Archive for the ‘Social analysis’ Category

Barry Schwartz, in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, explains how having a large number of choices, in certain circumstances, can increase the stress people endure as they choose, and reduce their happiness with their choice after making it. Beyond a certain point, people aren’t more satisfied when they have more choice, but more restless. They’d be happier with fewer options.

The gist of the argument is like this. Let’s say that there are three flavors of ice cream available. When choosing, one doesn’t expect to be blown away by one’s selection, as there are only three options. The ice cream will be good, but one doesn’t feel personally responsible if it isn’t great. Very good is good enough. Not only that, but one can sample all of the available flavors within a reasonable amount of time and figure out what one prefers. If there are 67 flavors, one’s expectations are higher, and one simply cannot try all of them out. One never knows if something better isn’t out there. Even choosing an “optimal” option, at this point, becomes very difficult. Most people are used to making pairwise comparisons and struggle to choose a “best” out of so many alternatives. (In fact, when people are asked to rank more than 4 or 5 choices, their ordering is usually heavily influenced by order of presentation, making their rankings suspect.)

Dating, in a large city, has the same problem. With a lot of choices, it seems like one can always “upgrade”, and people of both genders seem to have adopted this belief. I’m not even completely confident that I’m free of this toxic attitude. It leads to a very crass dating environment, in which relationships are viewed as disposable– something that can be thrown out if it doesn’t “hold the room together”. Some people even sleep with multiple people concurrently, which this author finds disgusting and immoral. The frenetic, impulsive chaos that has been made of the dating environment makes everyone– except for the alpha males and sluts who, like cockroaches, thrive in damaged environments– unhappy. On the other hand, it’s difficult to argue that “choice” is a bad thing, especially on this matter. One’s selection of marital partner is the most important decision one will make, so it’s good to be a bit choosy. Anyway, one of the predominant reasons young people move to large cities is to have so much choice in dating. Certainly, this is one of my reasons for living in the city. Is this not, then, what we asked for?

Well, no. The truth is that much of this “choice” is illusory. In a large city, one might see hundreds of attractive people in a day, but how does one approach them all? It can’t be done. It would waste too much energy for very little benefit. With reasonably peeled eyes and decent small talk, it might be possible for a man to get 3-10 attractive girls’ numbers in a week, without going out of his way. How many will call back? Very, very few. Possibly zero. Believing that something better is always around the corner, urban women are essentially incapable of taking a new person seriously. (Men are somewhat better, but no saints either.)

The many-choices, window-shopping model of dating never worked, but it fails especially badly when most of those choices don’t really exist. For both men and women, they add stress and make people unhappy, and they still disrupt relationships, in spite of not being real options. A man is presented, in a large city, by an inexhaustible stream of attractive women, although 99% of them are inaccessible or will refuse to take him seriously. It doesn’t matter if he’s good-looking, smart, or wealthy. The experience is universal. Urban women likewise struggle to enter committed relationships– and let’s be un-PC and honest here, men loathe women with such attitudes and discard them without remorse– believing there are many more suitors out there than there actually are.

Eventually, most men realize that they’re being enticed with “shiny shit!!!” and that there is no substance to any of it. I’d imagine that women face a similar problem– a stream of male attention, most of it from low-quality men or men who aren’t serious. The result is frustration, wasted energy, and deep unhappiness. Scaled up to the aggregate, it brings about a landscape of empty and pointless dating, in which people are never satisfied or secure, always looking out for something “better”, and always aware that the other person is doing the same.

Schwartz describes two behaviors people face when presented with copious choice. One is maximizing, or trying to choose the best option. Feasible when the number of options is small and the problem is well-defined, it fails when the number of options is large and the problem is complicated, such as in dating. The other is satisficing, where the objective is to find a choice that is good enough. Satisficers tend, in general, to be happier people. It’s important to note that satisficing is not settling, as a satisficer continues searching until finding a choice meeting his or her standards; he or she just has no concern with getting “the best”. I wouldn’t, of course, advocate full-on settling in dating– people shouldn’t shack up with people who don’t make them happy, just to be attached– but the maximizer’s strategy is clearly impractical as well. We have to “satisfice”, given the impossibility of maximizing in the dating process, and the very high costs involved with being too picky. (I’d rather meet a “98%” match at 26 than a “99%” match at 55.)

The most important thing to understand in making a complex choice is search cost. In crude economic terms, one’s benefit (“utility”) equals the quality (Q) of one’s choice, minus all search costs (C) incurred in finding and making it, or U = Q – C. Eventually, marginal improvements in Q are offset by massive increases in C. In dating, these costs are the time and emotional energy dumped into the process. The costs– both to the individual and to society– are massive, considering the emotional (“baggage”) and sexual (high “numbers”) wreckage resulting from widespread and pervasive failure. To reduce them, people have attempted to develop shortcuts, none of which have worked very well. For example, speed dating is more civilized than the bar scene, but generally a fail. (I’ll address it in a later post.) A more crass shortcut is high-frequency, commoditized combat dating designed for quick filtering on social status. For example, women “shit test” men as a quick means of assessing the man’s “alpha” status, increasing the rapidity with which they can sift through potential suitors. Shit testing reduces the women’s search costs, but unfortunately, merely externalizes them. By instilling in men the (highly disadvantageous) suspicion that women are nasty, crass creatures, the shit-testing woman shifts her emotional search costs onto the men she dates. Men, of course, have their own bullshit behaviors that serve to externalize their costs onto women. Everyone ends up losing.

I feel a need to state an obvious truth about the dating mess. “Something better” is often an illusion. Most of the choice presented is only “shiny shit!!!” in the end. There’s no such thing as the “best” person for anyone, because another person’s dating “quality” is dynamic. People change, as do relationships. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t hold out for genuine love, but it does mean that holding out for “the best” or “the alpha” is patently ridiculous. No, you’ll never find a man with all his good qualities and 3 inches more of height. You’ll never find a blouse-filling version of that small-breasted, otherwise ideal girl. You can take the “hold out for perfection or die trying” attitude, but I can predict which of those will happen first. This is true even in New York, where the world’s a subway and apparent choices fly by with blinding speed. Accept it.

More to that point, wrecking oneself, others, and the entire dating environment in the hope of making one’s search go a little bit faster, or to find someone a little bit more “alpha”/”HB10″ish, is not a good idea. It’s one of the major reasons urban combat dating exists. If people weren’t so unrefined, brutish and crude, the dating scene would be a lot less horrible. The process might even be fun, instead of a source of stress and loathing. Then “searching” might not be such a miserable chore, and people might not be so nervous and miserable about the whole process. Search costs would become lower, and that’s not an abstraction. If we treated each other better, we’d have less “baggage” and clearer heads. We’d end up making better choices, and that would be good for everyone.


Read Full Post »

The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, is a scathing indictment of the class system in late 19th-century England. In this novella, the protagonist travels over 800,000 years into the future, to an era in which human evolution has bifurcated. The middle and upper classes have become the passive, beautiful, frail and stupid Eloi, who live above-ground in a peaceful but vapid paradise. Docile and effete, they do not attempt to save one of their own when she is drowning. They watch, unmoved. They never work, and are able to survive only on the labor of the repulsive, violent, and equally dumb Morlocks living underground. Intelligence and curiosity have been bred out of both human races, and neither is able to improve existing technology, though Morlocks maintain it. They do this for one reason: they are farming the Eloi, in order to eat them. Neither human race turns out to be viable for the long term; both die and are replaced, farther off into the future, by giant centipedes and crabs.

Dystopian depictions of future evolution usually reflect the dangers we face on the cultural front now. Genetic dysgenesis takes centuries, but cultural dysgenesis can occur on the scale of years. For example, Idiocracy, a hilarious black comedy about an average man sent into a criminally dysgenic 26th-century America (stupid people have outbred the smart into extinction, rendering an “average Joe” straight-man the smartest person alive) is an attack on contemporary corporate capitalism, and the intellectual complacency it encourages. As with The Time Machine, it’s an indictment of the cultural dysgenesis taking place in its own time.

Back to The Time Machine: does it apply now? While we don’t have the same social class structure as 19th-century England, the dating and marital scene following a culture of female indulgence has created an altogether different Eloi/Morlock phenomenon, falling along gender lines. Until I spell it out explicitly, a bit later, I’ll leave it to the reader to guess which gender is which.

Let me discuss what I mean by female indulgence, having used the term. It’s what less articulate men decry when they attack feminism. I make the distinction because I have absolutely no problem with proper feminism. In fact, some might call me a masculist, and although I wouldn’t use that word to describe myself, I’m as feminist as I am masculist. I’m a hard-line gender egalitarian. I believe women should have the right to vote and receive equal pay in the workplace. I support the complete eviction from the business landscape of the “glass ceiling” that prevents women (and men not born into the right social classes) from advancing. I also believe that, in most of the world– Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, but also China and India– feminism is desperately needed.

On the other hand, the current family court system is female-indulgent, not feminist. The de facto ability of a woman to describe a regretted sexual encounter under the same word as one of the most disgusting and horrible classes of assault is female-indulgent. The increased social value that young women possess in a hypersexual social environment is female-indulgent. The proliferation of slut-acceptance, following Friends and Sex and the City, is female-indulgent. Female indulgence is not necessarily feminist, stemming at root from the concept of woman as weak and unable to control herself, and it is also focused disproportionately on beautiful, young women of a culture’s dominant ethnicity. In fact, many anti-regressive cultures, such as the Klan-era South, were as female-indulgent as this one (at least for white, wealthy women). For the extreme of anti-feminism in female indulgence, consider that it is often used to humiliate low-status men– you are even lower than a woman— thereby tacitly assuming female inferiority. Donald Trump, for example, described in one of his many execrable books how he would send his wife to “check up” on the appearance of doormen.

Female indulgence, unlike moderate feminism, depicts men as an ugly and criminal sex– violent, uncouth, and dangerous. The man sitting next to you is a potential rapist. It hates men for being men. If a man raises his voice with a woman, he’s “abusive”. If he has a high sex drive, he’s a “pervert”. If he hasn’t had a lot of experience with women, and his inexperience shows, he’s “creepy”. If a man is too assertive for a woman’s tastes and “comes on too strong”, he’s to be beaten up or slandered. Moreover, this indulgence takes female misbehaviors and asserts them as rights, and often virtues. If she wants to sleep with a new man every week, “that’s her right” as a woman. If she wants to stop returning a man’s calls, “that’s her right”. If she wants to make cracks about her ex-boyfriend’s penis around mutual friends, “that’s her right.” (A man who shared such details about an ex-girlfriend’s vagina would be, rightly, detested.) Among many, these misbehaviors are seen as not only within a woman’s rights, but stylish and empowering. You go, girl!

It’s obvious what the result of this should be; it would be foolish to expect anything else. Many of the women (those who possess a strong will and independence of mind– but they are uncommon— are an exception to this) have turned into Eloi, protected and psychologically fragile creatures valued for their beauty and docility. They become arrogant, conniving, and vacuous. They discover social value not in becoming intelligent, interesting, curious, productive or charming people, but in exploiting female privilege to the highest possible degree. They are discouraged from developing as humans, and instead grow into dolls– solipsistic, perpetually adolescent creatures incapable of behaving themselves or taking responsibility for their actions. They are stripped of their curiosity and rendered morally incompetent.

The men– viewed as dangerous, disfigured, and undesirable– revert into Morlocks. Many resist this mutation in childhood and adolescence. Although modern television portrays men as inept, emotionally retarded, sports-obsessed and selfish buffoons, most boys approach this negative depiction as a challenge. I’m going to be different, I’m going to be better. These are the young men who envision themselves being devoted husbands, great fathers, excellent friends to men and women alike, and most of all, interesting and well-rounded people. What do they grow into? The nice guys.

Nice guys are quite opposite from Morlocks; but in college, these men enter a culture that prejudgest them to be the latter. Potential rapists. “Sketchy.” “Creepy.” Disgusting and dangerous, in other words. Men face this subtle prejudice even without doing anything wrong, and as soon as one does something that might be perceived as possibly wrong, all hell breaks loose. Eventually, the “nice guy” dies, realizing there’s no benefit in being a “nice” man. Evil is more fun, and better rewarded.

Men who find loving relationships, very young and with great women, are an exception to this, but most men will spend substantial time on the dating and sexual marketplace. They’ll inevitably develop negative attitudes about women. Those who are “successful” on the meet market begin to objectify women, noting that most women on this scene are people of low value, and extrapolating the negative characteristics they observe to the gender as a whole, concluding that women are interchangeable and mostly useless. Those who are unsuccessful on this market start hating women, their low social position made even worse by a culture of female indulgence. Both classes of men become meaner and more bitter as the years pass. Moreover, negative male behaviors are encouraged by the immature tastes of available women, a sickening fact that never seems to end. (Warning to the young: after a certain age, the average maturity of available women stops advancing, due to the better women being taken off the market. It goes down.) All of these factors impel men to behave badly, and to turn into worse people for every year they spend in this horrible system.

There is obviously no danger of the gendered Eloi/Morlock phenomenon leading to a genetic separation, so long as reproduction requires one male and one female. On the cultural front, we already see this. In our supposedly egaliatarian society, male and female experiences are diverging, rather than becoming more similar over time. Men and women have vastly different social experiences and concerns, and although some of this is natural, much of it follows from a culture of female indulgence. Women, for example, do not have to worry about labels like “sketchy”, nor are they expected to acquire sexual experience in order to be taken seriously by the opposite sex. Men possess a less privileged position on the whole, but for one notable difference, which is that they are both expected and allowed (if they are successful) to be assertive with the opposite sex. This means that a man who is both desirable and somewhat lucky can benefit from the situation as it stands.

For this reason, men and women are finding it increasingly difficult to relate to each other. Following a culture of female indulgence– which, I comment, has many female opponents in addition to men– most men and many women are finding modern women to be too disloyal and selfish to be friends. Women are growing more spoiled and selfish, and men are becoming increasingly resentful. Most American men have resigned themselves to the lack of “marriage material” within the United States. Until the culture of female indulgence is dismantled, these social problems will not abate.

Read Full Post »

I’ve published another article at The Spearhead: “Most Men Don’t Flake, and No One Likes Those Who Do.” Read the article here. It’s about the disparity in standards of expected social behavior from men and women, and ways in which women would benefit from rising to the male standard.

An excerpt:

A college friend of mine sent me an email this afternoon around 5:30, wanting to discuss logistics an arrangement next week. A strange thing happened. Once I noticed that the email had arrived, I replied. Immediately. I wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise. What would I gain by imposing an artificial delay on my response?

This doesn’t mean I’m always available. If I’m writing code or a blog post, I let calls go to voicemail and don’t check my email, not wanting to break my “flow”. I occasionally forget to return a call or write someone, but I always feel bad about it when I do, and it doesn’t happen often. I don’t enjoy flaking, don’t see a point in it, and don’t know why I would. Is it supposed to project status? Could’ve fooled me. I tend to think of flakes as indecisive losers, not “popular” people.

Women who flake do so because it’s part of their “busy game”. A lot of women, bizarrely, equate being unavailable and scarce with their time with a projection status. Sorry I don’t have time for you; I just have such an exciting life. To quote Helen Jordan, the immensely successful, but vapid and presumably untalented, novelist in Happiness, “I hate Saturday nights. Everybody wants me, Joy. You have no idea”. In truth, no man interprets a “packed social calendar”, much less outright flakage, with popularity in any meaningful sense of the word. If a woman is too busy to see a man once a week, and constantly making him apply for time, we assume she’s passive-aggressive, uninterested, or completely out of control of her life. […]

Read the full article, and make comments, here.

Read Full Post »

Before we start, I shan’t use “nice guy” without defining it first: a “nice guy” is man whose sexual intentions are focused on love and relationships, with no interest in high-frequency promiscuity or social dominance. A nice guy is one who treats others as he would like to be treated, in friendships as well as in dating. A “nice guy” need not be milquetoast or weak; in fact, most “nice guys” aren’t.

Paul Graham, a celebrity in the technology/startup community, is known for his brilliant essays on a wide variety of topics. (However, he is completely wrong about ML and static typing. Haskell is the pwn sauce.) Among them is “Why Nerds Are Unpopular“. Although long, I recommend reading it in full. The ideas central to his essay apply to the current dating and sexual market, so I’m posting excerpts, with commentary, here.

I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular.

Why? To someone in school now, that may seem an odd question to ask. The mere fact is so overwhelming that it may seem strange to imagine that it could be any other way. But it could. Being smart doesn’t make you an outcast in elementary school. Nor does it harm you in the real world. Nor, as far as I can tell, is the problem so bad in most other countries. But in a typical American secondary school, being smart is likely to make your life difficult. Why? […]

In the schools I went to, being smart just didn’t matter much. Kids didn’t admire it or despise it. All other things being equal, they would have preferred to be on the smart side of average rather than the dumb side, but intelligence counted far less than, say, physical appearance, charisma, or athletic ability.

So if intelligence in itself is not a factor in popularity, why are smart kids so consistently unpopular? The answer, I think, is that they don’t really want to be popular.

If someone had told me that at the time, I would have laughed at him. Being unpopular in school makes kids miserable, some of them so miserable that they commit suicide. Telling me that I didn’t want to be popular would have seemed like telling someone dying of thirst in a desert that he didn’t want a glass of water. Of course I wanted to be popular.

But in fact I didn’t, not enough. There was something else I wanted more: to be smart. Not simply to do well in school, though that counted for something, but to design beautiful rockets, or to write well, or to understand how to program computers. In general, to make great things. […]

Nerds serve two masters. They want to be popular, certainly, but they want even more to be smart. And popularity is not something you can do in your spare time, not in the fiercely competitive environment of an American secondary school. (All emphasis mine.)

Paul’s thesis, which I consider correct, is that smart high school students aren’t popular because they don’t work hard enough at being so. I tend to agree. I wouldn’t say that nerds are unpopular. They’re respected but generally ignored, never popular and viewed as almost asexual. They get picked on by a few people, but most people are too wrapped up in their own concerns to bother the nerds. A nerd who tries very hard to be popular will be struck down, for punching above his weight, but no one is out to pick on him just because he’s smart.

If you don’t work hard to be popular in high school, you probably won’t be. You may be respected and have good friends, but you won’t reach the A-list. Likewise, if you don’t strive for psychosocial dominance, or “alpha” status on the dating market, you won’t have it. Here we confront the plight of the “nice guy” or “beta male”: too invested in higher interests– love, work, art, spirituality– to enter the idiotic “alpha” contest with force, he makes an insufficient entrance or none at all. He lacks “game”.

[…] I wonder if anyone in the world works harder at anything than American school kids work at popularity. Navy SEALs and neurosurgery residents seem slackers by comparison. They occasionally take vacations; some even have hobbies. An American teenager may work at being popular every waking hour, 365 days a year.

I don’t mean to suggest they do this consciously. Some of them truly are little Machiavellis, but what I really mean here is that teenagers are always on duty as conformists.

The conformity is very similar to what we see in combat dating, defined as dating in which the assertion and assessment of social status take priority over growing to know, and eventually love, another person. Men want to bed the “objective HB9” because other guys desire her, so she’s a challenge. Women want the socially dominant badboy whom other girls want (preselection). In both cases, they’re operating against their own interests. The runner-up “beta”, getting one-tenth the attention, is often just as attractive, more interesting, and better suited for a long-term relationship. To pursue him or her would be a more intelligent decision, but one that is rarely made.

For betas to pursue each other would be the logical decision, but they generally lack the competence to find each other in the modern dating market. Beta males are very unskilled at discerning actual nerdy women from garden-variety bubbly/slutty girls who’ve co-opted the “quirky” look and aura. Beta females are shy and rarely make any approaches.

So far I’ve been finessing the relationship between smart and nerd, using them as if they were interchangeable. In fact it’s only the context that makes them so. A nerd is someone who isn’t socially adept enough. But “enough” depends on where you are. In a typical American school, standards for coolness are so high (or at least, so specific) that you don’t have to be especially awkward to look awkward by comparison.

This sounds exactly like the plight of the beta male. His social skills are average or better– more than enough to excel in the workplace, make friends, and hold a family together. Yet, he lacks a specialized and highly superficial set of social skills, and looks like a doofus (in comparison to the “suave” men) when he tries to get a date.

Around the age of eleven, though, kids seem to start treating their family as a day job. They create a new world among themselves, and standing in this world is what matters, not standing in their family. Indeed, being in trouble in their family can win them points in the world they care about.

The problem is, the world these kids create for themselves is at first a very crude one. If you leave a bunch of eleven-year-olds to their own devices, what you get is Lord of the Flies. Like a lot of American kids, I read this book in school. Presumably it was not a coincidence. Presumably someone wanted to point out to us that we were savages, and that we had made ourselves a cruel and stupid world. This was too subtle for me. While the book seemed entirely believable, I didn’t get the additional message. I wish they had just told us outright that we were savages and our world was stupid.

Kids are supposed to grow up, and adolescent cruelty should end. Should. Casual sex is an adolescent behavior, not an adult one. So is status-obsessed dating. The rise of “hookup culture” and combat dating among young urban professionals are an example of juvenilization, and the world they’ve spawned is, in fact, “cruel and stupid”. Americans are refusing to grow up, even in their 20s and 30s.

Public school teachers are in much the same position as prison wardens. Wardens’ main concern is to keep the prisoners on the premises. They also need to keep them fed, and as far as possible prevent them from killing one another. Beyond that, they want to have as little to do with the prisoners as possible, so they leave them to create whatever social organization they want. From what I’ve read, the society that the prisoners create is warped, savage, and pervasive, and it is no fun to be at the bottom of it.

In outline, it was the same at the schools I went to. The most important thing was to stay on the premises. While there, the authorities fed you, prevented overt violence, and made some effort to teach you something. But beyond that they didn’t want to have too much to do with the kids. Like prison wardens, the teachers mostly left us to ourselves. And, like prisoners, the culture we created was barbaric.

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it’s populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don’t think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

High school inherits its culture from the notion of an educational “factory”, and has been slow to deviate from this stencil due to the sleepy, gradual nature of suburban life. Prisons are institutions whose purpose is to confine and punish. Socialites have empty, pointless lives. All of the environments thus created are permissive but disempowering— you can do almost anything, but nothing you do matters– and in such situations, people become cruel and perverse. Respect fades and cruelty becomes common. This was observed most poignantly in Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Well-adjusted college students were placed into a makeshift prison culture and assigned roles of authority or submission. The experiment was terminated early because they were treating each other so badly.

The battleground of casual sex and combat dating, where men and women refuse to treat each other with basic respect, is a similar place: permissive but disempowering. You can fuck 50 people per year if you want, but you’ll be laughed at and treated as “clingy” if you strive for a serious relationship; you’re not even supposed, many advice-givers assert, to return calls! Most well-adjusted people do not want to be in this game, but there seems to be no alternative. One can abstain from casual sex, as I do, but avoiding combat dating is harder. Even I, “nice guy” of the Roissy-sphere, have picked up an abominable array of asshole dating habits over the years.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. (Emphasis mine.) That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that’s where nerds show to advantage. Bill Gates will of course come to mind. Though notoriously lacking in social skills, he gets the right answers, at least as measured in revenue.

In the romantic sphere, the much-needed “real effects” are love– one of the most beautiful emotions we can experience– the heights of sexual experience that can only be achieved with a loving partner, and family formation. These give meaning to dating, romantic relationships, and sexuality. Without them, all of these are utterly meaningless. So, whatever happened to the “adult world” in which dating and sex were geared toward these ends? Why are we, the urban 20- and 30-somethings, possibly the richest and smartest generational subculture in history, completely unable to get ourselves out of a high-school-esque, “game”-ridden, sexual-marketplace hell? I can’t answer that. I wish I knew.

As a thirteen-year-old kid, I didn’t have much more experience of the world than what I saw immediately around me. The warped little world we lived in was, I thought, the world. The world seemed cruel and boring, and I’m not sure which was worse.

Because I didn’t fit into this world, I thought that something must be wrong with me. I didn’t realize that the reason we nerds didn’t fit in was that in some ways we were a step ahead. We were already thinking about the kind of things that matter in the real world, instead of spending all our time playing an exacting but mostly pointless game like the others.

Many 20- to 35-year-old betas feel the exact same way about modern dating. Unfortunately, the “real world” of love and marriage we had hoped to graduate into is being depopulated rapidly. Our generation has spent too much time learning “game” and too little time building the relational skills necessary to form relationships based on (in this order, with each supporting its predecessors and successors) respect, friendship, admiration, love, and then sex and (optionally) family formation.

And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.

What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.

We also have a “caste of giants” in urban combat dating. We call them “alpha males” or “pickup artists”. Instead of chasing a football, which at least counts as physical exercise, they develop a set of domain-specific social skills suited to a purpose that, thirty years ago, would be found extremely distasteful.

In almost any group of people you’ll find hierarchy. When groups of adults form in the real world, it’s generally for some common purpose, and the leaders end up being those who are best at it. The problem with most schools is, they have no purpose. But hierarchy there must be. And so the kids make one out of nothing.

We have a phrase to describe what happens when rankings have to be created without any meaningful criteria. We say that the situation degenerates into a popularity contest. And that’s exactly what happens in most American schools. Instead of depending on some real test, one’s rank depends mostly on one’s ability to increase one’s rank. It’s like the court of Louis XIV. There is no external opponent, so the kids become one another’s opponents. (Emphasis mine.)

I think it’s obvious how this applies to “game”. The single strongest determinant of whether a modern, urban woman will date or sleep with a man is if he has learned the superficial and manipulative skills necessary to get a woman to sleep with him. Modern women are actually consciously attracted to men with game, because it’s a signal of preselection, superficial sociosexual confidence, and experience. None of these would matter in the context of a loving relationship that develops over time.

The mediocrity of American public schools has worse consequences than just making kids unhappy for six years. It breeds a rebelliousness that actively drives kids away from the things they’re supposed to be learning.

Rebellion out of frustration? Yes. As much enjoyment as I get from bashing women and their behavior on the internet, I’d rather be in the arms of one.

And– shit, man– the fact that we’ve had an adult Columbine recently makes even more sense.

I mistrusted words like “character” and “integrity” because they had been so debased by adults. As they were used then, these words all seemed to mean the same thing: obedience. The kids who got praised for these qualities tended to be at best dull-witted prize bulls, and at worst facile schmoozers. If that was what character and integrity were, I wanted no part of them.

Hot Chicks With Douchebags.

If life seems awful to kids, it’s neither because hormones are turning you all into monsters (as your parents believe), nor because life actually is awful (as you believe). It’s because the adults, who no longer have any economic use for you, have abandoned you to spend years cooped up together with nothing real to do. Any society of that type is awful to live in. You don’t have to look any further to explain why teenage kids are unhappy.

Likewise, I disagree with the Roissy-ite misogynists who claim that all men are promiscuous, superficial assholes, and that women are alpha-seeking and amoral sluts. Human “nature” is to be infinitely flexible and adaptable, intelligent even beyond our own comprehension. Casual sex and combat dating have created a horrendous sexual environment but we, as humans, don’t have to be this way. A lot of us don’t want to be like this, and are desperately trying to find a way out.

I’ve said some harsh things in this essay, but really the thesis is an optimistic one– that several problems we take for granted are in fact not insoluble after all. Teenage kids are not inherently unhappy monsters. That should be encouraging news to kids and adults both.

Amen, Paul. I think the same holds true of yuppies in their 20s. Many of us want to treat each other better, and to be treated better, and eventually to find love. Unfortunately, the normal method of achieving this– a patient dating process based on companionship and admiration, as opposed to the more modern one driven by sexual impulsiveness and obsessions over social status– is rapidly fading from the scene. People don’t even know how to do it anymore.

Our “nature” can be improved, and we can graduate to a “real world” better than the hell we’ve created, but we face two challenges that disaffected high schoolers don’t. First, unlike high school students, we have no one to blame. It’s not our bosses or our parents or even pop-culture that created this execrable sociosexual environment. It’s us. It’s men who use “game” and women who fall for it. It’s all the people out there– men and women, myself not excluded– who’ve made stupid dating and sexual choices in the past, rewarded bad behavior, and polluted the environment with a mean spirit and bitterness.

Second, high school has a defined end. Traditionally, graduating from high school and attending college meant that one would be entering an environment that encouraged and nurtured intellectualism, growth, and refinement. (Once “hookup culture” crept into the college scene, college’s social environment became an extension of high school.) The “real world”, as Graham defines it, begins when high school and its phony social contests end. Unfortunately, major cities nurture a dating environment that refuses to advance beyond adolescence. When the majority of young professionals are playing the combat dating game, it’s almost impossible to avoid it. Many of us desperately want to evolve into some notion of the “real world”, where things that actually matter (e.g. love, integrity, patience) are valued, but we fail to do so. Game über alles.

There’s hope. As dismal as Manhattan’s dating environment may seem, it’s not necessarily destined to remain this way forever. Despite the doom-peddlers’ extremely negative take on human nature– especially female human nature– I think we are capable of something much better than what exists. In fact, with sufficient good will and intelligence, we can create a better dating environment than any that has ever existed. (About half of the women I’ve dated I would not have been able to legally marry, in some U.S. states, before 1967.)

As adults, we don’t turn on our close friends when they lose their jobs or get sick, and we don’t stuff people in lockers at the workplace. Even in actual high school, at least as I remember it, peoples’ behavior wasn’t 1/50 as evil as Hollywood depictions of high school let me to expect– and I was a nerd at the 30th-percentile of popularity. So I don’t believe there’s anything natural or inevitable about an opposite-sex landscape characterized by adolescent behaviors like casual sex and combat dating, and I think we, as humans, can do a whole lot better.

Read Full Post »

The pick-up artist community and its bastardization of evolutionary psychology have given us one term that can describe, at root, the psychological problems of the modern American woman: α. Unicode-character U+0251. Alpha. Usually applied to men, I’m going to discuss the unhealthy character of the “alpha female”, and how her counterproductive behaviors have infected American culture. As American men increasingly leave our women behind, this discussion is, for young women, of critical importance.

Let’s first agree on some working definitions for four discernible levels of social status, applying to men in pre-monogamous societies: alpha, beta, gamma, and omega. Each has a different personality, family structure, and survival/reproductive strategy. With the most wives– we define a wife as one whose sexuality is exclusively betrothed to one man, making no religious implications– are the alpha males. They tend to have three or more wives and a large number of children. They’re r-strategists. Their wives are treated like chattel, and paternal investment in children is minimal, as the alpha male has to invest all of his energy in defending and maintaining his status. Beta males, on the other hand, tend strongly toward monogamy. (A beta might take two or three wives if there a severe shortage of men, but is disinclined to do so.) Either unable to acquire alpha status, or uninterested in doing so, they prefer seek out one highly desirable partner and form a pair bond with her. The beta male’s reproductive future relies on one woman, so he values her health highly, and tends strongly toward egalitarian partnership. Paternal investment is high, because the beta has few children and must see them succeed if his genetic line is to continue. Betas, being K-strategists, are the best husbands and fathers. Finally, gammas are the excess men who have no wives. Mostly celibate and angry, their reproductive strategies involve turmoil and risk. They can cuckold men of higher status (risking violence and death). They can start a revolution against the high-status men (risking violent death). Or, if the alphas recognize the danger these low-status, angry men present, the gammas will be sent to war against another tribe (risking violent death). Last are the abysmally low, usually deformed and unhealthy, omegas, the invisible and inert bottom. (What differentiates gammas from omegas is that gammas have the potential to become alphas or betas, often through war and insurrection. Omegas don’t.)

Worth noting is that alpha and gamma males have more in common with each other than with betas. Both sorts are violent, manipulative, subversive, and risk-seeking. The only difference between the alpha and gamma male is that the former is successful and the latter is not; their attitudes are fairly similar. Likewise, beta males have more in common with women than with alpha or gamma men. Having few children in whom they invest highly, they tend to be future-oriented and value stability, wishing for their children to inherit a just society in which they can prosper. They become the priests, scholars, judges, and entrepreneurs. Over time, by virtue of being the predominant contributors to the advancement of civilization, betas end up running it. Eventually, out of a desire to mute the destabilizing effect of polygamy and status-based violence, they enforce monogamy on society as a whole, coercing everyone’s status into the beta region of the spectrum.

According to the male status spectrum, most women are natively beta. Limited in the number of children they can have, they tend toward high paternal investment, a preference for egalitarian relationships, and future orientation. Still, is there an alpha female? Yes, and her reproductive strategy is dissimilar from that of the normal (beta) female, and from that of the alpha male.

Beta females seek quality men of medium-high social status– the most desirable beta men– for monogamous relationships. Alpha females, on the other hand, seek alpha males exclusively. Their evolutionary reason for doing so is obvious: they want their children to inherit the father’s alpha status. In order to achieve this, to have sexual access to an alpha male is not enough; a large number of women have such access, but most of them are not alpha females, and their children will not inherit the father’s status. Women of low status within an alpha’s harem are gamma, not alpha. Their children will be viewed as the alpha father’s bastards, not his heirs. Only the favored wife qualifies as an alpha female. Thus, the strategy of the alpha female is to enter an alpha’s harem and rise to the top of it.

Although the sexual fates of alphas and gammas are different between men and women, there is a similarity between the genders. Both “alpha” and “gamma” represent the winning and losing sides of a social gamble, a gamble for which the betas of both genders have opted out by pursuing monogamous relationships. For men, the contest is for social dominance against other men. For women, it is the contest within the harem to achieve “favorite wife” status.

Modern humans are generally impossible to classify as “alpha” or “beta”– society strongly encourages us to be beta, but both strategies live within our genetic lineage and tendencies. Our term for a person with overbearing alpha-male traits is psychopath— a person with narcissistic and promiscuous tendencies, lacking empathy and conscience. (Most psychopaths are male; that female psychopaths exist is indicative of that female “alpha males” can exist.) What does an alpha female look like? A less physically violent analogue of the alpha male, she’s a hypercompetitive, gossiping, catty, back-stabbing, relationally aggressive bitch. She’s the hypergamous Carrie Bradshaw, lusting after “Mr. Big” despite his repulsive and obnoxious character. She’s what a perverse offshoot of feminism has told young women that it’s “empowering” to be.

As societies become more civilized, they tend to marginalize the true alpha male, outlawing polygamy, rape, and domestic violence, and demanding paternal investment (child support) in biological children. So the worst traits of alpha males have been criminalized, and rightly so. Such men are senselessly violent, parasitic, and extremely disruptive. However, the alpha-female variety of behavior is too subtle to control by law. Where a man would physically lash out at someone, the woman is inclined to inflict grievous social harm, and it’s easy to do this without breaking any laws. The alpha female, nearly as much of a monster as the alpha male, is allowed to roam free.

Modern Sex and the City culture has trained a generation of women to think of men as accessories, placing the status benefits of the pairing at a substantially higher priority than the quality of the relationship itself. The result is that American women have, as a group, lost interest in the skills necessary to make a relationship work, instead concentrating on the quest for the high-status male. This has turned them, unwittingly, into alpha females. The nightmare of hypergamy, “soft polygamy”, casual sex and combat dating that the modern dating landscape has become is a direct result of this.

An interesting question about the “alpha”/”beta” debate is that of whether it is “better” to be one or the other. For men, this question is difficult to answer, because a substantial proportion of men have an “alpha” desire for sexual variety, especially when they are young. Alpha males seem to be significantly happier (and more respected) than low-beta and gamma males, but less content (and less respected) than high betas. People admire loyal high betas like Barack Obama (with one highly desirable wife and two daughters, all of whom he clearly loves) more than mid-alphas like Jonathan Edwards, or low-alphas like Bill Clinton. On the other hand, alpha males are able to achieve a lifestyle that an inordinate number of men envy; I’m sure Silvio Berlusconi is much more envied for his sex life than Obama is. Though most men would agree that it’s more mature to be a high beta, there’s no clear hedonic superiority of one approach over the other.

For a woman, the question can be more clearly answered: it is preferable to be beta. The alpha female tolerates a philandering and dangerous husband not for the sake of her own well-being, but to impart the father’s status to her children. Her attraction to the violent, narcissistic, and cruel sort of men who achieve high status puts her in danger, and if she does not achieve “favorite wife” status within the harem, her fate is chattel slavery. Nature is playing a devilish trick on the alpha female, bringing her to be attracted to dangerous men, thereby sacrificing her own interests, for the benefit of her progeny.

A perversion of feminism has glorified the lifestyle and behavior of the alpha female, starting with Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl and continuing into the current era via television shows and movies like Sex and the City. The alpha female’s promiscuous and hypergamous lifestyle, however, is not conducive to a woman’s happiness. Even most men would find it utterly empty. For this reason, women are becoming unhappier despite their improved position in society.

Most feminist advances have been of great benefit to women and society. Women must have the right to vote, and to be respected equally within the workplace. We simply can’t afford to ignore half of our nation’s talent go ignored. On the other hand, the rise of the modern, “post-feminist” Sex and the City alpha-female has been a disaster for men, women, and dating as a whole. It’s great to live in an time where women have the same political freedoms as men, and are encouraged to enjoy and explore their own sexuality. However, upgrading the beta-female “angel in the house”– and the concept of a lady— for a more liberal era is the correct response to these new freedoms. Letting the alpha bitch off the leash is not.

(Irrelevant but amusing side note: the alpha female’s prevalence extends beyond the female gender. Consider the social structure of corporate capitalism. CEOs love to cast themselves as “alpha male” leaders, but the behaviors of rival executives within a modern corporation have little to do with the natural behavior of a real alpha male. The real alpha males are those with the money, the influential and extremely wealthy shareholders. What are top-level corporate executives? Though men, they’re essentially alpha females, those who have successfully risen to the top of the corporate harem hierarchy. It’s fun to point this out to the Reaganoids and the Randists.)

Read Full Post »