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Dr. Ruth Thinks Men are Monsters

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Dr. Ruth is the 87-year old sex columnist who has been dispensing mostly common sense and scientifically accurate advice to people for the past several decades. That run has come to an end this week when she went on the record as believing that the Jewish holy text the Talmud has guided her to think that men, by their very nature, are uncontrollable animals. Because of this, women should never be naked in a room with them lest they end up raped.

She said she was very worried that a man and a woman could be naked in bed together and at some point the woman could say she changed her mind about having sex.

Now, obviously this isn’t a rare viewpoint. The strange thing is that Dr. Ruth is an extremely intelligent person with a whole lot of education in sexual psychology, but when it comes to this topic, for some reason, she abandons her education in favor of her religious training.

Usually the reaction to this sort of comment is to defend women, which is a perfectly good reaction! This is the sort of thinking that leads to women being victim-blamed, putting the responsibility for whatever happens to them on them and not the rapist.

But the other angle is how incredibly dehumanizing this thinking is for men. I know that as a woman, I would be incredibly insulted if someone said that a man should never be naked in front of a woman because she may just go crazy and, say, anally fist him. Or, yes, force him to have penis-in-vagina intercourse against his will. What if being in someone’s presence meant that no matter what, you consented for them to do whatever they most wanted to do to you? It’s ridiculous.

And so men should be insulted, as well.

There have been some very interesting studies on how well people — particularly men — can control themselves while aroused. And some of them do show an interesting effect. Dan Ariely’s study, “Heat of the Moment,” found that when they’re masturbating, men were more likely to report sexual attraction to things they found off-putting when not aroused, and they were more likely to admit an interest in immoral behaviors to get sex. He also found that they weren’t very well able to predict those changes before masturbating.

It’s an interesting study, but it was only done on 35 students who self-reported, though admittedly the method of self-reporting was really interesting, since it involved a special program on a laptop that was covered in plastic and sent home with the students.

Plus, the study was about desires, and not behaviors. As a million different porn categories will make clear, our desires don’t always, or even often, match up with our behaviors.

But this study and others like it don’t at all suggest that men are driven to rape based on uncontrollable sexual desire that transforms them into animals. That’s a myth that comes not from science, but from religion and cultural fairy tales. Men, like women, are ultimately in control of their behaviors. Dr. Ruth would do well to take a few refresher classes to get up to date on our current understanding of human psychology. Being 87-years old isn’t an excuse: if you’re old enough to give interviews and dish out sex advice, you’re old enough to sit in a classroom and learn something new.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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7 Comments

  1. June 10, 2015 at 4:16 pm —

    It occurs to me that this is exactly the same thinking that leads Islamic societies to wrap women up like mummies. Religion does strange things to the mind, even if it belongs to someone who has otherwise shown herself to be rational.

  2. June 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm —

    I am a straight man and I have been in the presence of attractive, naked women several times in my life, sometimes in bed with them just sleeping. I just realized that I have consistently forgotten to rape them.
    How can I have only found out about this in my 40’s? How can I even consider myself a man after realizing that I have been shirking my manly duties all this time? I shall commence drooling and masturbating publicly over underwear ads right away. I can only hope it will be enough to redeem my masculinity.

    Thanks, Dr. Ruth.

  3. June 10, 2015 at 7:01 pm —

    Thank you for making this point.

    The thing that stops me arguing it is that it’s more likely to piss people off than work when a man does it. And there are lots of men who agree – all the misogynist crotchwads who make the same point as part of their victim-blaming spiel. In progressive circles I might get Schrodinger’s Rapist, or people just go #notallmen and write off the man making that argument. Which are valid points, but also avoid the argument.

    In the specific context of this kind of written advice Dr Ruth doesn’t have the “I’m angry about sexual violence” defence, it’s blatantly misandric nonsense. But then, she’s explicitly saying that it’s nonsense when she links it to her tribal mythology so we should probably just be grateful that she’s not arguing for prosecuting women who show hair in public for indencency.

  4. June 10, 2015 at 11:00 pm —

    What a fantastic video with a lot of very important points. Particularly the one about most rapes being targeted, premeditated offenses.

    That study you cited in your video was very interesting as well. Anecdotally speaking, I can relate to the issue. Impulsive sexual behavior and the consequences thereof has been a big driving force of my depression over the years.

    And also, “conducting studies” is officially my new favorite euphemism!

  5. June 11, 2015 at 12:11 am —

    Well, Davd sees Bathsheba on the rooftop. So the poor liddle dear just can’t help arranging her husband’s death so he can knock her up with the future king: Solomon.

    Nobody thought to ask or report what Bathsheba thought of any of this.

    Biblical Family Values triumph again.

    • June 11, 2015 at 2:02 pm —

      I’m pretty sure that story is intended to mean that even heroes and holy men are flawed. #ReadingComprehensionFTW

      But yeah, what about all those men who say seeing _insert taboo part of a woman’s body_ will distract them from their prayers? And you have people like the Duggars who will even say their own daughters tempted their son. It’s almost like saying men are uncontrollable is just there to provide a defense for rapists.

  6. June 11, 2015 at 6:57 pm —

    Snort.. She would do well to spend like 5 minutes looking up “naturism”, never mind actually finding out what does, and doesn’t go on in places where its practiced. I mean, by her logic, such places must have 24/7, year round orgies, since there is never a case without men and women being naked in the same place/room in them.

    This is, of course, a perfect example of why some of us say, “You can’t be religious and actually be a good scientist (or, in this case expert).” Best case, the category if things you are a total clueless twit about will be in some field that no one will ever, possibly, ask you to comment on, or bother to believe you over someone else about. Worst case – you F up so completely, absolutely, and absurdly, in your own field, that any and all credibility you might have had on the subject must be called into question. Being some where between these two extremes is **just as bad**, if not worse, in some ways, than being on either extreme, because, in the first case, some clown invariably will ask you a question about the thing you know nothing about, and believe the answer (especially if it supports their own delusional nonsense), but… all points between, undermine, to what ever extent they apply, everything you do as a professional.

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