Chapter 7: The most vicious is woman’s heart

最毒妇人心
zuì dú fù rén xīn

The previous two chapters already set a rather foul flavour on how men view and treat women. Alas, this section is not going to bring about any betterment. On the contrary, this locution[1] is in all likelihood one of the most misogynistic in the entire collection. It is regu­larly brought as a catch-all phrase for everything truly evil males see in the opposite sex, inclu­ding malice, malignancy, malevolence, maleficence, and so forth. An equivalent Chi­nese proverb casting a similar bad light on manhood specifically cannot be found, at least not any that carries such a degree of virulence. Some readers might be offended or at least will not agree with the idea verbalised here. Yet it has to be included in the develop­ment of the discourse, not only as a way to demonstrate how disdainful certain human beings, or even entire civilisations can be, but also because it contains a few valuable insights about the beha­viour and tactics used by women in the mating game.

Since the dawn of time, a lot of effort has been expended to make women look bad in one way or another.[2] In the Chinese language, for example, numerous words denoting sins and other forms of bad things, deeds or characteristics comprise the character for “female” or “woman” (女, nǚ) as radical. For instance, the adjectives “evil” or “bewitching” as well as their embodied forms “demon” or “goblin” are written as 妖 (yāo), an amalgamation of 女 and 夭 (ǎo). Similarly, “to flatter” (in both positive and negative senses), 媚 (mèi), is com­po­sed of 女 and 眉 (méi), while “to envy” or “to be jealous”, 嫉妒 (jí dù), combines 女 and 疾 (jí, which interestingly, means “disease” or “illness”) on one hand plus 女 and 户 (hù) on the other. The most extreme illustration is provided with the term for “wicked”, “trea­cherous”, “traitor” or “rape”, which in Traditional Chinese is graphically spelt like a “tri­ple female”, i.e., 姦 (jiān; 奸in Simplified Chinese).

In addition, countless quotes from philosophers and poets across epochs and cultures testify to a literary “woman-bashing” as it was popular among many scholars for several centuries. Here a few specimens:

What mighty woes

To thy imperial race from woman rose.

Homer, The Odyssey (Alexander Pope’s translation)

There is no worse evil than a bad woman; and nothing has ever been produced better than a good one.

Euripides, Melanippe

Let man fear woman when she hateth: for man in his innermost soul is merely evil; woman, however, is mean.[3]

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Rudyard Kipling, The Female of the Species

Fairy tales, plays, or novels also make use of the stereotypical evil woman. One only needs to recall that many famous bedtime stories – those children get to listen to the most often – depict females (queens, witches, stepmothers, sisters, etc.) as the main villain.[4] Likewise, some of the fiercest and darkest characters in classical literature are women, as for example William Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. Not only does she incite her husband to commit regicide, but the methods she employs are particularly heinous and manipulative. Although she cannot be considered as the originator of the idea, she is the one to plot the crime, and then naggingly encourages Macbeth to execute the murder. However, it is not before she challenges his manhood (by instructing him that he will only be a man in her eyes if he kills King Duncan) that he finally does. Critics have argued that Lady Macbeth does nothing but suppress her own feminine traits and instincts (e.g., empathy, nurturance, and fragility) and trade them against masculine ones, such as ambition, mercilessness, and the resolute pursuit of power. Nevertheless, despite her repeated striving to adopt a male mentality, her uncons­cious, yet unmistakable, femininity bubbles to the surface at regular intervals.


Notes

[1] The expression itself is quoted from a tale in Líng Méngchū’s (凌濛初) collection of short stories Slapping the Table in Amazement, also known as Amazing Tales (Series II, Volume 10, in Chinese: 二刻拍案惊奇, èr kè pāi àn jīng qí, 卷十 赵五虎合计挑家衅 莫大郎立地散神奸, juàn shí, zhào wǔ hǔ hé jì tiǎo jiā xìn, mò dà láng lì dì sàn shén jiān). Written in vernacular Chinese and employing vivid, straightforward descriptions of characters, the plots typically revolve around women’s fate, their miserable existence, their daring pursuit of genuine love and happiness, or their implications in legal disputes. The phrase used here offers a testimony of what social relationships among women in a polygamous society may have looked like at that time.

[2]    Notice that this section does not mention any references from religious texts. This omission is deliberate.

[3]    Original: “Der Mann fürchte sich vor dem Weibe, wenn es hasst: denn der Mann ist im Grunde der Seele nur böse, das Weib aber ist dort schlecht.”

[4]    This is, for instance, the case in Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, etc.

Chapter 6: A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart – Part 3

The plan of action that only the most ruthless cads use (and that requires the highest level of sophistication) involves the exaggeration of their good faith. In their endeavour to beguile women, they appear to be civilised and genteel than they are in reality, display more consi­deration and thoughtfulness than they usually do, and pretend to be more soft or com­pro­mising than they actually. The reason why this ruse works so well on women is because such demonstration of candour, openness, and forthrightness carries the message that the man is not looking for an ephemeral love story, but is rather seeking to settle down with a permanent mate. The willingness to act himself and to communicate his feelings to her in a direct and outspoken fashion – these are just the signals a woman needs in order to appraise a prospective partner’s characteristics so that she can feel confident about his intentions.[1]

Another standard manoeuvre playboys like to utilise is the amplification of their emotional commitment towards the woman they desire. The modus operandi is quite simple: By expres­sing feelings of involvement and intimacy or by uttering formulae like “I love you”, “I miss you”, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you”, etc. they intend to excite their prey’s sensations, thereby boosting the probability of sexual intercourse. Although men do not necessarily have to go so far in their choice of words, the calculation is likely to pay off, because the illusion is totally in line with both women’s expectation to gain access to his assets (exclusively, if possible) and their ideal of the integration of sex, romance and love. It is therefore not surprising to see that many people have tried this twist. In a survey among college students, 71 percent of the male admitted that had “exaggerated the depth of their feelings for a woman in order to have sex with her” (versus only 39 percent of the women asked). But even this number seems to be low compared to the 97 percent of women who declared to have been the object of that same tactic (i.e., that “a man had ever deceived them by his exaggeration of the depth of his feelings in order to have sex with her”) at the hands of men.[2]

Inversely, women’s knowledge of a man’s prior commitment is commonly recognised as being a main impediment in the seduction process. Any indication that his resources may already be allocated elsewhere (i.e., to another female or to her children) interferes with his capability to attract partners, even free-and-easy ones. With women having a clear prefe­rence for long-term engagements, marital obligations, in particular, become liabilities in the hunt for casual sex and obviously weaken his charm and desirability as a mate. Most men are fully aware of this detail, so married regulars of single bars normally ensure, as a matter of precaution, to remove their wedding rings before entering the premises. In the same spirit, it was established that the single most effective technique among men to deni­grate competitors and to make these less attractive to women, was to tell everyone that a rival already had a serious girlfriend.[3]

Given the pressures and built-in urges to procreate, it appears, from an evolutionary per­spective, that men have no choice but to falsely inflate their resources and amplify other requi­red traits. This has lead anthropologists to think that natural selection provided an advantage to men who were particularly skilled at misleading women and tempting them into sexual intercourse. In the face of so much knavery and perfidy, females developed their own protective devices designed for detecting deception. And so they adapted to this task and became very good at spotting male lies and overstatements, which now enables them to discover insincerity and penetrate any disguise. It has indeed been established that women have evolved a great sensitivity to lies. They do that by sensing subtle behavioural irregu­la­rities, noticing the fastest dart of an eye, or spotting contradictions when the spoken mes­sage of their interlocutor does not match the expression in his glance. Therefore, male rea­ders out there should make no mistake: Thanks to the millennia-long training of their brain, women are true experts in reading faces, interpreting the tone of voice, decoding non-verbal gestures, assessing emotional nuance, and so on.[4] Today it is no exaggeration to say that the probability for a man of being caught lying when he is just trying to score with a girl is fairly high – even if she does not want to admit it (to) herself. But this is another story.

And as things happen in the game of evolution, the match between men and women does not end here. While females brought forth advanced deception detection skills, they exerted strong pressure on men to become slicker and better pretenders. And thus keeps going the co-evolutionary upgrade, with each incremental enhancement in one sex bringing about a reciprocal mutation (in psychological terms) in the other. Adaptation after adaptation, men and women mutually assist each other in sharpening their deceptive faculty on the one hand and their counter-deceptive senses and intelligence on the other.[5] The very existence of the present book offers the best proof that the biological arms build-up between men and women still persists. As long as the collision of both genders’ sexual strategies is not resol­ved, there are excellent reasons to believe that this arms race will continue to be fought out at full strength for the sake of human progress.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

狗嘴里吐不出象牙

gǒu zuǐ lǐ tǔ bù chū xiàng yá

A dog’s mouth emits no ivory.

Look not for musk in dog’s kennel. An enemy’s mouth seldom speaks well. A filthy mouth cannot utter decent language.

黄鼠狼给鸡拜年没安好心

huáng shŭ láng gĕi jī bài nián méi ān hăo xīn

Not for nothing does a weasel pay a New Year visit to a chick.

Not with the best intentions.

过河拆桥

guò hé chāi qiáo

Dismantle the bridge after crossing it. Remove the bridge after crossing the river.

Be ungrateful and leave one’s benefactor in the lurch. Cast somebody aside when he has served one’s purpose. Discard one’s helpers after their help is made use of.

醉翁之意不在酒

zuì wēng zhī yì bú zài jiǔ

The drunken gentleman’s desire is not about the wine.

Kissing the baby for the nurse.

To have ulterior motives.

麻杆打狼—两头怕

má gǎn dǎ láng—liǎng tóu pà

Fight a wolf with a flex stalk.

Refers to situations where each party is fearful of the other.

男人靠得住, 母猪会上树

nán rén kào de zhù, mŭ zhū huì shàng shù

Reliable men are as rare as flying pigs.

用人不疑,疑人不用

yòng rén bù yí, yí rén bù yòng

Don’t suspect someone you employ, but if one is suspicious, don’t employ him.

I trust those who are of use to me.

上梁不正下梁歪

shàng liáng bú zhèng xià liáng wāi

If the upper beam is not straight, the lower ones will go aslant.

A crooked stick will have a crooked shadow. A fish rots from the head down.

If a leader sets a bad example, it will be followed by his subordinates.



Notes

[1]    Buss (2003), pp. 103-105

[2]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 154

[3]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 106

[4]    Brizendine (2006), pp. 65, 119

[5]    Buss (2000), pp. 44-46

Chapter 6: A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart – Part 2

Such preferences, choices and behaviours represent age-old instincts, and, as such, have not been installed in us accidentally. They are in effect the result of the human brain’s wiring, a process that started much earlier than our civilisation as we know it today. It is precisely this neurological set-up that coerces us to have the same aspirations and predilections as our ancestors. In other words, males and females of the 21st century are conditioned to seek exactly what their forefathers and foremothers sought – at least when it comes to mating strategies, and related issues such as relationships, love, sex, etc. Although this may sound outrageous and instigate the most ardent indignation among many people, the fact of the matter is that men continue to want as much sex as possible with as many different women as possible, at any time, in any place, under almost any circumstance. The origins and purpose of such impulses are rather straightforward: Since the dawn of man, males have been programmed to perpetuate our species, which they need to (be able to) do that without regard to drawbacks and dangers. They had to be ready to go whenever and wherever a coupling opportunity came up, even in the presence of potential enemies. By the same token, they could not afford to be easily distracted but had to keep their eye on the ball. Under such conditions, the whole contest did not leave much room for courting, foreplay or gentle stroking – much to the defeat of their partners.

Indeed, this markedly physical and brute conception of sex is in complete dissonance with women’s needs. Unlike men, their role was not only to procreate but also to nurture the off­spring, protect and raise them. Accordingly, their primary drive was to be guardians and care­takers, which also reflected on their own desires. In view of all the love and devo­tion they provide to their progeny, and given the physical sacrifices and hardships they have to undergo during pregnancy, delivery and mothering, it is only normal that they would expect similar compassion and attention from the man partly responsible for all this trouble. As their lust is closely linked to their emotions in general, their willingness to sleep with a man will depend not least on his skills and promises in this respect. At this junction, it is noteworthy to mention that all the new freedoms women now enjoy may have altered many aspects of sexual behaviour, but did certainly not obliterate the differences in how men and women express, explore, and live their own sexualities. Neither the increasing of their eco­nomic independence, the equality they obtained in many areas, nor the partial legalisation of abortion, the availability of effective and convenient contraceptives, etc. – none of these deve­lopments managed to let women re-define their criteria for evaluating good sex. Admit­tedly, more and more women pursue promiscuous lifestyles, whilst eroticism and sexuality are omnipresent and openly discussed in the media. But such motivations usually stem from curiosity and the wish to experiment with different partners in different situations in order to find out what they really like and dislike. However, the exposure to images of fornication and lures of free love have not deterred them from their deep primary dream to recombine sex with emotions. What was true for troglodytes 100,000 years ago is still true for 21st century housewives (desperate or not), successful businesswomen, female celebrities, etc. In other words, the common idea that a woman’s sex drive is stronger than that of her mother, grandmother or any of ancestors thousands of years ago could not be further from the truth.[1],[2]

Under such an omen, clashes are bound to occur. But while it seems reasonable to accept our mutual incompatibility yet trying our best to reconcile differences, problems are not infrequently exacerbated by the misleading behaviour of some men. The number of famous philanderers is countless, but a man does don’t have to be as productive as Casanova, Don Juan, or the 2nd Earl of Rochester, nor as unscrupulous as Lothario, the Vicomte de Valmont, Olivier Maugain or an incubus to fall into that category. The objective of such bounders are just as stark as clear: Seduction and abandonment. By feigning honourable values such as passion, courtesy and generosity, they entice women into thinking that they are interested in starting a relationship when they are absolutely not. They mimic what women look for in a husband, for instance, benevolence, concern and long-term devotion, but in fact what they are after are brief sexual liaisons solely.

Their seduction tricks are quite elementary. The simplest one is to overemphasise ones wealth, respectively the ability to generate it. A typical Corinthian will spend money very easily, inviting his target to posh restaurants, greasing her palm with expensive gifts, or otherwise channelling resources to her. In principle, this is an absolutely legitimate and accep­table tactic. In many species, males do show off their potential for investment in order to draw mates’ attention. They will provide food and the female can foresee what she is getting. Problems emerge when the males first inseminate the female but are then unwilling to deliver what they promised or advertised. Or worse, when they take back the food after the copulation is complete, as it happens with some male insects, who employ the same resource to court several females. This sounds like an extreme case of sexual chicanery, but how many women have been dumped by a rascal after they jazzed for the first time, which, incidentally, happened after he took her to a nice bistro or cooked for her at home? And what about those wolves who use designer clothes or flashy sports cars to lure round-eyed ladies into their lair?


Notes

[1]    Pease / Pease (2009), pp. 47-49

[2]    Townsend (1998), p. 16

Chapter 6: A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart

口蜜腹剑
kǒu mì fù jiàn

Two of the previous chapters highlighted and elucidated the differences between human male and female sex drives. Given the profound discrepancies in natural states of arousal, triggers, fantasies, motivations, etc. it appears only natural that collisions would emerge, especially when the two protagonists, for example, a husband and his wife, are not aware of these. Women blame men for being “like animals”, for wanting “only one thing”, or for treating them as “sex objects”, while men will accuse women “never to take the initiative” or to “offer sex only in exchange for other favours”. For some, such words constitute an alibi for various sexist jokes or books, but one has to recognise that these can also lead to some more serious symptoms of indisposition between the sexes, involving general feelings of hypocrisy, double-dealing, or outright manipulation. This section takes a closer look at such deceitful behaviours from males and discusses how females are coping with these. The proverb chosen is commonly invoked in a context of personal subterfuge, business fraud, or diplomatic bluff,[1] but it can certainly also be applied in the case of gender conflicts. Depen­ding on the nature or intensity of the contention and on how vicious the scoundrel(s) need to be portrayed, one can also use the following translations: A honey tongue; a heart of gall; a cruel heart under the cover of sugar-coated words; a mouth that praises and a hand that kills; give somebody sweet talk when there’s hatred in the heart; have honey on one’s lips and murder in one’s heart; with peace on one’s tongue and guns in one’s pocket; beware of the kiss of death…

As exemplified above, there are several aspects of sexuality in which men and women differ significantly. First of all, men generally have a much higher sex drive than most women. Not only do they think about sex much more often (according to a study at the Kinsey Institute 37 percent of them do so every 30 minutes, compared to only 11 percent of women[2]), they are also much quicker in getting aroused and in making the decision to have intercourse with someone. In this regard, a study from 1996 determined that women found it acceptable to become intimate with a new partner after about 15 to 18 dates, while men were less patient to close up with the second sex after 9 to 11 encounters.[3] Furthermore, men expect more bodily interaction in casual meetings with women as a general rule and are more or less always ready to have a go at it. This impulse is no more than the psycho­logical answer to the inherent requirement to diversify one’s chances and maximise the num­ber of mates, and therefore of potential children. In the race for genetic survival, time is noo­kie. The fewer time males allow to elapse before the next coitus, the more females they can tread. Therefore, men have the best incentive in the world to hurry up and not to waste time before consummating a new relationship.

Another major point of distinctness is related to how males and females are stimulated: Through their eyes for the former (explaining the universal popularity of pornography) and through their ears for the latter (hence the proverbial premonition against “honeyed words”). This phenomenon is also partly connected to the fact that men display a stronger desire for sexual diversity, whereas women attach great importance to feelings, spiritual connection, emotional involvement, or, ideally, love.


Notes

[1] This locution can be retraced to Sīmǎ Guāng (司马光), historian, scholar, and high chancellor of the Song dynasty (AD 960–1279). The sovereign of that time, Emperor Yīngzōng of Sòng (宋英宗), commissioned him with the compilation of a universal history of China, now known as the Zīzhì Tōngjiàn (资治通鉴, literally: “Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance”. The reference work makes mention of an official of the Tang dynasty (618–690 and 705–907 AD), Lǐ Línfǔ (李林甫), who served as a chancellor for 18 years (734–752) – one of the longest terms around that time. Infamous for his flattery of the emperor and his skill in the political scene, his name became a synonym of treachery and perfidy. His jealousy of any potential political challengers was as notorious as his schemes to cut off routes for his rivals (which included, among others, the circulation of false accusations against other officials). Owing to this reputation, Lǐ Línfǔ exemplifies the hypocrisy that was common practice in the imperial court, where scholars were stabbing one another in the back, while keeping a smile on their faces: “尤忌文学之士,或阳与之善,啖以甘言而阴陷之。世谓李林 甫’口有蜜,腹有剑’。” (yóu jì wén xué zhī shì, huò yáng yǔ zhī shàn, dàn yǐ gān yán ér yīn xiàn zhī. shì wèi lǐ lín fǔ ‘kǒu yǒu mì, fù yǒu jiàn’).

[2]    Cited in: Pease / Pease (1999), p. 223

[3]    Cited in: Pines (2005), p. 97

Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass – Part 3

The exceptional value of virginity notwithstanding, it is also fair to mention that (future) copulation itself is often used as a medium of exchange. While the object of bartering was a piece of meat or physical protection against wild animals ten thousand years ago, it could be a film role, a job, a sales deal, or better final grades today. Although not too many people will easily admit it, it is an unwritten law (in Chinese: 潜规则, qián guī zé) that men lure women with the offer of resources, and women lure men with the offer of sex. As long as there are enough supply and demand to regulate the market, this kind of commerce will remain common practice in most societies. Yet it shall be noticed that the actual transaction does not always take place. Rather, the mere promise of such a favour is often enough to entice one’s vis-à-vis into a desired state or action. As part of the courting process, some men will boast that they are rich and willing to share their wealth with their target if only the latter accepts to go to bed with them. But once she has succumbed to his advances, a rake will just drop her like a hot potato and soon look for greener pastures.[1] Most women are easy prey and will quickly fall into the trap because the blackmail “if you do not want to have sex with me, someone else will” is so compelling, even in today’s world of security and affluence.

But this does not mean that females have no leverage against this form of emotional or sexual coercion. On the contrary, those who understand the “equation of sex for money”[2] and are able to solve it by themselves can also deliberately employ it for their own pur­poses. Given males’ noticeable interest in uncommitted sex, many girls quickly get the hang of the ruse that all it takes to suck a man in is to suck that man. In many cases, the simple promise of pleasure (without the actual delivery) is enough for women to be presented with resources and other benefits, for example, a drink at a bar, a dinner, a promotion, and so on. Indeed, womankind is equally capable of deceit and manipulation, specifically by using sexual wiles, such as their youth, resplendence, or charm – just as the lyric goes:

If ladies be but young and fair,

They have the gift to know it.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

What is remarkable here, and quite a contraction to the traditional image of female demu­reness is that some of these ladies will go so far as to provide sexual access to (particularly sought after) males with the only purpose to affirm themselves and boost their own confi­dence. The more attention and time they get from these otherwise unreachable high-flyers (rock stars, professional athletes, famous actors, etc.), the more worthwhile they will see them­selves. This time, it is not their heart or feelings that matter, nor that of their playmate’s towards them[3], but the challenge to successfully seduce a man highly in demand (and who therefore has a lot of choice in poten­tial sex partners) and the thrill to beat the rest of the women in the field. To them, inter­course is nothing else but an exercise to test their attrac­tiveness in competition with other coquettes.[4]

Unfortunately, all these aspects contribute to perpetuating the problem of the sexual objec­tification of women.[5] Under these premises, it is very difficult for them to get rid of the image of being an instrument of men’s carnal pleasure. Such practice is particularly tragic because it reduces a real person to the status of a commodity with purely utilitarian functions. These can be sexual productivity (e.g., women as breeding machines), physical grati­fication (prostitutes used as playthings or sex toys), the display of a certain standing (trophy wives). Instead of a partner, these men only seek a status symbol, an object of admi­ration. For them, only appearance or desirability matter, just like for a luxury apart­ment, a yacht, or a sports car. Prominence is given to her orna­mental value (in terms of gene­­rally per­cei­ved beauty, attractiveness) or freshness (age, virginity) whereas aspects such as perso­nality, senti­ments or fondness are completely neglected. Therein lies the ignominy of such objectification of females: It simply ignores the fundamental axiom that a woman is always more than the sum of her parts.

Related proverbs and citations:

千金买笑

qiān jīn mǎi xiào

A smile is worth a thousand ounces of gold.

To spend endless money for temporary pleasures.

老骥伏枥,志在千里

lǎo jì fú lì, zhì zài qiān lǐ

An old war-horse may be stabled…Yet still it longs to gallop a thousand miles.

Ambition survives even in senior age.

荆棘是玫瑰的卫士,只会刺伤摘花的人

jīng jí shì méi guī de wèi shì, zhī huì cì shāng zhāi huā de rén

A thorn defends the rose, harming only those who would steal the blossom.

男人有钱就变坏,女人变坏就有钱

nán rén yŏu qián jiù biàn huài, nǚ rén biàn huài jiù yŏu qián

Men with money just turn bad, women turned bad just have money.


Notes

[1]    For other techniques and the rationale behind such behaviour, see chapters 6 “A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart” and 35 “No cat can resist snatching fish”.

[2]    Campbell (2002), p. 193

[3]    See chapter 9 “The path to a woman’s heart passes through her vagina”.

[4]    See Townsend (1998), p. 159

[5]    See chapter 4 “Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters”.

Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass – Part 2

Although widely romanticised in film (see Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation) and litera­ture (The Lover by Marguerite Duras) the acceptance of such older male/younger female rela­tion­ships is generally quite low. The man may face ridicule for failing to cope with his age, while outsiders could question the woman’s integrity and the sincerity of her feelings. The level of (dis)appro­val depends on how significant the age gap is, which in turn, is a value that varies over time and cultures, and may also be influenced by the law or ethical systems. Economic disparities between age, social or ethnic groups also play a role in how such partnerships are perceived. In China, for example, the contempt and criticism are much higher if the couple consists of a local girl with a foreign guy (老外, lăo wài). A common insult she will hear is that she is a gold digger (傍大款, bàng dà kuăn), i.e., someone who likes or takes interest in someone only because he is rich. The perks they can get from their relation­ships are well worth the price. Common gifts include dinners, smartphones, hand­bags, jewel­­lery, trips, apartment rentals, etc. For the luckiest ones, it can even lead to a nice wed­ding party with a subsequent divorce settlement. This might not apply to all women falling in love with much older fellows, but those who do should be aware that this is the impres­sion that they give to others, whether they like it or not. Moreover, ladies who decide to go after the quick buck by choosing loaded partners should not be surprised by the epheme­rality of their relationships. After all, tricks like the immediate display of abundance and hol­dings (including the lavish spending of cash, the invitation to a high-end restaurant on the first date, the generous tipping of waiters, the ordering of mixed drinks in bars, the joy­ride in a new sports car, the buying of expensive gifts, etc.) are generally recognised to be effec­tive for attracting casual sexual partners rather than long-term mates.[1]

Anyhow, some females do not mind being labelled as “gold diggers” and deem it as accep­table to maintain an affair with a “sugar daddy” who offers them money and/or gifts in return for their company or sexual favours. In Japan, the practice of compensated dating, or enjo-kōsai, is already well established, yet heavily contested within the society. One impor­tant aspect that needs to be highlighted here, however, is that the female participants, ranging from school-aged girls to housewives, do not necessarily sell their bodies or engage in physical acts. In this regard, they can be compared to modern day courtesans, as defined in the traditional sense, i.e., “a well-educated and independent woman of free morals, […] a trained artisan of dance and singing, especially one associated with wealthy, powerful, or upper-class men who provided luxuries and status in exchange for companionship.”[2],[3] This form of entertainment has a long history in many cultures and regions of the world, where the representatives of very similar trades are known under different denomi­nations, such as hetaerae (in Ancient Greece), tawaif (South Asia), yiji (艺妓, yì jì, in Ancient China), sing-song or flower girls (19th century China), or kisaeng (Korea), oiran or geisha (Japan). As performing artists, they were carefully trained and frequently accomplished in the fine arts, poetry, music or dance. They also offered primarily spiritual interaction to their clients, and some of them were able to deny engagements, respectively to choose who they wished to spend time with. Sexual activity between them and their patrons was not always expected, and in fact was fairly rare. If it happened, it would not be based on monetary affairs, but as the result or the side-effect of an affectionate affair.[4] For all the other clients hoping to play patty-cake with their doxy, they had no other option but to wait for whoredom come.

Nonetheless, in the case of geisha (芸者, literally: art doer), the meaning of the present pro­verb is particularly poignant. Under the Edo era, geisha apprentices, or maiko (舞子, dan­cing girl), had to undergo a special ceremony, mizuage (水揚げ, hoisting from water), mar­king her coming of age. The observances also included the deflowering of the girl by a patron who had previously acquired this right of first access. Although the sum paid by the “sponsor” was significant, geisha would not consider mizuage as an act of prostitution. In other countries as well, even today, virginity is regarded as a valuable possession or mer­chan­dise that can yield significant return, either by selling it for a certain amount or other­wise trading it against rights or privileges. By the same token, the so-called “droit du seigneur”[5], or lord’s right, which entitled the feudal overlord of a medieval estate to deprive his serfs’ maiden daughters of their virginity, illustrates the preciousness and the coveted nature of youth and pureness.


Notes

[1]    Buss (2003), p. 100

[2]    Notice that it is only recently that the term “courtesan”, which originally comes from the Italian word “cortigiana”, i.e., the (courtly) ruler’s mistress, acquired its pejorative meaning as a prostitute with wealthy, or upper-class clientele.

[3]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enjo_k%C5%8Dsai

[4]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiji

[5]    Similar French terms include “droit de jambage” (from jambe, i.e., leg) or “droit de cuissage” (from cuisse, i.e., thigh), which are used as synonyms for “jus primae noctis” (Latin for “law of the first night”). For more information, see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droit_du_seigneur

Chapter 5: Old cows like tender grass

老牛吃嫩草
lăo niú chī nèn căo

Whoever strolls in a major city’s hip locations at night will notice the number of May-December couples, i.e., pairs where one mate (usually the male) is significantly older than the other. This proverb fiddles with this phenomenon and is based on the observation that older men seek younger women (as wives, but also as mistresses, girlfriends, one-night stands, etc.), and that older women sometimes like to date younger men (most pro­bably as toy boys only) – if, of course, the financial situation and physical attractiveness of each part­ner respec­tively, allow for such a match. Yet this apposition is not highlighted for any rea­son. As shall be seen in the following, economical or material considerations indeed often play a major role in such relationships.[1]

According to statistics available for Europe, most men marry women who are about three years younger than them on average.[2] This fact can easily be explained by biological and social consi­derations: From a survival perspective, it makes sense for women to choose a better half that can protect them and their offspring. Given that people’s wealth normally increases with age, an old man is likely to have a higher status, greater resources, a larger network, and therefore a better ability to provide for her. The reason why the age difference is not much higher than three years is equally perspicuous: If a man is too old, he is expected to die earlier, mea­ning that his (or the couple’s common) resources will dry out or will be reduced in the wake of the inheritance division. In this regard, the genuine love story bet­ween Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall, an oil business mogul 62 years her senior, should certainly be remembered as a historical exception.

Furthermore, mature men display comparatively lower testosterone level, which makes them more stable emotionally, more reliable, and thus more credible with regard to long-term commitment. They are also recognised as being more generous in bed, more under control of their own desires, and more understanding, respectively knowledgeable about what women want – all qualities that should not be underestimated when it comes to (short and long term) heterosexual relationships. On a similar note, studies show that the sex drive of a man in his forties, for example, is more compatible with a woman in her early twenties (that is, in terms of interest and need, not physical performance).

Likewise, the existence of “cougars” (a slang term referring to a women who date and sleep with much younger men) can be justified with analogous arguments: While human males’ libido peaks at age 19, the sexual functioning of females tends to reach its highest point when they are around 36 to 38.[3],[4] Hence, from a purely biological and lust-technical stand­point, it is apparently this combina­tion, a Mrs. Robinson in her late thirties with a 19-year-old Benjamin Braddock, that pro­mises the most action in bedrooms worldwide. This has not only to do with the fact that only younger men have the appetite, potency and the physical ability an older woman yearn for. Other aspects, such as hormonal changes within a woman’s system, life experience, self-confidence, comfort with one’s own body, play an equally crucial role in explaining such unions that make no sense from an evolutionary perspective, as women have virtually lost their reproductive value at that age. Other than true romance or momentary lecherousness, the only plausible reasons a stripling would go for this kind of arrangement are power, connections, reputation, celebrity, or money. That being said, the key insight here is not that “coupling between an older woman and a younger man can’t last”, but as Alan and Barbara Pease point out in their 2009 book Why Men Want Sex and Women Need Love: “[S]ome do – but most don’t.”[5]


Notes

[1]    A deeper discussion about the importance of age in mate selection is held in chapter 14 “Fair lady is what gentleman seeks”.

[2]    Cited in: Wardrop (2009)

[3]    Pease / Pease (1999), p. 222

[4]    Pines (2005), p. 101

[5]    Pease / Pease (2009), p. 62

Chapter 4: Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters – Part 3

Singling out Christianity for further illustration purposes, the strictness of some value sys­tems becomes apparent when one contemplates the amount and extent of principles regu­lating sexuality. Carried by the white doctrine that the first sin was intercourse, both Catho­lic and Protestant hardliners prohibit activities like fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery (extramarital sex), contraception (a deed that counteracts God’s will and design of human sexuality), homosexuality (deemed as contrary to natural law as it goes against the precept of the complementarity of the sexes), or masturbation. Since “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body”[1], sexual abstinence must be the preferred state for both men and women. For Roman Catholics, intercourse is reserved for marriage (the only instance in which it can be considered as chaste) and may be perfor­med for procreation and unification purposes only. As an offence against the state of chastity and a violation of the duty of self-abnegation, any sexual act practised with the sole intent of fun or recreation is decried as a sin. If God represents the embodiment of love, then sex has to be a sin, because it can also occur in the absence of love.

Confessedly, the assimilation of sexual abstinence with purity does make sense from seve­ral, including medical, hygiene, material or psychological, points of views. Indeed, chastity, as the virtue that moderates sexual appetite, may contribute to achieving mastery over one’s passions, desires, will, and reason. This ability, in turn, is crucial in view of morality because it helps to restrain negative impulses, such as vanity, jealousy or anger. In this con­text, the connection between sex and violence is undeniable. Bearing in mind that genetic sur­vival and reproduction remain a main preoccupation for all living creatures, it is not sur­prising that males would regard the mating opportunities as the reward and goal of power and wealth. As such, sexual competition or selection could well be one of the key agents of crime and havoc, including murder, rape, warfare, etc. – a link that has since been establi­shed statistically after a series of experiments in China.[2] The abduction of Helen of Troy as the starting point of a lengthy and ferocious confrontation between the Greeks and the Tro­jans exemplifies this causality only too well.

These points show that the religiously motivated synonymy of sex and sin rests upon the fact that the former may, in reality, lead to trouble, thus proving the accuracy of the present pro­verb. What the previous argument fails to demonstrate, however, is the inherent sinful­ness, wickedness or unrighteousness of sex itself.[3] While the classification of chastity as a capital virtue may appear justifiable, the negation of this relation, i.e., that lust is a deadly sin, clearly looks like a bit of a stretch. Truly, the fun stops when one has to feel ashamed or guilty for his or her sexual desires and when hungriness or the mere con­sumption of a for­bidden fruit can bring damnation upon one’s soul. After all, not everyone is made for great­ness or virtue; but is this a reason to curse or condemn everyone else? Where would huma­nity stand without aphrodisia anyway? Unconditional sexual bigotry can no longer lead to uncon­ditional chastity. It can no longer serve to condemn dissolutes. It can no longer be of concern to great worth alone. For a demographic disaster, spread by words and writs and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncom­mitted alike. Mankind must put an end to bigotry or bigotry will put an end to man­kind.

If people do not want to fall into a Fahrenheit 6:18ean dystopia, a dogmatic shift has to occur. Thus, the solution proposed here is as simple as controversial: Let’s free ourselves from the sin of luxuria by not considering it as a sin anymore. And for those who have sinned and fear to sin again, here are a few words that could sound like a remedy: Two thou­sand years ago the proudest boast was “Castus ego sum”. Today, in the world of free­dom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein philanderer”.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

沉鱼落雁

Chén yú luò yàn

A woman beautiful enough to sink a fish and down a goose for shame.

 

红颜薄命

hóng yán bó mìng

An idiom that describes the ill-fatedness of beautiful women.

 


Notes

[1]    Bible – New Testament (New International Version), Corinthians, 6:13

[2]    Chang / Lu / Li / Li (2011)

[3]    Ridley (1993), p. 202

Chapter 4: Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters – Part 2

The truism that the love for sex and the love for power go hand in hand is quite well established. Yet the real reason behind males’ horniness is not social, legal, or political power, but simply the deluge of testosterone to which they are permanently exposed. As men principally use their eyes to evaluate women as potential mates, they see creatures and images that turn them on all the time. When the stimulus is strong enough, their brain is flushed with this hormone, which, in turn, can give rise to overwhelming feelings, such as physical attraction to someone, penile erection, an urgent push for corporal gratification, or the restless desire to “have” a particular person. In times of extreme arousal, a man’s craving may override his brain, the emotional response to the testosterone superseding any rational thought. Intoxi­cated with the chemical, he can become crazy or uncontrollably stirred up, both in the sense of sexual excitement and the loss of physical self-restraint. Notice that not only diagnosed sex addicts but rather any average male may experience this phenomenon. In the case of hypersexuality (or satyriasis, satyromania, gynecomania for men sufferers, and nyphomania for females), the desire is even more compelling. The hunger is so strong that it results in a pattern of “excessive sexual drive”, that is, the extremely frequent or sudden increase of sexual itch up to the point of failure to resist impulses to engage in sexual acts (coitus or mas­turbation).[1] Estimates indicate that approximately 3 to 6 percent of the population is subjected to this psychological condition.[2] Hence, what is important to remember here is that men’s regular (as opposed to persistent, inordi­nate or violent) preoccu­pation with and longing for sex is not pathological, but rather normal. For them, horniness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.

What makes the situation all the more unbearable for many men is that they cannot freely express their libido. The unavailability of a quick shag (mainly due to the fact that women as their prime partners are not as readily receptive), as well as the current social ethics, force them to hold back their urges. Unable to release all that sexual pressure, they become pri­soners of their own lust, falling under the thumb of the woman they want sexually. If she is clever enough to seize the moment, she can gain unlimited power over him, which is preci­sely what happens during these infamous femme fatale incidents. This impotence (pun inten­ded) establishes female sexuality not only as the male Achilles’ heel par excellence but also as one of the most powerful forces in the world. Unfortunately, this force is sometimes so powerful that it can indeed lead to earthly disasters. What disturbs conservatives even more is that the seductress “expresses woman’s ancient and eternal control of the sexual realm”[3]. Many men do not like the idea of being dominated, even if the image itself holds enough erotic potential to compensate for this loss of authority. Furthermore, it allows men to conveniently designate women as scape­goats for their own weak­nesses. Some also see in her “an example of female independence and a threat to traditional female gender roles”, a much more scary prospect for the typical macho or misogynist.

The one factor that has arguably had the biggest impact on the association of beauty (in the sense of sex) with cataclysms, misfortune and filthiness is religion. Most cults of the world have established laws, norms and rules governing sexual morality. These are guidelines that pro­mote rather inhibitory views of sexuality and tend to prevent or otherwise condemn free inter­course. With the help of all kinds of teachings and techniques (for example virgi­nity pledges, the seeking of commit­ments, etc.), each faith has its own ways to demonise sex and stigmatise the people who indulge in carnal knowledge or give in to other forms of luxuria. Here are few examples from five world religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, respectively:

 

If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die

Torah, Bible – Old Testament (New International Version), Deuteronomy 22

 

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body

Bible – New Testament (New International Version), Corinthians, 6:18

 

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes

Qur’an, Surat an-Nur, 24:2

 

I undertake the training rule to abstain from sexual misconduct.

Third of the Five Precepts (basic Buddhist code of ethics)

 

Conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.

Bhagavad-Gita, 3.36–43

 


Notes

[1]    Notice that hypersexuality and sex addiction encompass several other symptoms and aspects, which will not be covered here.

[2]    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypersexuality

[3]    Cited in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femme_fatale

Chapter 4: Beauty is the troubled water that brings disasters

红颜祸水
hóng yán huò shuĭ 

Many men may probably confirm how strong of a force certain traits of femininity exerts on them. According to the proverb introduced in this chapter, beauty and, by exten­sion, sex are responsible for great trouble, and can even cause the downfall of men. Regar­ding women as sexual objects for male enjoyment is apparently not enough. Woman­hood itself is often blamed for misfortune striking the fate of men. In particular, it is com­monly regarded as her fault if a man overindulges himself in carnal pleasures, thus resulting in the failure of his career or duty. The purpose of this section is not only to present such indict­ments as both wrong and wrongful but also to salvage sex from its inauspicious image. The main argument herein will be that such censure of free love is exag­ge­rated and that it indirectly contributes to (pretty) women being unfairly picked on and accused of being res­ponsible for various forms of tragedies and shame. Such practices are counter-productive and undermine female eman­cipation. On the contrary, they slow down women’s escape from narrow gender roles and their liberation from legal, econo­mic, and sexual oppression. Hence the message to be conveyed here: If prudery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

History, literature and mythologies across the world abound with stories of beauties placing their male counterparts into compromising, perilous, desperate or mortal situations. Unlike, the archetypal evil woman[1], however, the mysterious femme fatale uses her phy­sical advantages and seductive powers to mesmerise and deceive her victims. These assets may include a striking appearance (like for the succubus Lillith and the Chinese fox spirit Daji[2]), long hair (as in the case of the Japanese Yuki-onna or the German Lorelei), a dulcet voice and singing (the Lorelei or the Greek Sirens) or dancing skills (Salome in the New Tes­tament). Once the victim is under her spell, he finds himself locked in bonds of irresis­ti­ble desire, losing his own will. The poor devil’s fate remains at the discretion of the enchant­ress, and may range from being murdered (which is what happened to Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, who was killed by his wife Clytemnestra), sucked dry (the form of exe­cution the Japa­nese Hone-onna is famous for), eaten (by Bai Gu Jing[3]), betrayed (like Samson whose secret that his strength lay in his long hair was revealed by his lover Delilah), or induced to kill someone else (José Lizarrabengoa in Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen, or Xīmén Qìng, 西门庆, influenced by Pān Jīnlián, 潘金莲, in The Plum in the Golden Vase, 金瓶梅, Jīn Píng Méi).

Contemporary representations of most pernicious women appear harmless compared to these classical villains. Although modern time plots involving such deadly females may not end as fatally as in the stories above, the leitmotif remains the same: A beautiful temptress sedu­ces one or more naïve men, enticing him or them to act in her interest. This may include the exercise of violence on other people (as in the case of ice skater Tonya Harding who allegedly led her then-husband to plan an attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan), the trade of sensitive military information against sexual favours (which North Korean spy WON Jeong-hwa apparently succeeded in doing), or otherwise disclosing state secrets to the enemy (e.g., the famous story of Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was accused of espio­nage for Germany during the First World War).

The latest notable scandals are relatively benign, merely featuring the debauchery of gover­nment officials or corporate executives. Prominent examples in this regard include the outrage following US President Bill Clinton’s improper relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s patronage of a prosti­tution ser­vice, Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd’s inappropriate conduct, or Inter­natio­nal Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s intimate encoun­ter with a hotel maid. Although it seems that males in powerful positions are parti­cularly prone to profligacy, the political post or the place within a company or other groups of people is not the only pertinent point to explain the problem of adultery or promiscuous behaviour. Even in lower levels of our society, or among commoners, sexual affairs, ending in nasty divorces or harass­ment lawsuits, regu­larly destroy personal and professional lives.


Notes

[1]    See chapter 7 “The most vicious is a woman’s heart”.

[2]    Chinese original: 妲己, Dájǐ. Fox spirits, or 狐狸精 (húli jīng), also appear in Japanese and Korean folklore, in the person of Kitsune and Kumiho respectively.

[3]    Bai Gu Jing (白骨精, bái gú jīng, literally: white bone demon) is an evil spirit from wú Chéng’ēn’s (吴承恩) Journey to the West (西遊記, xī yóu jì), one of the Four Great Classical Novels (see also chapter 1 “Men are like mud, women are like water”).