An Analysis of "Sexual Utopia In Power" Part 1

I’ve been reading, among many other things, Sexual Utopia in Power by F. Roger Devlin, Ph.D. and apparent regular contributor to The Occidental Quarterly. I was not previously familiar with either the author or the publication, but on the basis of this stunningly well-written (and, presumably, researched, with thirteen sources listed for approximately 27 pages of writing) article, I will have to become more intimately familiar with both. The entire article is worth commenting on; I had intended to merely pick “the best” parts but found myself copying entire paragraphs or pages in preparation for this analysis. Let me start by suggesting that perhaps the best course of action is to not read anything I am about to write, and to go read the article yourself.

Still here? Well, perhaps I can convince you to read it by quoting the parts that stuck out to me, with some of my own commentary. Devlin begins quickly and makes an important point about the basics of male-female relationships: that women, ultimately, do the choosing, while men do the competing. Women have a natural advantaged state in this regard. They do not need to “prove” their worth or suitability – the dictates of nature demand that men compete for the mating privilege of women. In the words of Devlin:

Nature has played a trick on men: production of spermatozoa occurs at a rate several orders of magnitude greater than female ovulation (about 12 million per hour vs. 400 per lifetime). This is a natural, not a moral, fact. Among the lower animals also, the male is grossly oversupplied with something for which the female has only a limited demand. This means that the female has far greater control over mating. The universal law of nature is that males display and females choose. Male peacocks spread their tales, females choose. Male rams butt horns, females choose. Among humans, boys try to impress girls—and the girls choose. Nature dictates that in the mating dance, the male must wait to be chosen.

Why does he bring up this point? Because his main aim is to then discuss “sexual utopias,” or the ideal sexual situations that could exist for men and women alike. He discusses the ideal sexual utopia for males and compares it with the ideal sexual utopia for females. He tackles males first, who “are in every respect simpler” when it comes to the matter. A male sexual utopia, Devlin argues, is much what you might imagine it to be: a harem for every man with women constantly coming to him in droves for sexual attention. Marriage, it seems at first, would get in the way of that:

Marriage, after all, seems to restrict sex rather drastically. Certain men figure that if sex were permitted both inside and outside of marriage there would be twice as much of it as formerly. They imagined there existed a large, untapped reservoir of female desire hitherto repressed by monogamy. To release it, they sought, during the early postwar period, to replace the seventh commandment with an endorsement of all sexual activity between “consenting adults.” Every man could have a harem. Sexual behavior in general, and not merely family life, was henceforward to be regarded as a private matter. Traditionalists who disagreed were said to want to “put a policeman in every bedroom.” This was the age of the Kinsey Report and the first appearance of Playboy magazine. Idle male daydreams had become a social movement.

But reform could not have been brought about without the consent of women, Devlin posits, and thus begins his analysis of the ideal sexual utopia for women. As you might imagine, it contrasts quite sharply with sexual utopia for men. He dispels the myth that women are naturally monogamous – something I don’t think needs dispelling if you’ve been paying much attention to the relationships that men and women have even in your own daily life, not to mention what you can read about in news articles and magazines and see on “reality” TV or read about on the internet.
Devlin describes female sexuality as naturally hypergamous (a term I was not previously familiar with), which can be understood with a simple analysis: “They are always satisfied with the best. By definition, only one man can be the best. These different male and female “sexual orientations” are clearly seen among the lower primates, e.g., in a baboon pack. Females compete to mate at the top, males to get to the top.” Thus, in an ideal female sexual utopia, she is able to mate with the hypothetical “perfect” man and is able to get him to commit at the same time (to commit meaning to cease mating with all other females). Just as James Bond appeals to men for being a work of fiction that relates to male sexual utopia, so does the pulp fiction romance novel appeal to women, says Devlin. But just as everyone knows it is impossible fantasy for every man to have his harem, so to is it fantasy to suppose a hypergamous utopia can exist: “The fantasy is strictly utopian, partly because no perfect man exists, but partly also because even if he did, it is logically impossible for him to be the exclusive mate of all the women who desire him.” At best, then, only one female would be able to live in the utopia. In a world of approximately 6 billion people (and approximately 3 billion women), a hypergamous ideal does not seem to be the best way to organize society for the maximum happiness of all.
Devlin draws a further distinction between monogamy and hypergamy:

Hypergamy is not monogamy in the human sense. Although there may be only one “alpha male” at the top of the pack at any given time, which one it is changes over time. In human terms, this means the female is fickle, infatuated with no more than one man at any given time, but not naturally loyal to a husband over the course of a lifetime. In bygone days, it was permitted to point out natural female inconstancy. Consult, for example, Ring Lardner’s humorous story “I Can’t Breathe”—the private journal of an eighteen year old girl who wants to marry a different young man every week. If surveyed on her preferred number of “sex partners,” she would presumably respond one; this does not mean she has any idea who it is.

It is at this point that I suspect a reader with a feminist bent might criticize myself or Devlin for being misogynists by daring to suggest that women are anything but perfect. “Women are not fickle,” they might shout, stamping their feet, “you must either just hate them or you have a small dick!” Maybe they would complain that we’re only saying what we are because we never get laid. Maybe they’d be incensed at the suggestion that there are differences between men and women that are biological as opposed to social. Perhaps only a few years ago, I would’ve had to submit to such shaming tactics and been shouted down; thankfully, I’ve found the resources that enable me to have civil debates with those who would disagree but want to carry on in a rational manner with that disagreement. We can, thankfully, ignore those that would just shout down discourse.
Moving on, then!
Devlin goes on to say that an important part of hypergamy is the rejection of most men. Obviously, not every man can be the best man – hell, not even most men can be the best men – so in a hypergamous utopia, there’d be a whole lot of rejected men. He has some choice words to describe women which, again, would incense most feminists – saying that rather than being naturally modest, they are actually naturally vain, being inclined to believe that they are deserving of only the best suitors – even if this is a logical impossibility. Devlin asserts that the feminist movement was an attempt to realize this female utopia:

The sexual revolution in America was an attempt by women to realize their own utopia, not that of men. Female utopians came forward publicly with plans a few years after Kinsey and Playboy. Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl appeared in 1962, and she took over Cosmopolitan magazine three years later. Notoriously hostile to motherhood, she explicitly encouraged women to use men (including married men) for pleasure.

It is at this point that feminists might critique myself or Devlin for not knowing what feminism is all about, bellowing that it’s all about “equal rights for equal work!” I would suspect such a commentator is not at all familiar with feminism, and suggest he or she get acquainted with what feminist leaders have to say on the matter of male-female relations. And to those who would say that the extreme opinions of the few are irrelevant in the end (even in light of the last essay), I would say: not so!
Moving on, then!
I’ll skip the play-by-play and cut to the chase. There’s a lot I’d love to comment on from Devlin’s work, but hopefully at this point, I’ve convinced you to go read it yourself. I am going to offer up only the parts of the article that resonate most strongly with my own experiences and opinions before posting this.
After an in-depth analysis on the myth of date rape – exposing it for the lack of personal accountability that it is, rather than a rape in any meaningful sense of the word – Devlin goes on to say this:

I sympathize with the young woman, in view of a miseducation which might have been consciously designed to leave her unprepared for the situation she got herself into. But as to the question of whether she was raped, the answer must be a clear no.

I’ve already linked once to the essay I wrote years ago in school that attempted to debunk feminism on several fronts, one of which was the way in which “rape” has been virtually weaponized as a political tool to achieve political ends. Others have begun to notice and take action, trying to raise public awareness about the insidious effect that such deplorable tactics have had on relationships, men and women. Aside from critiquing feminists for exploding the definition of rape to be practically useless (in the words of Catherine MacKinnon: “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman,” and therefore, one would presume, rape) which has been done elsewhere, Devlin offers up a cogent reason why we should oppose legal reform that seeks to explode the definition of rape:

To anyone who believes that a society of free and responsible persons is preferable to one based on centralized control, the reasoning of the date-rape movement is ominous. The demand that law rather than moral principle and common prudence should protect women in situations such as I have described could only be met by literally “putting a policeman in every bedroom.” However much we may sympathize with the misled young people involved (and I mean the men as well as the women), we must insist that it is no part of our responsibility to create an absolutely safe environment for them, nor to shield them from the consequences of their own behavior, nor to insure that sex will be their path to happiness. Because there are some things of greater importance than the pain they have suffered, and among these are the principle of responsibility upon which the freedom of all of us depends.

The only way to protect against rape, as feminists define it and as they attempt to legislate it, is to enter into a Orwellian world of Big Brother and totalitarianism. How else can we protect against the fluid and changing situations under which women discern whether or not they consented to a sexual act, and to absolutely guarantee that no man continue to “go” after he has been told to “stop” even if the woman worked him up into a frenzy up until the point she decided she wanted to stop? There is no way. This is why we must reject such expanded interpretations and return to a moral code that promotes personal responsibility and accountability. Devlin goes on:

It is a cliché of political philosophy that the less self-restraint citizens are able to exercise, the more they must be constrained from without…Human beings cannot do without some social norms to guide them in their personal relations. Young women cannot be expected to work out a personal system of sexual ethics in the manner of Descartes reconstructing the universe in his own mind. If you cease to prepare them for marriage, they will seek guidance wherever they can fi nd it. In the past thirty years they have found it in feminism, simply because the feminists have outshouted everyone else.

I disagree that it is simply because feminists have outshouted everyone else, and would argue it is because feminists have outmaneuvered everyone else; other than that, however, Devlin makes a fine point. And before someone goes whining about generalizations (as so often seems to be the case in discussions like these), it is implicit that Devlin means ‘most human beings cannot be expected…’ Certainly, there are some who will work out such systems of ethics on their own (I might argue I am one of them, though, only to a certain degree of ‘being on my own’) but they are far and away in the minority. And we are speaking of proper ways of organizing a society, for the maximum benefit/happiness of all.
And maybe that’s the most important point of all, and a good one to end on. Devlin does go on to talk about the benefits of marriage and what can be done to save us from our desperate situation, but the real take-home point I’d like people to consider is this. When we are afforded a system that allows us to do whatever it is that we wish (and feminism certainly seeks to allow women to do whatever it is they may wish), we end up, among other things, misbehaving like a spoiled child that is allowed to follow its impulses whenever it pleases. In the words of Devlin: “In a word, [we] learn to think and behave like spoiled children, expecting everything and willing to give nothing.” Expecting everything and being willing to give nothing is a recipe for disaster when it becomes the social norm.
On an entirely unrelated note, I would still consider myself “single and looking,” by the way. Just not looking to get (ab)used, is all.
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17 thoughts on “An Analysis of "Sexual Utopia In Power" Part 1

  1. Sounds like an interesting article. However, one should be cautious about swallowing logical-seeming metaphors of human mating behavior. Peacocks and rams have little to do with our species. You'd do better to examine closely related species, like chimps and bonobos (equally related to humans and closer to humans than to any other primate). What you find there is not hypergamy, but something much closer to promiscuity. There are biological mechanisms that allow a female's body to “sample” the sperm of various men, but choose to be fertilized by the most advantageous to her offspring (which is not necessarily the sperm of the most “attractive” male, by the way). You'll also find that female primates in general are far more attracted to novel males than to any other characteristic that can be isolated by primatologists. In short, the common understanding of females choosing mates is, I would argue, more a Victorian throwback than a defensible scientific argument.

    I've got a book coming out this summer on this material. Check out my blog for more, if you're interested.

  2. Good points. I don't claim to be an expert on mating – certainly not the science of it, at any rate. However, even if his analogy fails to hold there, I think there are still other parts of the article that are definitely worth reading. As I said, I only took a few bits and pieces from it, as there's far too much to cover without making something even longer than the article itself. Definitely check it out.

    I've bookmarked your blog, by the way. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I suppose I should put it this way – his criticisms of some of the modern oddities of feminism do not completely rely on the ideas he's posited regarding sexual utopias; they are relevant insofar as he believes that feminism was an attempt by women to realize their own sexual utopia. Even if his conception of sexual utopias is not completely borne out by the evidence, I still think the rest of the analysis is worth considering.

  4. I've downloaded the pdf you link to in your piece. Will read it soon, though he put me off with his very first assertion, I'm afraid:

    “It is well known to readers of this journal that white birthrates worldwide have suffered a catastrophic decline in recent decades. During this same period, ours has become assuredly the most sex-obsessed society in the history of the world. Two such massive, concurrent trends are hardly likely to be unrelated.”

    First, these trends could easily be unrelated. Sex, for human beings, is not primarily about reproduction. It serves many other functions for our species and many others. Just look at the ratio of sexual acts per birth and you'll see that we are on the extreme end of the range. Most mammals have very little sex per birth. This is a classic case of mistaking correlation for causation, an elementary mistake.

    Secondly, his blunt assertion that “ours is assuredly the most sex-obsessed society in the history of the world” betrays a lack of historical knowledge (Ancient Greece? Rome? India around the time of the Kama Sutra?) and ethnographic awareness (many existing societies are far more sexual than ours which tends toward the erotophobic side of the scale).

    Still, if you think it's worth a read, I'll give it a look.

    Happy holidays to you, wherever you are.

    By the way, here's a link to an interesting example of what might be considered a sexual utopia: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/07/introduction_to.html

  5. I'm not sure that I paid as much attention to the introduction as you did. In his defense, he does not explicitly state that one caused the other; I take his words more to mean he is asserting/drawing attention only to a correlation between the two. It is notoriously hard to prove causation between any two things, ever – but strong correlations are always worth investigating.

    As far as the other part of the assertion – the sex-obsessed part – I guess that's open to how you interpret sex-obsessed. Being that the sexual obsession he speaks to doesn't end up being his main focus (and being that you are well versed in sexual psychology), I can see how this would be irritating. I suppose by sex-obsessed he means the way in which sex permeates advertising, movies, television, culture – the whole 'sex sells' concept. He could even be wrong that we are the most sex-obsessed culture in that understanding of the phrase – that much I don't know, but that's what I took him to mean when I originally read the document.

    I also hesitate to put words in his mouth, considering this is the only piece I've read from him. (My reading queue has exploded as of late.)

    If anything, you should read it and continue to comment so you can add your insight on why you think it is wrong, which is interesting in its own right!

  6. You too. Spain, you say? Japan and Canada are the only international destinations I've yet had the opportunity to travel to. Hopefully that all changes as I get older. As far as martial arts, I just have what the Marine Corps teaches us.

    Thanks for the link to the blog, by the way. I've already read a few of your posts and offered my two cents. I intend to explore it a little more when I have some more energy. (Reading and writing can be fairly exhaustive when done in a marathon style.)

  7. Hi Christopher, I would like to respond to your points here.

    “You'd do better to examine closely related species, like chimps and bonobos (equally related to humans and closer to humans than to any other primate).”

    Gorillas are the third closest and should also be considered. I have found good studies of chimps and gorillas, but not bonobos, so I will only comment these two. I highly recommend Jane Goodall's chimp books.

    “What you find there is not hypergamy, but something much closer to promiscuity. […] You'll also find that female primates in general are far more attracted to novel males than to any other characteristic that can be isolated by primatologists. In short, the common understanding of females choosing mates is, I would argue, more a Victorian throwback than a defensible scientific argument.”

    Gorilla females choose a male and stick to his harem. Among chimps, high ranking males have access to females because if a female rejects a high ranking male, he may well beat her up. So the females put up with being “raped”. This is nothing like the “promiscuity” of modern America where the female/woman clearly chooses. If rape laws were repealed, America may well wind up with the mating practices of chimps. This kind of thing (rape-style promiscuity being common) did exist in the European middle ages.

    Devlin is generally correct in that females are picky about who they want to have sex with, while males are not. This is true of humans, chimps, and gorillas. When males choose, they do so by rape. Liberals who claim that promiscuity should be accepted because it is natural are being inconsistent in also not accepting rape because that too is natural. Civilized human societies outlaw female promiscuity and rape for much the same reason, so ensure fair mating practices.

    Regarding the origin of monogamy, I have posted my theory on this.

    “Sex, for human beings, is not primarily about reproduction. It serves many other functions for our species and many others. Just look at the ratio of sexual acts per birth and you'll see that we are on the extreme end of the range. Most mammals have very little sex per birth. This is a classic case of mistaking correlation for causation, an elementary mistake.”

    Not just sex, but everything that living things do is primarily about reproduction in the end. This is what evolution is all about. Maybe what you mean to say is that not all sex is about fertilization, which would be true. For example, human females clearly have sex with their mates when they are not fertile to drain them of sperm to prevent them from mating with other females. But this does not contradict Devlin's points which he fully explains in the article.

    “Secondly, his blunt assertion that “ours is assuredly the most sex-obsessed society in the history of the world” betrays a lack of historical knowledge (Ancient Greece? Rome? India around the time of the Kama Sutra?) and ethnographic awareness (many existing societies are far more sexual than ours which tends toward the erotophobic side of the scale).”

    I agree Devlin is overstepping here, not because other societies were more sex-obsessed, but because we simply can't judge from the historical evidence how sex-obsessed they were. The fact that a society is more sexual in no way means that it is more sex-obsessed, more likely the opposite. The easier it is for men to get sex, the less obsessed they are likely to be. And in America, it is harder for men to get sex than in almost any society that I know of in history, so Devlin may well be right.

  8. One more point that I didn't address:

    “You'll also find that female primates in general are far more attracted to novel males than to any other characteristic that can be isolated by primatologists.”

    This isn't true from what I know. In the case of gorillas, females choose a strong dominant male who can defnd them. In the case of chimps, females either choose a high ranking male or a lower male who is skilled at the chimp equivelent of seduction. Chimp females reject low ranking males who fail to make impressive displays.

    I would add that while human male sexual behavior has evolved significantly from chimps, human female sexual behavior has not. William Tucker discusses this in Men Invented Humanity.

  9. Hi fschmidt. No time for a full reply to your points (see our book for that), but briefly:

    — Gorillas are not suitable comparisons for humans, not just because they are much more distantly related (albeit, #3, as you say), but because their basic social system is different. Humans, chimps, and bonobos all live in multimale-multifemale social groups. Our moderate body size dimorphism strongly suggests this has been the case for all three species for a long time. (I'd highly recommend de Waal's “Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape” if you'd like to educate yourself about that species.)

    — Your sense of chimp mating practices seems a bit off. Chimps are highly promiscuous. Females in estrous often mate with every male in the group. Goodall reported one female mating with every male, then running off to a neighboring group and mating with the males there as well (Flo, and Goodall counted over 50 copulations in a 48 hour period.)

    — Your contention that females “drain males of sperm” to stop them from extra-pair mating is a bit Dr. Strangelove for my tastes. Many a man has had his vital bodily fluids drained by his wife in the morning but still had plenty left for his lover in the afternoon.

    — On the other hand, I agree with your sense that obsession is due to restriction. As to female primate attraction to novelty, see Sarah Hrdy's work for more on that.

    Happy holidays to you.

  10. Christopher, thanks for your response. I actually much prefer reading the observations of women than of men because women tend to be more objective. Men tend to let their ideas interfere with their observations. But even so, women are not perfect observers and their natural instincts interfere. For example, women instinctually ignore lower status men and are unable to have any real concern for the sexual frustration of men who cannot mate. American women assume that because they are promiscuous and have sex with many men, all men are similarly promiscuous. Jane Goodall clearly applies the same thinking to chimps as can be seen in the inconsistencies in her books. For example, in the “sex” chapters of her 2 books, she never mentions males failing to get sex and instead sees a bunch of males getting sex and so says “all males had sex”. But when she looks at individual males like Jomeo, she does notice that some males do not get sex. Of Jomeo, she writes:

    “It is possible that he never fathered a single child. He lacked the nerve to compete aggressively with other males in the excitable groups that surround popular pink females”

    Goodall describes the 2 main mating behaviors of chimps, the bunch of males who take turns with a female, and the consorting male who takes a female away from the group for exclusive access. It is not clear what the female's rights are with regard to the bunch of males, whether she would be permitted to turn them down. But it seems unlikely that she has this option given the behavior described for consorting where males often forcibly drag off females. It does not seem that chimp females have many rights. The females do express preferences for consorting but these preferences do not always mean choice. So yes, among chimps, males do choose as much as females. But they do so by force. The bottom line is that no male is ever going to reject sex with a healthy young female of his species, but females will be choosy if they have the right to be so. And this is Devlin's point.

    Returning to chimp orgies, it is not clear which males participate but logically all male chimps who are members of the dominant hierarchy are likely to. Male chimps who are at the bottom probably would not have such rights (Jomeo for example). This is a case of males cooperating to force sexual access to females.

  11. Hi J. Finally read the essay, which I found both erudite and misinformed. He's a very compelling writer, but he's like an excellent chef working with left-overs. Great technique, but without really knowing what he's talking about in terms of anthropology, primatology, or psycho-sexuality, all he's got to work with is intellectual history which is plenty for most issues, but sorely lacking for a discussion of human sexuality. Many of the points he considers obvious (and thus not in need of supporting evidence) are, in fact, not obvious at all. They just seem so to those who don't know the data.

    By the way, I gave you the wrong url for the web site. It's just sexatdawn.com. No “www” for some reason I still don't understand.

    CPR

  12. Christopher Ryan –

    Thanks for coming back. I suppose I'll just have to wait for your book, read it, and then re-read this article with that increased knowledge.

    “sexatdawn.com” gives me an error. Is that another link to your blog? The first one you provided me works just fine.

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