Dr. Isis the Scientist at On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess, has written an open letter to our sister, Zuska, regarding (in part) the exchanges between my Sbling and myself. Dr. Isis points out that she has had a long term academic interests in breasts, which is primarily political and pragmatic as it turns out. I would like to point out that I may be one of the only people involved in this conversation who has an actual research related interest in the unique phenomenon of the human female pendulous breast, but that is an entirely different story. I very strongly recommend Dr Isis’s post, and the rest of this post is a response to that, so you must go and read Dr Isis first.

But be warned. She has breasts on her site, presumably to distract and thus control certain male readers:

I myself did not look specifically at the breasts. I looked at the picture and thought “Renaissance fair …. why is someone sending me a link on Renaissance Fairs?” (Breasts don’t do anything for me, but if they are really large and suddenly swing into view with a lot of fanfare I tend to laugh spontaneously.)

OK, back to the point: Isis has written a thought provoking and important post. My belief regarding Sister Zuska in this matter is that she is not taking a position on this issue vis-a-vis my position, she is rather taking a position in opposition to me, and this in turn is only as a very small part of the dialog, not of any great interest to her. She is blowing me off without much consideration for personal reasons that only she understands but that I suspect (and explain provisionally below).

I’ll repeat briefly here what I’ve said again and again about th practice of looking at people’s bodies (and related issues): All of this is about communication. The woman in the picture is loaded up with symbols and statements, and her cleavage is a mere phrase in a possibly very rich (or for all we know inane) conversation she is having with someone, maybe no one. A man who leers at that woman’s breasts is also taking his opportunity to communicate. Such a man might think that she is asking for this leering because her cleavage is so visible. Maybe. But it is also possible that in this communication she is going in a very different direction. A woman who “puts on the lipstick” (to borrow a very mod phrase) may be sorting out men who are untrustworthy assholes. Or she may not be attempting to communicate with men at all. She may be talking to other women, or to herself. Very likely the leering man is rudely interrupting a private conversation.

Regarding a trope that has emerged somewhere in this conversation: At least in our society, I think men do have responsibility to communicate regarding their position on sexual control because of the issues Isis and some of the commenters on Sister Zuska’s site bring up. We are (to very very grossly oversimplify … but helpful here to make a point) derived from chimps living in a society structured in a way that chimps would be incapable of managing. (If you think human males leering at breasts is an obnoxious sexual gambit, try male chimps reacting to an estrus female chimp.) Mammalian brains are largely shaped to do what they do through experience and training (we are not born with knowledge or abilities, or attitudes) but at the same time, evolution (which is something that I think is relevant, though I shun “Evolutionary Psychology” for a wide range of reasons) does not re-design or re-shape brains or brain development. Rather, brains tend to be accretitive organs. New functions are often developed (evolutionarily) by adding structure that turns off or represses antagonistic functions.

Internally, again to oversimplify, both men and women are waking around in our world with a part of their brain constantly going:

“… don’t be a chimp…. don’t be a chimp … don’t be a chimp…”

(Given that, one would have to wonder, what would a chimp do with human breasts? Again, this is all an over simplification … Humans and chimps have utterly different sexual symbols, so one can not simply see a human as a chimp with a few mods.)

We know by comparing across societies that there is a huge amount of variation in how much control and of what kind is typically effected by individuals of particular gender and age. We hope that in our society a man and a woman who do not know each other can be in the same dark parking lot on the way home from somewhere and both can be — and feel — safe. We hope that a conversation with someone we don’t know (say, in a work context) can proceed entirely independently of the sexual premise which may or may not be represented in elected symbology of dress, body or facial signals.

In short, the sexual, reproductive, and child producing/rearing roles of men and women are profoundly different in ways that relate to reasonably consistent differences in behavior that when integrated with context could produce anything from a nun to a prostitute to a monk to a serial rapist (to use only a handful of arbitrarily selected points in a complex multidimensional reality of power, sex, and gender related constructs). One can define from this a ‘natural order’ but only fallaciously and only for political or selfish reasons. Rather, we humans are imperfect builders of societies (very imperfect) but as long as individuals are not provided with tyrannical control, or if there are tyrants that those tyrants are really great gals and chaps, we can make the society we want with due consideration.

Don’t be a chimp.

What I would hope we would not do (but this may be hopeless) is align ourselves with small highly territorial enclaves dividing up one relatively homogeneous end of a political landscape in order to fight quirky personal battles. I assure you, Zuska’s disagreement with me is not about the issue at hand. Her absurd attempts to force me onto the right wing wackaloon ice flow is a knee jerk reaction to the fact that I did not explicitly align with her on certain issues in a private setting (didn’t fail to align either, just did not drop to my knees) and because I dislike the overly profane aggressive belligerent style of her friend, Physiprof and have asked him (to no avail) to stop speaking to me in this manner of his. Zuska is a school yard queen in this instance. A bully. When I see her coming I start counting out my milk money. I honestly don’t think she’s even thought much about what I have said, and the degree to which she has to distort what I have written to come up with “tough luck, baby, this is human nature, live with it” is abundantly clear evidence of her lack of concern over the actual issue of male sexual violence, and her obsession with the strategy of being seen as some kind of important and recognized femi-guru. Or her unawareness of the Naturalistic Fallacy and its importance. Or something.

Did you just read this entire post without reading Isis? Bad move. Go read Isis.


  1. #1 Katharine
    September 11, 2008

    What I think you are not grasping and Zuska probably thinks you’re not grasping is the idea of self-control.

    Women are perfectly capable of not staring or grabbing men’s penises, so men should be expected to do the same, and there are examples of them exhibiting self-control.

    I should think you, as a fellow member of the scientific community, should be able to figure this out from examples.

    Much of human behavior about this – consider the Middle East’s apparent stupidity about self-control and Europe’s ability to control itself! – is not a biological factor, from what I as a neuroscience student can discern.

    Stop making excuses, Greg.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    September 11, 2008

    Thank you for your post. I have found through much observation and experimentation that it is often best to grasp the issue firmly, and give it the lip service it deserves.

    I do however, regret that funding limitations have prevented a larger sampling.

    Although the experimentation often took place after coloric and ethanol ingestion, please note that hands-on manipulation has only taken place with the proper consent and ethical considerations. Please note also that no animals were harmed.

    Thank you again for keeping us abreast of this very important issue.

    (re-cap of post at issis’ blog

  3. #3 Stephanie Z
    September 11, 2008

    Katharine, what part of “Don’t be a chimp.” fails to address self-control?

    J-Dog, the drugs extra good today?

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2008

    Katherine: You are correct in saying that it is all about self control. With all due respect, you need to explain more clearly why you say that I am somehow not grasping this. Does a person shout out whatever is on their mind when communicating? Normally not. Does a person ogle whatever they feel like ogling at? If so, that shoes a lack of self control. Don’t. Be. A. Chimp.

    Yes, Zuska may think I’m not getting that. You may be right about that. But why would I not see the blatantly obvious, and why would one think I don’t’ see it after I just wrote several column inches about it?

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2008

    Oh, sorry. Crossed in the mail (or male). What she said, yes yes.

    Physioprof, I’ll save you the trouble:

    “Laden, if you were not so fucking obtuse in every fucking eleventy111 thing you wrote people would always understand you even if your fucking shit is so damn stupid, you incomprehensible fucking bastard”

    To which I respond: Physioprof, why don’t you try for once to not be a chimp.

  6. #6 Felicia Gilljam
    September 11, 2008

    Katharine; But the whole problem here seems (to me as an outsider) to be that Zuska is completely failing to exert any kind of self-control in this conversation. She’s interpreting everything in such a way that Greg comes out looking horrible, instead of swallowing whatever issues she has with him from before and actually taking the time to understand his viewpoint. None of us, regardless of which side we’ve picked in this debate (or if we’ve picked no side at all) think it’s okay for men to – well, to act like chimps. The difference is how we think the issue should be approached – foaming at the lips or low-key and reasonable. I don’t disagree with Zuska as such, just her way of dealing with this, which I find rather embarrassing because it reminds me of the kids that used to bully me in elementary school.

  7. #7 Ian
    September 11, 2008

    “Did you just read this entire post without reading Isis? Bad move. Go read Isis.”

    I’m more curious as to why she has a picture of an erect cock than the gratuitous breasts. (Now watch people rush over there!)

  8. #8 Rev Matt
    September 11, 2008

    Read Isis, read this, read most of the Zuska thread yesterday. Greg, I think the problem you have in these communications is you go all academic and look at things objectively which to people predisposed to attribute bad motives to your actions simply validates what they already want to believe.

    As I noted yesterday it’s entirely valid for women to be aware that every man is a potential rapist, just as every human is a potential murderer and every time you get behind the wheel of a car you are potentially going to commit vehicular homicide. The key is to be able to tell the difference between possibility and probability.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2008

    That is quite a nice looking cock.

    Matt: Right, but you are not saying that women are bad drivers, right?

  10. #10 Mecha
    September 11, 2008

    You may want to blame it on bullying, Greg (and PP certainly likes to go off the deep end), but you failed your communication check, as it were, and stepped in a giant pile of standard stereotypical ‘It’s just natural’, and then got indignant because she didn’t read your mind when you didn’t explain what that meant, instead leaving the _standard_ explanation, which is ‘It’s natural, which absolves people of responsibility in part because they can’t help it.’ I sure missed you doing a better job of explaining it, but maybe that was because of the hundreds of posts shouting down Zuska.

    As far as I know, nobody says an action is ‘just natural’ without attempting to imply that it is not, to some degree, okay/normal/not quite the person’s fault. So it really isn’t just Zuska.


  11. #11 Mecha
    September 11, 2008

    (Also, assume I can type. ‘imply that it is not, to some degree’ -> ‘imply that it is, to some degree’. Sigh.)


  12. #12 Stephanie Z
    September 11, 2008

    Mecha, the “better job” is in the original post, as soon as someone suggested that was what Greg was saying. It was there long before Zuska linked to the comment with it helpfully pre-interpreted for everyone.

  13. #13 Mecha
    September 11, 2008

    Stephanie: Except that he said the ‘bad thing’ after he had supposedly explained himself, meaning that the ‘bad thing’ is a better summation of what he believes.

    I do like him bringing up earlier possible classist issues (even if it’s not as classist as he necessarily thinks: You don’t have to be poor to stare at woman and comment about how you’re going to ‘tap that’, I see it every day), but after a bunch of discussion on that, he then says, and here’s the one that was linked to: “All else being equal, as a society develops on its own, the men are going to be bad unless society makes something else happen. No society ever produced a preponderance of not-bad men without trying very hard to do so, and that is still not working so well.”

    The men are going to be bad unless society makes somehting else happen -> Men being bad is natural (staring, ogling, etc.) (Natural is the opposite of society.)

    And as I said, nobody says ‘it’s natural’ or its general sentiment without using it as a defense/assertion that the natural thing is better. Like… nobody. Boys will be boys? All natural?

    It’s a perfectly reasonable interpretation of his words, and the ‘I’m clearly being misinterpreted for political backstabby backchannel reasons which I won’t share!’ crap is both disingenuous and makes it so that no matter what I say, I’ll still be ‘wrong’ because I ‘don’t know what’s _really_ going on.’ Which is a really fantastic way to be open to discussion or debate.

    Ahem, sorry. Annoyance sidetrack.

    And when you look back in time to all his previous posts, he never disagrees with that. Not once does he ever say it’s not natural, or that you shouldn’t expect men to look, he just says that men _shouldn’t_ look/it’s negotiated speech. It’s a moral statement. A good moral statement, and a way to think about it, but just a moral statement. He says that people shouldn’t do it… but he also says that it’s natural. So in essence, the argument is ‘Men are touched with the original sin of wanting to stare at the boobies, and this is completely natural (with natural almost always meaning slightly acceptable/understandable.) But tsk tsk if you do it.’ It’s the standard moralizing that many religions do as an excuse for their moral superiority. Even if we do bad things, it’s okay because 1) It’s natural 2) We’re trying! So yes. Again, the interpretation Zuska, I, and others found in his statement was not only reasonable, it is the standard interpretation.

    Greg also thoroughly ignores, in this post and in his ones in the thread, how society _encourages_ bad behavior in men. He also, instead of apologizing for misstating, or stepping on someone’s foot, or any half of a dozen other things that you’re supposed to do in a feminist space when you’re being a good actor, just says, ‘Yeah, Zuska’s a bad person.’ (Unless, you know, you think being a bully is a good person thing.) He also insults the ‘standard feminist position’ without elucidating, which is basically a nice way to treat other peoples’ opinions like crap without having to deal with them.

    Is it any wonder that people interpreted his statements that way? Really?


  14. #14 Markus
    September 11, 2008

    No, women are not perfectly capable of “not staring or grabbing men’s [parts that a proper human being should not stare or grab]”.


  15. #15 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2008

    If I said:

    “All else being equal, as a society develops on its own, the men are going to stare at boobs unless society makes something else happen. No society ever produced a preponderance of men who don’t stare at boobs without trying very hard to do so, and that is still not working so well.”

    then one could possibly think that I’m looking at lecherous and obnoxious male behavior as neutral. Then, one could argue that I am committing the naturalistic fallacy.

    But I use the word “bad.”

    The naturalistic fallacy is: “X is natural, thus X is good” and the Hobbsian version of this is “X is natural and thus X is what ought to be even if from a particular perspective it is not so good” which integrates to the version Zuska was complaining about, which is “X is natural so you can’t do much about it, so get used to it, honey.”

    But I didn’t say that, did I? I said only very slightly reworded:

    “All else being equal, as a society develops on its own, the men are going to trend towards bad behavior running a long a spectrum from lecherous boob staring to worse unless society makes something else happen. No society ever produced a preponderance of not-bad men without trying very hard to do so, and that is still not working so well.”

    The anthropologically minded can bring in hunter gatherers here, and I would love to have a discussion of this. But no one has and I’m certainly not going to do so in a comment.

    There is a potential debate here, one that has not been articulated, regarding the nature of human behavior. My argument in that regard should be pretty clear by now: Left alone, or in charge/power, men tend to be bad. Societies vary as to how bad this gets. For a society to have a preponderance of men who are not bad, the men have to work on it, society has to work on it. It has to be socially acceptable to be not bad, for instance. Other things must happen as well.

    The alternative view might be that yes, society shapes the men, but society is equally likely to shape men to be good as it is to shape men to be bad, or perhaps the alternative argument is that society shapes men to be good more often than not. The evidence for either of these views is lacking. However, the “men are mammals so lets model them as bull elks or male elephant seals” or whatever is NOT the opposite of this position. That is the 1980s Evolutionary Psychology David Bussian view which is rather pathetic in my opinion.

    No, Mecha, only a very selective reading of what I have written can come even close to suggesting that I’m on board with the naturalistic fallacy that we do in fact see in so many of the comments on these parallel and related posts.

  16. #16 Greg Ladeng
    September 11, 2008

    Greg also thoroughly ignores, in this post and in his ones in the thread, how society _encourages_ bad behavior in men.

    Oh, sorry, I forgot about this paragraph. Are we seriously going to start criticizing each other on what we did not say? Guess what. There is a whole pile of stuff I’m thinking right now about stuff you did not say. What do you think about THAT!?!???

  17. #17 Mecha
    September 11, 2008

    Greg, subbing ‘bad’ for ‘staring at boobs’ does not make your point change. You admit yourself that if you’d used ‘staring at boobs’ instead of ‘bad’, it’d be reasonable to interpret out the naturalistic fallacy. Except it’s STILL the naturalistic fallacy, just with EVERYTHING, INCLUDING the topic of conversation, staring at boobs. You seem to be a communication saavy person, how do you miss that one? Generalizing does not create a more specific statement.

    Furthermore, your change attempts to twist your statement away from a statement about naturalism, but it still ends up there. Unless society does something, men will be naturally bad, over a range of bad activities.

    And look at what you keep saying in your reply. You keep using ‘men’ when talking about abuse of power, or people being bad without being in check, not people. Either you’re using men as a stand in for all people, which is crap, or you’re treating men as worse than women, which is crap, or you’re communicating badly by only talking about men when you mean all people.

    So, again, why is the interpretation unreasonable? Or is it just a fight at this point, considering that the title of this post was nothing but flat out insults, and I shouldn’t bother pointing out that the way Zuska interpreted your statements is the standard interpretation in feminist circles given the context?


  18. #18 Stephanie Z
    September 11, 2008

    Mecha, I should have been clearer. I was talking about the statement where he said there was nothing funny about the naturalistic fallacy, thereby stating that there is no moral argument that can or should be made from the fact that something occurs in nature. Yes, the fallacy does get used as a bludgeon, but that doesn’t mean that everyone talking about nature is making that claim. Anti-woo blogs fight it all the time. (Side note, my favorite response is, “Yeah, all natural, just like arsenic.”)

    I start to see where some of the confusion is coming from, though. I thought the naturalistic fallacy would be widely discussed in academic feminism, since it’s abused so often. Is it unreasonable to expect that one would recognize or look up that term if one wants to understand what Greg said?

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2008

    Mecha: You are correct. I do not believe that humans are born as blank slates. Beyond that, I don’t think you are prepared to understand what needs to be understood because you have rejected the premise.

    This is not, however, what the naturalistic fallacy is.

    I happen to agree with you that “bad” and “ogling at boobs” are more and less general. That is why I used the words I used. You need to get to the text, and work beyond the knee jerk. Honestly. Claiming that someone is not making his/herself clear simply is not a substitute for reading and giving some thought to what you are reading.

    I had considered adding a bit about why I was referring only to men in this comment, but thought better of it. I still think better of it.

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    September 11, 2008

    Since I got distracted and the conversation carried on without me, one more clarification: Mecha, Greg argued that the naturalistic fallacy was a bad thing in the original post, before Zuska interpreted his original statement in the light of it. Either this was careless on her part, and she should own up to it, or it was deliberate.

  21. #21 Becca
    September 11, 2008

    Good post. If you’d said this in the first place, methinks there would have been no snark.

    I still disagree with you (it’s becoming one of my favorite passtimes).

    You sir, are a chimp-trying-not-to-be-a-chimp. You assume all people can be classifed as “chimps” or “trying-not-to-be-a-chimp”. I stated before I believe the classification-of-people approach is not useful.

    Personally, my impulses are not to beat people into submission, but to groom/sex them into submission. Not that that is always socially acceptable. Don’t Be A Bonobo.
    We aren’t all chimps though.

    To pharphrase/simplify, your agument is people are bad by nature. You say “the alternative view might be…” and speak only of societal influences.
    Another alternative view is “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” (Funnily enough, Anne Frank also says: “Boys will be boys. And even that wouldn’t matter if only we could prevent girls from being girls.” Apparently natuallistic fallacy + optimisim = Anne Frank)

  22. #22 Markus
    September 11, 2008

    From the movie Slackers..
    Jeff: We have been getting screwed by the system. The system that forces us guys to like girls. All right? We’re getting pushed into this. What if we just take the girls out of it? We can have our own system, it’s a counter-system. And then, you do things together, you swim, you row, you… boat, you eat, you stink. We can just be guys! You can have sex, you can do it, you know, many guys at a time, but it’s not gay.

    When ever the arguments about egalitarian sexuality get deep down dirty, this is the only logical conclusion I can think of. How else to overcome the patriarchy?

  23. #23 greg laden
    September 11, 2008


    I don’t think people are bad by nature. I think men are born potentially bad. Society/culture/etc does most of the work, but the dice are loaded. Think loaded dice. Think a couple hundred loaded dice in a complex game with way more conditions and rules than craps.

    And I certainly do not want to classify people in this way, but I can certainly see why that would arise as a presmption of my argument. This is why people write (and read) books, and I appreciate you bringing this up.

    In this entire conversation we are going from archetypal to individual, in both reasoning and reality, and there are a lot of transformations that have to be made. We have also been speaking with a presumption of two gender hetero male/female dichotomies. As I sit here typing this response at the GLBTA center, where almost no one in my surrounds is archetypal hetero, I chuckle.

    Now, let’s shift the conversation to something REALLY interesting: Consider the differences between bonobos and common chimps. Are they culural? Would a baby bonobo raised by common chimps grow up to be a perfectly run of the mill chimp? And visa versa?

    My guess: At least 90% yes.

    Markus: I am ROFLMAO

  24. #24 uncle noel
    September 11, 2008

    Perhaps your transplanted bonobo would be considered rudely oversexed.

    To the Zuska apologists: Your straw man attacks are repugnant. It’s a shame to see intelligent people so controlled by their emotions and their egos.

  25. #25 Zuska
    September 11, 2008

    Greg: I must congratulate you on your astonishing ability to read minds! Have you attempted to make any money with this amazing skill? Well, maybe you should hold off on that, since, sorry to say, you aren’t actually able to read my mind and know my thoughts and motives. Also, I think you greatly over-estimate your importance to myself, if you think that what I write in response to your comments has something to do with you personally. I don’t even know you. But thank you for reading my blog, and for any incidental traffic you’ve driven my way!

  26. #26 Zuska
    September 11, 2008

    P.S. I forgot to say thanks for the patronizing “Sister Zuska” bit.

  27. #27 Andrew
    September 11, 2008

    I think she puked on your shoes.

  28. #28 sjl
    September 11, 2008

    I don’t think that counts as puking.

  29. #29 the real sockpuppies
    September 11, 2008

    Katharine: perhaps women do not grab mens penises, but according to many, many, many ethnographies of social groupings less deceptive than the western model– a model which has become cluttered with politicized pseudofeminist interpretations of human behavior–
    *women all around the world certainly do 1) fondle 2) caress 3) laugh at 4) digitally manipulate 5) worship 6)pull on 7) bite at (in the case of Elian Gonzales and his grandmother, upon his return to Cuba)AND 8) masturbate the penises of young boys.*

    This behavior is cited in so many ethnographes that it would be hard to maintain that women at some level *do not* do such things to males, or *would not* if they could.

    So, yes, it is plausible that men who are malleable to this form of female control do look at breasts–but I might suggest that men as a group look at breast size/quality/sex appeal far less than women on an average day–but often ( in this era of girls gone wild) for the same reasons!

    By the time a boy reaches maturity, no doubt he has been controlled/manipulated by women to the point of submission to matriarchal breast-as-symbol of potential harm/loss/domination/other ke-tou to women and the power they wield over the pre-adult ( or something like that…). Some males become mere succubi in a female orchestrated reality that uses the breast (yuck ‘primary infantile food source fascism’…) and a host of other girl tricks as symbols of power, and tools of cuntrol.

    Steph: Zuska “interpreting” anything is akin to a bonobo interpreting Sarah Palin’s last speech…

  30. #30 Stephanie Z
    September 11, 2008

    Zuska, I don’t claim to read your mind, but I do find it difficult to explain your comment on my blog on this post:


    except in the context of this post:


    and without reference to the idea that you’re decidedly interested in what Greg has to say.

  31. #31 Stephanie Z
    September 11, 2008

    Sockpuppies, I thought that was you. Where the hell have you been?

    Interpreted as in filtered. And please just don’t tell me that the bonobos think Palin’s hot too. I know they think everyone is hot, but if there’s ever a time to get discriminating….

  32. #32 Spaulding
    September 11, 2008

    There are a couple of things that bother me about this whole conversation:

    1 ) It’s manipulative to display something while demanding that it is not noticed. If I hang a flashing light around my neck, and berate anyone I catch staring at it, I’m kind of an asshole. Same deal if I wear a bra that lifts and a neckline that plunges – that’s a straight up sexual display. Same with tight pants or sports cars or flashy jewelry.

    What are some other examples where a person demands an averted gaze: royalty vs. peasants? Dennis Hopper vs. Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet? Zeus, Yahweh, etc. vs mortals? If the act of looking is a power issue, who’s the one exercising the power here – the person who looks at visible things, or the person who demands control over the other’s line of sight?

    2 ) Some commenters have said that no, looking and noticing are not the issue, and shockingly admitted that women look and notice too. So when pressed, the real issue is that some men do this with a directness and obviousness that differs from the indirectness and subtlety that most women use. Which leads to a fallacy at least as bad as the naturalistic fallacy: if men and women differ in behavior or preference or emotional response, women must necessarily be right while men are wrong. Some commenters asked men “how would it make you feel if women stared at your crotch all the time?” Honestly, I suspect most men would be just fine with that idea. They certainly enjoyed it in Rennaissance Europe when tights and codpieces were trendy.

    What we have here is two different social expectations and emotional responses from the genders – women are offended that men don’t scope bodies in the manner of women, and male gawkers expect a woman to respond as favorably to clumsy sexual attention as a man would.

    Expecting women to react as men has not been a mutually satisfying enterprise, and demanding that men behave as women will be similarly frustrating. Instead, I recommend continuing the direct feedback loop: accept that humans are sexual and will look at attractive bodies. Realize also that most humans are capable of adjusting strategy when an approach fails. So women, when a guy’s leering in a clumsy way, tell him to fuck off. Don’t play power games about how you get to control where he looks. That’s gonna piss off all but the most spineless of your allies. Just make it clear that they’re going to have to be a little smoother if they don’t want to be perceived by women as unrefined.

    And when you’re doing this, make sure you’re not giving attractive, charming, well dressed folks at the party greater ogling leeway than ugly guys on the street, because naturally that would make you a hypocrite.

  33. #33 Dunc
    September 12, 2008

    Some commenters asked men “how would it make you feel if women stared at your crotch all the time?” Honestly, I suspect most men would be just fine with that idea.

    At work? I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with that. This isn’t Renaissance Europe. Many remote tribes still don’t wear clothes – is that an argue for everyone to get naked in the office?

  34. #34 Spaulding
    September 12, 2008

    So you’re operating from the premise that human sexuality is such a flimsy veneer that it can and should be turned on or off at will?

    Can you “cure” homosexuals too?

  35. #35 Spaulding
    September 12, 2008

    So you’re operating from the premise that human sexuality is such a flimsy veneer that it can and should be turned on or off at will?

    Can you “cure” homosexuals too?

    I’m not sure when or how puritanical prudishness got absorbed into the concepts of professionalism or gender equality, but it’s a damn shame. Sex is not the enemy.

  36. #36 greg laden
    September 12, 2008

    I can think of nothing physical differentiating bonobos and common chimps that relates to the observed differences in social behavior. One possible physical difference between the species is that bonobos have MORE sexual dimorphism than common chimps (though this could turn out wrong). They should have less. A fair amount of research has gone into measuring the potential habitat differences for various study sites, and that has gone nowhere. I might even up my percentage of appropriate cultural behavior in the transplanted ape to 95% Maybe more.

  37. #37 whimsical becca
    September 13, 2008

    So I tried to use the allmighty Google to determine if somebody had taken bonobos and chimps and switched them at birth. I failed. Possibly no one has done this (I’m not sure how effective adoption among chimps/bonobos is… I think the mother-child bond in either species is pretty important for the welbeing of both mother and offspring… cross-species adoption might not be feasible).
    Anyway. Google had lots to say on the species differences and their possible relation to diet, and (more importantly) food-competition (from gorillas).
    On a silly note, I was thinking about what if they were right about food-behavior connections, but had cause and effect reversed. Maybe a more carnivoriously-inclined friend of mine actually has it right. Maybe testosterone only functions properly for aggression if you eat meat. (more realistically- there are a lot of dietary differences between chimps and bonobos that could effect behavioral traits)

  38. #38 greg laden
    September 13, 2008

    No one has done this. There have been some bonobos and chimps living in the same enclosures for periods of time in I think two zoos, but these zoo chimps were so screwed up that it is impossible to use these cases. DeWaal has written a bit about this.

    The diet/gorilla/THV link is a failed hypothesis, despite it being all over google.

    Meat eating in common chimps is probably not that important for food …. and probably does related more to cooperative aggressive behavior among males, or at least, that is a current and reasonably long lived hypothesis.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    September 13, 2008

    Becca, if we’re going to share Renaissance Faire-related videos, let me introduce you to vilification tennis. Traditionally played across a net of peasants, it was transported for this video to a local theater. In fact, Greg gave a lecture there once.

    Be warned, this is a show that’s largely about not being in any way suitable for children.

    I went to college with the referee.

  40. #40 greg laden
    September 13, 2008

    Brilliant. Was that part of the Fringe Fest?

  41. #41 peter
    September 13, 2008

    interesting… though it sort of struck me as I watched it, most of the jokes that seemed to score points were at the expense of women. (your mother, your girlfriend etc.) even the one’s that were delivered by the women’s team. though I suppose it might have to do with the greater “oh no you didn’t” reaction to those lines.

    how many different ways there could be to interpret that…

  42. #42 Stephanie Z
    September 13, 2008

    Peter, this does come out of the “Yo mama” tradition, which you can distinctly see in this match. In another match, the pedophilia insults might predominate, or the can’t get laid theme, or the you so stupid theme, or the kink theme, or the I’m not saying you’re gay theme. It’s mostly quick insults to keep the flow going mixed with attempts to take anything too far. My favorite is still a comparison between someone’s mother and the Spanish Armada.

  43. #43 Stephanie Z
    September 13, 2008

    Greg, the last show I heard about wasn’t part of the Fringe, but doing it outside Festival may have started that way. It’s a very popular show at Festival, and all they get from it there is the hat. Besides, there are other Festies who are always stuck entertaining the marks elsewhere during the show, so there’s a built-in audience.

  44. #44 Stephanie Z
    September 13, 2008

    After watching match #2 from that night, that was a promo for a Fringe appearance. Match 2 also starts with the ref polling the audience for things that should never be joked about and could never be funny–so they can use them in the show. They do.

  45. #45 the real sockpuppies
    September 15, 2008

    Hey Steph: yeah, um BZ, BZ, BZ….

    I was getting at how bonos need to GG rub to establish dominance, or even strike up a conversation. All those pseudo feminists are really just clever manipulators of female sexual insecurity-and thus Zuska and her brood of three or four readers would be ‘hard pressed’ to get next to Sarah Palin and and try to rub their opinionated asses in her face. Sort of a “scent of pseudofeminist” thing that the less than attractive need to pull off to establish themselves in places where no one wants them anyways.

  46. #46 Stephanie Z
    September 15, 2008

    Sockpuppies, I think you underestimate the value of a blog like Zuska’s as somewhere to vent frustration that can’t be productively let out most other places. It may not always be terribly productive there, either, but, well, you know how nice it is to be able to talk to someone who gets what you’re saying without a bunch of negotiation over terms.

    The “less than attractive” thing is something we’ll have to unpack some time you’re less BZ, though.

  47. #47 the real sockpuppies
    September 16, 2008

    Steph, I really have no idea what you are talking about when you speak of venting frustration–but I am willing to listen if you need it…

    Zuska’s blog? yuck. A forum for quasi-edumicated fembotz and their appeasers.

    As for negotiating terms, yeah, that is indeed what those cuntrol freak pseudofemz are all about–the ‘upper hand’ of dialogue, that hand, a symbolic penis…

    But the less than attractive thing stands. It is an offshoot of an earlier dialogue with Isis, in regards to the question of breast staring and lookism: I had said ‘the primary angry lil’ pseudo feminist question arises before girlz even get boobs, and that question is from one girl to herself when she asks ‘ why does that girl get looked at and not me?’ ‘

  48. #48 Stephanie Z
    September 16, 2008

    Sockpuppies, that is a most handsome offer, but I tend to vent my frustration directly back at its source. Not everybody can do that, though. More on that in a sec.

    What I meant about Zuska’s is that, well, you’ve run into walking stereotypes, right? Yes, we all know that most people don’t fit the stereotypes, and the ones who do fit them to a greater or lesser degree. But the stereotypes are there because the behavior covered by them does happen.

    Now say I run into one and he’s the standard can’t-look-away-from-my-tits-while-being-simultaneously-incapable-of-processing-a-single-word-I-say-unless-it’s-repeated-by-a-man kind of idiot. It does happen. Only this time, instead of being some jerk on the street or an ass who needs to be encouraged to leave the party promptly, he’s my adviser or the dean or my boss or the golden boy whom no one else can see as doing wrong.

    While I can vent directly back at the idiot, there will be consequences for my career, as I will be both telling the powers that be that they’re doing something wrong and exhibiting behavior that can be shoehorned into other nasty stereotypes (whining, bitching). Alternately, I can find a group of people who have run into the same stereotypes and to whom I don’t have to give all the details (cause they’re stereotypes) or explain why it felt crappy even though the problem was that the idiot was an idiot. Venting there may not be productive, but it won’t hurt my career either. And I’ll find sympathy.

    That definitely has its place, even if I don’t take advantage of it. Not that you can tell around here, but I’m more of a loner than that. Communities usually chafe pretty quickly.

    On the attractiveness thing, I think you’re conflating being pretty with the perks that come with being one of the attractive kids of either sex. It isn’t just “Why don’t they look at me?” It’s also “Why don’t they listen to me?” and “Why don’t we ever do what I want to do?” And the problems of how some people decide to go after (or hang onto) that power are certainly not contained to feminism. Any perfectly reasonable and praiseworthy shared agenda can be used against the people who share it.

  49. #49 the real sockpuppies
    September 16, 2008

    Steph, that was rather well said if I do say so myself…and your writing has come a long way since you began your blog;-)

    As for venting then, I would say that over there, and at other pseudofem blogs like feminfisting, they are more like shared douche basins–or hog wallows. Generally unproductive dirty lil’ bitch sessions full of bitchez that perpetuate stereotypes about men, rather than create understanding. PENIS ( made you look!!)

    So on the point of boob staring, as we have seen, Greg has put forward some solid evidence that it is biologically based behavior, and all those crones do is to negate the facts and proffer the literal straw man forward as an answer:”men suck, men are pigs, men can’t help themselves,” etc. PENI IS OR ISN”T PLURAL? Even Greg is guilty of feeding into that bullshit when he says that ‘men are evil’–as if women are not ( fortunately Isis seems to have her head out of her ass most of the time, and even took Greg to task for saying that). But Zuska by and large is not capable of that kind of rational egalitarianism, and she IS and has chosen to be the stereotype of pseudofeminism–fauxminism.

    As for the questions of “why don’t they listen to me,” etc, you have a valid point, but you cannot extrapolate from it that this sort of socially damaging disparaging and caricaturing of men has a valid place anywhere. PLURALIZED PENISES ( hey stop looking in your minds eye at my penis!!!)

    I have a parable drawn from real life that I will share with you:

    amongst the many g/f’s I have had the great pleasure of sharing time with, several were big fans of boobies, and there heads snapped to attention as quickly as any gross horny old bastard anywhere when a well endowed pair of hooters walked by- so much so that I got into the habit of noticing boobs myself. Inevitably, one or another g/f would say to me “hey I see what you are looking at!” and 1)scold me 2) project her own infatuation onto me 3) accuse me of wanting that set of boobs instead of her own 4) you get the idea…penis, penis, penis ( made you look!)

    Well, it took me years to learn to weed the boobie infatuated girls out of my life( and the bisexual bonobos of blame…), and finally realize how many of my habits were formed–habits like looking at breasts–by women in my life. These habits, like looking at boobs-and what woman DOES’NT look at boobs?? are malformed. So I unformed them. How? By confronting female projections of what ‘my’ sexuality, or ‘my’ motivations in any given situation are.In short, I had to unlearn my nascent trust in women, and replace it with a humanism that requires me to se them as what they are: flabby chested, mean spirited little men without penises….(made you look…!)

    My mother was infatuated with her own breasts, and for several years had the strange habit of utilizing those breasts on the many infants she chose to birth–even whipping those mammies out in the middle of middle class supermarkets in the 60’s, long before boob-whipping-out-in-the-middle-of-the-marketplace was fashionable, or feminist. Her and her gaggle of bonobos were in the habit of slipping there nipples into anything infant, all the time!

    Then, to confound matters even worse, my sisters picked up the habit–very young, and tried to exert the power of boobopoly on any infant they were charged with babysitting. And they did this before they even had boobs to bitch about! Far more insidiously, they went on to lives as brood hens, birthing some 8 or 10 infants between them ( one sister so infatuated with boobies and baginas that she became a midwife).PENI…(made you look: hey what are you staring at??!!)

    Well, without going too far here in explanation, suffice it to say that the world of women is full of boobs., and that those boobs make other boobs, and boobs of a feather hang out together, and in the world of boobs, the no eyed man is king.

    Or something like that…so I left that nascent world and got one of my own–far far away from boobs who project their own feelings onto me as a male, away from bundles of bitchez biting at straw man stereotypes. My eyes were opened, and I needed to protect my now open eyes from projecting boobiles…and PENISES!!!

    Now stop looking at my penis!! Do you have any idea how demeaning it is when you look at my PENISSSSSS??? How would you like it if I stared at your penis???

    Moral of the story? I keep my penis in my pants when I am at work.I keep it guarded when it or I is near a fauxminist bitch session.I also do not 1) partly reveal it in public 2) poke it out a just little bit when I think it may gain me some social advantage with one of the many many women who hold social power above my head 3) bump into women on the elevator with it ( although I have been boob accosted more than a hundred times by strange boobs in public) 4) clothe it brightly and bejewel it in a way that attracts attention to it in public ( private is a whole nother thing…) 5) use it for social advantage with one colleague while acting supremely offended when another colleague notices my penis power… etc…

  50. #50 Stephanie Z
    September 16, 2008

    Made me laugh is what you did.

    Catharsis may not be productive in the larger sense (which I’ve been saying), but neither is bottling up the frustration. The intent of, I would say, the vast majority of people on these sites is to come down on the people who still fit the stereotype, not to suggest that the stereotypes are widely valid. Obviously, as anywhere, some people just don’t get it, and I’m certainly not saying that abuse of power or spreading stereotypes is excusable. I’m just saying when not everyone is doing it, not everyone should be pointed to as the problem.

    Same with “flaunting” the boobs. Just because someone else may have used theirs for nefarious purposes (or sex), this doesn’t mean I’m going to start wearing turtlenecks or avoiding shirts with lovely embroidery that frames my face because it also frames some of the flesh below it.

  51. #51 the real sockpuppies
    September 18, 2008

    Steph,I think laughter is the best catharsis, and hence, real feminists DO have a sense of humor ( and seldom have to mention or validate their ‘feminism’ by merely being assertive, good natured, and comfortable in themselves…i.e. just like real ‘human beings’)

    I think I will take your hint, take off the penis turtleneck, and go get some penis pants,and frame the tastefully nature toned flesh above it… just hang it out a little bit with a logo-gear Pshirt and a big truck on it, or a picture of a cowboy–then we will see exactly how differentially the laws of our great nation treat me, as a man with a partially highlighted penis…


    8==%==D (my penis wearing a bowtie)

    And yes, you are right not all boobs are boobs, and not all boobs have penises.

  52. #52 Stephanie Z
    September 18, 2008

    Well, sockpuppies, I think it’s now official: you have mentioned your penis more times than all the women on the half dozen boobies threads have mentioned their breasts. That’s quite an accomplishment, you know. (By the way, the bowtie’s a bit crooked.)

    And while I will happily concede that our society’s a bit weird about genitals, breasts are not genitals. Not that society isn’t weird about breasts too.

  53. #53 the real sockpuppies
    September 20, 2008

    *hhhr-umphh* There you go again: I was just talkin about my penis, but wanting only to expose the pretty pink flesh just *above it*….THAT isn’t a genital…and besides, I wasn’t just talking about my penis–how selfish that would be! I was of course talking about ‘the collective male penis’ as we are also discussing the universal trope of men as primary starers at boobs, rather than women who must suffer looking at them every day *sigh* poor things….;-)

  54. #54 the real sockpuppies
    September 20, 2008

    :: 8===!==0 ::
    exchanges bowtie for neck tie….