WASHINGTON -- Did you hear about the social scientist who studied Google searches, particularly porn, to determine how people think? It was outlined in an article on Vox.com. The scientist reached certain conclusions, many of which are surprising:
1. Women are disproportionately worried their husbands are gay. Men are disproportionately worried their wives are crazy.
2. Many men prefer overweight women to thin women and elderly women to women their age, but they are afraid to act on these desires, apparently because of the social stigma. And so they wind up in presumably less satisfying relationships with young, thin women.
3. A remarkably high percentage of straight women watch lesbian porn.
I invited my friend Gina Barreca, the feminist scholar, to discuss the findings.
Gina: I won't "discuss" them. I will "explain" them to you, and you won't speak unless called upon to do so.
Gene: Um, OK.
Gina: Good. I have very strong opinions here, and they are correct. First, the results are not in the least "surprising." They are quite intuitive. Let's take points one and two together. Both men and women fundamentally, down at the deepest level, want one thing more than anything else. What do you think that is?
Gina: Love. (Yes, Freud was only almost right.) And both men and women, when they feel unloved -- being humans and thus self-protective -- seek an explanation that absolves themselves of blame. Women assume that if their husbands don't love them enough, they must not be able to love any woman. Men assume that if their wives don't love them enough, it must be because they are buggier than a flophouse blanket. Following so far?
Gene: Yes. I don't disagree.
Gina: It is immaterial whether you disagree or not. I am stating the obvious here. You might as well be disagreeing that water is wet. OK, so we can see basic character traits developing here: Women blame the man, but they are blaming him in a loving way that absolves him of responsibility. He can't help the way nature made him, and a heartless society forced him into betraying who he is. Men? Not so compassionate and empathetic. He might be 5-3 and 200 pounds and brush his teeth once a month, but any woman who doesn't love him must be bonkers. See?
Gina: Never mind. Still immaterial. Now, on to the overweight thing. This finding brings me great joy. I'm finally in a hot demographic. Fat chicks who are old!
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Gene: You aren't fat.
Gina: I forgive that interruption. But I am fat, according to societal prejudices. We need to remember that liking pulchritude used to be a basic desire of men, and I'm not just talking about Flemish painters in 1631. The pin-up pictures you used to see on garage walls and the nose cones of World War II planes were women with flesh, not tiny little things who disappear when they turn sideways. Desire for voluptuous women is in the male genes. But civilization and its discontents (Freud again!) has made this difficult for men. I have a male friend who loves to ride a little dinky Vespa but is afraid to do it in case some other guy sees him. Still with me?
Gina: No problem. It's always been said that women dress not for men but to impress women, and that is true. Now, with this study, it seems likely that men enter into relationships not for women, but to impress men. Interesting. Pathetic. But it brings us to point three.
Gene: It does?
Gina: It does! Why are women watching lesbian porn? Because they are mostly average-size women, and bigger, who are not being courted by the men who really want and would really love them. This leaves them bitter and disappointed in men. But they are still hot to trot, and lesbian porn satisfies that -- it's about women getting sexually pleasured -- while conveniently taking the man out of the picture.
Gene: So basically, as you see it, this is all the fault of men?
Gina: Like you're shocked.
*... is for men to shut up and listen.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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