February 16, 2014

Frisky females contribute to the culture of violence

A common context for an escalation of violence toward homicide is two strange men in a public place arguing over a woman. Maybe one is the boyfriend or husband, and maybe neither is but both are interested in her. Words and stares are exchanged, each feels pressure from the woman and the public not to back down, and suddenly they're off on a trajectory that could end in death.

The woman is not just a passive bystander. In some way she allows or provokes the advances from Guy #2, regardless of whether or not Guy #1 was her boyfriend or husband. Guy #2 comes over to talk to her, and she doesn't brush him off, shoot him a cold or confused look, etc. She likes having men compete for her attention (leveling up her ego points), and she may also want to keep her sexual options open. So she is at least not put off by Guy #2, and may even turn toward him, engage him in conversation, laugh, smile, and so on.

The sense that Guy #1 could lose access to something he had expected to be his -- either his girlfriend / wife, or a strange woman who he had "dibs" on by engaging her first -- leads him to cut off the external threat. He hoped that she'd just give Guy #2 the cold shoulder, and that would be that. But dangit if she isn't turning toward him, smiling and talking. He will have to drive off the rival by himself (or with the help of his buddies).

These initial steps in the escalation toward violence do not take place when the woman is cold, brusque, and unwelcoming to strange men. Guy #2 leaves on his own because he got the hint that she couldn't be less interested in him. That saves Guy #1 the risky task of regaining sole access (at least in the near term) over what he believes to be his, against a motivated male rival. In fact, after getting the cold shoulder, Guy #2 is not motivated at all.

I think these differences in average female dating-and-mating behavior go a long way to explain differences in violence among males of one group vs. another. Rude and frigid Yankee women are unlikely to allow, let alone encourage, two or more men to literally fight over her affections. "Is that guy seriously coming over to talk to me when my boyfriend's right here? How bitchy should I sound when I tell him to 'Find someone else to tell your lame lines to, creep'?"

These women have low sex drives, and use sex as a bargaining chip to get a high-status man to settle down and invest in her and her offspring. She would never entertain thoughts of "Hey, another lover... y'know, just in case," or "Hey, I wonder if he'd be a higher-quality stud... might be only one way to find out for sure."

Hence, Yankee men still compete for access to this woman, but it is not over who can get her the most hot and bothered, or who's man enough to displace the other one from a public place, in front of a public crowd. Rather, it's who can strive for the highest status and offer her the greatest material and reputational gains if she agreed to dole out sex on a regular basis.

Those Southern women, on the other hand, are frisky little kitties. They like keeping their options open (without appearing brazen -- more like having a wandering eye), having multiple suitors fighting over them, and surrendering to the moment. "In the heat of passion" describes not only her momentary lapse of fidelity, but also Guy #1's resort to violence to punish her and Guy #2 when he catches them.

There isn't much heat of passion up in Minnesota, so they don't have to worry about dangerous situations like these.

Comparing two groups is a suggestive but weak way to establish causation. Looking at how a group changes over time is better. As the causal variable changes, the response variable out to, well, respond.

Frisky females seem to be part of the outgoing phase, and frigid females part of the cocooning phase of the cycle of social openness and interaction. You can see young women getting a little more out-and-about by the mid-to-late '50s, for example by joining guys in public hang-outs, which are usually felt to be "creepy" places if the girls are frigid and cocooning. Swooning over Elvis was way more scandalous than having a crush on Frank Sinatra. And the incidence of common venereal diseases had begun rising already by the late '50s.

The homicide rate didn't start increasing until 1959, and other violent crimes in the early '60s. This argues against the view that frisky female behavior is a response to male violence, but is rather a contributing factor to it.

Of course, that isn't the only or even the primary cause of rising homicide rates. As far as the cocooning vs. outgoing behaviors go, I think simply having a lot more people out in public, and with their guard down / trust up, is what drives crime rates up. Criminals find easy pickin's in such an environment, and are left with little to do when everyone is locked inside their nuclear household as they were for much of the mid-century and the Millennial eras.

We should not greet this as good news -- "My daughter won't get knocked up, AND crime rates are plummeting? What's not to like?!" That has come at the cost of complete social isolation. That's why they're not dating -- minimal interest in boys and other people in general. Reality check: girls in the good old days were not sleeping with a different guy every week, and the homicide rate at its peak was around 1 in 10,000. You faced a higher risk of getting robbed then than now, but you didn't leave your house with a bullet-proof vest on.

Then again, how many people care about the "cost" of social isolation when most folks are cocooners? To them, that's just one more reward -- "No awkward interactions either?!"

This also explains why certain cultures used to be romanticized, while new ones are idealized today. It used to be Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami. Now it's DC, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. It used to be the Mediterranean, now it's Scandinavia. That echoes who was prized by folks in the Jazz Age and the Mid-century, respectively. In outgoing times, our attention is drawn to more hot-blooded cultures.

10 comments:

  1. Who Looks Up To Who?7:53 AM

    The Victorians seem like they idealized the controlled, "civilized", stoic classical Romans and Greeks and the wild, feuding, violent Viking age Scandos. Not sure how they felt about the Italian Renaissance.

    There was a great cultural fever for all things Highland Scots in the Victorian Age as well, Highland Scots being the "cool" cultural antecedents of the hardworking, dour, Protestant lowland Scots, but no fondness for the catastrophic Irish.

    All eyes on the Jersey Shore today. Oil rich Gulf Arabs seem to be seen as having a certain amount of cool (see all the nauseating posturing elite coverage of the "Golden Age of Islam" and Al Andalus in the wake of 9/11).

    In the 1990s and 2000s, Italy was very idealized in United Kingdom, but in these economic hard times, the solvent Scandos seem to be more romanticized than the crisis prone dolce vita types.

    Sailer's written a lot about the postwar midcentury "Italian invasion" of American culture -

    http://takimag.com/article/the_italian_invasion_of_american_culture_steve_sailer/print#axzz2tUoKBT5C and I trust him that this was a real phenomenon. That overlaps with the Italian Economic Miracle. Americans of the same time period don't seem to have given too much of a damn about Scandanavia.

    It seems to me that there is a general phenomenon across history of economically successful countries being idealized, but that this varies with economic hard times and striving, such that economically successful countries get their cocks sucked more by strivers during striving times. There's more focus on "home grown" culture during anti-striving times - you're meant to be part of the people in such times, not trying to be elite by emulating foreigners.

    Of course, like you say, the actual characteristics of which cultures are idealized vary from other sources, like sociability and passion - 1980s America tended to be in awe of economically successful 1980s Japan, but there was a "peril" aspect that was suspicious of the culture that seems more common than with today's treatment of current East Asian economic "superstars" Korea and China.

    Likewise, even though today we idealize Scando cultures, the "janteloven" anti-striving norms they have (sort of the opposite of African American thuggish self promoting narcissism) tend to get downplayed, because they don't fit well with our present day culture.

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  2. "It used to be Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami. Now it's DC, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. It used to be the Mediterranean, now it's Scandinavia. That echoes who was prized by folks in the Jazz Age and the Mid-century, respectively. In outgoing times, our attention is drawn to more hot-blooded cultures."

    Were Dallas and Miami valorized in the Jazz Age? As near as I can tell, the key Jazz Age city was Paris. It was the beau ideal of the flaming youth and the avant garde, the place where the wild people went. In terms of the USA, New York was seen as the domestic equivalent of Paris, with the party-seekers and artists flocking to Manhattan in general and Greenwich Village in particular.

    As for the American South, wasn't that a heavily stigmatized region in the Jazz Age, scorned by the wild set as the Bible Belt, a place inhabited by clueless yokels? Mencken certainly seemed to think so.




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  3. I meant the Mediterranean (Jazz Age) over the Scandinavian (Mid-century). Especially ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, but also Mesopotamia. And their interest in Latin lovers. Mid-century folks were more into Danish designed spaces, Nordic-looking sex symbols, and so on.

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  4. There was a huge fascination with Florida during the '20s, though. Kind of like the later obsession with southern California. It led to a local real estate speculation bubble, not to mention a lot of Deco-type architecture.

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  5. "All eyes on the Jersey Shore today."

    More like looking at a train wreck, though. Those kinds are widely mocked as "guidos." There's another show on MTV called Teen Mom, and the teenage viewers say they watch it because it reminds them how not to behave.

    The Italians in mid-century were on the radar but not really looked up to. Steve is right that Frank Sinatra was big, but "crooners" had become a staple of pop music by the early '30s. The biggest star was Al Bowlly, whose parents were Greek and Lebanese. Bing Crosby took the throne after that, and he was half-Irish.

    Italian food also became popular, and audiences did like the way Sophia Loren looked. And some folks may have had a thing for Vespa scooters and streetside Italian cafes (Roman Holiday). The Rosemary Clooney hit song "Come on-a My House" had a distinctly "ethnic" sound to it, which listeners would have read as Italian or Greek (though it was actually Armenian).

    WWII put Italian culture on the American radar, but I wouldn't call that an invasion or widespread influence.

    Whereas the Mid-century look and feel of things is Scandinavian Modern. Painting also lost vitality, color, and motifs, favoring the sober and minimalist.

    The smorgasbord was also a Mid-century fascination (the phrase starts appearing regularly in the NY Times during the 1930s, after a few hits in the late 1800s). Fashionable home cooking was also more Scandinavian than Italian -- pasta and salad did not make it until the '80s. Things like eggs and fish floating in aspic.

    And I think Anita Ekberg was more who audiences were looking for, over Sophia Loren.

    The Age of Anxiety / Existentialist intellectuals were more in tune with Kierkegaard and Bergman as prophets of dreariness.

    These Scandinavian traits also began before the Post-War period, as early as the '30s.

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  6. My impression is that what appeal the Italians did enjoy here was among people looking to escape Mid-century boredom.

    The protagonist in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit had fallen in love with an Italian woman during WWII, and continued to send her money to support their out-of-wedlock child. It helps to establish his restlessness in an age of cocooning and sobriety -- he's the type who would fall for an Italian babe and get her knocked up.

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  7. "And I think Anita Ekberg was more who audiences were looking for, over Sophia Loren."

    I'm going to have to disagree with that. Loren was a much bigger celebrity than Ekberg. Ekberg was distinctly second tier. Loren was a star.

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  8. "My impression is that what appeal the Italians did enjoy here was among people looking to escape Mid-century boredom."

    Wasn't it Lenny Bruce who defined bohemia as the place where Jews go to live like Italians?

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  9. somewhat ot: this bookstarting on page 59 documents how college social standing switched from favoring jock to nerds around 1932

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  10. Curtis5:37 PM

    "The protagonist in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit had fallen in love with an Italian woman during WWII, and continued to send her money to support their out-of-wedlock child. It helps to establish his restlessness in an age of cocooning and sobriety -- he's the type who would fall for an Italian babe and get her knocked up."

    Yeah, but they crucify the poor guy in the movie as I remember


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