Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Difference in Sexual Perspective Between Men and Women

In general, men are stupid about women, and women are stupid about men.

Men think women think about sex in the same terms they do – you know, like guys thinking women are impressed by large penises, that they really look for that. This is usually completely wrong – women do care about that, a man has to be 'big enough', but not nearly to the degree that men find similar endowments in women important.

When I was attending college 25 years ago, a guy in his mid-30s, another engineering student, told this story with complete seriousness:
"If you're a man, you have to live with the knowledge that you may never get laid again. However, if you're a woman, you can always get laid, you can always find some guy that will sleep with you, no matter how homely a woman you might be." The implication being, women have it better than men in terms of sexual relationships. After he told this story, the circle of 5 or 6 other guys listening, all engineering students from their early 20s to mid-30s, all nodded knowingly, in complete agreement with this anecdote, and the supposed dominance of women in sexual relationships.

There's only one problem with this anecdote: that's not the main thing women care about, "getting laid". These guys were thinking women think like they do about sex. However, what most women really care about is finding a considerate, loving partner that will provide for them and treat them well overall. And that, I suggest, is a tougher proposition than an unattractive guy finding someone to have sex with.

(However, please do NOT think that I'm saying that men don't care about long-term relationships, or that women don't care about sex, because neither of those statements would be true. I'm not caricaturing the sexes here, I'm describing misperception of how one gender perceives the attitudes of the other toward sex, that's all, not a sweeping indictment of one gender or the other.)

Women think of sex as much more an act of commitment than a guy often does. In other words, when women make love, they often fall in love, generally to a degree much greater than men, all else being equal. When a man thinks he's doing a woman some favor by making love to her when he has no intention of turning that into a relationship, he is deluding himself - ultimately, he will only hurt her, and the younger that woman is, often the more she will be hurt.

When men are young, they are filled with testosterone, and when their "little man" commands, they must obey. In other words, when we are young, our ids are stronger than when we are old, as a general rule of thumb. The reasons for this are biological in nature.

Men maximize their genetic success by having as many kids as possible, with as many women as possible. Cultures where things like harems exist, the man at the top can have 100s of kids, or more. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am is a successful strategy for men, and so their biology encourages this (although the norms of civilization deeply discourage this, a source of great conflict and tension within us).

For women, on the other hand, it’s about the nurturing, and they look for a man who’s a good provider. Sometimes, women will play tricks that work for them – for instance, marrying an old rich guy but sleeping with the hunky gardener, having his child, who is raised in the support with the old rich guy as the cuckold.

As a man, when you go out and are a wolf, looking for women, often women are repelled by that, for the reason that if you’re a wolf with them, they will usually feel that you are that way with every woman, and so may be unfaithful, an unreliable partner, and so to be avoided.

Men can treat sex as a throwaway activity, love them and leave them, in many cases. However, when a woman makes love, she often falls in love. Therefore, when someone like the husband sleeps around, the wife takes that seriously, because they think the man is necessarily in love - in other words, the woman thinks the man thinks like they do, often incorrectly.

On another note, women do not understand men’s tendency to check out a passing woman without actually intending to go after that stranger, even if given the chance. This is what I call objectification - a man is seeing a strange woman as a sexual abstraction, not a real object of attempted, consummated desire. This passing, fantasy-laden attitude toward an unknown woman, sexy picture, etc, is entirely different from the nature of sexual attraction felt by that very same man toward the woman they have an actual relationship with. Women think when their man looks at another woman, the man is comparing the other woman to them, that that man would pick up stakes and run off with that woman if given half the chance.

Men think that women think about sex with the same frequency they do, another deeply incorrect notion. I read something that said something like, men think of sex once a minute, women once a day. That’s a monumental difference. Women are not in general obsessed with sex (the normal state for even healthy men), and those that are are often dysfunctional (such as sexually abused, things like that) in some way. Those damaged women often use sex as a tool to control men, not as an object of true desire in the same way that men do.

The upshot of all this is that to sleep with a woman represents a substantial risk. Risk that they will fall in love, and get hurt, and the relationship will be damaged. This can be particularly dangerous in situations where you must maintain a relationship with them after that, such as at work.

As a result, it is prudent to be very cautious about having sex with anyone, out of respect for their feelings, and the possible or probable complexities that will result. Older men, if they are not too insecure for one reason or another, generally have an easier time of this, because their testosterone levels are less now than when they were young. A lot of what men call “wisdom” regarding this is because they don’t think with their penis, at least not all the time. But the fantasies are still there, rest assured, even in the most composed male countenance. Men that still bed every woman they can, even later in life, often do so because they are insecure, and sleeping with women reaffirms the man’s virility, but in shallow and temporary ways that are often ultimately unsatisfying, a vicious cycle of desperate sadness.

Once a male, whether old or young has achieved this realization, the world opens up – it’s a different, much more fun, place. Women, even cute ones that you would love to have sex with, can truly be friends, and restraining oneself from making any “moves” indefinitely, or forever, is not a problem. We may flirt, but in an innocuous, funny, and restrained way that doesn’t involve physical contact, just verbal banter. Curiously, not attaining sexual satisfaction actually maximizes the male's power in that relationship, in many cases.

Once a man is in that place, and it can take a long time to get there for some, he can truly deal with women on common ground, with equal sexual power. Actually, more power, quite a bit more power, in fact. For women, sexual attractiveness, physical beauty, etc., are their main levers of power. When a man can calmly appreciate that, without 'making that move', they don't know what to do. But they want more of it, because it is rare for them, in relationships with men, for the most part.

Now, a couple words of advice for the ladies.

If the main lever of power for a woman is physical beauty and attractiveness (really what I'm getting at is apparent sexual fecundity, the appearance that you could bear healthy, numerous children), for a man the main lever of power is the ability to provide for a woman. IE, money, power, attention - that's why that is an aphrodisiac for women, why some ugly dude can get all the ladies he likes if he's rich or famous enough.

However, when a woman is obviously interested in a man's money or power, that has exactly the same effect on the male psyche as when a man stares at a woman's breasts does to that woman's psyche. It's repellent, and it often invites these men to use and throw away women who show such overenthusiasm.

This touches on a fascinating point, a true sexual psychological testing ground. For example, a woman with large breasts may wear a low-cut dress, highlighting those assets. But if a man notices those in an obvious way, he fails the test. A man will often get the flashiest clothes or car he can afford, but if a woman becomes too attracted to his wealth, which the man is obviously trying to highlight, the woman in this case fails the test.

The main fear women have is that their man will leave them, ie, they will lose their nurturer. Perhaps the "chest test" above is testing the man's loyalty - ie, if he stares at my assets too eagerly, he will stare at all women's assets too eagerly, and be unreliable as a partner.

The main fear men have is that their woman will get pregnant by another man. So the "flashy stuff" test may be determining if that woman will sleep with another man too readily - ie, perhaps one with flashier stuff, more wealth, power, whatever.

We begin to see the two sides of the mirror, the very different yet strangely similar misperceptions of men towards women, and women towards men. To bring this back full circle, it is interesting to note that whether you are a man or a woman, the following is true:
1. The incorrect assignment of your own gender's view of sexuality to the opposite sex is usually entirely obscure to your own gender. For example, the male idea that sleeping with a woman of little experience is making her "a woman" is not a quick excuse, but a heartfelt sentiment for many or most men, perhaps.
2. However, the incorrect assignment of the opposite gender's views of sexuality to your own gender is immediately identified and often condemned. For example, a woman with an overenthusiastic drive to find a good provider is a "money-grubber", a man trying too hard to bed a woman is a "wolf".

The two points above are a centroid of the irrationality that rules the human mind, and as you can see is oriented toward genetic continuation, the demands of evolution. The complete obscurity of the misunderstanding of the nature of the opposite sex's reproductive priorities, when a minimal amount of observation and rationality would make it clear, is entirely irrational. Same with the condemnation of the misunderstanding of the opposite sex towards one's own sexual nature. Actually, this bears more thought - this condemnation of the opposite sex's misunderstanding is actually more rational than the obscurity of our own gender towards the opposite sex, but to condemn it or judge it is irrational, because rational observation would make the nature of the opposite sex's misunderstanding immediately apparent, as we've already described.

To put it succinctly, the tension is as follows:
1. Men want sex, because that maximizes their genetic success. Note, although men don't necessarily want to get women pregnant, they want sex, their traditional procreative role.
2. Women want commitment, ie, marriage, because a good provider maximizes the nurturing and successful raising of the much lower number of children they can have, as opposed to the theoretically much larger number of children a man can have (by sleeping with a large number of women).

A man over-pursuing a woman for sexual favors makes that woman skittish, run away.
A woman over-pursuing a man for marriage makes that man skittish, run away.

On the other hand, a woman that tries to adopt an ostensibly male attitude toward sex, is condemned by men, as a "slut". This is probably because such a woman has a greater possibility of getting pregnant by another man, the darkest sexual fear a man has.
A man who is too needy, too ready for commitment, is condemned by women, treated with contempt. This is perhaps because a man too ready for commitment could be seen as too easily swayed by not just the woman he is with, but other women as well, and may be considered therefore an unreliable provider, ie, he might leave the woman he is with too easily.

To tie this blog entry back into my main body of predictions, my main objective here is certainly not to simply hammer away at the unpleasant news of our primarily irrational behavioral drivers as an end in itself. Rather, it is too present a stark contrast between our brains and the likely nature of any artificial minds that we eventually develop. We are irrationally driven, with a rational toolset to achieve those irrational ends. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is by its very nature rationally driven, with irrational or emotional simulations as needed to evince a convincing level of humanness to ourselves for the purposes of minimizing the barriers to and maximizing the productivity of the communications that AI has with the human or humans that it interacts with. In order for AI to be irrationally driven, that would have to be explicitly designed in, a most unlikely prospect, because of liability and ethical considerations described exhaustively elsewhere in this blog. This is as unlikely as Intel designing a microchip to explode; it's not done because not only would that be pointless, it would lead to big liability issues, Intel would lose their shirt if they did something like that. And irrationally-driven AI won't spontaneously arise as a result of a bug, because true irrational control is actually an exceedingly complex behavior, and the probability of it arising out of one or more random bugs is vanishingly small.

In other words, accepting the admittedly unpleasant news of our own human irrationality has a big payoff: it deals a very serious blow to the fear of advanced AI, because 99% of that fear is based on the idea that advanced AI will be run the same way as our own brains, a deeply erroneous concept.

Although this subject is quite different from my usual fare of the prediction of future technologies, empiricism can shed light on age-old questions, regardless of what those questions are. In a future post, I will use these same techniques to address some very unusual topics - the likely nature of the far future, steady-state human civilization, and the nature of what extraterrestrial intelligent alien civilizations may be living in this galaxy and beyond.

Further Reading:

Why Do Men Buy Sex?

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