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February 04, 2006

Raunch Culture

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* As girls continue to take over colleges and med schools, they also seem to carrying on more and more like a generation of lap-dancers. The new Grrl-Power Culture seems to be one and the same as the new Raunch Culture. Did feminism lead to this state of affairs? Ariel Levy wonders.

* Is porn culture now mainstream culture?

* Is easy access to porn something to be celebrated? Is porn empowering or exploitative? Pamela Paul isn't sure.

* Jon Mooallem reviews Paul's book here. Gaby Wood reviews Levy's book here. Judith Timson reviews both books here.

* Meanwhile, the New Burlesque is booming in Nashville.



posted by Michael at February 4, 2006


The raunch culture is just what a "behavorial ecologist" would expect: when mating turns increasingly short-term (due to delaying long-term thoughts until one's 30s, and even then planning for the likelihood of a quick divorce), females will focus more on alpha-males rather than the superset of thoughtful males they might consider for long-term. The alpha expects short-term mating, so he only picks the hottest & easiest. B/c the size of the out-and-about female set is far larger than the set of alphas, the females must compete to snag a Big Man. Either most females will end up lonely, or many females will share a single Big Man (simultaneously by affairs or serially by rapid turnover rate for relationships).

Porn can't be sufficient for this. In Spain strip clubs abound, and prostitution is tolerated, but b/c women are long-term-minded, there hasn't been a breakdown. Ditto for Japan -- holy hell, you think American porn is filthy. Yet no breakdown into Girls Gone Wild-ness.

I doubt it's even a necessary condition. As the scenario above takes hold -- porn or no porn-- women are compelled to behave raunchily or lose market share to their more willing competitors. When you guys blogged about increasingly common girl-on-girl here, I noted that it's just a special case of reciprocal altruism. An all-against-all war for finite attention harms everyone individually, so a few smarties figure out that teaming up will allow them to monopolize the market for attention. They then split the winner-take-all spoils, which can lead to squabbling, but beats taking home nothing at all due to prudery.

Posted by: Agnostic on February 4, 2006 6:01 PM

The desire to see naked people is natural. Our need for modesty in everyday life frustrates that natural desire. So internet porn (which is consumed secretly) allows us to lead natural lives, without disturbing the social order. I think it's good.

What's annoying is the low quality of the photography. The photogs focus on genitalia, breasts, etc. to the exclusion of the total body. And the poses are generally stilted and unimaginative. That's why people get bored. It's not the human body that's boring; it's the quality of the photographers and their limited range.

Posted by: Elliott Banfield on February 4, 2006 6:20 PM

And yet ... for all the talk about "raunch culture," American television is rigidly censored, with nudity completely nonexistent.

Posted by: Peter on February 4, 2006 8:04 PM

Yes, Peter, nudity is censored. Very heavily. Not so much as in Muslim cultures, to be sure.

Why is nudity censored? Because nudity is equated with evil.

This view is obviously very primitive. But there may be some truth or moral value in it. I, personally, am offended by lack of modesty. I believe in regulation, in rules. If everyone discarded their clothes, we would be no more than animals.

I share the views of the ancient Greeks and Romans: they had better sense of these things than our leaders and tastemakers.

Posted by: Elliott Banfield on February 4, 2006 8:45 PM

Agnostic -
You may have a point about the way women compete for a relatively small number of Big (Alpha) Men. I don't understand, however, why you limited yourself to saying that " ... most females will end up lonely ..." What about the majority of men who are non-Alpha? _They_ will be the real losers, and indeed already are to some extent.

Posted by: Peter on February 4, 2006 11:17 PM

Peter -- right, I was just pointing out that fear is a big motivator and propels females to more raunchy ways. The gf/wife typically plays three roles: a partner in living, leisure, & lovemaking -- the non-alpha guys must sub in what I call the Three P's to do the 3 gf things: Pets, Pals, & Porn (respectively).

Posted by: Agnostic on February 5, 2006 3:20 AM

As girls continue to take over colleges and med schools, they also seem to carrying on more and more like a generation of lap-dancers. The new Grrl-Power Culture seems to be one and the same as the new Raunch Culture. Did feminism lead to this state of affairs?

It sounds like you're giving your own answer here, no?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 5, 2006 2:37 PM

Yet this is the latest in chick lit, and it's not that raunchy:

But what do I know? I hark back to the days when unmarried women lived at home taking care of their parents and were (without question) virgins.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on February 5, 2006 6:40 PM

Here's how Dawn Eden of the "Dawn Patrol" blog treats the teen porn issue:

Posted by: winifer skattebol on February 5, 2006 7:17 PM

Somebody (whose name I really should remember) made the connection between the available male-female sex ratio and the sexual mores of women. In situations where there was a plentiful supply of men, women were demure (or at least more so.) In situations where the supply of men was restricted, women's sexual mores were aggressive. He (and it was a he) pointed to the emergence of anti-Victorian sexual mores in the 1920s, which occurred in a man-shortage after WWI. If there is anything to this theory (which seems to cover many but not all of the instances that spring to mind), it would explain the aggressiveness of "courtship practices" of college-age girls, given the fact that they now outnumber the guys.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 6, 2006 10:00 AM

Thanks, Michael, for addressing how porn is changing our behavior and relationships.

I've added my bit at:

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 6, 2006 11:26 AM

FvB: Are you thinking of James Q Wilson? I'm no expert but I believe the sex ratio and speculations about its consequences is a staple of certain sociology.

Posted by: jult52 on February 6, 2006 3:01 PM

The reviews in the and site are very interesting and I also liked the Shouting Thomas commentary on his website.

I was interested to see the number of comments about how the solution proposed by the "right" was wrong, unworkable and even fueled the "pornification process." The women who made these remarks are no doubt from a background in which right-wing conservative morality is derided as a matter of course. But I wonder whether there is common cause between right- and left-wingers on this topic and also how the declining amount of sexual activity by US teenagers fits into this picture. It's strange and hard to interpret.

Posted by: jult52 on February 6, 2006 3:30 PM

No one has mentioned the central reason for porn being considered immoral and degrading. It is addictive. In fact, studies show that the chemicals that are released in the male brain while watching sex acts are far more potent than opium or nicotine. The viewer of porn becomes addicted to this "hit" and seeks ever more prurient material, ends up fantasizing about sex for longer periods of time and may eventually begin to act out his fantasies with others, usually to the detriment to his relationship with his spouse. The end game is generally impotence and divorce. Porn, like any narcotic, should be regulated and society needs to protect young, unsupervised people before they get hooked.

Posted by: Bob Grier on February 6, 2006 4:52 PM

Does anyone have an opinion about the latest Vanity Fair cover?

For me, it's an abomination. A demonstration of poor taste: a waste of the model's beauty and a waste of techincal resources.

Posted by: Elliott Banfield on February 7, 2006 2:40 PM

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