Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baumeister on Sexual Economics

                                                            (Roy Baumeister)

 Roy Baumeister's work on applying the logic of scarcity economics to the mating market has been discussed a few times on this blog, as has the application of microeconomic incentive theories to sexual behavior.  Baumeister, an esteemed psychologist at Florida State, and co-author Kathleen Vohs, a business school professor, have recently released a new piece describing how the progressive/feminist agenda of increasing female power in academia, the workplace, and political life has largely succeeded in creating a gender-equal playing field, but at the cost of giving men easier access to casual sex and fewer incentives to commit.

The paper.

Baumeister & Vohs:

In simple terms, we proposed that in sex, women are the suppliers and men constitute the demand (Baumeister and Vohs 2004). Hence the anti-democratic, seemingly paradoxical sex ratio findings that Regnerus describes. When women are in the minority, the sexual marketplace conforms to their preferences: committed relationships, widespread virginity, faithful partners, and early marriage. For example, American colleges in the 1950s conformed to that pattern. In our analysis, women benefit in such circumstances because the demand for their sexuality exceeds the supply. In contrast, when women are the majority, such as on today’s campuses as well as in some ethnic minority communities, things shift toward what men prefer: Plenty of sex without commitment, delayed marriage, extradyadic copulations, and the like.

The authors go on to discuss the so-called "male sexual deficit" and its ramifications under two regimes:

Sexual marketplaces take the shape they do because nature has biologically built a disadvantage into men: a huge desire for sex that makes men dependent on women. Men’s greater desire puts them at a disadvantage, just as when two parties are negotiating a possible sale or deal, the one who is more eager to make the deal is in a weaker position than the one who is willing to walk away without the deal. 

...Women certainly desire sex too — but as long as most women desire it less than most men, women have a collective advantage, and social roles and interactions will follow scripts that give women greater power than men (Baumeister et al. 2001). We have even concluded that the cultural suppression of female sexuality throughout much of history and across many different cultures has largely had its roots in the quest for marketplace advantage (see Baumeister and Twenge 2002). Women have often sustained their advantage over men by putting pressure on each other to restrict the supply of sex available to men. As with any monopoly or cartel, restricting the supply leads to a higher price. 

...Feminist theory almost always harks back to male oppression, and so the cultural suppression of female sexuality reflected men’s desires to dominate women, possess them, and/or prevent them from finding sexual fulfillment. In both cases, the cultural suppression of female sexuality should come from men. Yet the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that the cultural suppression of female sexuality is propagated and sustained by women (Baumeister and Twenge 2002). Only sexual economics theory predicted that result. Similar to how OPEC seeks to maintain a high price for oil on the world market by restricting the supply, women have often sought to maintain a high price for sex by restricting each other’s willingness to supply men with what men want.

 After looking at how education and job prospects have been steadily improving for women (also creating a delay in marriage and the well-known "hook-up culture" on college campuses), Baumeister and Vohs also consider what easier access to sexual opportunities could mean for the marriage market.

Simplistically stated, young men who were motivated to gain sex in different, more male-centric educational and work cultures could have been forced to obtain sex by gaining skills, becoming good providers, and then offering access to the resources generated by these educational and professional skills to women.  The cold-blooded logic that follows would expect that those women who were deemed capable of providing particularly high-quality sex would command higher resource-equivalency exchange rates in the mating market, and would be able to select from an assortment of highly-educated, high status, eligible males. 

As female empowerment has diminished the control that men had over provisioning activities and created many more roles for female breadwinners, however, the underlying logic of the commitment/resources-for- sex relational transaction has also been diminished.  As would be predicted by the Guttentag-Secord theory, a social climate of empowered women leads, perhaps paradoxically, to a more sexually liberated culture.

Baumeister and Vohs see this new, lower equilibrium market clearing price for sex as having, among many other consequences both positive and negative, the effect of habituating young men to adventurous and fun sexual escapades.  These frolics may not ultimately be available within the socio-legal confines of marriage, particularly if the female has incentives to offer a fantasy of a lifetime of sexual excitement in the early courtship stages and then, later on, to restrict sexual access for monopolist-pricing reasons.   

Baumeister and Vohs cite the new terms as a "market correction" and note that:

Meanwhile, the implications of the recent social changes for marriage could fill a book. Sexual economics theory has pointed to a wealth of data depicting marriage as a transaction in which the male contributes status and resources while the woman contributes sex (Baumeister and Vohs 2004). How will that play out in the coming decades? The female contribution of sex to the marriage is evanescent: As women age, they lose their sexual appeal much faster than men lose their status and resources, and some alarming evidence even indicates that wives rather quickly lose their desire for sex (Arndt 2009). To sustain a marriage across multiple decades, many husbands must accommodate to the reality of having to contribute work and other resources to a wife whose contribution of sex dwindles sharply in both quantity and quality—and who also may disapprove sharply of him seeking satisfaction in alternative outlets such as prostitution, pornography, and extramarital dalliance.

We speculate that today’s young men may be exceptionally ill prepared for a lifetime of sexual starvation that is the lot of many modern husbands. The traditional view that a wife should sexually satisfy her husband regardless of her own lack of desire has been eroded if not demolished by feminist ideology that has encouraged wives to expect husbands to wait patiently until the wife actually desires sex, with the result that marriage is a prolonged episode of sexual starvation for the husband. (A memorable anecdote from Arndt’s 2009 diary study on marital sexuality involved a couple in which the wife refused sex so often that the husband finally said that they would not have sex again until the wife initiated it. When Arndt interviewed them nine years later, he was still waiting.) Today’s young men spend their young adulthood having abundant sex with multiple partners, and that seems to us to be an exceptionally poor preparation for a lifetime of sexual starvation. 


Baumeister discusses his latest book:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kaigun: September 10th 1998-October 24th 2012

Dinah in Heaven

She did not know that she was dead
But, when the pang was o'er,
Sat down to wait her Master's tread
Upon the Golden Floor,

With ears full-cock and anxious eyes,
Impatiently resigned;
But ignorant that Paradise
Did not admit her kind.

There was one step along the Stair
That led to Heaven's Gate;
And, till she heard it, her affair
Was -- she explained -- to wait.

And she explained with flattened ear,
Bared lip and milky tooth--
Storming against Ithuriel's Spear
That only proved her truth!

Sudden -- far down the Bridge of Ghosts
That anxious spirits clomb--
She caught that step in all the hosts,
And knew that he had come.

She left them wondering what to do,
But not a doubt had she.
Swifter than her own squeal
she flew Across the Glassy Sea;

Flushing the Cherubs everywhere,
And skidding as she ran,
She refuged under Peter's Chair
And waited for her man.

There spoke a Spirit out of the press,
'Said: -- "Have you any here
That saved a fool from drunkenness,
And a coward from his fear?

"That turned a soul from dark to day
When other help was vain;
That snatched it from wan hope
and made A cur a man again?"

"Enter and look," said Peter then,
And set the Gate ajar.
"If I know aught of women and men
I trow she is not far."

"Neither by virtue, speech nor art
Nor hope of grace to win;
But godless innocence of heart
That never heard of sin:

"Neither by beauty nor belief
Nor white example shown.
Something a wanton -- more a thief --
But -- most of all -- mine own."

"Enter and look," said Peter then,
"And send you well to speed;
But, for all that I know of women and men
Your riddle is hard to read."

Then flew Dinah from under the Chair,
Into his arms she flew --
And licked his face from chin to hair
And Peter passed them through!

-Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ravens Over Laos: Inside the Legendary Steve Canyon Program

(pulp hero and professional adventurer Steve Canyon was the subject of a long-running comic strip)
As the war dragged in, so the myth grew. It started in the mid-1960s as a mix of gossip and bar talk among a battle-hardened elite who told stories that seemed fantastic to everyone who heard them. Apparently, there was another war even nastier than the one in Vietnam, and so secret that the location of the country in which it was being fought was classified. The cognoscenti simply referred to it as "the Other Theater." The men who chose to fight in it were handpicked volunteers, and anyone accepted for a tour seemed to disappear as if from the face of the earth. 

The pilots in the Other Theater were military men, but flew into battle in civilian clothes---denim cutoffs, T-shirts, cowboy hats, and dark glasses, so people said. They fought with obsolete propeller aircraft, the discarded junk of an earlier era, and suffered the highest casualty rate of the Indochinese War---as high as 50 percent, so the story went. Every man had a price put on his head by the enemy and was protected by his own personal bodyguard. Each pilot was obliged to carry a small pill of lethal shellfish toxin, especially created by the CIA, which he had sworn to take if he ever fell into the hands of the enemy. The job was to fly as the winged artillery of some fearsome warlord, who led an army of stone-age mercenaries in the pay of the CIA, and they operated out of a secret city hidden in the mountains of a jungle kingdom on the Red Chinese border.

 It certainly sounded farfetched, yet the talk emanated from people who commanded respect. Men like the Special Forces soldiers who fought behind enemy lines, CIA case officers who lived in the field year after year, and the fighter pilots who flew over North Vietnam. The pilots spoke of colleagues who had vanished into a highly classified operation code-named the Steve Canyon Program. 

When such men reappeared they had gone through a startling metamorphosis. In the military world of spit, polish, and crew-cuts, they stood apart: some sported long-hair and mutton-chop whiskers or curling, waxed mustachios, and many wore heavy gold bracelets and GMT Master Rolex watches with wide gold bands. If they happened to be on the edge of a combat zone they carried a 9mm pistol (Browning Hi-Power) in a shoulder holster, the preferred weapon of the professional soldier of fortune. And, like a caste mark, each wore a 22-carat gold ring that had an oriental royal crest set into a red cloisonne top, with a roughly cut piece of locally procured diamond at its center. 

The greatest change of all was not in their appearance, but in their manner. Self-confident to the point of arrogance and disdainful of anyone outside their own group, they had the distant air of people inducted into a powerful and mystical secret society. Insiders who worked with them knew these pilots as the Ravens. It was only natural that such a romantic group should generate talk. That almost all of it was true, in one form or another, was never established at the time. The secrecy of their activities, and the very fact of their actual existence, was guarded throughout the war. Even the Air Force colonels whose job it was to interview new pilots for the program had no clear idea of what the mission involved. ...

The passage above reads like something out of a Lustbader novel, but it actually is taken from "The Ravens: The True Story of a Secret War", a remarkable book of military history by Christopher Robbins.  Robbins, who has also chronicled Air America, the Central Intelligence Agency's airline, captures the outlaw character of these independent, heroic pilots in a number of vignettes and descriptions. 

 The Steve Canyon Program

The Raven pilots were indoctrinated into the secret war in Laos via a classified USAF program that was code-named "Steve Canyon."  Canyon was a comic-strip flyboy hero created by Milton Caniff and syndicated to several hundred newspapers in the United States.  He was portrayed as a square-jawed, blond All-American type and came into being in 1947 ("significantly, the same year that the Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency were created").  His background legend had him as a former Ohio State football player who flew combat missions in World War II and then returned home to set up a private pilot service, Horizons Unlimited, that specialized in difficult, exotic jobs.

Canyon was "dedicated to bachelorhood, with a girl in every airport."  He later moved full-time to the Orient and began running military operations again.

As Robbins notes, "The Air Force wag who gave the (Raven) program its name could not have dreamed how accurately he had described the sort of man the mission needed, or how many potential Canyons there would be willing to join it."

Becoming a Raven

The men who would eventually fly secret missions in Laos started as FAC---Forward Air Controller---pilots over Vietnam.  FACs had an inherently dangerous job:  they flew slow, unarmored Cessna "Bird Dog" prop planes at low altitudes in order to draw enemy fire and provide situational awareness/control functions for "fast-movers" (bombers), helicopters inserting and extracting ground troops, and so on.

A good FAC needed a fighter pilot's mentality but was obliged to operate at the pace of a World War I biplane.  Until as late as 1971 the FACs flew Cessna 0-1 Bird Dogs, fore-and-aft two-seater, high-wing monoplanes, most of which had been built for the Army in the 1950s, although production continued until 1961.  The Air Force felt that it was inadequate for its task in Vietnam.  It had no armor, lacked self-sealing tanks, its range was only 530 miles, it carried too few marking rockets, and its maximum speed was 115 mph...

...The FAC was essential to every aspect of the military operation in Vietnam.  It was his job to find the target, order up the fighter-bombers from a circling airborne command-and-control center or ground-based direct air support center, mark the target accurately with white phosphorous smoke rockets, and control the operation throughout the time the planes remained on station.  And after the fighters had departed, the FAC stayed over the target to make a bomb damage assessment, which he relayed to the fighters and airborne command. 

 The most aggressive, combat-obsessed FACs called themselves "the Shooters" and felt that every day that did not involve battlefield flying was a waste of time.  They were told of an extremely high-risk, secretive program that allowed for much greater autonomy than would be possible under a conventional military bureaucracy.

 Those who volunteered for the program would then be "sheep-dipped" into what we today would call a "compartmentalized black SOF" project---their military identification was replaced by Laotian driver's licenses and embassy cards claiming that they were firefighters attached to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID; the development economics agency of the federal government).  From then on, no one was referred to by rank, and most men were known only by their nicknames. 

After a day of in-processing, the new Raven was then customarily treated to an exciting night of drinking and debauchery:

 The new man was taken out on the town in a tradition known as 'nubie night.' This was an extended period of debauchery which included heavy drinking at the Purple Porpoise, an Air America (CIA air operation) hangout run by a genial Australian alcoholic named Monty Banks; more drinking at the White Rose, a favorite girlie bar; and a final round of drinking at the Les Rendezvous des Amis, an establishment specializing in warm beer and oral sex, and presided over by the distinguished Madame Lulu, famous throughout the Far East.

Nubie night was followed by the trip to Long Tieng:

The new Raven's unknown destination was the secret city of Long Tieng.  This was the hub and nerve center of the clandestine war in the Other Theater.  It appeared on no maps but had grown to be the largest city in the country after the capital.  Insiders never referred to it by name, but further shrouded the town in mystery by calling it Alternate...Outsiders who had never visited Long Tieng but had heard of its existence called it Spook Heaven because of the number of CIA operators who lived there.  For a period in history it was the most secret spot on earth. 

"Let Me Tell You of the Days of High Adventure..." 

"The Ravens" is a truly delightful book. The reader is taken to a lost jungle world of two-fisted high adventure and enchanted by tales of swashbuckling heroics and an array of colorful, larger-than-life characters. One section describes a field amputation that a pilot had to carry out on a Meo tribesman flying as his backseater---using his Randall knife, no less---after their FAC plane was lit up by 14.5mm antiaircraft fire. The pilot managed to conduct the amputation and apply a tourniquet while flying the plane with his feet .

Another chapter describes a shadow warrior called BLACK LION:  

The troops were commanded by Black Lion, the code name of Will Green, a black CIA paramilitary officer who had become a legend throughout Laos. He was a tall, wiry, quiet-spoken man who might have been a college professor, and he had earned the respect and admiration of everyone who came in contact with him. He was a former Special Forces counterinsurgency expert, a professional soldier, and an inspirational leader.

A near-mythical operator, Raven Sam Deichelmann is physically described as "the surfer version of a Greek god...deeply tanned, with a shock of blond hair bleached white by the sun and tied at the back into a nineteenth-century sailor's pigtail." He showed up on his first day wearing a Waikiki Beach surf shop t-shirt, faded jeans, and sandals. Deichelmann's path to the covert war was just as unconventional: prior to joining the Air Force, he had lived a backpacking vagabond life in Cuba, worked through a passage on a schooner bound for the South Pacific, learned to surf in Hawaii, where he also took a degree in philosophy, and then had a period of mountain trekking in New Zealand.

Deichelmann disappeared one day over Laos and was never seen again.

The Most Interesting Men in the World 


The Ravens would frequently fly out and direct air strikes for several hours during the day, going until they ran out of marking rockets or gas and then returning to swap airplanes and immediately return to the fray.  Casualty rates were high among pilots, CIA paramilitary officers (many of them former members of elite military units), and the Meo tribesmen who formed the bulk of the CIA's secret army in Laos.

The following account is typical of the routine:

Mansur was flying six to eight missions a day.  "My all time record for being in the air in one day was eleven hours and forty-five minutes.  That's a long time in an 0-1."  ...a Raven spent almost all of the time he was airborne over the target area, constantly exposed to ground fire.  "You get to the point where you are flying that much that it's no longer like flying an airplane but just an extension of your body.  You never look at the airspeed indicator, but judge the speed by the sound of the wind in the wires."

As is common practice among troops deployed to combat zones for extended periods of time, the Ravens often adopted local animals as pets and lavished attention on them. One man adopted a Himalayan black bear cub and would take the bear on flying missions (the bear apparently enjoyed the experience). When the bear was unfortunately killed by local dogs, children brought the Raven a tiger cub:  

Platt adopted him and put the cat in a cage next to the kitchen. Efforts to tame him, so that he too could fly in combat, proved futile. Platt was attacked again and again, and scratched from head to foot. "I figured that any animal who wanted his freedom that much didn't deserve to be in a cage. I took him in a jeep out in the jungle and let him go.

Members of the CIA---known by the euphemism of "Controlled American Sources" (CAS)at the time---adopted a full-sized (7') Himalayan brown bear adult male and a smaller female, and kept the animals in a cage near their bar. The Himalayan browns apparently developed an intense fondness for beer, and the operators would take turns leaving the bar to share beverages with their beloved animal friends.

 In one fiasco, a visiting USAF general's aide was thrown through a window and into the bear's cage. The general came back from his fact-finding trip to the secret war's mountain base and composed a blistering indictment of the entire CIA-Raven outfit:

General Petit returned to Udorn with a nightmare version of the Air Force operation up at Long Tieng.  The Ravens were undisciplined, ill-dressed, and insubordinate, lived like animals in filthy quarters, and spent their time in drunken native revels.  His aid had been brutalized by drink-crazed CIA men who had jammed him into a cage with two savage drunken bears. The general himself had been similarly insulted by a filthy, drunken CIA mechanic.  "The Raven FACs at Long Tieng are nothing but a ragged band of Mexican bandits."

The Ravens illustrate a romantic side of modern conflict in which it is still possible for the maverick, the barely-controllable attack dog, to find a place in which he can fit into a larger, organized campaign.  I'd certainly recommend this book for anyone interested in a unique, elite organization's role in the Vietnam conflict.  The story is comparable to those of the MACV-SOG recon teams that performed extraordinary ground missions into Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam, and perhaps even China. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Europe: "The Final Countdown"

Spanish and Italian debt at record post-euro yields while GDP growth is at zero, refinancing needs equal to almost 30% of Italy's GDP coming up in 2013 (Italy borrowing at 6% to finance Spanish bailout needs at 3% does not help). 

France may be coming into the crosshairs soon enough. 

Could we be facing...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Visual Dominance Ratio

The use of eye contact is an aspect of interpersonal relations that is now being incorporated into quantitative approaches to modeling human behavior. One such approach, the Visual Dominance Ratio, appears to possess an exciting mix of robustness and precision.  

 The Visual Dominance Ratio

The VDR brings greater detail to old views on the importance of eye contact. It appears that the absolute presence of eye contact between two individuals, while important in many respects, is less telling than the manner in which eye contact behavior shifts as an individual switches between speaking and listening roles. Simply put, the VDR takes the percentage of time that one spends looking into another person's eyes while one is speaking and divides it by the percentage of time that one spends looking into another person's eye while one is listening.

VDR= (% eye contact while speaking) / (% eye contact while listening)

So let us say that, during a lunch meeting, a man speaks for a total of ten minutes and maintains eye contact with his colleague for eight minutes, or 80% of the time. His friend speaks for a total of twenty minutes; while his friend is speaking, the man looks into the speaker's eyes for a total of sixteen minutes. Once again, this represents 80% of the available time.

80% / 80% = 1.00. A VDR of 1.00 signifies a neutral relationship in which neither party is expressing clear social dominance. Note that the man could have largely avoided eye contact with the other individual and maintained the same "equal status" type VDR (provided that he looked away while speaking and looked away while listening in equal time amounts).  

Social Dominance Cues

If you look at someone else when you speak to him or her, but then look away when that person is talking, you will generate a VDR greater than 1.00. This is generally associated with social dominance. If, on the other hand, you avoid eye contact while speaking to someone and then look into his or her eyes when the person speaks to you, this will generate a VDR lower than 1.00 and is associated with social subordination.

Leonard Mlodinow reports that VDR's predictive power can be striking:  

Here is an example of the data: when speaking to each other ROTC cadets exhibited ratios of 1.06, while ROTC cadets speaking to officers had ratios of .61; undergraduates in an introductory psychology course scored .92 when talking to a person they believed to be a high school senior who did not plan to go to college, but .59 when talking to a person they believed to be a college chemistry honor student accepted into a prestigious medical school; expert men speaking to women about a subject in their own field scored .98, while men talking to expert women about the women's field, .61; expert women speaking to nonexpert men scored 1.04, and nonexpert women speaking to expert men scored .54.  

Tactical Application of the VDR

At this stage of the VDR's development, most social scientists employing it in studies use it as a trailing indicator: social dominance or lack thereof is assumed to be pre-existing, and humans tend to display mathematically precise VDRs in accordance with these hierarchies. An interesting research area is to determine if the VDR might also be a leading indicator. In this case, the VDR could in itself help to establish or reinforce a particular dominance hierarchy. In an environment of uncertainty regarding relative positions on the status ladder, subtle behaviors could shift the balance and an understanding of the VDR could thus have potential value as a sort of social weapon. The tactical application of VDR under dynamic social conditions would be based on the idea that people can and will respond to subliminal stimuli with adaptive behavioral shifts.

If you wanted to exaggerate your social dominance position in respect to another person, for example, you would add a trained VDR pattern to your quiver of verbal and non-verbal dominance tricks. You would look directly at the person while speaking, and look away while the other person talked to you. Perhaps the recipient of this treatment would be inclined to respond on autopilot by subliminally assuming your superior status and being more likely to comply to your requests or directives. This practice could obviously run the risk of being a transparently rude and obvious dominance play and leading to a nasty, belligerent interaction, so a VDR tactician would need to factor this into the circumstances of its use.

Someone seeking to placate or de-escalate could adopt the opposing VDR pattern---looking away while speaking, maintaining eye contact while the other person spoke. This would help to establish a feeling that you are subordinating yourself.

 Finally, someone who wished to establish rapport would seek a balanced ratio. The easiest way to do this would be to maintain eye contact during the whole interaction, although in some cultures this could be seen as provocative or invasive in some way. A more refined heuristic might be to politely break eye contact when the other person looked away, and then re-establish it when the other person came back.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Goodbye to Good Men"

Interesting social commentary from Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sleek Home Fortress Design

I've been working on about a dozen articles that are in various stages of development and will try to get back to a regular posting schedule very soon, but for now I thought I would post this interesting clip of a monolithic residential construction project outside of Warsaw, Poland.

I'm not sure that the stark, bunker-like architectural features of the main house will have aesthetic appeal to many outside of devoted modernists and survivalists, but the visual lines could always be spruced up with some titanium curves(a la Gehry/Bilbao Guggenheim) or perhaps a copper ziggurat-style tower (a la Said Business School at Oxford). In any case, I think this type of structure would be particularly striking as a beach house; the sliding fortress walls and drawbridges take the concept of "storm shutters" to the next level, and they would certainly come in handy here in Florida during a severe hurricane season.

One would think that the interior of the house probably should reflect a crypto-capitalist loft sensibility---hardwood floors, granite tiles, white walls, large and multifunction living spaces, a minimalist approach to furniture, the garage with the Rover and the Aston, the inevitable high-security armory with a brace of tricked-out M4s... Perhaps our old friend Mark Evans could even contribute one of his extraordinary knife-etched leather art pieces to adorn a wall:

(Welsh artist Mark Evans made this dramatic samurai scene by slicing and shaving leather with a handful of knives and scalpels)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Temptation and Milking Machines

Important life lessons are captured in this musical from the 90s: