Ming the Mechanic:
Body pleasure and the origins of violence

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 Body pleasure and the origins of violence2007-02-17 00:30
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I have long held the view that one can gauge the sanity of a society by looking at its prevalent attitudes towards sex, and towards women and children. That is, the more repressive and controlling it is about anything that relates to sex, the more violent and perverted the society behaves.

I should note that I don't mean it in the way that crusaders for morals and family values do, but pretty much the opposite. Campaigns for 'protecting the children' are usually exactly the opposite of what they claim to be, and are intended both to take away the rights of children, and to thwart nature into a perverse religious ideal of how things are supposed to be. If the prevalent view is that 'children' are anybody under 18, and that they have no right to an opinion, and that they need to be sheltered from sex and nudity and bad words, and that male children should be circumcised, and parents need to guard the chastity of their children, and sex education should be replaced with chastity pledges, etc. - then I say we're talking about a violent and oppressive society that tends to bring people up to be equally neurotic and violent control freaks. And if the prevalent view is that bare breasts are evil, and that women have no right to choose whether they'll have a baby or not, and they have no rights to freely choose who to have sexual relations with or not, such as when prostitution is illegal, for example, or when certain kinds of sex are illegal - we're again talking about a society that tends towards violence.

In general I would expect people to be most happy and sane, individually and collectively, in countries where sex is a normal and healthy activity, and nobody's trying to stop it. Countries where people are free to say the words they like to say, where the age of consent is low, where they're free to watch porn movies, walk around naked, be sex workers, etc. Which is pretty much how it works out, as you'll find countries like Denmark and the Netherlands at the top of most studies of happiness, and towards the bottom in terms of violence.

But I hadn't seen any official studies that linked these things together. I.e. attitude towards sex related to how violent a society is. So I'm happy to run into the paper Body pleasure and the origins of violence, by James W. Prescott. It appeared in 1975 in The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, of all places. Thanks, Erik, for mentioning it. That is a fabulous article, and it is exactly what I'm talking about.
"A neuropsychologist contends that the greatest threat to world peace comes from those nations which have the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality."
Yes, indeed. And, as he says:
As a developmental neuropsychologist I have devoted a great deal of study to the peculiar relationship between violence and pleasure. I am now convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence. Laboratory experiments with animals show that pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship, that is, the presence of one inhibits the other. A raging, violent animal will abruptly calm down when electrodes stimulate the pleasure centers of its brain. Likewise, stimulating the violence centers in the brain can terminate the animal's sensual pleasure and peaceful behavior. When the brain's pleasure circuits are 'on,' the violence circuits are 'off,' and vice versa. Among human beings, a pleasure-prone personality rarely displays violence or aggressive behaviors, and a violent personality has little ability to tolerate, experience, or enjoy sensuously pleasing activities. As either violence or pleasure goes up, the other goes down.
It shouldn't be such a big surprise. Seems kind of obvious. Deprive people of pleasure, and violence increases. Because pleasure is an awfully important thing. It is not everything, but to a large degree our lives is a quest for pleasure, in all its senses. Meaning, we're trying to do good, feel good, arrange things in the best possible way, be happy and fulfilled. And pleasure is nature's way of saying you're doing the right thing. And pain it its way of saying that you aren't. And violence is in principle what one might resort to when one is stopped from pursuing one's path of happiness.

Now, as to children:
The reciprocal relationship of pleasure and violence is highly significant because certain sensory experiences during the formative periods of development will create a neuropsychological predisposition for either violence-seeking or pleasure-seeking behaviors later in life. I am convinced that various abnormal social and emotional behaviors resulting from what psychologists call 'maternal-social' deprivation, that is, a lack of tender, loving care, are caused by a unique type of sensory deprivation, somatosensory deprivation. Derived from the Greek word for 'body,' the term refers to the sensations of touch and body movement which differ from the senses of light, hearing, smell and taste. I believe that the deprivation of body touch, contact, and movement are the basic causes of a number of emotional disturbances which include depressive and autistic behaviors, hyperactivity, sexual aberration, drug abuse, violence, and aggression.
Now think about the many religious people who think that the Bible tells them that they're supposed to beat their children, and it is good for them. I have too many times accidentally turned on the TV in the US on some evangelic channel and seen a mother with tears in her eyes describe how she's doing her Christian duty by spanking her child, even though she thinks it is hard, and the preacher telling her to keep going, as she's doing the right thing. OK, maybe I've only seen that 3 or 4 times, but that was 3 or 4 times too much. There's no excuse for violence against children. And those would be the same parents who now would drag their children to chastity camps, filling their little heads with strange, perverted ideas.
Certain variables which reflect physical affection (such as fondling, caressing, and playing with infants) were related to other variables which measure crime and violence (frequency of theft, killing, etc.). The important relationships are displayed in the tables. The percent figures reflect the relationships among the variables, for example, high affection/low violence plus low affection/high violence. This procedure is followed for all tables.

Societies ranking high or low on the Infant Physical Affection Scale were examined for degree of violence. The results (Table 1) clearly indicated that those societies which give their infants the greatest amount of physical affection were characterized by low theft, low infant physical pain, low religious activity, and negligible or absent killing, mutilating, or torturing of the enemy. These data directly confirm that the deprivation of body pleasure during infancy is significantly linked to a high rate of crime and violence.

Some societies physically punish their infants as a matter of discipline, while others do not. We can determine whether this punishment reflects a general concern for the infant's welfare by matching it against child nurturant care. The results (Table 2) indicate that societies which inflict pain and discomfort upon their infants tend to neglect them as well. These data provide no support for the prescription from Proverbs (23: 13-14): "Withhold not chastisement from a boy; if you beat him with the rod, he will not die. Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world."
He follows up with some charts categorizing different societies as to how high or low physical affection towards infants relate to high or low degrees of physical violence amongst adults. Which makes a pretty clear case for the correlation. There are other factors, like, the beneficial effects of high infant physical affection can be negated by the repression of physical pleasure (premarital sex) later in life. And vice versa, low infant physical affection would be counteracted by liberal attitudes towards physical pleasure later in life.

And, as to premarital or extramarital sex:
I also examined the influence of extramarital sex taboos upon crime and violence. The data clearly indicates that punitive-repressive attitudes toward extramarital sex are also linked with physical violence, personal crime, and the practice of slavery. Societies which value monogamy emphasize military glory and worship aggressive gods.

These cross-cultural data support the view of psychologists and sociologists who feel that sexual and psychological needs not being fulfilled within a marriage should be met outside of it, without destroying the primacy of the marriage relationship.

Premarital sexual freedom for young people can help reduce violence in a society, and the physical pleasure that youth obtains from sex can offset a lack of physical affection during infancy. Other research also indicates that societies which punish premarital sex are likely to engage in wife purchasing, to worship a high god in human morality, and to practice slavery.
Lots of other aspects in this. Like, rape.
It is my belief that rape has its origins in the deprivation of physical affection in parent-child relationships and adult sexual relationships; and in a religious value system that considers pain and body deprivation moral and physical pleasure immoral. Rape maintains man's dominance over woman and supports the perpetuation of patriarchal values in our society.
And notice the way many young men, in the U.S. particularly, talk about women. You know, "whores" and "bitches". I have certainly done no scientific study, but I find it shocking how many male teenagers have a rape-oriented attitude towards women. That they're just worthless whores who're asking for it. Many men can't talk about attractive women without including a putdown. And this sort of strange dynamic of desiring something that you at the same time are putting down, or that you hate, that's not a healthy thing. That's where, at the ultimately end of the scale, you find serial killers who kill prostitutes, because they're ashamed of themselves, and, almost invariably, because they were mistreated as children by strict, typically religious parents.

So, any positive place this can go?
If we accept the theory that the lack of sufficient somatosensory pleasure is a principal cause of violence, we can work toward promoting pleasure and encouraging affectionate interpersonal relationships as a means of combatting aggression. We should give high priority to body pleasure in the context of meaningful human relationships. Such body pleasure is very different from promiscuity, which reflects a basic inability to experience pleasure. If a sexual relationship is not pleasurable, the individual looks for another partner. A continuing failure to find sexual satisfaction leads to a continuing search for new partners, that is, to promiscuous behavior. Affectionately shared physical pleasure, on the other hand, tends to stabilize a relationship and eliminate the search. However, a variety of sexual experiences seems to be normal in cultures which permit its expression, and this may be important for optimizing pleasure and affection in sexual relationships.

Available data clearly indicate that the rigid values of monogamy, chastity, and virginity help produce physical violence. The denial of female sexuality must give way to an acceptance and respect for it, and men must share with women the responsibility for giving affection and care to infants and children. As the father assumes a more equal role with the mother in child-rearing and becomes more affectionate toward his children, certain changes must follow in our socioeconomic system. A corporate structure which tends to separate either parent from the family by travel, extended meetings, or overtime work weakens the parent-child relationship and harms family stability. To develop a peaceful society, we must put more emphasis on human relationships.
Yep, but there would be a long way to go for certain societies. Like, well, the United States, and most of the Middle East, the most violent and aggressive countries you can find.

But it's a long way, and there isn't necessarily signs of progress. Just today, this news item. The superior court in Alabama has upheld the ban on sex toys. That is, it is illegal to sell vibrators, becaues it is considered obscene to suggest that people might pleasure themselves. But semi-automatic assault riffles, and plenty of ammo, you can of course find that in plenty of local stores.


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12 comments

17 Feb 2007 @ 01:31 by bushman : Hmm
Saw this show last thursday, I was about these apes that make love, not war. Was pretty intresting, since chimps tend to kill and fight, but these apes, if one gets rilled up, they just have sex with him/her, no age limits, the moms run the show, and the fathers never know who is thier kid, so they dont kill the babies. They just have lots of sex, gender is not important as the act of sex, and so they dont fight. The reserchers found that its a food issue with chimps, but these other apes have more food than they can eat, so they dont need to fight over females or food, and so evolved, into a non violent spicies, that solves its disputes with sex.
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18 Feb 2007 @ 11:59 by jmarc : Interesting and well written
but for three thinly veiled anti-american comments. Bravo.


From this mornings other readings, I find, shock of shocks, that it isn't only in the U.S. where violence exists.

No, it's just reported on more here in the States.

A Gang Beating on Paris Streets. A Funeral for a Jew Tortured to Death in Paris Suburbs. A Meeting with No Meaning. A Plane Hijacking That Did Not, In the End, End Somewhere in Paris.

And from elsewhere:
"It is impossible to make a Norwegian say that Americans are intelligent", notes a Norwegian author of a book on anti-Americanism. Asked whether it didn't mean "anything that 70 percent of the Nobel Prize winners in history have been Americans", he responds: "No, it does not help. Even if all Americans were professors, we would call them stupid." Why? "Because by speaking negatively about them, we elevate ourselves. It confirms that we are the opposite. We Europeans have refinement, culture, and intellectual life. To think this way raises our image of ourselves."

The litany continues. America gorges itself on fatty fast food, wallows in tawdry mass entertainment, starves the arts and prays only to one God: Mammon.



And some wonder why Americans ignore and even sometimes detest European views: Sarajevo is closer to Paris than New York is to Saint Louis, and European let a genocide continue for almost a decade waiting for people to cross an ocean to end it, and yet they’ll stand there and call anyone else the epithet that Europe made famous as the cost of 52 million dead. They call Americans “Nazis”, and conceal their view from their own obsessive delusions which give them license to blame others.The Fuse is Lit




Still, I liked the article.
The author's bias is, once understood, easy enough to overlook.  



18 Feb 2007 @ 13:43 by ming : Anti-American
Well, there's certainly senseless violence and street gangs and crime in Denmark, and car burnings in France. Just like there are abusive parents just about anywhere. It is a question of degrees, of general trends, rather than absolutes.

But, now I think of it, the concept of "anti-American" is kind of interesting, because nothing like it exists in European countries. There's no concept of anti-Danish. That would be a senseless idea in Denmark. Or anti-French. There are people in France protective of their language and their culture, but there's no idea that one can be anti-French. Both in France and Denmark, people would criticize their country and their government endlessly, but nobody's going to accuse them of being unpatriotic. Rather, it is considered a healthy element of public dialogue.

The places where you find such an idea, other than in the United States are in communist countries, where you can be anti-Revolutionary, or something like that. Or in the Middle East, where you can be anti-Semitic in Israeli eyes, or where Muslim countries certainly have the idea that you can be anti-Islamic, or whatever they call it, and that you probably should hang for it. It is a powerful device to have such a concept, but not particularly healthy.  



20 Feb 2007 @ 14:18 by rayon : All emcompassing and
and all excluding articles. It is a collection of information like skimming the tops of wheat grain heads from a whole field of wheat. And then saying Ah we have grains and we do know not from which stalk they grew, but never mind, let us build a nice big thesis just on these grain heads. We will leave out the sky, stalks, hedgerows, rain, sun, shadow, birds, bees, earth, farmer, scientist growing the seed wheat, tractors, combine harvesters, fertiliser, big weeds, cows, all animals. Sweeping statements all of them.

It is to do with the order of things. One energy is a natural precursor to the development of the next, and the next etc.

Consumerism is not interesting in the natural order of things. So it will keep large sections of society within one realm of energy manifestation and build an entire thesis applicable to the all the other realms of energy manifestation, or so it says. This shows the terrible perniciousness of blind science. They have removed the essential and traditional forms of education and maturation for our young (to make more money)(increase class divisions)give them false food with few enzymes and vits, and then say Hah, those bodies do not function properly, do not love properly, do not speak or think properly. They also remove people in question from their "Society's norms" leaving out the good bits, in the name of generalisation.

To allow promiscuity to young people is to sow for certain the deep seeds of Loneliness for ever if not giving too gift wrapped a "predisposition to organ cancer" (proved and known). This is in no way a recommended substitute for a lack of motherly love. This is balderdash and piffle and if an article this long can solemnly pronounce this then the rest of it is not worth the energy pixles it flashes with.  



20 Feb 2007 @ 16:40 by ming : Encompassing
Hahah, ok. But that sentence fragment of "to allow promiscuity to young people" catches my eye.

I don't think it is the job of governments or even of parents to "allow" or "disallow" sexuality. I don't believe in slavery. It was a bad idea, and I don't think it is any better idea if it is disguised as other kinds of authority. People don't own other people. You don't own them even if they're the subjects you are governing, you don't own them if you're married to them, and I don't even think you own your own kids.

So, whether we should "allow" somebody to be gay, or to have sex, or to whip themselves with a rubber hose - I don't think that's a valid discussion. That's like if I hold a gun to your head and I try to decide if I should "allow" you to live. I have greatly overstepped my authority if I'm in such a position, whatever my authority might be.

I don't think there can be any other choice than to allow other people to live. And if you think otherwise, then it is probably you who's the criminal.

A society needs some common rules in order to live together. Drive in the right side of the street, don't be a nuisance to other people, etc. But when it comes to regulating people's private lives, and particularly their love lives, for exclusively moral reasons, that's a totally different matter. Almost all existing societies go much too far in that direction. Which is where I agree that this is one of the major reasons for why this is such a violent planet.

Disallowing and punishing love and affection isn't some kind of great character building device. It's a perverted religious belief, in my opinion. Make them suffer now, and they'll appreciate it later.  



20 Feb 2007 @ 17:40 by Nraye @80.176.105.234 : Your are right
It is not the job of governments to decide such matters at all. Ming, one should not be bothered what some do, but we should be bothered about protecting those that do not and could not know any better. A child (immature person) needs unconditional affection. The natural order of the development of energies within a person, is described yogically, is described Christianally as having particular meaning, one leading to another, to another. If this natural phenonema is abused for its own sake which an under age person can only do, they cut short the natural developmental pattern inherent or possible, like doing yoga over a period of time. It is not at all about punishing. Cutting short the developmental process by allowing whatever, will be the event leading to violence later because the natural developmental process has been stopped. The person feels different. The lack of fulfilled love or incapacities or whatever, leads to violence. Violence against others is really against the self in the end. If something is abused, sooner or later it starts to malfunction. This is where the violence creeps in.

Psychologists are under much pressure to create their notion of Utopia, just like anyone else. They have masses of data and try to patch up an acceptable cure all for no name no culture people, all PC people.  



20 Feb 2007 @ 23:06 by ming : Affection
Well, we might be in agreement on the basics. Affection is good. Natural development is good. Interfering with nature might lead to violence. But there might be problems with the nuances, on recognizing whether it is natural development that is going on or not, and in possibly interfering based on one's ideas of how things should be. Different people might have their own subjective ideas about that, or might follow particular theories, and try to make the circumstances fit them.  


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11 Mar 2008 @ 21:33 by Twill @171.161.160.10 : Conflation
When you say nasty things about the culture of a country, that is "anti-" that country. The fact that your group doesn't use that lexicon doesn't make it not so. Your language is strongly and clearly Anti-American and anti-Christian.

And, yes, there is such a thing as Anti-French -- look back to just before the Iraq invasion to find examples. When France was busy propping up Hussein rather than convincing him to leave the country peacefully, Americans expressed their frustration and rage quite eloquently, while misplacing it on anything French, rather than just on Hussein's French cronies.

Regarding your strange views on premarital sex--that it's a great thing and any attempt to convince children otherwise is akin to abuse: Many American liberals agree with you, but you need to look at the actual figures. By age 16, roughly half of all kids in the United States have sexually transmitted diseases. A good chunk of those are permanent, and a large fraction can be deadly. Any educator who is doing their job will be attempting to get kids to understand the dangers of their proposed activities. Any parent who is doing their job will be trying to keep their child too busy with other physically pleasurable activity-- biking, dancing, hiking, sports-- too busy to do something stupid that just seems fun.

Failing to do this job of educating your children against danger is the real abuse.  



21 Sep 2008 @ 16:21 by mumi,,i, @84.161.245.43 : iii,
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