Mar. 26th, 2009

greensword: (dress to impress)
Going into the office today I walked right into the middle of an uncritical wankfest about how chicks dig bad guys because they're all insecure and they don't know what's good for them. Set my teeth immediately on edge but I didn't want to butt into anyone's personal life so I left it well alone. Then someone brought up some evo psych study that supposedly proves that this behavior would have been adaptive back in the day, and I could not keep quiet.

This is what I said, in a slightly more polite way:

1) We have no reason to believe that this phenomenon even exists. The only time I ever hear about it is from whiny-ass Nice Guys who can't deal with the fact that no one wants to date them and have to pretend like it's a problem with the women. (They never seem to get that this sort of condescension and entitlement might in fact be what's driving women away!) Yes, some women like guys who treat them badly. Some men like women who treat them badly. While we're at it, some women like women who treat them badly, some men like men who treat them badly, and some genderqueer folks like all sorts of people who treat them badly. Sensing a pattern here? The only reason there's a cultural narrative around irresistible bad boys is bias in who gets to tell their stories. I know plenty of girls who've pined after guys in terrible relationships. The difference is they generally don't feel the need to make it about all-men-ever and even if they did, they don't have the platform from which to speak about it.

2) Real "bad guys" - i.e. abusers and manipulators - do exist. And women do keep going back to them. Why? Because they are scared and feeling powerless and our society does very little to offer them support or condemn their abusers. How *dare* people even come *close* to implying that this is somehow a problem with women? God, look at that logic. Men wouldn't be bad guys if women didn't secretly like it? Men wouldn't be abusers if women didn't want them to be? Sickening.

3) And don't you pretend to hide behind the mantle of science here. I do find value in evolutionary psychology but the field has a disturbing tendency towards just-so stories. And unfortunately the field is really conservative - they start from "this is how the world is" and work backwards to figure out why that would be. Problem is that like most people their privileged, narrow worldview doesn't actually represent how the world is. Really, sometimes it seems like the main purpose of evo psych is to justify sexism.

Just goes to show what sort of biased, lazy thinking goes on even in the most prestigious places among people nominally devoted to finding truth. Well done, Harvard.

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