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Fascinating and thoughtful piece, and thank you for this Substack. I wonder whether the trend for girls in particular to present as men or in a masculine way, even to imagine themselves as men, is not to ‘be’ men but rather to hide from them. A sort of secular burka? In which case, is there more wisdom in the old binaries which were a sort of compromise (however imperfect) between the alpha male ego, the beta male and the good of the tribe, and the vulnerable but necessary females? And who has the happier and more meaningful life? The medicated, anxious and possibly mutilated modern woman or the Amish wife with her loyal and loving husband and half dozen children who think the world of her? Maybe there is a middle way, but you sort of need to see the edges on each side of the path to see the way ahead clearly.

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I would like to respond to this essay with some Christian theology that relates: Since Adam and Eve first left the garden of Eden, the crux of conflict has been within our own bodies, a vying between body and soul. As creatures of the earth like other creatures, we have the animal desires, but we are also created with souls that are constantly desiring the higher things, and essentially rob us of happiness if we cannot get to that higher plane. Interestingly, the lifespans of the Old Testament got shorter and shorter as time goes on, starting with Adam who lived almost a thousand years, to Moses who I think only lived to about 600 ( I could be wrong on that number but it was definitely less!), and so on. The explanation for this I found surprising because I only learned it recently. The Old Testament explains that the reason for shorter lifespans is very simply, sin. Sin, could also be described as living completely by the animalic desires of your human condition and involves in the basest form, murder, violence, lust and uninhibited sex, selfishness and gluttony , etc. If you find in your anthropologic studies that civilizations have prospered better and progressed more with modesty in play, this would make sense if God did in fact attach consequences to our choices. Because otherwise, if we are simply mere animals like the rest of the earthly creatures , living by constant animalic instinct and inclinations, the success of humanity would not be impacted by something like modesty, which clearly, as you suggest, it is. C.S. Lewis wrote into his allegorical Narnia Chronicles the possibility of intelligent animals to lose their intellectual prowess if they spent too much time living like the lesser, " dumb animals," a warning given by the king of the animals, Aslan the lion. Lewis was highlighting this human conflict, I think in a very clever way.

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The author states that chimpanzee children will interrupt their mothers' mating, thus increasing their own survival odds. How do chimpanzee children understand the link between copulation and pregnancy?

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Same way chimps understand the link between food and survival or sex and reproduction -- they don't need to. Their genes understand and make it instinctive.

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They don't! They just feel it's yucky when mom is mating.

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This is a very interesting essay but it gets one thing very wrong. It's too long to quote but I'm talking about the part of the essay about female 'agency' in attracting a male...."when women got the agency to advertise their own qualities. In the 20th century, when women got both spare time and financial resources with which to increase their perceived value at the mating market, it turbo accelerated......When women and girls spend their time applying and removing make-up, removing body hair and shopping for spectacular clothes...." etc

This is a big common misunderstanding about female intrasexual competition (one I think that springs from its being mostly written about by women). The reality of male desire is that it has overwhelmingly to do with the comeliness of the female body (shape curves etc). Men can always spot which women are prettier and which are 'plainer' and clothes and make-up adornments have relatively little to do with it. This is contrary to what women think and the vast female adornment industry encourages them to think. In fact this huge industry serves in many ways to delude what used to be called 'plain' women into imagining that they can escape the stacked prettiness cards that their genes gave them.

Similar intra-sexual hard truths exist for men too but in their case have more to do with personality than with physical looks.

I wrote about these hugely neglected intra-sexual relaities in The Less Desired: https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/the-less-desired

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The article linked is pretty weak in my opinion - scattered, covering ground already covered better by others.

Anyone looking for a patch-work look at some X and Y issues could gain from this, but I've seen the individual topics covered better and as an overview the article is unorganized

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There is a famous a drawing that claims that Becky "thinks guys like the 'natural' look".

https://woodfromeden.substack.com/p/becky-is-depressed

It is implied that Becky is wrong. So at least the man (I suppose it was a man) who made the drawing liked the unnatural look. Or at least assumed that others do.

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Human males often don't really say what they want or cannot articulate what it is that they really want.

Human females are similar, FWIW. The female who talks about how she really wants "a nice, sensitive guy" but ever always only chases assholes is a stock trope.

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Yes! And that makes both males and females easy victims of manipulation.

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I was trying to make a very large point in a short comment on a comment thread which inevitably entails much approximation. Yes clothes and makeup can enhance sexual appeal. Yes of course they can. But a poorly dressed unmade up 'naturally' pretty woman will always have more appeal then a less physically 'lucky' one (for want of a better term) however well dressed/made-up. That was my point and it is one much better understood my men than by women for fairly obvious reasons. Nature is very unfair for both sexes and it is something that is hard to face. Your use of your painting illustration sounds like you just don't want to engage with that hard truth. Read my Less Desired essay and then tell me if there's anything to refute in it.

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Apr 28·edited Apr 28Author

Men who appreciate natural beauty clearly exist (I caught one myself, actually). It also seems like most men CAN appreciate natural beauty: The Schwarzentruber Amish have about ten children per couple and they ban everything from hair cuts to the removal of body hair and they only take a bath about once a week. I have tried to find estimates of how much sex average people must have to have ten children. Unfortunately that was difficult to find. The fact that Schwarzentruber Amish seem more attracted to each other than the mainstream population makes a great argument against the use of cosmetics.

It would be very interesting to know how many or few men actually appreciate the efforts women make with their looks. A few clearly do, a few clearly don't, and then there are those in the middle who officially like the natural look but who can't tell the difference between the natural and skillful make-up, unwittingly rewarding the women who deceive them.

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> they only take a bath about once a week.

A great measure to discourage interaction with mainstream society, huh? I’m not Amish, but grew up with that particular habit. Only after puberty, when I began to stink in earnest, and my classmates made a point to show their discomfort, did I learn that anything less than showering every day was considered very disgusting.

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We seem to be a bit at crossed purposes here. Your focus is on the naural look vs madeup look. My comments have been about something else.....that some people are just a lot more desired than others.... and this huge intra-sexual dimension tends to get shied away from in discussions about sexual relations which tend to get framed in entirely inter-sexual terms: "this is how it is for 'Men'" and "this is how it is for 'Women'".

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Jun 3, 2023·edited Jun 3, 2023

As I picked posts on this site to read I went into them thinking--hmm, from the title I'll bet there's going to be the usual feminist bias ending in a pointed finger at some male failing or dysfunction. But so far every post is carefully reasoned, using evolutionary psychology, anthropology, and the plain old scientific method to make reasonable, sensible inferences. The consistent premise is that we are sexual, biological creatures who evolved, like all sexual creatures, as the products of ancestors of both sexes who succeeded in the sexual market--a true premise. Male evolutionary psychologists inevitably make concessions to the culture's feminist bias by highlighting toxic aspects of male sexuality. (For example, the book "Demonic Males" is brilliant and full of insights, but the title illustrates my point.) The even-handedness of the posts here is vanishingly rare. A pleasure to read.

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I was about to say something similar, thanks for doing it for me.

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"Rationalism is a great idea. I mean, who doesn't want to be rational? But it often makes me disappointed, because rationalists commonly leave about 98,3 percent of all phenomena in the world outside rational thought."

Thank you. Often they are taking a microscope to the ground under the streetlamp, while criticizing those who search for the keys in the dimmer light farther out.

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I signed up for this substack in solidarity with Anders re: the virtue of being voluntarily poor. But I also like your sociological writing even if I disagree with some of it.

Here, I think you make the point well about the unintended benefit women got from the patriarchal rules.

As to the idea that "the evolutionary success of a culture depends on it crude fertility rate" I can see that as true in one sense, but it depends on what you mean by "culture". I see the world *at this specific time* as mostly a collection of overlapping subcultures whose success depends on their ability to integrate with each other. I'm not sure how well that's going.

As your writing suggests, it's impossible to show a theory about humans that is completely true or even generally true over time. This is my guiding "belief".

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Apr 6, 2023·edited Apr 6, 2023Author

It's nice to have you here!

Cultures can take over each other with niceness. That is what mainstream Western culture has done with most of its competitors. It just did its own thing and waited persistently for outsiders to convert. And they did, because Mainstream Western was such a productive and tolerant culture. However, that is not the only way for a culture to be successful. Having a very high fertility rate and being actively hostile to mainstream society is another. The distance to mainstream culture makes it difficult for people to convert, so they tend to stay and have many children of their own instead, which makes their culture continue it's exponential growth. Economist Eric Kauffman wrote about that in his book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth. And I wrote more about it here. https://woodfromeden.substack.com/p/do-you-like-your-ideas-then-have

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>>What’s worse, it is a race to the bottom

1. Most women like sex. With the right guy(s) anyway.

2. A significant number of women, maybe most, are happy with some short-term sex, some of the time.

3. At least a decent number of women (>10%) really like short-term sex, more than long-term sex, and a lot of them are hot. They like sexual novelty, variety, etc.

4. It's possible women experience sexual boredom sooner than men. Wednesday Martin's book *Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free* is interesting. https://theredquest.substack.com/p/untrue-on-female-lust-and-infidelity-for-players

5. A lot of women like competing for men (and, ideally, winning). Almost all romance novel concern a woman competing for, and winning, a man. Women like a prize that's earned more than one that's not. https://theredquest.substack.com/p/the-holidays-are-coming-up-shit-tests-comfort-tests-and-gifts

6. A lot of women prefer the present arrangements, and some would prefer much more modesty. Not everyone gets what they want.

7. Different arrangements are better at different points in life. A lot of 20 year old women are intoxicated by the male attention they get. A lot of 40 year old spinsters wish they'd picked a guy and settled down, not been so picky, etc. And older women don't like competing with younger ones.

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Apr 6, 2023·edited Apr 6, 2023Author

1. Yes.

2. Yes, some of the time. But especially in certain environments, some of the time has a tendency to grow into most of the time. You recognize as much as me the difficulty to make men get past the novelty stage of a relationship and get serious. Which is ultimately a threat against our civilization: No kids, no future. https://woodfromeden.substack.com/p/do-you-like-your-ideas-then-have

3. Yup. And they are doing great. But all societies need to negotiate between the interests of minorities and majorities and society as a whole.

4. Agreed. We have also Daniel Bergner's What Women Want. But feeling something is not the same as wanting something, as I wrote about here. https://woodfromeden.substack.com/p/the-ambivalent-nature-of-female-desire

If women want to prioritize their relationships despite their sexual boredom, it is the boredom that somehow needs to be handled (I think people versed in psychology and sexology talk way too little about that problem, it's hardly recognized.)

5. I don't like romance novels but I have tried to learn as much as possible about them and I have read a few, at least partially. And my impression is that romance novels is not about women who compere, but women who win the jackpot out of nowhere. They are young, often virgins and a super alpha man just happens to fall in love with them for no comprehensible reason at all. I plan to write more about romance novels in my next post.

6. Yes. But my perspective is not only what is good for the individual, but also what is good for society. Ultimately, our society competes with other societies. If we do too plain badly, other societies are going to impose their cultural norms on our descendants.

7. Yes. And the question is: Is it a good idea that intoxicated 20 year olds make life miserable for their 40 year old selves? If you have a great asset, why not invest it wisely? If society somehow helped 20 year olds getting over their intoxication at least a little, they might get better at investing that beauty in a deal that makes them happy at 40. And besides, with current depression rates, young women don't even seem happy, despite winning the beauty contest. As long as tens of percent of young women are depressed, I doubt the current arrangement is good even for them.

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What is your opinion on what Jordan B. Peterson has to say about monogamy? Do you believe that the advent of “choice feminism” has made women/society worse off?

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Can you be more specific about what Peterson said? Or, do you have a link?

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Yeah:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAIAJ0X4Bwk&ab_channel=ChrisWilliamson

https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/media/on-the-new-york-times-and-enforced-monogamy/

Peterson's gist is that he wants "enforced monogamy", meaning that social norms should be tailored to celebrate monogamy as the best relationship style (as opposed to, say, "ENM")

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For a counterpoint: Not really. Or at least, there are three reasons to be flexible about monogamy.

1. The is-ought problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem

2. Past, and neighboring societies were flexible about marriage. Tove mentions the success of the West, but this began in the High Middle Ages, where chastity outside of marriage and fidelity after marriage may have been an *ideal*, but what went on in bathhouses, rustic villages like Montaillou, and brothels, was widely tolerated. In Japan (at least recently) there was a sense that extramarital sex with a prostitute was not really cheating. Discretion was valued, but people commonly strayed.

3. I may be totally monogamous, but I also know I'm a clear exception. Numerous features of human biology, including the size of the penis, the shape of the glans (optimized to scrape competitor's semen out of the vagina) and the size of the testes (optimized to beat rivals with sheer volume of ejaculate) suggest that since arising from the chimps, our evolutionary history is *more* promiscuous, not less. Surveys show that people have large numbers of sexual partners, half of marriages end in divorce, and cheating is rare, but hardly uncommon.

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I mostly agree, except about those details about penises and testicles: Chimps have bigger testicles than humans, despite being slightly smaller. For some reason I read this yesterday: https://theconversation.com/why-did-humans-evolve-big-penises-but-small-testicles-71652

And isn't it rather contested that human penises are designed to scrape away the last visitor's sperm? The article above says that human penises look rather like monogamous animals' penises to their shape.

Details aside, I thought like you when I first heard about polyamory. Great idea, I thought: so much better if people can be open about what they are doing anyway. But now that non-monogamy gets increasingly accepted, I think that evidence, or at least circumstancial evidence, is piling up against it. Without any idea to guide people how to organize their relationships, people have fewer relationships, it seems. So with time, I have become much more forgiving toward the monogamy ideal for society at large. It has its obvious flaws, but until I see anything better I will be a cautious supporter.

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I should revisit this topic when I'm not ill - I didn't mean to imply humans have larger testicles than chimpanzees, and that's really the way my last post reads. But at the same time your source glosses over substantial differences in penis shape between the species. The chimpanzee penis is filiform and completely lacks a glans. Such a penis is poorly adapted to sperm competition compared to that of the humble human.

I want to clarify that I'm really not trying to promote polyamory as a best relationship style, either. Most people have high levels of negative emotionality, and it takes a tolerant psychology to manage jealousy in a polyamorous relationship. But there are also a lot of people who struggle, and fail, to make monogamy work; the failure to live up to something that is seen as normal and idealized as a moral obligation adds insult to injury. So there's a difference between saying that monogamy can't really be held up as an ideal (which I am saying), and saying alternatives should be idealized instead (which I am not).

Just leave them be! Humans have too much trouble with sex; they have too much trouble with everything.

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No, that source is not very good, I just enjoyed the graphics. The text also says that foragers are always monogamous or serially monogamous, which is ljust mot true at all because there was an entire continent of foragers called Australia where people were polygyny was widely practiced.

I think that it would be better to say that monogamy is good rather than saying that infidelity/poly is bad. If people forego polygamous temptation and focus their energies on building a good relationship with their partner and raising children together, I think they are worthy of some kind of... badge of honor. I think calling people boring/unnatural/lacking imagination or whatever for doing that, as some poly peolke do, is not fair. But also, if some people agree with each other to lead polygamous lives in any way and that works for them, that is great too. Live and let live.

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Yes, I agree with Peterson (and with his source, Joseph Henrich) that monogamy was a great step forward and probably is a factor behind the success of the West.

In theory, ethical non-monogamy could have led to two outcomes:

1. People have more relationships because the ban against polygamy is taken away

2. People have fewer relationships because they don't know what to expect from each other.

In the real world, all the evidence points to alternative 2. I think that non-monogamous norms have failed on the empirical level. I don't think it is dangerous for society if some people decide to experiment with alternative relationship patterns now and then. But I think it hurts society a lot when the vast majority of people lacks a framework for how to be together.

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Female intrasexual competition was always a thing. Helena Valero was a 12 years old white girl kidnapped by the Yanomami. As soon as she was taken to a village an indian girl tried to poison her. Not even patriarchal societies avoided this. The harems of the ottoman sultans were rife with lethal intrigue.

Being evolved for intrasexual competition over men women tend to compare how they look to other women far more than man do. This has become a problem for their self-esteem in the age of photoshop and countless instagram models

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> Not even patriarchal societies avoided this.

Didn't conditions in patriarchal/patrilineal societies *create* this? The fitness landscapes of bilineal or matrilineal societies wouldn't encourage that kind of competition.

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Sadly I haven't read the book about Helena Valero because it is very expensive. But I have read about that poisoning anecdote and wonder: How can we know the motives of poison-leaf girl? She might have resented Helena for being beautiful, but isn't it possible that she was a xenophobe or something instead?

As far as I know, polygyny in general causes a lot of resentment and conflicts among co-wives. Co-wives factually compete over resources at very close range. In that light, I think that the existence of polygyny at all is a strong indicator of the effectiveness of patriarchy. If men can actually hold women under such conditions without one kicking the others out, that if anything says something about male power.

I also wonder whether the self-esteem problem for modern females is caused by technology or by social factors. Technology enables the dispersal of pictures. But society doesn't say that competition over who is the sexiest is actually bad. I wonder how much self-esteem could be saved if there was a strong ideal saying that instragrammable beauty is actually rather unimportant.

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"I wonder how much self-esteem could be saved if there was a strong ideal saying that instragrammable beauty is actually rather unimportant."

My approach to this is to focus on the creation of subcultures in which other things (e.g. intellectual dialogue, moral decency) are more important. There is no "we" who can change how people in general perceive instagrammable beauty, thus no "we" who can say that any particular other ideal is better than instagrammable beauty.

That said, there are distinctive subcultures with their own norms. The Amish, Mormons, Kibbutzim, various communes and intentional communities, etc. have been able to establish distinctive social norms, including distinctive notions of human excellence. At a more modest level, Montessori and Waldorf schools often develop distinctive human norms among their populations. I wouldn't claim they are perfect, but the one's I've visited certainly display a distinctive peer culture, quite different from mainstream public schools.

For instance, almost 25 years ago I created a Montessori middle school in Palo Alto where half the children had been raised in Montessori their whole life and the other half came in from public schools. There were three such girls who were initially very annoyed that there parents had put them in such an "uncool" school. In 6th grade they were already into heavy makeup, sexually provocative attire, and a "mean girl" tough attitude. Meanwhile the girls (and boys) who had come up through Montessori were still sweet, innocent children playing the games of children and not aspiring to be teenagers. How "uncool"! That said, gradually the makeup, provocative attire, and tough girl look vanished as the Montessori culture took over. Three years later, when the girls had to go back to public school (we only went through grade 8), the girls were crying - they hated the thought of having to put the "mean girl" mask back on. It was heart-breaking. I've since seen dozens of similar situations, warm positive microschool environments with better peer cultures that serve as a haven for teens unhappy in regular school environments.

Here is the one scholarly analysis I've found of distinctive school cultures, the tiniest of beginnings,

https://iasculture.org/research/culture-formation/school-cultures-and-student-formation-project

Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue, first describes the obliteration of virtue in modernity over the past several centuries. He then creates an abstract, general, sociological analysis of virtue cultures in general, whether they be Greek, Native American, Jane Austen, etc. He identifies three components:

1. A lifelong conception of human life. That is, a prerequisite for a virtue culture is what our life as a whole means within in our community, not which party are we going to this weekend.

2. A coherent moral tradition, with certain ideals, heroes, jokes which are acceptable vs. jokes which are sacrilegious, traditions, holidays, myths, etc.

3. A set of practices which habituate members into the ways of life in a community.

I see this as a template for contemporary culture design. It is one that I use explicitly at my schools, where we cultivate explicit norms around:

1). Intellectual engagement through Socratic dialogue and

2) The respectful cultivation of moral decency through dialogue about serious moral issues are explicit norms

3). While allowing for a huge degree of epistemological pluralism about beliefs - unlike religion, no dogmas required

My broader point is that whether or not one believes that my particular project (or Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) is viable, the idea that we could change norms on "body positivity" by means of shouting against the ether and promoting norms in the public space (e.g. Sports Illustrated cover featuring Yumi Ni) strikes me as a far too shallow approach in the face of our evolutionarily evolved instincts. Until and unless we raise young people within more coherent virtue cultures, the most cynical views on the future of human relationships are apt to be all too likely. Moloch wins.

But we do know that human beings have created thousands of cultures that were not based on the shallowest standards of physical appearance. The problem is that we began to erase all cultural norms in modernity through the physical dislocations and disruptions of modernity, the deliberate effort by intellectuals to eliminate all traditional cultural norms, and government schooling which gradually lost all ability to inculcate consistent norms of any sort. And, of course, the norms of the past were indeed often racist, sexist, etc. Despite the extreme human cost of cultural erasure, I'm all in favor of the Enlightenment initiative to eliminate bigotry. But now that we're pretty far along in sterilizing the petri dishes, it is time to focus on exploring new, more positive, deliberately created subcultures.

Thus the age of Instagram has appeared after the possibility of rich, thick local cultures has largely been eliminated (at least in the US) outside of Amish, Mormon, Hasidic Jewish, etc. If one combines adolescents who have been raised with no moral expectations with the chaos of the internet, one gets 4chan and the Instagram babe competition.

The recreation of local cultures, starting with intentional communities and with schools based on coherent moral cultures, may sound like much too big a lift in light of the scale of the challenge. Maybe so. But I see creating new, positive identities in robust local virtue cultures as the best chance of turning things around. Once it becomes widely recognized as an ideal with viable strategy and tactics, progress may move quickly. Both parents and children long for connection, community, meaning, and purpose,

https://flowidealism.medium.com/addressing-the-adolescent-mental-health-crisis-through-connection-community-meaning-and-purpose-1b047fc62167

Here is a broader evolutionary mismatch account of adolescent dysfunction and mental illness which will appeal to your evolutionary psychologist within,

https://flowidealism.medium.com/evolutionary-mismatch-as-a-causal-factor-in-adolescent-dysfunction-and-mental-illness-d235cc85584

I'm writing a book on this, "The Creation of Conscious Culture through Educational Innovation." Ping me if you are interested, Tove.

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I think this is a very interesting idea. Who could deny that schools matter a lot for teenage mental health? And who could deny that school seldom is an overwhelmingly positive experience for kids?

I have thought about evolutionary psychology and education too, and reached the same conclusions as you. Many people would probably be much better off with less formal education.

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That's what the body positivity movement is trying to do but i doubt it will be successful. The cues to sexual attractiveness must be deeply embeded in our biology because otherwise sexual reproduction wouldn't work. Sure, there's paraphilias and what not but they impact a small minority of people.

Notably, much of that instragrammable feminine beauty is actually targeted at women. That has always been the case with the fashion industry and fashion magazines. While both Vogue and Playboy featured beautiful young women, their body shape, styling and target demographic were very different.

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Yes, I think the body positivity movement fails for the exact reasons you mention. Humans are hardwired to prefer some body types to others. It's not possible to change that through saying that being super fat is healthy and beautiful.

Still, there could be some kind of modesty movement saying that OK, obviously most humans like some people's looks more than others, but don't we have better things to do than dwelling on that fact all day?

Yes, really, isn't that a bit absurd? In the world of women, being svelte is/was very high status, but in the world of men, there has always been a preference for women with some curves. But I think the two worlds have converged during the last 20 years. When I was young about 20 years ago, being thin or thinner was high status among women. A little sophistication was also required. Women who catered to stereotypical male preferences too obviously were labelled bimbos. Paris Hilton was on the news for being... rich and thin and having a sex life.

Then a few years later, Paris' good friend Kim Kardashian took over the leader shirt. Suddenly, her ostentatiously unsophisticated looks were in high demand. The word "bimbo" disappeared from the vocabulary. Presumably because being what was previously called a bimbo has become the new normal.

I can't help wondering whether the above development has anything to do with increased male power over females. It could be sex ratios, maybe? Since sex ratios have become more female-heavy in many places, young women can no longer afford to cultivate their own subculture under a thin veil of sophistication?

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Mrs. Apple Pie points out that the reproductive success of Genghis Khan belies your claim that we are all betas now. But this is a fairly minor point, and we think you mean that even Genghis Khan had sex like a beta chimpanzee, discretely and in private.

Ultimately this is such a provocative post, filled with interesting ideas, that it's difficult to reply coherently. The general rule you give here: "In healthy competition, people produce a net positive for society while competing. In toxic competition, people produce a net negative," is enormously important, but I don't see Rationalists mentioning it, and it's a critical distinction that I don't think most people nowadays understand. The observation that "Muslim/Asian societies have traditionally leaned more towards female oppression, while Christian/European societies have leaned more towards male self-restraint" is also a good one, and relates to former societies transitioning from agrarian patrilinealism to bilinealism later than the latter. And I would definitely never have realized that the amount of time women spend on their appearance reduced productivity. My sense has always been that the kind of woman who obsesses over her looks would, if you took her makeup kit and Gucci bag away, then have 90 minutes a day more to waste on Snapchat, but, I can see that some very practically minded women end up dragged into Makeup Mire just to avoid losing their jobs.

I think I can say something useful about the main argument you're trying to make, though. I don't believe that the main drag on modern society is women competing uselessly. I may need to formulate a post to explain it, but the essence of what I think your argument so far is missing can be stated like this:

Everyone knows setting fires, nonconsensual sex, and hitting people for fun is destructive. These are male-coded behaviors, and we carefully socialize people not to do these things. Yet very few people truly realize how destructive malicious gossip, unrealistic idealism, misplaced sympathy, and the insistence on ideological conformity is. To the extent that these are female coded behaviors, nobody socializes anyone not to do these things.

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I think basically, competing over looks is mostly not creative or artistic because when people compete over looks, they all try to look the same. There are some variations and some creativity in it, but to 90 percent it is about looking like the Pretty Girl stereotype. Women compete over who looks the least as a particular person and the most like a cartoon picture of Woman.

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They certainly don't try to look the same clothes-wise.

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No, you're right. I guess the ideal is to look like a standard beauty with an artistic streak expressed in what to wear.

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After thinking about this, it's only partially true. Women try to look their best, which is a combination of flawlessness *and* interestingness. People broadly regard age over thirty, ill health, and overweight as flaws to be minimized, but the color and style of hair, jewelry, and clothing allows for prismatic variety of personal presentation. Type "cosplay" into your search engine and count all the pictures of ladies trying to look like very *specific* cartoon women. It's men who do better in uniform.

Moreover, and more importantly, people's preferences differ. Only a certain segment of the population has beauty standards which are both ordinary and narrow. In other words, it's only some people who will reject anyone who doesn't look like some variety of Barbie. Yes, there are plenty of people who do have narrow conceptions of what is attractive, but more women than men are narrow-minded like this, and ladies who try to look like Barbie are mostly stuck in the trap of thinking that somehow what matters is cowing other women into hysterical bouts of Bulimia. (Hint for the ladies: if people cry and throw up after looking at you, that may not be because you are beautiful)

Men's preferences are more broad, and they vary considerably from person to person (in fact they vary so much that some men don't even like women). The women I've always liked were older, taller, and curvier than the ladies on TV. To me the cartoon picture of Woman often just looks like an unappealing little girl.

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Feb 23, 2023·edited Feb 23, 2023Author

Fashion and beauty certainly are creative pursuits. But I think the creative component is rather minor compared to the flawlessness component. It is like first, a lot of time and money is spent on attaining flawlessness. Then a touch of individuality is added on top of that. That touch of individuality is a way for women from higher social classes to distinguish themselves from women from lower social classes. I live in a place where people are rather unsophisticated. Young women often skip that last step here, and go out in plain Pretty Girl uniform (platinum blond hair, a mask of make-up, clothes chosen to reveal a standard sexy body). In the cities, women know that on top of looking flawless, they are supposed to show that they have some kind of concept of style .

In general, I don't think men are terribly judging. I mean, the Schwartzentruber Amish never use make-up, don't remove any body hair and take a bath once a week. Still, they have about ten children per couple. Which means they are keeping up sexual activity year after year, while many couples in the better groomed mainstream population stop having sex after they have a child or two. So I don't think it is male fussiness that drives women to spend their time and creativity on their own looks. Rather, men haplessly watch women's furious competition. Some of them gravitate toward the winners, others don't appreciate the beauty competition much at all. Some women (myself included, in my younger days) consciously niche themselves toward that group.

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I'm not as much of a people-watcher as you are. But living in urban and rural areas across the United States, I don't observe girls or women doing what you describe. The American woman is, in her native habitat, extremely diverse in her appearance. The more obsessed she is with makeup, the more she cultivates an individual style, and none look like any others. Sometimes their preferences are bizarre to the point of comedy; more than once I've had to maintain a neutral expression in the face of exotic clownishness. Whatever it is you observe, Tove, it isn't common the United States!

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Feb 24, 2023·edited Feb 24, 2023Author

I have heard of that a number of times: Europeans spend more time and money on their looks than Americans. Anders once theorized it is because so many Americans are fat (and were before fatness became more common in Europe too): very fat people never become stylish whatever they do, so they create a culture of casual appearance that contagiates the others a bit.

I think that only having one's own body as an outlet of creativity is a sign of poverty. It is a normal situation for teenagers and young people who don't own anything. I don't think we were made to be so self-focused. Some people might be happy about it, but I think most people, male and female, are better off when they have a creative outlet outside of themselves.

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> Mrs. Apple Pie points out that the reproductive success of Genghis Khan belies your claim that we are all betas now.

In war social rules tend to dissolve a bit. Also the general rule that sexual activity should take place in private.

> Ultimately this is such a provocative post, filled with interesting ideas, that it's difficult to reply coherently.

That is the peril of thinking while writing. It also doesn't help that I know of no one else who is writing about this, so it very much starting from scratch. Which forces me to think of one new question after another. The result becomes a bit... dense.

> I don't believe that the main drag on modern society is women competing uselessly.

I'm very usure about the mechanisms here. People do technically useless things to socialize all the time. No one wants a society where one hundred percent of the population is working on rocket science one hundred percent of the time. So obviously, time wasted is not a great measurement of the social usefulness or uselessness of a practice.

I think that what makes the uselessness look so bad, is that it makes it obvious that it is all a big competition. If people compete in useful sports, they can always claim that they are actually into the sport, not the competition. For example, I can claim I'm into writing because I like it and find it important, not only because I want to write better than others. Sure, females can claim that their efforts in front of the mirror is of artistic nature and not at all competitive. I don't believe it (I need to think more about why).

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