Wednesday, February 24, 2010

She married him

Simon Downer is a thug. He plunged a knife into the stomach of a girlfriend and got six years in prison. Whilst there he met another woman, Tracey, a single mother in her late 30s.

Tracey fell head over heels in love, married the violent criminal on his release and brought him home to live with her 8-year-old daughter. The married couple were very happy together.

Until they had an argument one night, just three months after their marriage. Simon Downer shoved aside his stepdaughter, stabbed his new wife fatally in the heart telling her "that's what happens if you push it with me".

Most women would not have married the thug. Even so, there has been a spate of reports in recent times of women, sometimes quite respectable professional women, choosing to have relationships with violent criminals.

One thing this tells us is that the ruling idea of human nature in Western societies is mistaken. John Kekes describes this ruling idea as follows:

The view of human nature at the core of the liberal faith is thus that human beings are by their nature free, equal, rational, and morally good.

If you accept this view of human nature as adequate, then you will think it not only possible but desirable to leave each individual to arrive at their own moral view. The ideal will be a society of free, equal and morally elevated individuals, untouched by any external restraints on their choices.

But the liberal view of human nature hasn't brought us closer to a society of independent, high-minded gentlemen and women who freely, and therefore most virtuously, choose to discipline their lives to some morally elevated purpose.

Look what happens, for instance, when the "no rules" principle is applied to women like Tracey Downer. Her sexuality is liberated from the influence of traditional morals, which then unleashes a destructive attraction to violent, dangerous men. The result is disastrous.

The problem is that we are not equal in our natures. Not everyone has the same level of moral conscience, prudence and self-discipline. Nor are we entirely rational in our natures. We are moved too by passions and loves, which for both better and worse define the human experience in important ways.

Liberals worry that if a society sets a moral standard, or if we are influenced by the culture we live in to be good, that we are acting like automatons, and losing the virtue of freely choosing the good. A liberal wants to feel morally elevated because of his own autonomous character.

I think this fear is mistaken. There will always be the possibility of acting badly, no matter how great the influence of society. Our moral free will to choose for the better or the worse will always be there. All that a society can do is to bolster the voice of moral conscience and encourage prudence.

Second, it can be argued that it's the liberal view which undercuts the need for character and moral will. After all, if people are naturally and equally good, then doing the good will come easily. It's only if you think that human nature is fallen, with each individual struggling to follow the better part of his nature, that our acts of goodness become achievements of character.


  1. Apparently even the worst male murderers in the States (some of them awaiting execution) never seem to have any shortage of women who get their kicks out of corresponding with them, and sometimes even hoping to marry them. Oddly enough I know of no instance where men write amorously to similarly depraved (and similarly incarcerated) women. I don't think the late and unlamented British "Moors Murderess" Myra Hindley was ever inundated with besotted would-be lovers.

    Part of the reason, I guess, is that whereas most men (with the exception of Hindley's dopey champion Lord Longford) know how difficult it is to change human nature, most women (however intelligent) seem to delude themselves into thinking that they can not only change the nature of menfolk, but be those menfolk's "rescuers".

  2. I don't see the evidence that Liberals believe this. They probably believe we are all *born* good, but then our societal environment can make us bad, even evil. They certainly believe Dick Cheney and greedy CEOs are evil.

  3. A crude yet enlightening assessment of this phenomenon:

    Chicks Dig Jerks: A Series

  4. Yeah, I don't buy the chicks-dig-jerks argument, either. Young women like men who are confident, masculine, physically brave and competent, humorous, good-looking in face and form, good lovers, and socially adept. Such men are often also jerks or "bad boys", but it takes most women a while to learn that and settle down with someone without all of those stellar qualities but who will be willing to marry them and be willing to raise children with them.

  5. Rob,

    You're right. Those liberals who believe that humans are morally good in their nature must then account for the existence of evil.

    According to John Kekes whom I quoted in the post, there are two basic liberal accounts for evil.

    The first is that evil exists because our actions are not sufficiently autonomous. If only people suffered less compulsion in their choices or were better informed and educated they would not choose to do evil.

    Such liberals might argue, for instance, that Tracey Downer did not choose to go out with Simon Downer in an uncoerced way, that she was coerced in her choices by poverty as a single mother or lack of childare or social services provision.

    The second liberal answer for the existence of evil is that some people subordinate their morally good nature to other personal, political or religious projects. They know they are doing wrong but justify it in terms of some project they are committed to.

    Liberals who follow this tack can then argue for measures to force people not to subordinate moral to other considerations - but this then contravenes the larger liberal commitment to increasing autonomy.

  6. Rob,

    I think women are motivated by many things when it comes to partner selection.

    Being sexually attracted to men who are dangerous, unpredictable, risk taking and in need of rescue is there as one aspect of female nature.

    But it would be wrong to think that this was dominant in the minds of most women. The large majority of women do not end up choosing to marry on this basis.

    I've known just as many women who want to reproduce their upper middle-class upbringing and who select men on the basis of their school, their occupation and their family background.

    There are plenty of women who think it masculine enough if their future husbands are tall, well-built, sporty, self-confident and gainfully employed.

    There are some artsy type women who really want their future husbands to be intelligent and articulate and to share their political outlook.

    Still, I do think it's the case that when the culture of relationships is based more on short-term sexual attractiveness rather than long-term family formation, that you get a larger number of women pursuing the "mad, bad and dangerous to know" types.

  7. "You're right. Those liberals who believe that humans are morally good in their nature must then account for the existence of evil."

    Particularly since the liberal experiment in removing repression to reduce evil has now gone as far as it can and is starting to lead to an increase in evil again.

    As far as reducing evil in the world the 1950s and 1960s were probably the high point from a western perspective. These were the decades where violent crime and human greed were lowest and honesty reached a high point. It's likely this was because there was a moderate balance between traditional values and progressive ones.

    In fairness to the early liberals, most didn't adovocate freedom for all. I believe Voltaire for instance was strongly opposed to spreading atheism to the lower classes who he didn't think could handle it.

    The problem is though, that the lower classes tend to copy the most successful classes. Hence if the upper classes, or at least a signficant section of them are behaving irresponsibly then the rest of society will copy them, which is where the bulk of social dysfunction arises.

    Similarly relying in things like restricting welfare to reduce bad behaviours is only going to have a limited effect if you don't do anything to improve social mores as morally corrupt people will always think of ways around well-intentioned bureaucratic rules and punitive punishments.

    We need to get back to the idea that people's actions don't just impact on themselves, and that more successful people have a responsibilty to provide a good example to those less driven, talented and lucky than themselves.

    Liberals seem to have forgotten the original of western politics which is that freedoms also come with responsibilities, and that the former means more of the later.

  8. I thought this post on a Roissy thread today was pretty intelligent:

    on February 22, 2010 at 8:18 pm Ryan
    (OK, I gradually lost restraint w/this re: length, but it’s written, so I’ll be damned if I don’t post it now.)

    Women primarily fall for powerful men. Power typically manifests in the domination of that man over various things (worldly objects, other men and women, the particular in-love girl, etc.). The ability to do what one wants, i.e., to assert one’s will over another’s — which is a negative definition of power in that it’s defined as the absence of limitations or restraints on a will — is only going to attract a woman to the extent she perceives/senses/knows of it.

    Nearly everyone, especially men, first attempts to be powerful, and secondarily attempts to appear powerful, whether reality and appearance correspond or not (a mix of fitness advertising and self-preservation). So women are confronted with the task of discerning the mere appearance of power from the genuine trait itself. The extent of one’s power will be revealed according to the degree it overcomes obstacles at which a phony version would crumble.

    Being nice is easy and faces no conflict or obstacles, since nobody will question or oppose it. In fact, that’s usually the reason men will be nice, as it is almost essentially the loss of his own willed well-being to another’s. Because almost everyone wills his own well-being, and one man’s well-bring is usually opposed to another’s (limited supply/unlimited demand), wills constantly conflict. One’s power then is more evident the more he successfully wills that selfish well-being which faces the most conflict, i.e., the more he dominates others.

    Especially in an egalitarian society, dominating others is viewed as wrong, and caring and willing only your own well-being is considered selfish, so these powerful “jerks” face the additional obstacle of widespread envy, repudiation, stigma, etc. Add to the foregoing the non-rationality of instinct — meaning the is/seems distinction is lost due to practical inefficacy, in other words, the cost of determining subtle differences is too expensive long-term — and being a jerk typically is the practical equivalent of being powerful.

  9. If somehow those jerk traits were commonly understood by women as indicators of weakness, then their attractive power would be lost, since the attraction depends on the inference from jerk to powerful. Thus, “jerk” is just a signal without inherent meaning; girls aren’t attracted to jerkiness. Neither are they attracted to power per se, nor still genetic fitness. Sexual attraction is rooted in optimal reproduction, with “optimal” meaning that sort which, given an environment, would have most effectively reproduced the girl herself. (If you really want to get reductionistic, you’ll have to scrap the idea of attraction altogether, since it necessarily entails an object of attraction “directed at” or “pointed to,” and such intentionality is immaterial — teleology would need to be really inherent in nature, instead of things “just happening,” which still ends up incoherent once uttered or thought.) OK, perhaps that’s too ultimate.

    The upshot is just that a girl will want jerkiness over another trait entirely to the degree she consciously or unconsciously perceives their respective power-signaling. A typical girl’s instinct and reason are on the side of jerkiness, not kindness. The only way to get a girl liking kind or good guys over selfish, proud ones would be to get her to consciously, rationally perceive more power in being kind or good than in being a jerk, together with the inference from nice/good appearance to nice/good reality, e.g., having her view jerkiness as really a character weakness while believing true goodness is evident in good deeds. Such a perception would have to have causal force on her sexuality and sexual attractions, meaning the power of goodness or weakness of jerkiness relate to perception of genetic fitness in her mind as a mere idea AND that her (immaterial?) mind/idea causally interacts with her material-based attraction center (in the brain). Or, another way of putting it: A woman is attracted to goodness over badness to the extent her rationality is sound and controlling, as opposed to illogical or slave to whim/instinct. Cynics will point to common trends and proclaim a victory for despair (“Females are irrational animals!”), but it seems one should note the ultimate justice of it all: A woman will be attracted to someone of approximately equal moral character, since she won’t recognize the truly better (and thus won’t be drawn to it) and won’t want the truly worse (assuming true goodness really is more difficult and demanding than the opposite, “jerkiness” excluded as per its criteria). I’d argue that a similar taste/character synergy exists in males as well. Yes, what you like and desire reveal who you are.

  10. This is an interesting point on left wing notions of evil. However, rather than thinking evil doesn't exist or only takes place in certain circumstances, leftists often believe right wingers, for instance Bush or Karl Rove, are genuinely evil. Rove would often makes jokes about it, "last time I checked I didn't have a tail". The view would be that these guys are evil because; 1. They’re Right win; 2. They're warmongers, especially unapologetic warmongers. War unjustified by desires for social justice or proecting women/hearth and home is considered utterly wrong and evil; 3. You could also add that they’re considered evil because they’re men.

    Men are considered evil? How so? Well male aggression is considered evil, unless it is leavened by some quality such as minority status, disadvantage or a minor mental illness. The view pushed frequently is that if only women ruled the world there’d be no wars etc. Society should away from male oriented violence and conflict to female oriented negotiation and compromise. Male sexuality can also be viewed as evil, eg pornography for men, being a sexually demanding guy or cheating on your wife. We can see the way Tiger Woods is currently demonised whilst the attitudes to a woman in a similar situation would probably be hostile but for different reasons.

    It may seem that this is a pretty heavy view of men but it does explain the way women are instinctively thrust into the forefront by right wingers on so many (morally controversial) issues. Eg Sarah Palin, Pauline Hanson, Anne Coulter. It seems they're held up as fire retardant moral shields for poitically unpopular positions. If it’s a woman saying this the point can't be all that bad. Left wingers realise that it is the speakers gender as a woman that is hugely influential and so direct their attacks on that front. This one's really a man, this one’s a whore, she's a bitch and she's a traitor. These descriptions of course would be unacceptable if the woman was a left wing spokesperson, unless she was considered not left wing enough, as occurred with Hillary.

    There seems no doubt that the Left politically love notions of evilness. It gives them the justification to throw molotovs at police, trash MacDonalds restaurants, draw Hitler moustaches on everyone they don't like and do whatever else they feel will serve the cause (although the modern left will generally not support killing unless you include Euthanasia or abortion).

    In contrast maleness is bad, right wingers are bad. Lefties are good, women are good. As was said in the recent Youtube clip shown, “We’re lefties we’re always the good guys”.

  11. Mark, completely off topic, but have you read Andrew Bolt's latest column arguing for a halt to Muslim immigration?

    Surely one way to minimise the danger [of Islamic terrorism], then, is to cut Muslim immigration, or at least freeze it until the jihadist wind blows out.

    Should we really be bringing in more than 28,000 people a year from Muslim lands such as Pakistan, the Middle East, North Africa, Bangladesh, Somalia, Afghanistan and Indonesia?

    But on this issue the Government says nothing. Nor will it discuss dismantling multiculturalism, which at one stage had taxpayers funding the pro-bin Laden Islamic Youth Movement of Australia.

    But why is multiculturalism sacred, when even this White Paper says one “pathway to violent extremism” is through “identity politics”?

    After all, multiculturalism subsidises identity politics with your money while making Australia seem too weak or even shameful to deserve the first loyalty of a confused young man.

  12. "Liberals worry that if a society sets a moral standard, or if we are influenced by the culture we live in to be good, that we are acting like automatons, and losing the virtue of freely choosing the good. A liberal wants to feel morally elevated because of his own autonomous character."

    It's another example of the "liberal" attention to intention while disregarding results.

  13. As for the female fascination with jerks, might it be that you are overlooking that girls tend to be into “drama” -- how better to ensure “drama” in one’s life than to fixate on jerks?

  14. On the point about "drama" I'm inclined to agree. Its all silly to be dating an idiot. I guess an equivalent would be dating a hot bird "who's in trouble" and only you can help etc.

    On RD's point I think limiting Muslim immigration is a bit of a non issue. I agree it would be not so bad an idea but how do you say Muslims are a unique threat? They're more likely to cause terrorist incidents? Realistically terrorist incidents haven't been that high. How about limiting all immigration?

    Most people would agree that the Chinese are less offensive than the Muslims but that's not a reason to import huge numbers of them.

    I wonder what it would take to get traction on this issue? Hitting the economic arguments would surely be a good start. People will put up with a lot if there's a perception they'll be richer or the nation will get stronger.

  15. Women don't like "cads" or "jerks". It's just that women, like men, aren't attracted to losers with no personality and no sex appeal. They don't want "assholes" but they don't want complete nerds either.

    And, like I said, men are the same way. Men aren't attracted to women who offer zero excitement.

  16. You're right Anonymous gansta' players are the way to go.

  17. Men aren't attracted to women who offer zero excitement.

    True. And I have met women I thought were boring. A whole cohort of them at uni in the 1990s who dressed drably, were morosely quiet and who suppressed any expression of femininity.

    However, I don't think men find the drama of relationships exciting the way that some women do. Nor do we want women to be exciting in the sense of living close to the edge or being reckless or dangerous.

    Men will often find the "edgier" kind of women, such as those who do drugs, or who get tattooed all over, or who abuse alcohol, or who have complex sexual and relationship histories, or who are confronting in their behaviour, disappointing rather than exciting.

    The thrill for men lies more in the moment that an attractive woman surrenders herself to you. She makes herself vulnerable to you when she does this, she places herself in your hands. Which pushes a lot of male buttons.

    And this thrill is enhanced when the woman is discriminating and restrained in her dealings with men - when she is generally modest and self-respecting.

  18. Anonymous,

    The issue isn't just whether he’s tough or not, or exciting or not, it’s whether he’s criminal or not. A continual strain amongst these "desirable" guys is that they're law breakers. Perhaps you'd like to give us a bit of an insight into the attractiveness of that.

    Thank you.

  19. One msut admit that there is a certain bent within culture towards the idolization of the Byronic hero. The rebel standing against all odds conjures up the image of complete autonomy and self-determination, both attributes enshrined withinliberal ideology. The man who sets himself against the system captures this image perfectly.
    The most preemminent example is of course Milton's depiction of Satan in Paradise Lost, however, the romanticized outlaw has been a constant character of stories and songs up to the present, from "The Highway Man" of Alfred Noyes to Richard Thompson's James Adie and his Vincent Black Lightning.

  20. On the James Dean issue he obviously never made it to "adulthood". The same can be said of Byron. So we should all follow these examples and live hard and die young? (With a melancholic air of course ;))

    The rebel thing is also funny because to rebel you need something to rebel against. Its funny when you see a uni lecturer talk about the importance of standing up for yourself or following your directions or whatever and then see the students go, "um ok I won't do the reading then". The lecturer will find it very difficult then to "be the man" and impose order. According to the liberal view students are supposed to "fall in love" with the material etc. Only a small number will actually do that. Everyone else if given the option to do something they love will do something else.

    "Allright, everyone today we'll be marching up and down the square... That is unless there's something you'd rather be doing?!"

    On Paradise Lost I would say the picture of Satan was of someone lost in rage and frustration, taking revenge any way they could. For all the "badass" power of Satan he and his forces quickly collapsed when opposed by the Angels. I personally saw him as an object of pity and deluded direction.

    At the end of the day these "heroes" are villains. So we can hardly be surprised when they commit villainous acts like stabbing their girlfriends.

  21. Jesse_7: I guess an equivalent would be dating a hot bird "who's in trouble" and only you can help etc.

    Only partly true. Because it seems that way. The image is cultivated that only you can help through the fact that you are given the idea that it is a privilege/honour to be helping her.
    A woman who really loved you would want to be as little burden to you as possible.
    The reality is such a person usually has a throng of admirers to rescue her from any calamity... but at the same time holds out for the person with the least opportunity cost to her in terms of social status or visibility.
    This is why hot girls like to ask nerds for favours, it is because if things go right, they can deny the nerd had anything to do with their success ("He's a reject, I'd never ask him for help, Puh-lease!"), and if things go wrong they can relationally aggress against said nerd ("I thought he was smarter than anyone, but he made me fail my class... he's a creep and a loser!") and make his life even more of a hell.

  22. Sorry, I need to make a revision to that... this is why _girls_ like to ask guys (especially nerdy ones) for help. Typically girls have more friends than guys and hence more social visibility and clout anyway. And this culture of chivalry eats away at the idea of reciprocity or consideration for help extended. Fair enough if you are doing things from the goodness of your heart, but a lot of these "helping a girl" instances are rarely straightforward, fast or have little effort involved. If they move outside their social circle to enlist your help... the chances of the problem being complicated, timeconsuming and thankless... actually increase.

  23. P Ray,

    I guess one issue with the situation you described is mutuality. If you're interested in dating a girl it would help if you could "bring something to the table". In this case the thing she wants is some help. In such a case she might go to a nerd because a nerd might be willing or able to help. In exchange for his help he’d be close to a girl he might not otherwise have had a chance with. If she went to a “higher status” guy he might be less interested because he could presumably get another girl without the problem, (isn’t life awfully fun).

    Additionally guys are also likely to feel great sympathy for a woman in distress and possibly want to help for that reason alone. Woman will also likely feel this way too with "bad boys” in trouble. Their feelings could be combined with a mothering response which could be powerful. Should a couple like this date one side will bring "attractiveness" to the table, the other sympathy/help/responsibility. Over the long term, however, it won’t exactly be an equal relationship because responsibility will trump attractiveness in importance (responsibility is more important on a day to day basis). As a result the “responsible” party will overtly or subtly over time "run" the relationship. If one person is more powerful than another, in this case responsibility is defined as power, the less powerful will appear as less challenging or less threatening to the other. In this way a tough guy, even a hardened criminal, could appear to a responsible woman as “sweet” or “harmless”.

    Of course a hardened criminal will probably not like being subtly “run” by someone else over time and resent the other party as well as their own personal weaknesss which made the responsibility of the other person appear so attractive. Throw in some aggressiveness and poor impulse control and here’s your recipe for domestic violence.

    Helping a woman MAY seem or be received by her, as if she's doing you a favor and not the other way around. This is because there's a recognition under chivalry that you, the guy, are in a superior position to the women. This superior position, such as being physically stronger, may come with certain implied obligations such as helping those who are weaker, but its still none the less a superior position and so some people may resent the existence of it, "I can pay for my own dinner, I can carry my own luggage! etc". For a woman to accept your help may mean that she's acknowledging or respecting your superior strengths or abilities and so their mere acceptance of assitance may be deemed as sufficient thanks.

    Alternatively an attractive woman may have a princess mentality and believe that benefits should come to her without her doing very much and other people, especially guys, should be grateful for the opportunity to help.

  24. It would be better if the guy would straight out say: Date, if I give you help. That's mutuality. What bugs me about this situation that I've seen my friends in (I saw early on that this was a scam), was that they think it's "unmanly to take advantage that way". I replied back... don't you think it's "unwomanly" of such a person to request your help in such a pleading manner, and the next day treat you like you don't exist?
    Everyone loves a silent victim... and people shouldn't give of themselves to those who don't appreciate them.