Peter Singer’s ‘A Darwinian Left’

Peter Singer, ‘A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation’, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999.

Social Darwinism is dead. 

The idea that charity, welfare and medical treatment ought to be withheld from the poor, the destitute and the seriously ill so that they perish in accordance with the process of natural selection and hence facilitate further evolutionary progress survives only as a straw man sometimes attributed to conservatives by leftists in order to discredit them, and a form of guilt by association sometimes invoked by creationists in order to discredit the theory of evolution.[1]

However, despite the attachment of many American conservatives to creationism, there remains a perception that evolutionary psychology is somehow right-wing

Thus, if humans are fundamentally selfish, as Richard Dawkins is taken, not entirely accurately, to have argued, then this surely confirms the underlying assumptions of classical economics. 

Of course, as Dawkins also emphasizes, we have evolved through kin selection to be altruistic towards our close biological relatives. However, this arguably only reinforces conservatives’ faith in the family, and their concerns regarding the effects of family breakdown and substitute parents

Finally, research on sex differences surely suggests that at least some traditional gender roles – e.g. women’s role in caring for young children, and men’s role in fighting wars – do indeed have a biological basis, and also that patriarchy and the gender pay gap may be an inevitable result of innate psychological differences between the sexes

Political scientist Larry Arnhart thus champions what he calls a new ‘Darwinian Conservatism’, which harnesses the findings of evolutionary psychology in support of family values and the free market. 

Against this, however, moral philosopher and famed animal liberation activist Peter Singer, in ‘A Darwinian Left’, seeks to reclaim Darwin, and evolutionary psychology, for the Left. His attempt is not entirely successful. 

The Naturalistic Fallacy 

At least since David Hume, it has an article of faith among most philosophers that one cannot derive values from facts. To do otherwise is to commit what some philosophers refer to as the naturalistic fallacy

Edward O Wilson, in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis was widely accused of committing the naturalistic fallacy, by attempting to derive moral values form facts. However, those evolutionary psychologists who followed in his stead have generally taken a very different line. 

Indeed, recognition that the naturalistic fallacy is indeed a fallacy has proven very useful to evolutionary psychologists, since it has enabled them investigate the possible evolutionary functions of such morally questionable (or indeed downright morally reprehensible) behaviours as infidelityrape, warfare and child abuse while at the same time denying that they are somehow thereby providing a justification for the behaviours in question.[2] 

Singer, like most evolutionary psychologists, also reiterates the sacrosanct inviolability of the fact-value dichotomy

Thus, in attempting to construct his ‘Darwinian Left’, Singer does not attempt to use Darwinism in order to provide a justification or ultimate rationale for leftist egalitarianism. Rather, he simply takes it for granted that equality is a good thing and worth striving for, and indeed implicitly assumes that his readers will agree. 

His aim, then, is not to argue that socialism is demanded by a Darwinian worldview, but rather simply that it is compatible with such a worldview and not contradicted by it. 

Thus, he takes leftist ideals as his starting-point, and attempts to argue only that accepting the Darwinian worldview should not cause one to abandon these ideals as either undesirable or unachievable. 

But if we accept that the naturalistic fallacy is indeed a fallacy then this only raises the question: If it is indeed true that moral values cannot be derived from scientific facts, whence can moral values be derived?  

Can they only be derived from other moral values? If so, how are our ultimate moral values, from which all other moral values are derived, themselves derived? 

Singer does not address this. However, precisely by failing to address it, he seems to implicitly assume that our ultimate moral values must simply be taken on faith. 

However, Singer also emphasizes that rejecting the naturalistic fallacy does not mean that the facts of human nature are irrelevant to politics. 

On the contrary, while Darwinism may not prescribe any particular political goals as desirable, it may nevertheless help us determine how to achieve those political goals that we have already decided upon. Thus, Singer writes: 

An understanding of human nature in the light of evolutionary theory can help us to identify the means by which we may achieve some of our social and political goals… as well as assessing the possible costs and benefits of doing so” (p15). 

Thus, in a memorable metaphor, Singer observes: 

Wood carvers presented with a piece of timber and a request to make wooden bowls from it do not simply begin carving according to a design drawn up before they have seen the wood, Instead they will examine the material with which they are to work and modify their design in order to suit its grain…Those seeking to reshape human society must understand the tendencies inherent within human beings, and modify their abstract ideals in order to suit them” (p40). 

Abandoning Utopia? 

In addition to suggesting how our ultimate political objectives might best be achieved, an evolutionary perspective also suggests that some political goals might simply be unattainable, at least in the absence of a wholesale eugenic reengineering of human nature itself. 

In watering down the utopian aspirations of previous generations of leftists, Singer seems to implicitly concede as much. 

Contrary to the crudest misunderstanding of selfish gene theory, humans are not entirely selfish. However, we have evolved to put our own interests, and those of their kin, above those of other humans. 

For this reason, communism is unobtainable because: 

  1. People strive to promote themselves and their kin above others; 
  2. Only coercive state apparatus can prevent them so doing; 
  3. The individuals in control of this coercive apparatus themselves seek to promote the interests of themselves and their kin and corruptly use this coercive apparatus to do so. 

Thus, Singer laments: 

What egalitarian revolution has not been betrayed by its leaders?” (p39). 

Or, alternatively, as HL Mencken put it:

“[The] one undoubted effect [of political revolutions] is simply to throw out one gang of thieves and put in another.” 

In addition, human selfishness suggests, if complete egalitarianism were ever successfully achieved and enforced, it would likely be economically inefficient – because it would remove the incentive of self-advancement that lies behind the production of goods and services, not to mention of works of art and scientific advances. 

Thus, as Adam Smith famously observed: 

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” 

And, again, the only other means of ensuring goods and services are produced besides economic self-interest is state coercion, which, given human nature, will always be exercised both corruptly and inefficiently. 

What’s Left? 

Singer’s pamphlet has been the subject of much controversy, with most of the criticism coming, not from conservatives, whom one might imagine to be Singer’s natural adversaries, but rather from other self-described leftists. 

These leftist critics have included both writers opposed to evolutionary psychology (e.g. David Stack in The First Darwinian Left), but also some other writers claiming to be broadly receptive to the new paradigm but who are clearly uncomfortable with some of its implications (e.g.  Marek Kohn in As We Know It: Coming to Terms with an Evolved Mind). 

In apparently rejecting the utopian transformation of society envisioned by Marx and other radical socialists, Singer has been accused by other leftists for conceding rather too much to the critics of leftism. In so doing, Singer has, they claim, in effect abandoned leftism in all but name and become, in their view, an apologist for and sell-out to capitalism. 

Whether Singer can indeed be said to have abandoned the Left depends, of course, on precisely how we define ‘the Left’, a rather more problematic matter than it is usually regarded as being.[3]

For his part, Singer certainly defines the Left in unusually broad terms.

For Singer, leftism need not necessarily entail taking the means of production into common ownership, nor even the redistribution of wealth. Rather, at its core, being a leftist is simply about being: 

On the side of the weak, not the powerful; of the oppressed, not the oppressor; of the ridden, not the rider” (p8). 

However, this definition is obviously problematic. After all, few conservatives would admit to being on the side of the oppressor. 

On the contrary, conservatives and libertarians usually reject the dichotomous subdivision of society into oppressed’ and ‘oppressor groups. They argue that the real world is more complex than this simplistic division of the world into black and white, good and evil, suggests. 

Moreover, they argue that mutually beneficial exchange and cooperation, rather than exploitation, is the essence of capitalism. 

They also usually claim that their policies benefit society as a whole, including both the poor and rich, rather than favouring one class over another.[4]

Indeed, conservatives claim that socialist reforms often actually inadvertently hurt precisely those whom they attempt to help. Thus, for example, welfare benefits are said to encourage welfare dependency, while introducing, or raising the level of, a minimum wage is said to lead to increases in unemployment. 

Singer declares that a Darwinian left would “promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition” (p61).

Yet many conservatives would share Singer’s aspiration to create a more altruistic culture. 

Indeed, this aspiration seems more compatible with the libertarian notion of voluntary charitable donations replacing taxation than with the coercively-extracted taxes invariably favoured by the Left. 

Nepotism and Equality of Opportunity 

Yet selfish gene theory suggests humans are not entirely self-interested. Rather, kin selection makes us care also about our biological relatives.

But this is no boon for egalitarians. 

Rather, the fact that our selfishness is tempered by a healthy dose of nepotism likely makes equality of opportunity as unattainable as equality of outcome – because individuals will inevitably seek to aid the social, educational and economic advancement of their kin, and those individuals better placed to do so will enjoy greater success in so doing. 

For example, parents with greater resources will be able to send their offspring to exclusive fee-paying schools or obtain private tuition for them; parents with better connections may be able to help their offspring obtain better jobs; while parents with greater intellectual ability may be able to better help their offspring with their homework. 

However, since many conservatives and libertarians are as committed to equality of opportunity as socialists are to equality of outcome, this conclusion may be as unwelcome on the right as on the left. 

Indeed, the theory of kin selection has even been invoked to suggest that ethnocentrism is innate and ethnic conflict is inevitable in multi-ethnic societies, a conclusion unwelcome across the mainstream political spectrum in the West today, where political parties of all persuasions are seemingly equally committed to building multi-ethnic societies. 

Unfortunately, Singer does not address any of these issues. 

Animal Liberation After Darwin 

Singer is most famous for his advocacy on behalf of what he calls animal liberation

In ‘A Darwinian Left’, he argues that the Darwinian worldview reinforces the case for animal liberation by confirming the evolutionary continuity between humans other animals. 

This suggests that there are unlikely to be fundamental differences in kind as between humans and other animals (e.g. in the capacity to feel pain) sufficient to justify the differences in treatment currently accorded humans and animals. 

It sharply contrasts account of creation in the Bible and the traditional Christian notion of humans as superior to other animals and as occupying an intermediate position between beasts and angels. 

Thus, Singer concludes: 

By knocking out the idea that we are a separate creation from the animals, Darwinian thinking provided the basis for a revolution in our attitudes to non-human animals” (p17). 

This makes our consumption of animals as food, our killing of them for sport, our enslavement of them as draft animals, or even pets, and our imprisonment of them in zoos and laboratories all ethically suspect, since these are not things generally permitted in respect of humans. 

Yet Singer fails to recognise that human-animal continuity cuts two ways. 

Thus, anti-vivisectionists argue that animal testing is not only immoral, but also ineffective, because drugs and other treatments often have very different effects on humans than they do on the animals used in drug testing. 

Our evolutionary continuity with non-human species makes this argument less plausible. 

Moreover, if humans are subject to the same principles of natural selection as other species, this suggests, not the elevation of animals to the status of humans, but rather the relegation of humans to just another species of animal. 

In short, we do not occupy a position midway between beasts and angels; we are beasts through and through, and any attempt to believe otherwise is mere delusion. 

This is, of course, the theme of John Gray’s powerful polemic Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (which I have reviewed hereherehere and here). 

Finally, acceptance of the existence of human nature surely entails recognition of carnivory as a part of that nature. 

Of course, we must remember not to commit the naturalistic or appeal to nature fallacy.  

Thus, just because meat-eating may be natural for humans, in the sense that meat was a part of our ancestors diet in the EEA, this does not necessarily mean that it is morally right or even morally justifiable. 

However, the fact that meat is indeed a natural part of the human diet does suggest that, in health terms, vegetarianism is likely to be nutritionally sub-optimal. 

Thus, the naturalistic fallacy or appeal to nature fallacy is not always entirely fallacious, at least when it comes to human health. What is natural for humans is indeed what we are biologically adapted to and what our body is therefore best designed to deal with.[5]

Therefore, vegetarianism is almost certainly to some degree sub-optimal in nutritional terms. 

Moreover, given that Singer is an opponent of the view that there is a valid moral distinction between acts and omissions, then we must ask ourselves: If he believes it is wrong for us to eat animals, does he also believe we should take positive measures to prevent lions from eating gazelles? 

Economics 

Thus, bemoaning the emphasis of neoliberals on purely economic outcomes, he protests:

From an evolutionary perspective, we cannot identify wealth with self-interest… Properly understood self-interest is broader than economic self-interest” (p42). 

Singer is right. The ultimate currency of natural selection is not wealth, but rather reproductive success – and, in evolutionarily novel environments, wealth may not even correlate with reproductive success (Vining 1986). 

Thus, as discussed by Laura Betzig in Despotism and Differential Reproduction, a key difference between Marxism and sociobiology is the relative emphasis on production versus reproduction

Whereas Marxists see societal conflict and exploitation as reflecting competition over control of the means of production, for Darwinians, all societal conflict ultimately concerns control over, not the means of production, but rather what we might term the means of reproduction – in other words, women, their wombs and vaginas

Thus, sociologist-turned-sociobiologist Pierre van den Berghe observed: 

“The ultimate measure of human success is not production but reproduction. Economic productivity and profit are means to reproductive ends, not ends in themselves” (The Ethnic Phenomenon**: p165). 

Production is ultimately, in Darwinian terms, merely by which to gain the necessary resources to permit successful reproduction. The latter is the ultimate purpose of life. 

Thus, for all his ostensible radicalism, Karl Marx, in his emphasis on economics (‘production’) at the expense of sex (‘reproduction’), was just another Victorian sexual prude

Competition or Cooperation: A False Dichotomy? 

In Chapter  Four, entitled “Competition or Cooperation?”, Singer argues that modern western societies, and many modern economists and evolutionary theorists, put too great an emphasis on competition at the expense of cooperation. 

Singer accepts that both competition and cooperation are natural and innate facets of human nature, and that all societies involve a balance of both. However, different societies differ in their relative emphasis on competition or cooperation, and that it is therefore possible to create a society that places a greater emphasis on the latter at the expense of the former. 

Thus, Singer declares that a Darwinian left would: 

Promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition” (p61) 

However, Singer is short on practical suggestions as to how a culture of altruism is to be fostered.[6]

Changing the values of a culture is not easy. This is especially so for a liberal democratic (as opposed to a despotic, totalitarian) government, let alone for a solitary Australian moral philosopher – and Singer’s condemnation of “the nightmares of Stalinist Russia” suggests that he would not countenance the sort of totalitarian interference with human freedom to which the Left has so often resorted in the past, and continues to resort to in the present (even in the West), with little ultimate success, in the past. 

But, more fundamentally, Singer is wrong to see competition as necessarily in conflict with cooperation. 

On the contrary, perhaps the most remarkable acts of cooperation, altruism and self-sacrifice are those often witnessed in wartime (e.g. kamikaze pilotssuicide bombers and soldiers who throw themselves on grenades). Yet war represents perhaps the most extreme form of competition known to man. 

In short, soldiers risk and sacrifice their lives, not only to save the lives of others, but also to take the lives of other others. 

Likewise, trade is a form of cooperation, but are as fundamental to capitalism as is competition. Indeed, I suspect most economists would argue that exchange is even more fundamental to capitalism than is competition. 

Thus, far from disparaging cooperation, neoliberal economists see voluntary exchange as central to prosperity. 

Ironically, then, popular science writer Matt Ridley also, like Singer, focuses on humans’ innate capacity for cooperation to justify political conclusions in his book, The Origins of Virtue

But, for Ridley, our capacity for cooperation provides a rationale, not for socialism, but rather for free markets – because humans, as natural traders, produce efficient systems of exchange which government intervention almost always only distorts. 

However, whereas economic trade is motivated by self-interested calculation, Singer seems to envisage a form of reciprocity mediated by emotions such as compassiongratitude and guilt
 
However, sociobiologist Robert Trivers argues in his paper that introduced the concept of reciprocal altruism to evolutionary biology that these emotions themselves evolved through the rational calculation of natural selection (Trivers 1971). 

Therefore, while open to manipulation, especially in evolutionarily novel environments, they are necessarily limited in scope. 

Group Differences 

Singer’s envisaged ‘Darwinian Left’ would, he declares, unlike the contemporary left, abandon: 

“[The assumption] that all inequalities are due to discrimination, prejudice, oppression or social conditioning. Some will be, but this cannot be assumed in every case” (p61). 

Instead, Singer admits that at least some disparities in achievement may reflect innate differences between individuals and groups in abilities, temperament and preferences. 

This is probably Singer’s most controversial suggestion, at least for modern leftists, since it contravenes the contemporary dogma of political correctness

Singer is, however, undoubtedly right.  

Moreover, his recognition that some differences in achievement as between groups reflect, not discrimination, oppression or even the lingering effect of past discrimination or oppression, but rather innate differences between groups in psychological traits, including intelligence, is by no means incompatible with socialism, or leftism, as socialism and leftism were originally conceived. 

Thus, it is worth pointing out that, while contemporary so-called ‘cultural Marxists‘ may decry the notion of innate differences in ability and temperament as between different racessexesindividuals and social classes as anathema, the same was not true of Marx himself

On the contrary, in famously advocating from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, Marx implicitly recognized that people differed in “ability” – differences which, given the equalization of social conditions envisaged under communism, he presumably conceived of as innate in origin.[7]

As Hans Eysenck observes:

“Stalin banned mental testing in 1935 on the grounds that it was ‘bourgeois’—at the same time as Hitler banned it as ‘Jewish’. But Stalin’s anti-genetic stance, and his support for the environmentalist charlatan Lysenko, did not derive from any Marxist or Leninist doctrine… One need only recall The Communist Manifesto: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’. This clearly expresses the belief that different people will have different abilities, even in the communist heaven where all cultural, educational and other inequalities have been eradicated” (Intelligence: The Battle for the Mind: p85).

Thus, Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate, points to the theoretical possibility of what he calls a “Hereditarian Left”, arguing for a Rawlsian redistribution of resources to the, if you like, innately ‘cognitively disadvantaged’.[8] 

With regard to group differences, Singer avoids discussing the incendiary topic of race differences in intelligence, a question too contentious for Singer to touch. 

Instead, he illustrates the possibility that not “all inequalities are due to discrimination, prejudice, oppression or social conditioning” with the marginally less incendiary case of sex differences.  

Here, it is sex differences, not in intelligence, but rather in temperament, preferences and personality that are probably more important, and likely explain occupational segregation and the so-called gender pay gap

Thus, Singer writes: 

If achieving high status increases access to women, then we can expect men to have a stronger drive for status than women” (p18). 

This alone, he implies, may explain both the universalilty of male rule and the so-called gender pay gap

However, Singer neglects to mention another biological factor that is also probably important in explaining the gender pay gap – namely, women’s attachment to infant offspring. This factor, also innate and biological in origin, also likely impedes career advancement among women. 

Thus, it bears emphasizing that never-married women with no children actually earn more, on average, than do unmarried men without children of the same age in both Britain and America.[9]

For a more detailed treatment of the biological factors underlying the gender pay gap, see Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality by professor of law, Kingsley Browne, which I have reviewed here and here.[10] ;See also my ;review of Warren Farrell’s Why Men Earn More, which can be found here, here and here.

Dysgenic Fertility Patterns? 

It is often claimed by conservatives that the welfare system only encourages the unemployed to have more children so as to receive more benefits and thereby promotes dysgenic fertility patterns. In response, Singer retorts:

Even if there were a genetic component to something as nebulous as unemployment, to say that these genes are ‘deleterious’ would involve value judgements that go way beyond what the science alone can tell us” (p15).

Singer is, of course, right that an extra-scientific value judgement is required in order to label certain character traits, and the genes that contribute to them, as deleterious or undesirable. 

Indeed, if single mothers on welfare do indeed raise more surviving children than do those who are not reliant on state benefits, then this indicates that they have higher reproductive success, and hence, in the strict biological sense, greater fitness than their more financially independent, but less fecund, reproductive competitors. 

Therefore, far from being deleterious’ in the biological sense, genes contributing to such behaviour are actually under positive selection, at least under current environmental conditions.  

However, even if such genes are not ‘deleterious’ in the strict biological sense, this does not necessarily mean that they are desirable in the moral sense, or in the sense of contributing to successful civilizations and societal advancement. To suggest otherwise would, of course, involve a version of the very appeal to nature fallacy or naturalistic fallacy that Singer is elsewhere emphatic in rejecting. 

Thus, although regarding certain character traits, and the genes that contribute to them, as undesirable does indeed involve an extra-scientific “value judgement”, this is not to say that the “value judgement” in question is necessarily mistaken or unwarranted. On the contrary, it means only that such a value judgement is, by its nature, a matter of morality, not of science. 

Thus, although science may be silent on the issue, virtually everyone would agree that some traits (e.g. generosity, health, happiness, conscientiousness) are more desirable than others (e.g. selfishness, laziness, depression, illness). Likewise, it is self-evident that the long-term unemployed are a net burden on society, and that a successful society cannot be formed of people unable or unwilling to work. 

As we have seen, Singer also questions whether there can be “a genetic component to something as nebulous as unemployment”. 

However, in the strict biological sense, unemployment probably is indeed partly heritable. So, incidentally, are road traffic accidents and our political opinions – because each reflect personality traits that are themselves heritable (e.g. risk-takers and people with poor physical coordination and slow reactions probably have more traffic accidents; and perhaps more compassionate people are more likely to favour leftist politics). 

Thus, while it may be unhelpful and misleading to talk of unemployment as itself heritable, nevertheless traits of the sort that likely contribute to unemployment (e.g. intelligenceconscientiousnessmental and physical illness) are indeed heritable

Actually, however, the question of heritability, in the strict biological sense, is irrelevant. 

Thus, even if the reason that children from deprived backgrounds have worse life outcomes is entirely mediated by environmental factors (e.g. economic or cultural deprivation, or the bad parenting practices of low-SES parents), the case for restricting the reproductive rights of those people who are statistically prone to raise dysfunctional offspring remains intact. 

After all, children usually get both their genes and their parenting from the same set of parents – and this could be changed only by a massive, costly, and decidedly illiberal, policy of forcibly removing offspring from their parents.[11]

Therefore, so long as an association between parentage and social outcomes is established, the question of whether this association is biologically or environmentally mediated is simply beside the point, and the case for restricting the reproductive rights** of certain groups remains intact.  

Of course, it is doubtful that welfare-dependent women do indeed financially benefit from giving birth to additional offspring. 

It is true that they may receive more money in state benefits if they have more dependent offspring to support and provide for. However, this may well be more than offset by the additional cost of supporting and providing for the dependent offspring in question, leaving the mother with less to spend on herself. 

However, even if the additional monies paid to mothers with dependent children are not sufficient as to provide a positive financial incentive to bearing additional children, they at least reduce the financial disincentives otherwise associated with rearing additional offspring.  

Therefore, given that, from an evolutionary perspective, women probably have an innate desire to bear additional offspring, it follows that a rational fitness-maximizer would respond to the changed incentives represented by the welfare system by increasing their reproductive rate.[12]

A New Socialist Eugenics

If we accept Singer’s contention that an understanding of human nature can help show us how achieve, but not choose, our ultimate political objectives, then eugenics could be used to help us achieve the goal of producing the better people and hence, ultimately, better societies. 

Indeed, given that Singer seemingly concedes that human nature is presently incompatible with communist utopia, perhaps then the only way to revive the socialist dream of equality is to eugenically re-engineer human nature itself so as to make it more compatible. 

Thus, it is perhaps no accident that, before World War Two, eugenics was a cause typically associated, not with conservatives, nor even, as today, with fascism, but rather with the political left

Thus, early twentieth century socialist-eugenicists like H.G. Wells, Sidney Webb, Margaret Sanger and George Bernard Shaw may then have tentatively grasped what eludes contemporary leftists, Singer very much included – namely that re-engineering society necessarily requires as a prerequisite re-engineering Man himself.[13]

_________________________

Endnotes

[1] Indeed, the view that the poor and ill ought to be left to perish so as to further the evolutionary process seems to have been a marginal one even in its ostensible late nineteenth century heyday (see Bannister, Social Darwinism Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought). The idea always seems, therefore, to have been largely, if not wholly, a straw man.

[2] In this, the evolutionary psychologists are surely right. Thus, no one accuses biomedical researchers of somehow ‘justifying disease’ when they investigate how infectious diseases, in an effort maximize their own reproductive success, spread form host to host. Likewise, nobody suggests that dying of a treatable illness is desirable, even though this may have been the ‘natural’ outcome before such ‘unnatural’ interventions as vaccination and antibiotics were introduced.

[3] The convenional notion that we can usefully conceptualize the political spectrum on a single dimensional left-right axis is obviously preposterous. For one thing, there is, at the very least, a quite separate liberal-authoritarian dimension. However, even restricting our definition of the left-right axis to purely economic matters, it remains multi-factorial. For example, Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom classifies fascism as a left-wing ideology, because it involved big government and a planned economy. However, most leftists would reject this definition, since the planned economy in question was designed, not to reduce economic inequalities, but rather, in the case of Nazi Germany at least, to fund and sustain an expanded military force, a war economy, external military conquest and grandiose vanity public works architectural projects. The term ’right-wing‘ is even more problematic, including everyone from fascists, to libertarians to religious fundamentalists. Yet a Christian fundamentalist who wants to outlaw pornography and abortion has little in common with either a libertarian who wants to decriminalize prostitution and child pornography, nor with a eugenicist who wants to make abortions, for certain classes of person, compulsory. Yet all three are classed together as ’right-wing’ even though they share no more in common with one another than any does with a raving unreconstructed Marxist.

[4] Thus, the British Conservatives Party traditionally styled themselves one-nation conservatives, who looked to the interests of the nation as a whole, rather than what they criticized as the divisive ‘sectionalism’ of the trade union and labour movements, which favoured certain economic classes, and workers in certain industries, over others, just as contemporary leftists privilege the interests of certain ethnic, religious and culturally-defined groups (e.g. blacks, Muslims, feminists) over others (i.e. white males).

[5] Of course, some ‘unnatural’ interventions have positive health benefits. Obvious examples are modern medical treatments such as penicillin, chemotherapy and vaccination. However, these are the exceptions. They have been carefully selected and developed by scientists to have this positive effect, have gone through rigorous testing to ensure that their effects are indeed beneficial, and are generally beneficial only to people with certain diagnosed conditions. In contrast, recreational drug use almost invariably has a negative effect on health.

[6] It is certainly possible for more altruistic cultures to exist. For example, the famous (and hugely wasteful) potlatch feasts of some Native American cultures exemplify a form of competitive altruism, analogous to conspicuous consumption, and may be explicable as a form of status display in accordance with Zahavi’s handicap principle. However, recognizing that such cultures exist does not easily translate into working out how to create or foster such cultures, let alone transform existing cultures in this direction.

[7]  Indeed, by modern politically-correct standards, Marx was a rampant racist, not to mention an anti-Semite

[8] The term Rawlsian is a reference to political theorist John Rawles version of social contract theory, whereby he poses the hypothetical question as to what arrangement of political, social and economic affairs humans would favour if placed in what he called the original position, where they would be unaware of, not only their own race, sex and position in to the socio-economic hierarchy, but also, most important for our purposes, their own level of innate ability. This Rawles referred to as ’veil of ignorance’. 

[9] As Warren Farrell documents in his excellent Why Men Earn More (which I have reviewed here, here and here), in the USA, women who have never married and have no children actually earn more than men who have never married and have no children and have done since at least the 1950s (Why Men Earn More: pxxi). More precisely, according to Farrell, never-married men without children on average earn only about 85% of their childless never-married female counterparts (Ibid: pxxiii). The situation is similar in the UK. Thus, economist JR Shackleton reports:

“Women in the middle age groups who remain single earn more than middle-aged single males” (Should We Mind the Gap? p30).

The reasons unmarried, childless women earn more than unmarried childless men are multifarious and include:

  1. Married women can afford to work less because they appropriate a portion of their husband’s income in addition to their own
  2. Married men and men with children are thus obliged to earn even more so as to financially support, not only themselves, but also their wife, plus any offspring;
  3. Women prefer to marry richer men and hence poorer men are more likely to remain single;
  4. Childcare duties undertaken by women interfere with their earning capacity.

[10]  Incidentally, Browne has also published a more succinct summary of the biological factors underlying the pay-gap that was first published in the same ‘Darwinism Today’ series as Singer’s ‘A Darwinian Left’, namely Divided Labors: An Evolutionary View of Women at Work. However, much though I admire Browne’s work, this represents a rather superficial popularization of his research on the topic, and I would recommend instead Browne’s longer Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality (reviewed here) for a more comprehenseive treatment of the same, and related, topics. 

[11] A precedent for just such a programme, enacted in the name of socialism, albeit imposed consensually, was the communal rearing practices in Israeli Kibbutzim, since largely abandoned. Another suggestion along rather different lines comes from Adolf Hitler, who, believing that nature trumped nurture, is quoted as proposing: 

The State must also teach that it is the manifestation of a really noble nature and that it is a humanitarian act worthy of all admiration if an innocent sufferer from hereditary disease refrains from having a child of his own but bestows his love and affection on some unknown child whose state of health is a guarantee that it will become a robust member of a powerful community” (quoted in: Parfrey 1987: p162). 

[12] Actually, it is not entirely clear that women do have a natural desire to bear offspring. Other species probably do not have any such natural desire. Since they are almost certainly are not aware of the connection between sex and child birth, such a desire would serve no adaptive purpose and hence would never evolve. All an organism requires is a desire for sex, combined perhaps with a tendency to care for offspring after they are born. (Indeed, in principle, a female does not even require a desire for sex, only a willingness to submit to the desire of a male for sex.) As Tooby and Cosmides emphasize: 

Individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers rather than as fitness-maximizers.” 

There is no requirement for a desire for offspring as such. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence of so-called broodiness, and the fact that most women do indeed desire children, despite the costs associated with raising children, suggests that, in human females, there is indeed some innate desire for offspring. Curiously, however, the topic of broodiness is not one that has attracted much attention among evolutionists.

[13] However, there is a problem with any such case for a ‘Brave New Socialist Eugenics’. Before the eugenic programme is complete, the individuals controlling eugenic programmes (be they governments or corporations) would still possess a more traditional human nature, and may therefore have less than altruistic motivations themselves. This seems to suggest then that, as philosopher John Gray concludes in Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (which I have reviewed here):  

“[If] human nature [is] scientifically remodelled… it will be done haphazardly, as an upshot of the struggles in the murky world where big business, organized crime and the hidden parts of government vie for control” (Straw Dogs: p6).

References  

Parfrey (1987) Eugenics: The Orphaned Science. In Parfrey (Ed.) Apocalypse Culture (New York: Amoc Press). 

Trivers 1971 The evolution of reciprocal altruism Quarterly Review of Biology 46(1):35-57 

Vining 1986 Social versus reproductive success: The central theoretical problem of human sociobiologyBehavioral and Brain Sciences 9(1), 167-187.

John Gray’s ‘Straw Dogs’: In Praise of Pessimism

‘Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals’, by John Gray, Granta Books, 2003.

The religious impulse, John Gray argues in a later work elaborating on the themes first set out in ‘Straw Dogs’, is as universal as the sex drive. Like the latter, when repressed, it re-emerges in the form of perversion.[1]

Thus, the Marxist faith in our passage into communism after the revolution represents a perversion of the Christian belief in our passage into heaven after death or Armageddon – the former, communism (i.e. heaven on earth), being quite as unrealistic as the otherworldly, celestial paradise envisaged by Christians, if not more so. 

Marxism is thus, as Edmund Wilson was the first to observe, the opiate of the intellectuals

What is true of Marxism is also, for Gray, equally true of what he regards as the predominant secular religion of the contemporary West – namely humanism. 

Its secular self-image notwithstanding, humanism is, for Gray, a substitute religion that replaces an irrational faith in an omnipotent god with an even more irrational faith in the omnipotence of Man himself (p38). 

Yet, in doing so, Gray concludes, humanism renounces the one insight that Christianity actually got right – namely the notion that humans are “radically flawed” as captured by the doctrine of original sin.[2]

Progress and Other Delusions

Of course, in its ordinary usage, the term ‘humanism’ is hopelessly broad, pretty much encompassing anyone who is neither, on the one hand, religious nor, on the other, a Nazi. 
 
For his purposes, Gray defines humanism more narrowly, namely as a “belief in progress” (p4). 

More specifically, however, he seems to have in mind a belief in the inevitability of social, economic, moral and political progress. 

Belief in the inevitability of progress is, he contends, a faith universal across the political spectrum – from neoconservatives who think they can transform Islamic tribal theocracies and Soviet Republics into liberal capitalist democracies, to Marxists who think Islamic tribal theocracies and liberal capitalist democracies alike will themselves ultimately give way to communism

Gray, however, rejects the notion of any grand narrative arc in human history.

Looking for meaning in history is like looking for patterns in clouds” (p48). 

Scientific Progress and Social Progress 

Although in an early chapter he digresses on the supposed “irrational origins” of western science,[3] Gray does not question the reality of scientific progress. 
 
Instead, what Gray questions is the assumption that social, moral and political progress will inevitably accompany scientific progress. 
 
Progress in science and technology, does not invariably lead to social, moral and political progress. On the contrary, new technologies can readily be enlisted in the service of governmental repression and tyranny. Thus, Gray observes: 

Without the railways, telegraph and poison gas, there could have been no Holocaust” (p14). 

Thus, by Gray’s reckoning, “Death camps are as modern as laser surgery” (p173).
 
Scientific progress is, he observes, unstoppable and self-perpetuating. Thus, if any nation unilaterally renounces modern technology, it will be economically outcompeted, or even militarily conquered, by other nations who harness modern technologies in the service of their economy and military: 

Any country that renounces technology makes itself prey to those that do not. At best it will fail to achieve the self-sufficiency at which it aims – at worst it will suffer the fate of the Tasmanians” (p178). 

However, the same is not true of political, social and moral progress. On the contrary, a nation excessively preoccupied with moral considerations would surely be defeated in war or indeed in economic competition by an enemy willing to cast aside morality for the sake of success. 
 
Thus, Gray concludes:

Technology is not something that humankind can control. It is an event that has befallen the world” (p14). 

Thus, Gray anticipates: 

Even as it enables poverty to be diminished and sickness to be alleviated, science will be used to refine tyranny and perfect the art of war” (p123). 

This leads him to predict: 

If one thing about the present century is certain, it is that the power conferred on humanity by new technologies will be used to commit atrocious crimes against it” (p14). 

Human Nature

This is because, according to Gray, although technology progresses, human nature itself remains stubbornly intransigent. 

Though human knowledge will very likely continue to grow and with it human power, the human animal will stay the same: a highly inventive animal that is also one of the most predatory and destructive” (p4). 

As a result, “The uses of knowledge will always be as shifting and crooked as humans are themselves” (p28). 
 
Thus, the fatal flaw in the humanist theory that political progress will inevitably accompany scientific progress is, ironically, its failure to come to grips with one particular sphere of scientific progress – namely progress in the scientific understanding of human nature itself. 
 
Sociobiological theory suggests humans are innately selfish and nepotistic to an extent incompatible with the utopias envisaged by reformers and revolutionaries
 
Evolutionary psychologists like to emphasize how natural selection has paradoxically led to the evolution of cooperation and altruism. They are also at pains to point out that innate psychological mechanisms are responsive to environmental variables and hence amenable to manipulation. 
 
This has led some thinkers to suggest that, even if utopia is forever beyond our grasp, nevertheless society can be improved by social engineering and well-meaning reform (see Peter Singer’s A Darwinian Left: which I have reviewed herehere and here). 

However, this ignores the fact that the social engineers themselves (e.g. politicians, civil servants) are possessed of the same essentially selfish and nepotistic nature as those whose behaviour they are seeking to guide and manipulate. Therefore, even if they were able to successfully reengineer society, they would do so for their own ends, not those of society or humankind as a whole.

Of course, human nature itself could itself be altered through genetic engineering or eugenics. However, once again, those charged with doing the work (scientists) and those from whom they take their orders (government, big business) will, at the time their work is undertaken, be possessed of the same nature that it is their intention to improve upon. 
 
Therefore, Gray concludes, if human nature itself is remodelled: 

It will be done haphazardly, as an upshot of struggles in the murky realm where big business, organized crime and the hidden parts of government vie for control” (p6). 

It will hence reflect the interests, not of humankind as a whole, but of rather those responsible for undertaking the project. 

The Future

In contrast to the optimistic vision of such luminaries as Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now and Matt Ridley in his book The Rational Optimist (which I have reviewed here), Gray’s vision of the future is positively dystopian. He foresees a return of resource wars and “wars of scarcity… waged against the world’s modern states by the stateless armies of the militant poor” (p181-2).

This is an inevitable result of a Malthusian trap

So long as population grows, progress will consist in labouring to keep up with it. There is only one way that humanity can limit its labours, and that is by limiting its numbers. But limiting human numbers clashes with powerful human needs” (p184).[4]

These “powerful human needs” include, not just the sociobiological imperative to reproduce, but also the interests of various ethnic groups in ensuring their survival and increasing their military and electoral strength (Ibid.). 

Zero population growth could be enforced only by a global authority with draconian powers and unwavering determination” (p185). 

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective), he concludes: 

There has never been such a power and never will be” (Ibid.). 

Thus, Gray compares the rise in human populations to the temporary “spikes that occur in the numbers of rabbits, house mice and plague rats” (p10). Thus, he concludes: 

Humans… like any other plague animal…cannot destroy the earth, but… can easily wreck the environment that sustains them” (p12). 

Thus, Gray darkly prophesizes, “We may well look back on the twentieth century as a time of peace” (p182). 

As Gray points out in his follow-up book: 

War or revolution… may seem apocalyptic possibilities, but they are only history carrying on as it has always done. What is truly apocalyptic is the belief [of Marx and Fukuyamathat history will come to a stop” (Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions: p67).[5]

Morality

While Gray doubts the inevitability of social, political and moral progress, he perhaps does not question sufficiently its reality. 

For example, citing improvements in sanitation and healthcare, he concludes that, although “faith in progress is a superstition”, progress itself “is a fact” (p155). 
 
Yet every society, by definition, views its own moral and political values as superior to those of other societies. Otherwise, they would not be its own values. They therefore view the recent changes in moral and political values that led to their own moral and political values as a form of moral progress. 
 
However, what constitutes moral, social and political progress is entirely a subjective assessment
 
For example, the ancient Romans, transported to our times, would surely accept the superiority of our science and technology and, if they did not, we would outcompete them both economically and militarily and thereby prove it ourselves. 

However, they would view our social, moral and political values as decadent, immoral and misguided and we would have no way of proving them wrong. 
 
In other words, while scientific and technological progress can be proven objectively, what constitutes moral and political progress is a mere matter of opinion. 
 
Gray occasionally hints in this direction (namely, moral relativism), declaring in one of his many countless quotable aphorisms 

Ideas of justice are as timeless as fashions in hats” (p103). 

He even flirts with outright moral nihilism, describing “values” as “only human needs and the needs of other animals turned into abstractions” (p197), and even venturing, “the idea of morality” may be nothing more than “an ugly superstition” (p90). 
 
However, Gray remains somewhat confused on this point. For example, among his arguments against morality is that observation that: 

Morality has hardly made us better people” (p104). 

However, the very meaning of “better people” is itself dependent on a moral judgement. If we reject morality, then there are no grounds for determining if some people are “better” than others and therefore this can hardly be a ground for rejecting morality. 

Free Will

On the issue of free will, Gray is more consistent. Relying on the controversial work of neuroscientist Benjamin Libet, he contends: 

In nearly all our life willing decides nothing – we cannot wake up or fall asleep, remember or forget our dream, summon or banish our thoughts, by deciding to do so… We just act and there is no actor standing behind what we do” (p69). 

Thus, he observes, “Our lives are more like fragmentary dreams then the enactments of conscious selves” (p38) and “Our actual experience is not of freely choosing the way we live but of being driven along by our bodily needs – by fear, hunger and, above all, sex” (p43). 
 
Rejection of free will is, moreover, yet a further reason to reject morality. 
 
Whether one behaves morally or not, and what one regards as the moral way to behave, is, Gray contends, entirely a matter of the circumstances of one’s upbringing (p107-8).[6] Thus, according to Gray “being good is good luck” and not something for which one deserves credit or blame (p104).

Gray therefore concludes: 

The fact that we are not autonomous subjects deals a death blow to morality – but it is the only possible ground of ethics” (p112). 

Yet, far from truly free, Gray contends: 

We spend our lives coping with what comes along” (p70). 

However, in expecting humankind to take charge of its own destiny: 

We insist that mankind can achieve what we cannot: conscious control of its existence” (p38). 

Self-Awareness

For Gray, then, what separates us from the remainder of the animal kingdom is not then free will, or even consciousness, but rather merely self-awareness.
 
Yet this, for Gray, is a mixed blessing at best. 
 
After all, it has long been known that musicians and sportsmen often perform best, not when consciously thinking about, or even aware of, the movements and reactions of their hands and bodies, but rather when acting ‘on instinct’ and momentarily lost in what positive psychologists call flow or being in the zone (p61). 

This is a theme Gray returns to in The Soul of the Marionette, where he argues that, in some sense, the puppet is freer, and more unrestrained in his actions, than the puppet-master.

The Gaia Cult

Given the many merits of his book, it is regrettable that Gray has an unfortunate tendency to pontificate about all manner of subjects, many of them far outside his own field of expertise. As a result, almost inevitably, he sometimes gets it completely wrong on certain specific subjects. 
 
A case in point is environmentalist James Lovelock’s Gaia theory, which Gray champions throughout his book. 

According to ‘Gaia Theory’, the planet is analogous to a harmonious self-regulating organism – in danger of being disrupted only by environmental damage wrought by man. 

Given his cynical outlook, not to mention his penchant for sociobiology, Gray’s enthusiasm for Gaia is curious.

As Richard Dawkins explains in Unweaving the Rainbow, the adaptation of organisms to their environment, which consists largely of other organisms, may give the superficial appearance of eco-systems as harmonious wholes, as some organisms exploit and hence come to rely on the presence of other organisms in order to survive (Unweaving the Rainbow: p221). 
 
However, a Darwinian perspective suggests that, far from existing in benign harmony, organisms are in a state of continuous competition and conflict. Indeed, it is paradoxically precisely their exploitation of one another that gives the superficial appearance of harmony. 
 
In other words, as Dawkins concludes: 

Individuals work for Gaia only when it suits them to do so – so why bother to bring Gaia into the discussion” (Unweaving the Rainbow: p225). 

Yet, for many of its adherents, Gaia is not so much a testable, falsifiable scientific theory as it is a kind of substitute religion. Thus, Dawkins describes ‘Gaia theory’ as “a cult, almost a religion” (Ibid: p223).

It is therefore better viewed, within Gray’s own theoretical framework, as yet another secular perversion of humanity’s innate religious impulse. 
 
Perhaps, then, Gray’s own curious enthusiasm for this particular pseudo-scientific cult suggests that Gray is himself no more immune from the religious impulse than those whom he attacks. If so, this, paradoxically, only strengthens his case that the religious impulse is indeed universal and innate.

The Purpose of Philosophy

Gray is himself a philosopher by background. However, he is contemptuous of most of the philosophical tradition that has preceded him. 

Thus, he contends:  

As commonly practised, philosophy is the attempt to find good reasons for conventional beliefs” (p37). 

In former centuries such conventional beliefs were largely religious dogma. Yet, from the nineteenth century on, they increasing became political creeds emphasizing human progress, such as Whig historiography, and the theories of Marx and Hegel.

Thus, Gray writes:  

In the Middle Ages, philosophy gave intellectual scaffolding to the Church; in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it served a myth of progress” (p82). 

Today, however, despite the continuing faith in progress that Gray so ably dissects, philosophy has ceased to fulfil even this function and hence abandoned even these dubious raisons d’être.

The result, according to Gray, is that:

Serving neither religion nor a political faith, philosophy is a subject without a subject-matter; scholasticism without the charm of dogma” (p82). 

Yet Gray reserves particular scorn for moral philosophy, which is, according to him, “an exercise in make-believe” (p89) and “very largely a branch of fiction” (p109), albeit one “less realistic in its picture of human life than the average bourgeois novel” (p89), which, he ventures, likely explains why “a philosopher has yet to write a great novel” (p109). 

In other words, compared with outright fiction, moral philosophy is simply less realistic. 

Anthropocentrism

Although, at the time ‘Straw Dogs’ was first published, Gray held the title ‘Professor of European Thought’ at the London School of Economics, he is particularly scathing in his comments regarding Western philosophy. 

Thus, like Schopenhauer, his pessimist precursor, (who is, along with Hume, one of the few Western philosophers whom he mentions without also disparaging), Gray purports to prefer Eastern philosophical traditions. 

These and other non-Western religious and philosophical traditions are, he claims, unpolluted by the influence of Christianity and hence view humans as merely another animal, no different from the rest. 

I do not have sufficient familiarity with Eastern philosophical traditions to assess this claim. However, I suspect that anthropocentrism and the concomitant belief that humans are somehow special, unique and different from all other organisms is a universal and indeed innate human delusion. 

Indeed, paradoxically, it may not even be limited to humans. 
 
Thus, I suspect that, to the extent they were, or are, capable of conceptualizing such a thought, earthworms and rabbits would also conceive of themselves as special and unique over and above all other species in just the same way we do.

Death or Nirvanva?

Ultimately, however, Gray rejects eastern philosophical and religious traditions too – including Buddhism
 
There is no need, he contends, to spend lifetimes striving to achieve nirvāna and the cessation of suffering as the Buddha proposed. On the contrary, he observes, there is no need for any such effort, since: 

Death brings to everyone the peace Buddha promised only after lifetimes of striving” (p129). 

All one needs to do, therefore, is to let nature take its course, or, if one is especially impatient, perhaps hurry things along by suicide or an unhealthy lifestyle.

Aphoristic Style

I generally dislike books written in the sort of pretentious aphoristic style that Gray adopts. In my experience, they generally replace the argumentation necessary to support their conclusions with bad poetry.

Indeed, sometimes the poetic style is so obscurantist that it is difficult even to discern what these conclusions are in the first place. 
 
However, in ‘Straw Dogs’, the aphoristic style seems for once appropriate. This is because Gray’s arguments, though controversial, are straightforward and not requiring of additional explication. 
 
Indeed, one suspects the inability of earlier thinkers to reach the same conclusions reflects a failure of The Will rather than The Intellect – an unwillingness to face up to and come to terms with the reality of the human condition. 

A Saviour to Save us from Saviours’?

Unlike other works dealing with political themes, Gray does not conclude with a chapter proposing solutions to the problems identified in previous chapters. Instead, his conclusion is as bleak as the pages that precede it.

At its worst, human life is not tragic, but unmeaning… the soul is broken but life lingers on… what remains is only suffering” (p101).

Personally, however, I found it refreshing that, unlike other self-important, self-appointed saviours of humanity, Gray does not attempt to portray himself as some kind of saviour of mankind. On the contrary, his ambitions are altogether more modest.

Moreover, he does not hold our saviours in particularly high esteem but rather seems to regard them as very much part of the problem. 
 
He does therefore consider briefly what he refers to as the Buddhist notion that we actually require “A Saviour to Save Us From Saviours”. 

Eventually, however, Gray renounces even this role. 

Humanity takes its saviours too lightly to need saving from them… When it looks to deliverers it is for distraction, not salvation” (p121). 

Gray thus reduces our self-important, self-appointed saviours – be they philosophers, religious leaders, self-help gurus or political leaders – to no more than glorified competitors in the entertainment industry.

Distraction as Salvation?

Indeed, for Gray, it is not only saviours who function as a form of distraction for the masses. On the contrary, for Gray, ‘distraction’ is now central to life in the affluent West. 
 
Thus, in the West today, standards of living have improved to such an extent that obesity is now a far greater health problem than starvation, even among the so-called ‘poor’ (indeed, one suspects, especially among the so-called ‘poor’!). 
 
Yet clinical depression is now rapidly expanding into the greatest health problem of all. 
 
Thus, Gray concludes: 

Economic life is no longer geared chiefly to production… [but rather] to distraction” (p162). 

In other words, where once, to acquiesce in their own subjugation, the common people required only bread and circuses, today they seem to demand cake, ice cream, alcohol, soap operas, Playstations, Premiership football and reality TV!

Indeed, Gray views most modern human activity as little more than distraction and escapism. 

It is not the idle dreamer who escapes from reality. It is practical men and women who turn to a life of action as a refuge from insignificance” (194). 

Indeed, for Gray, even meditation is reduced to a form of escapism: 

The meditative states that have long been cultivated in Eastern traditions are often described as techniques for heightening consciousnessIn fact they are ways of by-passing self-awareness” (p62). 
 

Yet Gray does not disparage escapism as a superficial diversion from serious and worthy matters. 
 
On the contrary, he views distraction, or even escapism, as the key to, if not happiness, then at least to the closest we can ever approach to this elusive but chimeric state.

Moreover, the great mass of mankind instinctively recognizes as much:

Since happiness is unavailable, the mass of mankind seeks pleasure” (p142). 

Thus, in a passage which is perhaps the closest Gray comes to self-help advice, he concludes: 

Fulfilment is found, not in daily life, but in escaping from it” (p141-2). 

Perhaps then, escapism is not such a bad thing, and there is something is to be said for sitting around watching TV all day after all. 
____________ 

 
By his own thesis then, it is perhaps as a form of ‘Distraction’ that Gray’s own book ought ultimately to be judged. 
 
By this standard, I can only say that, with its unrelenting cynicism and pessimism, ‘Straw Dogs’ distracted me immensely – and, according to the precepts of Gray’s own philosophy, there can surely be no higher praise!

Endnotes

[1] John Gray, Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions: p7; p41. 

[2] John Gray, Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions: p8; p44. 

[3] John Gray, ‘Straw Dogs’: p20-23.

[4] Of course, the assumption that human population will continue to grow contradicts the demographic transition model, whereby it is assumed that a decline in fertility inevitably accompanies economic development. However, while it is true that declining fertility has accompanied increasing prosperity in many parts of the world, it is not at all clear why this has occurred. Indeed, from a sociobiological perspective, increases in wealth should lead to an increased reproductive rate, as organisms channel their greater material resources into increased reproductive success, the ultimate currency of natural selection. It is therefore questionable how much faith we should place in the universality of a process the causes of which are so little understood. Moreover, the assumption that improved living-standards in the so-called ‘developing world’ will inevitably lead to reductions in fertility obviously presupposes that the so-called ‘developing world’ will indeed ‘develop’ and that living standards will indeed improve, a obviously questionable assumption. Ultimately, the very term ‘developing world’ may turn out to represent a classic case of wishful thinking. 

[5] Thus, of the bizarre pseudoscience of cryonics, whereby individuals pay private companies for the service of freezing their brains or whole bodies after death, in the hope that, with future advances in technology, they can later be resurrected, he notes that the ostensible immortality promised by such a procedure is itself dependent on the very immortality of the private companies offering the service, and of the very economic and legal system (including contractual obligations) within which such companies operate.

If the companies that store the waiting cadavers do not go under in stock market crashes, they will be swept away by war or revolutions” (Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions: p67).

[6] Actually, heredity surely also plays a role, as traits such as empathy and agreeableness are partly heritable, as is sociopathy and criminality.

Pornographic Progress, Sexbots and the Salvation of Man

Women are like elephants – nice to look at but I wouldn’t want to own one.
WC Fields

In my previous post (“The Sex Cartel: Puritanism and and Prudery as Price-fixing among Prostitutes”), I discussed why prostitutes and other promiscuous women have invariably been condemned as immoral by other women on account of their promiscuity, despite the fact that they provide pleasure to, in some cases, literally thousands of men and, therefore, according to the tenets of the theory of ethics known as utilitarianism, are literally giving ‘the greatest happiness to the greatest number’ as Bentham advocated and ought therefore to be lauded as the highest paradigm of moral virtue right up alongside Mother Theresa, who, although she dedicated her life to heeling, feeding and caring for the sick, poor and destitute, never went as far as actually sucking their cocks.

Who can seriously doubt that a few dollars for magazine full of beautiful women expertly fucking and sucking who, on the page, remain young and beautiful for ever, and which costs only a few dollars at most, is better value than marriage to a single solitary real-life woman, who demands half your income, grows older and uglier with each passing year, probably wasn’t exactly a Playboy centerfold even to begin with, and who is legally obligated to fuck you only during the divorce-settlement?

The answer lay, I concluded, in the concept of a price-fixing cartel that I christened The Sex Cartel which functions to artificially inflate the price of sex, to the advantage of women as a whole, by stigmatizing, and where possible criminalizing, those women (e.g. prostitutes) who provide sexual services at below the going rate (e.g. outside of marriage). Puritanism and prudery are thus, I concluded, nothing more than price-fixing among prostitutes.

 In the current essay/post, I expand on this theory, extending the analysis to pornography. In doing so, I explain the gradual liberalization of attitudes towards sexual morality over the course of the twentieth century as a rational and inevitable response to what I term ‘Pornographic Progress’.

Finally, turning my gaze from the past to the future, I prophesize that the future of fucking and the eventual emancipation of man from the sexual subjugation of The Sex Cartel, will come, not by political progress reform, revolution or insurrection, but rather from Virtual Reality Pornography and so-called ‘Sexbots’.

Thus, the so-called ‘Sexual Revolution’ of the Swinging Sixties was but barely a beginning. The Real Sexual Revolution may be yet to come.

In Praise of Pornography

Across a variety of jurisdictions and throughout much of history, pornography in general, or particular genres of pornography, have been outlawed. Moreover, even where pornography is legalized, it is almost invariably heavily restricted and regulated by the state (e.g. age-restrictions).

Indeed, traditionally, not only pornography, but even masturbation itself was regarded as immoral and also a health risk. In the Victorian era, various strategies, devices and mechanisms were invented or adopted to prevent masturbation, from circumcision to Kellogg’s cornflakes.

Therefore, if men had really listened to their self-appointed moral guardians, their doctors, their medical experts, church leaders and other assorted professional damned fools who sought to dictate to them how they should and shouldn’t behave in public and in private and what they should and shouldn’t insert their penis inside of, they would have been completely reliant on women for their sexual relief and women’s sexual subjugation of men would have consequently been complete.

Today, the opposition to porn is dominated by an Unholy Alliance of Radical Feminists and Religious Fundamentalists, who, despite professing to be enemies, appear to be in complete agreement with one another on every particular of the issue.

This is no surprise. Despite their ‘left-liberal’ pretensions, feminists have always been, at heart, puritans, prudes and prohibitionists – from prohibition itself, largely enacted at the behest of women’s groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, to the current feminist crusades against pornography, prostitution and other such fun and healthy recreational activities.

Why then is porn so universally condemned, criminalized and state-regulated throughout history and across the world?

The production and consumption of pornography is, of course, a victimless crime. The vast majority of women who appear in pornography do so voluntarily, and they have every economic incentive for doing so, earning, as they do, substantial salaries, many times greater than the salaries commanded by the more talented male performers alongside whom they perform, who do much more difficult jobs.

Indeed, far from being inherently harmful, pornography provides joy and happiness to many men, not least many lonely and disadvantaged men, and a lucrative livelihood for many men and women both. There is even evidence it may reduce levels of sex crimes, by providing an alternative outlet for sexually-frustrated men.[1]

Why then is pornography criminalized and regulated?

The usual explanation is that pornography is demeaning towards women.

Yet what is demeaning about, say, a Playboy centerfold. Far from demeaning women, soft porn images seem to involve putting women on a pedestal, as representing something inherently beautiful and desirable and to be gazed at longingly and admiringly by men who pay money to buy pictures of them.

Meanwhile, even most so-called ‘hardcore’ pornography is hardly demeaning. Most simply involves images of consensual, and mutually pleasurable, sexual congress, a natural act. Certainly, it is no more demeaning towards women than towards men, who also appear in pornography but typically earn far less.

True, there is a minor subgenre of so-called ‘male domination’ within the BDSM subgenre. But this is mirrored, and indeed dwarfed, by the parallel genre of ‘female domination’, which seems to be the more popular fetish and involves images at least as demeaning to men as those depicted in ‘male domination’ are to women.[2]

True, if pornography does not portray women in a negative light, it does perhaps portray them unrealistically – i.e. as readily receptive to men’s advances and as desirous of commitment-free promiscuous sex as are men. However, as psychologist Catherine Salmon observes:

“[Whereas] pornography imposes a male-like sexuality on females, a fantasy of sexual utopia for men… consider the other side, the romance novel, or ‘porn’ for women. It imposes a female-like sexuality on men that is in many ways perhaps no more realistic than [pornography]. But no one is out there lobbying to ban romance novels because of the harm they do to women’s attitudes towards men.[3]

As Jack Kammer explains in If Men Have All The Power How Come Women Make The Rules, while pornography represents a male fantasy, BDSM apart, it involves a fantasy, not of male domination, but rather of sexual equality – namely a world where women enjoy sex as much as men do, “participate enthusiastically in sex… love male sexuality, and… don’t hold out for money, dinner or furs”, and thereby lose their sexual power over men.[4]

On this view, Kammer concludes, “pornography does not glorify our sexual domination of women” but rather “expresses our fantasies of overcoming women’s sexual domination of us”.[5]

Pornography and The Sex Cartel

Yet this does not mean that the opposition to pornography is wholly misguided or irrational. On the contrary, I shall argue that, for women, opposition to pornography is wholly rational. However, it reflects, not the higher concerns of morality in which terms such opposition is typically couched, but rather base economic self-interest.

To understand why, we must revisit once again “Sex Cartel Theory”, introduced in my previous post. Whereas the prevalent prejudice against prostitutes reflects price-fixing among prostitutes, opposition to pornography reflects rent-seeking, or protectionism, among prostitutes.

Like price-fixing, rent-seeking and protectionism is a perfectly rational economic strategy. However, again like price-fixing, it is wholly self-interested and anti-competitive. While benefiting women, the rest of society (i.e. men) pay a concomitant cost.

An example is where practitioners in a certain industry (e.g. doctors, physio-therapists, lawyers) seek to prevent or criminalize others (often others lacking a requisite qualification) from providing the same or a similar service rather than allowing the consumer free choice.

It is my contention that when women seek to restrict or criminalize pornography or other form forms of sexual gratification for men, they are also engaging in analogous behaviour in order to reduce competition for their own services.

Catherine Hakim explains:

“Look at social exchange between men and women in terms of women gaining control over men and gaining resources by regulating men’s access to sexual gratification. If pornography is an alternative source of such gratification for men, it… reduces women’s bargaining power in such a sexual/economic arena.”[6]

The essence of my argument is explained by psychologists Baumseister and Twenge in their article in the journal Review of General Psychology in 2002 which I quoted in my previous post. Here, Baumseister and Twenge observe:

Just as any monopoly tends to oppose the appearance of low-priced substitutes that could undermine its market control, women will oppose various alternative outlets for male sexual gratification, even if these outlets do not touch the women’s own lives directly.[7]

As I explained in my previous post, these ‘alternative outlets for male sexual gratification’ include, among other things, homosexuality, sex with animals, corpses, inflatable dolls, household appliances and all other such healthy and natural sexual outlets which are universally condemned by moralists despite the lack, in most cases, of any discernible victims.

However, although homosexuality, sex with animals, corpses, inflatable dolls and household appliances all represent, in one way or another, ‘alternative outlets for male sexual gratification’ per Baumseister and Twenge, undoubtedly pornography is first among equals.

After all, whereas most other outlets for sexual gratification (e.g. homosexuality, bestiality, necrophilia and inflatable dolls) will appeal to only a perverted and fortunate few, and will wholly satisfy even fewer, the same is not true of pornography, whose appeal among males seems to be all but universal.

Women are therefore right to fear and oppose pornography. Already pornography represents a major threat to women’s ability to attract and retain mates. Increasingly, it seems, men are already coming to recognize that pornography offers a better deal than conventional courtship.

For example, in one study published in the Journal of Experimental Research in Social Psychology found that, after viewing pornographic materials, men rated their commitment to their current relationships as lower than they had prior to being exposed to the pornographic materials.[8]

This should be no surprise. After all, compared to the models and actresses featured in porn the average wife or girlfriend is no match.

Who can seriously doubt that a few dollars for magazine full of beautiful women expertly fucking and sucking who, on the page, remain young and beautiful for ever, and which costs only a few dollars at most, is better value than marriage to a single solitary real-life woman, who demands half your income, grows older and uglier with each passing year, probably wasn’t exactly a Playboy centerfold even to begin with, and who is legally obligated to fuck you only during the divorce-settlement?

Yet this desirable state of affairs was not always so. On the contrary, it is, in terms of human history, a relatively recent development.

To understand why and how this came to be and the impact it came to have on the relations between the sexes and, in particular, the relative bargaining positions of the sexes in negotiating the terms of heterosexual coupling, we must first trace the history of what I term ‘pornographic progress’ from porn’s pre-human precursors and Paleolithic Pleistocene prototypes, to the contemporary relative pornographic utopia of Xvideos, Xhamster and Pornohub.

A Brief History of Pornographic Progress

Pornography is, I am convinced, the greatest ever invention of mankind. To my mind, it outranks even the wheel, the internal combustion engine and the splitting of the atom. As for sliced bread, it has always been, in my humble opinion, somewhat overrated.

The wonder of porn is self-evident. You can merrily masturbate to your cock’s content in the comfort and privacy of your own home without the annoyance, inconvenience and boredom of actually having to engage in a conversation with a woman either before or after. These days, one need never even leave the comfort of one’s home.

However, though today we take it for granted, porn was not always with us. On the contrary, it had to be invented. Moreover, it’s quality has improved vastly over time.

Proto-Porn and Pre-Human Precursors

Our pre-human ancestors had to make do without pornography. However, the demand was clearly there. For example, males of various non-human species respond to an image or representation of an opposite-sex conspecific (e.g. a photograph or model) with courtship displays and mating behaviour. Some even attempt, unsuccessfully, to mount the picture or model.

Ophrys
By mimicking the appearance of bees to induce the latter into mating with them, Ophrys flowers function as ‘Nature’s prototype for the inflatable sex doll?’

Ophrys flowers, a subfamily of Orchids, take advantage of this behaviour to facilitate their own reproduction. Orchids of this family reproduce by mimicking both the appearance and pheromones of female insects, especially bees.

This causes male wasps and bees to attempt to copulate with them. Naturally, they fail in this endeavour. However, in so failing on successive occasions, they do successfully facilitate the reproduction of the orchids themselves. This is because, during this process of so-called pseudocopulation, pollen from the orchid becomes attached to the hapless male suitor. This pollen is then carried by the male until he (evidently not having learnt his lesson) attempts to mate with yet another flower of the same species, and thereby spreads the pollen enabling Orchids of the genus Ophrys to themselves reproduce.

Ophrys flowers therefore function as nature’s prototype for the inflatable sex doll.

In mimicking the appearance of female insects to sexually arouse hapless males, Ophrys flowers arguably constitute the first form of pornography. Thus, porn, like sonar and winged flight, was invented by nature (or rather by natural selection) long before humans belatedly got around to repeating this feat for themselves.

At any rate, one thing is clear: Though lacking pornography, our pre-human ancestors were pre-primed for porn. In short, the market was there – just waiting to be tapped by some entrepreneur sufficiently enterprising and sleazy to take advantage of this fact.

Prehistoric Palaeolithic Pleistocene Porn

Early man, it appears, developed porn the same time he developed cave-painting and art. Indeed, as I shall argue, the facilitation of masturbation was likely a key motivating factor in the development of art by early humans.

Venus Figurine
Venus figurines: ‘Palaeolithic/Pleistocene Proto-Porn?’

Take the so-called Venus figurines, so beloved of feminist archaeologists and widely recognised as one of the earliest forms, if not the earliest form, of sculpture. Countless theories have been developed regarding the function and purpose of these small sculptures of women with huge breasts and protruding buttocks.

They have been variously described, by feminist archaeologists and other professional damned fools, as, among other things, fertility symbols, idols of an earth goddess or mother goddess cult (the sole evidence for the existence of which are the figurines themselves) or even symbols of the matriarchy supposedly prevailing in hunter-gather bands (for which alleged social arrangement the figurines themselves again provide the only evidence).

The far more obvious explanation, namely that the figures represent portable, prehistoric Palaeolithic Pleistocene porn – sort of the stone-age equivalent of a 3-d Playboy – has been all but ignored by scholars.

True, they are, to say the least, a bit fat for modern tastes. However, as morbidly obese women never tire of reminding us, standards of beauty vary over time and place.

After all, if, as popular cliché has it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, then sexiness is perhaps located in a different part of the male anatomy (‘sexiness is in the cock of the beholder’?), but is nevertheless equally subjective in nature.

Of course this may partly reflect wishful thinking on the part of fat ugly women. Research in evolutionary psychology has demonstrated that some aspects of beauty standards are cross-culturally universal.

Nevertheless, to some extent (albeit only in some respects) the fatties may be right.

After all, in other respects besides their morbid obesity, the images are obviously pornographic.

In particular, it is notable that no detail is shown in the figurine’s faces – no nose, eyes or mouth. Yet, on the other hand, the genitalia and huge breasts are rendered intricately – a view of the important aspects of female physiology unlikely to find favour with feminists.

Surely only a feminist or a eunuch could be so lacking in insight into male psychology as to flick through the pages of Playboy magazine (or, if you prefer, the buried archaeological remains of Playboy magazine a few thousand years hence), observe the focus on unfeasibly large breasts, protruding buttocks and female genitalia, and hence conclude that what he (or, more likely, she) had unearthed or stumbled across was the holy book of an Earth-Mother-Goddess cult!

Art as Porn

I am thoroughly convinced of the thesis that the ultimate function and purpose of all art, and thus indirectly arguably of civilization itself, is the facilitation of fapping

For the next 20 thousand years or so, pornography progressed only gradually. There were, of course, a few technological improvements – e.g. in the quality of paints, canvasses etc. However, the primary advancements were in the abilities and aptitudes of the artists themselves, especially with regard to their capacity for naturalism/realism.

Goya
Eighteenth Century Porn by Goya

Thus, by the early nineteenth century, there were classical nudes. Notwithstanding the pretensions of intellectual snobs towards higher forms of appreciation, anyone with a functioning penis can clearly perceive that the primary function and purpose such works is the facilitation of masturbation.

At this juncture it is perhaps appropriate to declare that I am thoroughly convinced of the thesis that the ultimate function and purpose of all art, and thus indirectly arguably of civilization itself, is the facilitation of fapping.

Crucifix
Crucifixes: An early form of sadomasochistic gay porn?

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has jealously guarded its own monopoly on pornography catering for more niche tastes. I refer, of course, to the ubiquitous crucifix, which no Catholic Church or pious papist home can ever be complete without.

Yet, on closer inspection, this familiar image is clearly, by any standards, rather suspect, to say the least. It represents, after all, a nearly naked man, wearing nothing more than a loin-clothe – and usually, I might add, a suspiciously lean and rather muscular man, who invariably sports a six-pack – writhing in pain while being nailed to a cross.

In short, the registered trademark of the One True Faith is, in truth, a blatant and undisguised example of sadomasochistic gay porn.

Indeed, it represents precisely the sort of homoerotic sadomasochistic imagery which, if depicted in any other context, would probably be condemned outright by the Church and banned along with The Origin of Species and Galileo. No wonder the Catholic priesthood and holy orders are, by all accounts, so jam-packed with perverts, sadists and pederasts.

Photography, Printing and a Proletarian Pornography for the People

 

The facilitation of masturbation forms the ultimate function and purpose, not only of all art, but also of all significant technological advance, from photography and the printing press, to the internet, robotics, virtual reality and beyond

However, crucifixes were clearly a niche fetish. Moreover, churches, unlike adult booths, generally neither facilitate nor encourage masturbation.

Meanwhile, classical nudes were necessarily of limited distribution. Worth a great deal of money and painted by the great masters, they were strictly for the rich – to hang in the drawing room and wank off to once the servants had safely retired to bed.

Clearly there was a need for a more widely available pornography, something within the grasp of all, howsoever humble. I refer to a Proletarian Pornography, suited to the age of democracy and socialism. A true Pornography for the People.

The invention of photography and of the printing press was eventually to provide the vehicle for this development over the course of the nineteenth century. By the dawn of the twentieth century there were magazines, both cheaper and better than the classical nudes that had preceded them. A true People’s Pornography had arrived.

Yet, once this process had begun, there was to be no stopping it. Soon there were moving pictures as well. It is a little known fact that, in France, the first pornographic movies were filmed within just a few years of the development of moving images in the late nineteenth century. (Here’s another one. But, be warned, pornhub it ain’t and tissues are probably not required.)

From this invention of photography and the printing press onwards, the history of pornographic progress is irretrievably bound up with scientific and technological progress itself.

Indeed, I am firmly of the opinion that the facilitation of masturbation forms the ultimate function and purpose, not only of all art, but also of all significant technological advance, from photography and the printing press, to the internet, robotics, virtual reality and beyond.

The Genre That Dare Not Speak Its Name

However, there remained a problem. As we have seen, the Sex Cartel, in order to maintain its jealously guarded monopoly over the provision of male sexual gratification, has sought to limit the distribution of porn. In addition to employing legal sanction to this end, they have also resorted to the court of public opinion – i.e. shaming tactics.

Thus, men who are make use of pornography are subject to public censure and shaming, and variously castigated as ‘perverts’, ‘dirty old men’ and ‘losers’ incapable of attracting real-life women or girls for themselves.

The result is that the purchase of pornographic materials had long been subject to stigma and shame. A major component of Pornographic Progress has therefore been, not just improvement in the quality of masturbationary material itself, but also ease of access, enjoyment and privacy/anonymity involved in acquiring and making use of such material.

This is illustrated in pornographic publications themselves. Before the internet age, pornographic publications almost invariably masqueraded as something other than pornography. Pornography thus became ‘the genre that dare not speak its name’.

For example, magazines invariably titled themselves with names like ‘Playboy’ or ‘Mayfair’ or ‘Penthouse’, as if wealthy, indolent and promiscuous millionaires were the only people expected, or permitted, to masturbate. Curiously, they virtually never adopted titles like ‘Horny Pervert’, ‘Dirty Old Man’ or ‘The Wanker’s Weekly – a Collection of Masturbationary Aides for the Discerning Self-Abuser’.

Elsewhere, pornography was disguised in sex scenes in mainstream movies, TV shows and newspapers. While page three is well known, even ‘respectable broadsheets’ were not immune, articles about the evils of pornography often written largely, I suspect, as an excuse to include a few necessary illustrative examples beside the text. All of which evasions were, I suspect, designed to deflect some of the shame involved in buying, or owning, pornography.

A major part of pornographic progress is therefore the migration of pornography from adult booths and adult cinemas to the privacy of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Thus, a major development was home-video. Videos might still have to be bought in a shop (or they could be ordered by mail from an advert in the back of a magazine or newspaper), but masturbation itself could occur in private, rather than in an adult booth or seedy cinema.

Pornography was beginning to assume its modern form.

Then there were DVDs and subscription-only satellite TV stations.

Eventually came the Internet. People were spared even the embarrassment of buying porn in a shop. Now, they could not only watch it in the privacy and comfort of their own home – but download it there too.

Pornography had, by this point, assumed its contemporary form.

Pornographic Progress and the Sexual Revolution

What then has pornographic progress meant for the relations between the sexes in general and the terms of romantic coupling in particular?

It is my contention that the gradual liberalization of the standards of sexual morality over the course of the twentieth century is a direct result of the process of pornographic progress outlined in the previous sections.

Whereas most people view the increased availability of pornography as a mere symptom rather than a cause of the so-called ‘Sexual Revolution’ of the Sixties, my theory accords pornographic progress pride of place as the decisive factor explaining the liberalization of attitudes towards sex over the course of the twentieth century.

In short, as pornography has improved in quality and availability, it has come to represent an ever greater threat to women themselves and, in particular, their ability to entrap men into marriage with the lure of sex.

As sexual gratification was increasingly available without recourse to marriage (i.e. through pornography), men had less and less rational reason to subject themselves to marriage with all the inequitable burdens marriage imposes upon them.

After all, when pornography was restricted to Venus Figurines and cave paintings, virtually every man would prefer a real-life wife, howsoever ugly and personally obnoxious, to these poor pornographic substitutes.

However, when the choice is between an endless stream of pornographic models and actresses catering to every niche fetish imaginable expertly fucking and sucking as compared to marriage to a single real-life woman who grows older and uglier with each passing year and is legally obligated to fuck you only during the divorce settlement, the choice surely becomes more evenly balanced.

And, today, in the internet age, when images of Japanese girls in school-uniforms defecating into one another’s mouths are always just a mere mouse-click away, it comes close to being a no-brainer.

In response, as the quality and availability of pornographic materials increased exponentially, women were forced to lower their prices in order to compete with porn. The result was that promiscuity and sex before marriage, while once scandalous, became ever more common over the course of the twentieth century with increasing numbers of women forced, through increasing competition from pornography, to give up their bodies for a price somewhat less than that entailed in the marriage contract.

The male marriage strike is therefore a reaction, not only to the one-sided terms of the marriage contract, but also the increasing availability of sexual relief outside of marriage, largely thanks to the proliferation of and improvements in pornography.

Whereas in the Victorian era, men had little option but to satisfy their biological need for sexual relief through, if not wives, then at least women (e.g. prostitutes), now increasingly pornography provides a real and compelling alternative to women themselves.

The average woman, being fat, ugly and old, is simply no match for the combined power of xvideos, xhamster and pornhub.

The Present

This then is the current state of play (or of playing with oneself) with regard to pornographic progress. The new face of porn is thus the internet.

Nudie magazines are now officially dead. Playboy magazine is now said to lose about $3 million dollars annually, and the company now seems to stay afloat largely by selling pencil-cases to teenage girls.

However, there is no reason to believe that pornographic progress will suddenly stop at the moment this article to published. To believe this, we would be as naïve as the publishers of nudie mags were when they failed to see the writing on the wall and make the move into the virtual sphere.

The current age of internet porn will come to an end, just as peep shows, adult cinemas, nudie mags and Venus figurines did before them. Just like these obsolete mediums of masturbationary-aid were replaced by something altogether superior, so internet pornography will be replaced with something altogether better.

Wanking will only get better. This much is certain. The only uncertainly is the form this improvement will take.

The Future of Fucking

Predicting the future is a notoriously difficult endeavour. Indeed, perhaps the one prediction about the future that we can hold with confidence is that the vast majority of predictions about the future will turn out to be mistaken.

Whereas in all previous porn, it was women themselves who swallowed – along with the cum – the majority of the profits, with virtual reality porn and sexbots, actresses will digitally-generated and women themselves wholly bypassed to cut costs.

Nevertheless, I am sufficiently confident about the future of pornographic progress to venture a few guesses as to the nature of future pornographic progress.

One possibility will be what I term Virtual Reality Porn, namely an improvement in gaming technologies able to provide a more realistic simulation of real-life. The result may be something akin to the ‘holodeck‘ in Star Trek, the pornographic potential of which is only occasionally alluded to in the series.

However, this is not, on reflection, the direction in which I expect pornography to progress.

There are two problems. First, for the moment at least, even the most state-of-the-arc gaming technologies represent a crude simulation of real life, as anyone who has ever played them for more than a few minutes soon realizes.

Second, although the characters with whom one interacts may come to look increasingly beautiful and lifelike, there is still the problem that one will not be able to touch them. In lieu of touching the virtual porn stars with whom one interacts, one will be obliged instead (as in most contemporary pornography) to touch oneself instead, which is, as always, a poor substitute.

I therefore confidently predict that, in the short-term, pornographic progress will come in another sphere instead, namely robotics.

Sex Dolls

Already the best in Japanese sex dolls is better looking than the average woman. In addition, it does not nag, spend your money or grow fatter or uglier with each passing year. It is true that they remain utterly inert, immobile, and unresponsive. However, on the plus side, this also means they already have a personality more pleasant than the average woman.

Whereas all but the most rudimentary ‘Virtual Reality Porn’ remains the stuff of science fiction, the development of, if not true ‘Sexbots’, then at least of their immediate pornographic precursors, is surprisingly well advanced. I refer here the development of sex dolls.

Although they are not, as yet, in any sense truly robotic, sex dolls have already progressed far beyond the inflatable dolls of bawdy popular humour. In Japan – a nation always at the cutting-edge of both technological progress and sexual perversion – sex dolls made of silicone are already available which not only look, but feel to the touch, exactly like a real woman.

As of yet, these sex dolls remain relatively expensive. Costing several thousands of pounds, they are not an idle investment – but are probably, on balance, still cheaper than a girlfriend, let alone a divorce settlement, but not yet comparable to a trip to, say, Thailand.

In some respects, however, sex dolls are already better than a real woman – or, at least, better than the sort of real woman their customers, or, indeed, the average man, is likely to be able to attract.

Already a Japanese Candy Girl (or even its American equivalent Real Doll) is better looking than the average woman. In addition, it does not nag, spend your money, get upset when you have sex with her best friend or grow fatter or uglier with each passing year.

And, of course, they are not yet, in any sense, truly robotic.

In terms of physical appearance, they are distinguishable from a real-life woman only by their physical beauty and lack of imperfections. However, they remain utterly inert, immobile, unresponsive and incapable of even the most rudimentary and inane conversation of the sort in which women specialize.

However, on the plus side, this also means they already have a personality more pleasant than the average woman.

One might say that they are… as lifelike as a corpse.

From Sex Dolls to ‘Sexbots’ – The Future of Pornographic Progress

All this, however, could soon change. Already American manufacturers of real doll, who market themselves as producing “the world’s finest love doll”, have begun experiments to turn love dolls robotic. In other words, within this year, the first so-called ‘SexBots’ – robots designed for the purpose of sexual intercourse with humans – may come off the assembly-line.

Within a few decades, Sexbots will be exactly like women themselves, save, of course, for a few crucial improvements. They will not nag, cheat on you or get angry when you cheat on them. Moreover, they will be designed to your exact specifications of beauty and breast-size and, unlike real wives, will not grow older and uglier with each passing year or seek to divorce you and steal your money.

In addition, they will have one crucial improvement over every woman who has ever existed in every society throughout human history howsoever beautiful and slutty – namely, an off-switch and handy storage place in the cupboard for when one tires of them or they become annoying and clingy. This is both cheaper than divorce and easier to get away with than murder.

The Campaign Against Sexbots

Perhaps the best evidence of the coming obsolescence of womankind is the reaction of women themselves.

It is notable that, although sexbots remain, for the moment at least, a figment of the male imagination, a thing of science-fiction rather than of science, the political campaign against them has already begun. Indeed, it even has its own website.

Just as feminists, moralists and other professional damned fools have consistently opposed other ‘alternative outlets for male sexual gratification’ such as pornography and prostitutes, so the campaign against Sexbots has begun before the first such robots have even come off the assembly line.

Not content with seeking to outlaw sex robots before they even exist, opponents have even sought to censor free speech and discussion regarding the topic. Thus, an academic conference devoted to the topic had to be cancelled after being banned by the authorities in the host nation.

No prizes also for guessing that the campaign is led by a woman, one Dr Kathleen Richardson, a ‘bioethicist’ – or, in layman’s terms, a professional damned fool – who has recently launched a campaign against the (as yet) non-existent sexbots.

It is also no surprise either that the woman herself is, to put it as politely as possible, aesthetically-challenged (i.e. as ugly as a cow’s ass) and therefore precisely the sort of woman who is likely to be the first casualty of competition from even the most primitive of sexbots.

(Just for the record, this is not an ad hominin or gratuitous personal abuse. Whether she is consciously aware of it or not, the fact that she is hideously and repulsively physically unattractive is directly relevant to why she is motivated to ban sexbots. After all, whereas more physically attractive women may be able to fight off competition from robots and still attract male suitors for somewhat longer, it is ugly women such as herself are sure to be the first casualties of competition from even the most rudimentary of robots. Indeed, one suspects even an inflatable doll is more visually alluring, and is probably has a more appealing personality, than this woman.)

There is a key giveaway to the real motivation underlying this ostensibly moral campaign, namely, these same bioethicist luddites have, strangely, never, to my knowledge, objected on moral grounds, let alone launched high-profile media campaigns against, vibrators, dildos and other sex toys for women.

Yet vibrators are surely far more widely used by women than sex dolls are by men and also far less stigmatized. As for actual sexbots, these have yet even to be invented.

So why campaign only against the latter? This is surely a classic example of what feminists are apt to refer to as ‘sexual double-standards’.

Are Women Obsolete?

Within perhaps just a couple of decades, women will be obsolete – just another once useful but now obsolete technology that has been wholly supplanted by superior technologies, like typewriters, video recorders, the Commodore 64 and long drop toilets.

There has, in recent years, been something of a fashion within the publishing industry, and among feminists, for books with outlandish titles like Are Men Necessary? and The End of Men which triumphantly (and gendercidally) hail the (supposed) coming obsolescence of men. Such hysterical ravings are not only published by mainstream publishers, but even taken seriously in the mainstream media

This is, of course, like most feminist claims, wholly preposterous.

The self-same women who loudly proclaim that men are obsolete live in homes built by men, rely on clean water and sewage systems built and maintained by men, on electricity generated by men working in coal mines and on oil rigs and, in the vast majority of cases, live in whole or in part off the earnings of a man, whether that man be a husband, an ex-husband or the taxpayer.

In short, as Fred Reed has observed, Without men, civilization would last until the oil needs changing.

However, while talk of the End of Men is obviously not so much premature as positively preposterous, the same may not be true of the End of Women. As Steve Moxon suggests, were Freud not a complete charlatan, it would be tempting to explain the bizarre notion that men are about to become obsolete by reference to the Freudian concept of projection.[9] For the painful truth is that it is women who on the verge of obsolescence, not men.

Already the best in Japanese sex dolls are better looking than the average woman and lose their looks less rapidly. Already, they are cheaper than the average divorce settlement. And, being unable to speak or interact with their owners in any way, already they have personalities more pleasant and agreeable than the average woman.

Soon with developments in robotics, they will be vastly superior in every way.

Sexbots and the End of Woman

It is time to face facts, howsoever harsh or unwelcome they may be in some quarters.

Sexbots will have one crucial improvement over every woman who has ever existed howsoever beautiful and downright slutty – namely, an off-switch and handy storage place in the cupboard. This is both cheaper than divorce and easier to get away with than murder.

Within just a couple of decades, women will be obsolete – just another once useful but now obsolete technology that has been wholly supplanted by superior technologies, like typewriters, video recorders, the Commodore 64 and the long drop toilet.

Like all cutting-edge scientific advancements and technological developments, sexbots will be invented, designed, built, maintained and repaired almost exclusively by men. Women will thus be cut out of the process altogether.

This is a crucial development. In all pre-existing forms of porn since the development of photography, the primary financial beneficiaries of porn have always been women themselves, or at least a small subsection of women (namely, those willing to undercut their sex industry competitors by agreeing to appear in pornography).

While it was men’s technological expertise that created photography, moving pictures and the internet, and men’s entrepreneurial vision that created the great commercial porn empires, real-life women still had to be employed as models or actresses, and typically demanded exorbitant salaries, many times those of the male performers alongside whom they performed (and whose jobs were much more difficult), for jobs that often involved nothing more than posing naked or engaging in sexual acts in front of a camera.

In short, although it was men’s technological and entrepreneurial brilliance that produced porn, it was women themselves who swallowed – along with the cum – the majority of the profits.

However, with Virtual Reality Porn and Sexbots, there will be no need of ‘actresses’ or ‘models’. Already magazine pictures are digitally-enhanced to remove imperfections. In the future, porn stars will be digitally-generated. Women themselves will be wholly bypassed in order to cut costs.

Increasingly, women will find themselves rendered superfluous to requirements.

From blacksmiths and tailors to cobblers, weavers and thatchers – technological advance and innovation has rendered countless professions obsolete. Soon perhaps the Oldest Profession itself will go the same way. It’s called progress. The Real Sexual Revolution has but barely begun…

After all, who the hell would want a real wife or girlfriend or even a whore when you can download something just the same or better from a hard disk or purchase it as a self-assembly robot for a fraction of the price – minus the incessant nagging, endless inane chattering and obnoxious personality? Plus, this one can be designed according to your precise specifications and doesn’t mind when you screw her best friend or forget her anniversary.

Soon women will be put out to tenure just like any other outdated machinery. Or maybe displayed in museums for educational purposes to show how people used to live long ago.

If it is deemed desirable to maintain the human species, then, so long as a womb is necessary to incubate a baby, a few women may be retained for reproductive purposes – perhaps housed in battery cages for greater reproductive efficiency.

This is why women so despise pornography, with a passion and venom unmatched by other forms of Puritanism. That’s why they create entire ideologies – from Radical Feminism to Religious Fundamentalism – dedicated to its destruction. Because it represents a threat to their own very existence, livelihood and survival!

But the good news is – Women Cannot Win. The ferocity of the feminist onslaught only confirms that what women must already intuitively grasp – namely, the writing is already on the wall.

Technological progress is, for better or worse, unstoppable.

Like the mythical Ned Ludd and his followers who, in response to being rendered unemployable by the mechanization of labour, smashed workplace machinery across the north of England in the Nineteenth Century in the vain hope of stopping progress and their own inevitable obsolescence – the prudes, puritans, luddites and feminists are destined to fail.

Like it or not, Virtual Reality Porn and Sexbots are on the way. The ultimate salvation of man from the tyranny of the Sex Cartel will lie, not in men’s rights activism, campaigning, political action, reform, rape, nor even in revolution – but rather in sexbots and hardcore virtual-reality porn.

After all – from blacksmiths and tailors to cobblers, weavers and thatchers – technological advance and innovation has rendered countless professions obsolete. Soon perhaps the Oldest Profession itself will go the same way.

It’s called progress.

The Real Sexual Revolution has but barely begun!

_________________

Footnotes/Endnotes

[1] E.g. Diamond, M. (1999) ‘The Effects of Pornography: an international perspective’ in Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment

[2] For example, as an admittedly rather pseudo-scientific measure of the popularity of the two genres, it is notable that TubeGalore.com – in my own extensive experience the most comprehensive of the various porn search engines – returned over twenty-five times as many results for the search “Femdom”, as for “Maledom” (284377 vs. 11134).

[3] Salmon C ‘the Pornography Debate: what sex differences in erotica can tell about human sexuality’ in Evolutionary Psychology, Public Policy and Personal Decisions (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum 2004) by Crawford C & Salmon C (eds.) pp217-230 at p227

[4] If Men Have All The Power How Come Women Make The Rules (2002): p56.

[5] If Men Have All The Power How Come Women Make The Rules (2002): p57.

[6] Salmon, C ,‘The Pornography Debate: what sex differences in erotica can tell about human sexuality’ in Evolutionary Psychology, Public Policy and Personal Decisions (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum 2004) by Crawford C & Salmon C (eds.) pp217-230 at p227

[7] Baumeister, RF, & Twenge, JM (2002). ‘Cultural Suppression of Female Sexuality’, Review of General Psychology 6(2) pp166–203 at p172

[8] Kenrick, Gutieres and Goldberg, ‘Influence of popular erotic on judgements of strangers and mates’ Journal of experimental Social Psychology (1985) 29(2): 159–167.

[9] Moxon S The Woman Racket: p133.

The Sex Cartel: Puritanism and Prudery as Price-fixing Among Prostitutes

“There would seem to be, indeed, but small respect among women for virginity per se. They are against the woman who has got rid of hers outside marriage, not because they think she has lost anything intrinsically valuable, but because she has made a bad bargain… and hence one against the general advantage and well-being of the sex. In other words, it is a guild resentment that they feel, not a moral resentment.”

HL Mencken, In Defence of Women 1922

“Why is the woman of the streets who spends her sex earnings upon her lover scorned universally?… These women are selling below the market, or scabbing on the job.”

RB Tobias & Mary Marcy, Women as Sex Vendors 1918

In my previous post, I discussed the curious paradox whereby prostitutes and other promiscuous women are invariably condemned by moralists as sinful and immoral despite the fact that they provide pleasure to, in some cases, literally thousands of men. Therefore, according to the tenets of utilitarianism, they are literally giving the greatest happiness to the greatest number as Bentham advocated and ought therefore to be lauded as the highest paradigm of moral virtue right up alongside Mother Theresa, who, although she dedicated her life to heeling, feeding and caring for the sick, poor and destitute, never went as far as actually sucking their cocks.

Why then are prostitutes invariably condemned and castigated as immoral?

Broadening the scope of our discussion, we might also ask why so many other sexual behaviours – from homosexuality and masturbation to pornography and sex with household appliances – have been similarly condemned as immoral despite the lack of a discernible victim.

In this post, I attempt to provide an explanation. The answer, I propose, is to be sought, not so much in arcane theorizing of moral philosophers, nor in the endless hypocritical moralizing of moralists and other assorted ‘professional damned fools’ but rather in the dismal science of economics.

Thus, far from being rooted in morality or ethics, the phenomenon is rooted, like so much else in life, in base economic self-interest – or, more particularly, the base economic self-interest of women.

___________

The entire process of conventional courtship is predicated on prostitution – from the social expectation that the man pay for dinner on the first date, to the legal obligation that he continue to support his ex-wife, through alimony and maintenance, for anything up to ten or twenty years after he has belatedly rid himself of her. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a prostitute as ‘a person who engages in sexual intercourse for payment’. That’s not the definition of a prostitute. That’s the definition of a woman! The distinguishing feature of prostitutes isn’t that they have sex for money – it’s that they provide such excellent value for money.

To understand this phenomenon, one must first register a second curious paradox – namely, that the self-same women who liberally and routinely denounce other women as ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’ on account of the latter’s perceived promiscuity themselves qualify as ‘prostitutes’ by the ordinary dictionary definition of this word.

In The Manipulated Man, her masterpiece of unmitigated misogyny (which I have reviewed here), prominent anti-feminist polemicist Esther Vilar puts it like this:

By the age of twelve at the latest, most women have decided to become prostitutes. Or, to put it another way they have planned a future for themselves which consists of choosing a man and letting him do all the work. In return for his support, they are prepared to let him make use of their vagina at certain given intervals.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a prostitute as ‘a person who engages in sexual intercourse for payment’.

That’s not the definition of a prostitute. That’s the definition of a woman!

The distinguishing feature of prostitutes isn’t that they have sex for money – it’s that they provide such excellent value for money.

After all, who can seriously doubt that thirty quid for a bargain basement blowjob in an alleyway or Soho flat provides better value than conventional courtship? Marriage is simply a bad bargain.

If you want sex, pay a hooker. If you want companionship, buy a dog. Marriage is not so much ‘disguised prostitution’ as flagrant extortion. Frankly, in the long-run, one is likely to get better value for money in a Soho clip-joint.

___________

Yet, whereas marriage is a raw deal for men, it is, for precisely the same reason, a very good deal for women. The more that men are obliged to pay out in exorbitant divorce settlements and maintenance demands, the more women receive in these same divorce packages. In short, courtship is a zero-sum game – and women are always the winners.

It is therefore no surprise that, as the feminists incessantly remind us, men earn more money than women. After all, why would any woman take the trouble to earn money when she has the far easier option of stealing it in the divorce courts instead? Moreover, there is no fear of punishment. Far from the courts punishing the wrongdoers, the family courts are actually accessories and enablers, who actively aid and abet the theft.

Marrying money is both quicker and easier than earning it for yourself. Thus, just as slaveholders had a vested interest in defending the institution of slavery, women in general, and wives in particular, have a vested interest in defending the institution of marriage.

However, in doing so, they are faced with a difficulty, namely that no rational man would ever voluntarily choose to get married any more than he would choose to voluntarily enslave himself. It is, as we have seen, simply a bad bargain. Some combination of prostitutes, promiscuity, pornography and perversion is always preferable.

Since women have a vesting interest in defending and promoting the institution of marriage, women also therefore have a vested interest in discouraging these alternative outlets for male sexual desire that threaten the institution of marriage by offering, on the whole, a better deal for men. This then is where sexual morality comes in.

___________

“Just as any monopoly tends to oppose the appearance of low-priced substitutes that could undermine its market control, women will oppose various alternative outlets for male sexual gratification”

The key factor uniting pornography, promiscuity, prostitution, perversion, masturbation, homosexuality, sex with corpses, with animals, with inflatable dolls, with household appliances and all other such fun and healthy activities that are universally condemned by moralists, feminists, politicians, assorted do-gooders and other professional damned fools despite the lack of any discernible victim is that each represents a threat to the monopoly over the provision of men’s sexual pleasure jealously guarded by ‘respectable’ women.

These respectable women, to maintain their monopoly, therefore seek to stigmatize, or even, where possible, criminalize these normal, healthy and natural alternative outlets for male sexual gratification.

Take, for example, pornography. Not only are the performers, producers and consumers of pornography widely stigmatized (as ‘whores’ and ‘perverts’ respectively), but also, in virtually all times and places, pornography is heavily regulated and restricted, if not wholly illegal and an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists and radical feminists endlessly campaign for still further restrictions.

Thus, in Britain so-called ‘hardcore’ pornography (i.e. featuring real sex between actors) was only legalized in 2000, when the pressures of European integration and the internet had made this change unavoidable. In recent retrograde measures, governments have even tightened restrictions on the porn, even criminalizing mere possession of certain varieties of so-called extreme pornography.

Why is this? Simply because pornography represents a threat to women’s marriage prospects by offering men an alternative outlet for sexual gratification that provides better value for money than marriage.

Baumeister and Twenge explain the basic economic logic in their article ‘Cultural Suppression of Female Sexuality’ published in the journal Review of General Psychology in 2002:

Just as any monopoly tends to oppose the appearance of low-priced substitutes that could undermine its market control, women will oppose various alternative outlets for male sexual gratification[1]

This is because “pornography and other forms of sexual entertainment… offer men sexual stimulation” and, in doing so, “could undermine women’s negotiating position” in their relations with men.[2]

In short, women oppose pornography because they recognise that porn offers manifestly better value for money than does marriage and conventional courtship.

After all, a magazine full of beautiful women expertly sucking and fucking and who remain, on the pages of the magazine, young and beautiful forever is surely better value for money than just a single real-life wife or girlfriend, who grows older and uglier with each passing year and is legally obligated to fuck you only during the divorce proceedings.

In short, a picture of a naked woman in a magazine is usually better value than the real thing. As WC Fields observed, women are like elephants, nice to look at – but I wouldn’t want to own one’.

___________

“A rational economic strategy that many monopolies or cartels have pursued is to try to increase the price of their assets by artificially restricting the supply. With sex, this would entail having the women put pressure on each other to exercise sexual restraint and hold out for a high price (such as a commitment to marriage) before engaging in sex.”

But if, as we have seen, all women are in some sense prostitutes, then why are prostitutes themselves subject to stigma and moral opprobrium? A pornographic magazine, dvd or inflatable doll can indeed be viewed (per Baumeister and Twenge above) as a ‘low priced substitute’ for a real woman. However, the same cannot be said of prostitutes themselves, since most of the latter (rent-boys and transsexuals apart) are themselves women.

Key to understanding the stigma and moral opprobrium attaching to prostitutes and other promiscuous women is the concept of a price-fixing cartel.

By offering sex to men for a cheaper price than that demanded by respectable women, prostitutes and other promiscuous women threaten to undercut the prices other women are able to demand.

In short, if the town whore gives blow-jobs for twenty quid while Miss Prim and Proper in the house next door demands an engagement ring, a wedding ring, a marriage certificate and the promise of a cushy divorce settlement a few years’ hence, then obviously anybody with half a brain knows where to go when they want a blowjob and Miss Prim and Proper is likely to be left curiously bereft of suitors.

The basic economic logic is explained thus by Baumeister and Vohs in their paper ‘Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions’, published in 2004 in Personality and Social Psychology Review:

A rational economic strategy that many monopolies or cartels have pursued is to try to increase the price of their assets by artificially restricting the supply. With sex, this would entail having the women put pressure on each other to exercise sexual restraint and hold out for a high price (such as a commitment to marriage) before engaging in sex.”[3]

However, as every first-year economics student knows, a price-fixing cartel is inherently unstable. There is always the ever-present threat that some party to the cartel (or an outsider to the agreement) will renege on the agreement by undercutting her competitors and reaping the resultant windfall as customers flock to receive the lower-priced goods or service. This can only be prevented by the existence of coercive apparatus designed to deter defection.

This is where sexual morality comes in.

In short, women have therefore sought to discourage other women from undercutting them through a quasi-moral censure, and sometimes criminalization, of those women generous enough, enterprising enough and brave enough to risk such censure by offering sexual services at a more reasonable price.

On this view, sexual morality essentially functions, in economic terms, as a form of collusion or price-fixing. As Baumseister and Vohs explain in their article on ‘Sexual Economics’ published in Personality and Social Psychology Review in 2004:

“The so-called “cheap” woman (the common use of this economic term does not strike us as accidental), who dispenses sexual favors more freely than the going rate, undermines the bargaining position of all other women in the community, and they become faced with the dilemma of either lowering their own expectations of what men will give them in exchange for sex or running the risk that their male suitors will abandon them in favor of other women who offer a better deal.”[4]

This is what I refer to as: ‘The Sex Cartel’ or ‘Price-Fixing among Prostitutes’.

___________

On this view, women’s prejudice against prostitutes is analogous to the animosity felt by trade unionists towards strikebreakers during industrial actions.

After all, on the face of it, one would not expect a strikebreaker or scab to be morally condemned. After all, a so-called ‘scab’ or strikebreaker is simply a person willing to perform the same level of work for less remuneration or in worse working conditions than other workers who are currently striking for better pay or conditions. This willingness to do the same work while receiving less in return would, in any other circumstances, be considered a mark of generosity and hence a source of praise rather than condemnation.

Yet, in working-class communities, the strikebreaker is universally scorned and despised. Indeed, his violent victimization, and even murder, is not only commonplace, but even perversely celebrated in at least one well-known English folk song that remains widely performed to this day.

Why then is the scab universally hated and despised? Simply because, in his otherwise commendable willingness to work in return for a little less than his fellow workers, the scab threatens to drive down the wages which the latter are capable of commanding.

And despite its hallowed place in socialist mythos, a trade union (or ‘labor union’ in American English) is, in essence, an anti-competitive monopolistic worker’s cartel, seeking to fix the price of labour to the advantage of its own members. Like all cartels, it is inherently unstable and vulnerable to being undercut by workers willing to work for less. This is why trade unions invariably resort to intimidation (e.g. picket lines) to deter the latter.

The same rational self-interest, therefore, explains women’s hatred of whores. As leading early twentieth century American socialist Mary Marcy observed of prostitutes in the passage quoted at the beginning of this post: “These women are selling below the market, or scabbing on the job”.

This is why TheAntiFeminist has characterised feminism as “The Sexual Trade Union”, representing the selfish sexual and reproductive interests of ageing and/or unattractive women.
___________

However, whereas the striking miner or manual labourer sometimes wins our sympathy simply because he occupies, as socialists have rightly observed, a relatively disadvantaged position in society as a whole, the same cannot be said of wives and women.

Although, as feminists never tire of pointing out, men earn more money than women (not least because they work longer hours, in more dangerous and unpleasant working conditions and for a greater proportion of their adult lives), women are known to be wealthier than men and dominate almost every area of consumer spending. According to researchers in the marketing industry, women control around 80% of household spending.[5]

A more appropriate analogy is therefore perhaps that provided by Baumeister and Vohs themselves. These authors view women’s attempt at artificial price-fixing as analogous to“other rational economic strategies, such as OPEC’s efforts to drive up the world price of oil by inducing member nations to restrict their production.”[6]

The appropriateness of this analogy is underscored by the fact that the exact same analogy was adopted by Warren Farrell, the father of the modern Men’s Rights Movement, a decade or so previously in his seminal The Myth of Male Power (which I have reviewed here). Here, Farrell observed:

In the Middle East, female sex and beauty are to Middle Eastern men what oil and gas are to Americans: the shorter the supply the higher the price. The more women ‘gave’ away sex for free, or for a small price, the more the value of every woman’s prize would be undermined”.[7]

___________

This then explains the prevalence of prejudice against prostitutes and promiscuity, and why this prejudice is especially prevalent among women. Only by slut-shaming whores and other promiscuous women can The Sex Cartel’s monopoly ever be maintained.

In contrast, men’s interests are diametrically opposed to the Sex Cartel. Consistent with this theory, men are found to be more tolerant, liberal and permissive in respect of virtually all aspects of sexual morality.

Thus, one study from the late-Eighties found that the vast majority of women, but only a minority of men, were wholly opposed to prostitution in all circumstances, whereas, in contrast, three times as many men as women saw nothing wrong with the sex trade.[8] Likewise, more women than men report that they are opposed to pornography.[9]

Of course, feminists typically explain so-called ‘sexual double-standards’ as some sort of male patriarchal plot to oppress women. In fact, however, women seem to be more censorious of promiscuity on the part of other women than are men. Thus, ‘sexual double-standards’, to the extent they exist at all, are largely promoted, and enforced, by women themselves. Thus, one recent meta-analysis found significantly greater support for ‘sexual double-standards’ among women than among men.[10]

Men, in contrast, have little incentive for slut-shaming. On the contrary, men actually generally rather enjoy the company of promiscuous women – for obvious reasons.[11]

There is, as far as I am aware, only one exception to the general principle that men are more tolerant and permissive on issues of sexual morality than are women. This is in respect of attitudes towards homosexuality. Here, strangely, women seem to be more permissive than men.[12]

However, opposition to homosexuality can still be explained compatibly with Sex Cartel Theory. Warren Farrell suggests in The Myth of Male Power (which I have reviewed here):

Homophobia reflected an unconscious societal fear that homosexuality was a better deal than heterosexuality for the individual. Homophobia was like OPEC calling nations wimps if they bought oil from a more reasonably priced source. It was the society’s way of giving men no option but to pay full price for sex”.[13]

___________

The Sex Cartel’s efforts to de-legitimize the sex trade involve the stigmatization, not only of prostitutes, but also of their clients. Indeed, these days the patrons of prostitutes seem to get an even worse press than do prostitutes themselves. On the one hand, they are castigated for exploiting women. On the other, they are also derided for being exploited by women and having to pay for what (it is implied) ‘real’ men should have no business having to pay for.[14]

In addition to moral sanction, the force of the criminal law is sometimes co-opted. Thus, around the world, prostitution is frequently wholly prohibited, and, if not, is almost always heavily regulated and restricted, such that both prostitutes and their patrons find themselves subject to the full force of the criminal law for partaking in a victimless and mutually-consensual commercial transaction.

Again, the current trend in law-enforcement is to target the customers rather than the prostitutes themselves (i.e. men rather than women) – a policy that manages to be both inefficient and unjust and is roughly comparable to prosecuting occasional pot smokers while letting drug-dealers off scot-free.

___________

Every woman, from the Whore to the Housewife, the Prostitute to the Prude, the Puritan to the Princess, is each, in her own way, forever a Whore at Heart.So, ironically, for all their fanatical feminist flag-waving and sanctimonious puritanical moral posturing, the real reason women hate prostitutes is precisely because women are prostitutes. Like any other class of commercial trader, they just don’t like the competition.

In reality, however, prostitution per se is never wholly criminalized or prohibited. If it were, then virtually every woman in the country would be behind bars – and so would virtually every man.

After all, as perceptive observers (end even a few feminists) have long recognised, one way or another, all women are prostitutes, according to the ordinary dictionary definition of this word.

Indeed, the entire process of conventional courtship in Western society is predicated on prostitution – from the social expectation that the man pay for dinner on the first date, to the legal obligation that he continue to support his ex-wife, through alimony and maintenance, for anything up to ten or twenty years after he has belatedly rid himself of her.

All the world is a red-light district. And all the men and women merely tricks, suckers, johns, punters, hookers and whores – plus perhaps an occasional pimp. Every woman, from the Whore to the Housewife, the Prostitute to the Prude, the Puritan to the Princess, is each, in her own way, forever a Whore at Heart.

So, ironically, for all their fanatical feminist flag-waving and sanctimonious puritanical moral posturing about saving women from sexual slavery and exploitation, the real reason women hate prostitutes is precisely because women are prostitutes. Like any other class of commercial trader, they just don’t like the competition.
_____________

[1] Baumseister RF & Twenge JM (2002) ‘Cultural Suppression of Female Sexuality’, Review of General Psychology 6(2): 166-203 at p172.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Baumeister RF & Vohs KD (2004) ‘Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 8(4) pp339-363 at p344.

[4] Ibid, at p358

[5] See Kanner, B., Pocketbook Power: How to Reach the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Most Coveted Consumer – Women: p5; Barletta, M., Marketing to Women: How to understand reach and increase your share of the world’s largest market segment: p6.

[6] Baumeister RF & Vohs KD (2004) ‘Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 8(4) pp339-363 at p357

[7] Farrell, W, The Myth of Male Power (reviewed here) (New York Berkley 1994) at p67.

[8] Klassen, AD, Williams, CJ, & Levitt, EE (1989). Sex and morality in the U.S.: An empirical enquiry under the auspices of the Kinsey Institute Middletown: Wesleyan University Press: cited in Baumseister RF & Twenge JM (2002) ‘Cultural Suppression of Female Sexuality’ at p190. More precisely, 69% of women were wholly opposed to pornography in all circumstances, as compared to only 45% of men, whereas 17% of men versus only 6% of men saw nothing wrong with prostitution.

[9] For example, Lottes, I, Weinberg, M & Weller, I (1993) ‘Reactions to pornography on a college campus: For or against?’ Sex Roles 29(1-2): 69-89.

[10] Oliver MB and Hyde JS (1993) ‘Gender Differences in Sexuality: A Meta-Analysis’ Pyschological Bulletin l14(1): 29-51

[11] Though it is true that men may not wish to marry a promiscuous women. Here, concerns of paternity certainty are paramount.

[12] Harek G (1988) Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences Journal of Sex Research 25(4); Lamar, L & Kite, M. (1998) Sex Differences in Attitudes toward Gay Men and Lesbians: A Multidimensional Perspective The Journal of Sex Research 35(2): 189-196; Kite, M. & Whitney, B. (1996) Sex Differences in Attitudes Toward Homosexual Persons, Behaviors, and Civil Rights A Meta-Analysis Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22(4): 336-35;Lim VK (2002) Gender differences and attitudes towards homosexuality Journal of Homosexuality 43(1):85-97.

[13] Farrell, W, The Myth of Male Power (reviewed here) (New York Berkley 1994) at p87.

[14] These two claims are, of course, wildly contradictory. Moreover, it is notable that, while men who pay for prostitutes are routinely ridiculed for ‘having to pay for it’, the same stigma does not attach to the man who takes his girlfriend out to dates at expensive restaurants, buys her jewellery or, worse still, pays the ultimate price by subjecting himself to marriage – yet the latter surely incurs a steeper financial penalty in the long-run.

In Praise of Prostitutes and Promiscuity – A Utilitarian Perspective

Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy

HL Mencken, Aphorisms

Sex is one of the most wholesome, spiritual and natural things money can buy. And like all games, it becomes more interesting when played for money.

Sebastian Horsley, The Brothel-Creeper

Prostitutes are like public toilets. On the one hand, they provide a useful service to the public. On the other, they are dirty and unhygienic, and one always somehow feels in danger of catching a disease when inside one.

VEL – The Contemporary Heretic

I have never been able to understand why whores and prostitutes have invariably maligned as sinful and immoral.

Given that the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word nice as meaning giving pleasure or satisfaction, then surely the nice girl is not the girl who, as  the current usage of this phrase typically connotes, refuses to perform oral copulation on the first date, but rather the girl who willingly does so with multiple partners on every night of the week. After all, it is the latter girl who surely gives considerably more ‘pleasure and satisfaction’ than the former.

According to the precepts of utilitarianism, the theory of normative ethics championed by such eminent luminaries as Bentham, Mill and, most recently, Peter Singer, the moral worth of an action is to be determined by the extent to which it contributes to the overall happiness of mankind. On this view, the ultimate determinant of the morality of a given behaviour is the extent to which it promotes (to adopt Bentham’s memorable formulation) ‘the Greatest Happiness to the Greatest Number’.

Well, surely, this is precisely what whores and other indiscriminately promiscuous women do. Prostitutes, for example, over the course of their careers, can give pleasure and happiness to literally thousands of men.

Some crack-whores suck a couple of dozen dicks a day minimum. That’s what I call giving the greatest happiness to the greatest number. If that’s not maximising utility, I don’t know what is!

(Much is made of the scourge of drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine on lives, families, communities as well as society as a whole. But, on the plus side, they do help drive down the cost of a blowjob – Good news for the consumer!)

In utilitarian terms, therefore, rather than condemned as immoral for their behaviour, whores ought to be lauded as the highest paradigm of moral virtue – right up alongside Mother Teresa.

After all, Mother Teresa might have selflessly dedicated her entire live to helping, healing, feeding and caring for the poor and destitute – but she never sucked their cocks, did she?

GOD IS A GIT – and other sobering reflections on the nature of god

In my previous post (A Suicide Note in the Form of a Blog Post), I reached the conclusion that life is terribly tedious and hence, in general terms, one is better off dead. Having resolved upon this firm conclusion, but not, as yet, having actually committed suicide, the only appropriate topic to address in my follow up post is to consider the question as to why this is the case.

I have come to the conclusion that only one explanation is possible. God is to blame and it is all his fault. In short, God is a bastard. There is simply no other explanation compatible all the facts.

__________

Take, for example, the Second Commandment – Thou shall worship no other God. Has there ever been any clearer prescription for a one-party state, lacking in effective opposition. If God is all-powerful, his rule likewise lacks the requisite ‘separation of powers’ and ‘checks and balances’. Punishment in hell, meanwhile, contravenes the provisions of any number of international human rights treaties.

This conclusion – sometimes termed “misotheism” or, less commonly, “antitheism” – is not mere polemical provocation or ‘Christian-baiting’. On the contrary, it is the logical and inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the nature of the universe and of the human condition for which God is ultimately responsible.

After all, if God is all-powerful and benevolent, why would He create a world full of misery and pain? Why would He create a world of war, famine and disease?

Why, moreover, would he instil us with lusts and desire which can never be satisfied and then deem any attempt to satisfy them as a form of carnal sin worthy of eternal damnation no less?

There is only one possible explanation – God is a sadist. A being who delights in torturing and tormenting beings weaker, frailer and less powerful than Himself. In short, a bully and a bastard.

__________

In the interests of balance, let us consider the only remotely plausible alternative.

We are told by God Himself that “God created Man in his own image”. This then must mean that God is as much of a idiotic poltroon as we are.

Perhaps God is not a sadist. Perhaps he is instead merely a scientist, rigorously maintaining a scientific objectivity and detachment. Perhaps he merely disinterestedly observes our suffering with no more compassion or spite towards us than the vivisectionist has towards the laboratory rats whom he disinterestedly injects with all manner of deadly diseases in the hope of winning a Nobel Prize.

But this explanation will not do. After all, if God is omnipotent and all-knowing, what then would be the object of his research other than mere amusement? What could he learn that an all-knowing being did not, by very definition, already know? What of value could he find out from our sordid lives and from the tortures he inflicts upon us if he already knows everything?

No, the conclusion is inescapable. God is a git.

___________

The typical recourse of apologists for divine brutality – the theological equivalent of holocaust-denial – is to appeal to the concept of Free Will.

God resembles other more humble and lesser dictators. Like them, He demands to be worshipped and to have songs sung in his praise – “Hail Hitler!” “Praise be to the Lord God!” Replace ‘Our father’ with ‘Mein führer’ and the average church service is virtually indistinguishable from a Nuremberg rally.

Despite its philosophical pretensions, this line of defence is nothing new. On the contrary, theological apologetics simply co-opts standard plea entered by all tyrants and dictators when they are each eventually and belatedly put on trial for their atrocities. Invariably and with utter predictability, they claim that they were not responsible – “It may have been done in my name,” they say, “but I was unaware of it.

In effect, they turn state’s evidence and implicate instead their unfortunate underlings and lackeys – those previously most loyal to them – a move characteristic of the lowest of criminals, of those criminals despised even by other criminals: the informer or rat.

Yet, for all its underhandedness, hypocrisy and sheer ruthlessness, even this line of defence is destined to failure.  As the sign on President Harry Truman‘s desk famously read during his term as commander-in-chief – “The Buck Stops Here”.

What applies to a President applies doubly to dictators and a thousand times over to the divine dictator himself.

We are told by Lord Acton that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Who then could be more corrupt than the all-powerful God Almighty himself?

After all, even, for the sake of argument, casting from our minds the fact that the concept of the concept of ‘free will’ has now been all but disproved by recent advances in neuroscience, quite apart from being a rather ill-defined and problematic concept in the first place, this line of defence still falls woefully short.

It was, after all, God who gave us free-will. An all-powerful, all-knowing and omnipotent God could hardly claim to be ignorant of the obvious consequences of this criminally reckless act. He is thus vicariously liable.

Besides, how are we to explain disease? How can one absolve his divine majesty of responsibility for forms of suffering inflicted by bacteria and viruses?

Attributing Free Will to dictators, sexual perverts and serial killers is one thing. Perhaps one can even go further and attribute Free Will to lions, eagles and other animal predators responsible for inflicting all sorts of cruelties on the prey whom they hunt and eat.

But disease? How can we absolve the divine dictator of responsibility for the cruelties and agonies inflicted by illness. Is one obliged to attribute Free Will and consciousness to syphilis and the smallpox virus?

___________

Yet, unlike Saddam Hussain and Slobadan Milosovitch and even Hitler himself, however, God is the greatest and most ruthless of all dictators. For only God, through his omnipotence, can claim vicarious liability for all the atrocities of every other dictator combined.

On top of this, add disease, natural disasters, earthquakes, terrorist atrocities, accidents and, above all, Acts of God.

The Divine Dictator is a clearly tyrant and despot of unparalleled proportions.

__________

Take, for example, the Second Commandment – Thou shall worship no other God

Has there ever been any clearer prescription for a totalitarian dictatorship and one-party state, lacking in the sort of effective opposition that is universally recognised as essential for legitimate constitutional government?

Likewise, if God is (as we are repeatedly told) omnipotent and all-powerful, then his rule clearly lacks the sort of checks and balances, and separation of powers which are also integral to legitimate constitutional government?

Meanwhile, punishment in hell clearly contravenes the provisions of any number of international human rights treaties and constitutional provisions.

Burning in hell for all eternity is surely cruel and unusual punishment by anybody’s standards.

__________

Indeed, in many respects, God resembles other more humble and lesser dictators.

Like them, He demands to be worshipped and to have songs sung in his praise:

“Hail Hitler!”

“Praise be to the Lord God!”

There’s not that much difference between the two when you look at it like that.

Replace ‘Our father’ with ‘Mein furher’ and the average church service is virtually indistinguishable from a Nuremberg rally.

__________

So, yes, god exists. The atheists are mistaken. What other explanation can there be for our suffering and endless torments?

God exists and so did Stalin. There is no point in trying to wish them away.

But neither are they to be worshipped by anyone save a whining masochist or cowardly collaborating sycophant, lackey or Quisling.

__________

However, erhaps, after all, we should not be surprised that God is as He is.

After all, we are told by God Himself that “God created Man in his own image”.  This then must mean that God is as much of a idiotic poltroon as we are.

Besides, what condition could be more boring than omnipotence? Being all-powerful must, after all, literally take all the fun, amusement and challenge out of life.

With omnipotence, there is no challenge, no aspiration, nothing to strive towards, no way to better oneself – in short, nothing to live for.

How then can he choose to amuse himself other than to create a world with whole races of pitiful creatures to torture and toy with? Like the spoilt child who pulls the legs off spiders.

After all, what child could be more spoilt than one blessed with immortality and omnipotence?

Lord Acton told us that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Who then could be more corrupt than the all-powerful God Almighty himself?