Archive for the ‘literature and pop culture’ Category

Women who love “too much”

August 17, 2009

In 1985, Robin Norwood published an important book entitled “Women who love too much”. The book sold millions of copies and it appears that it has helped many women control their tendency to get into relationships with physically and emotionally abusive men. The book describes several central features of female sexual preference in a subtle and accurate way, breaking societal taboos and taking a large step toward a more honest view of these issues. The book is aimed at women suffering from their own choices – a perspective very different from that of men sharing their experiences and insights so as to better attract and enchant women. This makes the consistency of some of the observations in the book with those from the seduction community all the more compelling. The first two chapter titles are “Loving the man who doesn’t love back” and “Good sex in bad relationships”. The list of symptoms for self-diagnosis includes this point: “You are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, and interested in you. You find such ‘nice’ men boring.”

women who love too much_cover

Despite the book’s honesty, intelligence, and positive impact, its title and overall spin reflects the hypocrisy of our culture’s relationship to female sexuality – in 1985 and today.

The problem is cast as a disorder that affects only some women (those who love too much), not as a universal feature of normal female sexuality. This reassures the reader that we are concerned here only with a small proportion of women traumatized by early childhood experience, rendering the book unthreatening to our fundamental views of female sexuality and gender relations. The author draws a parallel between female addiction to abusive partners and alcoholism, an acquired disorder. Had the book been cast as a treatment on normal female sexuality, I doubt that it would have been published at all.

The book’s title provides perhaps the most delicious illustration of our culture’s hypocrisy about female sexuality. “Women who” restricts the scope to a fringe of women with problems, “love too much” recasts a preference for domination and violence as an excess of love. Because they love them too much, the title suggests, they stay with them despite their men’s destructive behavior. In reality, of course, they love their men because of their destructive behavior (see here and here for interesting related discussions on Roissy’s blog). But this is too much for our culture’s sensibilities. Consider an alternative such as “Women love men who violently dominate them” – hardly acceptable. The subtitle “When you keep wishing and hoping he’ll change” places the blame securely back with men – where it belongs. The content of the book is more honest than its title and explains the simple truth: her attraction would fade if her man did turn into a nice guy.

women_who_love_too_much_back cover

So how does the game of seduction relate to the abusive relationships described in the book? We can read the book for inspiration on how to seduce women. The routines described there will work widely on women, not just on those who suffer from a special disorder. More stable women will avoid overly destructive relationships. But they, too, are tempted by controlled doses of the same drug.

In my view, however, male “game” has a positive function for both sexes: It springs from a complete acceptance of female sexuality and suggests a playful way of transcending our biological roots. A man with game need not be violent or emotionally abusive to outshine his competition in the eyes of her sexual instincts. “Game” implies play and allows an ironic detachment from the biological dynamics. Ironic or not, female feral sexuality responds violently to these patterns. And though the irony of our actions is lost on her sex module, it is not lost on her.

Judging quality by price – of wine and men…

August 9, 2009

A woman choosing a man is much like me choosing a bottle of wine. While I appreciate good wine, I cannot judge a bottle’s quality from the label. At a loss for any substantial criterion by which to evaluate the many bottles on the shelves, I take one that looks appealing – despite the fact that the look of the bottle is ultimately inessential to me.

The most important thing I need to know is the price of the bottle. If I look at the price tag and it says $4.99, I am going to put the bottle back on the shelf right away. It could be a great wine. Strictly speaking, I don’t know otherwise. But given market dynamics, the low price is evidence against high quality. So it is in fact rational to put the bottle back on the shelf. Likewise, if the price tag says $49, I will usually also put the bottle back. I am primarily looking for a bottle within a particular price range.

A woman choosing a man (for sex or more) is in a similar situation. She appreciates a good man and can tell the difference once she knows him. But she cannot discern the qualities she is looking for at first sight. She may initially judge by looks, but this is mainly because looks are the only obvious feature. Ultimately looks are not essential.

The most important thing she needs to know is the “price” of the man: his status. The main immediate indicators of a man’s price tag are in his body language. One important element of this is the posture of chest and head. The degree to which his back is upright, chest pushed out, and chin pointing slightly down – as though an invisible string were pulling him up by the neck – provides an analog signal of the social importance that a man claims for himself. Chin up and looking at someone “down your nose” is merely an aggressive gesture. Chest out, chin down, by contrast, is looking at the scene “down your chest”. This stakes a claim to status.

Whether we understand this rationally or not, we all understand it intuitively. This is the reason why it is difficult for a low-status player (Keith Johnstone, 1979) to take on high-status postures in public. It feels wrong, it feels arrogant. A low-status player senses that he is not supposed to claim so much status. He will vaguely fear retaliation. The fear is not unfounded: claiming high status even implicitly through body language can prompt explicit aggressive responses from women as well as from men. This makes the status signal reliable as a source of information: only those who can defend their claim can maintain it. Claiming high status by posture and other body language cues turns women’s heads in a way that looks alone never do.

Women are sexually interested in men whom they perceive to be of higher status than themselves. This is a remarkable fact about female sexuality which is not widely accepted in mainstream culture, although it is too much in evidence to be denied entirely. In movies and advertisements, for example, women are typically portrayed as having more masculine sexual preferences: for good looks. Their sexual advances toward men of higher status are typically portrayed as a conscious scheme for some benefit (e.g. a promotion) rather than as genuine sexual interest. It appears that it is easier for our culture to accept that a woman would have sex without enjoying it so as to manipulate a powerful man to her advantage (whoring as a liberated woman’s conscious choice for her own benefit) than that she is sexually attracted to his power (whoring as an inherent feature of female sexuality). Political correctness demands that any powerful and attractive male character also be good looking, so as not to threaten the view of female sexuality as physically based, just like male sexuality.

So what is the price that sells the goods? How far should he push his chest out and chin down? I will buy the bottle that is neither too cheap nor too expensive. And a woman will choose the man that she feels to have somewhat higher status than herself. A desirable man is glamorous for his higher status. But it has been argued that perfection or excessive status is less glamorous for being completely out of reach. It is the one a league above yet within reach that most stokes her desire.

This is why seduction critically requires a correct assessment of her perception of her social value relative to yours. A less attractive woman will respond to compliments and self-deprecation. The hottest girl at a party may need to be swiftly pushed off her pedestal with a playful neg so she doesn’t look down on you. Similarly, if you already have exceedingly high status in a social environment, then you may need to lower the price a little so as not to scare her away. And if you have lower status in the present scene, you need to choose a hefty (yet defensible!) price and exhibit a tag that she can’t overlook.

It is important to note  that “having low status” here is not a statement about you or your place in the world. It is merely a statement about her perception of you in the social scene, in which she has observed you.

Reference

Keith Johnstone (1979). Impro – Improvisation and the theatre. Routledge, New York.

Romance novels beat Hollywood chick flicks as reflections of female sexuality

January 13, 2009

If you want to learn about female sexual preferences, read romance novels, don’t watch Hollywood chick flicks! Romance novels are written and read by women. They are the female version of hardcore porn – more honest to female desire.

Chick flicks do not reflect female sexual preferences nearly as directly: they are marketed to men as well as women. They are even more mainstream and watched by men and women together. Hollywood is too invested in the culture to let something as threatening to the social fabric as female sexuality dominate the scripts. Hollywood movies therefore are limited by political correctness. They are like the bad dating advice you get from mainstream sources: designed to mislead you about female preferences. This is not a conspiracy, just our culture defending its ways. Some script writers may believe their own distortions; others know what will work in the system. The heroine must not be depicted to crave her own submission. The hero must be demonstrated to win by being nice (and strong perhaps – a nod to reality).

Hollywood constantly tries to strike half-assed compromises: between how we’d like it to be and how it should be and how it is. Reality is not completely absent, of course – a small dose is required, lest the experience fail to compel. And as if that didn’t confuse things enough, they also strike a compromise between pleasing the female audience and pleasing the male audience, while nurturing, in both sexes, the illusions that cement the status quo.

While romance novels hold a lot of clues, they are not completely honest to female desire, either (again, like hardcore porn to male desire). They, too, go through too many filters: self-censoring, marketing selection, and a need to protect societal norms. So, romance novels beat Hollywood chick flicks, but better yet is the internet:

http://beautifulanddepraved.blogspot.com/

http://debauchette.com/

http://www.girlwithaonetrackmind.blogspot.com/

Fiona Apple – Sleep to dream

December 30, 2008

Let me confuse Fiona with her narrator in this song (and myself with the guy) and respond line-by-line to this largely ridiculous rant…

“I tell you how I feel, but you don’t care.”

Well, caring is doubly dangerous for him – while it is only singly dangerous for her.

Why? Because she might lose interest because he cares. His attraction may fade when she loses her beauty. But it will never be diminished by her caring. Of course, caring always carries an intrinsic danger for either sex.

Note also that while she complains that he doesn’t care, there is no evidence in the song of her caring. Synoptically, this song says “Fuck you, I don’t care.” – which probably means she’s in love with him, but now things are fucked up beyond repair.

“I say tell me the truth, but you don’t dare.
You say love is a hell you cannot bear.
And I say gimme mine back and then go there – for all I care.”

Fuck, Fiona, stop flaunting your nimble mind with this pronoun play. It’s too fucking sexy.

“I got my feet on the ground and I don’t go to sleep to dream.

Blah, blah, blah. You never had to have your feet on the ground in your life. You are a dreamer if I ever saw one. You wake to dream. This pose of masculine groundedness is farcical.

“You got your head in the clouds and you’re not at all what you seem.”

Not allowed to have my head in the clouds as a man, then? Of course, why would you see this differently. You’re just like everyone else! But perhaps I’ve got my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds. I might just be that tall.

“This mind, this body, and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways.
So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise.”

This, this, this. Me, me, me. I see.

“I have never been so insulted in all my life.
I could swallow the seas to wash down all this pride.
First you run like a fool just to be at my side.
And now you run like a fool, but you just run to hide, and I can’t abide.

She is insulted. Things are looking up! I’ll throw one more insult and we can have sex. Please do the pronoun play again, it’s so fucking sexy.

“I got my feet on the ground and I don’t go to sleep to dream.
You got this head in the clouds and you’re not at all what you seem.
This mind, this body, and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways.
So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise.
Don’t make it a big deal, don’t be so sensitive.
We’re not playing a game anymore, you don’t have to be so defensive.”

Not playing a game anymore? This makes me smile. I don’t believe a word. Just because you’re worked up, does not mean you’re not in control of this production.

“Don’t you plead me your case, don’t bother to explain.
Don’t even show me your face, cuz its a crying shame.
Just go back to the rock from under which you came.
Take the sorrow you gave and all the stakes you claim –
And don’t forget the blame.”

That sexy cleverness again! I wish I hadn’t gotten emotional with this one: she’d still be mine. Can I turn cold now? Is it too late?

“I got my feet on the ground and I don’t go to sleep to dream.
You got this head in the clouds and you’re not at all what you seem.
This mind, this body, and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways.
So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise.”

Fiona Apple – Criminal

December 30, 2008

Fiona Apple, writing with passion, honesty, and insight, requires no decoding:

“I’ve been a bad, bad girl
I’ve been careless with a delicate man
And it’s a sad, sad world
When a girl will break a boy just because she can

Don’t you tell me to deny it
I’ve done wrong and I want to suffer for my sins
I’ve come to you ’cause I need guidance to be true
And I just don’t know where I can begin

What I need is a good defense
‘Cause I’m feeling like a criminal
And I need to be redeemed
To the one I’ve sinned against
Because he’s all I ever knew of love

Heaven help me for the way I am
Save me from these evil deeds before I get them done
I know tomorrow brings the consequence at hand
But I keep living this day like the next will never come

Oh help me but don’t tell me to deny it
I’ve got to cleanse myself of all these lies
’till I’m good enough for him
I’ve got a lot to lose and I’m bettin’ high so I’m begging you
Before it ends just tell me where to begin

What I need is a good defense
‘Cause I’m feeling like a criminal
And I need to be redeemed
To the one I’ve sinned against
Because he’s all I ever knew of love

Let me know the way
Before there’s hell to pay
Give me room to lay the law and let me go
I’ve got to make a play
To make my lover stay
So what would an angel say, the devil wants to know

What I need is a good defense
‘Cause I’m feeling like a criminal
And I need to be redeemed
To the one I’ve sinned against
Because he’s all I ever knew of
looooooooooooooooooooooooooove
Yeah yeah yeah uhh uhh uhhhhhh…
Hey hey hey haaayyyyyyyyyyyyy
yeahhhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhh hiyee ehhh…”

It’s endearing that her narrator feels “like a criminal” for “breaking” the “delicate man” who is “all [she] ever knew of love”.

Why does she break him?
Because he is delicate. Because he is in love with her, so she has all the power, so she is no longer attracted to him.

Is it a crime that she is not attracted to him any longer?
No.

Was she attracted to him before?
Most likely, yes. Why else would she have played with him to begin with?

What has changed in the meantime to make him unattractive?
He fell in love with her.

Does she have something to feel guilty about?
Perhaps she does. Perhaps she played with him just to experience her own power.

But what if he had turned out more powerful? This may have lead to a happy relationship or to him breaking her heart.

Note the asymmetry: Female sexuality requires male dominance for a happy relationship. He can be attracted to her regardless of the power balance. She, by contrast, loses all attraction, as soon as she feels more powerful.

Power is central to female, but not to male sexuality.

He needs to learn about female sexuality.

Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love

December 30, 2008

Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love” is just another sentimental pop song. But it pushes the envelope with its central masochistic metaphor of love: “You cut me open, and I keep bleeding love.” The blood is the love, and the cut makes it flow.

So what are we to learn from this? We need to cut to cause the response we crave – metaphorically speaking. Like emotional surgeons, we need to suspend empathy and cut into the living flesh – to heal the patient.

“Closed off from love
I didn’t need the pain
Once or twice was enough
And it was all in vain
Time starts to pass
Before you know it you’re frozen
Ooooh…

But something happened
For the very first time with you
My heart melted into the ground
Found something true
And everyone’s looking ’round
Thinking I’m going crazy
Oooh, yahhh

But I don’t care what they say
I’m in love with you
They try to pull me away
But they don’t know the truth
My heart’s crippled by the vein
That I keep on closing

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding
I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open
Oooh, oooh…

Trying hard not to hear
But they talk so loud
Their piercing sounds fill my ears
Try to fill me with doubt
Yet I know that their goal
Is to keep me from falling
Hey, yeah!”

Friends are trying to “keep [her] from falling”. How does this fit with the notion that the female sexual response is very susceptible to other people’s judgment? These judgments just reaffirm that he is dangerous, thus powerful, thus irresistible.

“But nothing’s greater
Than the rush that comes with your embrace
And in this world of loneliness
I see your face
Yet everyone around me
Thinks that I’m going crazy
Maybe, maybe

But I don’t care what they say
I’m in love with you
They try to pull me away
But they don’t know the truth
My heart’s crippled by the vein
That I keep on closing

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding
I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love

You cut me open
And it’s draining all of me
Oh they find it hard to believe
I’ll be wearing these scars
For everyone to see

I don’t care what they say
I’m in love with you
They try to pull me away
But they don’t know the truth
My heart’s crippled by the pain
That I keep all closed in

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding
I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding
I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love”

Butterfly Boucher – I can’t make me love you

December 30, 2008

Check out Butterfly Boucher’s “I can’t make me love you” on youtube. She’s right in the first line of the refrain (title), wrong in the second. Overall this is an example of a woman’s honest attempt to express her contradictory feelings.

“All the things I want to say but I can’t
All the things I want to do but I won’t
Hold me tight, but not too tight

She needs to feel her desire to be stronger than his in order to be attracted to him. This reminds me of a girl I dated who would embrace me with true passion and longing and then urgently whisper “Go! go! go! go! go!” under her breath, instructing me to push her away (against her longing embrace), so that she could feel the loss and attraction she craved. (Thank you, G., this was helpful.)

“I’m in knots and you tie me in bows
I feel pretty
I know that you care
You’re so sweet
You’re so so sweet”

Too sweet. When a woman tells you, you are “sweet”, you know you are in trouble. The next thing you’re going to hear is that you’re “too sweet”. And this does not mean “very sweet, thank you”. No, “too sweet” means suboptimal, unattractively sweet. Do not drown her attraction in that vanilla sauce.

“It’s not a hurry that we’re in
It’s the pollen
It’s the spring
I can’t make me love you

Truly spoken. She cannot make herself love him anymore than he can make himself love a woman he doesn’t.

And you can’t make me either

Quite clearly she has not met any of us.

“Patience, boy, I need it”

Patience will not help here.

“I can’t make me love yooooooou

Oh oh oh

Paper pen and a piece of your heart
I can read it but where do I start?
What to do
What do I do?
And I am going but I’m gonna come back
And maybe then this maybe that
Hold me tight
Not too tight

It’s not a hurry that were in
There’s no problem
That’s the thing!

But I can’t make me love you
And you can’t make me either
Patience, boy, I need it
I can’t make me love yooooooou

Oooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Everyday there’s something new to hold onto toooooooooo a little more of yoooooooouu”

She’s pushing the theme of patience, attraction developed through extended exposure. I do not believe this will ever generate the kind of wild desire I personally prefer to be the object of. But mere exposure can make things appear more beautiful. More importantly, developing a relationship of some depth will give him emotional power over her. Such power could translate into a modest measure of sexual attraction.

“I can’t make me love you
And you can’t make me either
Patience, boy, I need it
I can’t make me love yooooooou
Patience, boy, on strange days
I can’t make me love yooooooooouu
Oh oh oh”

Bonnie Raitt – I can’t make you love me

Consider Bonnie Raitt’s “I can’t make you love me” for another female perspective. Here the man has the power. I recommend against listening to the song. The sentimentality is hard to bear. Nevertheless the lyrics and perhaps also her vocals do authentically express a common female experience.

“Turn down the lights, turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me, tell me no lies
Just hold me close, don’t patronize – don’t patronize me”

This means: “Please fuck me, alpha animal. And don’t pretend to have any plans to provide for me.” The voices are her better judgment, which her sexuality has nothing but contempt for.

“Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t”

This is the central quality that lends him the power he has over her: He does not love her. We don’t know if he has other qualities beyond this lack of love for her. But he might not need other qualities. His lack of love implies a judgment: That he is superior to her. Her sex module will automatically copy this judgment. If she read this description of the psychological mechanism behind her emotions, it would not feel right to her; it would feel bloodless and meaningless. This is because the emotions caused by said mechanism are genuine and intense and deep. They include sexual desire and love itself, a much more comprehensive longing: the feeling that he is “the one”. Female physical beauty causes the same genuine, intense, deep emotion in men. It is a common fallacy that the emotion cannot be deep and true if its causes are as mundane as looks or lack of love.

“You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power”

But you won’t, no you won’t”

She will feel his power: his lack of love and his penis inside her. The last line here reaffirms the power asymmetry that is the cause for (1) her love and heartbreak as well as (2) her sexual desire and orgasm.

“cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”

I’ll close my eyes, then I won’t see
The love you don’t feel when you’re holding me
Morning will come and I’ll do what’s right
Just give me till then to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight

Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”

Zadie Smith (On Beauty)

December 30, 2008

In her novel On Beauty, Zadie Smith writes

“Victoria herself, flush with the social and sexual successes of her first summer abroad without her family, returned home to find a tolerable young man, weighed down by his virginity and satisfyingly unmanned by his desire for her.”

This is an interesting articulation of that unfortunate phenomenon: Male desire itself diminishes female desire (while the reverse is not true). Male desire, thus, must be either limited to begin with or its expression controlled – if it is to be reciprocated.

Note further that the boy in this story (Jerome) is not merely “unmanned by his desire”, but “satisfyingly” so – suggesting that his desire for her quenched her desire for him: his desire alone satisfied her. Victoria is a generous human being and proceeds to pity-fuck Jerome, who falls first in love (dreaming of marriage) and then into depression when she ends the affair.