Would you ask the homeless person down the street how to conduct your sex life?
Would you approach the guy mumbling incoherent stuff and peeing on himself whether you should have a boyfriend or three? Have casual sex? Would you ask him if he has done that, and if it made him happy?
Okay, let’s go with a slightly less outrageous example – instead of the homeless guy down the street, you knock on your neighbor’s door and ask. He doesn’t speak English very well, but he looks like a happy enough guy, and his kids always smile at you. So, would you ask him how early your kids should have sex and with whom? And whether you should experiment with group sex? And take his answer when he tells you what he’s done and how happy it’s made him? And change your entire life around to be JUST like his – or at least just like he tells you it is?
No? Why not? Western civilization did that. Western civilization still is doing that.
Yesterday for some reason I got suckered into reading about Margaret Meade and the whole Samoan “Was it an hoax or not?”
Of course in anthropological circles, it is considered heretical to say she was hoaxed, or to say that Derek Freeman proved she was hoaxed. In fact, most of the anthropologists seem to ostracize anyone who suggests she was hoaxed.
For those following this at home, without a score card, who have no idea who Margaret Meade is or why they should give a hang: Margaret Meade went to Samoa in the twenties, to study whether in a more sexually free society (note the assumption) adolescence was easier and less neurotic. The book she published, upon return, was the seminal work of cultural anthropology. It also – because she claimed that Samoans lived in a free-love paradise, where neither incest nor adultery, nor ANYTHING was considered taboo and that they were far less neurotic than us – launched most of the totally insane theories about sex of the sixties and seventies. Including the strange idea that if humans just slept with everyone who asked, they’d be happier, less aggressive and less neurotic.
Years later, Derek Freeman went to Samoa hoping to corroborate Margaret Mead’s study. Instead, he found one of the most sexually regulated (repressed, if you will, but that word smacks of Freudianism) societies on Earth and convincing evidence that Margaret Mead was hoaxed.
When he presented that evidence, he found himself outcast, because Margaret Mead was a grand damme of the left, the mother of feminist sexual liberation and of the free love movement. (No, really. There’s no other reason for the way people reacted to him.)
To be fair I don’t think it what happened with mead was an hoax, as such. Oh, sure, I’m fairly sure those girls, her informants, lied to her. At least a bit. And exaggerated. And probably tried to figure out how to gross her out. The reason I assume this is that my friends and I – far more sophisticated (at least in theory) than the Samoan girls, and far more aware than they of what our studies would be used for – told the most outrageous lies to anthropologists who interviewed us in middle and high school. In middle school, in particular, when sex was both icky and funny. And in high school, at one point a study from my class in a strict all-girls’ school revealed that 90% of the girls were not virgins and had lost their virginity to a bottle. Guys, this was an academic magnet school. These were my friends. I was one of them. We were, I’d guess 90% virginal with maybe 5% involved in various kinds of lesbianism (Some of it, at least, deprivation lesbianism– periodically they busted a couple. The most inventive ones had a love nest under some bushes in the garden. One of them was the first of us to get married – yes, to a guy – because she was knocked up. She had twins. Never mind.) The others fell into various situations, including the ones who actually had boyfriends/were engaged and might be physically involved with these guys.
So, I’m sure these girls – who were, after all, adolescent girls told this strange woman asking about embarrassing subjects the most outrageous lies, part to see how far she’d swallow them and part to see if she’d go away.
But there is no way – none – they could have hoaxed her so far as for her to believe she’d found the perfect free love (where even incest wasn’t taboo!) society, if she didn’t want to believe it. In fact the “I wanna believe” was the main component of it.
I know, I know, people get very weird and the anthropologists assure us that in the years between her study and Derek Freeman’s, which debunked her study, the island had changed that much, and become “that much more repressive.”
I’m sorry, that dog won’t hunt.
Some of the things Derek Freeman found out were that the rape statistics from that time were not what Margaret Meade claimed. That’s not a matter of “the culture changed.”
The article I found that tries to balance it all, claims that what changed was not the observed – Samoan culture – but the observers. When Margaret Meade went out, supposedly (I’d roll my eyes, but I think they rolled under the desk) America was repressed and puritanical, while when Derek Freeman studied them western culture had been changed by free love to such an extent that he thought them repressed compared to us.
I’m sorry. That dog really won’t hunt. I think he’s dead.
What THAT article claims is that, despite the supposed worshiping of “virginity” girls used sex to lure men to marriage; despite the ideal of a big church wedding, most marriages happened by elopement, after sleeping together. What he’s saying, in fact, is that these rules were honored more in the breach than in fact.
In other words, they were, in fact, exactly like every other human society in the world, where real humans always fall short of the ideal morals and precepts.
None of which explains the “they don’t have any rules and do everything that moves and that’s why no one is neurotic” that Margaret Mead came home with.
I don’t think it was so much of an hoax as the eye of the beholder.
Which would have been okay, if not for the fact that for whatever reason (WWI, WWII, loss of cultural confidence, cultural betrayal, and the ever pervasive myth of the noble savage) the western world decided to take this truly shaky study and make it into a model for how to run the western world’s sex life. (Would someone find my eyes? I think they rolled under the desk.)
This myth of the happy go lucky Samoans who sleep with everything tied in with the ideas of the noble savage, the Marxist idea that wanting to own things was somehow wrong and a sign of neurosis, the confusion between marriage and ownership, the Freudian idea that not being repressed at all – no frustrations! – would make everyone an angel and the American can do idea (“We can change everything. We can make it better.”)
The end result was the free love movement of the sixties, the “if it feels good do it” still being pushed at us, and the idea that to abstain somehow makes you “sick.”
Yes, before you ask, a lot of this ethos permeated Heinlein’s work, because – here we go again – Heinlein was a man of his time, and read the scientific papers, and this was science with a capital S.
So… women were empowered/encouraged to have sex with no commitment. So were men. Women are still being pushed into this. Now, with men everything is aggression and the can’t look wrong at a woman without being accused of assault.
How did it work out? Are we in a wonderful, liberated future with no repression and no neurosis?
Brother. It worked out exactly as it would have worked out for the Samoans if they’d really lived that way.
Human beings crave connection and structure. Yes, if the structure is too demanding/unattainable, they will betray it in fact, but serve it in word.
As for neurosis… We now have feminists so exquisitely “liberated” they think it’s unnatural to have sex with men, period. And women on college campuses are threatened by a realistic statue of a man in his underwear.
No neurosis at all, right?
The really funny thing is that Heinlein based the sexual aspects of his later novels on that research and based his societies on those ideas, but the same feminists who will defend Mead to the death will scream that he has “too much sex” in his novels and that he was “a dirty old man.”
(Ah, there are my eyes. Does anyone have a cup I can use to conveniently roll them?) You’d think it’s almost like all they have against Heinlein is that he never catered to their other political delusions, still believed in women having kids, and, oh, yeah, that he had a penis. Particularly that.
The other funny thing is that they’re still defending Mead, even though we’ve seen through the last… seventy? Years of experimentation with an approximation to Meade’s “no inibitions” ideal that it just doesn’t work as advertised – what it produces is women who feel used, (Credit Heinlein with that insight “When women insist on absolute equality, they end up with the dirty end of the stick.”) men who never engage in the “father/husband” mode, and kids who are left to grow up alone and abandoned, or as wards of the state. What we’ve found is that more and more women are asking the state to hurt men for them and treating the state as a sugar daddy. What we’ve found is that there ain’t no pot of gold at the end of that there rainbow.
And yet, they still defend her “conclusions.” You see, the reason paradise failed to happen is capitalism. Oh, yeah, and patriarchy. And patriarchal capitalism. And capitalist patriarchy. Never mind the fact that we’re fairly well informed of our history some 3000 years, with decent extrapolation for the rest; that capitalism has existed in any form for maybe 400 years, and that the world has not gotten worse or less tolerant, and certainly not poorer in that time.
Worse – and this is mind boggling – we’re still going to primitive tribes/isolated populations, in out of the way places, in search of our “natural” way of being.
Guys, the natural way for our ancestors to be was starved, disease infested and short-lived. Also, if they like other simians lived in bands, oppressed by unbelievable tyranny of those in charge of the band. No, seriously. Your ancestors have spent the last however many millennia getting away from the “natural way to be” – why would you want to go back?
The studies aren’t always pushing a leftist point of view. This doesn’t make them ANY MORE SANE or safe to take at face value.
I looked for and couldn’t find the article on this study that went to some primitive tribe and came back claiming they had no homosexuals. None at all. They didn’t even know they existed. And every married couple in the tribe had sex like ten times a night, and yep, there is no neurosis and no one—
Guys! Seriously. There are also no homosexuals in Iran, according to Themadjihad. And if you didn’t have evidence otherwise, through the people who manage to sneak out articles and pictures, some anthropologist would probably believe him.
There is homosexuality in every higher mammal, most of it dominance behavior, but a lot of it… uh… not.
Throughout history, homosexuals have been condemned to various forms of unpleasant death, when discovered, and yet, there were still homosexuals, as there are still homosexuals in Russia and Islamic countries, where it is very dangerous to be gay.
Whether you think it should/could be eliminated or not, it’s fairly clear that simply “we have sex with our wives multiple times a night” is NOT a cure for it. (It is also obvious that in any civilized nation there isn’t enough energy to have sex multiple times a night EVERY night. Hey, look, I’d love to. I’m sure you’d love to also but there are jobs to go to in the morning, and kids who won’t go to sleep till midnight, and…)
There are two levels of craziness here.
A) Assuming that someone in another culture, particularly a tribal culture, suspicious of outsiders, is going to tell you the truth about a function that in every human society – particularly tribal and isolated ones – is edged around with taboos and prohibitions.
B) Taking whatever you manage to find out and viewing it as a manual to improve life in the most successful society that humans have ever formed on this planet.
This is exactly like the successful CEO going out and asking the guy on the corner how to be happy. There have been several stories and movies on this theme, and most of them induce eye rolling to the extreme. Because in real life we all know how this would go.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t practice cultural anthropology. Of course, there is something to be said for knowing how other humans live. But clearly not only must we make the thing more like a science – making sure we remove as much as possible the wishful thinking of the researcher – we also must not go about “applying” this knowledge before it has been confirmed several times, by several studies.
To me these announcements of the complete breakthrough difference of the sexual mores of “isolated” or “tribal” human populations strike me as incredibly racist. To believe there is a human population on Earth that practices PERFECT free love, with no jealousy and no consequences, you have to believe they’re a different species, free of all normal human impulses. The same thing btw is necessary to believe there is a human population on Earth completely free of homosexuality. (Homosexual behavior rises with the decrease of a species dimorphic difference. I.e. the more the sexes look like each other, the more homosexual sex. And in animal term, we humans are almost as alike as penguins. Maybe more.)
Yes, humans have tried various forms of mating, with more or less success: from patriarchies to matriarchies, from one-on-one pairing to harems. (To celibacy, but those didn’t last.) I understand there are successful group and line marriages among science fiction fans (an odd group to begin with.) Some of these even work pretty well for that population, at that time.
Would they work for the rest of the world, all the time? What? Have humans stopped being humans? Will conditions and ways of living never change? Will the best strategy today be the best strategy forever?
There is no recorded case – ever – of a human group exactly following the rules no matter how strict or how lax.
There is no recorded case — ever — in human history where humans didn’t lie about how much/little sex they’re having, or what kind, for that matter.
And there is no recorded society in history that was perfectly happy and free of neurosis.
To pursue this sort of state by imitating small, tribal societies – or worse, by imitating what we believe they are – is not just insane. It’s completely insane.
How about we accept we’re humans? Sex is a great thing, but it is both more and less than what we have tried to make it in the last sixty/seventy years. It is far more than the appetites we share with dogs – sex in most cases (at least the best sex) comes with emotional attachment and – for permanence – with mutual obligations. It is also no universal panacea, no cure-all and CERTAINLY no bridge to an earthly paradise.
Freud is dead. So is Margaret Mead. The Samoans were never completely happy. Neither are we.
Perhaps we can accept that we’re humans and that one solution fits all only works in the cemetery, and event here only with adjustments.
Perhaps we are now grown up enough to put our pants back on, or at least to not ask the homeless guy if we should put them on or pull them off?
Or we could send another emissary to modern-day primitives and ask THEM the secret of happiness.
Unfortunately, I know what we’re likely to do.