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SCIENCE FACT: Douchebags Treat Girls Like Crap, Do Not Care

Hey, remember when I was really into SCIENCE? SCIENCE! It teaches us things! Well, it’s back, my friends, with some extra special groundbreaking knowledge that you could never, not ever, not in your wildest dreams, have figured out already:

Men are more likely to think of women as objects if they have looked at sexy pictures of females beforehand, psychologists said yesterday.

Researchers used brain scans to show that when straight men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated.

Scans of some of the men found that a part of the brain associated with empathy for other peoples’ emotions and wishes shut down after looking at the pictures.

What? No! Gasp! Etcetera. Yet it is true: most of the men studied viewed attractive female bodies as objects to be used, and some were seemingly incapable of viewing those women as human beings at all. In a shocking demonstration of how SCIENCE, particularly SCIENCE OF THE BRAIN, is totally objective and always reveals deeply natural and unchangeable facts about How People Are which have nothing to do with cultural context, the men most affected by this were determined to be the men who were most deeply entrenched in male privilege! For lo, so it did come to pass:

In the final part of the study, Fiske asked the men to fill in a questionnaire that was used to assess how sexist they were. The brain scans showed that men who scored highest had very little activity in the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions that are involved with understanding another person’s feelings and intentions. “They’re reacting to these women as if they’re not fully human,” Fiske said.

Again: what? No! Gasp! If only there were some extensive body of theory which had anticipated, interpreted, and suggested corrective measures for this phenomenon, and had connected it to the study of various cultural, political and historical factors, in order to create an overarching theory of the relation between the sexes and its political implications! “Sexism,” we’d call it. Or, wait, no… “menimism?” Whatever. The name isn’t important. The point is that we’ve got to get to work on creating this field of “genderbasedoppressionism” right away, because in the two (two!) articles reporting on this study, there is no mention of such a body of work.

Hey, here is a fun game that you can play at home: can you find sexism in the coverage of the “sexism: it exists” story? I will help you. Check out the lead, for example: “men are (1) more likely to (2) treat women as objects if they have looked at pictures of (3) sexy females beforehand.” Wow: it’s like the sexy females are making men do this, although there seems to have been no study of how those men reacted to the women in their environments after exposure to the pictures, and no research into whether they reacted to pictures and ladies the same way! You know who will be most affected by this? Women – good, decent, hardworking women who do not trigger the same kind of objectifying, dehumanizing response in the men around them (these scientists seem to have sort of assumed) because they do not show off their boobies and thereby make men sexist. Conclusion: this dehumanizing response, which is directed at overtly sexual women, is in no way primarily dangerous to said overtly sexual women, and is in fact all their fault. Cherchez la man-stealing whorebag who brings it all on herself, as the saying goes.

Anyway, knowing as I do how every single study that deals with gender difference is picked up by twenty-nine different news services and eventually spun into some reductive thinkpiece in the New York Times (thank you, Google Alerts), I am super excited. I’m looking forward to the “WOMEN DETERMINED TO BE SCREWDRIVERS BY MORE RATIONAL MALE BRAIN” dispatches from the Po-Dunk Sun-Dispatch, the various puns (“WOMEN: MEN JUST WANT TO SCREW YOU”) from bloggers, the 97,000-word NYTM feature article “WHAT DO MEN WANT? TO TREAT YOU LIKE DOO-DOO,” and, of course, the Cosmo piece about how, if you really want to please your man, you’ll arrange for the hot new surgical treatment known as “decapitation,” because:

When they took a memory test afterwards, the men best remembered images of bikini-clad women whose heads had been digitally removed.

Unless, of course, this particular study – which actually sort of points out the sexism, rather than normalizing it like 97% of the other gender studies I read about every day – sort of disappears into the ether, and is quickly followed by some article about how doing housework makes your vagina tighter and more pleasing to the eye. But, no, that would never happen. This is science journalism we’re talking about, right? How could it be anything less than fair?


  1. Jottie wrote:

    Here via Shakesville, just wanted to say fabulous post.

    I certainly wish this story would get picked up. Although, as you rightly pointed out, I'm sure that if it did, it wouldn't be used to talk about the way sexism & misogyny permeate our cultures and poison people's minds. Good lord, when can we have that conversation front & center in the "Times Magazine"??

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Blue Sky wrote:

    I have nothing of any depth to add, but this makes me think of the Flight of the Concords song, with the line “I want to tell her how hot she is, but she’ll think I’m being sexist. She’s so hot she’s making me sexist”. I really hope it is meant to be subversive!

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  3. Siobhan wrote:

    Do you know if they showed non-decapitated women? The study seems to focus on only the response to the decapitated women.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  4. Sady wrote:

    @Jottie: I know, it’s kind of crazy how this is really ONLY getting focus on feminist blogs. I think there was one additional article in the Daily Mail or something. But I’ve noticed that there is this pressure, in the media, not to lend focus or give legitimacy to things like sexual objectification, because there’s a pressure to regard that as somehow “old news,” relevant only to those middle-aged Boomer feminists (that we were so repeatedly, insistently told were over-the-hill and irrelevant during HRC’s campaign – as if their contributions and concerns had no relevance to our culture today, because who cares about women once they’ve left the culturally approved fifteen-through-thirty Range of Sexy Ages?) and more on fun, sexy, vaguely sell-out-Paglian “feminism” about how maybe women just think rape is really HOT! Because that sells, because it’s “edgy” and “current,” because big old commercialism backlash puke.

    @Blue Sky: Damn my boobies, making sexism happen. Sexism: it wouldn’t be a problem, if there were no women! THE MORE YOU KNOW.

    @Siobhan: They said “more likely to remember,” I think, so I’m guessing yes? It’s vaguely phrased, though, I agree. There also seems to be two factors going on, as far as I can tell: how they responded, and how they remembered the images. So I really wish we could get some coverage that unpacked this further.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    great post

    Monday, May 4, 2009 at 5:29 am | Permalink