Sex Versus

This is the first post in a series on selfless dating. Edit October 10: added a couple of paragraphs on evolved sexual differences after reading me some David Buss.


The Times vs Sex

Oops, I think I broke sex-positivity™. Four months ago I undressed it, finding little that’s sexy or positive underneath the slogans. And today even the New York Times is out; Putanumonit is a tragic thought leader yet again.

Of course, the Times and I offer different analyses. I wrote that merely declaring a new narrative in which all consensual™ sex is positive doesn’t guarantee, and often inhibits, a positive experience for actual sex-havers.

The Times, however, is not in the business of positive experiences. It’s in the business of announcing narratives. Now that a sufficient number of millennials who’ve had bad experiences with hookup culture have been hired into the Times, their misery needs a narrative that blames it on the outgroup.

NYT quotes feminist writers explaining that a culture of sexual promiscuity and exhibitionism “caters to patriarchy and the male gaze”. Anti-porn activists write about men brainwashed by violent pornography, forcing young women to accept loveless slapping and choking in bed under the banner of sex-positivity.

Wait, young women are the demographic most into rough sex porn?
Mumble mumble false consciousness mumble

They start from the premise that men want “sex without emotion or attachment”, while women are looking for “love and commitment”. In this view men’s and women’s desires are conflicting and incompatible. This locks men and women in a zero-sum power struggle, a war engaged individually by every heterosexual person and collectively as feminism versus the sex-positive patriarchy.

Ironically, the sexual revolution of the 1960s was also framed as a rebellion against the patriarchy. Since men are by nature sexually jealous and possessive, the story went, they imposed strict sexual norms at the expense of women’s desires. These patriarchs are somehow always one step ahead, the sneaky fuckers.

We Have Always Been at War

The NYT op-ed was celebrated on Twitter by “trads” who’d normally grab an umbrella if NYT printed a sunny forecast. They often accept the premise of conflicting interests while simply shifting the blame — men lured to OnlyFans by gold diggers, or women brainwashed into delaying the marriage they ultimately crave by anti-family gender studies professors in the service of dual-income consumer capitalism.

Feminists treat sex as a reward to be withheld from men who misbehave. Trads argue that men have no interest in settling down unless granted complete authority over their wives. These are rather extreme positions, but their proponents would argue you need extreme solutions to deal with the irreconcilable conflict of desires between men and women.

Here it is in the data, the vast unbridgeable gulf between what men and women want in the realm of romance:

These data are from readers who took my survey on relationships and personality. If you’re reading this, that’s your dating pool. Surveys of other populations show similar results. Men (especially when younger) slightly prefer shorter-term casual relationships and vice versa, but overall the differences are just not that big.

There do exist real differences in mating psychology between men and women but they don’t imply mutually hostile needs. A lot of differences are complimentary. Women care much more about their partner’s income and men about age, but since men mostly get richer as they get older this works out well for everyone. Similarly both sexes have a preference for men to be more proactive in flirting and escalating to sex, and there’s also enough variance to allow shy guys and assertive gals to find each other.

Evolved differences are also constrained by society and culture. Some men want to sleep with a different stranger every night for years, and sign up for a PUA seminar. Some women want the long-term material commitment of several men at once, and start a camming channel. But most people who try this fail, and the few who succeed usually keep their success private to avoid admonishment. In fact Western society mostly has norms and laws (e.g. economic freedom for women, decriminalizing infidelity, outlawing polygamy) that reduce intersexual conflict while potentially increasing intrasexual competition.

Almost everyone else would do better not by trying to trick or coerce what they selfishly want out of reluctant members of the opposite sex, but by finding those of the other sex who want to give it to them. Almost everyone’s ideal romantic situation involves partners who want to be there, not who resent it. And yet there seems to be a great reluctance to accept this. Every time I write about dating as a game of inter-sexual cooperation I’m accused of optimistic delusion.

It’s true that my tone on this topic has perhaps been too glib, implying that this is easy. Sex-positivity™ also promised that once the barriers of puritanism are knocked down everything will be abundant and simple, and the failure of that promise is driving much of the backlash.

Dating selflessly is often unfair, painful, high variance, and much harder than it used to be. There are many reasons why people fail, although a lot of them are individually fixable and not a result of the “top 20%” stealing all your partners. And failing can feel worse than giving up and blaming the opposite sex for fucking it all up. But if you haven’t given up hope yet, stay tuned for part 2.

8 thoughts on “Sex Versus

  1. Nobody reasonable takes NYT pieces on social affairs seriously (beyond acknowledging their bullying power). Declared preferences are worth as much as Twitter virtue signalling – check out the studies examining revealed ones. The elephant in the room is the higher and increasing choosiness of one gender, a phenomenon commonly referred to by “h-word”. If low-status men could be improved to the degree of having healthy and fulfilling romantic relationships, they wouldn’t regularly post comments debunking your claims, and would happily conduct even tedious work to meet their basic human needs for validation, closeness, and intimacy.

    Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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  2. I don’t think the NYT piece was entirely wrong, it just didn’t paint the full picture. It is true that porn can be degrading, it is true that young women can be pressured into hook up culture that doesn’t make them happy, it is true that there are men pushing hook up culture. It’s just that that’s not the full story and there is more to it. And I think you are telling the basically the full story and that’s good.

    My point is just that while the NYT is often crappy, and I don’t think that article was particularly noteworthy, it’s not a piece that deserves to be harshly attacked.

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  3. Checking the blog post with the original study, you report your survey had 801 male and 256 female responders. With such a gender ratio, and assuming most people are straight, you can’t expect the results about women to be representative of the dating pool of straight men. If we expect the responders are representative in terms of preferences among the social groups of the sort of people who read your blog, then we should also expect the gender ratio to be representative, which means that most men in such social groups must find dates through different social contexts with people not represented in your survey.

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    1. I assume that my blog selects for women who are interested in Rationality or math, but it probably doesn’t select for women unusually interested in no-strings-attached hookups. So the distribution of relationships orientation of the entire dating pool of my male readers would look about the same: a lot of women looking for nobody or for casual dating in their early twenties as they’re focused on school/career and most people switching to looking for long-term relationships as they get older.

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  4. Look, it’s a market. If the mutual benefit isn’t there, it isn’t there. And it mostly isn’t there.

    It starts with violence, namely anti-sexual violence. This is how the market isn’t even a market. You have an age of consent of 18 minimum for legal paysex of any kind. Governments can’t even reform it if they wanted to, due to pitchfork-weilding dipshits who literally can’t conceptualize the difference between forced and voluntary sex.

    So when potential partners become old enough to be seen as legally and socially legitimate targets of male sexual interest, they are already past their prime. On top of that, many aren’t good-looking, and fucking ugly people is hedonistically net-negative. Of course the good-looking ones are in higher demand, which increases competition and frequency of rejection in dating or financial cost in paysex, respectively. This is on top of the natural awkwardness that just comes with dealing physically with people in close proximity. And on top of STDs. And then the result has to compete with the entire entertainment industry. There is no mystery whatsoever why so many men are opting out.

    If you could order blowjobs from loli or teenage hookers like you can order pizza today, legally and without everyone going ape-shit, it might be a nice-to-have hedonistic asset. I would then pay for it, which arguably constitutes a form of mutual benefit. With this transaction being demonized and banned, with ugly old women telling us how we deserve to be tortured and murdered for not wanting to fuck them instead, I’ll just opt out of the market.

    Women can still add value to my life by creating goods and other services I want, otherwise they can all literally die and I won’t have a reason to care. :-)

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    1. ^This is most likely (though not certainly) a false flag intended to discredit the valid criticisms of progressivism and gynocentrism that often appear here in the comment sections.

      In case this isn’t clear, I consider the comment above made by “Andaro” as genuinely hateful and creepy, and outside of the reasonable range of the Overton window. A reasonably high age of consent (as in most legal jurisdictions) is a good idea, and women – despite all the bad trends and dating dynamics confirmed by data – are not that universally bad.

      I state it from the pro-free-speech, pro-conventionally-masculine, hate-free, evidence-based blackpill perspective.

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      1. No, I don’t do false flag posts. There is also nothing hateful about my post except that I hate the pitchfork-wielders who have destroyed our sexual liberty, repeatedly used death and torture threats in their anti-sexual discourse strategies and demonized male lust.

        I don’t hate women, but I have no solidarity with people who add no value to my life or actively attack my liberties. Despite your assertion that a high age of consent is a “good idea” instead of the anti-sexual violence it really is, especially considering the ridiculously disproportionate punishments and the utter failure to even conceptualize the difference between voluntary and forced interactions. (This applies to other domains also, e.g. lists of modern forms of slavery routinely mention “child labor” but never “compulsory education” even though child labor can be perfectly voluntary while compulsory education is the closest to child slavery we currently have in the West.)

        I do see sex and even romance as transactional, and admitting that may be low-status, but I’m not optimizing for status because I’m not a hypocrite who needs to win elections. I just write comments on the internet with perfect awareness that people like me as little as I like them, which is perfectly fine.

        I will also say one thing with great pleasure: I give zero fucks about your Overton Window. “I should believe what everyone else currently believes and we should use physical violence against everyone who disagrees” is the most pathetic view on debate culture I have ever seen. I’m not saying I’m not willing to reciprocate, but at least I didn’t initiate this defection.

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