Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is Feminism Desire's Kryptonite?

Ogi Ogas, a computational neuroscientist, and author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, has ventured into enemy territory with a post at Psychology Today - Why Feminism is the Anti-Viagra. He's aware of the risks, which is why he begins his article by whispering this:

Gender equality inhibits arousal.

Of course, he might as well have announced it with cannons - it wasn't two shakes of a lamb's tail before feminists came out screaming snark.

"The majority of women have submission fantasies. From classic romance The Flame and The Flower to classic erotica The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty to Twilight BDSM fan fiction, submission themes are immensely popular in cross-cultural female erotica. The fact of the matter is that most heterosexual women are wired to find sexual submission arousing--and so are most female mammals."

Any woman being honest with herself knows this is true. That even includes, on occasion, ardent feminists. Nothing can produce the clit twinge faster than mental images of rough, unexpected sex with a favored male. Consider these quotes:

I have struggled with two competing images of the opposite sex: oppressor, and dream date.

J. Courtney Sullivan

I blame my recurring rape fantasy on the fact that I'm a feminist.

Tracie Egan

(By the way, Tracie Egan has shared the story of having paid a male gigolo to enact a forceful rape with her, according to Ogas. She's also put together a list of articles proving that "Psychology Today Hates Feminism." Since Psychology Today is a network of bloggers motivated by science rather than ideology, perhaps that should tell us something.)

Ogas: "Almost every quality of dominant males triggers arousal in the female brain: dominant scents, dominant gaits, deep voices, height, displays of wealth...women still want strong, dominant men."

For insight into the effects of feminism on the SMP, Ogas interviews Angela Knight, a successful author of erotic romances.
"I think this is one of the problems we're having in romance in general right now: our heroes have gotten a little too PC. We're portraying men the way feminist ideals say they should be—respectful and consensus-building. Yet women like bad boys. I suspect that's because our inner cavewoman knows Doormat Man would become Sabertooth Tiger Lunch in short order." Meanwhile, Ogas notes that the "massive popularity of dominance-themed websites for men" demonstrates that men have the opposite, and complementary arousal triggers. "Our mammalian brains come wired with very ancient sexual preferences, quite prominent in the most popular forms of male and female erotica preferred by Homo sapiens. Men are aroused by being dominant and by submissive women, women are aroused by being submissive and by dominant men. In the bedroom, inequality beats equality."

Note that final statement. Ogas is talking about what turns people on sexually, in the bedroom. He is not saying that women shouldn't enter the boardroom. Rather, he addresses the loss of acknowledged differences between the sexes and its effect on relationships.
Women's gains have undeniably been at the expense of men. In an era where women have an unprecedented amount of "power, independence and clout," men have lost a corresponding share. Today, there are often two dominant people in the bedroom. As women grow more dominant, they exceed the dominance of a significant percentage of the male population, leaving them with a much smaller pool of men they find attractive. Even feminists don't want submissive males, which is why so many of them are perpetually single.

Ogas explains why we can't just educate, or even guilt people into rewiring their attraction triggers to accommodate feminism:

"Just as democracy has no effect on our basic taste preferences for sugar and fat, democracy doesn't affect our basic sexual preferences for domination and submission."

Linda Young, a counselor in private practice and popular media figure who also blogs at Psychology Today, responded last week:

Feminism is the Anti-Viagra, Not!

The crux of her argument:
"Feminism is about social, economic and political equity and is independent of what turns someone on in a bedroom or fantasy."

What Young fails to address, or even see, is that as women have become more dominant in the social, economic and political realms, many have also become more dominant in the bedroom. It's the reason men keep shouting from the rooftops that women's career achievements don't make them attractive sexually. Successful women in their 30s claiming that they're single because they intimidate men has become a cliche. Intelligence is not a boner killer, but an aggressive demeanor is.

Meanwhile, Feministing had this rebuttal to Ogas:

Feminism, once again, blamed for, well, everything

The interesting excerpts from the article:

Courtney: One could be in a truly egalitarian relationship, that consensually and joyfully plays around with power dynamics in the bedroom. I would argue that the foundational equality of their relationship would actually make role play even more available to them.
SW: It is precisely feminism that makes role play necessary. If couples have to negotiate and agree to "experiment" with dominance and submission, isn't that proof that they've drifted away from their own sexual natures? Why not inhabit the role each secretly craves, rather than pretend?

Lori: I appreciate that he’s attempting to speak publicly about women’s desire, and validating this as a subject, but his analysis lacks nuance and shames those women, and men for that matter, that dare to have fantasies about control with an immature scientific argument that amounts to little more than a feminist “gotcha” attempt.

SW: Ogas is not in the business of shaming. He's a scientist. He describes a research finding he characterizes at startling:

"In humans, the hormonal vagaries of prenatal development appear to cause a substantial portion of men to be born with active submissive circuitry. These men find sexual submission as arousing—or, quite often, far more arousing—than sexual dominance."

He also states that a much smaller percentage of women are born with "active dominance circuitry." As we know, the internet provides, and BDSM communities thrive in every flavor. The point is that the overwhelming majority of humans are wired a certain way, and that is inconvenient for feminists.

Lori: Plus, dear Ogi ignores basic scientific studies that have demonstrated that feminism is damn sexy. A Rutgers University study found that feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, and that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic relationships, at least for heterosexual couples.

SW: Oh, I am so glad she referenced that study! I dug around till I found the paper and then proceed to wade into the regression analyses (so you don't have to). I suspected, from long experience, that claims such as Lori's usually reflect cherry-picking results, usually from a researcher with a specific, i.e. feminist, agenda. This proved to be the case.

Let's have a look at what this study found. Spoiler Alert: Is feminism in fact "damn sexy?" Nope.

The Interpersonal Power of Feminism: Is Feminism Good for Romantic Relationships?

The paper is actually comprised of two 2007 studies conducted by feminist scholars Rudman and Phelan at Rutgers. Study 1 included 156 female students, and 86 males, all in heterosexual relationships. Subjects got credit for participation and the experiment was run in a lab. A questionnaire asked participants about their identification with feminism, and whether their partner was a feminist. It also asked questions to establish the relative degree of relationship quality, equality and stability.

Fearing that the first study did not adequately incorporate the full range of feminist experience, Study 2 was constructed to include 289 volunteers, 208 female, 81 male.

Rudman had found in an earlier study that "women and men who endorsed beliefs such as “men perform better sexually when they are in charge” and “romance depends, in part, on men being in charge,” showed low enthusiasm for feminism. This suggests that female assertiveness and autonomy, attributes that are instrumental for gender equality, are perceived as promoting sexual conflict. Study 2 afforded a check on the accuracy of this perception."

The age range was 18-65, and the questionnaire was administered online. Participants were recruited from Craigslist, various Yahoo! and Google Group forums, and two psychology websites. The average education level was 14 years.

This study has been trumpeted by feminists for years, without any justification - well, I take that back, there is one tiny statistic they may take comfort from, which I'll share in a bit. In fact, the study demonstrates clearly that female feminism has a negative effect on relationships, though not surprisingly, the effect is mitigated if they are in relationships with male feminists.

The Studies

First, subjects were asked if they agree with the statements "I am a feminist" and "My partner is a feminist," on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strongly agree).

The degree of feminist identification among the participants overall was a big meh. Neither study was predominantly feminist in its identification, and no analysis was conducted based on the disparity within this response.

Subjects were then asked a series of question re relationship quality, equity and stablility. In Study 2, a question was added to determine the correlation between feminism and sexual satisfaction in the relationship. According to the researchers, this was because the first study missed the "fish/bicycle" generation of feminists, who were more qualified to weigh in on sexual matters.
"Young women's experience is inarguably limited, compared with older women, vis a vis intimate relationships, balancing them with careers, and with sexual discrimination."

That is not inarguable. I would indeed argue that young women have a very different sexual experience than did the second wave feminists, one with much more physical intimacy and less emotional intimacy as characterized by hookup culture. The erosion of emotionally intimate relationships among young people has been steady since the Sexual Revolution, and picked up steam in the 90s when dorms went coed and hooking up became the collegiate norm.

Here are the correlations derived from the regression analyses. Don't go away - it's more interesting than it looks, and I'll highlight the best bits.

Correlation of Feminism to Relationship Satisfaction: Findings

1. Being a feminist woman is negatively correlated to all measures of relationship happiness across the board.

However, having a male feminist partner was positively correlated. The researchers believe that this is the similarity effect. Women feminists are happiest dating other feminists.

According to the researchers, "It is not clear whether women feminists select like-minded partners or shape their partners' beliefs." They acknowledge that asking only one partner in a relationship about views on feminism is problematic, and that future research should attempt to ask both halves of any couple.

2. For men, having a feminist partner correlated to relationship dissatisfaction.

"[Men's results] are the mirror image of women's reports, [and are an indication] that feminism troubles relationships."

3. Relationship length was negatively correlated to relationship equality.

The longer women were in relationships, the more disagreements arose around gender roles.

4. Study 2 results were similar.

"We found [that] feminism [was] a negative predictor of women's relationship quality, equality, stability and sexual satisfaction."

5. One particular statistic is the singular finding that has feminists kicking up their heels in triumph throughout the media. It's may be the most abused piece of data ever to come out of an academic research project. It shows a .33 positive correlation between men's relationship satisfaction and having a female feminist partner.

81 males, aged 18-55, whiter than the original group (72% vs. 56%) and 10% outside the U.S. found that while being feminist themselves decreased sexual satisfaction (-.20), having a feminist partner increased sexual satisfaction (.33).

Rudman and Phelan were unhappy with their results overall, and adjusted them for "suppressor variable effects." Their explanation was weak and did not stand up to scrutiny, in my opinion. This reduced, but did not eliminate the negative results for women's view of feminism in relationships.

The study authors conclude:

I. Feminist male partners may be important for healthy romantic relationships.

II. Feminism may also be healthy for men’s relationships. First, feminist men in Study 1 reported greater agreement about relationship equality. Second, men in Study 2 reported greater relationship stability and sexual satisfaction to the extent their partner was a feminist.

May be? The study concludes little, and has inspired no additional research since it was conducted. I'm troubled by the merging of Study 2 with Study 1, and I find the design of Study 2 especially poor. The Sexual Satisfaction finding seems flimsy, especially as women in Study 2 still felt that being feminist was detrimental to their own sexual satisfaction.

Obviously, Feministing's claims are blatantly false. But what do you think about the bigger question?

Does gender equality in the bedroom inhibit arousal?

Are women turned on by male feminists?

Are women feminists hot in the sack? If so, why?


SarahsDaughter said...

mmmm, the hairy legs, it was hard to keep reading after the initial gag reflex.
Great post/analysis though, I'm sure there is plenty of agreement with your findings. I personally have been on a mission to root out all "feminist" notions I've had that remain from being brought up in a strongly feminist culture. Certain indicators would suggest my husband's positive response to this process. ;)

demirogue said...

The biggest misconception with this is that men believe more women are making money and bank where they are not. I don't know of too many professional women but I do know a boatload of service sector jobs filled with them. And that's where the feminist lies make the worse impacts. Women making $10 an hour are still ingrained with the tenets of feminism but are its biggest victims and they neither end up with wealth or stability.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Great post, plenty of content and research there.

The 3 questions posed are a triniy of nein for me. However, as a female I cannot really answer for what men find sexy.

Fembots are filled with so much twisted logic, dysfunction and unhappiness. It is not easy to find a place to begin to sort it all out.

I have regular debates with herbs and feminists styled men. They disagree witih my belief in being a stay at home mom and home schooler. (Of course, I am unmarried, aging and probably not having kids to home sschool. But that is my belief for the traditional role for myself and women in general. I see the men who like feminism are just weak and unwilling to stand up to me or anyone else who disagrees with them. Or, they are so brainwashed in a rot gut culture they see feminism as normalcy. Or maybe they are so disgusted with women those 'half men' just worship a mini form of female deity.

Fembots only want to divide women from the men to ensure the women turn to gov't as their leader to ensure a societal breakdown of the family and ruin a culture for this lie of equality.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Note; if there are any illogical statements in my comment feel free to point them out. I am always open to that. By herby I mean, liberal men who have no drive for freedom and liberty - they are obama voters who believe in hope, change and visions. The problem is that their beliefs are not based in reality so I just question what kind of men are they who willing embrace a 'twisted sister' type of culture.

jay c said...

Attraction starts in everyday life, not in the bedroom. Women in the boardroom quells attraction in the bedroom.

SarahsDaughter said...

Linda, I find your "aging" comment possibly illogical. You've mentioned you're 30 (?) - I'm not sure I like what that makes me if you're implying you're old.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Hi SD. Ok. I'll retract that.

Lurky the Loquacious said...

Equality is a tricky creature, dependent on vigilance. A feminist would tell you that she has to watch her co-workers, bosses, and everyone else with whom she comes into contact with an eagle eye to ensure that she's being treated equally. Society being what it is and all, those horrible sexist assumptions will just keep coming up.

And then she insists on imposing the same hostile, hypersensitive mistrust on the people in her own home, prepared always to assume that someone is going to make her into a victim of injustice.

No, I can't imagine why "gender equality" in a relationship would make it less satisfying or more inhibiting.

Amy said...

I can say for sure that gender equality dampens arousal, and even respect. I've worked in office environments for almost 10 years, and have noticed a stark difference between male coworkers who go out of their way to be sensitive to equality (re: bending over backwards to not offend me) and male coworkers who could care less about how I feel, much less if I'm equal to them. The former prove to be less than worthless as coworkers - never asserting themselves or helping in any way, because they're terrified of overstepping boundaries. Granted, there are women out there who do watch their every move and jump on the ones who get out of line. But still, it makes the latter group much more appealing as coworkers, because they could care less about policy - they care about getting things done. More often than not, they treat me as the secretary or assistant, and more often than not - I comply.

That doesn't mean I want to sleep with every male coworker who orders me around - but I do tend to respect them more and see them more as MEN, as opposed to the castrated gammas who stumble over their feet apologizing if they accidentally brush by me in the hallway. I usually feel nothing but disdain and a little disgust for them on sight.

Above all else, I've noticed that there's no such thing as equality in an office, despite all of the policies, laws, regulations, etc etc. And the ones who claim to be the most vigilant about equality are the ones who perpetuate the inequality.

I hate offices.

Vox said...

You are a cruel and sadistic woman, Susan. That picture should have come with a NSFCM (Not Safe For Civilized Men) warning. Anyhow, in answer to your three questions:

1. Yes.
2. Not anywhere nearly as much as they pretend to be and would like to be.
3. No. A controlling attitude is a massive turn-off.

stg58 said...

Yeah, thanks for the optical nerve acid. I feel like the guy in Robocop who drove into the acid tank, except just my eyes are melting.

Susan Walsh said...

Haha, sorry to offend with the photo, but believe it or not, it's better than the hairy underarm one I found. I can't imagine this photo is for real - heck, I'm descended from Celts and I've never seen a woman this hairy!

You make some excellent points about the workplace. I have always preferred working with men, and it always works best if I act like a female and they act like men. There's a nice interplay between the sexes that has nothing to do with harassment or sex - it's a natural complementary energy. I had some fabulous male mentors, and I think it was because I didn't act like a humorless, androgynous autocrat.

Controlling is an excellent word to describe the MO of most feminists. I have no problem with their personal choices, but the idea that men should find them attractive when they refuse to follow the hygiene norms of society, or that men need to be "educated" to reject the sexual double standard is not only controlling, but obviously futile. No feminist will ever redefine for a man what he thinks is sexy or worthy of respect.

Morning Quickie said...

Some people like to be dominated and some people like to be submissive. Sex has nothing to do with it: http://morningquickie.com/2011/04/21/a-billion-wicked-thoughts-feminism-sex-ogi-ogas-sai-gaddam/

Making a blanket statement that includes all men in the world and excludes all women is like saying rabbits like carrots and dogs like steak.

Well you know what? My dog likes both.

tz said...

There is a section in CS Lewis "That Hideous Strength" about the problem of modern marriage and submission, so this isn't new (and it is well worth a read - it isn't great sci-fi/fantasy, but the social commentary is really important).

Or the other famous scene in Gone with the Wind where Rhett grabs Scarlett and carriers off to the Boudoir.

I suppose there should be some nuance about gender v.s. equity feminists.

But feminists in business can have the same problem as in bed. Businesses are to serve shareholders and customers. For all the noise about competition and the rat race, the successful business will be submissive to customers, practical to shareholders, and encouraging to employees.

Many women in business achieve this, many more just blow it (HPaq?). The Momma Grizzly is reasonable, the equal-opportunity bitch isn't.

In the bedroom it is the same. You profit by fulfilling your role.

But there is something worse. In "The closing of the american mind", it was noted that kids in college get a damaged Eros. The constant porn-music, the soft or worse porn on soaps or night-time TV, or the easily availability of things once only obtained in a seedy part of town requires both partners heal their Eros before they can begin to appreciate each other.

Your husband is holding you tight like he would a magazine with a centerfold, and you probably aren't airbrushed.

In another post there is a comment on "good girl v.s. slut". There is no challenge or glory in having sex with a slut. No seduction, no careful or even rough play. A video game with one easy level isn't fun especially where everyone gets the high score.

There is no Eros, much less any other love, or even a magnificent vice like Casanovan lust (even cardinal sin has become mediocre), just mutual masturbation - the other is merely the object used to achieve orgasm.

Only a petty primal urge gets any satisfaction out of such. But we have parts of the brain above the lizard, and a soul.

To return to where I began, CS Lewis describes the four loves, and Eros is one of them, but is probably more rare these days than in more prudish times.

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