The Golden Fleece Awards, sponsored by Sen. William Proxmire, were given to those government research grants which were total wastes of taxpayer money. Here are a few:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded project by psychologist Harris Rubin for $121,000, on developing "some objective evidence concerning marijuana's effect on sexual arousal by exposing groups of male pot-smokers to pornographic films and measuring their responses by means of sensors attached to their penises
- The NSF for spending $103,000 to compare aggressiveness in sun fish that drink tequila as opposed to gin
- National Institute for Mental Health for spending $97,000 to study, among other things, what went on in a Peruvian brothel; the researchers said they made repeated visits in the interests of accuracy
The Golden Fleece Awards are things of the past, but research projects which either prove nothing or prove the obvious are just as common now as in the old days.
One of the areas of inquiry that seems to attract more than its share of money, both public and private, is pornography. Does it or doesn’t it affect the brain, and if so, how? Most men have had a look at Hustler once or twice, and many have current subscriptions. Despite the allure of the sexy, naked, and hot women depicted in these magazines, most readers go on to marry dumpy, ordinary women. They would like their wives to be more like Taylor Vixen, but that is just whistlin’ Dixie.
They will spend years, decades, even a lifetime with women who run to fat, obsess about hair in the sink and taking out the trash. The most frequent thing they will hear from their wives is not “Make love to me”, but “Where the hell have you been?”. It is no wonder that they have Hustler stacked in the bathroom and porn videos in the basement. An escapism no different from Bollywood movies.
Hundreds of millions of Indian men cram cinema halls to see impossibly seductive starlets teasingly lure men into caves, bowers, and love nests. For three hours they are transported far from their begums into a world of fantasy. No harm done. Few rickshaw-pullers emerge from the cheap seats at the Regal Cinema to go on a sexual rampage. They do what every other fantasy-loving, porn-watching, heterosexual man does all over the world – enjoy the escapade, and go back to pipe-fitting, bus driving, and accounting.
A psychologist, Paul Bloom of Yale, developed what he thinks is a foolproof way to prove that men objectify women – that is, to look at them only as sex objects. He had subjects look at two pictures of the same woman, one naked and the other fully clothed (New York Times, 11.29.13).
We showed the pictures to our subjects and asked questions about these individuals — about the extent to which they were seen as purposeful agents, with the capacity for self-control, moral action and planning, and about the extent to which they were seen as experiencing beings, capable of feeling pain, pleasure, fear, rage, joy and desire. Consistent with the objectification view, naked people were thought of as having less agency.
Now, this is where my Golden Fleece Award comes in. Of course men think that women have more ‘agency’ when they are fully clothed. How many naked women do you see sitting in a Senior Vice President’s office, even in today’s liberated society? And how many fully clothed women have you seen in bed ready for hot sex?
What all men know and what researchers like Bloom still don’t, is that men – and women – are quite capable of holding two very distinctly different views of the opposite sex at the same time. Men fear tough female bosses, even if they are not dressed like Ms. Trunchbull.
An Armani suit, Gucci leather briefcase, and stylish but sensible Tieks mean business, pay attention, and mind your P’s and Q’s. Male subordinates may wonder what the boss looks like without her clothes – this is par for the course for men – but they are really more concerned with her performance review than her tits.
Similarly, while a man may look admiringly at his girlfriend as she dresses after sex, what he really admires is her warm, soft, and supple breasts; the curve of her waist; the full contours of her behind, the slender tapering of her legs; and her sensuous lips, blue eyes, and flaxen hair.
Context is everything. A woman in a power suit at a singles bar is a naked woman dressed up like a Senior Vice President; and men are just as likely to chat her up as they are the floozy down at the end. They both are there for one reason and one reason only. In fact, many men find the all-business, bottom-line look very sexy. A whiff of S&M, a little discipline. Be that as it may, it’s what’s underneath that counts at Church Key or Black Jack’s in DC.
There’s a Bell Curve for everything and sex is no different. There are porno addicts who whack themselves red and raw over everything from hard core to Bay Watch. Theirs is some kind of twisted, fevered compulsion. These men are way out on the asymptotic ends of the curve and have nothing in common with those living under the big bell. At the other end live the ascetics, the timid, and the bullied. They are either indifferent to women or afraid of them.
There is another, pitiful category of men who live in a social pleura. They are neither the robust men of potent sexual desire who both love and respect women; nor the gnomes who beat off compulsively to Pamela Anderson.
They are the ‘progressive’ male feminists who take up women’s cudgels at every turn; who attend women’s conferences on sexual abuse, battering, the glass ceiling, and women’s rights. They criticize men for their predatory, troglodytic behavior; blame them for every ill on the planet, want women to rise forever to positions of prominence and leadership. All while forcing themselves not to think dirty thoughts.
Male feminists are still men, after all, and as such think of sex all the time. There is not an hour of the day when men don’t think about sex – rarely with their wives, OK; but with imagined lovers, old lovers, hotties on the street, Dolores from Accounting, Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson, even the bloody cleaning lady.
I remember as a young boy I was told by the priest that thinking bad thoughts was a sin, and young and naïve as I was, I did my best to control the horny images that flooded my brain. It is one thing for an adult man to try to keep disrespectful thoughts about women in check, but another thing entirely for a young, pubescent boy. I can only imagine the struggle these feminist men have when it comes to purifying their minds. In many cases the women attending these conferences do the job for them.
The modern-day Golden Fleece Awards continue
Relatedly, in another study of ours, in which participants gave people electric shocks, we found that the participants gave milder shocks to people who were partially undressed versus fully dressed, presumably because the flash of skin makes us more sensitive to others as experiencing beings.
Really? Another Yale experiment with electric shocks? I was unwittingly part of the original, discredited Milgram experiment of the early 60s where researchers wanted to learn more about the dynamics of authority – i.e. how willing would we be to administer shocks to others simply because we were told to do so. Of course most of us figured out that the weird-looking contraption on the teacher’s desk was a fake, so we kept admitting our willingness to ramp up the ‘shocks’ to our classmates. As I recall, Milgram and his research assistants had to call many panels before the experiment could proceed.
So in the experiment cited above, Bloom and his assistants found that subjects gave milder shocks to women who were partly clothed compared to those given to Ms. Trunchbull. How perverse! Egging on twisted Yalies who were just begging for an excuse to torture women. Disgraceful.
These findings underscore the corporeal nature of many of our moral feelings. The experience of other people’s bodies can elicit empathy and compassion; it can also trigger disgust, fear and hatred. Our moral thoughts and actions are influenced, often unconsciously, by others’ smell, their race, their sex, their age, how much skin they are showing and much else.
If we want to be good people, to do right by others, it’s important to know about these influences. Sometimes we will embrace them, but often we are going to want to combat them.
In other words, despite the moral cant and academic reasonability, Bloom wants us to think only good thoughts – to combat the libidinous enemy within, to smell only fragrance, and to be good little boys. Sheer and utter nonsense. He should return his grant money.