Jason (jcreed) wrote,
Jason
jcreed

I find myself still thinking about the discussion over in kimberly's post about women shaving body hair and underlying motives for preferring it. It seems to be a friends-only post, so, sorry to those who can't read it.

In summary the debate centered around this: the claim that there's a general undercurrent of preference by men for women with a youthful (even perhaps to the extreme of prepubescent) apperance. Ergo, a preference for shaved armits, legs, genitals, etc. However, excepted from this generalization are preferences for large breasts and big ol' babymakin' hips, definite signs of sexual maturity.

Now, what I just wrote is my description of the side of the debate I wasn't on, but I tried to write it in as sympathetic a way as I could. I even tend to agree with it in this weakened form: sure, men should of course for evolutionary reasons have a preference for women with more baby-making-and-raising years left in them. Maybe even being hormonally compelled to snatch up the good ones before they reach puberty and all the other chimps catch on to their sexy, sexy phenotype is a damn fine strategy.

The question is this: what lets us get from M is underlying motive that would, if it were acting, lead to behavior B to M is probably the cause of B? In the hairlessness argument, why is it reasonable to suppose that the real reason men like shaved pussy is that they like 'em young? Or that it's "all about" power and control, or perpetuating the patriarchy?

Why can people get away with (apparently just) asserting these sort of things in academic discourse? I'm in no way saying it's not of critical importance to find out what relevance power and discrimination and self-perpetuating systems have to relations between discriminable parts of human society; I'm not saying I don't think sexism and racism and so on aren't real and important and almost certainly massively pernicious and relevant. But you can't conclude that the accused is a witch by dint of accusation. Why does "well, I just really think that the real cause is M" have any argumentative weight at all?

Another example close to my heart: why do people believe or even care so much about the ideas of Freud? Sure, if you postulate that kids are obsessively ivolved in sexual competition with their parents, then you can "explain" all kinds of behaviors using that vocabulary. For any behavior, I can come up with some story that connects it to my assumptions about the child's motives in some way; but the any in that sentence isn't an indication of the power of the theory, but of its impotence: it's unfalsifiable. This kind of informal after the fact storytelling "explanation" is wildly unscientific. If I say I am not interested in having sex with my mother, I can be told, oh, well, actually you do, you just don't know it.

Dammit. I'm really worried now, because I want to admit the validity of the notion of the subconscious per se. But my argument doesn't seem to discriminate between postulating particular weird beliefs about hidden underlying motives and postulating hidden underlying motives at all: it attacks both. Oh, fuck. I think I'm turning into a behaviorist. Eww.
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