This is a longish essay. You may want to pour yourself a drink.
It’s 11:30 am. A young woman leaves the Post Office hurriedly. She manages to fix her lipstick as she crosses the street swiftly. What’s my point, you wonder? Wait, wait I will get to it soon.
Living in the heart of the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California for many years, I have learn to discount, discount, discount, the insane things I hear and read day-in and day-out. Why, many of the undergraduate girls I know affirm that they are “bi” (bisexual)! Yet, I often bump into them a couple of years latter looking happy, with their (male) husband, and with their first kid. The University of California at Santa Cruz offers a genuine major in “Feminist Studies.” No, I am not mistaken; it’s not “Women’s Studies,” or even “Feminine Studies,” both just as legitimate fields of inquiry as anything. It’s “Feminist…” Just try to imagine a corresponding major in “Conservative Studies” !
The university is contiguous to the City of Santa Cruz where the presence of radioactive material, including nuclear weapons, is unambiguously prohibited by long standing municipal ordinance. It’s the same city of Santa Cruz where elections are fought largely (not completely) between ex-Trotskists and ex-Maoists. It’s dealing with its large “homeless problem,” in part, by transforming several of its downtown parking meters into donation meters. They are easy to find because they are painted bright red. Want to help without promoting panhandling by the borderline insane and by the substance-induced? Put a quarter in the red meter. The populace, the tax-paying peasantry has not been told how much has been collected after several years. The number of vagrants has not changed. (It has not increased, I think). Their behavior has not been modified for the better (or for the worse, I think). What would be a lovely river walk is still impracticable for all but fast-moving bicycle riders and by well-armed males in their prime, because it’s home to the homeless, precisely.
I chose to live here so, I discount automatically much of what I hear. And, I used to be a university professor. There is not much that the young can proclaim that will scandalize me, or even astonish me. That’s especially true of what the spoiled young whose parent pay all their bills will announce. I am reasonably intelligent (as anyone who reads this blog is more or less forced to admit in the end) but I am not that fast, to tell the truth. So, I just realized that I also assume that other reasonable, rational, intelligent people (my group) also discount, that they discount more or less automatically as I do. I may be tragically wrong on this.
A couple of days ago, a younger man I know pretty well advised me that any comment on a woman’s physical appearance is sexual harassment. Read this again. That was soon after I had told a young woman who has known me casually for a couple of years, “You look elegant, XYZ.” I am quoting myself exactly here. I am quite sure I did not say, “Nice tits,” or anything like that. (A part of me regrets that I am too conservative to have ever said anything of the kind, ever. What a lovely experiment it would be.)
The problem is that my new adviser in the social niceties is not a moron. I have staged him before on this blog. He occupies a position of some responsibility in a flourishing business; he had significant intellectual achievements at the undergraduate level; his choice of major indicated a good deal of intellectual seriousness. I also know him to be quite honest on the whole. “On the whole” because, like most people, he may exaggerate a little, on the margin, or imagine things to be that are not, in order to shore up his argument. In this case, he assured me that the girl had “rolled her eyes” at my compliment. He was positioned in such a way that he could not have seen her expression if she had done it. She had her side to him, somewhat to the back. I, on the other end, was facing her and only four or five feet away. She had smiled brightly exactly as a common sense would tell you she would. In spite of this small wart on his face, my friendly acquaintance cannot be dismissed easily. So, what’s going on? The main thing is that he is about thirty. He represents the first adult generation to grow up in a world shaped by feminist rhetoric. He has never not known feminism. He is the live outcome of a big social experiment.
I have assumed for several years that no one really take extremist feminist pronouncements seriously because they so utterly lack in credibility, because they are so often innocent of a relationship to facts. I assumed that the only believers are those who stand to profit by a feminist worldview if it comes to be widely believed. Two main categories: High-achieving career woman clawing for every small advantage after the manner of careerists of all sexes. The presumption of a “glass ceiling,” although contrary to all market logic, may well constitute such a small advantage in a tight race. Of course, I deny that there is such a thing because of the thorough dishonesty of the arguments advanced in support. If your position is logically sound and factually well based, you don’t need to tell lies or stupid things to support it. (See: “Unequal Pay – For Women Only, Part 1” on equal pay).
The second category that stands to benefit is the large and growing cohort of single mothers. As feminist arguments grew louder, young men were given good reasons to act irresponsibly: “If women are equal, why do I have to support the bitch?” and, “She should have know she could get pregnant.” Many women left in a lurch in the past twenty years or so have been led to believe by liberal propaganda that the Federal Government is their missing husband. Large economic advantages accrue to being a persecuted and officially protected minority of which “single mothers” is now one. (Don’t ask me how I know; I need to protect the guilty. Just do your own welfare homework.) To gain these advantages requires a little action, a little initiative with respect to the bureaucracy. Believing that you are the victim of a gross societal injustice helps motivate single mothers to reach out for these advantages. Using your critical faculties and rejecting obviously flawed feminist stridency will leave you and your children poorer than you all need be. It’s an easy choice any way you look at it. I could be convinced that any single mother that does not take all the necessary steps, including in her own mind, is a bad mother.
In any event, the young woman whom I accused of being elegant is also my neighbor. I am old enough to be her grandfather and I look the part. (No, I don’t look like the buff old guys in the testosterone supplement ads on TV; sorry to disappoint.) I am pretty sure she knew I was not hitting on her. (And, a mischief-loving part of me asks: What if I had been hitting one her in this discreet, courteous manner? But it’s not a good time to go there, not yet.)
So, if either of us had the time and the inclination to follow through on the younger man’s lesson in manners, I would ask him only three questions, (compound questions that is):
1 Is there any reason other than display for a woman to wear a tight t-shirt?
Now, now, don’t jump on me. Women have every right to wear whatever they want, even when it hurts me (more on this below; see “camel”). I am not referring to rights but to the inclination to wear a garment that is completely sure to attract attention to a woman’s breasts. I mean everyone’s attention, including other women’s attention. I wonder if anyone will have the effrontery to assert that tight t-shirts are convenient or comfortable. And, you can’t fool me anyway, I have worn tight t-shirts myself. The t-shirt question arises because in our mercifully free societies, every woman has the option to wear loose clothing, as loose as she wishes. Even the tent-like chador is legal.
Speaking of chadors, I am amazed at the number of times I have noticed Muslim women wearing the complete veil – for modesty, presumably – and whose top was adjusted to emphasize their bust. (If you spend ten minutes at the Vista Point next to the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, you will spot a half dozen.) I have to comment because not creating this bust line adjustment is easier and cheaper than creating it. It takes effort to have it. Incidentally, I know I am unusually observant in this connection. The fact that I am a dirty old man is only part of the reason. The other part is that my mother was a talented seamstress who had a big influence on my perceptiveness. (It’s all in my book that you should read: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography -. It’s available from Amazon and from me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) I even know the technical term in French for such topsail adjustments.
The correct answer to the initial question above is that women show their breasts as much as they dare to. A t-shirt is a common way to do it without doing it. The garment also obscures imperfections in that area, including thinness of endowment.
2 Santa Cruz, where we both live, my teacher and I, has a mild climate. It’s a university town, and, as such, pretty informal. People here often wear shorts, both men and women. The men all wear shorts down to the knee or nearby. All the women and girls who wear shorts, without exception, wear short short shorts, pretty much at crotch level. Females who wear shorts display their thighs (even when reason would command no such display, another story, obviously.) If you agree that my description is accurate on the whole, why should this be? Why do young women exhibit their thighs?
If you don’t agree that my description of shorts is accurate, what have you been smoking?
The correct answer to the first question is that all women who think they can afford to want to display their thighs. Those who think they cannot or shouldn’t (not enough to my mind) just refrain from wearing shorts at all…. Not worth it!
For a while, I was puzzled by the uniformity of the actual application of this rule. Since I am a retired guy and a conscientious pop-sociologist, I took the trouble to perform some of the relevant research. I can confirm that Bermuda shorts – now called “walking shorts” – for women are available all year around from Land’s End, for example. They cover the leg down to the vicinity of the knee, just like men’s shorts. So, the exhibition of thigh space is much more likely to be a choice by women than a fashion somehow imposed from above by sadistic (and probably gay) designers. Or by lubricious hetero corporate decision-makers, for that matter.
3 Explain; “pushup bra.” What is it? What is it for?
Correct answer: It’s is an artful device explicitly designed to make women seem to have bigger breasts that they actually have. It serves no other purpose.
The Search for Sperm
“But, but,’patriarchal society,’ blah , blah, blah….” If there were any merit to this line of argument, you would find the following: As patriarchal power in all its manifestations recedes so, should the allure of curve enhancement among women. I am persuaded that precisely the reverse is true: The weaker the patriarchal power, the more the curves in evidence. (I am not complaining, I am describing!)
Here is what used to be obvious about curve enhancement based on everything we see where it’s allowed by law and custom:
All normal women of reproductive age who don’t have children, or who don’t have enough children ( a subjective judgment), place themselves nearly constantly on sexual display when they are in public. I mean anonymous, largely omnidirectional sexual display. The display always begins with those physical traits that best differentiate heterosexual adult women from heterosexual adult men. Those are mostly but not exclusively buttocks, thighs and breasts. Long hair that is also lustrous, fleshy lips and, especially, large eyes, may also serve the purpose but they are mostly useless at a distance. (The girl who was leaving the post office fixing up her lips was making them appear fleshier, just in case someone got close, no doubt, without thinking.)
You will have noticed the escape clause in the beginning sentence of the preceding paragraph: “All normal women…” This means all young women in the reproductive situation I describe except those who are sick in any way. Depressed women, in particular do not display. The relationship is so tight that I speculate that it could be used as a first-cut diagnosis tool: Show me a young, childless woman. who does not engage in any sexual display (and who has not taken Holy Orders) and I will show you a depressed woman!
Incidentally, please, note my moderation. I did not advance as yet another kind of sexual signaling the dozens of ugly camel feet that assault my eyes every time I set my own feet downtown. I credit the camels to simple negligence and bad taste. I also try to avert my eyes from what may be a sign of desperation by increasingly neglected young single women (another story, another hypothesis.)
Young women who have insufficiently reproduced (according to their own instincts) engage in sexual signaling for two related but conceptually distinct reasons. Both are biological imperatives, that is, the women can hardly or seldom escape the compulsion. Women are first seeking good sperm, quality sperm. Second, they are seeking a provider and protector for their offspring to come. Of the two, the first is easily the most straightforward mission. It does not require much discernment:
Is he tall enough? Does he have four limbs, five fingers on each hand? Is his face symmetrical (Is he “cute”) – a sign of genetic integrity? Any bulge? Does he appear mentally normal? Do I have a chance?
The second search, for a provider and protector, by contrast, involves several tricky calculations. Here is an example: Older men are generally better established than young men. They are likely to provide more immediate economic security, all good for my offspring. Yet, they are likely to die sooner than young men so that this superior security may be short lived. And, though young men are less likely to die, they are more likely than older men to desert me and my children because they receive more and better offers than do older men. You see what, I mean? It’s not simple at all.
Given these different degree of complexity, I am guessing that young women probably spend more energy and more time on the first pursuit than on the second. Studying the Victoria’s Secret catalog is more fun that studying insurance companies’ actuarial tables, for sure!
The link between sexual display, as described above, and the search for good sperm is very tight and quite visible in some cultures, less so in others. Among humans, culture always constrains the expression of biology, of course. We are fully animals but we are exceptionally culturally inclined animals . In the US, the relationship between curve bolding and sperm seeking is blatant. I take my granddaughter to many lessons during the day. This makes me an honorary “Mom,” of course or, at least, it puts me in a good position to observe large numbers of women who have reproduced and who may not be looking for sperm anymore, or not actively. On the average, with extremely few exceptions, these late twenties and early thirties mothers with toddlers and kindergarteners look unkempt, often borderline unclean, almost always flabby. There is no pushup bra in sight, not even the suspicion of one and their thighs are completely absent from view.
If I did not know any better, I would guess that the young women with toddlers are from a different tribe or even from a different race than the young women who amble only a few blocks away, in tight, low-cut t-shirts worn over a pushup bra ( the “Triple Punch”!) In fact, of course, they are sisters and not even years apart, more like high school mates. Together, they project an exemplary “before” and “after”picture: Not enough sperm: Boost curves; enough and more than enough: Don’t bother.
I can already hear the outraged reaction from where I sit quietly: The old bastard lacks compassion with respect to the unavoidable ravages of pregnancy and childbirth. Maybe I do because I do not think they are unavoidable. French women experience pregnancy too; they give birth too. Yet you never see in France even close to this degree of absence of sexual attractiveness. Young French mothers are back on the beach three or four months after delivery. American mothers, often never. It’s avoidable. (Note in passing that this counterexample may subtly undermine my own thesis.)
And no, I am not likely to be unwittingly looking at different social classes, or not in a direction that would help criticize my view. Taking small children to lessons in this and lessons in that is a sure mark of middle-class status. While they wait for a ballet class to end, the moms are not gainfully employed, in most cases. (I know, I know: Many work from the laptop in their van. Bullshit! It only happens in some women’s magazines. Taking care of even one small child is stressful; it does not allow one to focus on work.)
I brought up culture. Recognizing the existence of overwhelming biological imperatives is not denying the force of culture: Biology gives the speed and the power; cultures channel the ensuing course of action. Reproduction must happen, so mating must happen; so, there is sperm seeking behavior. Children must also be brought up until they can more or less stand on their own and fend for themselves. That’s all. How either is done is left to culture. Many different, culturally determined strategies exist. They involve widely different degrees of sexual signaling and also, curiously of indirect signaling (another story; ask me). So, pay attention, I am going to unravel this bird nest of knots with a straightforward scientific hypothesis. Don’t miss it.
In some cultures, no direct sexual signaling is permitted at all, at least, in some social classes. Under those conditions, mating must be arranged, of course. In those societies, it would be difficult to figure out what Mother Nature really intended because Mother Nature is kept outside the wall and will be likely stoned to death if she enters. I note, however, that in the most restrictive cultures, young women may take extraordinary risks to signal anyway. Or, they may signal with extraordinary ingenuity within the harsh boundaries imposed on them. (See my old story in Liberty Unbound: “On the Beach in an Arab City” Liberty. 22-8: 27-28, 34 (September) 2008.)
Some cultures allow a fair amount of displaying but its extent and kind is strictly regulated and the displays are limited to specific occasions. I spent time in a Bolivian village a long time ago where unmarried peasant girls were allowed to show a fair amount of bosom at weddings and at dances occasioned by certain patron saint days. Curiously, they seemed to all display almost exactly the same amount of breast real estate as if precise measurement had been involved. (I was already an attentive social scientist then, you bet!) The connection to mating was almost indecently clear in its modest, moderate way:
“The boys are idled today, and they are a little loosened up by drink. Show them what they are missing. This is your last chance for five weeks. To-morrow, everyone will be back at work. Go for it, now; don’t dawdle!”
In earlier days, in America and in some of Europe, there was formal, decorous courting which occasioned few direct female displays. Fortunately for our race, courting was fully complemented by formal dancing, a veritable intense mimicry of the sex act. The Victorian dress code required that this act should be performed by women with necklines down to the areola and strongly protruding bottoms fortified by falsies. Unmarried women participated but their chest tops were pretend-covered by a transparent cloth and their false derrieres protruded a little less. The prospective donors must have gotten the idea anyway, I am sure.
I could go on telling you several more pleasant true stories on the same theme but, one, writing soft core is not my purpose here and, two, you get my point. Instead, here is a testable proposition:
The fewer and the less stringent the cultural strictures imposed on sexual display, the closer to the underlying biological imperative is the sexual signaling behavior.
In other words, sexual behavior in California should be nearer to what Mother Nature commands than sexual behavior is in most other places at most times. What I see on the streets of Santa Cruz is real close to the real, animal thing! This, by the way, would explain why this state of California boasts some of the most angry feminists “spokespersons.” If positive sexual signaling by young women, and almost entirely by young women, is an integral, normal, necessary, unavoidable part of normal life, those who insist that there is little or no difference between men and women are bound to be frequently frustrated.
Two more digressions. First, I am aware of the fact that the behavior the sperm search characteristically involves may interfere with the behavior required by the provider search: Too much breast swinging will probably sometimes act as a signal of excessive sexual availability. Such a disposition in its turn implies the danger for the provider of bearing the cost of rearing offspring unrelated to himself. (Yes, you read this right: not “unrelated to themselves:” bad grammar is a form of lying.) Second, dress choices that enhance sperm search may often be at odds with the search for “chic” because this ineffable quality often requires understatement including the understatement of womanly curves. I cannot go into this interesting issue here. It complicates but does not nullify anything I state. If I had time, I would speculate that the search for chic involves competition between women for men who have become inured to sperm donation invitations through a surfeit of this particular currency. I mean competition, among others such, for rich men from traditional elites.
Brutal Numbers and their Implications for Action
Young women have forever been caught on he horns (if I may use this word) of a dilemma: The fear that men will treat them a sex objects and the fear that men will not treat them as sex objects. It’s a tight, narrow path to walk. Perhaps, it used to be easier than it is under contemporary conditions.
The non directionality of much sexual signaling related to sperm search may make the search more frustrating to women today than it was until amazingly recently. In 1815, most Europeans and most Americans lived in small villages. (Before, that and as far back as we can go, they mostly lived in even smaller groups.) This fact is relevant to the idea of harassment.
In the average village, there may have been seven or eight males of age appropriate to mating. Of those, maybe two or three individuals were unsuitable mating material for one reason or another. The excess load of women’s undifferentiated sexual display was thus light. Today’s young woman is not really seeking a much greater number of appropriate sperm donors than her great-grandmas did because women can only be pregnant a small number of time in their lifetime, not many more than ten. In theory, each woman has access to hundred, or even thousands of sperm donors but 90% or more are superfluous; most are unsuitable for different reasons. To get to the useful ones, she may have to sift through hundreds of bad or very bad potential mating partners. This is a classical issue of poor yield: One has to go through tons and tons of garbage rock to find a handful of gems. This could easily become uncomfortable, “harassment.” The future solution of course is not for women to cease the biologically mandated sperm search but to take it largely out of the public arena with the help of pairing software and of the wonders of Internet photographic (and sound) transmission. Electronic sperm providing triage looks to have a bright future.
There is not much that’s new in anything I have stated above except the numbers. Those are very new on the scale of human evolution. Our biology and our physiology evolved over tens of thousands of years in a steady context of small numbers. In the blink of an eye (100-150 years), the processes formed under these conditions had to deal with huge numbers. The transition is bound to be rocky. One other thing is a little new on the mating front but its’ not exactly news. It’s the fact that recent research keeps spitting out new findings that confirm that inherited traits are very important and lasting, and first and foremost the sexual division of humanity. (That’s notwithstanding the natural existence of boy-girls, girl-boys and persons in transition. Mother Nature is not a very precise engineer. She cares about large numbers, “on the whole.”)
In this perspective, complimenting a woman for enacting well biological imperatives over which she has little control is as necessary as applauding a concert pianist. That’s except that the pianist has an easier task, having been trained and generally following a musical score.
Women invest large amounts of energy, treasures of inventiveness, often genuine artfulness in their signaling. To not comment is often simply rude. Same as failing to let your neighbor know that her well-tended flower garden livens up the neighborhood. Women not poisoned by feminism will readily confess that they are able to bring up their own morale by simply walking where men are likely to notice them. As I finish this essay, a Facebook “friend” of mine posts the following: “The solution to a bad hair day is a low cut blouse.” (My friend is no spring chicken; she may be too unsophisticated to be much troubled by feminist complaints. She may well read this essay. I hope she will tell us.) To deny this simple observation is to be a liar. To ignore it is to be abysmally ignorant. To argue that sexual signaling is all the fruit of cultural conditioning – conditioning that just happens to be the same across all cultures – is dishonest, ignorant, and it’s become really, really boring.
And a part of me fears that after I pass on, there will not be a single male voice to assert that the queen is half naked!
Not well covered here is the possibility that many women are strongly irritated by the poor quality of the expressions of curve recognition they garner. Perhaps, importing tens of thousands of Italian men to teach adjunct classes in American high schools (or even Frenchmen, if I say so myself)… Just an idea.
How about my honest manners adviser you may ask, the guy who believes that all comments about a woman’s physical appearance constitute sexual harassment? As I have told you, he is neither lacking in intelligence nor standing especially low on the information ladder. My wife of 38 years helped me a great deal with that one. (She is probably more intelligent than I am but she is not as well informed and she is not as wise as I am, in general. Sometimes, she is though. She also tends to be quicker.) She asked me this simple question:
“Isn’t it true that you are treating silly feminist dogma as if it were software? What if it’s really hardware?”
My wife question corresponds quite well with what contemporary brain science tells us. The brain rewires itself unceasingly; it rewires itself on the basis of the stimuli it receives. In this view, ideas that are repeated over and over may become permanently wired, or solidly wired, in the brain. That is, they become hardware and difficult to un-install. Thus lodged, they are almost impervious to arguments, to observation, and to reasoning, in other words. This may be what “dogma” really means from the standpoint of individual belief.
By the way, I have often wondered how intelligent, cultured, often creative Western Communists could retain their belief faced by mountains of communist atrocities, faced by the ordure of the Gulag piling up on their doorstep. The brain wiring hypothesis would go a long way toward dissipating the mystery. Like Communists in non-communist countries, my manners teacher may well has been exposed without stop to the same comparatively well articulated feminist doctrine with no, zero, exposure to any contrary viewpoint.
Oh, and yes, my manners teacher may be correct from a strictly legal standpoint because feminist insanity has penetrated far into our legal system. That does not make it true in any other sense.
And, by the way, did you hear the clamor of American feminists demanding that our country take action to stop the sex slave trade in little girls in Syria and in Iraq just as soon as we extinguish the criminal custom of wolf-whistling?