Tag: evpsych

Porn for girls

Posted by – July 12, 2010

I recently watched about 50 hours of Gilmore Girls inside a couple of months, so you may want to take a moment to mentally readjust how seriously you take anything I say.

Now, unless you’re some kind of retarded sexist, you’ll know that women watch pornography just as much as men do – at least for a sufficiently broad definition of porn. The purpose of porn is, ultimately, fantasy depiction. For men, that means

  • having sex with beautiful people
  • getting status (some say: to get sex with more beautiful people)

When men watch Led Zeppelin concerts on dvd, part of what they’re getting is the fantasy of having an incomprehensible amount of status, in the eyes of men and women alike. Of course, men fantasize about sex a lot more than about being in Led Zeppelin – just like most of their meals are stomach-filler, not culinary art.

Women are way more complicated than this, so they need eg. Gilmore Girls. Why did I choose Gilmore Girls? Why not Twilight (the fantasy of being “different” and passionately fought over by impossibly handsome, ancient, powerful and magical non-human creatures without doing much and for no apparent reason) or Sex and the City (live in Manhattan, spend scads of money on fashion while being a useless ditz, enjoy a neverending variety of penis without ever ending up on the trash-heap for being old or slutty)? Gilmore Girls is much more nuanced and wholesome than that – it offers an entire life plan, simultaneously depicting three generations: one on the cusp of adulthood, one in maturity and one in old age. And yet, incredibly, for all its detail and multidimensionality, it is pure fantasy, to a sometimes absurd degree.

At the centre of GG is Lorelai Gilmore, a thirty-something manager of an inn who always has something snappy to say, and her highschool-aged daughter Rory (she goes on to study at her choice of any ivy-league college in subsequent seasons). Their (genuinely) clever-funny banter is a big part of the show. Lorelai’s parents are super-wealthy WASP types, allowing the series to spend a lot of time in their stately mansion and in the higher reaches of society, where Lorelai is courted by powerful, handsome men with fast cars.

But wouldn’t it be boring to have a modern female lead just ride on her family’s money? It sure would, which is why Lorelai ran away from home as a teenager when she got pregnant and never attended college. Pretty cool! Having broken contact with her parents, she raised her daughter as a single mother without getting a single dime (this is reiterated many times during the series) from her parents or, apparently, from the father, who is an elite badboy, also from the upper classes. Normally things end up badly for single mothers with no support, but as I say, Lorelai becomes a manager and a houseowner and her daughter is set for the Ivies (and I meant what I said earlier, she gets acceptance letters from everywhere, all the way up to Harvard). Thusly Lorelai is able to combine cool pop-culture infused disdain and ridicule for the trappings of wealth and high society, actually partake of and enjoy that society and be a hip, non-stuffy single mom whose daughter is her best friend all at the same time.

Watching GG and enjoying its large, complicated cast and intermingling array of plots and then realising that all the contortions are necessary just to maintain this otherwise contradictory fantasy is like looking into a kaleidoscope and suddenly realising it’s a complete engineering plan for a flying ocean-liner.

But that’s not all! I won’t go through every element of perfection (the other best friend is fat but always cheerful; there’s no scary crime or resentful poor people; Lorelai has a gruff, handsome admirer who fixes any mechanical problems but sex takes about five years to come into the picture while she considers her options) but I must mention one because it’s such a delightfully direct, visceral fantasy. Lorelai and her daughter are slim and beautiful, and notorious for constantly eating vast amounts of fast food, ice cream, snacks, fine dinners at the WASP parents’ mansion, everything and anything. This is not just a minor in-joke, this is pointed to in EVERY EPISODE. When the two slim girls decide to order food in, as they do most nights, they might get food from four different restaurants just for the variety. Other characters comment continually on the vast amounts of food they’re putting away (no, the series doesn’t conclude with the fat best friend murdering Lorelai). This becomes a part of their personalities – they’re not some boring losers worrying about calories or fat on their midsection; let’s party, get tubs of Ben & Jerry’s and watch movie classics all night! What do you mean, are they going to get to work and school on time in the morning? This is girl time, and anyway, one of their fun sides is drinking coffee all the time because they’re so HYPER and FUNNY and RANDOM!

Okay, I’m starting to give the impression that I’m somewhat overanimated about this whole thing. Mostly it amuses me, and it’s a fun series anyway, but I guess getting too close to other people’s fantasies can end up being rather distasteful. It’s like how women are always rather intrigued about the idea of men’s sexual fantasies, but might become a bit resentful after watching a tv series depicting them.

Tomorrow come trouble

Posted by – January 31, 2009

Evolutionary explanations for human biodiversity are creeping into the mainstream: Why are taller people more intelligent than shorter people?

In our paper, Reyniers and I propose a second possible explanation […]
1. Assortative mating of tall men and beautiful women. […]
2. Assortative mating of intelligent men and beautiful women. […]
3. Extrinsic correlation between height and physical attractiveness (produced by Mechanism 1 above) and extrinsic correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness (produced by Mechanism 2 above) will create a second-order extrinsic correlation between height and intelligence.

We believe that this may be why taller people are more intelligent than shorter people. Another factor contributing to the seeming male advantage in intelligence is that taller parents are more likely to have sons than shorter parents. So, over many generations, more sons will inherit their parents’ genes inclining them to be taller and more intelligent, and more daughters will inherit their parents’ genes inclining them to be shorter and less intelligent. But, once again, the crucial factor is height, not sex.

In our paper, we present evidence for all of the crucial mechanisms: Taller people are on average physically more attractive than shorter people; physically more attractive people are on average more intelligent than physically less attractive people; taller people are on average more intelligent than shorter people; and taller parents are more likely to have sons than shorter parents.

I have no idea whether this particular hypothesis will turn out to be correct, but in general I suppose there must be numerous human selection mechanisms of this kind waiting to be discovered. I expect they will explain some surprising things, confirm some unpopular but well-known truths and raise much ire. As danimal, that steely fist of Internet logic, put it:

Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.” This includes relationships between men and women.

It surprises me that the obvious extensions of this haven’t been researched much, at least as far as I know.

If you’re into science, you’ve probably heard people complaining about scientific information and contemporary results being too proprietary and hard to discover, especially considering they’re mostly funded by the public. The Science Commons is looking to change that; let’s hope it takes off.

For math geeks: a series of Project Euler puzzles revealed something shocking to me:
– once you’ve solved problem 64 and have a good way of handling continued fractions (it’s not feasible to do this with floating point approximations)
– gone on to 65 and learned about convergents
– you run into 66 which seems to be completely unrelated and again too slow for naive bruteforce methods, so after banging your head for a while you google quadratic diophantine equations and find out that the way to solve these equations is to find the right convergents for the square roots – and this is guaranteed to find the minimal solution for every equation of this type! Check it out.

There’s a program called Microsoft Songsmith that’s supposed to allow users to sing over a backing track that follows their singing. It doesn’t really work. Except for hilarity:

When a red hot man meets a white hot lady

Posted by – December 14, 2007

The recently publicized research indicating that human evolution has been extremely rapid over the past couple of tens of thousands of years seems kind of obvious now that I know about it. That is especially interesting considering that I used to think than human evolution has probably slowed down to a standstill (although I haven’t thought that for years now).

What’s really obvious here? Certainly this New York Times article citing research that attributes some of the rapid change to increased sexual selectivity seems a bit duh-worthy, although the people who actually know about this stuff are still pretty cautious in their comments. When I thought humans aren’t evolving any more I thought it was because it’s so easy for humans to stay alive, but that’s obviously not relevant. Ever since humans have been intelligent and living close to each other, the main engines of change have been resistance to disease and sexual selection – what else is there for super-animals like us? Now the disease-resistance part only really applies to maybe the poorest 3/4 of the world and sexual selection is really starting to dominate elsewhere.

What is mating preference going to select for? This is the next thing I started getting wrong after I realised human evolution probably hasn’t stopped. I thought that since in rich countries the poor and the stupid now out-procreate the wealthy and intelligent, people there would be getting more stupid – and whatever other characteristics correlate with being poor. I would guess that in poor countries this effect could be reversed, or maybe just more or less neutral. But have the western intelligents completely stopped having children? No. They do have some children, with each other. The wealthy, powerful and (more or less) intelligent mate with each other – and the women usually have to be good-looking as well.

So on one hand there really is a Idiocracy-type development, but the highly exclusive selection of intelligent, successful people for each other is a considerably faster process. Humans are intelligent and have built societies that simultaneously allow constant sexual gratification and strong procreational selectivity. This means that what’s going on isn’t just accelerated natural selection – it’s selective breeding. And as humans know from experience, selective breeding produces results very rapidly. It seems that the accelerated-evolution-over-previous-millennia thing is basically this process, although it’s been getting faster all the time, and now has several directions. Perhaps we’ll have new kinds of “race issues” in the future.