Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Caligula Effect? Really?

Fun and games, again, about powerful men and their sexual urges. An article in the Time magazine begins with the usual argument that men can sire any number of children most easily (because, you see, all one needs to have a child grow up into a mature individual ready to pass the genes on is a fertilized egg!), and this is why the male libido consists of trying to mate with as many women as possible. Unless self-restraint enters the picture. But what if it doesn't?
In some cases, though, the stability never happens; in some cases, unlimited opportunity simply leads to unlimited appetites. Emperors and despots may be best known for this kind of behavior. The 18th-century Moroccan ruler Moulay Ismail is said to have fathered 888 children with his 500 concubines. Genghis Khan makes Ismail look practically barren. A 2003 analysis of the Y chromosome of 2,123 men now living across the former Mongol empire showed that there are 16 million males living today whose line stretches back to the great conqueror — or one out of every 200 males now on the planet. But modern-day men of power — Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, John Ensign, JFK, FDR, and most recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn — with their serial wives or serial philandering, can behave just as badly, if less prolifically.
This the article calls the Caligula effect! Don't know about you, but I was taught that Caligula was utterly mad and cruel. Are we to take the Caligula effect as signifying that in the mentioned modern cases, too?

More interestingly, Moroccan ruler Moulay Ismail and the famous Genghis Khan didn't get to sire so many children (assuming they did) because of serial philandering or because they were ladies' men. That paragraph misses the point. A woman refusing John Edwards, say, doesn't get her head chopped off or her family murdered. I bet you anything that refusing Genghis Khan would have led to that very outcome.

In short, the quoted paragraph confuses possibly violent force, societal power and sexual attraction of men with power. It's all baked into one pie, called the Caligula effect. Possible rapes, women sold by their parents or taken by military force, willing mistresses or girlfriends, it's all the same!

Now why would someone write that way? Could it be because the writer views the world through testosterone glasses, meaning that the intended audience consists of men? How else could we explain this quote:
That same phenomenon, Josephs believes, may explain the public outrage when sexual misbehavior of elites — particularly the kind that involves violence or assault — become public. "We don't want our leaders to be philanderers," he says. "In an egalitarian society, nobody should monopolize all of the females or sleep with our wives, or we're going to get even."
Misbehavior of the kind which involves violence or assault?

And nosir, I don't want the elite to get hold of all my females, sigh, and I shall certainly get even.

How to explain an article like this? My guess is evolutionary psychology of the stupid kind as the background noise, baked into a pie with some confusion about what sexual assault might mean. And that male gaze, naturally.