« Noted here and there and everywhere | Main | The USC game, football, and the dangerous anger of the fan »

December 02, 2005



The post on Debyshire was Lauren's, not mine.

Jeez. You're critical of me, and it's not even about something I did. We're through, Schwyzer!

Hershele Ostropoler

Older men also eroticize youth because they long to be the first -- and thus safe from unflattering comparisons to a woman's previous lovers

Like* I said over at Feministe, not only previous lovers. I had a much better idea of what good sex was and what bad sex was at 20 than at 15, and I hadn't had sex yet.

*I am quite clear on the difference between "like" and "as."


Jill, I am so embarrassed. Sigh. Mea culpa and all that! I'll change the post around. I'm sorry we're through; it was nice while it lasted. ;-)


Great post, Hugo!


Come on, the picture's funny because it looks like Nick Nolte's mugshot.

And I do think his looks are fair game if he's going to sniff about "view-worthiness." As the saying goes, he's no Brad Pitt. Who doesn't seem to have a problem with women over 30, including Ms. Aniston (discounting that divorce thing).

And if he did look like Brad Pitt? Frankly, I doubt he'd be writing this kind of Comic Book Guy piece if he had any sort of confidence in his own attractiveness -- this piece of writing is just dripping with bitterness toward women.

As I spend time with these girls, I'm mystified as to how any adult man could respond to them sexually.

A friend of mine who recently married a woman with a teenaged daughter told me he was a little concerned at first about sharing a house with a girl that age. He quickly realized that she didn't register as a sexual being with him at all.


I think the reason Lauren posted the picture of Derbyshire was not to make fun of his looks, but to point out the double standard--that women are held to a much higher standard of attractiveness than men are, so much so that a man as unnatractive as John Derbyshire thinks it's ok for him to call Jennifer Aniston ugly.


I've been using that picture for ages, not from an attractiveness-bias standpoint, but it helps to explain why Derbyshire comes up with the weird, unhinged shit he does... the dude is totally 'shrooming!


Also the picture points out how old he is himself.


I hear you, folks -- I just think it's an unnecessary distraction from what is genuinely offensive about Derbyshire.


Sparklegirl nails my intent there. To be fair, his picture is from his gun license (and who takes good pics at a public licensing facility -- my DL makes me look like a horse) and he makes fun of it himself on his own website.


I've been using that picture for ages, not from an attractiveness-bias standpoint, but it helps to explain why Derbyshire comes up with the weird, unhinged shit he does

Ahh. I get it. If you are old and unattractive, you are weird and 'unhinged'


It always helps that when you disagree with someone's statements, that you can drag out a unflattering pic of them and 'shame' them a little. Belittleing people always help get your point accross....


Fair enough, Lauren. I think my issue may be less with you, and more with some of the comments at your place and Amanda's, where folks have been very nasty about Derbyshire's appearance.


Uzzah: I meant weird, unhinged shit he writes. It's not a function of his age or his looks, obviously. It's a function of the two quarts of psychedelic mushroom iced tea he drinks every day.

I mean, you do who this guy is and who he writes for, right?

Tony Vila

Hugo, don't worry, bringing up Derb's pic for purposes of mocking is clearly a bad idea and any reasonable people can see that. We poo-poo the MRA's for doing that to you, and I'm sure the comments you refer to mocking Derb's photo are used as ammo on right wing blogs to dismiss all the feminists posters.

Even if it was a matter of "fighting fire with fire" (which it isn't because he's not dismissing Anniston's arguments because of looks, just discussing looks), it would still be important not to fall to that level.

Derbyshire is what you'd call a "target rich environment". Is it really that hard to find something to say besides "he looks froopy!"?


Hugo, regarding your recent update: I've been troubled by the same thing with my own pictures, which is why I went out of my way to expose my photoshopping habit. Not only did it feel dishonest (especially on a feminist website where I reguarly disdain photo-mods), but I also wanted to show how I as a feminist feel compelled to be attractive in this public space. As far as I know, no one has done anything to my pics yet, but it has occurred to me.

I didn't even think of your see-saw picture. I kind of like it. Playful. ;)


While acknowledging the scrupulous fairness of your Derbyshire photo comments, there is another justification for its use.

Derbyshire is skilled with language. He takes pains in his piece to position himself somewhat as a twinkly old duffer twanging - as it were - our garter straps with his faux-merry references to Aniston's "unsupported bust" and "bristols".

I was inclined to give him a positively ageist benefit of the doubt when I assumed - from his arch vocabulary - that he was of advanced years.

The evidence of that unfortunate photo was more shocking for what it revealed about his true age rather than his lack of gorgeousness.

Here was NOT a slyly cackling grandpa by a long shot. But rather a man on the wrong side of any exculpating dotage.


Jody, interesting point -- there is an affected curmudgeonliness to his writing, isn't there?

Lauren, wow. This could be a whole other post -- probably should be. We should all be talking about this more. I think we're all awkwardly aware that those women who are perceived to be attractive in the blogosphere can draw a large audience on that alone. At the same time, a world where we ignore our bodies and our faces (our incarnational reality, as my seminary friends put it) is not ideal either.

It would be a good, if self-referential topic, for all of us with photos (or albums, or Flickr accounts): what do we imagine others see? What are the pitfalls of posting our pics?


I have no other commentary on the issue, but just a couple of clarifications. For the sake of self-disclosure I'll add that I am a regular reader of NRO and NRODT, and while I find myself disagreeing with Derbyshire's positions often, I like his writing style and honesty.

A. Derb is actually, IIRC, in his early sixties.

B. I agree with you regarding the use of his photo to mock the man. It's facile and pathetic. Derb himself, though, uses the photo often. You might find it interesting that he emails to photo to abusive emailers. It's from his NYS pistol permit.

Again, I disagree with Derbyshire on this particular issue and many others, but I do enjoy the man's writing. He is a British conservative (note, lower case "c"), and therefore is well out the the mainstream of even most American conservative writers. Derbyshire, for instance, is outspoken in the utter contempt he has for proponents of Intelligent Design. He thinks the war in Iraq is a colossal error, though he favored military action as a repriseal measure against Saddam Hussein (an old English tradition of warfare). You get the idea. He probably finds the brohaha (sp?) over his offhanded comment on Ms. Aniston's "Bristols" to be terribly amusing.

Andrew Sullivan claims to despise him, the two have a LOT in common. Obviously not their political opinions with regard to social issues. But even a casual reading of both writers reveals a similarity in humor, frankness and ways of looking at the world. They're both on my list of daily reads.

Just an observation. As always, Hugo, keep up the good work.


Hugo, I thought Sparklegirl's comment (which Lauren adopted) gets at a deeper layer: the consumer-product nature of objectification. John Derbyshire is not young and is not attractive (he could not argue based on his own appearance, for example, "men keep their looks better," the way someone like Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton could). He feels he can judge Aniston because he believes her physical appearance is a public performance, an entertainment product, for which he is the consumer. Now, that feeling is warranted: when I watch boxing, I criticize a talent like Zab Judah for his failings. I can't do any of what he does, and yet I do not hesitate to be critical. I feel that way because what he does _is_ a performance, for which I _am_ the audience.

Now, one could say that, for Jennifer Aniston, being sexually attractive to a large part of her audience is part of the job. But it seems to me that many men carry that over to the way they look at and talk about women who are not public figures, and whose jobs do not involve being sexually attractive.

I'm well aware that women look at men with a critical, appraising eye as well. What I'm skeptical of is whether they bring to it the same sense of entitlement.

ps Hugo, if my masculinity were constantly appraised by opponents the way yours has been, I would only allow myself to be photographed driving race cars, climbing mountains, and perhaps rescuing babies from burning buildings. I think it must take real strength not to be more defensive.


Thomas, you write: "I'm well aware that women look at men with a critical, appraising eye as well. What I'm skeptical of is whether they bring to it the same sense of entitlement."

An excellent observation. And thanks for the kind words. The photo of me running shirtless is as close as I'll go, though should I ever have occasion to be filmed rescuing a small child from a burning building, I shall post the image at once.


Just for the record, Hugo, I think the picture of you on the see-saw is adorable. If the MRAs don't like it, then it just shows they have no appreciation of palyful fun.


"The contemporary male fascination with the pubescent and the hairless is not defensible on evolutionary grounds."

You're not a biologist, right? Have you seen the strange things sexual evolutionary pressures select for in the animal realm? Neoteny is trivial by comparison, and there's good reason to think proto-humans selected for just that -- it's why we have realitively long lifespans and why we look like infant apes.

At what age did most women marry (or local equivalent) throughout human history? It's not exactly a contemporary male fascination. Look at the prototypical flapper in the 1920s. At what age would Mary (mother of Jesus) have been married?

I agree that most high school girls are not appealing. The current trends may be culturally induced, or they may be a return to long-term responses. I don't know that anyone has done the controlled studies to figure it out, and I'm not sure the controlled studies are either possible or ethical.


Rob, here's the census data on average age at women's first marriage by decade. Not sure how that affects your query.

1890: 22.0 years old
1900: 21.9
1910: 21.6
1920: 21.2
1930: 21.3
1940: 21.5
1950: 20.3
1960: 20.3
1970: 20.8
1980: 22.0
1990: 23.9
2000: 25.1

Medieval women -- excluding royalty -- got married much later than we imagine. The notion that Mary, mother of God, was an adolescent is a later assumption, unsupported by biblical evidence. That's not to say she wasn't young, but I've heard folks say "She was about 15" with remarkable assurance. Given that average age for menarche was a good deal higher in the human past than it is now... well, I think we have to be careful.

If you have any evidence that small breasts, narrow hips, and hairlessness are helpful reproductive qualities for women from the perspective of evolutionary biology, let's see it. It cuts against most evolutionary biology arguments...

Mr. Bad

Hugo, got a citation for those numbers you list? As a Ph.D., you should know better.

Also, I'm going to invoke mythago's rule, i.e., that "serial anecdote does not equal proof" and call bullshit on 90% of the stuff you say in your original post. I mean, come on, really, re. all the shaming 'guys are threatend by and afraid of adult women so they got for the children' blah blah blah? I've got news for you Big Fella: It ain't so for most of us. Shaved pubes? Who wants a mouth full of smelly hair? Firm breasts? Biology Dr. English major. Etc. You have so many things wrong in your post I just can't take the time to list them all right now, but I'm sure we've been over much of this before. About the only thing that you got right was the comment re. how tacky it is to get all snarky about a person's looks. I mean, really, feminists harshing on men's appearance? Can you say Andrea Dworkin? Sheesh. Amanda is (IMO) pretty cute, but for the most part the appearance of feminsits is nothing special.

Look, I know you're writing and pandering to your (mostly) female and feminist audience, but please don't generalize your own personal quirks onto the rest of us. The vast majority of us regular guys are not threatened by nor afraid of 'mature, adult women,' we're just not impressed with ordinary women who think they're hot shit. We may consider younger, firm women more attractive to saggy old bitties, but you have to remember that much - if not most - of the time, the saggy old bitty is also an insufferable harridan. The outside reflects the inside, for both the old and the young, and from my experience most of us men prefer women who aren't jaded b*tches.


here's the census data Was that not sufficient for a cite?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004