Monday, August 13, 2007

The Science of Insulting Women

The Freakonomics blog just moved over to The New York Times website. One of their first posts was about studies that have been done about negging - "a move that involves interjecting an insult during an initial conversation with a woman. The motivation behind the insult is to “lower her self-esteem, thus making her more vulnerable to your advances.”" This post has gotten the most comments I've seen on a Freakonomics post in a while, and I couldn't bring myself to read through all of them. After the first three or four posts by men saying that "all women" are attracted to bad men who insult their sense of self esteem, and that women never are interested in nice men who treat them right, I'd had enough.

Sure, there are women out there who like dangerous guys, guys who aren't interested, men who don't treat them right. Sometimes it's a result of their childhood - I have a relative who married a man who insults her quite often, but she's been married to him at least 30 years, perhaps in part because her father was not always the nicest when speaking with her mother. If it's something you grow up with, it may seem like the norm, that may be the example of a "successful" marriage. Who knows?]

But to generalize to say that that's what all women want, it sounds like that commenter thinks he's a nice guy, and has been burned by women interested in "bad boys." Some comments have said that women don't like to be complimented, or treated right. Now, I'm telling you right now, for all the men out there reading this post - yes, we do like to be complimented and treated right! (At least those of us with a healthy sense of self-respect and no bad boy complexes). And no, this doesn't mean we want compliments in every other breath, presents every other minute, and a man hanging on our every word. Because that's just damn slavish and sycophantic. But a man who knows how to use a well-placed compliment, have an intelligent conversation, and has his own interests in life is infinitely more appealing than either of the over-aggressively rude or sycophantic stereotypes.

The other thing I take issue with is the idea that women are only interested in men with status. That that's why they stay with men who insult them. No. No. No. Sure, perhaps women who stay with men like that feel like the men have more status, that's possible. But I think it's also in large part because the men have cut down their self esteem (or preyed on women who already have low self esteem) to such a level that the women feel like they don't deserve any better, or they don't want to be alone and don't have faith in themselves enough that they could find someone better.

I think the idea of trying to teach men who aren't comfortable interacting with women is a good one, but the way this Mystery is going about it just kind of turns my stomach. Teasing a woman just to let her know that you're on the same level as her is one thing, that she's not on a pedestal. But going beyond that into insulting (and to the "mate retention" behaviors also mentioned, such as her around to make sure she's not meeting other guys) sounds to me like it's the guy who has the low self-esteem - he's uncomfortable just being himself and let his conversation and looks attract women, so he has to resort to preying on the vulnerable. And there's someone out there actually making money for teaching men these tactics - books and a tv show, blech!


Gopi Rajaseharan said...

The only women, in my experience, who are attracted to "bad boys" are those that already have a low self-esteem and dress as sexily as possible...24x7 :)

Women who are comfortable in their skin don't let their emotions guide their thought processes. They can pause, take stock and make decisions when it comes to men, career, etc. (like investing in the stock market fully knowing the risks involved). I think any well-rounded person (male or female) has the capability to act like that.

The Lethological Reader said...

True true! I don't think that well adjusted people necessarily DON'T let emotions guide their thought process, but they also don't let their emotions take over their good sense - they're better able to distinguish when they're being disrespected and even if they're still attracted to that person, are better able to pull themselves away from the situation. So most well adjusted people would follow their emotions to the point where they get negative feedback, and then take the time to assess whether proceeding is really in their best interest (wow, it sounds so clinical when I put it that way...)

Crabby McSlacker said...

Wow. Just wow.

Thank you so much for summing this up so I didn't have to go there myself and increase traffic to that post.

Insulting women and making sure they don't get a chance to see any other men sounds like the first step towards abusive behavior. I've always been perplexed by women who put up with this sort of thing, and even find it attractive. Coincidentally, they often seem to end up in crappy relationships!

The Lethological Reader said...


The post itself wasn't offensive - it was basically just a summary of what this guy is teaching in his book and asking for comments - the post was trying to be objective and elicit opinions. It's the people who commented on it that I took issue with. They tended to categorically stereotype women as bad boy chasers or status chasers or whatever. I think this kind of topic gets people's ire up, because they've been burned in the past, or they know someone who has, and they extrapolate that to everyone of that gender.

Gopi Rajaseharan said...

"Insulting women and making sure they don't get a chance to see any other men sounds like the first step towards abusive behavior."

Actually, crabby, that behavior is natural in all higher mammalian species including humans. This is why nice guys end up sleeping in an empty bed :) They rely on the girl having some sort of chemistry with them while the "bad boy" simply by virtue of his behavior elicits a hormonal response in the women he accosts (of course, he could go overboard and ruin it). Based on my own experience, I have seen clear distinctions between the women who are attracted to bad boys and the women who "seek out" nice guys. The former is often very sexual in nature while the latter often comes across as...too prim. My two cents...

The Lethological Reader said...

Gopi, what about those of us in the middle of those extremes? We're attracted to bad boys on occasion, but prefer to date the nice ones.

Gopi Rajaseharan said...

"what about those of us in the middle of those extremes?"

Um...ah, yes, the sophisticated woman. Lets just say that is a gray area most guys dabble in :)