(content warning: kicking the Culture War hornet’s nest pretty darn hard)
People like to argue about Jordan Peterson on the internet, so I’ll start this post with a Jordan Peterson video.
“Hypergamy” in the sense that Peterson is talking about has become a common theme in culture war debates over why young people are having so little sex, among other things.
The claim is that women, but not men, will only date, marry, or have sex with partners whose social status or attractiveness is higher than theirs. Peterson fears that this can lead to a sort of sexually Hobbesian state of nature in which a small number of high-status men get all the women, low-status men get none, and women are unhappy with their partners’ divided attention.
The proposed solution is “enforced” monogamy — enforced not by coercion, but by social norms — which supports a harmonious society in which most men are married, most women get the monogamous attention of one man, and children are raised in stable homes.
There are limits to how interesting I can be if I simply review the same Steven Pinker books that every similar blog reviews, so I’m making an effort to cover different ground. I recently read Martha Nussbaum’s essay Objectification, from a 1995 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs. I chose this piece for the very simple reason that it’s the main source cited in the the Wikipedia article on objectification.
Several weeks ago, Ozy of Things of Things posted about three different ways of thinking about psychological gender differences:
- There may be no psychological differences between men and women.
- There may be population-level differences between men and women, but overlapping ranges.
- The may be differences between men and women that are so large that the ranges do not overlap.
The problem I see is that two of these three ways are trivially wrong and I think hardly anyone believes them. There are quite a few measurable psychological differences between men and women, but most of them are small, and the ranges overlap even for the large ones. I suspect that few conservative Christians or radical feminists would dispute that, and that their disagreements lie elsewhere.