April 11, 2012

Debunking Claims about the Biology of Male Attraction to Teens {featured news}

National Review columnist John Derbyshire was fired this past weekend for his appalling remarks about blacks. But, notes gender studies professor, writer, and speaker Hugo Schwyzer, Derbyshire has expressed appalling remarks about women too, insinuating that women’s attractiveness begins to diminish before they’re old enough to buy a legal beer. Explains Schwyzer today at Role/Reboot: Derbyshire wrote in 2005 that “a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's—really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20."

In his refreshingly sharp column, Schwyzer debunks the argument that evolutionary psychology or biological imperatives bear Derbyshire out; the idea that men’s ephebophilia (sexual attraction to teens) is a “lamentably universal inevitability.” In response to a note Schwyzer received from a 33 year-old man, David, who expressed a desire to turn off his frequent attraction to high school girls, Schwyzer explains that:
The first step is seeing that this attraction is less about biology than about conditioning. David needs to see that he lives in a culture that works very hard to condition him to see girls of 16 and 17 as being at the pinnacle of desirability. ... David isn’t a victim, but he can acknowledge that his sexual desires have been shaped by an unhealthy culture. Those who misunderstand evolutionary psychology like to suggest that it’s “natural” for older men to be drawn to teen girls because of fertility issues, ignoring the reality that for many 16 and 17 year-olds, pregnancies are often much higher-risk than they will be a few years later. 
Schwyzer's column, which further enlightens the reader on what causes men's attraction to teens and how men can overcome it, as well as this powerful and personal post at his eponymous blog, which offers another sharp rebuttal of biological claims about men's attraction to adolescents, are worth reading in their entirety. They also serve as an important counter-response to the film Are All Men Pedophiles?, which premiered last month; a film that feeds on biological and cultural claims:
We live in a society that condemns pedophiles, though biological instinct and world cultures throughout history suggest that an attraction to adolescents is as natural as it is unavoidable. The fashion industry on the one hand sexualizes ever-younger girls while those who act on these instincts are reviled. The apparent hypocrisy at the heart of society forces the question: What do we mean when we talk about Pedophilia? Are All Men Pedophiles?
Schwyzer's column and post give a resounding NO to that question. From the latter:
The contemporary male fascination with the pubescent and the hairless is not defensible on evolutionary grounds. It’s all too obviously, as I’ve pointed out in my many prior posts about older men and younger women, about power. Men who are threatened by adult women with adult needs, adult desires, and adult voices will invariably direct their sexual energy towards the young, the vulnerable, the "green", the safe. The obsession with the still-developing adolescent (remember, Derbyshire includes fifteen year-olds) is about what Barbara Ehrenreich calls the male "flight from responsibility." What is appealing about the young and the virginal is not firm flesh, it’s a fragile and still-unformed sense of self that an older man imagines he can mold. The virginal and the young are "unspoiled", not yet "bitter" from bad experiences with men. Older men also eroticize youth because they long to be the first — and thus safe from unflattering comparisons to a woman’s previous lovers. The obsession with virginity and youth is inextricably linked not only to fear of adult women and the challenges they offer, but also to a profound insecurity.


  1. Men are attracted to women. It doesn't make them rapists, or even dangerous. I'm attracted to fast cars too, but I don't steal them. People should be judged on their actions, not on what goes on in their minds.


  2. Really Great blog. Looking forword more update.



  3. Nice post.Thank you for sharing some good things!!

  4. It's amazing (except that it isn't) how much some people can galvanize silly fears by projecting their own often unacknowledged misunderstandings or even problems onto an ignorant and complicit society. Then let's throw in some pseudo-evolution to make it look scientific.

    Hugo Schwyzer's phrase "prurience hiding behind the cloak of science" indicates it well. Moreover, this is still a society which encourages females to be sexual and then condemns their sexual being --- a society which encourages them to act sexual and forbids them sexual acts.


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