A Reflection on Your Comments on The Game Theory of Sex
To me as someone with a uterus, reading the first article was at times very uncomfortable but yet so insightful. I think I was so scared that you had a hidden agenda that were too far off my values and core belief. I find your articles too rewarding to be forced to stop reading them. I quickly understood though that there were no such thing.
I think we too seldom go to first principle and truly dissect important topics like you are doing now.
Looking forward to read the rest of the series!!
I am finding it funny that people are complaining that you're not touching certain pet subjects when you're clearly saying "hey guys, I am approaching from first principles"
It's abundantly clear that in the 20th article of this series you could approach LGBT or whatever. But it helps very much to understand what differs men and women biologically BEFORE adding the social layer (because obviously the biology came BEFORE culture). And understanding what differs men and women socially BEFORE adding other variations like transsexuality.
Some people in the comments are like these people who want to study quantum physics before understanding cinematics.
Also, we can always decide that something is natural and do the unnatural thing, like wearing shoes. You shouldn't need to explain these things.
Great series, Tom.
I'm not familiar with the broader conversation that's happening throughout the world, but here in my corner of the US, there is a movement towards the nonrecognition of differences between the sexes and classifying any difference as a difference between genders. It's almost heresy to write or say many of the things you've already written. Even your title "What Makes Men and Women Different?" is antithetical. I think this is why you got (and will continue to get) so much push back.
I believe you used to live in CA so I'm sure you're familiar with this cultural change, but I can't recall how long it's been since you moved to Europe and it's possible the conversation is happening differently over there. I am looking forward to this series, and please, don't walk on eggshells. There's enough of that happening all over the place. State your opinion boldly (hopefully backed by research and thoughtfulness) and try not to worry what people will think or say about you. I imagine you will lose readership no matter how you frame your articles and points of view. I will continue to read even if you disagree with me. Good luck.
“Why do women want more men to hit on them than they do today?”
What!?! Perhaps I am an exception, but this is exactly opposite of what I would want. I do not want men to view me as something to be scored. Yuck.
I've always gotten the sense that the poor understanding and toxicity surrounding this topic is rooted in the people that are so quick to jump down your throat about even broaching it. This has been going on well before the internet, as it's always been a faux pas to reference in conversation outside of your inner circle.
It's as if anyone who reacts this way is immediately assuming bad faith
This chills any discourse on the topic, and the information vacuum left is filled by those who don't care, who typically tend to be the ones spewing bullshit and acting in bad faith. Which perpetuates the toxic nature of this topic, and prevents evolving beyond it.
This leaves us with a bunch of people who know little - and what little they do "know" often is misconceptions - and yet they're too afraid to ask anything to fix that, while those who do are only left with vitriol and bullshit from bad actors, thanks to society generally making the topic taboo.
What I really don't understand though, is how people who subscribe here couldn't catch their knee-jerk reactions before trying to shut down the conversation. It's evident from your past content that you're clearly acting in good faith, and correct yourself when missteps occur. This is the exact kind of person you want to fill the information vacuum.
Comments like that only serve to perpetuate the toxic discourse on this topic, and yet they come from people who clearly wish it wasn't so cancerous.
Just let him cook, and correct things as they come
Helpful to have this outline of where the series is heading.
At the risk of widening your scope - or this might be a suggestion for the next series...
... I feel there is more to life than maximising happiness and rights. These things are important but i think there are other bases to cover. Example: a happy idyllic island society that gets hit by a tsunami, or suffers a massive crop failure, or discovered by a colonising power and overrun, possibly wiped out. The happiness drops dramatically as a result. The society's happiness was not resilient to external threats. It was not even aware of the threats.
So i think there is another category of stuff that matters. Stuff that protects us against bad things. Resilience or antifragility. Main components include:
- awareness of threats
- inclination and capabilities to manage these threats if they arise and or prevent them
- long term growth in skills and capabilities
- means by which these elements can be retained and grown over generations.
These are enormous questions with even bigger ramifications.
I’ve really enjoyed some unique perspectives on Substack. I love the diversity and rawness of opinions direct to an audience, and the high quality of reasoning but get really concerned about the scientific knowledge and how thorough authors are at finding and referencing high quality existing research.
Super glad that you’re keeping an open mind during this series and making corrections as you go based on reader feedback - bravo for that truly!
Please consider proactively engaging with more expert guest opinions and research first like scientists studying evolutionary biology and psychology, sexual selection, reproduction and genealogy studies, gender study historians, and philosophers as well as female or other gender/sex contributors instead of relying on reader feedback.
Based on how you’re referencing your research in first article, it seems you may be unaware of several existing bodies of research.
First, I am an admirer of a lot of your work and ideas. But...
I am sorry, but I stopped reading pretty early in the first article in this series. Here are my basic criticisms:
- You are in fact going over some hoary old "evolutionary biology explains gender differences" tropes from 20 years ago
- The premise itself is faulty. Evolution is complex, mate selection takes place exclusively within a cultural context and not in a void, and the number of factors is almost certainly much greater than the ones you are considering.
- A lot of behavioral psychology research, particularly the kind that is splashy and shows up in the news, is non-reproducible. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature.2015.18248
- As a result, any conclusions you make are likely to incomplete at best, harmful at worst, and likely to be misinterpreted and misused.
By comparison, long-term, careful studies of human behavior in cultural context, like the ones done by John Gottman and co-workers, are much more likely to be helpful in helping people understand their relationships and how to manage/improve them.
Once again I am enjoying your writing. I admire your focus on the topic, while responding to inquiries kindly.
One way I like to think about biology is that living things are simply vehicles for their DNA to pursue immortality. What those living things feel or think is utterly unimportant to their DNA.
And so unemotional exploration of scientific fact leads to a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe.
Fairness and morality are not necessary for life to exist and haven't been part of the equation for the majority of life's history.
Tomas, when you use the term "hit-on," do you mean "initiate?" That women want more men to initiate the interaction, or want men to initiate more? "Initiate" has a completely different connotation to me than "hit-on."
Your sense that you are currently approaching this topic in a “first principles” and biologically rigorous basis is what I find objectionable so far. With the most flimsy of references throughout (I wrote a very long comment addressing several of these instances but decided it was out of scope for a comment section), you ended the second piece with a “everything we’ve learned today” list that posits your assertions have been demonstrably proven. I WISH this series would accomplish what you have set out to do, and I was excited when I started because I had such respect for you. I strongly believe there are biological and cultural distinctions between males and females that shape our behavior, relationships, social institutions, etc in powerful ways. Sex matters, and the how and why leads to interesting questions, including the ones you have outlined. But I think you need to be much more modest in your conclusions about what we know, and particularly what you have credibly demonstrated.
"But culture and society can override any instinct." :
I have to disagree with you on this one Tomas. Society and culture can *help* overcome *some* instincts, but not all.
For example, communism was an attempt to overcome the selfishness inherent in human nature to create a fairer, more caring society.
After more of a century of numerous experiments, we can safely conclude that it failed in this task, compared to capitalism, which *redirects* the intrinsic selfishness of human nature to benefit society.
Communism failed because it did not take sufficient account of the importance of human nature.
Capitalism succeeded because, like a judo practitioner, it used the force of human nature to its advantage, to create richer societies that benefit the greatest number.
I appreciate trying to come from “first principles”, I would just like to warn against dismissing culture too easily. Not only does biology impact culture, but culture also impacts the way we interpret biology. Or what we deem to be biology. Coming from first principles has to include skepticism about the approach of looking at gender as only male and female. Otherwise a lot of nuance will get lost, I think.
What on earth was wrong with the word "womb"? A nice old Germanic word that means exactly the same thing as "uterus". Those of us who are tired of random words being deemed offensive by some diffuse would-be authority would appreciate you sticking to first principles in the realm of language also-- please don't kowtow to the censors out there! They'll always be back for more if you try to placate them. Try writing poetry and you'll appreciate why we might want to keep synonyms--and different registers of language-- alive :)
First time commenter and trying to be rational but honestly it's challenging because you're, perhaps unintentionally, hitting a lot of buttons. Your first article definitely raised my hackles as it clearly comes from a male point of view and I'm not surprised you received so many comments. What is your thesis is exactly what I was wondering the whole way through reading - are you able to elaborate on "I fear that our current culture around the sexes has shortcomings that don’t allow us to be happiest. I want us to identify these inefficiencies and help nudge society in a direction to correct them." What are the shortcomings? What is 'inefficient' about relations between the sexes at the moment?
Some of your newsletter sounds like the aim is how to help men to get a date... there's a murky mixing up of statements about 'us' and 'society' with decision making by individuals.
You're trying to tackle huge complex topics, which people spend their lives researching and writing about, but you're not willing to read one book as you only have the time to skim read journal articles? Perhaps you've bitten off more than you can chew and should slow down and read a bit more before making some of these broad, sweeping statements.
On 'women want more men to hit on them', I agree with other commenters that this doesn't agree with the female experience more broadly in today's society, this is my personal experience and one which is pretty widely documented. Google search "unwanted male attention" for many many results.
For something readily available, short, enjoyable, and a simple (obviously not comprehensive) explanation of a woman's perspective, maybe you could find the time to watch the Barbie movie. It may seem like it but I am really not joking.
Looking forward to the continual journey. Have no expectations, just curiosity.