An article in Evolution and Human Behavior with the title, “Sexual exploitability: observable cues and their link to sexual attraction,” apparently (I have not read it) argues that since males have less invested in the process of reproduction, men naturally are more interested in casual sex and prowl around looking for a woman that they can get into bed. The researchers studied their hypothesis and found that, believe it or not, men looked for certain traits in women that identified them as prime candidates to being tricked into a one-night stand.
Erin Gloria Ryan, however, writing online (www.jezebel.com) in response to this academic study is having none of it. For one thing, she believes the authors of the study are letting men off too easily. Just because men evolved that way doesn’t make it admirable. Ryan’s primary objection, however, is that the authors of the study assume only men want one-night stands. Women do too, she says, and so in “How to Look Dumb and Slutty Enough for a One Night Stand” Ryan has “broken down the list of 88 traits that researchers found influenced men in their quest for sex to bring you a definitive guide to tricking dudes into thinking that they’re tricking you into having sex with them.” Ryan’s list of four Do’s and Don’ts may surprise you, then again, maybe it won’t:
“DO: look immature, act drunk and reckless, hang out with sluts, glance over your shoulder, appear sleepy, touch your boob.
“DO NOT: appear intelligent, be old, act shy or anxious, suck on a straw, stand near men.
“DO: wear an engagement or wedding band, attend a wedding, wear tight clothing, be a punk, have tattoos, be short, be fat.
“DO NOT: be skinny, have a flushed face, be tall, dance, be a prostitute, have piercings.”
It’s easy to make light of such things. Ryan certainly uses some animated prose when she takes aim at the journal article, which she calls, “idiotic.” And there is a place for that, since the best response to folly is not solemnity but laughter. That’s very difficult to accomplish, however, without being dismissive of the people involved, a form of ridicule forbidden to Christians. If we do not have the intellectual acuity of G. K. Chesterton we should never try.
I am grateful for Erin Ryan’s piece, because it makes me reflect on three issues I easily overlook.
First, what are the implications of all this for the topic of modesty? I’m not talking about prudishness here, but a modesty that expresses something of one’s character even as it deepens their attractiveness as a person. The Christian response to Ryan’s four Dos and Don’ts, then does not involve embracing the opposite but producing something entirely different.
Second, I’m grateful Ryan reminds us of a reality we often forget as Christians but should not, namely, that we live in a sexually charged world. If you are surprised when I say Christians forget this, let me provide proof. I often speak on film, and often on those occasions a Christian will ask why there has to be so much sex in the movies. “There are plenty of good films without sex,” I always reply, “but the reason sex appears so often is precisely the same reason it appears in the Bible so often—it is central to life.” How is it that Christians can claim to take the Scriptures seriously and miss the way sexuality, for blessing and for curse, is a vital theme that weaves it’s way through the pages and stories of God’s word? A faith that includes The Song of Solomon has every reason to celebrate sexuality. A fallen world may get sexuality wrong but they certainly won’t ignore it.
All this has also made me reflect anew on an amazing aspect of the Christian view of sexuality, namely that it is simultaneously an intensely physical and a deeply spiritual act. Has that understanding eroded in our world, and if so, why? I realize that in the heat of the moment the physical can seem to be all there is and all that matters, but there is more to life than the moment. Could it be that people yearn for a spiritual dimension but fear sex is physical alone? Or have they made peace with lowered expectations? That’s something worth asking about when we are discussing movies or the Bible, since in both places the topic comes up quite naturally and often.
Source: Erin Gloria Ryan online (http://io9.com/5912975/how-to-look-dumb-and-slutty-enough-for-a-one-night-stand?tag=sexuality). My appreciation to my good friend, John Eddy who called my attention to Ryan’s piece.