In Four Words

A Russian SF writer caught my attention with a throwaway remark about the “female thirst for promises”. Well, I myself had often noted that if a young woman is given the choice between a taciturn man who cares for her in practice and another who avows his love in empty words, she almost always goes for the purely verbal extravagance, but this Glukhovsky impressed me by nailing the issue in a mere four words.

But what is the attraction of a promise? Very few people do what they say they will do, even in the most trivial matters. They are clearly using promises as a way of currying favour, and the wise person learns to tune promises out altogether. Not that this is necessarily easy, as false promises are what our parents bring us up on, and it takes quite serious abuse to overcome a child’s inherently trusting nature. As adults, many of us never find the balance, if there even is one.

Now, if Glukhovsky is right about the thirst for promises being even more marked in the female than in the male, why should this be? My only suggestion is that the performance is attention later, but the promise is attention right now, so that the underlying cause of the female thirst for promises is the general human inability to defer gratification plus the specifically more severe female need for attention. That the latter abyss can be neither filled nor bridged, however, merely displaces the problem; if female need for attention is so much greater than the male, why should that be?

Of course, we are not allowed to ask such things, as correct discourse about human nature may invoke design flaws only in the male, and as much as possible must be blamed on testosterone without actually knowing anything about the secretion and effects of that substance. This is the modern equivalent and reversal of ancient bio-essentialist misogynies like the Sin of Eve. But if men have their characteristic faults, which I would not dream of denying, why is it so unthinkable that women might have their characteristic faults too? And can there be a better candidate for characteristic fault or besetting sin than a “thirst for promises”?

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