Sunday, 24 January 2010

Deepest desire- Human Instinct

Remember how the msn ‘today’ page is one of my most regular windows into the world of popularised heteronormativity? Well, today, looking around for something to blog in between my ongoing series, I saw an msn story labelled nothing more than ‘sexual attraction’, and I thought “Well, the definition of sexual attraction is one of the big asexual issues”, clicked on it and was taken to a 48 minute long video on the nature of sexual attraction, presented by the odious Professor Winston, who, despite his relatively inclusive and open-ended explorations of the basics of evolutionary psychology at a level pitched to the masses, somehow makes my skin crawl. I think it’s because, even as the relatively dim and socially blinkered kid I was when I last saw him, there was something vaguely disagreeable about his statements, but I may have just been projecting that. Anyway, now my cynicism is in full bud, and often directed towards popular ideas of sexual attraction, I thought I’d note what I think while watching it. This post will be incredibly odd, possibly incredibly long and mostly pointless, and I plan to return to another, much more structured, essay at some point this week.
Oh look, salsa dancing. Duh.

Begins with some statistics: What will each of us do more than 3,000 times in our lives? Oh, the harsh law of averages!

The instinct to have sex is vital if we are to produce the next generation. Really? Really? Cos, with contraception and IVF and such, the instinct to have and raise children seems much more important to me.

3.19 minutes in, and we’ve already limited ourselves to heterosexuals (cos gay people don’t watch documentaries, or expect to be included) and are exploring the difference between men and women.
3.55 seconds in, and we’ve got our first TERRIBLY, TERRIBLY flawed methodology. Hear my teeth grating. (They have one man and one women propositioning people, to see who’s most successful. Not counting at all for which one is prettier, a better speaker, etc). The results are predictable, but I’m afraid that the experiment will be used to support the idea that men and women are really, biologically different- in fact, it just has been!!- when there’s such a lot of social issues- slut-shaming and the idea that men who are direct are probably quite dangerous, but, no, it’s got to be about pregnancy. Gahh!

What underlies sexual attraction? Well, this should be interesting from an asexual point of view.
Oh no, wait, it’s just loads of montages of a guy in his trunks. Who, by the way, I find entirely unattractive, which disproves pretty much everything they’re saying about a universal standard, but then, I am attracted almost entirely to pretty faces and amazing hair.
Science has proven that a man’s body affects how attractive his children are. Well, of course! If you select a perfectly random beauty standard, then the people who are most attractive by that definition will produce those who are most attractive by that standard.

Ok, I know I’m a dyed-in-the-wool social constructionist, but there is completely no accounting for social mores and learnt behaviour in this at all.

Here comes the ‘Mr. Right-Smell’ theory. God, I’m so bored of this. Gonna phase out for the next five minutes.

Men, at least, are always primed for a potential mate, even if they don’t know it. And, we have biological evidence for this hackneyed and socially damaging idea!!
Oh, and it’s about testosterone. Men are constantly sexual because they constantly have testosterone ready. Except for the fact that testosterone does loads and loads of things, it’s not just a sexy, sexy man male sex hormone. And it’s also constantly present in women.
I really hate it when they use entirely spurious science like this to support whatever horribly damaging and hurtful status quo stuff they want to say.

It’s a lot more about gender than it is about sex. Another shoddy methodology, “It’s not as scientific as the stuff I do in my laboratory, but it’s a lot more fun.”
Fun to those who are invested in keeping old, conservative gender and sexuality alive maybe. But if you think about it as an adult, you’ll realise that this sociology-as-biology thing is actually just messing everyone up.
The experiment, by the way, is seeing whether a handful of pretty, middle-class women (who I think may be the millionaire-chasers he just interviewed) preferred him in rags or riches. Except these six women clearly knew exactly what the experiment was, and presumably had a biased view from the start. Also, ‘raggy Winston’ had no fashion sense. Believe me, it doesn’t take money to look sharp.

Infidelity. “What on earth could drive a woman to be unfaithful? The answer begins with biology.” I bet the answer isn’t going to be “Women sometimes like to have sex. Deal with it.”
“Most men are fertile all day, every day, and everyone knows it. But women are a little more complicated.” Thank god. Thank god, as a small child, I wanted to punch this guy. All that’s changed is that I have the vocabulary to disagree with him, and to actually know why his ideas are stupid and wrong. I’m glad that I wasn’t overreacting when I first watched him, and I’m glad that I didn’t just swallow his lies.

More about how women are evil. Sob story, sad music. Like they’re the only ones who cheat. The programme was made for the straight, male viewer.

Winston compares his sexual prowess and testical size to various animals. Eww.

“Men posess a powerful instinct for sexual jealousy.” 40.30, and I’ve turned it off. I won’t learn anything useful to asexuality, I won’t learn anything.

What annoys me is that I remember watching this programme. I remember a vague feeling of unquiet, but generally believing everything it said. After all, scientists said so. And if I did, how many others?

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