Friday 22 October 2010

Inverted boasting and the profound psychosis of modernity


Boasting is bad - although nearly everyone is prone to it.

But the content of a boast can be revealing.

There is rational boasting, which is boasting about something that is spontaneously desired, that you have and others have not; and there is that psychotic phenomenon of inverted boasting about that which is spontaneously despised, and which anyone could have easily - if only they could degrade themselves enough.

(I am using 'psychotic' to mean pathological, irrational, without reality-testing, going-against adaptiveness, and un-understandable at the individual level). 


I first came across inverted boasting in my teens among young men who bragged about getting drunk, and of what happened when they did. I found this puzzling, and hardly knew what to say. Anyone could get drunk, it simply involved drinking too much. What was there to boast about? except that most people preferred to refrain from it for most of the time.

In the past people got drunk, but either kept quiet about it, or were ashamed. What was there to boast about, after all? Anyone can put fluid inside their body.

Presumably, the willingness to boast about something so facile was related to displaying a disdain for 'social pressures' - and a product of moral inversion.

In modernity, moral inversion is taken as a sign of moral superiority, of being able to 'see through' the shams and pretenses of society. 

So that public figures whose major accomplishment is getting drunk are famous for the fact, and serve as fantasy figures of liberation.


In terms of sex it is a standard element of evolutionary psychology that (because they get pregnant and invest far more into the offspring - both before and after birth) women are the shortage sex - men court and women choose.

At a crude biological level, men (like many other primates) trade and invest resources for sex. Women trade sex for resources. That is - to some extent - the way that human minds have evolved, and accounts for the spontaneous morality differing between men and women.

So it is rational (although despicable) for men to boast about promiscuity - having sex without investing resources (sex without strings); and for women to boast about getting resources without giving sex.

Traditionally (as it were) nasty men boast about their string of conquests and how they did not even buy the woman a meal and left her straight afterwards; nasty women boast about how they have a string of men buying them expensive gifts, meals, treats, holidays - and how they give them nothing in return - not even a kiss.


In nothing is the psychosis of modernity more apparent that the inverted boasting by which women, the shortage sex - and indeed young and healthy women - boast about giving-away sex, about offering sex without strings.

For young women to give away sex without strings is about as difficult as it would be for a man to give away diamonds. In brutal cash terms, the young women are giving away something worth many hundreds of dollars - and then boasting about it, as if it were some kind of achievement!

Of course, there have always been women of this general sort. Women who liked sex so much, or had such weak self-control, that they were prepared to risk their reputation, risk their health and survival, to get the kind of sex that they wanted.

But in the past promiscuous women kept this behavior quiet, because they knew how other people would regard this; and how this kind of behaviour becoming widely known would ensure that the woman would never get a good husband.


But of course it is not just about dollars - because a woman known to offer sex without strings is a prostitute, and among prostitutes the pecking order comes from the fee charged. To be an unpaid prostitute is to be the lowest form of an already-degraded occupation. 

Yet in modernity women boast about this.

In nothing is the psychosis of modernity more apparent that - somehow - women are induced to boast about something which anybody could do (I mean any young healthy woman) simply by choosing. It does not even require effort - just saying yes. It is pushing at an open door, the only barrier being that few could (or would want to ) degrade themselves to do it.  

Perhaps the only skill is in reassuring the recipient of the gift that it really is a gift, that the woman really is offering sex-without-strings. This is hard for men to believe, they naturally suspect some kind of trick or scam; but the whole thing is made easier by intoxication - and intoxication is a near-universal in modern social interactions.


What are they actually boasting about is that - by giving away sex - they can have sex with attractive men, they get to choose (within a reasonably large range) to whom they will give free sex.

They get to choose upon whom they bestow this (biologically) immensely valuable thing, something in extremely short supply.  Well, yes... if a man was giving away 500 dollar bills, he could no doubt choose some attractive women who would help him spend them. That is not the point.

Of course you get more choice in bestowing a gift than in selling the same product.


What seems to be the point is to advertise ones liberation from blah blah blah.

To demonstrate one's moral sophistication.

To demonstrate girl power, the power of women over men.

(What irony! - the 'power' to bestow casually and for free what men will pay a lot to get, pay even with their lives to get!).

After all, if sex is fun - who has the right to stop me doing it? What more is there to say?


Drink and sex are surely related in modernity. Evolved instinct makes it extremely difficult for normal women to give away sex-without-strings - and to get into a state where this can be accomplished usually requires intoxication.

So intelligent, healthy young women are getting used-to getting helplessly drunk, and encouraging each other in this; and this helps them achieve the degradation of offering free sex - which they then boast about. 

Having done it, then whether the act is repented, concealed or boasted-of depends substantially on social attitudes - especially attitudes of the female peer group (since that is what matters most to women, even more than to men).

Whatever; it seems that women are now in situation of the most extreme moral inversion, the most extreme going-against evolved spontaneous instinct (to say nothing whatsoever of Christian morality) that is conceivable.

A social situation where intelligent, young, health women find that they can get what superficially appears to be prestige for being boldly-degraded, for publicly and self-destructively seeking short term pleasure regardless of cost or context.


A visiting Martian biologist would immediately recognize that there must now be, at some level, a profound psychosis at work in modernity - in generating such widespread female behavior that is such a gross violation of such a powerful evolved instinct.



Dennis Mangan said...

Alternatively, we could say that "such widespread female behavior" is *not* "a gross violation of such a powerful evolved instinct." Normally, scientists invent "paradoxes" to reconcile findings seemingly at odds with each other, e.g. the French paradox allegedly describes the fact that the French have a high fat diet yet get less heart disease - the obvious solution being that dietary fat doesn't cause heart disease. In this case, the the solution is that women enjoy sex, so long as the men are attractive, and the modern technology of birth control, along with urban anonymity, allows them to do so without many consequences. The women are still choosing, it's just that they're choosing multiple men.

Anonymous said...

Mangan is right. Having sex with an attractive partner, unlike handing out $500 bills, is enjoyable in itself. Loose women aren't giving away something for nothing; they're making a trade-off, choosing sex over money. Since it's quite easy for a woman to be financially independent these days, meaning that they simply don't need a man's resources as much as they used to, it's not clear that the trade-off is necessarily an irrational one.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dennis - I know that people say what you have summarized as an explanation - but I am pointing out that they are wrong!

They are wrong essentially because of Trivers theory of parental investment - which is well supported:

Bruce Charlton said...

@wmjas - You are inadvertently slipping into selective blank slate-ism, by picking among the evolved instincts.

Instincts are many, and they conflict.

The main outlines of evolved human sexual behavior have been analyzed and explained pretty thoroughly.

Why is sex enjoyable? - natural selection. Why do women like sex with high status men? - natural selection. Why do women (and men) routinely over-ride their impulses to do enjoyable things regardless of longer term consequences? - natural selection. Why do women intrinsically not advertise their casual promiscuity? - natural selection.

Of course we can over-ride instinct, especially one instinct (e.g. to seek perceived peer approval) can over-ride another (aversion from public casual sex); but we must note that over-riding is what is happening.