sexuality more than male sexuality, what do Baumeister and Twenge do?  They state this:

A piecemeal approach to sex laws seems doomed to fail, however, in part because of the thousands upon thousands of law-making bodies and laws, and also in part because of selective enforcement. Undoubtedly, one could cite various specific laws or specific patterns of unequal enforcement to argue that either gender has been targeted here or there. Instead of such an anecdotal, interpretive approach, it seems most appropriate to look at the summary statistics regarding arrests for sex crimes. The male control approach holds that men want to stifle and control female sexuality while letting male sexuality have relatively free rein. If this is correct, then the laws passed by male legislatures  and enforced by male-dominated police forces will lead mainly to the prosecution of women.

Bolds are mine.  It's an eerie experience to read through an article which is pretty preposterous but at least follows basic academic conventions and then comes across something like this.  Baumeister and Twenge argue that if more male rapists are prosecuted than female rapists, then the laws can't be seen as attempting to curtail female sexuality.

They do a similar magic trick with the data on religious suppression of female sexual agency.  Because there's no way getting around the fact that the three male-dominated Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), limit the allowable sexual behavior for women much more than that for men, the authors shift sideway, don their funny hats and argue that none of this is really any kind of evidence because women like church-going more than men.

That's how one finds  "overwhelming data" on women suppressing the supply of sex to men, to create a cartel like the OPEC.   But the initial setup of that 2002 article is a red herring.   Few people would argue that either men or women try to dampen women's libidos even further.  The real question is about the control of female sexuality and access to it.

*How odd that one can almost always spot a misogynist treatment by the use of "male" with the use of "woman" or by the use of "males" exclusively to refer to human males which we usually call men.  I have no idea what this is all about but it's far too common to be accidental.

**Baumeister and Twenge argue that men in those countries prefer intact women, based on one reference, and this reference is then used to imply that it is the women who do not.   But in reality the situation is much more complex than that:

Where female genital mutilation is widely practised,  it is supported by both men and women, usually without question, and anyone departing from the norm may face condemnation, harassment, and ostracism.

Although attitudes towards Female Genital Mutilation are changing in Africa, among both women and men, it is not correct to argue that some one study tells us no man has ever been for it.  From a study carried out in Hamburg among African immigrants:
The most frequently named advantage by both women and men participants was that FGM/C leads to a decrease of sexual desire that helps women to be faithful and to abstain from promiscuous behaviour.
“Female circumcision is our culture and it is a good thing. Uncut women are always scratching themselves [masturbating], and when they scratch, it means that they have to get satisfied from one man to the next. Women need to be circumcised to stop this jumping around from one man to another.” (man of Nigerian origin)
“…it has to be done because women who are not cut are not sexually satisfied and they have many partners which can lead to divorce. I can say that I never had sex with a -circumcised woman.” (man of Nigerian origin)
Some men also shared the idea that FGM/C had a positive influence on the general behaviour of women by making them respectful and submissive.
“Circumcised women are good women. They obey and respect their husbands. They don’t talk rubbish and don’t have big mouths. They don’t look around for other men. I is up to me whether I choose to circumcise my daughter or not. It is nobody else’s concern.” (man of Nigerian origin)

***It's not possible for me to go back to the original literature the 2002 article uses but I wouldn't be surprised if the references in it aren't picked selectively.  For instance,  is it really true that boys at school give absolutely zero hassle to the girl who is suspected of going to bed with all boys?   And that it's only the other mean girls who stigmatize her?  Based on what I read on the Internet, I very seriously doubt that.



Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs: Is There Anything Good About Women? The Answer: Other Than Sex? No. PART 1.

That title riffs on Roy F. Baumeister's 2010 book title:  Is There Anything Good About Men?

Misogynists always toss that reference to my face.   According to them,  the book is an explanation about the world based on the idea that women are pretty disgusting and feeble creatures butting into the society which men alone created.  Women cannot create anything worthwhile, don't understand technology, never created organizations, never created art or music and so on.  That's what is good about men:  They are better than women.

I wrote about Mr. Baumeister's 2009 speech (which then became the book) before.

Here's how he looks

He teaches at the psychology department of  Florida State University.

Now he has joined forces with Kathleen D. Vohs.  This is how she looks:

She teaches marketing at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota.

Both of these august professors have their training in some sort of psychology.  Could be evolutionary psychology, I'm not sure.  BUT neither one of them is an economist.

This matters, because they are promoting something they call "sexual economics."  They offer this as the main theory to explain the relationship between men and women and even the ultimate question about the role of women.    You can read all about this wonderful theory here, and I will spend reams of words explaining what is wrong with that theory and why it is not really economics and how vast chunks of evidence are totally and utterly ignored in such flippant pseudo-theories.  None of this will have any impact on the misogynists adopting the theory.  Which means that you will hear about it a lot in the future.

Before truth gets its hobnailed boots on lie has run half-way around the world.  So let's put those boots on, friends.

What is the message of professors Baumeister and Vohs?  If I wanted to summarize it as succinctly as possible, the message goes like this:

Men are the smart human beings.  They have created the culture, the society, its arts, sciences and its technology.   Women are almost unnecessary.  That they are not completely unnecessary is because men want them for sex.  (That women are also necessary for the creation of men appears not to be noticed by the authors of this piece.)

Indeed, men created all those organizations, arts, sciences and technology to get pussy.  How, exactly, that worked in the past is a bit unclear*, though  it seems to be based on women being kept away from all other ways of earning a living, pretty much, except through the sale of their pussies to men, either in open  markets or through marital long-term contracts.  If the only way for women to survive was by selling sex to men, then the men with the most money would get most access to sex.  Something of this sort.

Fast forward to near-present time.  Ignore the discontinuity in thinking.  Suddenly decide that women now want access to men's institutions, preferential treatment in them but still also want marriage.  Where all these sudden desires came from**, after years of a system of sex-trading which seemed to have worked so well is very unclear.  But let's ignore that.  Let's just ask why men let women in.  Why didn't they simply keep those pesky whiners away from the boys' tree houses?  After all, the Taliban still succeeds in that!

The answer, as you guessed, is sex!  Somehow women, as a group, managed to tell men, as a group, that if only they were allowed to insert their incompetent minds and bodies into men's organizations, then the men would be allowed to insert something much more often!  And poor, foolish men agreed with this devil's bargain.

But the initial outcome was very good for young men!  They got unlimited amounts of free sex, at least on college campuses and among some ethnic groups.  Given that men are motivated by nothing but pussy, however, this meant that young men no longer wanted to work hard or to invent things or to create art.  Why bother when you can have all the sex you want?  Indeed, why bother getting married?

Let's ignore that question and just point out that the preposterous view that women aren't legally required to offer sex on demand inside that long-term prostitution arrangement: marriage, means that after the wonderful hedonistic era of unbridled sex young men still get married and enter the arid desert of no sex.  This desert is inhabited by aging and ugly wives who are mostly frigid.  Despite the aging men still having lots of money, they cannot force their wives to provide that sex they are still paying for.

Life is very hard for young men.  They get too much sex too early and none at all later in life.  The early plentiful sex dulls all their incentives to work or get an education.  Women will take over men's organizations, but because women are not creative, don't work hard or have any real ambitions, the society will suffer.  Hapless, uneducated men will spend their lives playing computer games while the incompetent and rather lazy women will run the organizations that the men built.

I swear I tried to keep that short and sweet!  It's still not quite the whole summary, and I haven't even gotten to really talking about the two main pillars in this Magnum Opus:  The idea of "sexual economics" and the view of women throughout the history as uncreative, unintelligent and incapable of building organizations.

More on those pillars in the next post.
 *Unclear, because the only way I can see this happening is through a formal exclusion of women from all those organizations, in order to guarantee that women must offer sexual services to survive.  Now remember that this is not MY view of the history but an attempt to understand the theory of these people.  On the other hand, Baumeister has earlier asked such naive questions as why women didn't just get together to  equip a boat and sail off to find new continents and so on.  That he asks such questions suggests a fairly thorough lack of historical study on his part.  With the possible exception of ruling queens, any woman trying to do that would have been forcibly restrained and returned to her husband, father or brother.

**Unclear, again, because the only realistic explanation I see for this is the relaxation of old legal and cultural restraints on the proper sphere of women.  Because Baumeister doesn't believe that women were ever stopped from doing anything they tried to put their tiny minds to the question remains a mystery within the Baumeister-Vohr thesis.

Added later:  I removed some of the nastier language from this post. 


Monday, October 29, 2012

You are Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who has represented Maryland in Congress for nearly 20 years, blasted working mothers at a campaign stop last week. The Washington Post has the quote:
This isn’t the politically correct thing to say, but when we drove the mother out of the home into the workplace and replaced her with the television set, that was not a good thing.

Mmm.  It's always fun to see how the anti-feminists tie women into one big knot:  You are damned whatever you do.  Take this misogynist argument, for instance:

Indeed, the world of work is a daunting place for a young man today. Feminists quickly point to the continued dominance of men at the top of most organizations, but this is misleading if not outright disingenuous. Men create most organizations and work hard to succeed in them. Indeed, an open-minded scholar can search through history mostly in vain to find large organizations created and run by women that have contributed anything beyond complaining about men and demanding a bigger share of the male pie.
Why have men acquiesced so much in giving women the upper hand in society’s institutions? It falls to men to create society (because women almost never create large organizations or cultural systems). It seems foolish and self-defeating for men then to meekly surrender advantageous treatment in all these institutions to women. Moreover, despite many individual exceptions, in general and on average men work harder at their jobs in these institutions than women, thereby enabling men to rise to the top ranks. As a result, women continue to earn less money and have lower status than men, which paradoxically is interpreted to mean that women’s preferential treatment should be continued and possibly increased (see review of much evidence in Baumeister 2010).

And then compare that to Roscoe Bartlett's message.  Indeed, what European and American history really shows us is that women in those areas have always been encouraged to stay away from those male-created institutions.  In general women were formally and legally excluded from them and also from accumulating enough funds or independence to start their own organizations.  This was true of the medieval guilds in Europe which initially had women in them and it was also true of universities in Europe, until fairly recently.  Likewise legal restrictions on women's rights to own property meant that most women couldn't start their own organizations.  

I'm going to write more about Baumeister's theory of the gender relationship as simply general prostitution.  When I get to it. 

Mood: Stormy

A flippant reference to a very serious storm, Sandy.  I hope all in its way stay safe.  The trees are dancing here, to the eery tune of the flutes of the wind. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On the 2012 US Presidential Elections

I haven't written much about the presidential elections this year.  The reason is in the two previous election seasons and the work I put in then.  They say that blogging is easy:  Just sit down in front of the computer screen and stick knitting needles in your eyes. 

Well, I said that, in an attempt to lighten the dull atmosphere.  But yes, I suffer from a tiny burnout when it comes to elections.  Too much circus, too little bread.

Yet Barack Obama is much, much better than Mitt Romney and his fundie homeboys,  for human beings,  for women as an often segregated subgroup of human beings, for the economy and for the environment.  Mitt Romney is a wingnut in the best Sunday suit and with his hair licked down.  Also, he has many more houses than the average wingnut.  Barack Obama is a moderate Republican of yore.

How should I put this best?  Voting for Barack Obama is like choosing shingles.  Voting for Mitt Romney is like choosing a terminal illness.  I prefer the former, though naturally I'd love to feel perfectly healthy.  But we are all going to have one of those two conditions, and in my view the Obama-condition is much more bearable and less dangerous.

And of course these elections are really about jobs and the economy, for the Democrats.  They are about cutting the federal deficit for the Republicans, because that deficit might necessitate raising taxes for the highest earners one day if not right now.

As I wrote, these are my opinions.  But they are based on as much study and fact-finding as I have been able to fit in.   Romney's five-point plan will not work.  Besides, it's not that different from the Bush plan which got us here in the first place.  So vote for Obama or repent at leisure. 

On the other hand, I have written quite a bit about the kabuki theater the Republicans have been acting when it comes to abortion.  That's because we have moved from debating what, if any, restrictions abortions should have to debating whether any woman, ever, can have a legal abortion.

The Republican approach might be interpreted as either stupidity or as their general plan of attacking the opposition where it is the strongest.  Because most people, even forced-birthers, agree that rape victims should have access to legal abortions, that's what the Republicans attack.  And suddenly we seriously discuss the extent of reproductive choice for rape victims!  How on earth can we ever return to discussing abortion access in more general terms?

I don't actually believe that the Akin-Mourdock debacles were planned.  But still.

We now get Ross Douthat (!!!) explaining (mansplaining?)  feminism to us!  We get Newt Gingrich, that old hounddog, sliding and gliding carefully around the actual question:  Should rape victims give birth to the rapist's child?  It's a whole sideshow in this weird circus, and it's a sideshow because, by definition, it's about those relatively unimportant people: women,  and their singular concerns.  Or so I am told.

According to the Republicans, what all Americans want are things such as zero corporate income taxes (so that the "job creators" deign to create jobs, in some country, at least), drilling in the national parks (so that oil becomes cheap yet again) and the gutting of all safety nets (so that we can lower taxes for the wealthiest).  If among the costs of these policies is the greater number of anti-woman initiatives and an even more anti-woman Supreme Court, well, women should want it that way.

Does that sound bitter?  It's not really bitterness that makes me sarcastic but the realization that facts matter so very little in politics.  The elections seem to be largely about emotions and the hindbrain, and I'm too tired to go on the kind of rant that would rouse spirits everywhere.  Duh.

Neither do I have any special insights into how tight the presidential contest might be or become.  I hope that Obama wins, because this country really cannot afford more of what caused the recession in the first place.  And don't forget the Supreme Court.

An Additional Short Post on The Wimminz-Vote-Their-Hormones Study

I'm not sure if my earlier post about the wimminz-vote-their-hormones study was clear enough, so I want to stress the major problem in the study:

It talks about women's fluctuating choices over the menstrual cycle but in fact COMPARES TWO DIFFERENT GROUPS OF WOMEN, one in a higher fertility stage, one in a lower fertility stage.  These are NOT the same women in two different phases of their cycles.  For such a study to have any value in interpreting effects over time, the women in the two groups must be at least roughly the same in all other characteristics except whether they are near ovulation or not.  But the study doesn't offer any information on those other characteristics.

I feel the need to stress that because I've already seen on the Twitter debates about the CNN debacle arguments that feminists just can't take science and so on.   Not all science is created equal though it should be.

A Guest Post by Anna: A Feminist Literary Canon, Part Nine: 2000-2012

Marilyn French (1929-2009) was an American writer. Her most significant work in later life was the four-volume From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women, published in 2002 and built around the premise that exclusion from the prevailing intellectual histories denied women their past, present and future. Despite carefully chronicling a long history of oppression, the last volume ends on an optimistic note.

Jennifer Baumgardner (born 1970) and Amy Richards (born circa 1971) are American writers and activists. They coauthored Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000) after writing for the feminist magazine Ms. 
This book is an analysis of U.S. feminism that claims that "girl culture," from women rock stars and athletes to female entrepreneurs and inventors, supports feminism and has become an integral part of the national psyche. At the same time, they caution young women not to stop and rest on the success of cultural feminism, but to develop political lives and awareness, and include appendixes to teach novices the nuts-and-bolts of community organizing. Jennifer is openly bisexual and has also written about the bisexual experience.

I want to thank all my readers and the readers of my previous posts on Echidne's blog, which are the literary canon of women writers series and the post "A Feminist Criticism of Jack Kevorkian". You can read more of my writing at and at under the name Ann Harmon, and you might recognize me under the name ann2 as a commenter on the blog Shakesville. I also sometimes comment on Echidne's blog and at feministe under the name anna. None of those are my real names. In the interest of full disclosure, it might interest you to know that I am a white bisexual 29-year-old woman, which no doubt figures into my writing, though I do hope that everyone has enjoyed reading it. I may or may not be posting in future, but this wraps up this series.

Echidne's note:  Links to the literary canon of women writers series can be found here.

The links to this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8