Sunday, September 5, 2010

#42 The Social Proof Problem

“Matchmakers say the dating scene is probably worse than anywhere.“

- “In Man-Rich Silicon Valley,” New York Times.

“One of the big problems ... these days was that the women were too picky.''

- Same article.

The concept that a woman’s desire for a man depends on other women’s desire for that man is hard for guys to get their minds wrapped around, no matter how many Playboy models David Spade impregnates. Because guys are way too objective and ahistorical to care about sociological judgments. Every male model in the world could descend upon SF to serenade the SF 6s and SF guys would say, good, go sick. Take Kelly Osbourne off the marriage market while you’re at it.

It’s a question of epistemology. Men use their brains to organize their thoughts and make sense of them and the surrounding world. Women, on the other hand, let their survival impulses guide them, like the Great Buck Howard on the hunt for his hidden performance fee, towards the set of behaviors that best serves to their immediate situational advantage and then, like acquitted Nazi Albert Speer, they use their brains to gerrymander a patch-work of communicable ideas and beliefs that make their behaviors acceptable to the wider world.

This is partly why it's difficult to understand the feminine take on reality: what counts is how things FEEL, subjectively, for a particular human at a given moment, kind of like a personalized wind chill factor, which is basically unworkable as measure of standardized, sharable truth and yet, at the same time, if you think about it, the only truly relevant measure of human experience. When our biology tells us to hook up with some person, our biology is saying that person’s genes are survivors - they are capable of making babies who are popular with and attractive to subsequent generations of people.

In this way, the fact female desire is so heavily dependent on the opinions and social proof of other females actually makes rational and probably scientific sense. Good looks, earning potential, charm - we chase after these things as if they have intrinsic value but really they are just features probabilistically associated with reproductive success. As Adam Carolla says, "I don't care how ugly you say a dude is, if he's f*cking a new hot stewardess every night, then you can say all you want about his schnauze and male pattern baldness but he can't hear you, because he's on top of another stewardess."FN1

The forgoing generally all works out on balance. Some dude who is cool but generally ignored will, given enough time, start hanging out with some cute nanny he met at the park and then suddenly ever chick in his universe who hadn’t been aware of existence double takes. He gets his chance. Usually.

A theoretical problem: if we accept as a predicate that all women, at at least some time in their lives (because they’re tired or depressed or thinking rationally about the matter), feel a total or almost total lack of interest in men as a romantic or sexual (or whatever) objects, then imagine what would occur if, by some probability-defying confluence of events, women in a particular society all experienced this lack of interest AT EXACTLY the same time AND share with one another the fact they feel this way at exactly the same time. If logic holds, then in the aftermath of this hypothetical moment no woman in that society would ever again desire a man because, so long as no foreign woman entered the society, all the men around would be undesirable to the other women. The implied cognition in every woman’s brain (that no man around had social proof of value) would stultify the system.

This, of course, is no hypothetical. This is San Francisco, and like snow blindness in cats, it scares the livin' sh*t out of us.

It happened like this: in most human spaces, like IstanbulFN2, Chicago, New York, or professional graduate programs, there’s an upwardly mobile class of women, be they, respectively, Ukranian women, Iowa farm girls, 24 year old struggling actresses (who are dazzled by a $60 restaurant meal), or sorority girls, that disrupt such a hypothetically static system. Graduate school may be the most relatable exemplar. The first semester starts and everyone has their section and the social hierarchy of cool and uncool gets worked out in a few weeks and all the girls fixate on about three guys as being desirable with the rest being generally ignored but then, not long thereafter, two guys, guys no girls deemed worthy of attention, reportedly hook up with UNDERGRADUATE girls! The whole hierarchy and design of things has to be re-thought. Wildcard, bitches!

But what you get in San Francisco is system shock pre-emption. Certain infrastructural realities like excessive living costs and industry specific professional opportunities (no fashion, no media, no marketing) enforce an on-going population stasis. A homogeneity. Putting arguments about the attitudes of professionally successful women aside, the absence of an young and non-affluent (but aspiring) class of girls robs SF women of a competitive motivator. It’s confusing to type A, successful women when they move here knowing the Bay Area is full of type A, successful men since they come to understand that, in the minds and expressed opinions of the type A locals, none of the men have any social value. In a (somewhat dated but probably sort of relevant) New York Times article about the “Man-rich” SF Bay Area, a relationship coach of 10 years is quoted as saying, “I've never seen things so bad...The women are very tough on the men. They're constantly finding reasons to not like them.”

Ironically, if you relocated 10,000 hot stewardesses into SF (and provided them with the resources to afford rent, etc.), the dating scene would improve for SF women. The guys around them would suddenly seem a little rakish, a little smoother. For what happens to an unattractive guy when he’s given a little money and the affections of a pretty girl with a little charm? He becomes against all reason and probabilities the the very thing SF women say doesn’t exist in San Francisco: David Spade.


Carolla said that in the context of a story about low test scores in the U.S. He further commented, “All these countries are ahead of us yet they all wish they lived here? I'm not sure how much these metrics are worth. We're not bilingual, our math skills are not that of India or parts of Asia. We're down in the middle of everything. Except for the part that everyone wants to come into our frat house. So we're a dumb frat house with ugly dudes yet everyone wants to party with us? To me, that's the ultimate test score."


If you spend some time in Turkey you learn that Russian women figure into the nation in an interesting way. The story goes something like this: the rise of modern, progressive(ish) Turkey coincided with the fall of the USSR. Ukranian women with no money or really resources started to show up in Istanbul, invigorating the local prostitution market. This development surely had some pretty negative and seedy externalities but at least on an anecdotal level it seems to have created a nascent class of eligible hotties. The Russian girls who were once whores (in the sense that they gave blow jobs for fifty Turkish Lira and a black eye) are increasingly becoming “whores” (in a sense that they give blow jobs for Beamers and beach houses and Turkish girls hate them).