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Three Fallacies

Posted by Jew from Jersey
11 June 2021

The potato fallacy

Writing in Ynet on August 18, 2006, Ivan Krip launched a lengthy broadside against monogamy by comparing sex to food. “Imagine,” he said, “that you enjoy all sorts of foods, and all of a sudden you are forced to eat nothing but potatoes for the rest of your life.” The similarities between sex and food in this regard are quite obvious. Indeed, they are what make this analogy so powerful. And like all powerful analogies, it also helps clarify the differences between the two things being compared.

Imagine a man on his way home from work. He is physically and mentally tired. He is looking forward to the comforts of home, but will not pay much attention to his wife, who in any case will probably not pay much attention to him either. But when he opens what he thinks is the door to his apartment, he is met by a beautiful woman he has never seen before who welcomes him with open arms, serves him a sumptuous meal, and leads him to her bedroom where they make passionate love through the night, etc. Feeling rested and rejuvenated the next morning, he realizes that the recent stress and fatigue of work must have induced temporary amnesia, the woman he spent the night with was in fact his wife...

What is far-fetched about the above story is that amnesia rarely occurs in such a way, and wives seldom treat their husbands with such obliging focus. But the man’s happy reaction to these unlikely hypothetical events shouldn’t seem so unbelievable. Indeed, much of the trick in staying married lies precisely in learning how to “forget” one’s spouse in this way and treating him or her continuously as a new love interest. This is not the same as fantasizing that your significant other is someone else, in fact it is quite the opposite. It involves repeatedly rediscovering your attraction to your intended as well as making the same effort in yourself that you did when the relationship could not be taken for granted.

In any case, imagine a man who has eaten nothing but potatoes for a long time and no longer has any appetite. On his way home from work, he notices a new restaurant. He enters and is served an exotic dish he has never seen before. It smells tantalizing, tastes delicious, and he eats the entire portion with great enthusiasm. Feeling satiated and happy, he relaxes and realizes he has suffered temporary amnesia, he has in fact just eaten a plateful of potatoes, etc. Whether this scenario is likely or not, what is certain is that no matter how happy the man is after eating the “forgotten” potatoes, he will nonetheless soon develop symptoms of vitamin and protein deficiency and other forms of malnutrition, because potatoes are mostly starch and no amount of mental tricks will change that.

The difference between food and sex illustrated here, between monogamy and potatoes, between dietary nutrition and sexual nutrition, is not just that we do not physically die or become malnourished when restricting ourselves to one lover, but that we need not remain unsatisfied either, since so much of what we get out of sex depends on our perception of it. And yet, at first glance, this comparison with potatoes sounds convincing. Don’t be fooled! Call this “the potato fallacy”.

To note the “potato fallacy” is to observe that our psyche (and that of our lover) can nutritionally “enrich” the physical aspects of sex. This is indeed the art of love, and the beauty of it. We do not require outside “supplements” to our sex life the way we might take vitamin pills and fish oil capsules with our breakfast.

The Pavlovian fallacy

Now, after taking a minute to rejoice in our victory, we defenders of monogamy need to consider the obvious question: If sex is largely a matter of perception, do we even require its physical manifestation at all? Perhaps, by practicing the non-sexual trappings of marriage with the proper attitude, we can still obtain all of our sexual “nutrition” without any actual sex?

Imagine a man coming home from work hungry, seeing a new restaurant, etc. where he is served an empty plate but is somehow convinced that it contains delicious and nutritious food. No, better yet, consider a husband who comes to what he thinks is his own apartment, where a woman who might be his wife convinces him he is terribly happy even though they are not having sex. This is in fact what many wives would actually like to convince their husbands of, but it usually doesn’t work. Consider the following quote from a post by Reddit user “ConfuzzledWife” who says of her husband some time in 2015:

We have sex about once a month and honestly I hate it. I don't want to do it and don't see the point. he's happy if he thinks he's getting it that night which suggests a mental attitude adjustment.
She is in fact proposing treating her husband as Pavlov treated his dog. Pavlov trained his dog to expect food when hearing a bell ring, and then noted that the dog salivated and wagged its tail as soon as it heard the bell even though no food had yet appeared. Except that Pavlov presumably eventually fed the dog afterwards. ConfuzzledWife wishes to save on her dogfood bill by just ringing the bell and then letting her “dog” starve. She is suggesting that if the dog salivated and wagged its tail, that means it doesn’t really need the physical food at all. All it needs is “a mental attitude adjustment.”

The point in noting the “potato fallacy” is that our physical experience of sex is largely shaped by our physic experience of it. But presumably we still need some kind of physical experience or there’s not much to shape. Human sexuality differs from animal sexuality in that the object of our desire has a mental component. But it’s still a physical impulse.

ConfuzzledWife goes on to describe what a nice life her husband has: job, house, car, etc. and enumerates the many tasks she performs for him: cooking, ironing his clothes, etc. So does he really need the sex, too? To return to our restaurant analogy, if you are served a beautiful plate on a fine tablecloth with candlelight and perfect atmosphere, do you really need the actual meal? Strangely, it seems you do. Even Ivan Krip the polyamorist in his anti-monogamy bid likened monogamy to eating nothing but potatoes. He did not liken it to eating nothing at all. Call this “The Pavlovian fallacy”: We may not necessarily need more than one lover, but we still need at least one. Having a really good friend who cooks is a wonderful thing, but it is not the same as being married.

The artificial sunlight fallacy (women)

If sex is indeed a physical impulse realized through a psychic medium, does it actually require another human being of flesh and blood? There is a case to be made that we can satisfy this physical impulse and all of its emotional penumbra through either masturbation or incredibly intense fantasies which we experience through a vivid fascination with an image of someone whom we never really meet. There have always been people whose sex lives where limited to this kind of thing for lack of a choice, but there are now increasing numbers of people who choose this while avoiding real sex with those who would be their nearest and dearest.

The aforementioned ConfuzzledWife is what in the past was referred to as a “frigid” wife. To return to our restaurant analogy, imagine a man, no, a woman this time, who prefers to go hungry than to eat in a restaurant where the food is not up to her standards. She still wishes to spend time in the restaurant because it offers more social prestige than sitting on a park bench, it’s a shelter from bad weather outside, or some other non-food related reason. She grows frustrated with the waiter for insisting she order something. Why can’t the waiter just put a nice placemat on the table and be happy? Such a customer is certainly a jerk, but more importantly, where does she get her nutrients from? How long can she go hungry?

This frigid wife has been a commonplace since at least the industrial revolution, and became a staple of popular depictions of family life in the first half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, the term has all but disappeared, yet the phenomenon has all but not. The word “frigid” suggested that something was wrong with the wife, so to call women by this word now would offend contemporary sensibilities. It is now squarely the fault of their deficient husbands who are simply not attractive enough or are too selfish and infantile, etc. This blame shift is necessary so that we don’t have to admit that half a century of feminism has failed to deliver women from out of Betty Freidan’s comfortable concentration camp. Women are now supposed to be free to marry men they actually desire or else be happy remaining single. But two unforeseen problems blunt the victories of feminism: First, there are not enough desirable men to go around. Second, women who are not themselves attractive enough to marry the desirable men still want to marry, so they marry undesirable men. The results are as they always were, except now it’s the husbands’ fault. We no longer have frigid wives, only loser husbands.

But the question remains, whence do such wives derive their sexual satisfaction? Some find sex outside of marriage. But many do not. As we have seen, they may insist they don’t need sex and would be happy to live the rest of their lives without it. Would they really?

The rise of the frigid wife in the early 20th century coincided with the rise of mass media and above all, motion pictures. Monogamy could only work for women back when they could be convinced that the man they had was the best man they could realistically get. This is similar to how feudalism could only work when peasants could be convinced they were simply destined to remain forever peasants. Mass media and movies liberated women just as democracy and the market economy had liberated peasants. Suddenly, every woman had psychic access to truly desirable men. The powerful sensations and personalized dreams women experienced watching movies and reading magazines compensated for their lack of physical access. It turned them off of their loser husbands, but it also gave them an alternative source of “nutrients.” We might suspect these alternative nutrients are not quite as nutritious as the real thing, but they are tastier, enough so that many women will spit out the real stuff in preference for the imaginary tastier version. Sexual nutrition may require a physical substrate, but these women effectively prefer the hot fever of their own fantasies to the flesh and blood of their husbands.

So our customer who sits in the restaurant but refuses to order is in fact hiding junk food in her purse. She eats it stealthily under the table and lies to the waiter that she’s not hungry. The waiter suggests she leave the restaurant. The customer insists she loves the restaurant in every other way besides the food and suggests maybe she’ll get hungry later on... The waiter and the restaurant continue to suffer, but the customer seemingly has it all. Is there any argument to be made that she doesn’t?

Imagine a different woman. She lives in an underground bunker. She is provided with food, water, oxygen, electric light, and other amenities in a climate controlled environment. But she never goes above ground, never sees the sun, never breathes fresh air, sees a mountain or a river or a tree or hears the song of birds. She can view photos and movies of these things, has an ample supply of vitamin D, and she is happy when she imagines being above ground. Maybe she is so happy thinking about going above ground that she has no need to actually go there. All her physical needs are met by synthetic substitutes and all her psychic needs are met by pleasing images and thoughts.

It might appear that you can live, even live happily in a way, not seeing the sunlight or not having sex with a real person, but your life is diminished nonetheless. Unfortunately, is it very difficult to demonstrate that true sunlight is indeed necessary. Thus, the fallacy of assuming that artificial sunlight is just as good is particularly insidious. Your climate-controlled, nutrient-supplied subterranean home may in many ways really be more appealing than life above ground. The same sunlight we romanticize in poems can also give you sunburn or even skin cancer. The fresh air may be too hot or too cold or bear germs that make you sick. The actual scenery may not be as picturesque as in the images you have seen. The real food above ground may be difficult to obtain, may not contain all necessary nutrients, and may even be contaminated and poisonous. Your life expectancy, even your quality of life in any measurable way, may actually be better in the sunless bunker. Can you be blamed for refusing to venture above ground?

The artificial sunlight fallacy (men)

Until recently, it would have seemed laughable to imagine a man who lives with a woman but prefers sexual fantasies. It is only at the dawn of the 21st century that internet porn has achieved for men what movie star culture, romance novels and celebrity gossip publications achieved for women a century earlier: a readily available dream sexual life that is more intense and in a way more satisfying than the real thing. Internet porn is ubiquitous and highly varied and can now be obtained via any electronic device on earth at the touch of a finger for free and without revealing one’s identity. Within living memory, porn could only be obtained by going to certain locations and revealing oneself as a porn consumer. It also cost money and certain types of porn were very hard to find. Regular consumers of porn were a fringe group, the “raincoat brigade”. More discreet consumers had to physically hide porn in the form of stacks of magazines or videocassettes in dark corners of the house.

Husbands who masturbate to porn are in fact the male counterpart to frigid wives and it appears they are catching up in numbers. There is of course some difference between the two. Men’s fantasies tend to be briefer since when the fantasy reaches a certain critical threshold, they masturbate. In the long run, this will not make them happy, but it does keep a lid on their fantasies from one day to the next. There is no limit to the intensity and duration of a woman’s fantasies. But both will lie about the real reason they’re never “in the mood” and will string their spouses along indefinitely with false hope and promises.

Men remained in thrall to monogamy for approximately one hundred years after their wives had already checked out. The reason for this is that what men imagine themselves sacrificing in monogamy is not quality of women, but quantity. Of course, most men will never have much access to any quantity of women, just as most women will never be able to secure their preferred quality of man as a husband. But quantity means little to women. Even an ugly and worthless woman can secure a large number of male sex partners. And almost any woman can marry some husband, just not the one she wants. A wife will dream of a better husband if nothing tells her not to. And pop culture is all about dreams.

A husband thinks less of quality than you might gather because an obliging wife is actually the highest kind of quality there is. He will dream of quantity if nothing tells him not to, and until recently, pop culture was still telling him not to. Pop culture geared towards women has always been cheap and available everywhere and considered perfectly decent, while hardcore porn was harder to find and bore a very negative stigma. And if that were not sufficient to disabuse a man of his dreams, he had real women telling him to his face every day that in sexual terms, he was forever destined to remain a peasant. So he remained a vassal to sexual feudalism long after his wife saw no reason she should not be married to Prince Charming. This surely must be one reason men tend be more politically conservative than women, they learn early in life that most of what they want is impossible and in fact dangerous. Women never stop dreaming.

Women seldom experience the kind of explicit rejection that would serve to snap them out of their fantasies. Functionally speaking, they are constantly being rejected by all the men of their dreams who consistently don’t propose to them. But meanwhile, lesser men are lining up at their door, so they learn to take male desire for granted and can go on fantasizing that the next one is going to be a winner. They are being rejected by the very men that matter to them the most, but only silently, like the dog that didn’t bark. It is rare that any man makes a display of rejecting a woman, publically calling her fat, ugly, stupid, a slut, a bad mother, laughing at her anatomy, exposing her private communications, threatening to get someone to beat her up, reporting her to HR, or accusing her of rape. Women might have a very different outlook on life.

In the early days of cinematic porn, a man could fantasize about the women he watched, but only for brief moments that took time and effort to arrange. He couldn’t construct a seamless dream life out of it. Most of the time he had to deal with real women who had no qualms about putting him in his place. Consider also that until recently few women appeared in porn. Such women were known, somewhat derisively, as “porn stars” and their names were known even to the non-porn viewing public. But there are so many women in internet porn today that none can become widely known. And porn can be viewed surreptitiously, continuously, and at no cost or effort at all. Today a man can view more porn, and view more different women in porn, than all the women he can ever meet or even catch a glimpse of in his real life. For increasing numbers of men, the feedback loop of porn has overpowered the feedback loop of real women. And it’s a far more positive sort of feedback to begin with.

If there is on average more nutrition and health to be had underground in the sunless bunker than there is in the natural sunlit world above, then the individual who chooses the bunkered life is making a rational decision. Few women can hope to marry their modern-day prince who is as charming as the reigning celebrity. Once they realize this, they are in a sense right to hate sex with their husbands. And few men can obtain from real women the numerical abundance, diversity of acts, and ease of access offered by internet porn. With coming improvements in sex mannequins and robots, any advantage held by real women will wear thinner still.

Those of us who still insist on the superiority of real sexual relationships are in a weak position. We must try to appeal to some larger and more abstract sense of well-being. We can say: You are not fully human if you have never breathed fresh air, never felt the sun shine on your face, never heard birds sing, never touched the one you love who is in love with you, never overcome easy comfort and strived for something of your own. And maybe the growing millions of sun-starved male porn addicts pose something of a danger to the rest of us. Come to think of it, maybe the millions of loveless feminists and divorcees do, too.

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