June 8, 2011
Exhibit A in Big Lizards' Degeneration into the Basest of Stereotypes
Power Line's Scott Johnson has aptly diagnosed Anthony Weiner's (D-NY, 100%) real underlying problem:
In the voluminous commentary that I have seen on Weiner's case, I have been struck by the lack of an awareness or description of his problem. His problem is not that he is indiscreet, or rude, or monstrously egotistical, or obnoxious and untruthful, or all of the above. Based on everything we know, I think it is safe to say that Weiner represents a newfangled throwback to an old-fashioned syndrome. He is an exhibitionist using the social media to ply his wares. He gets his thrills from exposing himself to women.
Where Dr. J. and I part company (somewhat) is towards the end of the post, where its author expresses his disgust at the syndrome:
Exhibitionism is a psychiatric disorder. Weiner appears to present a classic case, updated for the digital age.
Technically, I'm sure he is correct; exhibitionism is listed in the DSM-IV (that would be the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association), and I'm sure it's still in the upcoming DSM-5. Where I depart from conventional wisdom, if not reality, is that I see exhibitionism as perfectly normal in half the human race; and when it occurs in the other half, it's a weird version of gender identity disorder.
Don't freak; I'll explain.
Start with the basics. Dennis Prager is fond of saying that women offer sex to gain love, men offer love to gain sex. This may be true at the individual level; but at the species level, a better formulation is that women offer sex to gain security, men offer security to gain sex.
That is, unlike peahens and peacocks, human females entice and incite, while human males respond and pursue. Whatever you think of gender roles in society, the reality is that they exist and have existed as long as Mankind. While individuals vary, that's still the way to bet it.
Boring down still further, a woman's primary mode of attaining security is the display of her body, especially those parts of it associated with sex. Men's primary mode of attaining sex is to demonstrate the willingness and ability to protect a female and her offspring.
In other words, women are natural exhibitionists by evolution.
Theory is verified by everyday experience. Most women at social occasions -- or often even in the workplace or at the gym -- dress to emphasize their breasts and bottom, sometimes even their nether regions. (What does Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson call it, the lady garden?) They wear tight dresses or pants, a décolletage, slimming clothes (I mean women, not the hosts of Top Gear); most women wear makeup (or would, if their culture allowed it) to emphasize or fabricate physical beauty; and they spend far more time on their hair than do men. They select shoes and socks or stockings more by looks than practicality.
When circumstances allow, everything they wear screams "Hey, look me over!" And even when c.'s don't a., such as a school that requires uniforms, they'll often cheat as much as possible -- sneaking some lipstick, wearing the school hat a little differently, or slyly undoing a couple of shirt buttons ("Whoops! How did that happen?").
By contrast, in most eras and cultures, men tend more towards uniformity of dress, sort of a "one size obscures all." Men with 12% body fat and men with 25% body fat all look pretty much the same in a well-tailored suit. Rather than body display, men compete via the price of the suit itself and the power it represents -- "Check this $2,000 Armani suit; see how rich and powerful I am?" (Again, the usual caveats -- individual variation exists but is negligible.)
While styles change from era to era, the basic behavior is constant: Women exhibit themselves, whether that means wearing tight flapper dresses in the 'twenties, bell-bottoms and peasant blouses in the 'sixties, short-shorts and tube tops in the 'seventies and 'eighties, or provocative tattoos and piercings in the two thousand 'teens. The language varies but the content is the same: "I'm available, and I'm a hotie. See for yourself!"
(Heck, women tend to dress sexy even for other women; though there I think it's more a head-cutting competition than any latent sapphic tendencies: "Give up, girlfriend, I'm hotter than you!")
Go to the beach; what do you see? Generally, gals in skimpy bikinis or lycra one-piece suits... and guys in baggies and t-shirts. Occasionally you notice some guy strutting his stuff in a Speedo; but it's uncommon, and I think most of us find it a little weird. (Picture that video of John Edwards primping and preening during the 2004 presidential campaign; it makes you feel kind of... eew.)
Since girls, especially teens and young adults, tend to wear the bare minimum to avoid actual arrest, I think it safe to say that if the law allowed toplessness on ordinary beaches, an awful lot of girls would go topless. If it allowed complete nudity, a third of the nubile femmes would be starkers. The great majority of women are shameless exhibitionists; the great majority of men are neurotic chest-thumpers, each (of each sex) with varying degrees of success.
So back to the thesis (yes, there is one): What creeps us out about a man "exposing himself to women" -- is that he is usurping the traditionally female role, preening and displaying. As any student of mythology knows, when men become women or women become men, it shakes the earth and stampedes the cattle.
Here's your gedankenexperiment: You're walking in a public park, and you suddenly encounter a good-looking, naked woman. Reaction? You're surprised, of course, but you probably smile and watch her for a while, whether you're an innie or an outie. (Assuming you're not a male with his wife or girlfriend, in which case you abruptly go blind, if you know what's good for you.) You don't call the cops, unless you're a real Miss Grundy of either gender.
Now... you're walking in a public park, and you abruptly encounter a good-looking, naked man. Reaction? After you get over your initial shock, I suspect you beetle out of there -- whether you're hart or hind -- and rat him out to the laws.
Why the difference? Because an unexpectedly naked woman is a siren to men and a curiosity to women; an unexpectedly naked man is an outrage to men -- and a likely sexual predator to women.
It's a superweird version of John Edwards' hair games, a freakshow. But would anybody have given a rip about a video of Kay Bailey Hutchison or Hillary Clinton spraying her hair and touching up her makeup? No, for that is a traditional display mechanism for women. Contrariwise, imagine a female politician chasing her male aides the way Bill Clinton put the make on every woman he met. The brain recoils.
(And yes, I understand the implication of my thesis: I do indeed think that an awful lot of male bodybuilders are, in a psychological sense, girly men. It's the girly-male version of a beauty pageant.)
And that's what really turns our stomachs about Anthony Weiner. Many people secretly admired Clinton for his sexual escapades... because he was such a guy about it, so masculine in his horndogginess, especially considering his favorite -- well, you know what I mean. But no one on God's green earth will admire Anthony Weiner for tweeting his gentleman sausage (Clarkson again). We feel only disgust and apprehension and call it a sick perversion (which you'd never say about a Playboy model stripping for a centerfold). When it's a gent, however loosely defined, it's scary and weird.
So there goes Weiner's career, his community standing, his power and influence, and possibly even his family... all in a flash.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 8, 2011, at the time of 7:09 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dishman
This brings to mind the photo entitled "expose yourself to art".
(I'd left this comment previously, with a link, but the spam filter ate it.)
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