Humor as an antidote to frustration, from Christopher Hitchens

I think of Christopher Hitchens more along the lines of Katha Pollitt, who “want[s] to complicate the picture even at the risk of seeming churlish.” And she does. Still, Hitchens was sometimes spectacularly right, as in this introduction to Arguably: Essays:

The people who must never have power are the humorless. To impossible certainties of rectitude they ally tedium and uniformity. Since an essential element in the American idea is its variety, I have tried to celebrate things that are amusing for their own sake, or ridiculous but revealing, or simply of intrinsic interest. All of the above might apply to the subject of my little essay on the art and science of the blowjob, for example [….]

Be almost as wary of the humorless as you are of the people who pride themselves on humor.

The frustrations of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape

I started Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape in the hope that it would cover sexuality and sexual dynamics thoroughly. It didn’t, mostly because few of its writers know anything about evolutionary biology / psychology, game theory, incentives, or economics. Instead, they offer unmoored political polemics about how people should act, or how culture operates. Few of the writers discuss how incentives shape behavior or how the choices made by individuals do, in the aggregate, form culture itself.

Yes Means Yes feels like descriptions of the physical world before Newton formulated his laws. The major exception is Julia Serano’s “Why Nice Guys Finish Last,” because she has a sense of how we’ve gotten to an equilibrium that explains why a lot of women are unhappy because many of the guys they sleep with treat them like dirt afterwards (and, often, before), while a lot of men are unhappy because they find sexual success linked to domineering behavior. She says:

Any attempts to critique men for being sexually aggressive, or to critique women to fulfilling the role of sexual object, will have a very limited effect. These tactics, after all, fail to address the crucial issue of demand. So long as heterosexual women are attracted to men who act like aggressors, and heterosexual men are attracted to women who act like objects, people will continue to fulfill those roles.

Serano at least understands the problem and the forces at work. Most of the rest of the writers don’t, rendering the book not worth reading. One could understand a book like this in, say, the 1960s, before a lot of contemporary research in numerous venues on subjects relating to sexuality. But Yes Means Yes was published in 2008.

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