To Dr. Devlin's essay-review
"The feminine sexual counter-revolution and its limitations."
To the editor ...
Before giving Dr. Devlin deserved praise for the truths contained in his article, I feel the need to point out the things missing. The tenet that human behavior is based on anything but the laws of nature should not even be considered, let alone be used as a working premise. In light of this reality, a woman's actions become entirely predictable, as automatic as a lion trying to fetch a morsel of flesh right before his nose. What girls want is the alpha male: when they don't have it they are frustrated, When they have it they can't get enough. The only difference between "liberated" women (the ones Dr. Devlin despises) and "shackled" women (the ones he admires) is that the former are allowed to behave as they feel. Everything else is just a boring excuse that we should safely shut our ears to. And, the most important thing, women have never had anything important to say: they voice what is popular and act as their instincts allow them.
Lucian Gabriel Popescu
March 26, 2008
F. Roger Devlin replies
I am not a strict determinist. Men drop good-looking girlfriends to marry plainer girls with some frequency, and generally with good reason. (Women are invariably bewildered when this happens, which I find highly amusing.) But women seem to be less capable of rationality in mate selection, from what I have observed.
For a long time I was happily misled on this point by Jane Austen. A pattern in her novels is for the heroine to choose a man for marriage after he has displayed some moral virtue: e.g., constancy in Persuasion, humility in Pride and Prejudice. I actually thought that was realistic. Now that I am older I see that Austen's heroines were intended to be exceptional. Austen knew perfectly well that 99 out of 100 females would heedlessly go for the handsome cad, like her secondary characters Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice or Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, rather than conduct themselves like the central heroines she holds up for our admiration.
The female sexual revolution, as typified by Helen Gurley Brown of Cosmo, amounted to a program of getting women to follow all their worst instincts. Plenty of men may still try to be gentlemen, but the Cosmo girls do not notice: they are too busy trying to discover "the sex position that will get Mr. Alpha to commit." After all, a woman shouldn't be dating calmly, as Shalit says.
Call me a starry-eyed idealist if you will, but I still believe better female conduct is possible in some cases. We might encourage it by thrashing our daughters every time we catch them reading Cosmo.
March 27, 2008
Nicholas Strakon comments
Mr. Popescu writes: "The tenet that human behavior is based on anything but the laws of nature should not even be considered." Humans are a part of nature, and they are subject to the laws of nature. But that does not lead inexorably to the determinism that our reader seems to be arguing for.
I have to ask Mr. Popescu as any old Randian would have to ask him whether his letter was automatically written or whether it emerged from what is sometimes called "thinking," i.e., voluntary ratiocination. And whether our response to it is automatically determined or subject to similar thinking. If the former is the case, how can we conclude that his observations are true? The most we can say is that we have been determined to think so.
The trouble with the determinist argument is that it undermines itself, along with all other argument, as soon as it is expressed.
I have marshaled a Randian argument; now I go further. While it may be possible to claim that Ayn Rand, a woman, never had anything important to say, it is much harder to claim that everything she voiced was popular.
Nicholas Strakon is editor-in-chief of The Last Ditch.
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