What About The Losers?

Distrust of sexuality is traditionally seen in terms of disgust with bodily fluids, or of fear of pleasure, without it always being explained why these should evoke disgust and fear at all, or why they should do so in some people but not others. It is true that disgust at the chthonic might be due to overzealous potty-training and other influences on the individual. But once we are looking at the individual, there is no reason to stop with socialisation. Revolt against reproductive competition as such might be attractive to those who are in any case biological losers.

The frenzy of sexual competition that dominates human society is no fun for those who are predestined to lose. Competition for mates requires, in the words of one biologist, the “capacity and inclination to play the game of ascending a dominance hierarchy”. What if one does not have what it takes to play and win? Where can the person unable to hack fashion, flaunting and strutting now go? In previous ages, the cloister beckoned; now, the Internet. His equivalent in the animal world would simply die without issue, but our under-assertive specimen may write books and even invent whole ideologies before doing likewise.

For the minimax strategist plays to minimise the worst outcome that can befall, and discounts the possible gains; the maximin player seeks to maximise the best outcome that can be gained, and discounts the risk. In banking there is a place for both, but the mating game rewards only the maximin player, a truth expressed in folk language as “Faint heart never won fair lady”. Since the worst outcome is to be utterly humiliated and heartbroken, the minimax strategist may be deterred altogether, thinking it better not to play at all than to lose on that scale. The combination of cowardice and sour grapes may produce anti-sexual philosophies, which are incautiously interpreted by posterity as evidence of all sorts of Freudian complexes and repressions. In reality it is not about carnal revulsion but risk management.

Another, and perhaps more interesting, question might be how a person who was not in fact a loser in the reproductive stakes might come to feel a similar aversion to the desperate scrambling and squawking of the mating game. Even the winner may come to feel that the economic, physical, emotional and mental resources he is obliged to invest are excessive. There may be weariness of the necessity always to make Bella figura; there may be conscientious revulsion from the lies and betrayals that surround the mating game; there may be disgust with the randomness of Eros, which pairs Bottom with Titania; there may be a longing for a world of peace, a world without competition and the continual running to stay in the same place.

Posted on October 15, 2009 at 10:58 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, Distrust Of Sex -- The Better Reasons

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