July 27, 2008

"My gf hangs out with her students -- is it a problem?"

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July 24, 2008

Changing your name -- a free facelift?

Names go through cycles of fashion, as Stanley Lieberson shows in A Matter of Taste, a must-read book for anyone interested in cultural change. Unfortunately, that means that your name can quickly become out-of-date, as mine has, I was disappointed to learn. It peaked in popularity right around the time of my birth and has declined (although not plummeted) since, even if it's not obscure today. "Although," "even if" -- who am I kidding, I've never met a pimpleface with my name.

Every time I meet a high school girl at the teen dance club or the mall, or sit down with a college girl at the campus dining hall, my babyface and slender frame keep her from wondering how old I am. (Well, not so much at the teen dance club -- I get asked how old I am about one time each night, but they don't suspect I'm 27, more like 22, which is still old enough to them.) Still, once she learns my name, that will knock against the unconscious histogram she has of her male peers' names. She may not even be aware of just what is arousing her suspicion; she will just get the feeling that I'm older than I appear.

So is it worth it to change your name in order to appear younger -- not out of vanity, but just to go undetected more easily? I can understand the respect that is paid to family names, but there's nothing sacred about your given name. And given how quickly it can go out of fashion, it's like having to wear the clothing that was stylish in your birth year for the rest of your life -- no thank you. Sure, I could just keep my name and lie when I'm around youngsters, but lying is hard to get away with over the long-haul, and I could never allow them to meet anyone who knew my current name.

I know, you can barely contain your curiosity -- just what ludicrously nouveau name would I adorn myself with from here on, or at least until it too stops being stylish five years from now? Easy choice: "Dylan." Its popularity peaked in the late '80s or early '90s, so it would sound completely ordinary to a girl born then. Use this tool and type in "Dylan" with "boys" checked to see. (And if you want to feel really old, go ahead and type in your own name.) Importantly, it doesn't sound too upper-crusty (like "Preston") or too trailer parkish (like "Jayden"), so it should have wide appeal. To be fair, though, all of these names are too new and stupid-sounding for me to know much about which class they're most popular in.

Want to update your own name, or at least see what funny names kids these days have? Here's a list of the most popular names in the 1990s, although be sure to cross-check with the tool above to see whether its popularity is increasing or decreasing. For example, "Michael" and "Jessica" are the most popular, but Michael peaked in the 1960s and Jessica in the '80s, and both have been declining ever since. "Tyler" (boy) and "Taylor" (girl), while less frequent, are still near the top in popularity but are also at their peak in the 1990s.

I'm not gonna lie: my brain releases a little packet of endorphins every time I learn a teenage darling's name. It's not only their skinny jeans and ballet flats that set them apart. Just knowing that her name is Sophia, Chloe, or Madeline -- or, yes, even questionable ones like Hailey, Kailey, and Bailey -- you can rest assured that she has many estrogen-filled years ahead of her. And imagine the bragging rights when you introduce your girl to friends and colleagues: "I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, Zoe." Sure, they'll be able to tell that she's a young 'un by looks alone, but her name will lodge itself deeper into their brain. "Wait, did he say her name was Zoe?"

Use this info to playfully tease older women you want. Never ask her name first: when she asks you, you have a clear indicator of interest. But before she can respond, interrupt her: "Wait, let me guess... you look like your name would be... Rose!" Say this playfully, with a joking look. You must hit her insecurities about age if you want an older woman -- or so they say, I don't bother. Right after she feels the sting, say you're just kidding while elbowing her, and then guess a more appropriate name like "Christine" or "Kelly."

I think this would also work if you started out guessing an impossibly young name like "Riley," just to highlight how not young she is. She would probably respond, "Riley? Do I look like I'm 20 years old?" And boom, once she hears herself say that, her self-esteem will melt into a puddle and she won't be able to put up much resistance. This approach has the added benefit of not being overtly insulting like guessing "Rose" does, so there's no way she could get angry with you.

July 22, 2008

Make an Amazon your ally in battle

We've already seen that having a female wingman is likely the most powerful predictor of how easily you win over a target girl, so it's natural to ask what type of person your "pivot" should be. Basically, you're looking for a man-woman, someone who incorporates enough masculine and feminine traits that she can serve as a fluid go-between: she'll get what's going on in your head and inside the target's head, giving her a keen intuition for what she should be doing to help you get the girl.

She should be tough-minded enough to realize that playing games is necessary to win another person over, and that actions should lead closer to the goal. Still, not all such females will do -- some are too ruthless and disagreeable, and their presence will push the target girl away. And to ensure that she doesn't hog all the attention to herself, make sure she's not too neurotic -- all females are, but judge by degree.

As a rough guide, pick someone who Alias Clio calls the Amazonian Alpha. A further advantage in choosing them is that, whatever you think of their looks, you probably will not be magnetically drawn to them, as most men prefer girlier females, and so you will not be tempted to ruin your productive partnership by falling for your pivot. My best girl friend belongs to the Madonna sub-type, although I'm sure the statuesque ones would do just as well.

But what does she get out of the deal? As Clio says, these females are awfully headstrong and often too proud for their own good, so they require someone to whip them into shape. Make no mistake: she will admit to this yearning for discipline out loud, even when you didn't prompt her to say so. No other female would dare behave that way toward her, and most guys are too wimpy to do so either. That leaves you. Just make sure to remind her how much she depends on you, and she'll bear in mind that she needs to return the favor.

The only caveat is that you shouldn't be too aggressive with her, or get too into a confrontation with her -- arguing with her can be quite exhilarating! -- as this may lead her to fall for you. There aren't many guys who would steamroll right over her, and again, that's what she craves -- to not be the steamroller, for once. * Given the knack for strategizing that these women have, if she did become attracted to you, she would subtly foil all of your attempts on other girls after that. For the same reason, this arrangement works best when you are not her ideal mate in traits other than dominance.

* Don't confuse steamrolling over a person with flinging darts at them while running past at a safe distance. Women can tell from personal interactions whether you're petty and resentful or competitive and seek challenge.

July 21, 2008

Cultural products don't tell us much about what they depict

If historians 500 years into the future scour our high and popular culture to see what life was like, they would not learn very much. They would observe an increase in the popularity of thongs and lowering waistlines during a time when promiscuity was decreasing. This is because fashion cycles play out in their own world, divorced from real life. They would also note the savagery of the upper classes in TV shows, movies, and just about everything else, even though it's mostly the poor who are barbarous.

Where does this idea come from anyway? It's not like a fashion trend, but artistic themes do live in their own realm, also separate from reality. Sure, they may be based on fact when they begin to spread, but these themes may "take hold" in the literary and artistic culture, all while the facts on the ground are shifting away. That seems to be the case with the "barbaric rich" cliches that continue to sucker large audiences. Here is a table (from this article by Manuel Eisner) showing the percent of criminals who belonged to a given social class, and the size of that class in the general population, from 14th Century Venice (click to enlarge):

Important People are neither more nor less criminal than you'd expect based on their size, Workers appear a bit less criminal, Marginal People pretty law-abiding -- well, aside from producing twice as many murderers as you'd expect -- while the Nobles produce 5 times as many rapists and belligerents as you'd expect, although neither more nor fewer murderers.

So, if a late Medieval TV writer portrayed the rich as violent, it would be fairly accurate. But once that image becomes established in the cultural canon, it can be hard to shake it out since it appeals to human envy -- those scum who have more power than I do must have gotten it through greed, violence, ruthlessness, etc. Envy of our superiors is also what drives us to see hypocrisy in all of their actions -- sure, they may act civilized, but they'd rape and kill their closest friends if they thought they could get away with it!

Even though I don't have much of an interest in history (yet...), I've still seen far too many historians using cultural products as evidence to support their hypotheses about real life. If they were only discussing the history and fashion trends of intellectuals, artists, and elite culture, fair enough. As for everything else, at best, fictional art can put a human face on the story that the non-fictional data tell. But if I have to hear one more time about how Westerners became more terrified by the irrational just because some Viennese quack duped a handful of arts majors with his psycho-snake-oil...

July 17, 2008

Lower turnover in popular culture after 1980

Do people have shorter cultural attention spans these days? Is cultural change more chaotic than before? No, judging from the popularity of TV shows, which are as good of an indicator of popular culture as any.

I used a simple measure of cultural turnover: of the 10 TV shows with the highest Nielsen ratings in a given year, how many of them were not already in the top 10 in the previous year? If it is 0, then the popular shows of last year are the same as this year; if it is 10, then last year's popular shows have been completely replaced this year. Choosing the top 10 instead of 20 or 30 is arbitrary, but I just want a feel for change over time. (This is how Stanley Lieberson, in A Matter of Taste, measures cultural turnover in naming tastes.)

The data start in 1951 and go through 1999, with only 1987 excluded due to a goof in the website's lists. If a TV show was listed twice in a single year (e.g., if its Thursday and Saturday episodes were both highly watched), I expanded that year's list to include 10 unique shows. That only happened twice. Here is the turnover rate across the decades:

It looks like there's a downward trend after about 1980, but let's be more specific. Using either of two rank correlations between year and turnover rate shows a significant and negative relationship: Kendall's tau = -0.22 (p = 0.037, two-tailed), and Spearman's rho = -0.32 (p = 0.048). The median and mode of the turnover rates are both 4, so we can look for when the turnover rate was consistently higher or lower than 4. For the below-4 values, there is a very clear separation between a chunk from 1980 onward and a handful of outliers in the '50s and '60s. Likewise, for the above-4 values, there is a chunk pre-1980 and some outliers afterward. I've shown this by modifying the graph above:

The pre-1980 period is characterized by a high turnover rate -- 4 above-median values for every 1 below-median value -- while the post-1980 period shows greater stability -- 3.7 below-median values for every 1 above-median value. So, it was the popular culture of previous generations that showed greater fickleness, a shorter attention span, and so on. Of course, members of those generations will spin these results as showing that their popular culture was not fickle but innovative, while the current one is not focused but static. This is how Steve Sailer describes the recent history of rock and rap music, for example, and oddly enough he pegs the start of stylistic stagnation in the early 1980s as well.

Whatever emotional coloring we give to the facts, there's always a downside to innovation: more failed experiments are broadcast as a fraction of the whole, and what good stuff that is produced doesn't last very long. Wild innovation is great in science, and when used by a genius in the arts. However, science permits greater experimentation because the only constraint is that the innovation be on the right track in modeling the world. The arts are far more constrained: they must please the human mind, which is a picky eater. Especially when you get to the level of talent found among TV show writers -- just find something good and stick with it as long as you can.

July 16, 2008

Miley Cyrus wearing only a wet white t-shirt in the shower

Sh-boom! I normally don't cover celebrity gossip, but I figured I'd beat Half Sigma, who usually posts notices whenever the Disney star does something salacious. There are at least two pictures, and if internet rumors are true, the guy who stole them has others that are even more compromising.

In these depraved times we live in, we can only long for the good ol' days when 16 year-olds didn't have their underwear pictures leaked on the internet, but instead were photographed naked for Playboy centerfold posters (see here for facts; no nudie pictures).

July 14, 2008

The sweet charms of the pure, flawed teen: 5

Charm #5: Needing you to accompany her

Because she is at or near her peak level of appeal to males, and because she cannot protect herself from the deluge of unwanted advances, she feels safe when you're there. You have to walk her back to her dorm, arrive first at the dining hall so she doesn't have to sit there alone while creeps leer at her, stare down these creeps once she does show up so that they leave her alone, socially castrate any loser guys who come near her to chat her up, and repel sales assistants at the mall who would otherwise lift her wallet.

(I know that arriving late, so that she gets nervous, is a common tactic to increase her attraction to you on a first date. I'm talking about once you've gotten to know each other.)

In addition to having to be there to protect her, you also need to accompany her in some cases because she is in a venue where being alone -- or at least, being without a boy -- marks her as an undesirable, which she will take to mean "ugly." When she is older, her male peers will have enough balls to approach women, so that attractive females will never be alone. When she is young, though, boys her age are nearly all too chicken to go up to her, so that many attractive girls are left alone, feeling that they must be repulsive to boys. See here, starting around 3:00, for how this feels:

At a young age, this is one of the worst feelings she can have, and as the night wears on and she becomes more convinced of her hideousness, she will deflate somewhere in the background. (Women my age can rewind to middle or high school dances when they stood alone, hopefully at least with their girl friends, while the DJ played Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" or "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boyz II Men.) So when you ask her to dance, she is grateful to you for convincing her that her ugliness is all in her head, and will repay you by smiling and laughing bashfully the entire time, holding your hands or arms firmly, and gazing up into your eyes:

It's hard to underestimate the appeal of a girl who makes you feel like her protector -- it's not a need that can be even partly met by spending money, god knows, and there's nothing you can do in your relations with other men to fulfill it. And unlike sex -- another need that only females can help you out with -- the satisfaction is longer lasting. Any girl can fuck you, and a fair number can even fuck you very well, but something else has to fill in the gaps in between.

That's what some guys mean when they say, "You'll regret it if you don't date a smarty-pants," but there are other ways to fill this void. Boosting your sense of self-worth -- and yes, even getting that warm, revolting feeling when you take care of helpless things -- works just as well.

How to preserve this charm

Assuming you're over 25, you probably won't have to worry about guys approaching you, so just concentrate on conveying to him that he's your protector while you're dancing, strolling around, or whatever else. You still remember how to look up into someone's eyes and smile bashfully, don't you? And how to press yourself closer to him when you're walking outside, or rest your head on his shoulder? Of all the girly charms that can break through a man's defenses against commitment, this one is probably the easiest to maintain, or to fake when it's no longer there naturally.

You might also try what Method actors do, by recalling vividly a previous time when you felt the way you need to feel. Again, just rewind to those awkward middle and high school dances in your mind, play one of the songs that made you feel desperate for a boy to dance with, and this should put you in a more grateful state of mind before going out.

July 13, 2008

Why adults are misled by slut culture

The popularity of thong underwear or pop music lyrics such as Britney Spears' "Gimme More" cannot tell us much about the actual behavior of adolescents, as young people became more and more chaste during the same time period when thongs came and went (which therefore shows no correlation), and as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and The Pussycat Dolls have risen in popularity (which shows a negative correlation).

Looking back, it should have been clear, as slut culture really consists of items associated with 20-somethings rather than adolescents -- one-night-stands, for example. Adolescents have too much of their lives ahead of them to accept the one-night-stand ways of 20-somethings and beyond. Rather, a female teenager will only start having sex if she is in a long-term relationship and cannot control her emotions around her boyfriend. So, when teenagers give a guy a standing lapdance in a club, or sing along to "Dirrty," it's just a goof to them, and you often see them smiling and laughing while doing it, as they're not serious about it.

One thing I never see at the teen dance club, or at the college-kid '80s night, is slow-dancing. On the dancefloor, girls will do the most raunchy things imaginable to your crotch with their ass, but just try threading your fingers with theirs without even having spoken to her. Since she hasn't fallen for you, it ain't gonna happen. Fast-paced slutty music may get them bouncing around, but that hyperactive state of mind is not conducive to falling for someone. (It is conducive to distracting a 20-something long enough to get her back home for the night, though.) Wearing down the defenses of a teenager requires the intimacy, especially the prolonged eye-contact and head-on-the-guy's-shoulder positioning, that slow-dancing affords.

Adolescent females may be able to identify with the aggressiveness of slut culture, as teenage social life is more dog-eat-dog than it is for adults. However, slut culture is fundamentally about being in total control of one's emotions, about being strong and a bit butch. Well, if there's one thing that teenage girls are not, it's emotionally tough. Imitating what they see and hear in slut culture is as likely to turn them into actual sluts as mimicking the words of an Obama speech will bring a verbally clumsy person into political office.

Indeed, typical female teenagers do not have sex by clubbing a boy over the head, or by acting on a whim with a total stranger, like a club slut does, but by falling hard for a boy and losing control. Her boyfriend will always be pushing for sex, but it's only once she's emotionally gone that she surrenders.

So, don't worry if your daughter is singing and dancing along to Britney Spears. Be more afraid if you hear "Angel Baby" behind her locked door, a song that, by the way, the singer Rosie Hamlin wrote when she was 14 and recorded when she was 15. (I wouldn't be surprised to find out that female pop music stars are getting older, as there was a fairly good discussion at Steve Sailer's blog on aging male rockstars.)

July 12, 2008

Alias Clio endorses my plan for female self-improvement

Well, not so directly, but in her post on the female heartbreaker she calls The Eternal Ingenue, she describes the person I've been writing about in my staying girly posts. Unlike the other types she's written about -- The Gold-digger, The Waif-Neurotic, and the Amazonian Alpha -- this girly girl, she says, has men calling her "charming" and "enchanting." Also unlike the other types, according to Clio, the Ingenue provokes envy and jealousy in other women, a sure sign that she is their most powerful competition. Study her ways, female readers: that's your best shot at trapping a man.

I've already written four mini-posts in her comments section, so I won't add anything here, except to note that there is considerable overlap between the Eternal Ingenue type and the typical ballet dancer, who I gushed about here quite uncharacteristically, as I don't find most women very inspiring (or men for that matter). But, god damnit, those dancers just know how to get ya. As Clio notes, Eternal Ingenues aren't necessarily maneaters; she is just pointing out one type of heartbreaker. Most of the ballet girls I hung out with last school year didn't seem like femme fatales * -- a fair number had steady boyfriends -- but I'm sure quite a few of the unattached were the flighty heartbreaker type who couldn't stay infatuated with one guy long enough to turn it into a long-term relationship.

* English pluralization of the French term, just to give Clio an unscratchable itch. Claw at the computer screen all you want; you cannot change the way it looks.

July 10, 2008

Stuff White People Like book

It's pretty good, worth picking up or browsing through if you've got time at the bookstore. Most of the new entries, as with the existing ones on the website, focus on cultural snobbery, but there are quite a few on touchier topics that really stand out. "Adopting foreign children," for example, begins with the greatest one-liner in the whole book, and the ones on "Having children in their late thirties" and "The ACLU" likewise show that their preferences aren't just silly fads, but can have real consequences.

Unlike the website, the book treats male-female relationships at some length, probably because an editor knew this would sell more copies. From "Platonic friendships":

When you see a white woman and a white man eating dinner together, watching a movie, or drinking at a bar you probably think they are a couple. Not so fast! White people often engage in something called a "platonic friendship." These arrangements feature a white male who is in love with a white female who needs companionship or access to someone with a car.

When the website first became popular, I wrote an apology for Whiterpeople, pointing out that a lot of the things they like really are better than the rest, like New York City, living by the water, or hardwood floors. Now that I've read a more extensive catalog of their preferences, though, it's hard to escape the conclusion that they just got lucky in these cases. If you appropriate 1000 things to fashion your identity, by chance alone you'll pick a few nice things.

But most of what gets Whiterpeople off turns out to be pretty dopey: indie rock, David Sedaris, Sarah Silverman, The Daily Show, Barack Obama, shorts, New Balance shoes, beards with glasses, and acoustic covers of pop or hip-hop songs. The new entry on DJs shows just how moronic their idol-worshiping really is. ("Note: DJs have the best talent-to-groupie ratio of any career.") Even the good things that they like they either inherit culturally or pay attention to out of a sense of guilt; it's what they do when no one's looking that matters.

Sure, their hit-rate is likely a tad higher than that of a randomly chosen group of people, but given how much they preen, you'd think they spoke four foreign languages, went to the ballet regularly, or could professionally play an instrument, and had acquired enough facts to have an informed opinion on anything other than indie rock and when The Simpsons reached its peak. The core trait of Whiterpeople culture is that which defines their beloved Web 2.0 -- every lazy retard gets a megaphone.

Still, as much as interacting with one of them may make you want to choke the life from their body, it is not very difficult to shut them up. If they begin to probe your appreciation of the Magnetic Fields, apologize for your ignorance by mentioning that you prefer classical music and casually ask them who their favorite composer is. When they attempt to brag about hobo-ing their way through Europe, tell the story of how you lived and worked abroad (or even in a different, enviable American city) for months or years.

Deep down, they are aware that Bach easily beats DJ Floorhumper, and that it takes greater effort and produces more lasting satisfaction to absorb the life of a different city over the long-term than to fumble your way through "Where can I buy some hash?" in 15 languages while backpacking with a bunch of smelly Australians. The group that SWPL calls "the wrong kind of white people" might not mind admitting that they're going nowhere, but underneath the ironic and sarcastic humor, Whiterpeople are embarrassed to concede out loud that they've pretty much fucked up so far in life.

My suggestion for avoiding their nonsense is to associate with old fogies, who are past the status competition for the most part, and with high school and college students, who are too young to have entered the soul-sucking culture of hip 20- and 30-somethings. "Associating with" could be as simple as tutoring high schoolers or college kids. Their youthful vim and vigor is quite refreshing after having some 27 year-old talk your ear off about their organic-holistic herpes medicine. If you're not too old, you can even befriend and date them, but that's a topic for another post.

July 8, 2008

Demotivator poster

These things are probably out of fashion, and not so long gone that bringing them back is ironic and hip. So, at risk to my unimpeachable coolness credentials, I made one (you can make yours here):

I know it's mean to pick on someone who isn't an annoying attention-whore like Sarah Jessica Parker or Tyra Banks, but it's not like Kelly Kapowski reads this blog. You can try to banish the truth to your mind's dusty cellar by chanting, "But she's still hot, but she's still hot, but she's still hot..."

Yet the pesky truth finds some way to jimmy the door open and remind you that her looks are at best one-half as above-average as before, her girly charms even less so. And she's marginally more intelligent, urbane, and witty than she used to be -- like you care.

It's true that some women manage to remain semi-attractive and to age gracefully, but these are almost too rare to bother searching for. It's far simpler to take a young girl, who will be quite attractive due to youth alone, and for whom aging gracefully is a problem she won't have to worry about for nearly 10 years. Marry and start a family with her well before that deadline, and she'll be too occupied by motherly duties to embarrass herself socially as a still-sorta-got-it cougar.

Women love to gloat about the civilizing role they play in men's lives, which would otherwise resemble Lord of the Flies. There's some truth in that, although our intervention is just as necessary for them to avoid ruin from their own silly goals and obsessions.

July 6, 2008

Kids these days don't dress slutty like they used to 5 years ago

I've already shown that young people's behavior has become steadily less slutty since about 1990, but many still complain that regardless of their actual behavior, girls these days sure do dress like sluts. Setting aside the fact that everyone always says that, no matter how wildly different the styles are, let's look at what the declinists see as the unholy trinity of contemporary slutwear: the thong, the low-rise jean, and the tattoo. Just as soon as these items became popular, they faded away or are in the process of going "out."

First, the thong. I did a simple Google search for "+thong +sales" to confirm my hunch that it is no longer popular -- I remember them being very popular in college (1999 - 2003), and I still recall that silly "Thong Song" booming from every car radio, but that seems like another lifetime. Sure enough, a pile of results show that the thong, while still present, has been vanishing since at least 2004. Here is the most recent account I could find, and it shows that the downward trend holds in Canada, the US, and the UK.

At the height of thong sales in Canada, NPD reports that the cheeky underwear represented slightly more than 16 per cent of the national underwear market. But by 2007, thongs had slipped to a 12-per-cent share, indicating a 4.3-per-cent fall.

In the U.S., NPD shows thongs have gone from representing 23 per cent of dollar sales of underwear in 2004 to 17.7 per cent in 2007. As in Canada, the decline is the steepest of any of the seven major styles of underwear observed in that period.

The U.K. has seen the biggest drop of all, with thongs having represented a third of all underwear sales in 2003 but just 12 per cent of sales in 2007, according to British retail analyst TNS.

Be very cautious about imputing a cause to the decline post-hoc, such as a change in women's underlying preferences. They were crazy about thongs before, and now that they're no longer trendy, they make up a story about having matured and seen the light. Women will conform to whatever bizarre crap that Elle and Vogue give them the green light to wear, and journalists will then divine in the zig-zagging some deeper purpose.

What's replaced the thong, by the way -- something even more indecent?

"Boy shorts" are to today's lingerie market what the thong was in the early part of the decade. . .

In Canada, NPD shows sales of boy shorts are up 15 per cent over 2004. In the U.S., the style is up a whopping 64 per cent over that same period.

Lest you think this is confined to those who are presumably already mature enough to desire modest clothing, take a look at uber-trendy American Apparel's underwear selection. They target primarily 18 to 29 year-olds (maybe just 18 to 25), and there's hardly a thong to be found, just boy shorts galore.

Now, to aid the next round of groaning about slutty styles, I will point out that, while boy shorts are the opposite of thongs in terms of covering the skin and obscuring a girl's butt cleavage, they often resemble the underwear of adolescents or children. So, isn't this supposedly modest underwear really a way of sneaking naughty schoolgirl items into the mainstream? Phew, turns out they're slutty after all. (The pointlessness of this way of thinking is why statisticians use Bonferroni corrections.)

Second, what about low-rise jeans -- they still seem to be very common. Perhaps, but they too are on the way out. Here is a 2006 report from Newsweek. Let's check in with teen favorites Wet Seal and Forever 21 to see if high-waisted pants have made any progress there. What do you know? There are quite a handful of high-waisted jeans and pants at Forever 21, as well as among the jeans and pants at Wet Seal. Their growing popularity is also evident in the shorts and pants offerings of American Apparel. As long as they can be made to look cute and trendy, girls will wear them.

But in the meantime, we'll still have to endure those low-rise waists and midriff-baring tops, right? Can you remember the last time this look was very common? What I've seen more of over the past few years is this look:

Some girls wear one really long shirt that goes halfway down their butt, and to keep it hip they layer another, shorter shirt over the protective one. By the way, the fact that girls are always tugging down their shirts and sweaters in the back is evidence that they are wearing these things to fit in, not because they prefer them deep down. And while we're talking about tops, what about the recent popularity of babydoll tops like the one pictured above, or of Empire waist tops and dresses? They don't cling at all to the body below the chest, and they flow pretty far down below the waist of a girl's pants or jeans. This trend contradicts the view of ever eroding standards of decency, so it has gone completely unnoticed.

(As an aside, high-heels are supposed to be sexy -- I don't think so, but that's what they say. Taking that for granted, though, girls are wearing less sexy footwear in recent years too, as the popularity of ballet flats has skyrocketed. Again, something that's gone unmentioned since it doesn't support the declinist view.)

And finally, the tattoo -- even if she wears high-waisted pants and a tunic over top, what about that tramp stamp lurking beneath the surface? Tattoos also show a sharp downward turn in popularity. I will write more on this topic at GNXP.com sometime soon, but for now, I note that according to the only existing national, representative study of body art demographics, tattoos held steady in prevalence among those born between 1953 to 1964, increased steadily up through the 1977 - 1980 cohort (of whom 42% are tattooed), but dropped off among the 1981 - 1986 cohort (of whom 33% are tattooed). Body piercings decline starting in the '77 - '80 cohort, although not as sharply as for tattoos.

To sum up, sometime around 1999 or 2000, the unholy trinity began to spread throughout the culture, reaching a peak around 2004, but has begun to fade away since then. I won't say that slutty clothing followed this course, since you can read something slutty into every year's trends: if waists rise, they may still fit tightly in the pelvis, or too tightly through the leg, or whatever else. If tops cover the midriff and then some, they may still show too much of the collar, or too much cleavage, too much shoulder, or they may fit too tightly, or none of these but have suggestive images on them, or again, whatever else.

Demonstrating the demise of the unholy trinity will likely not convince the declinists that girls have begun to dress more modestly; they will keep worrying. Sluttiness in clothing is a suitably equivocal charge that you can always point to some shred of evidence to get a guilty verdict from an eager-to-convict jury, while slutty behavior is pretty specific and can be easily disproven by data.

July 2, 2008

Balkan beauties

In the comments to a post showing that the super-popularity of blonds is quite recent, Diana offered Ana Ivanovic as a brunette alternative to the blond Slavs we see all the time in the media. I pointed out that she was a Southern Slav, and she was surprised that this could make a difference. They are farther south and have a higher infectious disease burden overall compared to their Western and Eastern Slavic counterparts, so we should expect natural selection to have made the Southerns more similar to other Mediterranean European groups by convergent evolution. Furthermore, the groups who have entered the majority's genepool have been different -- just to pick one example, the largest population of Gypsies (the other hot brown girls) resides in Bulgaria, and they are fairly sizable in other areas of the former Ottoman Empire.

Here is Miss Maxim Bulgaria. Obviously, tanner skin, darker hair, and darker eyes are found more in the south (see maps here). Aside from those, what other physical trait in females do you typically associate with Southern Europe?

I found this one "in the wild" -- that is, not by typing "Balkan ass" into Google Images -- while browsing through a friend's Facebook. Although not ideal by volume, it is close to perfect in tear-droppity and bouncitude. This friend of my friend is a Bulgarian living in the US (and just graduated high school). A pretty good predictor of the prevalence of nice booties is the historical prevalence of infectious diseases. It may not correlate perfectly with latitude (Poland is pretty buggy, despite being far north), but it's useful enough as a proxy if you don't want to look up maps of the prevalence of malaria, or whatever else, around the world.

The reason is probably that a higher pathogen load pushes people to emphasize sexuality more in mate selection -- good looks tell you that they've got "good genes" for avoiding the endemic pathogens. Apply that pressure over thousands of years, and presto: hotter people. For comparison, where do the most visually attractive bird species, such as the peacock, live? A greater emphasis on sexuality should also cause the females to have a knack for dancing. Judge for yourself:

Click on the video to pop it up in a new window or tab, and watch in high quality. She has other videos that are less sensual but still very hypnotizing. She's Serbian and 17. Bulgaria has a TV show like "So You Think You Can Dance," called "Dance with Me," and a YouTube search for "Bulgarian dance with me" provides more evidence. Here's a 21 year-old contestant doing a belly dance:

Last, let's have a quick look at some Bulgarian pop singers. Pathogen load correlates with the intricacy of birdsongs, so it should produce more heavenly voices in humans for the same reason (it signals "good genes"). Here is Mariana Kalcheva, whose delightful voice allows us to overlook her bottle blond hair (her partner is Reyhan, a Turkish-speaking Gypsy from Bulgaria -- things are complicated in that part of the world). And here is Emanuela, who only sorta looks like a vampire.

If you're an assman who prefers brunettes, and who is captivated more by singers and dancers than by lawyers and businesswomen, the Balkans are a better bet than the Western or Eastern Slavic countries for finding what you're after.

July 1, 2008

Social psychology and Game: Predictors of obedience and conformity

A major complaint about pickup artist manuals is that they could simply be written to enhance the authors' reputations, to profit financially from desperate and gullible readers, and so on. I don't doubt that the authors do have these motives, but remember what Adam Smith said about ulterior motives: who cares? The question is whether or not they do what they're supposed to do. The social psychology literature has discovered several "laws" of social behavior that bear on the advice that PUAs give, and here I'll look at some research on obedience and conformity, and how to apply it in real life.

Much of a guy's in-field work consists of persuading the girl to comply with his wishes. After you two make a real connection, you do not need to worry about persuading her so much, but before that happens, a lot of your requests could be met with skepticism by most people, even something as harmless as playing thumb-war. So it is highly worthwhile to know how to persuade others into complying, especially when they would prefer not to.

The experiments

The single most famous set of experiments on obedience are those of Milgram. In brief, an Orderer tells the Target (the person whose behavior is being studied) to administer painful punishments to a Sufferer who has made mistakes in some task. Milgram wanted to see how varying certain parameters affected how often the Targets would comply with the Orderer's instructions. Here is a summary chart of all of his experiments (adapted from Figure 14.10 of Peter Gray's Psychology):

In the first four conditions, there are only the Orderer, the Target, and the Sufferer. You can see that people are less likely to obey when the Orderer is farther away (like in another room, communicating by phone), and when the Sufferer is closer (like right next to the Target). However, look at the last two conditions. These represent what happens when an additional "companion" Target is being instructed by the Orderer. In reality, this companion is in on the experiment too. The chart shows that the real Target essentially does what his companion does: if the companion disobeys, so does he, and if he complies, so does he.

Moreover, the action of the companion is the strongest predictor of obedience (a change from 10% to 90% obedience) -- even changing both of the distance parameters does not cause such a divergent result (at best, a change from 22% to 65% obedience). Clearly, you should care what other females in your target's position are doing, probably more than most other aspects of the situation. (Milgram also found that the presence of symbols of authority increased obedience rates -- more obeyed when the experiment was done at Yale compared to a non-descript building downtown. This is another benefit of wearing a jacket and tie when you're among strangers.)

Another famous sets of experiments by Asch studied conformity instead of obedience. Here, there was no authority figure instructing the target what to do. In brief, there is an incredibly easy perceptual task for the target to complete, and Asch wanted to see how the presence of others who gave incorrect answers would influence the target's answer. A group of people are in on the experiment and purposefully give wrong answers. Does the target believe his lying eyes or conform? Most people give at least one incorrect answer, in contrast to nearly never doing so when they are alone.

Ah, but what if one of the others dissents? They could either give the correct answer, or a different incorrect answer. In either case, this causes the target to go with their gut and give the correct answer after all. It only takes one dissenter in a large group to cause this change. Clearly, if you want her to conform, you had better be worried about whether there's even one bad apple in her group.

Applications to Game

First, Asch's experiments explain the cockblock phenomenon. Everyone else in the group, including the target girl, could be going along with what you say -- but even a single dissenter makes the others very likely to ignore your wishes, and you irrevocably lose the pursuit at that point. This justifies the advice to not work on the target girl first, but to charm over and defuse any potential dissenters first. This doesn't ensure that the fat, ugly friend, or the bitter man-hating friend won't pipe up later on, but it's the best you can do.

Milgram's experiments support the importance of being physically close to your target girl when making any request of her, other than perhaps asking her opinion as part of your opener. For example, if you want her to dance with you, don't stand two arm-lengths away and extend your hand -- get close to her and take her hand. And for the love of god, don't try to wave her over to you when she's a good 20 feet away or more.

They also explain why having female wingmen (or "pivots") is more important than having male wingmen. Your target girl is less likely to perceive your male wingman as another version of herself, while she could easily see your female wingman as her counterpart. And since your female wingman is going to do what you say (within reason), your target girl is almost guaranteed to play along with any compliance tests. Shit, I'll bet if you had an adventuresome female wing, you could make up an "ass-reading" compliance test, where you claim to read her personality and life prospects from cupping her ass in your hands, as long as you demonstrated it first on your comfortable, laughing female wing.

So, based on Milgram's and Asch's findings, I would suggest that you should always include at least one female wingman in your group, with guy friends being optional. And don't worry if she's not a model -- hell, you could even talk to a plain but compliant girl when you first get there and recruit her as your friend for the night: she will serve the purpose well enough for when you find a target girl. The key thing is just having a female who will go along with your compliance tests, laugh at your jokes, fondle any squeezable props you've brought along, and so on.

Final thought

Milgram's and Asch's experiments tested how people behave when they find themselves in highly unusual circumstances -- being ordered to nearly kill a person for making mistakes, and being surrounded by people who claim that two clearly different lines are of the same length. Don't expect their results to generalize to when you need to persuade people in ordinary circumstances, like taking out the trash. But when you're gaming a girl, a lot of it will be pretty unusual to her -- like asking her if she's smart, baiting her into touching you, etc. -- and so she will look to see how others like her are responding.

There is debate in the social psych lit about whether this is due to "informational" or "normative" influences -- whether she says, "the others must know something I don't," or "I don't want to stand out as a weirdo," respectively. But for improving your game, it doesn't matter why they conform or obey, as long as they do.