Again, thanks for your thought-provoking, critical, and fun responses.
I'd like to try to respond to you, even though it may take a while:
I had hoped that by making the claim on an EP Yahoo Group message board
been a member for a while but have only posted once–last year–about
and by stating in the very beginning of my message that I generally took an
view, that epistemologically, I wouldn't have to make certain claims, for
brevity's sake, and that I could assume that I didn't have to back up
statements with standard EP arguments. But I see maybe I should/need to. And
need to be more clear.
I suppose the most illuminating thing about this question–and my
message/position in particular, was that there are a myriad of
from 'it's demeaning to women,' to 'no it's not demeaning, but that's not my
experience,' to 'yes it's my experience,' to Jungian interpretations and
First of all, I stand behind my position regarding the differences between
and women regarding sexuality and 'the visual.' As I've said twice though, I
not saying women are not visual or that they don't derive pleasure (even
pleasure) from gazing at the male form.
But let's look at some of the more blatant and obvious and (perhaps
stereotypical, though I think, nonetheless true) phenomena concerning 'the
A man can very easily and happily masturbate to pornography...Whether it's
the Internet or in a magazine. How many women can easily and happily do
want to? Or DO? And if they do, did they when they were adolescents before
'learned' to do it? You and I alone must know hundreds of men who, when they
were pre-pubescent and going through puberty, would sneak Playboys and such
their rooms, without wanting a soul to know, and risking trouble from
Why? Because they really, really fancy looking at women's bodies and get off
doing so. Shocker! And EPists know exactly why this is the case, of course.
can you even picture a (heterosexual) prepubescent/adolescent girl sneaking
porn to masturbate to? I sure can't. I've never met a woman who did or does.
I sure have known some men who did and do (and some who don't, too). My
point about fantasies and stories and emotions is that, contra men who use
images to get turned on and get off, women hardly do–dare I say, don't.
(we) might need to conjure up a particular man (or men) who we have some
feeling/affect/desire for. (I'm not saying women don't have other types of
sexual fantasies.) But there's a real difference here.
I - (and my three sisters,
two daughters, and a life filled with women best friends, women's support
groups, women's studies, women's conferences ... years and years as an
outspoken feminist deeply involved in the women's movement) - do see that
women are sexy. Sexy to men, yes. Beautiful, sexy creatures, period. (Well,
those who *are* sexy, that is. Those who aren't, aren't.) But ...
... this is *not* the same as saying that women are sexually arousing *to
me.* Which they aren't.
Yes. Of course. I feel similarly! BUT...according to Bailey, if he hooked
up, you might perhaps, surprisingly, be aroused by these beautiful, sexy
who YOU thought you were only admiring, or perhaps comparing yourself to.
This is why I am softly suggesting that it is possible that a part of our
'essential' selves has been perhaps distorted, (to put it in the
negative–though I don't think it's so bad), in the face of Bailey's
evidence.... I still maintain that it's quite possible that it is NOT in our
nature to get off on things visually RELATIVE to men...but that maybe we
learned to adopt the male point of view.
*Men's* bodies - yes. Men's shoulders, arms, their hairy chests, their
other parts, men's muscles, everything about men's bodies - yum, yum!
Gorgeous! Sexy! Most definitely. Not only gorgeous and sexy the way Rodin's
"Adam" is gorgeous and sexy, but sexually *arousing* - to me - as a woman.
I love this! I only get it partly, though. It's only recently that I have
to get the visual. The sensual–NOW THAT I GET! Question is: Are you talking
Touching. Hearing. Smelling. Seeing. Feeling (as in emotions–sorry Damasio).
We're all so different in our responses, I guess. But the question again is,
is most essential?
My feminine impulse is to go ahead with personal disclosure because it feels
right and also to mirror your style because doing so feels right. But what
learned from man's world–my male models–is that it won't be respected (if
gets posted). And who needs to know my personal business, and furthermore,
cares? Nonetheless, here goes:
I am a heterosexual woman. Have always felt extremely so. In the great
of Sexuality, feel I'm at the far end of Heterosexuality. (I've questioned
many times, wondering if it was reaction formation, but alas–or not alas, I
think it's real.)
I have said I tend to have an EP/HBE perspective. Though I think there is
general universal human nature, I also think there are real differences
people. (Many EPists do too, I believe.) Not all women, and not all
women are the same. As Rushton points out in that book he sent many HBES
(RACE, EVOLUTION & BEHAVIOR), there are different kinds of men. Different
strategy types. Cads and dads. R-strategists and K-strategists. Men who are
caricatures of the typical EP male, spreading their seed far and wide. And
who are a little more 'cultured' but who obviously fall within the range of
it is to be Male–in fact our culture prizes dads over cads, of course.
So I think there are different kinds of women. A good read on all this is
Fausto-Sterling's SEXING THE BODY, if you haven't read already.
Hormonal/neuorological model is key to me, but I am also, as I said earlier,
sympathetic to social constructionist theory of gender and gay theory, etc.
So. I'm left-handed. And sometimes I feel very different than other women.
(but not all) studies have shown that left-handed women may have gotten more
androgens prenatally and that many turn out to be lesbians. (I'd like to
that everyone knows I know about these studies, but again, I now feel like I
have to qualify and explain, etc.)
Anyway, if that's the case with me, that my brain was androgenized, well, it
just made me like men a lot...and have a lot of hyper-feminine
too, it seems. (I also have hyper-masculine qualities/traits as well, like
musical ability. Brain lateralization theory probably accounts for all of
So I have never understood the visual thing and perhaps just have assumed
women fell into that category as well, within a range. (I still think it.)
That's not to say that women who are visual are somehow more masculine. My
question about women who are visual (stimulated erotically by male bodies,
is: is it nature or nurture? I think I have LEARNED to become more visual
derive pleasure from it. But I can feel and know it is not my nature.
the left-handed thing is key, though. Left-handers are typically musical and
as visual (though good at spatial stuff, I know).
One more thought here: I think there are three types of men and women (5
varieties altogether). 1. Hyper-masculine AND hyper-feminine men and women.
One side of spectrum types-either masculine with little feminine-side male,
feminine with little masculine-side female. 3 Androgynous types.
> And women may just be better at
> fantasizing and stories, etc. and may be able to better project
> themselves (than men) into scene, or imagine they are the very woman–
> or women!–that Bailey thinks is turning them on.
I don't know whether females are better story-tellers. This would
me, since I would expect men to have the edge when it comes to anything
having to do with the display of verbal skills, courtship skills, and so on.
Actually, neurological/biological evidence supports that women have the edge
language. But I wasn't talking about storytelling or storytellers, or the
display of such. I was talking about what turns a woman on. A picture of a
man in a magazine will not do it for me. Not even if I fantasize a story
him. My point about stories was this:
'It seems to me that when it comes to fantasizing with emotions, stories,
feelings, etc....most heterosexual women will not be able to get sexually
aroused about women.'
So, when a woman fantasizes to get off, she will probably, more likely than
conjure up stories, feeling, emotions, etc.
Particularly story-telling. I would have guessed that story-telling might
have been one of the earlier talents to have emerged as a neat tool for
"getting into a girl's pants" (or whatever it was EEA girls were wearing and
boys were trying to get into in those days).
Sure. And music too, as Manning and many others have pointed out.
Moreover, from what I know of female sexuality, there just *isn't* a
lot of fantasizing of the kind you're describing above. Especially compared
to men, who do quite a bit of it it, seems.
I'm trying to make a distinction between what is sexually arousing to a
and what is to a man. I am trying to understand Bailey's findings. I am
to make the point that Bailey's underlying assumption about what Sexuality
may be too reductive. (And that's particularly odd coming from me, since I'm
often reductive.) I'm talking about EMOTIONAL fantasizing as a more arousing
event for women than images. (And yes, I realize that fantasy is, in part,
internal images, and yes, real images can conjure up emotions.)
Anyway, yes, you're right, the male/female distinction re fantasy is quite
clear. I even make a similar point that you're making, in my novel, TRINE
EROTIC: "She had read somewhere that men have sexual fantasies nine times a
minute. IF ONLY I WERE A MAN, she thought."
But I think also the character of men's and women's fantasies are
different–again perhaps in terms of what is predominant (visual versus
> Perhaps the EP view of women appears reactionary, in terms of what
> her 'deep' desires are, etc...But, I think much of it is true. (And,
> of course, women can learn to go against their deep
Maybe I haven't read the right things, or heard from the most
people yet, but so far I haven't been offended or seen anything that appears
reactionary to me. The theory rings SO true. It "feels" so obvious, so solid
and grounded in ordinary, long-recognized human behavior. It feels like a
great relief, like the first theory about human psychology that makes ANY
kind of intuitive, or scientific, sense.
So first, I'd have to say that I don't find the EP view reactionary. On the
contrary, I find it deeply liberating.
Good! Again, I'm an EP/HBE supporter. I feel similarly, most all of the
and argue with SC theorists often about this. I merely wrote that because I
being attacked for being 'unduly demeaning to women." And really, EP is on
side about what I'm trying to say. And it CAN have a
ring to it. Though I don't believe, at bottom, EP is either reactionary or
So. It makes no sense to have inherited a set of algorithms designed to be
visual as men. Yes visual. But not so much as men. Start with
Who needs better visual system? The men or the women? Then, of course, all
gender-difference questions and all of Buss's findings. Of course men would
inherited modules and perhaps have more developed visual systems because men
DID were better at discerning hip-to-waist ratios, etc. And men who got
on visually by signs of high estrogen (full lips, big eyes, full breasts,
left more genes. Or it's that 'supernormal' theory, blah, blah. I feel like
this is just basic stuff which I didn't need to touch on, really.
And second, I would disagree that women can learn to go against their
algorithms/modules. Maybe somewhat, maybe with huge energy and difficulty.
Maybe. Or maybe not. Certain things I think are hard to "go against" and
sexual desires and behaviors are probably one of those "things."
I absolutely do NOT agree. And I don't think a lot of EPists would either..
example is rape. Some (but not all) EPists believe that there's a module for
rape. But just because one has a module for such a thing does not mean one
to act on such a thing. (I dislike having to write this, to me it seems
obvious–but people a lot smarter than I, like Pinker, DO...so I guess I can
too.) Anyway, this question has been posed in philosophy forever. And Freud
others have made the point as well, using various terms: superego versus id,
I think man (and woman) CAN go against our deep, dark, atavistic
we have a beautiful forebrain/prefrontal cortex, because we are human and
rational, and because we have free-will.
> Point being that EP and other fields can show us
> why there are these morphological gender/sex differences
> (biologically, in terms of visual system versus emotional, for
> example) and also why these differences were adaptive. And why a
> sweet talking musician (or a brilliant scientist) turns us on even if
> he's skinny, more so than the hunky, hulky dude who works out every
> day at the gym. (I'm referring to the visual versus aural/emotional
> aspect here. But this topic alone could get into the flexibility of
> women's desire, class questions, etc.)
I think you might be mixing up variables here, confusing the different
*criteria* for choosing mates (for men it's appearance, for women it's
status), with the way male and female brains process information (visual for
men, aural for women).
In other words, to use your example, a woman is turned on by the "skinny
musician" instead of the "hulky dude" not because she is "aural/emotional"
rather than visual, but because she is attracted to fitness indicators that
display a healthy brain *more* than she is attracted to indicators that
display a robust body. Why? Because it isn't as critical for her to know -
like a man needs to know - whether this potential mate is in his
child-bearing years. Her decision is not based on that, but rather on the
quality of his brain, a quality important to her because it will affect this
man's (and her children's) future status, and because it tells her whether
he's likely to stick around to invest in the children.
These are things she'd be looking at regardless of whether or not she was
visual or aural.
Liza, I know all this...But you couldn't know I do, I suppose. That's
foundational; I was merely piggybacking on another point...or adding to it,
the thing about aural/emotions. What I meant by emotions, in that instance,
fact, had everything to do with all those things that a woman feels about a
regarding his status, intelligence, skills, etc. That is, the
psychological/affective component that is tied to a woman's intentional (in
philosophical sense) position to a man. "Mmmm, yum, my lover is cute and has
nice shoulders...but he is also a moral philosopher (which implies many of
traits that Buss might argue women find attractive in men, say), and has a
fairly decent income, etc." And in fact, the music thing, as Manning points
out, has probably a lot to do with hormonal indicators. Note I didn't say
singer. I was trying to make a number of points all at once...I probably
shouldn't have tried to, though. Perhaps due to my temporal
> Honestly, if you want to understand women's sexuality, you might want
> to talk to them about their fantasies and hook their bodies up to
> these erotic stimuli measuring devices (talk about demeaning!!),
I wouldn't find it demeaning, just embarrassing.
Good point! I think I put that in there, again, because I was writing to a
who called my message demeaning–and I was trying to put things into
And I think, at some level, the reductive approach to understanding
a bit demeaning–certainly more so than my comments.
> I do think that by and large we are more aural than visual. And
> more invested in emotions, connection to power and security, ad
I wouldn't say we're more invested in emotions, or "connection to power."
Not sure what you mean, really, by "invested."
But men CERTAINLY have emotions!
And, you say women are more connected to power?
I meant in the EP sense...That women are connected emotionally to signs of
status, etc. in men.
> However, isn't it possible that since Woman has been objectified
> sexually, etc., that we as women have LEARNED to do it as well?
I do not think that women have been "objectified." I find this a most
ridiculous, inaccurate, deliberately misleading term, and I always have. All
throughout the heyday of the women's movement I thought it was an unethical
and dangerously incorrect word, a buzz word which distorted the whole
picture of what goes on between the sexes, further confusing relations
between us. And it certainly doesn't fit with EP theory.
Hmm...I think, on the contrary–it DOES fit in with evolutionary theory. Who
doing the gazing?????? Men!!! And we know why!!! Signs of youth, fecundity,
fertility, etc. etc. WE are the objects. I've gotten used to it. Sometimes
it, sometimes don't, and sometimes don't care. However, I also sometimes try
fight the Woman-as Surveyed/Man-as-Surveyor paradigm in subtle ways (because
have free-will) and appreciate that men want to fight it sometimes, too
THEY have free-will).
Also, when I used the phrase 'objectified'....I was using it in its more
sense. Hence the Berger quote that "men act and women appear. Men look at
Women watch themselves being looked at," etc. I actually did not mean it in
pejorative feminist-era sense. Woman-as-object can be negative, positive or
I also don't believe that women could learn to be visual to any great
more than we are to begin with, save an accident to that part of the brain.
I don't agree.
I don't think plasticity works like that, does it?
I think it does!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think the question regarding our deep, inherited, essential (hard-wired)
nature versus learned stuff is critical. Can our brains change? Yes. Can we
become more visual? I suppose so. HOWEVER...here's an undeveloped thought
this: I think there may be a difference in how it FEELS. If a person is
sensitive enough, maybe they can feel the different layers. They can discern
what feels like the depth and core of what all their successful ancestors
passed down to them in their cytosine and adenine and guanine and
can feel the difference in intensity of desire between nature and nurture.
who knows? This is getting into questions of Self, executive functions,
identity, etc. and I really am afraid at this moment to get into it!
> What would it mean to have a 'gay brain' but to have learned
> not to get aroused by same sex erotic stimuli? Is it possible? This
> seems related to the researchers' study and seems to support the most
> simple observation re our culture's response to gay women/gay men:
> that it is harder to be a gay man than it is a lesbian. And, of
> course, that enjoying the beauty of one's own sex is easier for the
> fairer one.
I think it's harder to be a gay man than a lesbian because this is a
You say this but don't think women are objectified? Hmm.
As far as enjoying the beauty of one's own sex - I think this is more an
issue of a female brain being wired to be acutely aware of the importance of
appearance and beauty.
We pay attention to it, because it's what matters
Indeed. I agree.
> My own bias is that there IS an essential and fundamentally different
> character to women and men's sexuality. But I see it falling down EP
> lines rather than these 'biological' ones.
I don't understand this last paragraph, and I'd like to see what you're
saying about the difference between EP and biology. So I hope you'll
I hope some of what I wrote answers this question. If not...Oh boy! (girl!
Afterthoughts (not posted):
"Sexuality comprises a more biologically
encapsulated system for men than for women, and is less permeable to
other beliefs and cultures. In evolutionary parlance, sexuality is
more modular for men than for women." Pg. 215
-From Garth Fletcher's The New Science
of Intimate Relationships (2002)
left-handed. And sometimes I feel very different than other women.
(but not all) studies have shown that left-handed women may have
androgens prenatally and that many turn out to be lesbians.... Anyway,
if that's the case with me, that my brain was androgenized, well, it
just made me like men a lot.
since done some more reading on the left-handed connection to brain
androgenization, and it looks like there may be different kinds of
left-handedness: Genetic and 'pathological.' (Pathological referring to
the androgenization of the fetal brain.) Based on the fact that my father
was left-handed (but forced to become right-handed), and that the nail bed
of my left thumb is squarer than the right (a sign for genetic
left-handedness), and that my second digit (index finger) is actually
longer than my fourth (ring finger) [a sign of low testosterone/high
estrogen, according to Manning–and in fact, many lesbians seem to have the
reverse–longer fourth digit than second], I'm going to conclude that my
brain was probably not androgenized during fetal development, and
that I'm a genetic left-hander.
It might be interesting to compare the sexual
orientation/identity/drive, etc. of genetic versus pathological
left-handed women, as well as to that of right-handed women versus both
kinds of left-handed women.
© 2004 Entelechy: Mind & Culture. New Paltz, NY. All rights