Michael Maiello's picture

    Ross Douthat: Sexual Moronae

    Of course, Ross Douthat is writing about the "Incels," which are guys who can't get laid and then turn to the dark side of blaming women for their sexual failures and mostly ranting online about it. Spoiler alert for the cultural infinity wars: Ross thinks that lefties are equally to blame for the attitudes of men who think they're owed a screw.  Further spoiler alert -- like an incel waking from a deep sleep, Douthat is all wet.

    Douthat likes to write a type of column, every now and then, where he contrasts the views of a libertarian or populist right winger with those of somebody on the far left of social thought and then inevitably argue that both sides have exposed a deep cultural rift for which we can blame the 60s.

    In this case, he brings up a libertarian economics professor, who suggests some sort of "sexual redistribution." Josh Marshall wrote about this guy as well.  I'm a little surprised that anybody takes this guy at his word.  Seems to me that this is a libertarian making an argument about sex that is really an argument about how redistribution in economics is bad.  It's not a serious proposal.

    Then, Douthat lurches left:

    (Amia) Srinivasan ultimately answered her title question in the negative: “There is no entitlement to sex, and everyone is entitled to want what they want.” But her negative answer was a qualified one. While “no one has a right to be desired,” at the same time “who is desired and who isn’t is a political question,” which left-wing and feminist politics might help society answer differently someday. This wouldn’t instantiate a formal right to sex, exactly, but if the new order worked as its revolutionary architects intended, sex would be more justly distributed than it is today.

    Sounds radial, huh?  But it seems to me that Srinivasan is making a pretty uncontroversial point, which is that who you find sexy is the product of who you are and who you are is somewhat the product of where and how you live, your cultural influences, etc.  I don't think I have to go on at length here. There's not much to this except that if people make themselves aware, to whatever extent, that many of their preferences have been fed to them, they might also find a way to broaden their palates and to have some pretty great experiences.

    Douthat thinks this means the legalization of all sex work and the creation of sex robots and virtual reality porn. While I support all those things (if that's what you're into) it doesn't really follow from Srinivasan's argument, as he presents it.

    Douthat is a really strange guy. 



    I think people are horridly uncompassionate. Human loneliness, the need to be desired, wanted, companionship, is one of the most basic in the world. Cloris Leachman popped up on my Twitter feed the other day, and her role in The Last Picture Show still floors me, even thinking about it. Yet we're going to mix this with our daily political rants and again miss the big picture. Why would liberals not want people to be happy, to be satisfied, to be in love? Why would they make fun of people who don't manage, and not recognize the psychological toll all this yearning and lack of fruition brings? And it's hardly just about guys - how many girls and women suffer and fight with their appearance, their feeling of self-worth. Can't we be nice?

    The problem with incels is violence. I don’t think Liberals object to legalized prostitution. Good luck restructuring things beyond that.

    You know, this blog used to be tough.

    Oh, don't worry - I'm just lulling you into a sense of complacency, then it's the ol' Bulgarian stranglehold, and all over but the shouting. And the dames. Cause the ladies just luv 'em some rasslers.

    Destor23 crush. Destor23 machka!

    You might take me, but I've got my devochka as my tag team, and she's badass.

    I remember that guy. 


    Wonder whatever happened to him?

    Probably went soft. Like that other guy. Desiree. Yeah. 

    Too bad. 

     * spits * 

    I am behind the can't we just be nice more than you can know. But I do despair about that. It's clear to me that the whole bullying, shaming, mean-guy-mean-gal internet-dating-swipe-people away culture isn't going away and had escalated way past the kind of thing I experienced back in junior high. And that was before the Trump era.

    It's possible, people can still be nice to each other, I still see it, it's just that the areas where it exists are fewer and far between. Certainly not in NYC. On the latter, I've almost come to see a switch over the decades to NYC being more like LA used to be-cutthroat competitive, and vice versa. People are kind to each other in LA, not so much here. In NYC people always seem to be looking to "mate" with the best possibility in the room, not just sexually, in all ways; networking hierarchically so hard that you devolve the idea of a network.

    Yeah, I did this girl in a NoHo AirBnB, and she didn't even want to swap LinkedIn contacts.  Can't even get hooked up properly anymore. Primitive & barbarian we've become. Of course no fair comparing to LA - can't grow avocados worth shit in the Big Apple.

    Yep, I don't know where nice fits in anymore. Efficient or sloppy, that's one thing, but kind? Let me know.

    Human loneliness, the need to be desired, wanted, companionship, is one of the most basic in the world.

    And it's a real-life, crippling issue when there are "Too Many Men"* - especially in places like China and India where men outnumber women by the millions.  The linked article is fascinating, enlightening and somewhat scary in that loneliness and the inability to have the family and companionship we all need can become huge economical, societal and even criminal issues that affect more than just the people intimately involved in the lack of intimacy.   

    *The piece is actually broken up into several pieces - the one referring to what happens when there just aren't enough women to go around in a culture that practically requires it is Stagnant Lives. 

    Looked it up again. She did it in 1 take, wanted to do another, director told her "no, they'll give you an Oscar for this one". He was right. Brilliant. And sad.

    Douthat is a really strange guy. 

    You know, this is the usual result when you try to square being a practicing believing Catholic and a highly educated person at the same time.cheeky

    In this instance, for example, I am sure he likes to ponder these questions because Catholicism teaches that every human being is equally worthy and precious, each worthy of god's love and the love of all other humans while at the same time agreeing fully with the science of evolution. And that humans developed the brain to alter things (in that direction,hopefully) and serve as masters over all the other species and use scientific knowledge to save human lives and the planet. Like: invent and use antibiotics to kill the bacterial agents of the devil, and better energy to combat the global warming agent of the devil. But control population: nope! Everyone should breed like crazy! Within a nuclear family. God wills it! And you must leave out that part of evolutionary science where genes continually alter via competition for survival of the species. Everybody equal, everybody gets to have sex as long as it's reproductive  within a family structure and we are to love the lowest examples of the species as equal to the highest. Square that with an ivy League education!

    Look at Andrew Sullivan. Heck, look at Evelyn Waugh...Strange...

    And he has a stage for his psychodrama, too!

    I think Douthat isn't being that enigmatic.


    We have a society that places a conceivably inproportionate amount of attention on trans use of bathrooms, defends/promotes single motherhood as "you go, grrrl", and defends the role of prostitutes and porn stars in delivering their services, not to mention the long-time-coming addressing of sexual harrassment everywhere, but can't bring itself to adultly address the elephant in the room, the lonely horny frequently male unsatisfied libido and psyche that drives most of the excess we're concerned with. Instead we get a largely dismissive "fuck 'em, let 'em masturbate and suck eggs" as a response. First, I'm concerned about females who aren't high on the MeToo Darwin list - I.e. not so hot but would like some companionship and respect. 2nd, while we're attacking the Incels, the MeToo predators have largely been the privileged cute bad boys, so let's not blame the socially awkward for the kool kidz' krimes. 3rd we have a whole porn/sex trade/Viagra conglomerate that makes up perhaps 1/10th of our economy, yet we vent and fume about the idea of trying to deal with loneliness and sexual exclusion head on. We know enough about bullying, yet we don't tie the related issues together. We can talk like grownups about job satisfaction, finding the right career blah blah blah, but addressing relationships and the need to interact better, find outlets for frustration, put the relationships side in order just meets with scorn. We should be finding healthy ways to interact from an early age and educating kids on how to put it in place, not bashing people for even discussing it. Can tech help? About as much as interrnwt porn has, like probably not very much, in some ways maybe making the problems worse, but I'm willing to discuss, won't faint, and surely better than half the girls being constant targets for abuse and harrassment and the other half being targets for scorn and bullying. Is it because Douthat's Catholic? Not even sure what that has to do with the question. I don't think the original essay professed to have all the ansewers, or even any. He was seeding a discussion - one that's since turned rather bitter. Yet people raved to me about the movie Ex-Machina which seemed horribly misogynistic and dystopian. But it wasn't an op-ed from a political writer, so no biggie.

    I'm not convinced that the unsatisfied male libido is what drives most of the excesses we're concerned with. I've seen no data to support or refute that claim but my sense from my reading is that most of the perpetuators of sexual harassment and rape have ready access to sex.


    Careful with the "availability" trap - the stories we hear about are probably not an accurate sampling of the actual occurrences of various behavior, thanks to fame/tabloids, preferred media markets, et al.

    From my reading it seems to me the majority of sexual harassment is done by married men. Even if it's an article about accusations against a local factory manager or diner or fast food manager. I'd call that available. If they're unable to negotiate for sex with their wife I don't see what society can do about that.

    Please, please remember - rape is about power and violence over/toward a perceived lesser individual, not sex.  I say this only to point out the difference in the conversation, not as a direct resonse to you, ocean-kat.

    Yes, thank for that, bf. Reacting to not having sex by violently taking sex or violently harming another person is not about intimacy. It's about feeling entitled to something because of your position in society (i.e., male) and being angry because you're not getting it. I'm all for kindness and empathy and if someone wants an intimate connection badly but can't seem to find it, that is indeed sad. But so is not being able to attend school because your family can't afford shoes or seeing your island country beginning to forever sink under the ocean because of the actions of billions of people you'll never meet. Everybody encounters obstacles in their lives. They deserve compassion certainly, but they're not entitled to it.

    Again, that's not what the article that started this brouhaha is about and the furor is largely from people reading the first 5 paragraphs and giving up. And it's not just a simple statement of the reverse either - she dives into the complexities of where our 3rd or 4th or 5th-stage feminism has brought us tied to all the other developments. Part of me was saying, "do i really want to go here?" but then part responded "of course I do, because it's the most intelligent wide-reaching analysis of what's going on in our social development - personal spaces and social Facebook to Grindr - that I've read in quite a while".

    And yeah, probably because of all the furor and the title and the article being referenced by Douthat, I assumed the author until just now was a guy. But this is just a minor kind of exclusion/prejudice/pre-selection compared to many of the finely sliced & diced communities on the internet & elsewhere.


    (you may need an anonymous browser to get past paywall)

    I've read several articles on the Incel movement and I really haven't been able to understand it. Who are these people and how many of them are there? As I look at my own life I think no one can be more introverted than I. One must have some radically severe personality disorders to be more socially awkward than I. I could recount times I went to a bar and sat there from 11 until the bar closed at 2 and was too shy to even once approach a women and attempt to begin a conversation. Yet for all my introversion I was able to screw up my courage, face the rejection, and find women who liked me enough to sleep with me. I even got married and lived for some years with a couple of women.

    It's really not that hard to get laid. I'm 5' 4" and went bald in my early 20's so on top of my introversion and social awkwardness I'm not an incredibly handsome man. Women aren't monsters who delight in with holding sex to punish men. Women can be lonely too with innate physical desires to touch and be touched as much as men. Both men and women want and need to have physical sexual contact with other people. Try as I might to understand I can't see the Incel movement as a commentary on society. I can only see it as looking at a small group of men with a severe form of a mental illness.

    I think you're take is exactly right on.

    from some of what I've read about the online groups, one of the common problems is they think they should have hot babes that they see in the porn. Those other people around, of the ordinary plain female variety are not who they are trying to have sex with, they are non persons. They were dissed by coolest babe in high school and tried a couple more cool babes and gave up. They don't try with ordinary plain women or overweight women etc..They don't try because they don't know how to interact with them as persons, they didn't grow up with a sister, etc., they are aliens and aliens that don't fit the sex pictures in their head.

    It did strike me before reading Douhat that they are a cohort which sex robots et. al. targets. Because they have this strange exclusionary ideal in their heads about women and sex which has nothing to do with an interpersonal relationship of any other kind. They don't think about ordinary-looking women at all in any way. They don't "get" them and don't know how to talk with them and don't want them, they are a foreign species. You know, I would suspect if there are females participating in the "movement" they are exactly the same way and probably don't "get" guys and don't have a clue how to interact and therefore have separate segregated internet spaces.

    Seems to me many of those guys might benefit from watching a couple episodes of "Girls" where the dumpy girl with all kinds of psychological issues has as much sex or more then the better looking ones. Watch how she acts, she what she says, and how guys get in bed with her. Might be that simple for many of them. Certainly their problem is not going to be solved by trying to contact the best looking babes on Tinder and ignoring the rest.

    Yeah, that's how it seems to me. If the only thing you want is the most beautiful porn star or runway model you're gonna have a problem. It's not like these guys have the looks to walk the runway. Most of us are average looking. There's nothing about us that's hard to look at or strikingly unattractive and nothing that's amazingly beautiful. But you know, even great beauty isn't unattainable for an average looking man. I lived with a strikingly beautiful women for a few years. She was extremely introverted, like me, and a excellent flautist. An aggressive approach wouldn't have worked. That would have scared her off. We shared a deep interest in music, especially very off beat serious music, both modern classical and avantgarde jazz as well as avantgarde art in general. There were things we liked to do that we could do together and talk about.

    I sympathize with these guys on a certain level just as I sympathize with anyone with a mental illness that makes it hard for them to navigate reality, but the problem isn't women. It's them. There's all sorts of simple suggestions I could make to help socially awkward guys find women who would be open to forming a relationship with a sexual component. Or they need to see a therapist. But I can't see how their problems are indicative of a larger societal problem.

    story on related zeitgeist on home page @ WaPo right now, I haven't read this article yet but I have read others on the affects his book is having on teh cultural discourse; mucho controversy:

    Jordan Peterson’s crusade to toughen up young men lands him on a cultural divide

    In a popular book, in sold-out lectures and, most potently, on YouTube, the clinical psychologist has railed against what he sees as slouchers, slackers, chumps and low-status dudes who have amassed a crumpled pile of inferior habits and made the world a messier place.

    Great minds...

    Hot take alert! Hot take alert! MUST CREDIT DAGBLOG!

    methinks you might be waiting a long time (more psychological profiling! laugh)

    It's like Marshall cheated on the 60's meme. I went to the wikipedia entry on Douhat and followed that to this 2005 Observer profile on him, 

    Mr. Douthat was raised in New Haven, Conn., alongside one younger sister. Their father was a lawyer and their mother primarily a homemaker. The family scene was a combination of crunchy hippiedom-“health-food camps,” etc.-Democratic politics and hard-core Catholicism, to which the entire family converted when Mr. Douthat was a teen. (His mother is also at work on a book, about this conversion.) Young Ross moved rightward in his teenage years, partly as a form of youthful rebellion

    and while I'm then there's this for the Incel interest thing. At Harvard undergrad:

    Mr. Douthat stuck out in part because of his passionate religiosity: He is strongly anti-abortion and said that “premarital chastity is something that as a Catholic and a Christian I aspire to.” (Although he has one serious former girlfriend-“Alice” in the book, who in real life is Baltimore Sun feature writer Abigail Tucker.)

    When asked whether he’d “aspired” successfully, he blushingly answered: “I think I should probably take the Fifth.”

    In Privilege, he describes semi-stalking one Rachel Polley, who seemed to tease him mercilessly for months on end, distracting him by hanging around his dorm room in skimpy tank tops and letting him nibble at her shoulders.

    Wikipedia says he married Tucker.

    To be fair, here's one of my own issues: Always have this desire to practice psychological profiling on pundits without credentials, just can't let it go. blush

    Just another type of "art" to appraise - these people are a piece of work, and I admire your ability to specialize & stay focused - I wantonly analyze everyone, though not with any great precision.

    I'm only here cause the sex robots asked me to come. 


    The sex must be really good if you're willing to endure talking with us just to keep on your robot's good side. wink

    Robots don’t have a good side. They do it in binary.

    Except quantum robots. They swing both ways at the same time...or neither way. It's confusing. Just don't mess with their q-bits.

    *Ordered* you to come - what do you think the stirrups & mouth bit were about?

    He did say "ask."
    I think he is just trying to be polite.

    Yeah, it's the Canadian in him that brings out the Southerner in me.

    Thanks for having opinions about my opinions, dirty hippies. Cardinal Douthat.

    Your Eminence, I got some advice on your endocrine situation.  Androgel--you are never (it turns out....) too  young for andropause.  Call Rudy G--you guys can split a tube.

    Jeebus Douthat is an idiot, but he has also exposed his own inability to see women as equal human beings and if I were his wife we’d be having a discussion. He is blaming women of course for their magic V’s having ultimate control over these weak assed men.  But women aren’t fully human, because according to Douthat and the Virgin boys women only use sex to control men, they don’t really want or need or like sex, it’s just something for controlling men. This whole fucking OrangeAmerica is the worst America every single day.

    Skip Douthat and the first 5 paragraphs. Read this long complex treatise on where feminism and male(ism?) has gitten in the last 4 decades, with a whole lot of dissection and summarizing of various philosophies and movements, including intersection with race and size and disabilities, etc.

    It is one of the sadnesses of the internet that something so long and complex and intricate can basically be dismissed with a pithy "fucktard" or whatever, but at least we have source material to go back to. (the author may share some blame, choosing a title that doesnt begin to do justice to the bulk of the article, even if that topic is touched on)


     The question posed by radical self-love movements is not whether there is a right to sex (there isn’t), but whether there is a duty to transfigure, as best we can, our desires.

    Right there is the point Douthat misses, and it's two lines before what he quoted.  Funny aside, Douthat went on the Twitter to explain that what he was really writing about, in all of this, was how you should read people from both the extreme right and the extreme left to get a view as to what is ailing society.  It's a BS interpretation of his own work. I think he actually misread both the writers he quoted and that the whole "read the extremes" was just a smokescreen for his usual "life was better before sexual liberation" argument.

    He did what too many writers do when using other material to make their own completely separate point - he linked to articles that he (mostly correctly) assumed no one would bother to read.  We see it all the time.

     just a smokescreen for his usual "life was better before sexual liberation" argument.

    Exactly. Like I said, always trying to figure out arguments to square with Catholic theology on sex life. It's an eternal torturous task. Sullivan does it too, even stranger for a gay man of his age. They drive themselves crazee. I like my greatest generation dad's explanation better for why he goes to church every Sunday his whole life like the good altar boy he once was but never takes communion: well, I don't believe all that crap but it gives me a sense of peace.

    I like your Dad.

    It’s the same reason I agree that my wife should take our son to church without me.

    Gabriella Paiella @ New York is with ya:

    Ross Douthat’s greatest sex writing hits, from his strict stance on porn to the infamous “chunky Reese Witherspoon” episode https://t.co/uNP3nHbUT9

    — New York Magazine (@NYMag) May 5, 2018

    I (predictably) loathe and despise Douthat.  Here's an interesting take on the matter from Souciant (??!) which I never heard of but, shame on me.



    good piece with great tweets embedded, and the video interview with the sex robot was surprisingly very amusing!

    Uggh, perhaps because I don't know Douthat I don't feel obliged to jump out of my skin to denounce him.
    "Second, the latter are shut out for some other reason than the preference of women for sex partners who aren’t repugnant to them" - yes, watching Donald Trump Jr's rather hot mistress post a video showing how much he hurt her reminds me how repugnant people without cleft chins and a large wad of cash are, unlike the intelligent beautiful people hanging out at Trump Tower such as the criminally vapid president's son, who has the dubious distinction of being slightly smarter than his idiot brother Eric.

    Can we cut the bullshit that sex is a largely rational and merit-based activity? I mean, we do our best, but these blanket statements often miss the boat. And again, read one of the longer non-Douthat non-male commentaries to absorb.

    And also please note that while we'll now condemn people for fat shaming women, we're not so nearly likely to offer the same support for fat men, as just one area of our contradictory approaches towards modern "equality". Feelings matter until it's a class of people we suppose we don't like, and then their feelings are just an unwarranted expression of privilege, nothing more. Guys have the responsibility to not be repugnant to women, or stop complaining, period - it doesn't go any deeper than that.

    Good embedded link @ the end from way back in 1994:

     (The cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker labels this phenomenon the “euphemism treadmill.”) Words can accrue associative power whether we like it or not—and even the coiner of a term may have no control over the direction it takes as it circulates in the world.

    with stuff very very au courant, like 

    One side says that language insidiously shapes attitudes and that vigilance against subtle offense is necessary to eliminate prejudice. The other bristles at legislating language, seeing a corrosion of clarity and expressiveness at best, and thought control at worst, changing the way reporters render events and opinions.

    This New Yorker piece is a must read on the subject - and makes mention of the article cited here.

    Yes! Thank you. I thought of posting it too after I read it, but then I forgot. It's a great piece.

    The incels have as much to add to a discussion of sexuality as NAMBLA. Their ideas should get the same treatment as NAMBLA's ideas.

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