Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Signals Are Forever"

The usually outstanding Robin Hanson over at Overcoming Bias has a short post today about how signaling is a necessary component of any long-term relationship. In other words, one must continue to demonstrate one's values and emotions to the other person in the relationship, despite the temptation to believe that you can lay off this behavior once the couple is in a committed situation.

But even with our closest and most committed relationships (including those with women, but also those with our friends and our jobs), one cannot assume the work of signaling one's intent is ever done. Hanson:

Even if you’ve come to work in a suit and tie for twenty years, the day you come in a bathing suit, your coworkers may well suspect that your work ethic has changed. So you have to wear that suit one more day.
The really funny irony of Hanson's post, though, is that he assumes the exact wrong kind of signaling. Look at the example he gives:

A man sometimes thinks that after all he has done for a woman surely she must know he loves her and he doesn’t need to keep showing it by saying so, giving gifts, holding doors, etc. Usually such men are in for a rude awakening.
Oh Robin, Robin, Robin.

...if you don’t signal your continued love she may well conclude that your love has in fact changed. And you have to work hard enough with your signal to distinguish yourself from someone who doesn’t care as much as you.
Of course, Hanson is absolutely right that if one wants to maintain the status quo in a relationship, one must do the work of maintaining the proper signaling. But he seems to be thoroughly trained in thinking that the best way to long-term health in a relatioship with a woman is to signal "caring more than everyone else" and "giving gifts," etc.

This, of course, is the constant position of a supplicant. His "rude awakening" is in pipeline if he ever stops his supplication, because his woman has trained him to react with panic and desperate apology if she ever hints that she may exclude him from her favor.

All you readers know that I advocate a very different way of dealing with a woman (long term relationship or no). I won't go into details; the archives are full of material. But I would like to point out, despite his different ideas of what constitutes a good example of how a man needs to signal to his woman, that Hanson's central point is absolutely true.

So let's assume you are an alpha, and you've trained your woman to supplicate you rather than the other way around. Now, you may assume, like the hapless beta in Hanson's example, that once you have established a firm ground for your relationship, you can relax things a little bit. Au contraire, mes frères. You must continue signaling your dominance: gently pull her hair when you go in for a kiss, raise you voice sternly when she steps out of line, flirt shamelessly with other women in public. If you coast on your past dominance, she will gradually start to see you as beta and lose her passion (and you'll end up like the man in Hanson's example, grovelling at her feet with a box of chocolates and protestations of your loyalty).

Of course, in a way, I am saying the same thing as Hanson. He's saying the man must signal that he still loves his woman. And that's actually exactly what I am saying. I just have a different idea of what constitutes loving a woman, i.e. giving her what makes her truly happy and fulfilled, and not playing the ultimately selfish and self-aggrandizing role of the "nice guy."

Signaling is the central activity of human social interaction. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, or want to learn more, Robin Hanson is an excellent introduction to these matters. Check out the archives under "psychology" at Overcoming Bias for a good intro (and stick around and read all the other stuff too... it's very worthwhile).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mystery != Worth


...Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
-- John Keats, Lamia

Eliezer Yudkowsky over at Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong made an excellent point about this little poem fragment. As readers know, I am a fan of Keats, but I have to agree with Eliezer on this one:

You've got to admire that phrase, "dull catalogue of common things". What is it, exactly, that goes in this catalogue? Besides rainbows, that is?

Why, things that are mundane, of course. Things that are normal; things that are unmagical; things that are known, or knowable; things that play by the rules (or that play by any rules, which makes them boring); things that are part of the ordinary universe; things that are, in a word, real.

Now that's what I call setting yourself up for a fall.

At that rate, sooner or later you're going to be disappointed in everything - either it will turn out not to exist, or even worse, it will turn out to be real.

If we cannot take joy in things that are merely real, our lives will always be empty.

The wise are used to parrying all kinds of silly objections. But one of the silliest objections to the study of gender relations is that is somehow robs love of its mystery.

The argument goes like this: Love is a special thing, different from all other human interactions. And real love — and by extension, real happiness — can only come about by serendipity. The cardinal virtue is "being yourself." If you rationally observe people and make adjustments based on your observations, you are bringing the cold scalpel of the laboratory into the magical world of rainbows and unicorns. God forbid you should actually use the knife of rationality to analyze your own behavior. This is the cardinal sin of inauthenticity. Your "love" will be false and empty. So goes the argument.

Yudkowsky puts it well: all behavior is merely real. Not magical, not inherently mysterious. Everything in the world has an explanation. To some people this sounds hopelessly cold and lifeless. But it's the reality of the world. If it makes you despair, that's because you are so far wrapped up in fantasy that you can't take joy in the life all around you.

Imagine two best buddies, sitting a little way away from the campfire on a trip one night, looking up at the stars and talking about life. We've all been in this situation. The stars are numberless, stretching across the whole dome of the sky. Occasionally a metorite streaks the sparkling black expanse. The conversation turns to the vastness of the universe. They're both acutely aware of how tiny and insignificant they are in the grand scheme of things. And yet, as they talk, they are filled with fraternal feeling. The depth of the universe surrounding them is strangely invigorating. They may be infinitely tiny compared to that stretch of stars, but they also feel part of it, deeply rooted in this grand, strange universe. All they have seen is the mere stars and yet they feel more connected to each other than before.

Now imagine the same scene 3000 years ago. It probably wasn't all that different, was it? But those two buddies 3000 years ago probably thought the stars were the corpses of the gods, or the ever-watching eyes of the One God, or crystal spheres of the angels, or some other nonsense.

Today we know that those sparkling lights are what are known as stars. "Cold, rational science" has taught us that they are actually gigantic spheres of flaming gas, in which take place massive nuclear reactions at an unimaginable pace. The stars are giant nuclear reactors, turning hydrogen into helium and generating epic magnetic fields and gravititational pull. That's the "hard science" of the stars. But that doesn't make us any less awe-inspired, does it? In fact, if you are anything like me, it might make it all the more awe-inspiring.

The science behind why women and men love each other is no less explainable than the science behind why the stars shine. Our species has been around for tens of thousands of generations, and before that our heritage goes back hundreds of millions of years to the first appearance of life on Earth. It's an epic heritage, and proud, and fascinating, and awe-inspiring. Through all those years and generations, we've developed our own, special, odd way of procreating. It's beautiful, it's fucked-up, and it's real. There's nothing "cold" about it. It's the most burning thing in the world, at least to a human like me.

The grand mistake is to believe that it is the mystery that makes things worthwhile. Keats' mistake is to be depressed about the discovery of why rainbows appear. But what's so depressing about the sun's light being refracted through a million tiny droplets of water into every lovely color of which it's composed? You are seeing the very structure of sunlight itself.

If you are married to the mystery of everything, you are necessarily living not in the real world, but only inside your own small head. Ignorance is not the real source of beauty. It is the things themselves that are beautiful.

In sex and romance, it is not confusion about what they might be that makes them beautiful and desirable. They are beautiful and desirable whether or not you are ignorant about them. Understanding them deeply can only enhance their beauty. If you think that deciphering the riddle of human sexuality is somehow "inauthentic," you are left with a pallid and foggy life, lived always in fear of reality. Real authenticity is looking at the stars, knowing that they are gigantic nuclear reactors thousands of light-years away and still being humbled. Welcome to the universe.

Next time: Sex and mystery.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I Love Difficult Women

This comment thread at roissy in DC's blog got me thinking about why I love difficult women. Specifically, this post by commenter Poetry of Flesh:

And, yes, your desire to wish that the girl would provoke you at the right times so you can do such things?

That’s what I do.

It’s not being a bitch, it’s being aware of my partner. Knowing that I’m with a sexually dominant male and working off the information he gives me with his tones and body language, knowing his limits, and pushing all the buttons that would -almost- make him lose it, but never will because I’ll never go that far across his boundaries.

It gives him an excuse, gives him justification, gives him the motivation, the stimulation to do whatever the hell he wants with me.

And, if I’m lucky, it’s rough enough.

That's my kind of women. Miss Poetry, aka Visceris, has her own blog here. Seems like an interesting girl; a more self-aware and in-control (perhaps) version of some girls I have known.

In this instance, Miss Poetry is talking about goading her man into smacking her, but it applies more generally than that.

Among the many wonderful qualities of pretty, young women — beauty, liveliness, grace, curiosity, a love of adventure — so much is obviously positive. Then there are other qualities that are often considered negatives, like sassiness, petulance, and a certain pouty recalcitrance. But to me these are just as charming as the twinkling smile when she's happy. I find petulance just as attractive as grace, so long as the two can hang in some sort of balance (a woman who only pouts and never bubbles over with joy is indeed a bore).

It's a great fallacy that black is the opposite of white. Black is the complement of white. Contrast is what makes life beautiful. In fact it's what all of life is composed of. A completely blank surface is not even there until someone makes a mark on it. Human beings, especially Save-the-Earth lefties, have an odd tendency to try and scrub the world clean of contrast and struggle. But contrast and struggle are what give us meaning. The light contains the dark, and the dark contains the light. Life is full of contrast whether you like it or not, so you might as well relax and enjoy it.

Those who want to erase the difference between the sexes are trying to scrub life right out of existence. They will never know true love. And of course, they are always the most miserable people, forever at war with themselves and the very nature of the world.

I love a difficult women because she's fun. She pulls out my most masculine side, and my manliness in turn brings out her most feminine. The most vivacious, interesting, graceful women are always the same ones who can turn sassy and difficult at a moment's notice. They're alive in the way that most civilized, SWPL clones only read about in books (and then, only if they read the classics, since characters in modern novels are usually sad shadows of authentic humanity).

I'm thinking of a particular young girl I know, "Sylvia," 23 years old, spanish blood and a daddy's princess at heart. She is the most jealous, pouty creature I know, but might just be one my very favorites. She can laugh open and honestly, with real unadulterated happiness. She can turn tenderhearted at the drop of a hat when she sees a child or small creature in need (and her tenderness has none of the holy posturing that most liberal "concern" for the less fortunate has; only a pure, self-forgetting desire to alleviate the suffering immediately). She is loving and graceful in bed (and wild, and uninhibited).

When she gets difficult, I get mean. Sometimes playfully cruel, sometimes quite harsh. And, though she will pout for a bit, she loves it. Afterwards, always, she clings all the harder for it. That dynamic has been explored again and again on PUA and evo-psych blogs. But I want to point out that the woman is not the only one that loves that dynamic. Men love it, too. And so, in a way, I am grateful to Sylvia when she pisses me off with her childish recalcitrance. She helps set in motion the dynamic that leads us both to more fun, more passion, and epic fuck-fests.

It's a sad, sad truth that many people who read this will find in my portrait of Sylvia the picture of an airheaded, unfulfilled and unfulfilling girl. Because she's not a hard-charging, take-no-shit, careerist cunt. Because she doesn't go around ironically laughing at low-culture people while she munches on her organic free-range acaí berry granola. The poor, lifeless, bitter and grey-minded will accuse her of not standing up for herself. Of being a "doormat." I assure you nothing could be further from the truth. Sylvia is far more alive than most American women I know, and curious about the world in the way an Ivy degree could never make you. But feminism has so deeply poisoned everything good about women (the grand irony is that it has hurt women most deeply of all, sucked from them the possibility of real, authentic happiness), that when confronted with a real woman, the feminist goes into a defensive crouch. She is like an astroturf salesman trying to convince you that a wild mountain meadow isn't green enough.

Women out there reading this who have considered acting more girly, give it a shot. Chances are, if you are American, it's already far too late for you. Any refreshing girliness you try to contrive will be forced and grotesque, like 40 year old women learning to pole dance for their impotent husbands. And probably your beta boyfriend's attempt to "man up" in response (if he's not too terrified to try) will be just as sad. But for those of you who haven't completely quashed and repressed the feminine inside you, nurture it. It's there to make your man happy, and to make you happy too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sprezzatura

A friend of mine used to sigh "Life is one of the hardest" anytime he encountered failure. And he was right. No matter how well off you were born, how successful you are and how positive your overall constitution, there are always up and down days.

And that's not a bad thing. In "Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives" my fellow scientist David Eagleman describes an alternate universe in which human lives are divided into the same periods of time as ours: 30 years of sleep, 200 days in the shower, 18 days staring into the refrigerator and so on. Yet, while we constantly parcel and mix these things up, the people in the other universe have to go through them sequentially. The only difference between the bored people life's in the ficticious world and ours is frequent change.
We need the ups and downs of life, otherwise we get bored.

But, there are different ways to deal with hardship.

You can sigh and frown and worry, or you can see it as a game and not lose your wit.

Women are magically drawn to men who seem to have an easy life. Men who constantly smirk, wittily joke and brush off anything that might hurt their ego. Women prefer men who are optimistic and determined over guys who carefully weigh all the options. Female sexual instincts get triggered by easy-going, "here I come" bad boys who take life less seriously than others, because not being weighed down by sorrow and visibly being depressed means you are coping well.

And Sprezzatura is the art of remaining this way on the outside even when the shit hits the fan:

"A certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it. The ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance."

It's one of the most alpha traits there are.

And it's the essence of glamour - the promise of a way out (to a better life, a golden world).

It's a skill. It is something one can learn. And it is one of the manly triats that people get motivated to get into their repertoire since women like it, yet (once you achive it) it affects your entire life.

Never let them see you sweat.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to become well endowed

No, this is not going to be a plug for "male enhancement". But much like the male insecurities that modern day hoaxers prey upon, the endowment effect I'll be talking about is all in your head.

The "endowment effect" is a cognitive bias that is as common as the need for sex - and the reason for this is that we all fall for it.

Realizing when you do can help you prevent doing irrational things that will hurt you in the long run. And realizing when others do can help you use it to your advantage. Scientia potentia est!

Imagine you bought an expensive bottle of wine. Or tickets to a superbowl game. Or you lay a woman who you invited to a series of three upscale dinner dates. Imagine another guy got all these things for free. Who do you think will gain greater enjoyment out of the experience?

The answer is probably not that surprising. The more you pay for wine, the more you'll think of it as excellent. People who buy more expensive tickets tend to believe they just watched an amazing game. And guys who pay for sex and relationships value more what they get in return. Our need to feel good about ourselves is bigger than our need to see the truth. We cannot admit to ourselves that we overpaid, so we just bend the reality and believe that we got something special instead.

The endowment effect is a derivative of our tendency to attribute higher value to things we achieved the hard way (no matter their actual value). It just goes one step further:
"Endowing" is the (irrational) tendency to value things you own more than things you do not (yet) own.

This error of thought is so popular, it even made its way into a figure of speech:
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

This belief is so nonsensical it became the object of interest for economists, psychologists, social scientists and primatologists alike. It is a very powerful effect. Yet, unlike other cognitive biases such as social proof, it never made it into sales or PUA tactics.

But what does it mean for social dynamics?

Relationships have a strong "owning" component to them. Men like to "own" a woman completely in order to ensure the monopoly of insemination. Women crave a man's commitment as a way to get a hold of his child rearing resources.
And the moment we start seeing another person as our own, we are prone to fall for the fallacy.

This is the reason why some couples cling together while everyone around them realizes that they are as good a fit as a fist in a nostril. People attribute their partners higher value merely by being with them.

It is easy to think of ways to use this effect to your advantage. Briefly opening as many sets as possible in the beginning of the night, for example, can get you much more attention (and action) later on when the atmosphere gets somewhat more heated up. And once you join a woman's life, there will be less need to hide any flaws.

But maybe more importantly, you will profit from constantly checking yourself for signs of "endowing". The mere fact that men typically approach while women remain passive, for example, seems to bend the laws of attraction (women get less choosy if they are the ones who are forced to approach).

And since Life=Game this will be another valuable skill in your arsenal. Once you get the hang of avoiding this fallacy with women, you might look at at that old job/car/house of yours with very different eyes...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Accidental Alpha

"Humans compete less for territory than for rank. Territory and possessions are only symbols of rank. The attention of the tribe is a kind of psychic territory ... He who controls the attention is high status and sexually attractive."
[J. Quirk - It's not You, It's Biology]

Every human interaction creates a power imbalance.

It's inevitable. Any moment humans meet both sides need to decide if and for how long to make eye contact. If people get close by, they need to adjust their interpersonal space. Minute changes in posture signal the mind state we are in whether or not we engage in direct interaction. And if we do, the semantic content of our words and the tonality of our voice will adjust to match our unconscious decision if it is better to respectfully appease or to aggressively push the person to get what we want.

Take this masterful painting by Canaletto, for example, and study the mere body language of the people depicted in the scene (his baroque paintings have the exact right amount of sparseness to study his amazingly naturalistic portrayal of inter-individual interactions):


Let's focus on some highlights and play "Who's the alpha?":

Easy. The woman is more dominant by her natural status (although kids like to challenge) and you can see that reflected in her open and somewhat aggressive body language. Note how she exposes her chest and the way she looks down to them from the side. The kids (literally) look up to her and turned their bodies to face her directly. It's a plea for attention that she seems to grant somewhat unwillingly.




Easy. The guy on the left tries to sell some gross looking stuff and the customers do not seem to be that interested. He leans in to the degree that he almost bows in front of them and spreads his arms in disarmed, friendly fashion (as if capitulating or seeking a hug). The guy with the hat is facing the alpha the same way the kids did above, and leans in to demonstrate his need of approval. The alpha stands straight, faces neither of the betas and manages to take up space without even spreading his arms. His look his contemplative and focused. His demeanor evokes a majestic of air of presence.


More interesting. At first sight, the guy facing us is bigger and more aggressive seeming than the guy facing away from the observer. Yet, he is the one leaning in, while the other guy leans out and seems undeterred. The giveaway, are the crossed arms. The guy whose face we don't see is closed up, minimizing his personal space. Compare that to the open chest and relaxed arms of his adversary. The big guy is the alpha and his leaning in is a threatening gesture. The leaning out of his conversation partner is a defensive reaction.

These are just a few examples, of course. Each of the people in this painting convey high or low social status in similar ways.

Man and women equally respond to these invisible forces of social dynamics. People might follow or challenge the dominant status of a man taking the lead.
Yet, women throw sexual attraction into the mix, and that changes things drastically. It creates positive feedback loops of ever increasing social status (and sexual attractiveness) in men.

And this is how accidental alphas come about.

I have observed this on several occasions. A random, average guy with low status demeanor gets the attention of a girl. Typically this will be because the woman got upset about something (such as an alpha guy demonstrating disinterest). The girl then proceeds to boost up her self-esteem by having a lesser guy salivating all over her. Other girls will become aware of her new attentional focus and (hello social proof!) will inevitable get interested in the putative object of female desire. And the more girls run over, stand close or even start talking to that dude, the more he becomes the focus of increasingly horny women. Eventually, he will be dragged home by one of the female pursuers.

Of course, the guy will wonder the next day how he "got lucky" to "score" a "fool's mate". He might try to repeat anything he did that night, but it won't happen again. The women, too, might wonder why they fell for someone "so not their type". All sides will then happily agree that it was "random" or "hormonal" or come up with other rationalizations, blindly missing the strong invisible hand that guided their behavior that night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eskimo Swingers

One of my first big Aha experiences about how biology in the form of evolutionarily ingrained genetic programs shapes human culture was back at college, five minutes into an anthropology class on Inuit tribes.

The teacher explained to us that some Inuit had adapted to their dire circumstances by being ultra-nomadic.
Instead of small tribes traveling together these groups literally consist of just a man and his wife (as well as their offspring) traveling together through the icy wilderness.

This adaptation makes sense since any larger group of humans would not be able find enough food within the same area to survive. But that is not the biological adaptation I am talking about.

In order to find out about the somewhat more interesting way Inuit have adapted to their environment, you would have to become their guest. Just like many other Nomadic tribes, Inuit pride themselves in being excellent hosts. They sure would offer you food and a warm shelter - and later that night the wife would crawl into your bed and have sex with you.

What might seem as a somewhat extreme form of hospitability makes a lot of sense to in the face of evolution. Inuit, being isolated from each other for most of their lives run into the danger of a genetic bottleneck (aka inbreeding). By marrying repeatedly between the same few families living clode by, there is not enough influx of novel, diverse alleles into their local gene pool to avoid common biological disasters such as a single virus wiping out the entire tribe. This creates a need for some genetic mixture. Hence the swinging (which is not unheard of in other indigenous cultures as well).

Why would a man stand this? Are the Inuit fishermen all omega-ized males with a cuckold fetish?

This is where the story becomes interesting.

For Inuits have come up with a bizarre heritage law (and one of the greatest examples of how genes influence behavior): Instead of passing on stuff to their kids, a man's goods will preferably be passed on to the children of his sister.

Given ther thing for swinging, Inuit men suffer from a severe form of paternity insecurity. All of his own kids might have been fathered by guys like you and me visiting for a night. The percentage of genes that are his in this generation could be zero.

Yet, he knows that his siblings will have about 50% of his own genes since they share the same (swinging) mum. And under any circumstances his sister's kids will be related to him as well. In fact, these are the only kids around where he can be certain that they are genetically related since even his brother's kids might be the product of foreign passer-throughs. Thus, he will happily support his nephews and nieces even at the expense of his own kids.

Note that there is a high chance that some of his own kids are his indeed (and therefore share 50% of genetic material with him). Yet, the genetic programs shaping his decisions multiply that by the probaility that they are of alien paternity - and he rather goes for the safe, secure strategy of supporting the kids that he knows are at least somewhat related.

It is as if the genes in his body, using him as a mere vehicle to get into the next generation by shaping his decisions "understand" that there is a need for genetic variability and therefore embrace his sister banging random strangers so he can invest in their common, genetically superior offspring. And (thanks to genetci programing) this is his preferred strategy even if there might be children of his own wo will suffer from this practice and the cultural consequences.

This behavior might seem strange to us, but we all are steered by the very same mechanisms that push us to survive and to procreate. These are very strong imperatives and failure to obey them can lead to catastrophic consequences for a group or individuals. How exactly DNA gets translated into complex behavior such as these is still completely mysterious to (neuro)science. Yet, there is few doubt that we all dance to the same tunes. Culture adapts to environmental changes in biologically reasonable ways. Our society changes all the time, and any major change on the mating market will be counteracted with behavioral adaptations such as the one highlighted above. In this sense we have yet to see what the massive changes in the sexual dynamics over the last decades have done to us.
For starters, selling DNA paternity kids to Eskimos might be a good business idea.

[Disclaimer: I am neither an anthropologist nor an ethnologist, so take with a grain of salt]

Monday, June 8, 2009

In the Land of the Blind...

Have you ever heard of Parkinson's Law?

Well, you should. If you ever were or are part of any organization - be it corporate America, the government or the local Swinger's club - you will have encountered its end result: the ridiculously needless, nonsensical tasks we all loathe.

And what started out half tongue in cheek has recently been scientifically proven: bureaucracies are unstoppable, ever expanding monsters that often exist for their own sake only.

But, what's even more interesting about the inventor of the law, Cyril Northcote Parkinson (even names were manlier back then), are his ideas on optimal group size.

Based on quantitative historical studies on the makeup of England's highest council of state, he concluded that beyond about 20 members, groups become structurally unable to come to consensus.

And, indeed, according to the CIA world fact book the highest executive bodies of most countries have between 13 and 20 members. And, somewhat more mysteriously, there is a particular number of decision-makers that stands out from the trend as being truly, spectacularly bad, tending with alarmingly high probability to lead to deadlock: eight.

It seems like humans like to gather in groups of more than five but less than twenty people. Groups of eight being the only exception.

It's not just committees and governments. Most team sports seem to follow this rule. So does table size at your favorite restaurant.

And I would be damned if there is not a biological reason for it.

Maybe non-surprisingly, social psychologists are all over the "Does size matter?" question when it comes to teamwork. The numbers they come up with vary drastically, yet by-and-large they all fall in the range highlighted above.

As one psychologist explained it to me during a recent dinner conversation:
"It's like we have a preference for groups of about a dozen people.
With groups this size, there will always be a king who is able to rule the crowd.
With larger groups, splinters will form. And each of them will come up with a prince.
And the princes will rival for the position of king. That dynamic is disruptive to the cohesive process."

It doesn't take much to come up with a "just-so" story of adaptations to ideal prehistoric group size in hunter-gatherer societies. But be as it may, this data suggests that humans grant an alpha male a kingdom comprising 5-20 people. Once his following gets larger, they will seek out "more direct" superiors who then become potential threats.

This has important implications to any man working on an improved life style. Whether it is about founding your own company or going out with a bunch of buddies.

Social status is relative.

An alpha in one group might easily get beta-ized in another. If you strive to become "more alpha", you need to take your environment into account (and chose wisely/accordingly).

Life is all about choosing battles. By creating a living environment that abides to the laws of biology you can avoid a lot of conflict.
Know when you are a prince and when you are a king, and the power is all yours.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Last Orgasm of Your Life

Every time I enter Starbucks (or one of its alternatives) I think of Vienna at the turn of last century. Vienna functioned as the focus point of a cataclysm of cultural and political events that have changed our lives and thinking forever during one of the most exciting times in the history of mankind.

In the years leading up to the glorious time of "coffee house culture" a rapid succession of technological inventions (such as cars, telephones as well as wireless transmission) started creating the "modern life" we know today.

Science made crucial breakthroughs during that time, rapidly shifting away from the "well-behaved" Newtonian physics toward the counter-intuitive descriptions of Quantum physics and Relativity. The world seemed to get turned upside down.

The fine arts discovered whole new worlds as well. Paintings moved away from photographic depictions of the outer world toward increasingly abstract expressions of the inner world of artists. Classic music likewise explored new realms and its absolute limits by becoming "atonal". Things that were literally unheard of.

And unsurprisingly, philosophers and cultural theorists of all color tried to cope with this barrage of new developments (partly because they sensed that amidst this time of general upheaval some dark political ideas were brooding to dominate coming decades). Many of our modern day philosophers can be tied back to the Vienna Circle one way or another.

The results was a vibrant intellectual life centered around the famous coffee houses were all the central European writers, painters, politicians, scientists, philosophers of the time gathered to discuss their ideas while enjoying a cup of Joe.

This tradition died as quickly as it came about. Many intellectuals soon had to flee continental Europe to escape the terrors of fascism or communism and got dispersed all over the world. There will always be cities with the appeal of Paris. Tokyo, London or New York where intellectuals can accumulate to a critical mass. Yet, this is the era of the "trend". Once a place is hip, it is on its way down. And coffee shops have turned from vibrant argorae into archipelagos of isolated people staring into their MacBooks. There will never be a turn-of-the-century Vienna again.

But there are some places which keep up the tradition of public discourse over a cup of tea or a glass of beer. And if done right, these occasions can be very enjoyable.

Some years ago I regularly hung out at a bar that hosted a bi-weekly panel discussion between two (academic) philosophers. It always started out as an interactive interview, followed by an open discussion with the (increasingly drunk) audience. There was a DJ who spun some loungy acid jazz during the breaks, and all the grad school chicks dressed "sexy librarian" style (who made up the vast majority of the audience) would try hard to dance off their intellect-inspired sexual arousal after the event.

One night the topic was "The meaning of Life".

The speaker had just published an epitome on the topic. The book seemed twice the size of the bible. The organizers refrained form stacking more than one exemplar on the table in front of the speakers since it would have obstructed the view.

The interviewer began his spiel about the author's background and accomplishments, went on joking about the size of the book and eventually passed on the mic with the expected:
"... so what is the meaning of life?"

Silence.

"Have you guys seen the movie by Monty Python?" the philosopher replied.

General nodding.

"Well, frankly, I have nothing to add to that." he continued. Then he stood up and walked out. He didn't return.

The dancing started earlier that night and the girls seemed less turned on than usual.

Maybe he was right. Maybe the movie captures it all indeed.
Maybe there is no meaning to life. Maybe there is no purpose to it either.
But for sure there is a reason.

And sex has a lot to do with it.

After all, we all are here because all living organisms leading up to tried hard to have sex, and were successful at it. From a biologists point of view, life is nothing but a long series of gametes passing from one generation to the next (with slight modification). Each individual, each organism, you and me - we all (are designed to) serve one purpose: to keep the whole thing going by passing on our gametes to the next generation.

Accordingly, Biologists see us as nothing but "disposable somas", "vehicles" for our genes to extend their existence throughout space-time.

And nothing exemplifies this fact more than the fact that men often ejaculate shortly before they die.

It's almost like your genes, trapped deep inside your body desperately try to find a final way out now that your prospects for regular sexual reproduction rapidly approach zero.

It's as if the genes - ultimately steering your behavior in the direction of reproduction - cannot allow you to even miss out on the ridiculously small chance that a female will pick up your last semen and impregnate herself with it (and no, I do not believe that this is due to previous revolutionary pressures).

The effect is so strong that strangling had even been used as a treatment as a treatment for erectile dysfunction and impotence.

Near death ejaculation was well known in Medieval Ages (people attributed all kinds of things to the semen of publicly executed men), and nicely captured in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot:
Estragon: What about hanging ourselves?
Vladimir: Hmm. It'd give us an erection.
Estragon: (highly excited). An erection!
Vladimir: With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That's why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?
Next time someone tells you that "life is not just about sex", keep in mind that even death is (in a sense).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life = Game

There is a part in Neil Strauss' life changing book where he writes about his realization that the "techniques" he learned to seduce women work in everyday life as well:

"After eighteen months in the seduction community, not only had my dating life improved exponentially, so had my professional life."



Well, it is not a coincidence that so much of the PUA terminology lends from marketing and sales theory (such as "building rapport", "closing the deal") - sex happens on a market place as any other where the rules of supply and demand, advertisement efforts, and even fraud and deception come to full fruition.

And in a sense this is true for social interactions in general.

Hence, by learning how to woo women a man will learn to woo people in general.

And he will get very good at it, because women are the toughest case. There is to much at stake for her genes to lose it all to a biologically unfit partner. Accordingly, female brains got hardwired during evolution to see right through the scams and shams.

I've recently picked up a book that was mentioned somewhere on roissy's blog. It is called "Winning through intimidation" by Robert Ringer.

The book is not an intellectually pleasing read, actually. The "philosophical" horizon of Ringer seems to start and end at Ayn Rand. What's worse - she also seems to have inspired (more like: heavily influenced) his prose. Yet, there is something very appealing to his down-to-earthness and simple, clear language when he touches on the subjects of successful living and of social dynamics.

Ringer, having been a successful salesman all his life - realized that what works in business works in life in general (and vice versa, of course, as stated above):

"Almost any situation in life can be classified as a "sales" situation."

And from what it sounds like he had been a hard working man for most of his life. He was eager to succeed. He thought hard work and the right kind of (positive) mental attitude are the key to the golden palace.

Most men think this way.

Our instinct makes us strive for ever increasing social status and the symbols that come with it - after all this is what primate males get selected for. On top of that, society has massive interested in men slaving away in the vain hope for (poon-filled) Elysium. Especially so, if you do not insist on taking credit for what you have accomplished.

Thus, you will earn approval and friendly shoulder padding from your environment for being such a great role model of an ever modest workaholic. This makes men feel good. Unless they realize that they are mistaking social approval (and ever higher positions) with an increase in the actual social pecking order (as expressed in interpersonal dominance).

Ringer writes about an epiphany he had one day. He wasn't happy about the way his input-output equation seemed titled to the left (again, keep in mind that this is not just about business). He observed the "winners", and realized that it is less about hard work and constant smiling than being prepared to do the right thing at the crucial points in time - the few times that opportunity is knocking. He adjusted his strategy accordingly, and he became a happy man.

Note that this not mean that you can stop working hard. It would be nice if we would live in a universe where mere thought can produce whatever we want. But we clearly don't. There is no such thing as getting something for nothing. And there never will be. Yet, hard work alone is the smallest factor in the equation that constitutes success.

And as for the power of "positive mental attitude" - he righfully notices that you "will get nowhere unless you have the ammunition to back it up." Forget standing in front of the mirror telling yourself that you are the shit as a means to become more confident (with women or otherwise). True confidence comes from "being prepared, by understanding the realities of what it takes to succeed, and by being good at the necessary techniques."

Ringer emphasizes the "understanding the realities" part more than anything else. The reason is, as Master Dogen put it, that rational agents should win.

The correct "positive mental attitude" is the complete opposite of wishful thinking.

And this includes a realistic expectation about failure.

Even if you are perfectly prepared in terms of skill, the harsh reality of life is that there is no such things as a guarenteed outcome. There is always a chance of failure. More so, in most scenarios, there is a high chance of consecutive failure - even if you do everything right. There are just too many factors outside of your control. Ringer's solution is simple:

"Acknowledge the reality that most deals simply don't close."

In other words - "assume a negative result".

Does that mean that a defeatistic attitude is what will get you ahead?

No, of course not.

As with the hard work, you cannot assume that anything comes from nothing. You need to be prepared for success. Yet, assuming that short term failure is part of long term success can help sustain a "winner" attitude despite life's frequent lashes.

Real champs know. This directly applies to many aspects of life outside of business deals.

Monica vs. Hillary

Few man toys come close to a perfect pair of boobs. Some ingenious little devices can do the trick, however. Pleasure-wise, I get a lot of mileage out of gadgets such as the iPod touch, for example.
My latest source of joy: The Kindle application. It provides the ingenious idea of reading books wherever you are without the need of buying the expensive (and somewhat oversized) epaper device sold by Amazon.com.

The first book I downloaded was a recommendation from a friend: "It's not you, it's biology."

The book provides no new insight into the various evopsych theories of mate choice and romantic love. We all know that women seek out bad boys, yet ultimately want commitment while men want variety and fear cuckoldry. So when it comes to sex we are all sneaky.

Yet, the witty, colloquial language and the occasional aphorism makes it fun to read - especially when flipped through on a long commute or train ride on a device that also provides a shuffled mix of your favorite music.

One chapter in particular caught my interest: It's about "what women want".

None surprisingly, the author does not differentiate well between "interpersonal dominance" and the "position" held by a man (David Buss' studies emphasizing earning power rather than earning prospect are partly to blame).
As a result, he overemphasizes the role of status symbols such as suits, cars and money. And As I pointed out before, this is a mainstream group think fallacy. Anyone who's good with women knows that money is a poor vag moisturizer compared to social dominance. I was surprised that a few pages later he gets to the same conclusion (somewhat self-contradictory):
"In all species with pair-bonds, females are attracted to evidence that males display a chance for power in the community." (emphasis mine)

He goes further:
"Female(s) ... seem pretty good at predicting which males will rise to social dominance."

Followed by:
"Either female seductresses magically cause males to become alphas, or female attraction has predictive power."

This is worth thinking about for a minute, since it actually is conceivable that increased female attraction early on is part of what differentiates alphas from betas thanks to a positive feedback loop. Guys who got seduced early and often will need no "fake-it-till-you-make-it" phase later in life.

Yet, there is also good reason to believe that women are closer to talent scouts than accountants when it comes to assessing male power.

To put it in the words of Joe Quirk:
"Why can't females just sleep with today's top dog? ...
Older male primates usually have the social standing to control (resources), yet soon they will get too old to maintain that standing and support their children
"

This makes sense in species where an alpha's reign is short lived. Young fertile females will have a preference for the ambitious young and upcoming rival ("Hillary strategy") rather than for the old depreciating asset of a wealthy old man ("Monica strategy"). And what this means is:

"Female(s) are attracted to power, but even more so to signs of potential power."

Of course, in our society things get complicated by the fact that the resources of a fallen alpha might still end up with his long term mate. Hence, it is no surprise that there are women who marry unattractive rich men. But when it comes to the moistness between the legs, women will gravitate towards guys who "have got what it takes" rather than those "who have got".

[The consequences of this becoming common knowledge would be disastrous to society. We all live of the hard work and constant effort of polite, law-abiding beta males who believe that their only way to quality women is via a hard earned career and money. If these men would quit amassing positions and start acquiring interpersonal dominance skills instead we'd soon suffer as a whole.]

The book contains some more gems such as:
"An owner of a dating service observed that men look at the photos and women read the resumes (hint,hint). Twenty-something women were the choosiest of all. After that, standards drop, when women claim they grow up and give up on girlish dreams of a knight in shining armor. Well, younger women can afford to have ambitions for a knight in shining armor, because knights in shining armor are competing for them."

Other observations such as that a woman in underwear is arousing because her fertility becomes visible while a man in underwear is funny because he got stripped of status symbols will make a lot of sense to the avid reader of this and the befriended blogs. It is refreshing to read an amused and amusing take on the gender divide and how our intuition and folk-lore when it comes to love and sex collides with the reality of animalistic instincts shaped by evolutionary pressures. It can get too depressing at times thinking about where all of this combined with some of the gifts of "modern life" might lead us to.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Case of the Female Orgasm


Evolutionary theory predicts a lot of things when it comes to sexuality, but female orgasms are definitely not among them. You can come up with all kinds of ideas of how an orgasmic vulva might help a female increase her biological fitness, but the problem with that is that:
"no study has ever established a reliable link between a woman's orgasmic capabilities and her fertility or fecundity."


Does that mean that the female orgasm has no biological function at all?

Maybe so.
Maybe not.

What these studies fail to measure are the actual fitness of women who are completely anorgasmic, lightly orgasmic or hyper-orgasmic. Fertility is just one of the factors that goes into that equation.

Other variables include the type of men these women are able to attract (since men get turned on by expressiveness, it seems likely that they prefer wildly squirting multiple climaxers over anorgasmic women). And there may also be an direct benefit of pleasure on biological fitness.

What are the practical implications?

This is an interesting question.

If the female orgasm has no biological function whatsoever (including pair-bonding) indeed, then Roosh is right: It doesn't matter if she orgasms or not.
His observation that women will return to "get more" whether or not he made sure they climaxed or not is interesting, if not revealing.

Yet, I can see similarly plausible arguments for the assumption made in the essay "How Feminism destroyed Real Men" by Nirpal Dhaliwal, as featured in a recent post by alphadominance:
"The female orgasm is the natural mechanism by which men assert dominion over women: a man who appreciates this can negotiate whatever difficulties arise in his relationships with them."
This assumption is backed up by the observation that women often assert they leave nice guys for their sexual inabilities (and vice versa about what is so appealing about getting fucked roughly by an alpha male).

I am interested in your opinion/experience.