Men marry a body, women marry a lifestyle.
I ran across the above statement in the comments section of a youtube video, probably the one called How to Fix a Broken Heart. After citing A Tale of Two Brains in a previous article, I had watched the full, five-part Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, and of course if you watch anything on youtube they will lead you to more of the same. So I watched a lot of TEDx talks, the best of which was, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person by Alain de Botton.
Again, Laugh Your Way was very amusing, and probably helps more than it hurts. But Mark Gungor is a minister, and in religious fashion he asserted that access to sexual relations should be reserved until after marriage. Why? Because he believes sex is a sort of bargaining chip that women should hold to induce men to commit to marriage. I think a situation where one person only “performs” sex to get marriage demeans both parties.
The most interesting TEDx talk was Maria Røsok’s The Unknown Greatness of the Clitoris, which I would recommend for anyone who either has one, or who wants to be intimate with someone that has one. Spoiler: there’s a lot more to it than that little button-sized glans most old textbooks labeled as clitoris.
Botton is a philosopher and essayist, born in Switzerland, but raised in Britain. Having attended Harrow, Cambridge and Harvard, he is extremely well-read, but uses a disarmingly dry wit to bring things back to earth. Botton writes on a wide range of topics, and even hosted a three-part television series called The Perfect Home, in which he decries the English developers’ penchant for building safe neo-Georgian and neo-Tudor tract houses. Here in America, you could probably substitute neo-Colonial, and perhaps neo-Spanish Colonial in the West.
One of Botton’s premises was that when we seek a love partner, we are unconsciously looking for the familiar. Over the years a lot of people (often girlfriends) have given me pearls of wisdom from magazines, like, ‘men secretly want to marry someone like their mothers,’ or ‘women want to marry someone like their fathers,’ and one girl swore that ‘both men and women want to marry someone just like their mothers.’ According to Botton, as infants and children we become accustomed to certain behaviors as we receive love from our parents, and are attracted to familiar behaviors in a potential mate. That can be very sad, of course, if someone had a dysfunctional childhood, and seeks to find someone just as violent or perverted as dear old Mater or Pater.
But usually these accompanying behaviors are a lot more innocuous. So if your mom or dad was demonstrative, you may be attracted to demonstrative people rather than reserved types. If your mom or dad delivered love with humor, you might look for funny partners. My parents were very smart, and Mom could tell great stories. I was an introvert, and Mom always felt compelled to jolly me out of a bad mood. I know that I was initially attracted to bright, sunny and cheerful women that could do most of the talking. However as I adapted to become less introverted, I would say that I became much less reliant on later mates to cheer me up. Now I’m often the one that makes my wife laugh, though she certainly has her moments.
Botton also believes that the overarching theme of the romantic age – finding our one, true soul-mate – has been good for quite a few industries, but tough on individuals. He believes that instead of searching for the one and only, we should be searching for someone who is good enough. My wife and I had a lot of fun with this concept one morning. I asked her if she felt she had married the Wrong Person, and she replied, ‘No, I found you and you’re Good Enough.’ To which I replied, ‘Honey, you’ve just made me the happiest-enough man in the world!’
Regarding the title, I have found articles that support the idea that men marry primarily for the person while women marry for the lifestyle and children that go along with marriage. I’ve never been one to believe we are from Mars and Venus, though. Although men and women are different, I think both genders hope for a certain life to go along with their partner. I do think that with certain individuals the potential lifestyle, or perhaps the physique, will drive the romantic attachment, though.
For a recent article in The Real News, interviewer Taya Graham starts off, “We all know men like to pay for sex.” Seriously?
I’d say that a far more acceptable generalization would be, “We all know men like sex, and some are even willing to pay for it.” But that is still a generalization, because while some of us may care very deeply about the exploitation involved, others simply want at least some bit of romance in their hookups. Some really believe it is sinful, or at least a bad idea. And others are simply too poor or too cheap or too afraid of getting caught.
I forget when I first learned – probably from TV – that some women traded sex for money, but I suspect I first thought more deeply about prostitution while reading The Catcher in the Rye, through the characters of a pimp, the elevator operator Maurice, and a young hooker calling herself Sunny. As I look back, it was quite an accomplishment for the reclusive JD Salinger to have permanently soured a sexually curious young high schooler on the idea that there was any glamour in paying for intercourse.
After my freshman year of college, working for the county, two of us summer interns were surveying the police offices, and saw a woman handcuffed to a chair, awaiting her turn before a magistrate. She could have been there for any reason, but somehow from her dress and demeanor we had the idea that she was a prostitute. My coworker couldn’t stop staring at her until she scared the bejesus out of him by flashing a big, toothy smile.
A year later, during another summer job for the Corps of Engineers, I first heard prostitution – along with drug abuse – justified as a victimless crime. My fellow intern Alan was just as young and callow as I was, but he seemed confident that it was simply a blameless business transaction.
The following year, at another summer Corps job in Southern VA, I was at a crowded bar with three fellow college interns, when a good old boy offered to introduce us to some whores. “If you want,” he said. “I don’t give a shit.” We all laughed a lot, and I thought, “Uh, no,” but one of my comrades wanted to know more. “Are they pretty?” he asked. Now the GOB had a thick local accent, so we thought he replied that they were fat, but when my friend said, “We don’t want fat!” he clarified, “No not fat, fair! They’re fair.” Fair. What an elastic term. We laughed some more and let the subject drop.
In the Real News article, Kate D’Adamo takes the mainstream liberal viewpoint that prostitutes, now called sex workers, are primarily just workers, and should enjoy the protections of society. She admits that trafficking is bad, but believes that the decriminalization of prostitution in New Zealand has resulted in the, “healthiest sex industry in the entire world,” with low rates of violence and sexually-transmitted disease. The International Union of Sex Workers asserts that sex work is an empowered choice.
The mainstream conservative viewpoint is that prostitution is a sin, but a lot of them are sinners. In practice, when a prominent conservative is caught soliciting, he must claim to be truly sorry, return to the arms of family and religion, and hope that the prostitute mysteriously hangs herself, all of which happened with former Senator, and now lobbyist, David Vitter. That was before serial sex consumer Donald Trump was president, of course. More recently Robert Kraft simply relied on his lawyers to have the video evidence suppressed. His massage parlor madam was not so lucky.
A third viewpoint is the so-called Swedish or Nordic model, in which the customers and pimps are vigorously prosecuted while the sex workers are referred for counseling and job training. This viewpoint considers prostitution a form of male violence. As reported in The Guardian:
A statement signed by 177 verified sex trafficking survivors from Sex Trafficking Survivors United (STSU) suggests that: “Without the buyers of commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist. If we start penalising and stigmatising the buyers, we could end sex trafficking in our lifetime … prostitution is not a victimless crime; it is a brutal form of sexual violence.”
A few mornings ago, I turned on my cell phone to find two similar text messages, supposedly from young girls (21 and 23) who supposedly live near me and supposedly want to find older sexual partners. Seriously?
“And I’m never going back … to my old school.”
One day when I was about fourteen, my parents gave me a brochure from the Georgetown Preparatory School, in Garrett Park, Maryland. This was before Tom Brown’s School Days was on television, and I had no notions about private schools. All the kids I knew and all the kids on TV attended public school. But my father had gone to a Jesuit school in New York City, and thought that I would do well under the same sort of tutelage.
To be accepted I had to take the Secondary School Aptitude Test, the SSAT, and be interviewed. I always loved taking standardized tests; to me it was like a day off school. At the interview they asked what sports I played. I knew almost nothing about team sports other than baseball, which I had played badly, but my Mom offered that I loved to swim. They let me in.
Now I read about Georgetown Prep as an elite school. There were some guys from wealthy families, and some diplomat kids, but a lot of the guys were from striving middle class backgrounds like me. Some had to work in the dining hall to help pay their tuition. It wasn’t Eton, or even Choate. I somehow knew we were better off than Cardozo, but I never felt that we were very different than the other schools we swam against: St Albans, Sidwell Friends, Good Counsel, Bullis, Bishop Ireton, Gonzaga.
I certainly got that classical education at Prep: we took Latin, Calculus, read books by DWMs, and dreaded Speech class. There were no dummies in my form, and I think that not wanting to look bad in class spurred me to try harder than I would have at public school. We were also made to sit down and do three hours of homework every evening, whereas at home I probably would have watched a lot more TV. We were also encouraged to do team sports, which led me to the swim team. All of that was good.
But Prep was all-male, so public school would have offered far more interaction with girls. A few young ladies from Stone Ridge attended our science classes. They were the source of many fantasies, but I never spoke to them. A lot of private school girls attended our mixers, but I was too terrified to talk to them. In four years I think I met two girls through Prep. I was staying overnight with a classmate, and his mother’s friend brought her daughter, who I now remember as looking like Martha Plimpton, sort of awkward/pretty. She played her guitar and sang Joni Mitchell’s Clouds for us. We were not on each other’s wavelength, but I wish I had tried harder. Later I was at a school play, and sat next to the sister of a classmate. She was pretty. We talked quite a bit, and she was very nice, but I had no idea what my next move might be. The next day her brother teased me about my great romantic encounter. And that was the end of that.
So I read that current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is accused of trying to molest a 15 year-old girl from Holton-Arms, at a party. I didn’t go to parties at day student’s houses, but I heard some bits about them. We had a minor sensation after one of my classmates punched one of my swim teammates over a girl, which I believe happened at a party.
Kavanaugh and Gorsuch attended about a decade after my time. GP seems to appreciate the notoriety of alums in the highest court in the land, but people on twitter now refer to it as that, “creepy little all-boys school.” Democracy Now! quotes journalist Sarah Posner:
“It is becoming abundantly clear, even by the account of Kavanaugh himself and Mark Judge, that there was an environment [at Georgetown Prep] that was out of control, quite frankly. And lets be very clear and fair here. We are not saying that every student at Georgetown Prep acted this way. But according to this article in The Washington Post this morning, which I again urge everyone to read, this was a very prevalent atmosphere there—the drinking, the drugs, the abuse of girls from neighboring high schools.”
Did anyone else ever watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High? I’m not defending it, but I have to believe that drinking, drugs and abuse of women could probably have been observed at almost any high school, public or private.
I was not in favor of appointing Gorsuch (or Garland) and I think Kavanaugh is an even more troublesome candidate. I just hope people realize that many of us at Prep were not smug rich kids, or heavy drinkers, or would-be sexual predators.
I’ve been intrigued by the reactions to the death of Hugh Hefner – the founder of Playboy Magazine. Erotica goes back thousands of years on cave walls, in paintings, sketches, and later in woodcuts and engravings. Since the invention of halftone printing there have been magazines like PhotoBits, first published in 1898. Pinup girls like Bettie Page used to pose for such magazines, which were usually sold discreetly to adult men, who usually concealed them. Playboy was the first high-quality, mass market men’s magazine to feature nude pictorials, and the first of the type that many women and children ever saw on the shelves. My father concealed his Playboys, though not very well, but we had neighbors whose parents were less conscientious.
I subscribe to the self-described progressive outfit The Young Turks (TYT), who have one show called, “Old School.” During a recent broadcast founder Cenk Uygur announced Hefner’s passing as breaking news. Even though they have vastly different backgrounds and business models, Uygur seemed to feel a connection to his fellow entrepreneur/publisher:
Cenk: What’s funny is that I just got a little emotional. I almost teared up, I didn’t, but … what do I know about Hugh Hefner. I interviewed him once. He was nice…. He was part of America, man.
Malcolm Fleschner: He was an iconic figure in America.
Cenk: I just got really, really sad.
Malcolm: There is only one Hugh Hefner, there is nobody like him, and there never will be again, we’ve lost him, whatever you thought about him, he was a uniquely American figure and had a massive impact on our culture …
Cenk: If ever a person was iconic, it was Hugh Hefner … Man, he lived a good life.
On TYT’s Pop Trigger, a younger group, Brett Ehrlich, Grace Baldridge, Daron Dean, and Jason Carter also covered Hefner’s passing, and extolled Hefner as forward-thinking, even while acknowledging his objectification of women. On the TYT main show, Ana Kasparian, Ehrlich and Baldridge again seemed to take Hefner for granted as an exponent of social progress, despite his flaws. On their recurring youtube show, Reality Rescued, TYT’s roving reporter Jordan Chariton even tossed out that he had first masturbated to Playboy, shocking poor Emma Vigeland.
I had seen many of my father’s copies before December 1967, but will always remember a Playboy pictorial on erotic Art Nouveau engravings by Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt, Franz von Bayros and Norman Lindsay which my younger self found much more provoking than remote and detached photos of Hef’s carefully selected bunnies. I could probably buy a copy, but it probably wouldn’t live up to my memories.
Even though he was a vocal champion of (many) liberal social values, Hefner fares less well with liberals than the TYT progressives. In a New Yorker article, Hugh Hefner, Playboy, and the American Male, Adam Gopnik writes:
There was a time when his excursions into the Playboy philosophy, which was not quite as ridiculous a document as its title makes it sound, were, though never taken seriously, at least seen as significant. Now, they seem not merely quaint but predatory.
For The American Thinker, Rick Moran writes, Hugh Hefner is Dead:
What was Hefner’s role in this transformative America? Actually, he was a lot less impactful than certainly Hefner would have us and the media believe. He did not initiate the sexual revolution. We can thank the Pill for that. Rather, Hefner rode the wave of changing morals and mores by creating bankable images of nearly nude women, along with sharp political and cultural commentary from some of the best liberal writers in America. He made it cool to be a cad and reinforced the male fantasy of consequence-free sex.
And The New Republic decries, Hugh Hefner’s Incomplete Sexual Revolution:
What derailed the male revolt was the female revolt. Women reasonably asked themselves: If men like Hefner were abandoning the traditional claims of chivalry, then what were they offering? The answer: a patriarchy without any promise of protection—a raw deal.
Without a trace of irony, today’s intersectionally woke neoliberals signal their virtue by pointing out that Hefner profited from wrapping himself in the social revolution at the same time that he was sexually exploiting his lowly-paid female employees.
Interestingly, a woman architect really appreciated Hefner. Writing for the AIA journal, Architect, Karrie Jacobs penned, Playboy Magazine and the Architecture of Seduction in 2016, quoting Beatriz Colomina:
… Hefner made [midcentury modern design] mainstream. That’s the point of the exhibition, that Playboy did more for modern architecture and design then any architectural journal or even the Museum of Modern Art. At its peak, it had seven million readers.
I gave a lecture at Cornell at the beginning of this research. At the end of the lecture, a woman said to me, “Now I understand why my father, who never went to a museum, who never had any idea about art or architecture or design, had an amazing collection of midcentury furniture.”
And then I had a correspondence with her. She asked him, “Where did you get all this furniture?” And he said, “Playboy told me to buy it.”
That is absolutely spot on. Along with the girls, and the interviews, and the fiction, were descriptions of the Playboy Pad: apartments or houses that would reflect well on the bachelor’s good taste, with lists (and costs) of the Barcelona chairs, Burberry raincoats, Fleischmann’s Preferred Blended Whiskey, Miles Davis albums, Blaupunkt hi-fi sets, etc that midcentury human male bowerbirds could purchase and arrange to attract a mate.
The world is crashing around us, and all I want to do is watch that old music video, I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On. Not for the pouty models that pretend to play instruments. I love Robert Palmer’s take on (what is almost a Prince) song, and I like the four dancers working it. Nothing about that video seems to relate to the song, but at least he isn’t being chased by a man in a gorilla suit, like Cherrelle.
OK, Congress seems to have an awful choice between leaving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it is, or passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The ACA has slammed many enrollees with much higher premiums, but all indications are that the AHCA would be much, much worse for everyone except the very wealthy. So far it doesn’t seem that the bill’s supporters have the votes. Of course, having health care isn’t the same thing as having good health care, but the AHCA would cut many preventative care measures, and weaken Medicaid.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans voted to allow internet providers to monitor and sell their users’ browsing histories. The House has not yet voted on the measure. To some extent the internet already knows my browsing history. If I browse a particular tee shirt, or bike part, or book, I will see ads for exactly those items in popup or sidebar adverts for weeks. I presume that is the result of cookies rather than someone data mining at my browsing history.
We went to a local department store a few weeks ago to find out why they aren’t sending a statement, and found out they no longer have a service office. Brick and mortar retailers like JC Penney, Macy’s and Sears are slowly going under, but online retailers still think we have money to spend. They think if only they can look at our browsing histories that we will buy more of their stuff. They’re wrong. Employers are paying us less and less, and our credit cards are all maxed out. We browse stuff, and think that would be nice, but then we look at our bills and decide to do without. The big treat for us these days is Chipotle; Panera costs too much.
Establishment Democrats feel that the fact that from 2005 to 2009 Paul Manafort secretly lobbied for a Russian oligarch with ties to Putin proves their Russia allegations. But after giving him tens of millions of dollars Oleg Deripaska soon accused Manafort of fraud. There are no signs they were on any sort of terms when Manafort briefly managed President Trump’s campaign from March to August of 2016. But I’m With Her Dems still hope that the Deep State will use Russia to take down Trump.
Way too many of us are addicted to opioids. I was in the ER last year, and got intravenous morphine for a UTI from a big kidney stone. The effect was like a comforting wave of warmth starting in my chest and rolling over my face and arms. For the first time in days I felt good. But in the morning a middle-aged woman was prowling the corridor yelling, “Where is my medicine? You’re supposed to give me my medicine! You’re not doing your jobs!” The nurse told her she wasn’t due for forty-five more minutes, but she couldn’t wait, and just yelled some more. Whenever I looked at my bottle of pills, her voice came back to me.
But we’re addicted to more than opioids. When I ride the light rail I see smartphone addiction. Hell, I see pedestrians walking, and bicyclists riding and motorists driving while looking at their smartphones. I think we’re addicted to easy.
Back to my addiction. Photographer Terence Donovan made Robert Palmer and those five models famous in the music video for Addicted to Love. He dressed up Julie Pankhurst, Patty Kelly, Mak Gilchrist, Julia Bolino and Kathy Davies to look like Patrick Nagel girls, and had them pretend to play guitars and keyboards and drums behind the dapper Mr Palmer. His sex object look was controversial, but the video was an unexpected and iconic hit. Donovan used at least one of the models, Patty Kelly, again in I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On, and added those four dancers wearing what look like bridesmaid dresses.
Donovan went to the well again for Simply Irresistible, with more models, more dancers, water pouring over models in swimsuits, but all kind of a muddle. I’ve read that Palmer began to feel that his singing was being overshadowed by the models, though at a reunion the Addicted girls all said he was very professional during the shoot. I had forgotten that Palmer sang Every Kinda People, one of those songs that doesn’t need a fancy video, and is worth hearing again every so often.
About a month ago, I read Middlesex, the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, whose first novel was The Virgin Suicides. I had seen the film version of Suicides, directed by Sofia Coppola, but that isn’t why I bought Middlesex.
The voice of Middlesex is a person whose anatomy is not easily identified as male or female, what has come to be termed intersex. I have a child who, though not physiologically intersex, has been influenced by Simon Baron-Cohen’s Empathizing-Systemizing theory which holds that autism spectrum disorder, or Asperger’s syndrome, leads to an extreme male brain (EMB). As described in a 2011 post on Woman with Asperger’s, some female Aspies do feel in between:
While I am biologically female, I have never felt at home in the world of women. I have trouble understanding and socializing with most neurotypical women, and I am not interested in the same things that they are: I’d rather talk about the Enneagram or philosophy than about the latest gossip in the mill. My sense of fashion and style has come from years of observation, developing my own color palettes (I find that black, purple, blue, red, gold, and silver are each to match with each other), finding comfortable fabrics and shoes, and making a lot of mistakes, and it did not come natural to me; you are looking at the girl who was more interested in Greek mythology and African-American poetry than fixing her hair, which used to drive the aunt who raised me to distraction. And as I have mentioned before, I have empathy but lack the ability sometimes to decode the signals of what people are feeling and what they might need. Truthfully, I do almost feel half-female, half-male as Simone described above – for example, I have a primary male alter-ego who finds himself as the speaker in about a good third of my poems.
But EMB is a controversial theory, as described in a 2013 post on Musings of an Aspie:
There are a lot of holes in the EMB theory. It bases maleness and femaleness on a single pair of traits, which aren’t even mutually exclusive. It subscribes to outdated gender stereotypes of men as less nurturing and women as less logical/intellectual. It uses questionnaires designed by the researcher to prove the researcher’s point. It fails to even acknowledge the existence of nonbinary gender identity (which is especially significant in autistic populations, as mentioned later in this post). It completely ignores the possibility that females are simply underdiagnosed, which undermines the protective effect line of thinking. It uses characteristics of autism as a proxy for gender traits, thereby “proving” a link between gender and autism.
I have read my child’s prolific fan-fiction writings, and they strike me as coming from a female perspective, but it isn’t my journey. So I’m trying to read up on intersex and transgender issues.
Intersexuality is a very uncomfortable topic, as evidenced by all the people arguing over who uses which bathroom. I guess some people simply don’t know the difference between transvestites, who simply wear clothing of the opposite sex, and transgender people, who have changed their bodies to become the opposite sex. Others do know the difference, but enjoy being mean.
3 Quarks Daily featured an article in Nature, The spectrum of sex development: Eric Vilain and the intersex controversy. DSD is short for Disorders of Sex Development. It’s a good article:
Vilain has spent the better part of his career studying the ambiguities of sex. Now a paediatrician and geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), he is one of the world’s foremost experts on the genetic determinants of DSDs. He has worked closely with intersex advocacy groups that campaign for recognition and better medical treatment — a movement that has recently gained momentum. And in 2011, he established a major longitudinal study to track the psychological and medical well-being of hundreds of children with DSDs.
Vilain says that he doesn’t seek out controversy, but his research seems to attract it. His studies on the genetics of sexual orientation — an area that few others will touch — have attracted criticism from scientists, gay-rights activists and conservative groups alike. He is also a medical adviser for the International Olympic Committee, which about five years ago set controversial rules by which intersex individuals are allowed to compete in women’s categories.
But what has brought Vilain the most grief of late has been his stance on sex-assignment surgery for infants with DSDs. Although he generally opposes it, he won’t categorically condemn it or the doctors who perform it. As a result, many intersex advocates who object to the practice now see him as a hindrance to their cause.
Some deaf people have embraced their lack of hearing as normal for them, and assert that cochlear implant surgery separates deaf children from the mainstream of deaf culture. Similarly, some intersex people oppose any sort of corrective surgery on infants or children as not normal for them, and as rife with disastrous realizations later in life. In some ways, Middlesex is a very long explanation of that point-of-view.
What a hornet’s nest!
Back in May 2014 I posted The Neg, in which I compared the Pickup Artist technique to Richard Feynman’s account of picking up strippers from his book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman. I am no scientist, but I enjoy reading about science, and have read The Feynman Lectures, Six Easy Pieces, the Krauss bio and the comic-style illustrated bio of Feynman.
My opinion was that following his long courtship of, and brief marriage to, the terminally-ill Arline, he immersed himself in meaningless sexual experimentation for several years, and a bad second marriage. I was disappointed to read about his affairs with the wives of coworkers, but it did seem that he had finally settled himself with a third marriage.
On July 11th 2014, Ashutosh Jogalekar posted, Richard Feynman, sexism and changing perceptions of a scientific icon – a far more critical, but well-reasoned, take on the famous man. I only found it from links on the Galileo’s Pendulum post. Scientific American, however, soon removed Jogalekar’s post … then restored it some time later:
The irony thus seems to be that, just like Feynman was fond of generating cherry picked anecdotes about himself, we seem to be fond of generating skewed, cherry picked anecdotes about him that accuse him of sexism. … My own perceptions of Feynman have changed, and that’s the way it should be. At first I idolized Feynman like many others, but over time, as a more careful reading of his life revealed some of the unseemlier sides of his character, I became aware of his flaws. While I still love his lectures and science, these flaws have affected my perception of his personality, and I am glad they did. There are things that he said or did that are clearly wrong or questionable at the very least, but we can at least be grateful that we have evolved to a stage where even the few instances of his behavior that have been documented would not be tolerated on today’s college campuses and would be instantly condemned. As a man I do not now admire Feynman as much as I did before, but I am also glad to have a more complete understanding of his life and times.
At The Curious Wavefunction, Jogalekar explains why his post disappeared and reappeared:
Here’s the gist of the story:
1. I host a guest post on women in science and later, I write a post on Wade’s controversial book (these are 2 of almost 200 posts on a variety of topics I’ve written for SciAm).
2. In response to criticism of the two posts on social media, SciAm issues a public statement. The blog editor asks me to run “controversial” posts by him. No specific guidelines are discussed (something I now regret not doing).
3. I write a post about how my perception of Feynman has changed and how we need to judge historical figures in their entirety and understand the times in which they lived. I do not think the post was “controversial” in the least and therefore do not run it by the editor.
4. The post elicits both positive and negative responses on Twitter, blogs and email.
5. The post is taken down because the editors find it “controversial” and think that I should have run it by them. I am told that it would be best to part ways with the network.
6. SciAm resurrects the post with a note containing what I would consider an accurate, but incomplete, description of events.
Two days later, Matthew R Francis at Galileo’s Pendulum posted, The problem of Richard Feynman. Francis didn’t think Jogalekar went far enough, but many commenters asserted that Feynman was just a normal guy for his time being accused under modern political correctness:
Feynman doesn’t need us to defend him, anymore than Einstein does. Their legacies in science are secure, so it doesn’t behoove us to defend their often less-than-stellar personal lives, especially when they did damage to people less powerful than themselves. It certainly does nobody any favors to say, as Ash Jogalekar did in a blog post for Scientific American, that Feynman was no worse than anyone else in his era. The post was removed by the editors (and I’ll leave it to others to debate whether that’s a good tactic or not; I have mixed feelings myself), but several people archived the text before it vanished. [The post is now back. See the Update below.] While much of the post is valid — Jogalekar doesn’t deny a lot of Feynman’s bad behavior — he ends up falling into the same pit of excuse-making. Worse, he implies that Feynman’s “game” is probably universal and necessary for men to play.
On the same day another Sci Am blogger, Janet D Stemwedel, posted, Heroes, human “foibles”, and science outreach – essentially echoing Matthew:
While it is true that much of what we know about Richard Feynman’s behavior is the result of Feynman telling stories about himself, there stories really don’t seem to indicate awareness of the harmful impacts his behavior might have had on others. Moreover, Feynman’s tone in telling these stories suggests he assumed an audience that would be taken with his cleverness, including his positioning of women (and his ability to get into their pants) as a problem to be solved scientifically.
And a day later, Mathematigal posted, Feynman is not my hero:
… every time I hear someone in my department or in one of my classes go on about how Feynman was so awesome I mean he was kind of a jerk to women but whatever, I file him (and it is almost always always a him) away as someone who would have sided against me in every single one of the situations I’ve mentioned. Every time I see a joking tweet or post about how Feynman’s second wife divorced him because she didn’t like that he was always doing calculus in his head, while totally ignoring the fact that the divorce papers indicate that he would fly into a rage, attack her, and break furniture whenever she interrupted said mental calculus, my world gets a little bit smaller.
I can vouch that a divorce action is not always the best source of facts. And it is not unusual for many men to want to sleep with women, and for some women to accommodate them. But as I have looked at the Polanski, Cosby, Allen and now Richardson and Charney stories it is clear that a lot of successful men that have preyed on women and girls will be granted the benefit of any doubt by other men, and even some women that admire their work.
So I will now think about Feynman a bit less charitably. But it isn’t just the famous that get a pass. The leading story in the NY Times last week was about a first year student who was raped at a party soon after arriving at Hobart and William Smith College.
It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.