Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Tierney Fallacy

Here it is, in the words of John Tierney:

If nothing else, the results seem to be a robust confirmation of the hypothesis in the old joke: How can a woman get a man to take off his clothes? Ask him.

He says it's an old joke, and I believe him, but I still think that this "hypothesis" should be called "The Tierney Fallacy" in his honor.

John Tierney is a huge fan of evolutionary psychology, and has been, as I blogged just the other day, for at least nine years. And I believe it's because he thinks that it WILL confirm all the old jokes.

The odd thing is that the "study" he cited - and I find it impossible to take anything authored by David Buss seriously - actually goes against the standard traditional stereotypes that David Buss normally trades in. As Tierney reports:
The results contradicted another stereotype about women: their supposed tendency to use sex to gain status or resources.

“Our findings suggest that men do these things more than women,” Dr. Buss said, alluding to the respondents who said they’d had sex to get things, like a promotion, a raise or a favor. Men were much more likely than women to say they’d had sex to “boost my social status” or because the partner was famous or “usually ‘out of my league.’ ”

Dr. Buss said, “Although I knew that having sex has consequences for reputation, it surprised me that people, notably men, would be motivated to have sex solely for social status and reputation enhancement.”

Damn right it surprised him, one of the tenets of evolutionary psychology is that men have sex, with the youngest most attractive women they can find, purely for pleasure, while women want to have sex with older men to get at that sweet status and money. And not because for millenia men have set up a system where women couldn't hold jobs and had to marry well to survive, they believe it's an innate preference.

Really I am surprised that Buss is able to admit just how much his latest study contradicts all his beliefs about human sexuality, since he believes that any social situation proves natural inclinations. I never tire of quoting from David J. Buller's demonstration of Buss's amazing ability to discount nurture in sexual behavior (From his book Adapting Minds):
...in a well-documented study, the anthropologist William Irons found that, among the Turkmen of Persia, males in the wealthier half of the population left 75 percent more offspring than males in the poorer half of the population. Buss cites several studies like this as indicating that "high status in men leads directly to increased sexual access to a larger number of women," and he implies that this is due to the greater desirability of high-status men (David Buss 1999 "Evolutionary Psychology the New Science of the Mind").

But, among the Turkmen, women were sold by their families into marriage. The reason that higher-status males enjoyed greater reproductive success among the Turkmen is that they were able to buy wives earlier and more often than lower-status males. Other studies that clearly demonstrate a reproductive advantage for high-status males are also studies of societies or circumstances in which males "traded" in women. This isn't evidence that high-status males enjoy greater reproductive success because women find them more desirable. Indeed, it isn't evidence of female preference at all, just as the fact that many harem-holding despots produced remarkable numbers of offspring is no evidence of their desirability to women. It is only evidence that when men have power they will use it to promote their reproductive success, among other things (and that women, under such circumstances, will prefer entering a harem to suffering the dire consequences of refusal).

But something so blatantly wrong as this will not stop the EPs, and certainly not the mental midget John Tierney, from considering Buss one of the world's foremost authorities on our "nature."

EPs are normally amazingly evidence-proof though, and so what WOULD John Tierney say if I told him that I've been unable to get men to undress on demand? That I am not truly a woman? Or a "natural" woman? I've been impregnated and given birth in the standard female fashion - isn't that enough? Ain't I a woman?

Is it that I'm too unattractive? But he and the joke don't say "attractive" woman, they just say "woman." Does the joke, and Tierney (but I repeat myself) expect us to automatically assume the adjective "attractive?" I certainly don't believe that anybody considers me a babe, but I HAVE been able to convince men to have sex with me, even offer to marry me in two cases. Do the joke and Tierney expect us to infer they mean "desperate" men? I admit that few of my lovers have been mistaken for hunks, but they weren't THAT bad. Other women had sex with them too. One man with whom I did not have sex was married to someone else when he propositioned me. He was a newly-wed, actually. But then, he was German, maybe that's not so weird over there.

But oh if only what Tierney believes were true. How painfully I desired my co-worker, "C", and how much would it have alleviated my pain to make sweet sweet love to him. I haven't seen him in over ten years and I still have erotic dreams about him.

My dear departed Earl knew how much I longed for him - knew how much many other women desired him, and never took his clothing off (is it necrophilia to get happy at the thought of his getting naked, right now?) for any of us. If he had done so, on demand, he'd have caught his death from pneumonia, not motorcycle crash.

And the sweet kind gentle sensitive coolest-straight-guy-in-the-world actor for whom I've carried a torch for months now - I'm just this side of burning offerings to his graven image - and who recently broke up with his girlfriend - if only I had such power over HIM! But I KNOW he'll say he doesn't think of me that way, or something less crushing, like, we're working together on a project and it would be too weird, or some other tactful thing - he's so charming and tactful. So I can't ask him.

IF ONLY women had such power over men, I would not be unpacking my heart onto a blog post, I would at this very moment be ripping every shred of fabric from his body.