The View from Hell

Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for July 2010

The Patriarchy, the Gynocracy, and Other Comforting Myths of Struggle

with 24 comments

This post was very sweetly nominated for the 3 Quarks Daily Philosophy Prize. I think Karl Smith’s Pessimist Manifesto articulates the same philosophical points more generally and better.


Conspiracy theories are comforting. They posit an enemy – “bad guys” who are responsible for the mess we’re in – and they give us a group to imagine we’re struggling against, allowing us to be the “good guys.”

Patriarchy is, of course, real – in the Sudan, in Afghanistan, and for tens of thousands of years of human history. “Males dominate public/political realm” is on D.E. Brown’s list of human universals; it characterizes every human society that has ever been studied. Contrary to the wishes of wiccans and the like, there never have been any female-dominated societies.

In the modern West, however, almost all legal barriers to gender equality have been removed – as well as many practical ones (e.g., birth control, abortion, and the information economy). So why aren’t all our problem solved? Why do men still commit the vast majority of lethal violence? Why do men still “dominate the public/political realm”? Why aren’t there as many female math professors as male math professors? Why are female leading actors still mostly young and beautiful?

The comforting conspiracy theory is that all this is from socialization. Boys and girls are somehow influenced, from a young age, to take on the gender roles that they do. If we “good guys” could only change this socialization, then all the problems attributed to patriarchy would vanish.

But only an evolution denier could hold such a position (and, indeed, many feminists are evolutionary psychology deniers). A species with (historic and present) effective polygyny as high as ours is never going to achieve gender equality in anything but a legal sense.

And gynocracy, of course, is real, too – at least recently, in the West. While there are few situations in which the law prefers men over women, there are many situations in which the law protects (and sometimes “protects”) women at the expense of men’s interests. Here are a few:

  • By United States federal law, baby girls may not have their genitals mutilated, but baby boys may.
  • The near-universal prohibition on prostitution primarily affects men’s interests, because men are nearly the sole consumers of sexual services of both male and female prostitutes (fantasies like the television show Hung notwithstanding). A male who is unwilling or unable to enter a mutual sexual output contract has few legal options for obtaining sexual services – certainly a very important part of human happiness.
  • For a female, consent to sex does not equal consent to have and support a child. For a male, it does. A man may be forced to support a child he did not wish to have merely because he is the genetic parent.
  • On the other hand, for a female, being the genetic parent is enough to establish parental rights to the child. A male must often demonstrate more than genetic paternity – e.g., a relationship with the child or attempt to support the child – in order to have parental rights recognized at law.

The above examples of what might be termed “gynocracy” are wrong, and should be rectified. But will all the problems between men and women disappear if only we get the right legal system in place? If it didn’t work for women, why would we expect it to work for men? Or for any other oppressed group?

Evil exists. But there is no “enemy” except ourselves. Evolution has created organisms that compete with each other – intrasexually as well as intersexually. Our organism has developed the concepts of “good” and “evil,” “fairness and “cheating,” that help us live in large groups and compete successfully. But all the “good” and “fairness” in the world does not guarantee human happiness. In fact, it is human suffering that is guaranteed.

Conceiving of problems as struggles between us and our enemies is problematic because it gives false hope – hope that one can “win” the struggle. If only the right people were in charge, we think, things would be alright.

But the hope is a false one. Problems such as those between men and women are deep, systemic, and insoluble. They are part of our nature and will always exist. If we perpetuate our species, we perpetuate the problems. There will never be a time when “it was all worth it” – when we can look back on our previous struggles and pat ourselves on the back.

As we perpetuate our species, we do so on the backs of the suffering. And always shall.

On the curious proposition that women are as violent as men in relationships, see also my Demonic Males and Attack Heifers: On the Sex Ratio of Marital Violence.

Written by Sister Y

July 23, 2010 at 12:03 am

Your Children Might Be Evil – Even If You’re Not

with 20 comments

Parents generally have a great deal of expectations regarding their children, and one of the biggest expectations is that the children will be similar to the parents: similarly intelligent, happy, attractive, etc.

Parents also expect that their children will grow up to be good people; it’s all about how you raise them, right?

Not necessarily.

A New York Times article by Richard Friedman, “Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds,” describes the nightmare of raising kids who are just morally bad people – even if the parents, and the parents’ other children, are fine.

. . . there is little, if anything, in peer-reviewed journals about the paradox of good parents with toxic children.

Another patient told me about his son, now 35, who despite his many advantages was short-tempered and rude to his parents — refusing to return their phone calls and e-mail, even when his mother was gravely ill.

“We have racked our brains trying to figure why our son treats us this way,” he told me. “We don’t know what we did to deserve this.”

Apparently very little, as far as I could tell.

Very little . . . except force him out of the womb and into the world, necessarily against his will.

Parents make the choice to reproduce, and deserve what they get. Problem is, the children – bad people or not – do not.

Friedman concludes:

For better or worse, parents have limited power to influence their children. That is why they should not be so fast to take all the blame — or credit — for everything that their children become.

I think parents are very much to blame for the suffering of their children – and for the suffering their children cause others. Denying responsibility for making the very serious decision to reproduce is incredibly immature.

Written by Sister Y

July 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Posted in antinatalism, bad kids, evil

Life Is Addictive

leave a comment »

An advertising designer is working on a campaign for a cigarette company.

Designer: Maybe we shouldn’t do this campaign. It’s clearly geared to lure nonsmokers into trying cigarettes. I’ve smoked for ten years, and I wish I’d never started. I smell like an ash tray and I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without wheezing. Maybe we should bid on an anti-smoking PSA campaign instead.

Boss: You’re a hypocrite. If you really thought smoking was so bad, you’d quit. Obviously, you think smoking is great. Now go out there and convince more people to start!

Makes perfect sense to me.

Written by Sister Y

July 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Polite Conversation about Children

with 3 comments

A commenter “Elle” on a blog called ginandtacos points out that, while it’s socially acceptable to inquire into someone’s reasons for NOT having children, many of the likely reasons are not polite to mention, such as:

3. I’ve had four miscarriages, and I feel like my heart is breaking in my chest when I think about having another one.
4. My partner and I are both Tay-Sachs carriers, and the risks seem too great.
5. When you had a child you became so boring and self-involved that I shudder to imagine that happening to me.
6. I don’t know how I could have a child and keep them safe from their grandpa, without moving away.

I would also note that it is NOT socially acceptable to inquire into someone’s reasons for HAVING children (found that one out the hard way).

Written by Sister Y

July 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Parental Parasitism

with 4 comments

How parents use their children – and use their children to use society.


The similarities between a fetus and a parasite are striking enough that the metaphor is fairly common. (See, for example, Adrienne Zurub’s The Parasitic Nature of Pregnancy.)

However, as horrifying as the reality of pregnancy can be, it is much more disturbing to ponder the extent to which parents act parasitically with regard to their children.

Babies as a Retirement Plan

One of the most common reasons people give for having children is to have someone to take care of them in their old age. There are really two important questions here: first, is it realistic? And second, is it fair?

The dream that most parents assume will come true for their children is tri-fold:

  1. The parents will have the financial means to support the child without relying on public assistance.
  2. Once raised, the child will support himself for his lifetime without relying on his parents or public assistance.
  3. The child will be financially successful and altruistic enough to voluntarily support the parents in the parents’ old age.

The first assumption is far from guaranteed. The second is shaky. And the third is downright hilarious.

Your Children Won’t Take Care of You

Raising children is expensive. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that the average cost of rearing a child, adjusted for 2009 dollars – not counting college – is $160,410 for the lowest income families (less than $56,670 annually), $222,360 for middle-income ($56,670 to $98,120 annual income) and $369,360 for the highest earners (over $98,120 annually). That’s far in excess of the 2009 average retirement savings for the 55-64 age group of $69,127. If parents really are concerned with how they will live in their old age, wouldn’t they be better advised to avoid reproducing and stash those hundreds of thousands in their retirement funds? It’s certainly a much more secure investment. An “investment” in children often has a negative return, as I will explain below.

In addition, a 2009 Pew survey found that 11% of people aged 25-34 had moved back in with a parent because of the recession. Far from supporting their parents, an enormous proportion of adults end up relying on their parents far past the age of majority.

Another problem: those children who are going to happily support you in your old age are probably going to have children of their own. You will be competing with your grandchildren for your children’s resources – and who do you think is going to win?

Even breeding advocate Bryan Caplan recognizes that children don’t feel the same solicitude toward their parents that parents feel toward their children:

An old saying tells us that “One parent can care for five children, but five children cannot care for one parent.” It could happen to you.

There are strong evolutionary biological reasons why this should be so. From the perspective of inclusive fitness, an adult child is much more valuable to a parent than a parent is to an adult child. I quote Daly & Wilson’s Homicide (pages 99-100) at length on this point:

Parent and child are equally related to each other, but it does not follow that each should have evolved to be equally concerned for the other’s welfare . . . . [A] parent’s valuation of an offspring is theoretically expected to increase over time, at least until the latter’s maturity. The fact that reproductive value varies over time means that mutual valuations between individuals are similarly unstable. From A’s point of view, B’s value as a potential vehicle of A’s fitness is the product of B’s relatedness (r) to A times B’s reproductive value (RV), i.e. (rAB × RVB). From B’s perspective, A’s value is the product of the same coefficient of relatedness times A’s reproductive value (rAB × RVA). If A’s reproductive value exceeds B’s, and the two are close kin, it follows that B may be more willing to incur costs – risk to own life, for example – on behalf of A than vice versa . . . .

By virtue of greater reproductive value, an offspring will typically be more valuable to its aging parent than vice versa . . . . [Such] interindividual valuations constitute one determinant of the probability that dangerous tactics will be employed when two people find themselves in conflict. In particular we would expect the individual less valued to be more at risk. An obvious prediction, then, is that offspring will kill their parents more often than the reverse. However, we must immediately exclude young children from this proposition, mainly because their relative defenselessness makes them much more likely to be victims than offenders regardless of any relationship with the adult involved, and also because the parent’s reproductive value may well still exceed the child’s at this stage.

In fact, between adults, killings of parents by offspring are vastly more common than the reverse. In a sample of Canadian homicides from 1974 to 1983, 91 adult sons killed their fathers and 45 killed their mothers; only 20 fathers killed their sons, and only one mother killed her adult son. Seven daughters killed their fathers and twelve killed their mothers; just five fathers killed their daughters, and just three mothers killed their adult daughters.

Your children will probably not murder you, but the data illustrate the degree to which children are more valuable to parents than parents are to children. They won’t kill you, but they probably won’t exhibit inordinate amounts of filial piety in the form of voluntary cash transfers, either.

Children are People, Not Investments

But even though having children is a poor financial decision, it is also unfair to expect children to financially support their parents. Parents and children do not properly have a relationship of reciprocity, although it is common to suggest that they should. The title of an article in the Daily Mail illustrates this mistaken “reciprocity” view:

Children should be forced to care for parents and grandparents to repay them for ‘free’ childcare, says lawyer

Why is this completely wrong-headed? Raising children – time, food, toys, diapers, irritation – is a gift to the child, not half of a contract. Parents are properly regarded as volunteers – that is, those who provide a service without a reasonable expectation of compensation. The homeless guy who washes your windshield without your consent is in the same situation – and the guilt you feel if you don’t “tip” him does not reflect ethical reality. He did you a favor – perhaps you appreciate it, perhaps you don’t – but you certainly did not agree to pay him for it. In order to make it fair to enforce a contract, the law requires that you actually willingly exchange something. You can’t give someone a gift and then turn around and expect him to pay for it, hence the legal maxim “equity will not assist the volunteer.” That is, equity (fairness) does not require that a volunteer be compensated.

When we expect our children to be our maids, caretakers, and sugar daddies in our old age, we are, in a sense, ordering them to follow a particular life path: one that allows for a great deal of discretionary income and time. What if a child does not want a high-powered, money-making career? What if he or she wants to support himself as a musician, artist, clergy member, or worker for a nonprofit organization? Shouldn’t this be the child’s choice? It’s bad enough to bring a child into our troubled world, necessarily without his consent. It’s adding insult to injury to saddle him with the responsibility to support parents who were too lazy to plan for retirement themselves, and preferred to push the responsibility off on him.

Babies as Hostages

Parents expect, by and large, to be able to use their children as caretakers in their old age. But more importantly, parents use their children’s helplessness to extort resources from others.

Imagine two people are trapped in a mine with only enough oxygen to keep one of them alive until help arrives. They are both thirty years old; the only difference is that one has small children, and the other has no children. Which one should get the oxygen?

Most people would opt to save the parent. But it is important to realize that the parent has no intrinsically greater claim to life: his children merely have a claim to their provider and caretaker. In this sense, having children is a great deal like taking hostages. Resources are provided to the hostage-taker not because of his own moral claims, but because of the moral claims of his innocent hostages. Unfortunately, this creates an incentive to take hostages. The parent-child relationship allows for a similar parasitism.

In large societies, assistance is provided to children because of their helplessness that also “just happens” to benefit their parents. Welfare, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit are just a few ways that society attempts to transfer wealth to suffering children, but also ends up transferring wealth to parents whose decision to reproduce was irresponsible. Even child support provided by non-custodial parents fits this model: the money is purportedly for the benefit of the helpless child, but it is paid directly to the custodial parent, and improves her welfare as well as that of the child.

How Parents Use Their Children to Parasitize Society

I wish here to analyze a real-life example. On July 11, NPR aired a story about the possible extension of unemployment benefits, and interviewed in detail a woman named Debra Rousey.

Until November 2009, Rousey was a bank manager. She has been unable to find a job since then, and gets $355 a week in unemployment benefits. The text version of the piece characterizes her as “a single mom supporting her 17-year-old son, her 25-year-old daughter and two young grandchildren.” But while these folks all live with her, it’s misleading to say that she is “supporting” her children and grandchildren. In fact, (1) she is receiving child support from her former husband for her 17-year-old son; and (2) her daughter (who does not work) receives food stamps for her two small children, and the family lives on those. (The audio, but not the print, version of the article contains these details.) She is considering applying for welfare. The story notes that “Rousey was able to pay June’s rent with help from her former in-laws, but she still has to come up with money for July. [Emphasis mine.]”

In Rousey’s words:

“Twenty years ago, when I was a single mother I was on food stamps and Medicaid,” she says. “I feel like I have come so far, making the income I was making, getting the degrees that I got, and to go back to public assistance is like taking three steps backwards.”

Rousey, who seems articulate, kind, and well-intentioned, is a poster child for how the three-fold parental ideal described above can go astray. Her situation illustrates how parents use their children’s ethical claim on society, and on the other parent, to benefit themselves. If she did not have a minor son, she would not be receiving money from her former husband, and it is unlikely that her “former in-laws” would be helping her out with rent. If her daughter did not have small children, she would not be eligible for food stamps.

This is a reality that few consider when making the decision to reproduce – if, indeed, they conceive of it as a decision at all.

Written by Sister Y

July 16, 2010 at 7:50 pm

How Babies Destroy Your Fuckability: Female Edition

with 6 comments

Don’t worry.

Your body will still be beautiful after your pregnancy . . . in a way.

Your husband will still find you sexually attractive . . . sort of.

He won’t cheat on you . . . and if he does, it’s not the end of the world.

You’ll be able to lose the weight . . . probably.

The sagging skin isn’t such a big deal.

You brought life into the world – and that makes you beautiful.

You can learn to see beauty in yourself – even if most men don’t.

It will all be worth it in the end.

“You’re not a real woman until people come out of your vagina and step on your dreams.” –Louis CK

Written by Sister Y

July 8, 2010 at 1:01 am

How Babies Destroy Your Fuckability: Male Edition

with 7 comments

Having children makes people less happy.

But more specifically, having a child reduces both a man’s expected frequency of intercourse and quality of his sexual partners. This is true both for a monogamously married man and for a man who does not have an exclusive sexual relationship with the mother of his child. Choosing to reproduce virtually guarantees a worse sex life for a man than he would have had if he had remained childless.

In our society, it is a little disingenuous to speak of a man “choosing” to have a baby. As I have previously discussed, men have zero reproductive rights in our legal system, beyond choosing to avoid sex altogether or to have a vasectomy. However, although the final say is not theirs, men often participate in the decision to procreate. I wish to present an argument from self-interest why men should use what little reproductive power they have to avoid reproducing.

You and Your Baby Mama

The fact that having a child destroys one’s sex life in the context of a marriage is a cultural axiom. In this case, it appears that stand-up comics are, in fact, in touch with empirical reality.

Having a child has disastrous consequences for married couples’ sex lives. 60% of females report decreased frequency of sexual intercourse six months after the birth of her first child than before pregnancy.[1] How much less frequent is intercourse? Half. Frequency of sex eight months after the birth of the first child is about half the (already pretty dismal) pre-pregnancy sexual frequency levels, as reported by both men and women.[2] Eight months after birth, 64% of women and 47% of men reported having sex five times or less per month, compared to (“only”) 29% of women and 15% of men pre-pregnancy. Id. Both men and women were much more likely to rate their sex lives as “not very good” or “poor” compared to pre-pregnancy. Id.

Is the decrease in sexual frequency a byproduct of fatigue? Not really. Levels of fatigue do not significantly predict frequency of intercourse after four months postpartum.[3] Being a great dad who changes diapers will not necessarily get you more sex. Breastfeeding massively reduces sexual frequency[3] – but it’s hardly responsible to avoid breastfeeding in order to have more sex.

Human Mate Selection: Effects of Reproduction

In all the research that has been done on mate selection in humans, two themes[4] recur:

  1. Men care mostly about physical beauty.
  2. Women care most about wealth and earning capacity.

Nature is perverse; having a child, while certainly a fitness-promoting act, comes with serious fitness consequences, most saliently:

  1. A woman’s physical appearance is damaged greatly by pregnancy.
  2. A man’s financial prospects are damaged greatly by having social responsibility for a child.

The most obvious effect of pregnancy on women is postpartum obesity. A Brazilian study found that 35% of each kilogram of weight gained during pregnancy was retained nine months postpartum – even after adjustment for age, pre-pregnancy BMI, body fat at baseline, and years since first parturition.[5] But even women who maintain their weight are affected; every year, thousands of women are rendered clinically unfuckable by pregnancy. Stretch marks, loose skin, horrific changes in body shape, varicose veins, scarring, vaginal muscle weakness, and the incredibly common pelvic floor disorder are all consequences of normal pregnancy.

These are certainly reasons for a woman to avoid pregnancy – but, realistically, a man considering bringing children into a monogamous partnership should be aware of these factors as well. Can you really promise to be faithful – forever! – to a woman who will suddenly become much less attractive, and most likely never really recover? Even if you’re married to Cindy Crawford, pregnancy will take its toll.

Impact on Standard of Living

Most people, of course, do not remain in monogamous partnerships for their entire lives – even those who have promised to do so, and brought children into the world based on that promise. How will your sex life be as a single dad?

First of all, you will have less money. A LOT less money. Methods used to calculate child support vary by state, but expect to pay one quarter to one third of your income – much more if you have sired more than one child. A California man who makes $3000 per month, whose former wife is not employed, will pay $559 for one child – $895 for two children – per month. (Join the fun – calculate your expected child support award in California!)

Not only is your actual earning capacity reduced, but the existence of your child advertises to your potential sex partner that you are less able to provide for her and her hypothetical future children.

It’s not just money, either. Your time and attention are valuable resources, and they are permanently affected by having a child. The above child support calculation assumes a visitation schedule where the visiting parent has the child 20% of the time. In practice, that means half your weekends, and then some. The fact that you have less time, money, and attention makes you a much less attractive potential sex partner to a woman – if you even have time to date.

All this is intended to appeal to self-interest. But being realistic about one’s future prospects helps one make responsible decisions about the future – and that’s not selfish at all. Fewer babies means more sex – and that’s good for everyone.

Your unborn children won’t thank you – but they would if they could.


1. Kumar, R., H.A. Brant, and K.M. Robson. Child-bearing and maternal sexuality; a prospective study of 119 primiparae. J. Psychosom. Res. 1981; 25(5): 373-383.

2. Dixon, M., N. Booth, and R. Powell. Sex and relationships following childbirth: a first report from general practice of 131 couples. British J. General Practice 2000; 50:223-224.

3. De Judicibus, M.A. and M.P. McCabe. Psychological factors and the sexuality of pregnant and postpartum women – Statistical Data Included. Journal of Sex Research, May 2002.

4. See, e.g., Fisman, R., S.S. Iyengar, E. Kamenica, and I. Simonson. Gender differences in mate selection: Evidence from a speed-dating experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2006.

5. Gilberto Kac, Maria H.D.A. Benício, Gustavo Velásquez-Meléndez, Joaquim G. Valente, and Cláudio J. Struchiner. Gestational Weight Gain and Prepregnancy Weight Influence Postpartum Weight Retention in a Cohort of Brazilian Women. J. Nutr. 134:661-666, March 2004.

Written by Sister Y

July 2, 2010 at 8:57 pm