Okay, this article pissed me the fuck off. “Science proves that bikinis turn men into boobs.” I know that the media has a way of misreporting scientific studies to their own means, so I’m not bashing on the study — I am directing my rage at the article.
Now, the original assessment is that images of “sexy” women cause men to make poor decisions, like buy a product they wouldn’t otherwise buy.
In each test, the researchers offered the men the choice between being paid 15 euros immediately or bargaining for a larger sum that they’d be willing to wait a week or a month for. In all the tests, the men exposed to the sexy imagery or bras cited delayed reward amounts that were lower than the amounts cited by the men who saw sex-neutral imagery. For example, while a man who looked at landscapes might have demanded an extra payment of 10 euros a month later (totaling 25), the bikini-gazer might have been willing to settle for five extra (totaling 20). The sexy imagery did not work on all men all the time, but, as a group, men with sex on their brains settled for a less lucrative bargain, suggesting they were more impulsive and valued immediate gratification more than the controls.
“I observed in my studies that men are more likely to pick a smaller immediate reward over a larger later reward,” Bram van den Bergh, the study’s lead author, tells me. “Hence I do think that men might spend money on something they might otherwise not purchase. Men would become more impulsive in any domain after exposure to sexual cues.”
Great, so sexist marketing is therefore totally cool! Because it’s not sexist, it’s effective, right? That makes it okay! Also, men are buffoons, but who cares about that so long as they get to keep objectifying women at their leisure?
Now that really pissed me off. All on its own. I was going to write this little rant about how this type of crap is used to justify the “sex sells” mantra, to ignore male intelligence and female capacity for sexual arousal, not to mention, um, gay men. (I don’t know if they study actually made sure the participants were attracted to women, but the article doesn’t specify this at all.) But fuck that. Because I wasn’t anticipating that halfway through the article, this bullshit would be used to justify rape. (All emphasis mine in quoted text mine.)
This jibes with the findings of a 2006 paper, “Heat of the Moment: The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision Making.” George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University and Dan Ariely of MIT, found that sexually aroused men would do all sorts of things they might not otherwise do.
To study this effect, they asked men to masturbate while answering a series of questions on a computer. (They helpfully created a system that could be operated with one hand.) For example, 42 percent of non-aroused men thought women’s shoes were erotic. But 65 percent of aroused men thought so. Nineteen percent of non-aroused men said they would agree to sex in a threesome with another man and a woman, while 34 percent of aroused men said so. Less than half, 46 percent, of non-aroused men said they would encourage a date to drink to increase the chance she would have sex with them, but 63 percent of aroused men said so.
[. . .]
So a man who is aroused literally narrows his view of the world. When we’re thinking about sex, pretty much all we can think about is sex. So a man might do things he would not otherwise do (spending an hour surfing a Jennifer Love Hewitt fan site), or may behave in a seemingly irresponsible manner (skipping the condom).
Oh yeah, we’re not getting into sexual assault territory there at all!
Here’s the thing: um, of course people act differently when aroused. I can only imagine that if you conducted a similar study for women, having them masturbate and answer questions, you’d get a similar result. When you’re already turned on, ideas, objects and actions that would otherwise not arouse you start becoming incredibly hot. So what? This is news? Or somehow exclusive to men? Of course it’s fucking not.
What is exclusive to men is the way that our society uses this as an excuse for their inappropriate and stupid behavior. I mean, a woman who has sex with a man she doesn’t really know without using protection? Stupid, irresponsible slut. A man who does the same? Man. Both are irresponsible, but one gets a finger-wagging, one gets a shrug of the shoulders. Men who act like assholes, children, or rapists don’t do so because they can’t help it; they do it because they know they’ll be forgiven.
Look: we’ll always say that a man’s penis isn’t really an excuse to act like a bad person. . . well, except for the fact that it kind of is.
None of this excuses bad boy behavior, but it may help women understand why even a choir boy is tough to dissuade once he’s built up a head of steam.
[. . .]
To think of this another way, picture an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Even in the heat of the moment, there is still that little voice that says “You know you are making a mistake” — the trouble is it gets drowned out by the volume of the affective system.
We are constantly negotiating between these two systems, which is why economists are so interested; it’s how we make purchasing decisions. It may also explain the morning-after walk of shame, the overcharged credit card — and “don’t worry, I’ll pull out in time.”
Yeah, here’s a funny thing: when I’m turned on, I don’t want to stop, either. But if I need to, I will. And amazingly enough, so will my husband. Maybe he’s just not enough of a manly man. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s a decent human being who doesn’t like to rape.
And for the record: this “I’ll pull out” joke is used a lot, and sadly, I don’t think it’s much of a joke and more a reflection of reality. But while I don’t think it’s particularly wise to agree to such a situation, and while I know the legal system will never agree, I definitely do believe that a man who says “don’t worry, I’ll pull out in time” with no intention of doing so is committing sexual assault. Of course, this writer just paints it as a poor judgment call.
The implicit suggestion in this article is that men cannot be trusted (as evidenced in the last sentence of the article, “you’ve been warned”). If you do trust a man in a sexual situation, well, it’s your own fault. Men try, oh how they try, but in the end they’re all ruled by their hormones. Don’t get yourself into a situation (like any sex ever) when you might need him to stop. Sure, it’s wrong if he doesn’t stop . . . but in the end, it’s only “bad boy behavior.” You know, not like rape or anything.
The suggestion is also, conveniently enough, that rape is about sex and not about power. How I love the “men can’t just stop immediately” and “well she was wearing that short skirt” and “she was flirting with him” reinforcement. According to this article (accurately or not), even science agrees! Don’t wear that, ladies. Don’t get yourself in that situation. Sure, she may have said no, but she started making out with him — that’s not really rape. Okay, so maybe he did rape her — but is it really worth ruining his life? It’s not like he beat her up or anything, and she was wearing a bikini! Men can’t help it.
I’m sick of this shit. Absolutely fed up. I’m sick of hearing it from rape apologists, from people on the street, from “science,” from the mainstream media, from comedians, from other women, and even other feminists. So sick that I could fucking puke.
And men should be, too. The man who wrote this article should be offended, sick of it, and the one making this argument instead of making jokes. The decent men will be. And the rest? The rapists and the men who don’t rape but want to reserve their right to just in case? Well, yet again: who cares about the insults so long as you’ve still got the power? Clearly, too many men are more than happy to play stupid while somewhere intuitively knowing that in the end, they’re not the real suckers.