Friday, June 21, 2013

Why women judge "sluts" negatively

There are lots of studies out there on the number of sex partners people have in a lifetime. If you look at the serious ones only (and you have to be careful because there are a lot of studies that are obviously completely bogus) you will find that median of what women typically report is four sex partners in a lifetime and of what men typically report is seven.

So where are men finding the three extra partners that women don't report? Now, it is possible that those numbers are honest even though they don't line up but it is highly unlikely. Other studies have been done in which men and women are asked a series of questions, including one about number of sex partners twice, the difference being that they are told they are hooked up to a lie detector for the second round. These studies have found that everyone lies but women lie by a greater margin than men. A pretty reliable guess is that most people have between five to seven partners in a lifetime.

Which brings me to my main point: even though we had a heavily advertised sexual revolution roughly forty years ago, things just haven't changed that much. Your mom and dad and your grandmother and grandfather probably had sex before marriage and they probably had more than one partner in their lifetime. Yes, they probably had fewer partners than is common now but that is most likely a function of the fact that people used to marry a lot earlier than they do now.

Things haven't changed that much! Go write that 100 times on the blackboard Bart Simpson.

Which brings me to this telling quote from Amanda Hess.
And as UCLA sociologist Jessica Carbino recently told Ann Friedman at The Cut, “men and women both agree that men should actively pursue female partners and that women should be passive recipients to their advances,” and that “when women do not adhere to these scripts they are viewed negatively.”  
The key phrase here is "men and women both agree". Both Hess and the woman she is quoting, Ann Friedman, clearly think that men and women should not agree to this. And it's important to keep that in mind as we move on to this next line from Ann Friedman:
We all get that the rules of traditional courtship — in which men make every single advance and women demur or acquiesce — are dead, but we haven’t replaced them with a new standard operating procedure.  
Because that is a lie. The problem is that all attempts to replace the rules of traditional courtship have failed and Friedman's own piece makes this point. The title to her magazine piece is "When Women Pursue Sex, Even Men Don't Get It."

There is an odd double argument here that is typical of progressives: on the one hand, they claim that world has changed and that the old ways are no longer valid while, on the other hand, the bemoan the fact that the world has not changed. The problem is human nature. It doesn't change so the old ways remain valid. Perhaps they can be improved, but they can't be replaced. Progressives try to ignore human nature, or pretend that it is infinitely malleable, thus they end up at this impasse over and over again.

What does it have to do with "slut-shaming"? Well, let's go back to that teaser quote I gave you yesterday:
 The study found that women—even women who were more promiscuous themselves—rated the Joan with 20 partners as less competent, emotionally stable, warm, and dominant than the Joan who’d only boasted two.
Courtship is all about getting to sex under conditions that you want and when we study that the issue is competence. It's a skill. If you are man, you have to engage a woman and develop a relationship without making your pursuit of sex so blunt that it turns her off. But you have to be careful not to overdo it for if you are too indirect she'll file you under "just friends" and you don't want that. A woman, likewise, has serious challenges. She uses sex to entice men (look at how women dress before you even think about challenging this)  but she wants to play her cards, especially the one that treats sex as an actual possibility, close to her chest. If she is direct about her desire for sex, then she will be filed under "just for sex" and she doesn't want that. That's what human nature looks like.

Now go back to the assessment of Joan above and you can see that the real reason women don't rate her highly is perceived lack of competence. All the things listed are valuable personal relationship skills (competent, emotionally stable, warm, and dominant). Women don't want to be close to sluts not because they judge them as tainted but because they think they are losers and we all prefer to associate with winners so that we can learn to be like them. Thus even women who are promiscuous themselves would prefer to associate with non-promiscuous Joan.

And men, as boringly conventional as this may seem, admire men who seem to be successful at talking women into bed because that is a competence they want for themselves. And they want it even if they don't want to have a lot of sex partners themselves, which is the case for most men. (Hooper in Brideshead Revisited wants to see action in battle but not a lot, "only enough to say I've been in it" One hell of a lot of men feel that way about seducing women; the desire to feel competent, of knowing that you can do it, is more important than having a whole lot of partners.)

But that leaves a key question unanswered: Are women right to think more promiscuous women are less competent at work, life and love? My experience is that, yes, they are right. I can't prove that although I suspect that if researchers looked for such evidence in an open-minded way, they would find lots of it. (My experience has also been that amount of sex experience has nothing at all to do with how good a woman is at it. Any virgin could figure out in the first few months of her first sexual experience anything and everything that the woman with twenty partners knows. And the odds are that "Joan" probably isn't very good at connecting with another human being, the principal evidence for this being that she has gone through twenty different partners without settling down into a meaningful, loving relationship by her early twenties.)

For now I'll just note that there are one hell of a lot of articles out there by women who went to New York or some other big city looking to live the Sex-and-the-City lifestyle and then get married who are finding themselves single and wondering why.

The rest of this series:
Wednesday: The truth about slut-shaming
Thursday: Why women sit around talking about the real or alleged promiscuity of other women

Caveats and other bullets:

  •  The numbers four and seven will seem low to you if you read a lot of breathless pieces about our hook-up culture. That's the impact of media who have to have something sensationalist to report and, therefore, create the impression that everyone is doing it.
  • As I hinted in an earlier post, choosing the number twenty for promiscuous Joan strikes me as a bit much. With statistics suggesting that most women report just four sexual partners over an entire lifetime, Joan having twenty by her early twenties is way off the scale. As is the case with most things, there are degrees of sluttiness. (and this remains true even if most women are lying about having had only four.)
  • If the previous bullet hurts your feelings, I don't care. Go find someone else to complain to.
  • Related to the above point, notice the interesting verbal fudging in this report on the study from Science Omega: "Even when the female participants themselves reported a high number of sexual partners or liberal views on casual sex, the preference they expressed for less permissive friends was constant." It's one thing to say you have "liberal views" on casual sex and another to see a woman who has been logging as many partners per year as most women claim in an entire lifetime.
  • I think that there is a period in many women's lives when they will befriend a slut. You might call it the Samantha Jones phenomenon. When you're in an experimental phase, it's helpful to have a buddy who goes just a little too far to contrast with your own behaviour. (By the way, if you're a guy and your girlfriend or wife suddenly befriends a slut, look out, she's about to start cheating on you.)

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