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Goldthrowers (On The Social Construction of Bullshit)

December 10, 2008

We all know the stereotype: the “goldthrower.” The guy who spends profligately looking to attract female partners, whether he can afford it or not.

Wait … did you miss that one? Me too.

But we all know what a “golddigger” is.

There’s a report out about an article in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. Let me stop there and break that down.

First, reporting on science is almost uniformly terrible. In order to make for a good story, reporters make wild leaps that the researchers explicitly don’t; dumb down the concepts, ignore the limitations of the methodology, or even run stories as though some side issue in the research is the actual finding.

Second, Evo Psych is nonsense on stilts. They observe behavior, and they tell a story explaining how it’s a result of an evolutionary imperative. Some comedians employ the same methodology. But when professional comedians do it, it’s funny.

But with those rather significant caveats in mind, I give you this. Apparently, men are “hardwired” to spend to attract mates because, somehow, some pre-consumer society behavior that developed before agriculture magically transmogrified directly to behavior at the mall. And the scientists are in no way simply imposing a “just-so story” on their observations. At least not any more so than is standard in their field.

This is worthless in and of itself. People who don’t understand science tell us something about the findings of a discipline that is pseudoscience.

But it is interesting from the standpoint of understanding how our culture comes to a consensus on a narrative for certain behaviors. A man spends a lot of money to impress a potential sex partner. These evo psych people say he’s doing the equivalent of displaying plummage, and he can’t really do otherwise. That would make him a “goldthrower.” But we don’t have a cultural narrative of goldthrowing. We have a cultural narrative of how women use their sexuality to tempt and extract material gain from men, a “golddigger.”

We have a golddigger narrative and not a goldthrower narrative for a lot of complicated reasons, but here’s a big one. Men are the subjects in our cultural narratives, and women react around them. When we posit the atomic, rational individual, in this culture that is (as it was explicitly in law until a generation ago) a “rational man.” The “rational man” isn’t some base primate who does maladaptive things, so we offload the unflattering narrative onto women. There’s more to it than that, but I’ve reached the optimal mix of mockery and serious commentary, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

h/t Zuzu

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2008 12:50 pm

    OMG I loved this!

    Men are the subjects in our cultural narratives, and women react around them.

    I understand this to be the classic statement of “men as the default,” but the words you use above–I would not have thought of previously! I have recently termed it “women as pathological.”

  2. December 18, 2008 2:39 am

    Thanks for this–I blogged about it:
    http://impossibletospell.com/2008/12/18/bloggers-1-evolutionary-psycology-0/

    (I do hope this is also your trackback form…)

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