conservatives, human nature, and #metoo

It’s instructive to read debates among ostensibly well-meaning conservatives about #MeToo. In the National Review, David French calls for honesty about men. In The Federalist, Denise McAllister writes a response and calls for honesty about women. French has a good point:

Again, when will it end? The obvious answer is never.

At least not until we stare human nature in the face, confront it squarely, and call men to live according to a higher and better purpose. We could endure the zombie apocalypse, and the world would be full of local warlords using their power and status to exploit women.

Here’s a simple reality — large numbers of men enter high-status professions (such as entertainment and politics) in part or even primarily to gain access to beautiful women. Large numbers of men achieve wealth in part or even primarily to gain access to beautiful women. Large numbers of men who enter high-status professions or gain wealth for good and virtuous reasons soon become corrupted by access to beautiful women. As we’ve learned, some men even become so-called “male feminists” primarily to gain the trust of beautiful women.

Object all you want, but it’s true. Indeed, for men, having a beautiful woman on your arm is often seen as the ultimate marker of status. Become successful enough — no matter your looks or social awkwardness or painful dating history — and a beautiful woman is your reward. A beautiful woman is better than a Ferrari. In fact, men buy the Ferrari often to get the beautiful woman.

The crazy thing is, over at CounterPunch, Ted Rall disagrees!

Capitalism is presented as an ideology that allows people to fulfill their ambitions and make the most of themselves, but in reality it’s exactly the opposite: it constrains people to what they can achieve based upon what’s in their bank account or in their parents’ estate. So the United States has been one of the least socially mobile societies in the industrialized world for quite some time (and it’s getting worse) but most Americans don’t have a clue. This caste system also applies to everyone. Even under a construct of systematic sexism and misogyny, a wealthy woman enjoys far more opportunity than a poor man.

This is not to say that women don’t have every right to rage against men, or to understate the validity of women’s complaints about male misdeeds ranging from contempt to physical assault. The sexual assault and harassment discussion is yet another reminder that the fundamental underlying cause of the problem is power and its inevitable abuse.

It has long been a standard argument of feminists that the world would be a better place if women were in charge.

Certainly more women should be in charge: exactly 50% of the people in charge ought to be women. But we need to look beyond sexism to understand the meta root cause behind unjustly (and foolishly) squandering countless human potential. Whether that waste is directly attributable to discrimination based upon race, gender, or some other factor, it will continue as long as we live in a society whose foundation relies upon the disgusting assumption that only those who can afford it have the right to be everything that they can be.

“Hey guys, can we talk about economics again?”

I really think we should listen to the conservatives when they have an honesty moment about their baser motivations. If what the leftist is saying is true, economics is central. If the conservative is right, feminism is actually key to untangling the whole problem. Conservatives are definitely less intellectualized in how they go about things. Money = fucking.

Sexual temptation is so powerful and omnipresent that no human society will ever be free of sexual scandal, but there are moral systems that — if applied — can mitigate original sin. And when it comes to raising boys to become men, that means a specific, intentional effort to understand their unique nature and specific needs.

While not all men are the same (nor are all women the same), in general it’s a simple fact that most boys have a greater sex drive, more physical strength, and more aggression than most girls. These aren’t flaws. They’re characteristics that can be shaped by parents, churches, and civic institutions to virtuous ends. Original sin and human depravity exert constant opposing pressure — poking and prodding and pushing people to indulge, to take what they want, when they want.

It’s too simple to say that the battle is between restraint and gratification, because — in that case — gratification would win every time. No, the goal of the church and the parent is to raise a boy to live with a virtuous purpose, to use his God-given characteristics to advance that purpose, and to understand that he will always be held accountable to that purpose — even behind closed doors, when he lives only before the Audience of One.

A sex drive channeled into a sacred, lifelong marriage bonds husband and wife together and creates and builds families. Physical strength means that a man can be a protector in the way that many women cannot — and not just from the rare physical threat of another man. In times of crisis, what do we so often see? Men disproportionately emerging to do the hard physical labor of rescue and rebuilding. In times of ordinary physical need — whether it’s repairs or relocation — again, it’s disproportionately men who do the work. In a very real way, a good man can be a shelter from the storm.

And what of aggression? Channeled into that higher purpose it can be the foundation for the ambition that builds careers or creates the tolerance for risk that empowers entrepreneurs or lays the foundation for the courage of soldiers and sailors.

Given the reality of male human nature, I can think of few cultural messages more destructive — more enabling for sexual predators — than the sexual-revolution ethics that urge indulgence, that often describe sexual relationships as the object of human interaction. It’s as if the sexual revolutionary looks at original sin and says, “Yes please.”

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and this doesn’t sound bad to me at all. If there’s one thing Jehovah’s Witnesses are the champions of, it’s teaching their children how to resist temptation.

Good GOD is the left missing something like the concept of original sin.

I know the sexual revolutionary objects to my critique. He rightly says that he doesn’t believe that “anything goes.” He erects moral walls against exploitation — the most prominent is consent. But if men fail (and they too often do) when the moral codes are more strict and the call to live a higher purpose is more pronounced, why do sexual revolutionaries believe men will fail less when the moral codes diminish and sexual freedom is considered part of their life’s purpose? Do they not see the linkage between handing out condoms by the armload — and celebrating “sex weeks” in college — and the number of women who feel used, abused, and exploited?

Much of the modern moral struggle is the war between entitlement and obligation. Raise a boy to live for himself, with a sense of entitlement, and he will often unleash that enormous inborn energy in the most destructive of ways. Raise a boy to live for others, with a sense of obligation, and that same energy can build a nation and sustain a culture. We can’t make a perfect world, but we do have a choice. Better or worse? It’s time to recognize and respond to human nature, or — despite the best of intentions — we will continue to choose to be worse.

Conservatives have better theory-of-mind on this point than liberals, hands down. I think liberals are too proud of rejecting God on intellectual grounds (the Bible teaches humility), so they forget to think about the functions of religion in society. People really like meta-narratives, it turns out. For example, Aeon published an awesome article about trial by ordeal in medieval times:

There’s just one hitch: while only an innocent defendant will choose to undergo the ordeal, which allows the court to learn that he’s in fact innocent, when he sticks his hand in the boiling water, it burns him, declaring his guilt! To deliver justice, however, the court needs to do more than simply learn that an innocent defendant is innocent – it needs to find him so.

How could an ordeal-administering priest make boiling water innocuous to an innocent defendant’s flesh? By making sure that it wasn’t actually boiling.

The ‘instruction manuals’ for administering ordeals that medieval European priests followed provided them ample opportunity to do just that. The fire used to heat the water was prepared by the priest in private, permitting him to cool the fire. The priest ‘sprinkled’ holy water over the water in the ordeal cauldron, permitting him to cool the water. The ordeal cauldron was removed from the fire at a point during the mass, and the defendant wasn’t tested until the priest was done praying, allowing him to cool the water some more by drawing out his prayers. And ordeal observers were placed at a respectable distance from the ordeal ‘stage’, enabling the priest to carry out his manipulations undetected. Did I mention that it was the priest who adjudged the ordeal’s final outcome – whether the defendant’s hand had indeed been burned?

A ‘miraculous’ result was thus practically assured. For example, in the early 13th century, 208 defendants in Várad in Hungary underwent hot-iron ordeals. Amazingly, nearly two-thirds of defendants were unscathed by the ‘red-hot’ irons they carried and hence exonerated. If the priests who administered these ordeals understood how to heat iron, as they surely did, that leaves only two explanations for the ‘miraculous’ results: either God really did intervene to reveal the defendants’ innocence, or the priests made sure that the iron they carried wasn’t hot.

In practice, it might not have mattered whether ordeals were truly God’s judgments or instead the judgments of clever legal systems that leveraged criminal defendants’ incentives to correctly find fact. For, in either case, the result was the same: improved criminal justice, thanks to God.

Projection is the psychological defense of paranoid people, and conservatives are always going on about how we’ve destroyed the moral fabric of America.

Getting back to sexual harassment, Denise McAllister illustrates what goes wrong if you don’t have social constructionism to guide you.

Here’s a little secret we have to say out loud: Women love the sexual interplay they experience with men, and they relish men desiring their beauty. Why? Because it is part of their nature.

Women want to be desired by men, to attract them, to be the only woman in the world for that man. Their beauty is an essential part of their allure, especially when men and women first meet. They have little else to go on because they don’t know each other, and beauty serves as a guidepost to greater interest.

Outside of a woman looking for a mate, her beauty is a source of power because men and other women value it. This is why married women still want to be beautiful. It’s an expression of their femininity, which doesn’t disappear at the altar.

We don’t need studies to bear this out, though we do have them. A recent Pew Research study says society values physical attractiveness in women the most. Nurturing and empathy are second. The top traits most valued in men are morality and professional success. In other words, men want women who are attractive and emotionally connective, and women want good men who are financially successful.

She actually anticipates my criticism:

Feminists will say this is a social construct from the Victorian era that has yet to be cleansed from our society. I say this is human nature. So do history, religion, and millennia of myths, legends, and literature. Humanity’s stories are filled with the most competent man winning the most beautiful woman. Men are drawn to beauty like moths to a flame, and women want to be the flame.

In other words, she doesn’t have a strong background in history or anthropology, and isn’t aware of that fact. She’s totally bluffing. No examples. Never heard of Machig Labdron, obviously.

Machig’s big realizations came from masturbating in a cave to visions of the 5 Primordial Buddhas, after leaving her actual husband, who was her boss that took advantage of her while he was married. How does that fit with this idea that Victorian England is human nature?

Speaking of breasts, you can’t pick up a magazine, turn on a website, or watch television without seeing boobs. They’re everywhere. From selfies to profile pics to advertisements—they’re on full display. Why do you think that is? It’s because a man is drawn to a woman’s feminine beauty, and a woman wants to lure him in with her most sexual traits.

Do you think the women taking these photos were chained up and forced to have their boobs plastered all over the Internet or television? Do you think the women you see on the news with their legs glossed and their dresses tight are being coerced into dressing seductively?

Do you think the women in Hollywood who show up on the red carpet with plunging necklines, revealing side-boobs, and sheer gowns had a gun pointed at their heads while they dressed? No. They want to do it. They want to dress up in revealing clothes and spend billions of dollars a year on make-up, cosmetic surgery, clothes, and shoes, not because society expects this from them, but because they want to be beautiful.

She’s obviously never read The Hidden Persuaders or seen Century of the Self.

The whole point of #MeToo is that now everybody knows that what she’s saying about how the world works is incorrect here. It illustrates something about how conservatives become detached from reality, though. They like to operate based on prejudices that they never have to reflect on. That works fine as long as they’re in charge of everything without needing to try too hard. It doesn’t work when reality changes out from underneath them. She’s NOT appealing to objective facts about Hollywood and the advertising industry. She’s giving permission to continue relying on preconceptions.

Salma Hayek published this the very next day!

It was soul crushing because, I confess, lost in the fog of a sort of Stockholm syndrome, I wanted him to see me as an artist: not only as a capable actress but also as somebody who could identify a compelling story and had the vision to tell it in an original way.

I was hoping he would acknowledge me as a producer, who on top of delivering his list of demands shepherded the script and obtained the permits to use the paintings. I had negotiated with the Mexican government, and with whomever I had to, to get locations that had never been given to anyone in the past — including Frida Kahlo’s houses and the murals of Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, among others.

But all of this seemed to have no value. The only thing he noticed was that I was not sexy in the movie. He made me doubt if I was any good as an actress, but he never succeeded in making me think that the film was not worth making.

He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.

He had been constantly asking for more skin, for more sex. Once before, Julie Taymor got him to settle for a tango ending in a kiss instead of the lovemaking scene he wanted us to shoot between the character Tina Modotti, played by Ashley Judd, and Frida.

But this time, it was clear to me he would never let me finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another. There was no room for negotiation.

I had to say yes. By now so many years of my life had gone into this film. We were about five weeks into shooting, and I had convinced so many talented people to participate. How could I let their magnificent work go to waste?

I had asked for so many favors, I felt an immense pressure to deliver and a deep sense of gratitude for all those who did believe in me and followed me into this madness. So I agreed to do the senseless scene.

Salma Hayek was all, “Fuck yeah, Frida Kahlo’s limp and unibrow!” McAllister puts it like this:

Women have their natures and their sin. Part of their sexuality, their feminine nature is beauty and the allure of sex. Their sin is exploiting it to abuse and take advantage of men, to reduce themselves to objects instead of cultivating their minds and souls, and to focus so much on the outward parts that they forget the value of inner virtues.

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