Feynman called a woman “worse than a whore” for not exchanging sex for sandwiches.

In Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, chapter You Just Ask Them?, Richard Feynman frequented a bar and desired to have sexual intercourse with the women there. He discovered that the women in the bar did not provide sexual favors in exchange for monetary compensation in the form of drinks. Although he gained a reputation for spending money on drinks for women, he was frustrated at the fact that the women did not consider alcoholic drinks to be payment for sexual services.

Feynman felt he was being cheated, and complained to his two friends from the bar: a female nightclub entertainer and her husband, the master of ceremonies. The master offered Feynman lessons on how to ensure that a woman he meets in a bar has sexual intercourse with him:

“OK,” he says. “The whole principle is this: The guy wants to be a gentleman. He doesn’t want to be thought of as impolite, crude, or especially a cheapskate. As long as the girl knows the guy’s motives so well, it’s easy to steer him in the direction she wants him to go.

“Therefore,” he continued, “under no circumstances be a gentleman! You must disrespect the girls. Furthermore, the very first rule is, don’t buy a girl anything -- not even a package of cigarettes — until you’ve asked her if she’ll sleep with you, and you’re convinced that she will, and that she’s not lying.”

“Uh… you mean… you don’t… uh… you just ask them?”

“OK,” he says, “I know this is your first lesson, and it may be hard for you to be so blunt. So you might buy her one thing — just one little something — before you ask. But on the other hand, it will only make it more difficult.”

In other words, instead of treating a woman like a sexual service provider to be purchased with alcohol, the master suggested that a man “disrespects” a woman by being honest and asking for sexual consent. Feynman takes his advice, and consequently trains himself to think of women as “bitches”:

Well, someone only has to give me the principle, and I get the idea. All during the next day I built up my psychology differently: I adopted the attitude that those bar girls are all bitches, that they aren’t worth anything, and all they’re in there for is to get you to buy them a drink, and they’re not going to give you a goddamn thing; I’m not going to be a gentleman to such worthless bitches, and so on. I learned it till it was automatic.

Then that night I was ready to try it out. I go into the bar as usual, and right away my friend says, “Hey, Dick! Wait’ll you see the girl I got tonight! She had to go change her clothes, but she’s coming right back.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say, unimpressed, and I sit at another table to watch the show. My friend’s girl comes in just as the show starts, and I’m thinking, “I don’t give a damn how pretty she is; all she’s doing is getting him to buy her drinks, and she’s going to give him nothing!”

After the first act my friend says, “Hey, Dick! I want you to meet Ann. Ann, this is a good friend of mine, Dick Feynman.”

I say “Hi” and keep looking at the show.

A few moments later Ann says to me, “Why don’t you come and sit at the table here with us?”

I think to myself, “Typical bitch: he’s buying her drinks, and she’s inviting somebody else to the table.” I say, “I can see fine from here.”

A little while later a lieutenant from the military base nearby comes in, dressed in a nice uniform. It isn’t long, before we notice that Ann is sitting over on the other side of the bar with the lieutenant!

Later that evening I’m sitting at the bar, Ann is dancing with the lieutenant, and when the lieutenant’s back is toward me and she’s facing me, she smiles very pleasantly to me. I think again, “Some bitch! Now she’s doing this trick on the lieutenant even!”

Then I get a good idea: I don’t look at her until the lieutenant can also see me, and then I smile back at her, so the lieutenant will know what’s going on. So her trick didn’t work for long.

A few minutes later she’s not with the lieutenant any more, but asking the bartender for her coat and handbag, saying in a loud, obvious voice, “I’d like to go for a walk. Does anybody want to go for a walk with me?”

I think to myself, “You can keep saying no and pushing them off, but you can’t do it permanently, or you won’t get anywhere. There comes a time when you have to go along.” So I say coolly, “I’ll walk with you.” So we go out. We walk down the street a few blocks and see a cafe, and she says, “I’ve got an idea — let’s get some coffee and sandwiches, and go over to my place and eat them.”

The idea sounds pretty good, so we go into the cafe and she orders three coffees and three sandwiches and I pay for them. As we’re going out of the cafe, I think to myself, “Something’s wrong: too many sandwiches!”

On the way to her motel she says, “You know, I won’t have time to eat these sandwiches with you, because a lieutenant is coming over…” I think to myself, “See, I flunked. The master gave me a lesson on what to do, and I flunked. I bought her $1.10 worth of sandwiches, and hadn’t asked her anything, and now I know I’m gonna get nothing! I have to recover, if only for the pride of my teacher.”

I stop suddenly and I say to her, “You… are worse than a WHORE!

“Whaddya mean?”

‘“You got me to buy these sandwiches, and what am I going to get for it? Nothing!”

Ironically, Feynman believed that Ann was a whore because she did not return sexual favors in exchange for sandwiches. Literally, Feynman claimed that she was worse than a whore because he did not receive sexual compensation, perhaps implying that at least a whore would reciprocate with sex. However, it is clear that if she did agree to have sexual intercourse with him, he would not have become upset and called her a “whore”. This means that Feynman thought she was a “whore” because she did not behave in the way that he desired, not because her behavior actually resembled that of a prostitute.

“Well, you cheapskate!” she says. “If that’s the way you feel, I’ll pay you back for the sandwiches!”

I called her bluff: “Pay me back, then.”

She was astonished. She reached into her pocketbook, took out the little bit of money that she had and gave it to me. I took my sandwich and coffee and went off.

After I was through eating, I went back to the bar to report to the master. I explained everything, and told him I was sorry that I flunked, but I tried to recover.

He said very calmly, “It’s OK, Dick; it’s all right. Since you ended up not buying her anything, she’s gonna sleep with you tonight.”

“What?”

“That’s right,” he said confidently; “she’s gonna sleep with you. I know that.”

“But she isn’t even here! She’s at her place with the lieu —”

“It’s all right.”

Two o’clock comes around, the bar closes, and Ann hasn’t appeared. I ask the master and his wife if I can come over to their place again. They say sure. Just as we’re coming out of the bar, here comes Ann, running across Route 66 toward me. She puts her arm in mine, and says, “Come on, let’s go over to my place.”

The master was right. So the lesson was terrific!

Feynman, like most self-professed Nice GuysTM, “learned” that women want to be disrespected, instead of learning that a woman’s sexual consent is not bought with money. Unfortunately, most of the male geeks who read his book will use this anecdote to rationalize calling women “bitches”, “whores”, and “worthless”. (Of course, a man who wants intellectual justification for disrespecting women thinks that women are “worthless” when they are not sexually available to him. The non-sexual worth of a woman never occurs to him.)

Feynman continues:

When I was back at Cornell in the fall, I was dancing with the sister of a grad student, who was visiting from Virginia. She was very nice, and suddenly I got this idea: “Let’s go to a bar and have a drink,” I said.

On the way to the bar I was working up nerve to try the master’s lesson on an ordinary girl. After all, you don’t feel so bad disrespecting a bar girl who’s trying to get you to buy her drinks — but a nice, ordinary, Southern girl?

We went into the bar, and before I sat down, I said, “Listen, before I buy you a drink, I want to know one thing: Will you sleep with me tonight?”

“Yes.”

So it worked even with an ordinary girl! But no matter how effective the lesson was, I never really used it after that. I didn’t enjoy doing it that way. But it was interesting to know that things worked much differently from how I was brought up.

Feynman initially assumed that if a man bought drinks for a woman, she owed him sex. After these experiences, he assumed that if a man “disrespected” a woman by not buying her anything, she provided him with sex because she was stupid or masochistic.

Sadly, in both these cases, he never considered the possibility that a woman’s sexual consent and worth should not be monetized in the first place.

About these ads

81 Responses to “Feynman called a woman “worse than a whore” for not exchanging sex for sandwiches.”

  1. QuantumTuba Says:

    As a fan of Feynmann’s writing, scientific brilliance, and other intellectual contributions, I was rather ashamed when I read that chapter of his book.

  2. Jim Pivonka Says:

    Years ago I read an “advanced and enlightened” book about sexuality, and was struck by how strongly its approach was affected by the period in which it was written (the late ’40s – early ’50’s); this was especially evident in its treatment women’s attitudes and sexual development and desires.

    The author correctly, but inexplicitly, describes how living in an environment in which what he had learned, that women do not have (or even want) sex outside marriage or committed relationships, real women did not (or no longer did) conform to that expectation confused him. In his words “things worked much differently from how I was brought up.”

    It’s very unfortunate that he did not take that observation far enough to realize the extent to which things do not work the way he was brought up, and take the opportunity to learn that women could not be regarded or evaluated in the context of that false worldview at all. He could have learned both to enter into a deeper criticism of the falsity of lessons he learned about how “things worked” when he was “brought up” and to begin to appreciate women as self determining, independant human beings, quite different than what he had been misled to expect.

  3. Restructure! Says:

    Feynman was actually quite intelligent, and he had excellent critical thinking skills when it came to science and other social conventions. Unfortunately, like many scientific men, it never occurred to him to apply the same healthy skepticism to the domain of social inequality. This phenomenon of smart people being stupid is documented in Robert Sternberg’s Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid, which is an excellent but somewhat technical book.

  4. Raven’s Eye Says:

    [...] Feynman called a woman “worse than a whore” for not exchanging sex for sandwiches. Share and Enjoy: [...]

  5. mdz Says:

    I thought there were so many enjoyable stories in this book, but this one really spoiled it. I couldn’t recommend it to others without lengthy disclaimers, and as a result I just don’t bother.

  6. Therese Says:

    I’m sorry but… “I bought her $1.10 worth of sandwiches”

    I wanna know where on earth I can buy 3 sandwiches for $1.10!!! I could live on that for the rest of my life O_o

    Besides, I give people stuff all the time without expecting anything in return, just having people being happy, seeing that grateful look on their face and saying thanks means a whole lot by itself.

    So… by NOT having sex… you are a worse than a whore… and if you have sex… you risk being a whore *puzzled* I’m not sure what the lesson here is…

  7. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Excuse me, Restruct, but this has to be wrong. Everyone knows that ALL atheists are ALWAYS, FOREVER, hands down, in all situations, every single day, every single second, far more progressive than ANY religious believer could ever be in ALL things and ALL activities. Period.

    You didn’t get the memo?

    And Hitchens never insults women when he’s drunk either, and if he does, atheism excuses that too.

    ;)

  8. Evan Harper Says:

    I read Surely You’re Joking for the first time recently, and that chapter stood out. However, I think that your anger is partially misplaced, and that you’ve misread the story in several places. Feynman did not call the bar girl a whore “because she did not behave in the way that he desired,” he called her that because – as he tells the story – she used implied promises of sex to obtain things, then wriggled out of the implied promises. Nor did he assume that “that if a man bought drinks for a woman, she owed him sex.” You can read that in to the story, sure, but it’s not actually stated or implied. The only really nasty part of the story is in Feynman’s internal monologue, (“worthless bitches,” etc) it’s an attitude he deliberately inculcated as an experiment, wasn’t comfortable with, and didn’t enjoy.

    There’s no doubt that Feynman could be misogynistic in an airy, casual way, mostly when it came to sex. But his views on gender, race, and politics seem to me to be characterized mainly by overwhelming naïveté, not any sort of malice. Sure, his tacit complicity with 1950s gender relations was a problem, and it reflects poorly on this aspect of his character. But I don’t understand why you’ve chosen to “make an example” of him with a whole series of posts. You could have made essentially the same point, more effectively, by riffing off of Feynman’s stories with a little nuance and sympathy in addition to (partially justified) condemnation.

    Or do you know something about Feynman that I don’t? He does mention some kind of a run-in with feminist demonstrators in Surely You’re Joking, but the way he tells it they were fringe types, and the whole thing was mostly a misunderstanding. If his account was self-serving, let me know how and why, and I’ll maybe reconsider my opinion of him.

  9. Restructure! Says:

    Evan Harper,

    I read Surely You’re Joking for the first time recently, and that chapter stood out. However, I think that your anger is partially misplaced, and that you’ve misread the story in several places.

    Where in the post did I say I was angry?

    Feynman did not call the bar girl a whore “because she did not behave in the way that he desired,” he called her that because – as he tells the story – she used implied promises of sex to obtain things, then wriggled out of the implied promises.

    Where did she use “implied promises of sex”? She said, “I’d like to go for a walk. Does anybody want to go for a walk with me?” and then Feynman offered to buy her sandwiches to eat.

    Nor did he assume that “that if a man bought drinks for a woman, she owed him sex.” You can read that in to the story, sure, but it’s not actually stated or implied.

    Yes, he did imply it. Earlier on in the chapter before the part I quoted, Feynman said (emphasis mine):

    Eventually I told them that I was struck by something: “I’m fairly intelligent,” I said, “but probably only about physics. But in that bar there are lots of intelligent guys – oil guys, mineral guys, important businessmen, and so forth – and all the time they’re buying the girls drinks, and they get nothin’ for it!” (By this time I had decided that nobody else was getting anything out of all those drinks either.) “How is it possible,” I asked, “that an ‘intelligent’ guy can be such a goddamn fool when he gets into a bar?”

    You said:

    But his views on gender, race, and politics seem to me to be characterized mainly by overwhelming naïveté, not any sort of malice.

    You use the euphemism “naïveté”, but we’re really talking about ignorance here. Ignorance about gender and race is what causes most sexist and racist behaviour, which has an effect on women and racial minorities. You could argue that something isn’t sexist if it was done unintentionally, but then you would saying that discouraging a girl’s interest in math is not sexist if the parent truly believes that girls are incapable of math and should not waste their time on it.

    In other words, I did not say that Feynman had malicious intentions, but I do assert that this chapter promotes misogyny and the beliefs that “women want jerks”, “women want to be disrespected”, and that it is okay to think of women as “worthless bitches”.

    But I don’t understand why you’ve chosen to “make an example” of him with a whole series of posts. You could have made essentially the same point, more effectively, by riffing off of Feynman’s stories with a little nuance and sympathy in addition to (partially justified) condemnation.

    I “make an example” of Feynman with a series of posts, but not all of them are critical of him. 1 out of 4 so far has been sympathetic.

    I like to blog occasionally about Feynman because I think he is an interesting character, and I’m actually a fan. However, that doesn’t mean that I accept whatever he says uncritically, which is one of the points that Feynman tries to make in Surely You’re Joking about questioning authority figures.

    Or do you know something about Feynman that I don’t? He does mention some kind of a run-in with feminist demonstrators in Surely You’re Joking, but the way he tells it they were fringe types, and the whole thing was mostly a misunderstanding. If his account was self-serving, let me know how and why, and I’ll maybe reconsider my opinion of him.

    In What Do You Care What Other People Think?*, he expands on this story. He used an example of a “lady driver” in his lectures to make some kind of point, and some feminists objected to it. He diffused the situation quite well and even made a point in the conference about women in science facing discrimination. However, his encounter with 1950s feminists has nothing to do with the point of my post.

    * This book is not of the same calibre as Surely You’re Joking.

  10. Michael A. Gottlieb Says:

    First, I want to say that I agree with Evan Harper’s statement. Secondly, I want to say that it is absurd to think that you can judge a person’s character from a couple story books. To judge a person, you have to know them. And you do not know Richard Feynman. It appears to me that this blog leverages Feynman’s fame by using him as a whipping boy to promote the author’s agenda, in almost complete ignorance of what the man was really like.

    Michael Gottlieb
    editor, “The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Definitive Edition”
    co-author (with Feynman and Leighton), “Feynman’s Tips on Physics”

  11. Restructure! Says:

    Michael Gottlieb,

    I have made no claim about Feynman’s “character” in this post. This is simply an analysis of Feynman’s anecdote, which was based on his own words. In other words, the analysis is based on the assumption that what Feynman said was true.

    Feynman himself said that he said, “You got me to buy these sandwiches, and what am I going to get for it? Nothing!”

    Unless you want to argue that what he expected to “get” from buying her sandwiches was something other than sexual intercourse, it is factually true that the reason he gave for calling her “worse than a whore” is that she was not going to provide sex in exchange for the sandwiches.

    The purpose of this post is not to make a judgment about Feynman’s character (and I have not done so, at least negatively), but to show that the expectation that women should provide sex in exchange for gifts is not limited to blatant misogynists. Feynman is an example of an upstanding citizen, professor, exceptionally brilliant man, and rebel, yet he is not immune to being influenced by cultural messages about gender roles. I do not believe that individuals are either 100% sexist or 0% sexist, as basically everyone has internalized some sexist expectations in our culture, including Feynman.

    The larger point of this is that things like sexism are not limited to “a few bad apples”; instead, sexist expectations permeate mainstream culture and are manifested in even “regular folk” or role models like Prof. Feynman.

    If you need me to clarify anything I have said in this comment, please ask.

  12. mm Says:

    I don’t disagree with your analysis, but I’m a bit surprised this is considered worth deconstructing so late in the day. I remember reading this particular story nearly 25 years ago, as a teenage science geek, and thinking what a sordid world Feynman lived in, how backward his 1950’s views were by 1980’s standards, and “thank God life isn’t like that any more”.

    This is surely ancient history by now – that’s how men of his generation thought, but that was a very very long time ago. OK, probably quite a few men still do think that way, but I know my fellow, male, physics undergrads of 25 years ago found a few of Feynmann’s anecdotes rather dated and unpleasant (this one and the one where he takes pride in humiliating the abacus guy come to mind).

    I’m puzzled by your reference to him as a ‘role model’. I don’t remember anyone considering him a role-model – he was a person of his time. One can find his lectures educational and his popular books entertaining and interesting without blindly swallowing 1950’s attitudes. People just aren’t that uncritical about what they read, in my experience.

    You say “Feynman is an example of an upstanding citizen, professor, exceptionally brilliant man, and rebel…”
    but don’t add “…who was born nearly 100 years ago”. Of course such attitudes were commonplace in men of his generation – but isn’t it more to the point to write about the attitudes of professors _now_?

    I’m further puzzled why in saying that you appear to imply that someone being a ‘professor’ should lead people to expect them to be above ‘cultural messages’. Stop me if I’m wrong, but that even smacks a bit of class snobbery.

    Most of us are not so deferential. I’ve known plenty of scummy professors. I remember positively hating some of my profs at university. Who on earth would think that professorship makes someone a politically impeccable person and a model to follow?

  13. Restructure! Says:

    mm,

    I’m glad your fellow male physics undergrads of the 1980s found Feynman’s anecdotes dated and unpleasant, but in the 2000s, the idea that “women want to be disrespected” and “women want jerks” has been independently re-invented by male computer/technology geeks and other males.

    If you Google “You must disrespect the girls” (which is a line from Feynman’s anecdote), you will get (1) this blog, and (2) blogs that present Feynman’s anecdote as advice on how to deal with women, posted from 2002-2009. In other words, of blogs that quote Feynman’s anecdote, only this one is critical; the rest are supportive.

    Within science/tech communities like Slashdot, Digg, and Reddit, apparently there is a high population of heterosexual male geeks who have never had a girlfriend. They consider themselves the victim and conclude that it must be because they are “too nice” and that women really want jerks.

    See this post about Nice Guy™ for the context of why Feynman’s anecdote about women has dangerous potency in 2009.

  14. Restructure! Says:

    mm,

    I’m puzzled by your reference to him as a ‘role model’. I don’t remember anyone considering him a role-model – he was a person of his time.

    Perhaps it is because he has been immortalized among younger people now, but among geeks born in the 80s and after, he is highly-regarded and considered more than just a person of his time. For example, in this XKCD comic, the title text says, “Maybe someday science will get over its giant collective crush on Richard Feynman. But I doubt it!” — which is true, if by “science”, he means science geeks.

    One can find his lectures educational and his popular books entertaining and interesting without blindly swallowing 1950’s attitudes. People just aren’t that uncritical about what they read, in my experience.

    In my opinion, male-dominated geek communities are socially stuck in the 1950s, 50 years behind mainstream society. This is why Feynman’s anecdote fits so nicely into the 2000s view among male geeks that women want jerks.

    I don’t understand how you can think that people just aren’t that uncritical of what they read. American conservatives support teaching Creationism instead of evolution in schools because it aligns with the Bible, and there are countless examples of people being uncritical of what they read.

    You say “Feynman is an example of an upstanding citizen, professor, exceptionally brilliant man, and rebel…”
    but don’t add “…who was born nearly 100 years ago”. Of course such attitudes were commonplace in men of his generation – but isn’t it more to the point to write about the attitudes of professors _now_?

    Yet Surely You’re Joking was published just about 25 years ago.

    The point would be to write about professors now, but Feynman is a special case, because ever since Surely You’re Joking was published, he has become popular among non-physics geeks.

    I’m further puzzled why in saying that you appear to imply that someone being a ‘professor’ should lead people to expect them to be above ‘cultural messages’. Stop me if I’m wrong, but that even smacks a bit of class snobbery.

    I personally don’t think that, but many people expect that professors are always right or usually right. There is also people’s tendency believe that authority figures (such as professors, police, George W. Bush) are always right or must be right.

    Most of us are not so deferential. I’ve known plenty of scummy professors. I remember positively hating some of my profs at university. Who on earth would think that professorship makes someone a politically impeccable person and a model to follow?

    Believe it or not, there are individuals who judge the soundness of your opinion based on your social ranking instead of on the soundness of your opinion. For example, the general public is more likely to believe a professor’s opinion (even if the opinion is on something that is unrelated to their field) than that of an undergraduate.

  15. Therese Says:

    On being called a whore… I was called a whore once by a creepy old man because I refused to answer his question of “where are you from?” with something other than Australia. He didn’t just call me a whore… he called me an asian whore.

  16. karinova Says:

    “I said, ‘Listen, before I buy you a drink, I want to know one thing: Will you sleep with me tonight?’ ‘Yes.’
    So it worked even with an ordinary girl!”

    What worked?!
    Aside from the attitude toward women (bar girls aren’t “ordinary” women?), I find this really bothersome. I understand seeing the first encounter as confirmation of the bar dude’s “lesson,” but in this second encounter, what he did was something pretty simple and straightforward: he asked for what he wanted. I know it’s a nitpick, but it bugs me that he takes that as emphatic confirmation of the lesson too. Seems more likely that being upfront (and lucky) is what worked. Why doesn’t that undermine the lesson?
    It simultaneously demonstrates 1) confirmation bias; and 2) the creepy, logic-obliterating guru-worship “losers” always seem have for their PUA teachers. So much for scientific thinking.

    I also wonder why exactly he related this story. (I haven’t actually read the book.) Because it’s interesting to consider that Feynman himself is now an object of guru-worship. There’s now a “Feynman Mystique,” built in part from stuff like this.

  17. Restructure! Says:

    @karinova: Exactly. Great comment!

    Apparently, in Feynman’s mind, asking a woman to sleep with him is “disrespecting” her, because women are supposed to not want sex, and only have sex reluctantly if they gain something (material) from it. To him, if a woman has sex with a man for free, then the man “wins” and the woman “loses”, because the man supposedly gets what he wants without any sacrifices, and the woman supposedly gets nothing she wants but sacrifices herself. Thus, according to him, when a man asks a woman whether she will have sex with him and she agrees, she is degrading herself and he is disrespecting her.

    Why did he relate this story? Surely You’re Joking is a collection of interesting Feynman anecdotes, and fits in with some of the themes of the book: non-intuitive “truths” and experimentation.

    Exactly, Feynman himself is now an object of guru-worship, which is why I find this chapter so dangerous. He is heralded as a genius, a great scientist, and as someone with razor-sharp critical thinking, but like many smart people, he does not apply scientific rigour to all aspects of his daily life. Much of his book is about applying science and logic to his daily life, but his conclusions here are ridiculous, probably due to his unexamined assumptions about women and sex.

  18. Feyn Man Says:

    On the contrary, I actually find it quite pleasant and honorable that Richard Feynman was open and honest and didn’t feel the need to censor himself in his book. He was a man of curiosity and experimentation indeed, and this anecdote is an example of his social experimentation. He even went on to say that opted not to continue this approach toward future sexual liaisons.

    I see Feynman as an eccentric character in history and I’m sure if he agreed to be analyzed by a psychologist, he/she (for those politically correct persons out there reading this post… oh wait, should I instead say “she/he”?) would discover reasons for his behavior. We all have skeletons in the closet – especially those who seem to overemphasize his so-called sexist remarks.

    I agree with Mr. Gottlieb. We don’t really know the guy and it amazes me how quick people are to be so incredibly judgmental.

    “Some people try to get out of jury duty by lying. You don’t have to lie. Tell the judge the truth. Tell him you’d make a terrific juror because you can spot guilty people.”
    — George Carlin

  19. sciencegirl Says:

    i think your criticism is disingenuous and you purposely misunderstand feynman’s story because of your own politically correct view of the world.

    when feynman says “all the time they’re buying the girls drinks, and they get nothin’ for it!” he is simply making an observation based on what we all know to be true – a lot of men go to bars to find women for sex, and most of them spend a lot of money and fail in their purpose.

    secondly, when “anne” suggested they go to the cafe, she said it was to bring sandwiches back to her place. that implies he will be spending time with her alone in her apt., presumably to get to know her better. whether he expected sex or not in exchange for sandwiches is no long relevant because her intent was to trick him into buying her sandwiches and coffee for her other date, which is incredibly rude, and indeed, worse behavior than a whore, who is at least honest with her intentions.

    while i agree that it is misogynistic to treat women as objects for sex, i think many women encourage this behavior by flirting with men to have drinks bought for them. if you don’t think men should expect anything for buying a stranger a drink, why would you expect a man to buy your drink in the first place? i don’t, and i don’t accept such gifts from strangers unless i intend to at least sit and have a conversation with the person.

    i found feynman’s story refreshingly honest.

  20. Restructure! Says:

    when feynman says “all the time they’re buying the girls drinks, and they get nothin’ for it!” he is simply making an observation based on what we all know to be true – a lot of men go to bars to find women for sex, and most of them spend a lot of money and fail in their purpose.

    Yes, I brought up that quote to show Evan Harper that Feynman assumed women owed men sex if the men bought them drinks.

    secondly, when “anne” suggested they go to the cafe, she said it was to bring sandwiches back to her place. that implies he will be spending time with her alone in her apt., presumably to get to know her better. whether he expected sex or not in exchange for sandwiches is no long relevant because her intent was to trick him into buying her sandwiches and coffee for her other date, which is incredibly rude, and indeed, worse behavior than a whore, who is at least honest with her intentions.

    But she didn’t ask him to buy the sandwiches. She said, “let’s get some coffee and sandwiches, and go over to my place and eat them,” and Feynman agreed and they went to buy it, then Feynman paid for it.

    while i agree that it is misogynistic to treat women as objects for sex, i think many women encourage this behavior by flirting with men to have drinks bought for them. if you don’t think men should expect anything for buying a stranger a drink, why would you expect a man to buy your drink in the first place?

    I’ve had experiences where I was at a club, and a man (acquaintance) offered to buy me a drink, or bought me a drink, and I definitely did not flirt or ask for a drink. I refused, but he insisted, so I took it. But then afterwards, he started to ask about my availability, and then it became creepy, as if I was obligated to spend time with him because of what I thought was a gift.

    i don’t, and i don’t accept such gifts from strangers unless i intend to at least sit and have a conversation with the person.

    But what does one have to do with the other? Why can’t you have a conversation with someone without anyone buying something for another?

  21. Amit Says:

    A few people pointed this out but I want to say it explicitly – Feynman was an experimenter, and this story is simply about one of his many social experiments. Notice that no where in this story he actually says what his current view of the subject of sexuality and women is, but simply remarks that he found out that things are very different than what he previously thought. Personally I think he was intelligent enough to know that things are indeed a bit more complicated than “treat her bad and she’ll sleep with you”, and if the story hints that this is his view, remember that all these stories were told as amusing anecdotes to his friend Ralph Leighton, so perhaps it’s just that he was “spicing it up” a bit.

  22. Restructure! Says:

    Amit,

    Yes, I was the one who said that this anecdote “fits in with some of the themes of the book: non-intuitive ‘truths’ and experimentation.” You are not providing new information or insights into this discussion when you just repeat obvious points.

    More than likely he was “spicing it up” or even trolling, but nevertheless, his pronouncements are unfounded, and he didn’t isolate the variables in his social experiment or consider alternative hypotheses that could better explain the outcomes.

    This is not about Feynman’s private thoughts (which nobody knows), but about what Feynman declared publicly.

  23. Robert Wiblin Says:

    The woman certainly deceived him – whether that makes her ‘worse than a whore’ (who although a low status person in society nonetheless runs an honest business) depends on how much you value someone having a high status job versus being ‘up front’.

  24. Male IT geeks think that they are “low status” males. « Restructure! Says:

    [...] Among male geeks, a popular explanation for both these phenomena is that women avoid “low status” males, because women are programmed by evolution to have sex with men in exchange for men’s material resources. [...]

  25. Kookaburra Says:

    Ha ha ha, man, I can barely hear my music over the loud WHOOOSH of the point of this post flying over so many peoples’ heads.

  26. whoooosh Says:

    by whoosh, did you mean the point of the post or the point of the original chapter.

    Feynman was making a point about *women*. Like it or not, if you’re quote “mr nice guy” or more accurately, “mr no spine”, people, women included, will not respect you. He was making the point that it’s more respectable to be an asshole who actually stands for something than to be a squish who’s willing to trade his morals to chase shrinking odds of getting laid. Ideally, one would be more in tune with things and not have to be such an asshole about it but he was laying out the extremes to prove a point.

  27. Meta-Restructure: Top Five Most “Interesting” Posts + Delurking « Restructure! Says:

    [...] Feynman called a woman “worse than a whore” for not exchanging sex for sandwiches. (August 7, 2009) [...]

  28. Katie Says:

    Oy vey.

    I wouldn’t let Feynman buy me a sandwich, that’s all I can say.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    He did performed a social experiment which was counter to what his normal mode was, and found it worked. It wasn’t done to continuously manipulate, it was done to see if what he thought was the way to act worked when you did something contrary.

    He already said he didn’t like that way of doing things which IS preexisting consideration that it should not be done in the first place. Since it is about wither it takes place or not and works is the reason for a missing elaboration on why.

    The main article appears to be irritated for an incorrect interpretation of what was happening.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    There are certainly inequalities out there, no doubt. However, this is a poor example of that since the focus is that Dick Feynman is a dick (Article title certainly is not neutral and definitely gives implies the direction the article heads) and not about the said state of social affairs and insecurity where these types of behavior succeed!

    This blog of sorts has a theme, and it certain is personally connected to the author at least by my inspection. But again, this was a poor use of what the topic could have been.

  31. Aakash Sarkar Says:

    I’ve read Surely your’re not Joking.. To me ,this chapter shows how girls want to be disrespected(sure..in high school,i did notice dudes who always disrespected gals were the first to get a date )it luks rather amazing but sadly it is true..probly its just that women want a companion who they think is able of owerpowering them..cause,somewhere in thier hearts, they still have a sense of wanting to be dominated by the guys).

    I respect Feynman, and truely understanding his motives are not so easy for gusys like us…remember: “it was printed in the paper that a professor of theoretical physics goes to see topless dancing six days a week”.Its not his actions which surprise me(they ARE pretty humane),rather his tremendous strength to bare all before the readers.

    Feynman did respect girls, dats why he took a day to be what his guru told him…it was only to test , he didnt believe in it.

    And ,(laughs)..why would guys buy the girls drinks for free anyways? :D

  32. Aakash Sarkar Says:

    http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~dmoshkov/personal/Feynman-Sex-and-the-Cosmos.html

    HAHA!

  33. jonah Says:

    Ahem… “an implied contract” to have sex? Meeting people in bars even if it’s a “pick up joint” does NOT mean or even imply that sharing a drink with somebody means you want to have sex with that person. Thinking that if a woman or man accepts a drink or other social tokens, like conversation, means she owes you sex is Rapist-think. If a woman wants to get laid it isn’t an open invitation to EVERYBODY to come and screw her.

    Try turning it around a bit, yes? If a man has preferences toward body type or intellectual acumen or the tone of a woman’s voice or whatever turns him “on” or “off” and a woman speaks to him, and she’s not the one he finds attractive, does that mean he automatically owes it to HER to do the bump and grind? I don’t know from a female perspective but I’d strong suspect that a guy who is complaining that a woman who doesn’t put out for him JUST MIGHT PERHAPS MAYBE NOT BE SEXUALLY ATTRACTIVE TO THE WOMEN WHO DON’T ALLOW HIM PANTY-ACCESS.

    If you’re looking for a woman or man who will drop trousers for anybody who asks, they do exist. They’re also considered to be mentally ill, self destructive and take hugely unnecessary risks.

    Since there are some extremely unpleasant ways to DIE from Promiscuity, Boy girl, boy boy or girl girl, one can easily see how even somebody who is looking to get laid might be just a little bit choosy about which partner he or she chooses.

    Especially women, because somebody who has Rapist-think sometimes has (just not always or even in the majority) Serial-killer-kink-think and a really bad case thereof.

    A wise woman or even a not-entirely-stupid woman will enter into any such “implied social contract” with the image of “it puts on the lotion or it gets the hose” at least somewhere in the old pre-frontal lobe.

    I mean, even going on a date with a man or a woman does not imply that you automatically are obligated to engage in sexual acts with the person. One socially valuable lesson the men with their honest yet misbegotten comments have given is that there are men or, shall we say “Very Large Infants” out there who actually DO pose a threat to any woman who so much as speaks to them and the policy of being very choosy about who one takes to the motel after the bar is a very wise one.

    Ladies, if you DO, even with your best feminine intuition working, want to risk engaging somebody you just met in a situation where you’re most vulnerable, do yourselves a major favor and rent a room beforehand and don’t let the guy know where you live or anything really stupid like that. Same goes for guys, but since typically men are larger and stronger than women the women need to be particularly careful.

    The twenty dollars or so for a cheap room is a lot cheaper than a trip to the E.R.

    Oh, and guys… wrap that rascal. No glove no love is an excellent rule.

  34. jonah Says:

    umm… I got onto this website browsing for something completely different. I tried the keywords “driver for cheap-ass goddamn sakar camera”. because it’s extraordinarily frustrating getting one of them to work.

    But given the number of guys, even college-educated ones, who are so eaten alive with the really conceited notions that a woman owes it to him to risk her life with him just because he buys her a drink… (and as for that number, one is too many. And there were more than just one who said it) I can at least intellectually understand why a woman would threaten to mace, tazer and call the police on somebody who asks directions from her.

  35. jonah Says:

    Oh, and ladies… team date. Let somebody know that you’re leaving the bar with the guy, somebody who cares about you.

  36. jonah Says:

    By the way, buying people drinks before asking to make decisions that may be considered immoral or dumb is an ancient practice that has nothing to do with PAYING them. It’s called “drugging them” so they are more suggestible. The “Master Pick-up Artist” who gave Feynman the really stupid advice, was with a different woman on each occasion, yes? That means he’s not able to get a woman to go on a second whirlwind tour with him. doesn’t speak much for his “mastery” now, does it?

  37. jonah Says:

    A couple of thoughts to close this out. Isn’t Princeton an Ivy League school? A rich kids’ playground… where you have to be really smart to get accepted, OR (like GW Bush with Yale) have family Legacy Points, Rich Folks code for “Non-Socialist Affirmative Action for Stupid Rich White Boys”.

    Both Feynman and “The Master” were failing to score with any women other than ones who were Easy, Sleazy and Slightly Intoxicated. And even then couldn’t score a second date with any of them.

    That’s not a really good track record and goes to show that even Wealth, Intellect and Social Position aren’t enough to get Some Guys a second date.

    Those who follow the basically date-rape manipulative formula outlined in that chapter might as well put in that blackout-causing Date-Rape drug that’s known by initials and is supposed to be easily assembled in any chemical laboratory, that way the victim wouldn’t be able to accurately testify. You could get off on a technicality.

    Probably not though. You could learn a little Penitentiary-speak. Might come in handy. The phrase “couldn’t get himself laid in a women’s penitentiary with a fistful of pardons” comes to mind.

    I have no idea (other than the window to his soul from that short chapter) why the guys couldn’t score except under such conditions, maybe they pushed their “scientific Grad School credentials” in such a way that the women get the impression that they don’t wash their hands after working with the lab rats.

    Treating human beings as laboratory subjects without their informed prior consent is considered Immoral and in the case of Medical specialists, criminal. People who boast of commissions of crimes are usually referred to as “inmate” and when it involves sex they’re referred to as “Registered Sex Offenders”.

    All this of course is intuitive on my part. It’s not a talent I’ve ever made a profit doing, and is really hard to explain even to people who do graduate-level research on Consciousness, but it works often enough that I rely on it heavily.

    That one chapter scores off the scale on my patented, trademarked Creep-o-Meter.

    Just, you know, sayin’ is all.

  38. verth Says:

    “Sadly, in both these cases, he never considered the possibility that a woman’s sexual consent and worth should not be monetized in the first place.”

    Neither should a man’s. Way to miss the entire point of the story.

  39. Restructure! Says:

    Neither should a man’s.

    Touché.

    But women were not doing that in the first place, were they?

  40. Jonah Says:

    It doesn’t seem they were trolling guys to find the richest.
    If only the rich got laid, then there wouldn’t be so many of us of the Not-Rich Persuasion.

    An obvious assumption can be made that poor people have more sex per capita than rich folks. The whole scenario has the ol’ patented creep-o-meter running all the way off the dial. The guy experiments on women. Are they like, lab rats? Rhesus Monkeys?

    Not capable of reaching a womans point of view but that sounds a lot like somebody who is doomed to a lifetime of misery.
    Given the notion that women aren’t stupider than men and in many instances are smarter, that kind of attitude might just rouse a little bit of no-i-don’t-want-your-sex-so-buzz-off-dude reaction.

    Mind, now, I’m not heavily into the bar scene. Since I don’t drink that would be “not into it at all” and, yes, I DO realize that the rules of behavior change kind of drastically wherever alcohol is involved.

    But maybe, perhaps, the lady just wasn’t all that impressed with the prospect of a lifetime or an evening tied to Dr FrankenCock. Maybe she just wanted to have a good time without the mental trauma games. I mean, that really isn’t that hard to imagine.

    The whole thing also sounds a little bit childish. Not knowing anything about Feynman other than what he writes of himself, limits my perspective, but dude, the lady said no, quitcha bitchin.

    I’m sure that once you grow up you’ll realize that not everybody in the world is going to throw herself into your bed. And that’s not really a BAD thing either.

  41. Aldo L Says:

    Right now, there is a men’s deodorant ad campaign about this very topic: it is called “less friends, more women”. Feynman was in a “When Harry met Sally…” kind of dilemma. You must remember that this man has been a nerd his entire life, so he was likely psychologically abused and ridiculed by beautiful women around him. That’s why he thinks that the girl that rejected him for another man after he took sandwiches to her apartment was worst that a whore.
    Anyway, he was talking about how to deal with (if you allow me the stereotype) “one night stands”. He seemed be entirely different with his wifes, as noted in other parts of the same book.

  42. nathan Says:

    I have similar opinions to most of what sciencegirl’s posted. I wanted to question some parts of Restructures reply.

    Sorry for the confusing organization of this post, I cannot figure out how to directly reply…

    sciencegirl stated- secondly, when “anne” suggested they go to the cafe, she said it was to bring sandwiches back to her place. that implies he will be spending time with her alone in her apt., presumably to get to know her better. whether he expected sex or not in exchange for sandwiches is no long relevant because her intent was to trick him into buying her sandwiches and coffee for her other date, which is incredibly rude, and indeed, worse behavior than a whore, who is at least honest with her intentions.

    and Restructures replied- But she didn’t ask him to buy the sandwiches. She said, “let’s get some coffee and sandwiches, and go over to my place and eat them,” and Feynman agreed and they went to buy it, then Feynman paid for it.

    —Huh? We don’t know exactly what was said in the sandwich shop… But I would assume Feynman would have mentioned if she offered to pay for her own sandwich.

    “Anne” deliberately misled Feynman into believing she would spend more time with him and encouraged him to buy her something. Maybe more of your time should be spent scolding this “Anne” about intentionally misleading people in general. And less time spent trying to soil Feynman’s name.

    Lets remove gender from this example and focus on why Feynman was so frustrated with “Anne”. Person A makes an oral agreement to go somewhere and spend time with person B if person B buys person A a sandwich. Then person A takes the sandwich and “suddenly remembers” that person A cannot actually go somewhere and spend time with person B. Is it wrong for person B to be upset?

    I will admit that Feynman may have made a bad choice of words with “worse than a whore”.

    sciencegirl stated- while i agree that it is misogynistic to treat women as objects for sex, i think many women encourage this behavior by flirting with men to have drinks bought for them. if you don’t think men should expect anything for buying a stranger a drink, why would you expect a man to buy your drink in the first place?

    and Restructures replied-I’ve had experiences where I was at a club, and a man (acquaintance) offered to buy me a drink, or bought me a drink, and I definitely did not flirt or ask for a drink. I refused, but he insisted, so I took it. But then afterwards, he started to ask about my availability, and then it became creepy, as if I was obligated to spend time with him because of what I thought was a gift.

    —What happened to Restructures is a shame and obviously should not be happening. But, it doesn’t really have any point being used as a reply to sciencegirl’s post. The women in Feynman’s stories were trolling Feynman for drinks, not having drinks repeatedly offered unsolicited by a stranger.

    Why didn’t they buy their own drinks? Why was/is this a cultural norm? I believe that that would be a better blog topic.

    sciencegirl stated-i don’t, and i don’t accept such gifts from strangers unless i intend to at least sit and have a conversation with the person.

    and Restructures replied-But what does one have to do with the other? Why can’t you have a conversation with someone without anyone buying something for another?

    –This just continues with your inaccurate off-point replies. sciencegirl is stating that she doesn’t accept drinks unless she is willing to talk with the drink buyer.

    Then Restructures asks “Why can’t you have a conversation with someone without anyone buying something for another?”

    This doesn’t have anything to do with sciencegirls statement. Free drinks in exchange for conversation has nothing to do with whether conversation can take place with/without gifts…

    I am always infuriated by someone who is motivated by something I also believe in (equality) makes nonsensical arguments like the ones made by the author. It just gives people who do not share our belief in equality something to legitimately find incorrect with our sides belief.

    Please don’t pollute a good cause with misinformation and illogical arguments.

  43. Restructure! Says:

    —Huh? We don’t know exactly what was said in the sandwich shop… But I would assume Feynman would have mentioned if she offered to pay for her own sandwich.

    “Anne” deliberately misled Feynman into believing she would spend more time with him and encouraged him to buy her something.

    But all she said was, “I’ve got an idea — let’s get some coffee and sandwiches, and go over to my place and eat them,” and then he agreed, so they went to the sandwich shop.

    How is this encouraging him to buy her something? After they get to the shop, he pays, but there is no proof that there was intent to “trick him into buying her sandwiches” when she first suggested her idea.

  44. Wuffles Says:

    > she orders three coffees and three sandwiches

    Thus, she knew full well that the Lieutenant was going to come over, and she didn’t want Feynman there; still she “invited” him over for coffee and sandwiches.

    > She reached into her pocketbook, took out the little bit of money that she had and gave it to me.

    This does not suggest that she had anything close to the amount of money on her that would be necessary for a night out when one expects to pay one’s own way.

    As others have stated, you are so entrenched in your own views on this that you cannot but resort to irrelevant and illogical replies to anyone who makes points that do not agree with your view. Sad.

  45. Restructure! Says:

    > she orders three coffees and three sandwiches

    Thus, she knew full well that the Lieutenant was going to come over, and she didn’t want Feynman there; still she “invited” him over for coffee and sandwiches.

    What is the significance of the number 3? Is it for 3 people? How is this a trick, unless you assume that she owes him sex?

    As others have stated, you are so entrenched in your own views on this that you cannot but resort to irrelevant and illogical replies to anyone who makes points that do not agree with your view. Sad.

    Because “Let’s go buy sandwiches,” isn’t some kind of promise of sex, unless you are already assuming what you are trying to prove.

  46. Jayn Says:

    Even if the intent was to trick him into buying her food, that doesn’t mean she owes him sex–that means she owes him, what, ten bucks? “Lets go buy sandwiches” isn’t an invitation to sex, it’s an invitation to a meal. That Feynman expected sex to result is evidence of his biases and expectations.

  47. iLEZ Says:

    Way to completely miss Feynman’s point.

  48. Justin Says:

    >Even if the intent was to trick him into buying her food, that doesn’t mean she owes him sex

    No, that just means she’s a cunt.

  49. JeffMo Says:

    >We walk down the street a few blocks and see a cafe, and she says, “I’ve got an idea — let’s get some coffee and sandwiches, and go over to my place and eat them.”

    It’s not bad to want sex from someone else. It’s not bad to want to spend time alone with someone, to investigate how the two of you get along socially, or even to hope that it leads to sex.

    It IS bad to invite someone to spend some time together, over a meal, when you have no intention of doing that, but are really trying to scam some food for you and the preferred target of your affections.

    And for that matter, if Feynman really expected sex for sandwiches and coffee, instead of a simple opportunity to spend some time with the woman and see where that might lead, that’s bad, too.

    I agree with the comments that indicate that Restructure! is having a little trouble escaping the bounds of a foregone conclusion.

  50. John Says:

    >We walk down the street a few blocks and see a cafe, and she says, “I’ve got an idea — let’s get some coffee and sandwiches, and go over to my place and eat them.”

    I’m not hear to defend Feynman, but anyone who thinks in 1950s America that in this social situation a woman would end up paying is seriously deluded. There is NO WAY a man could allow the woman to pay or be seen in public to allow this at that time, thus, the invitation to go to a place that requires the purchase of food or drink by a woman is the woman asking for a gift.

    Now in a contemporary setting, this is completely different, it is almost expected that this would mean the man in the woman split, or it could almost even be expected that the woman pay for both since she invited the man. But back then, it was the RULE that men pay for everything.

  51. Anonymous Says:

    Talk about lying by omission. Your blog jumps in to the story after about 20 paragraphs where he was played for weeks by a married woman for free drinks, and she ordered the most expensive drinks in the bar, and she would constantly promise sex and then back out at the last minute. And then paragraphs about how other women did the same thing to him when that first woman told them that he had money and was easily played. And finally he figures out the scam with the married lady as her husband worked at the bar and the husband gives him advice on on how he should disrespect women to get them to sleep with him. And it worked. And he never did it again.

  52. Restructure! Says:

    Your blog jumps in to the story after about 20 paragraphs where he was played for weeks by a married woman for free drinks, and she ordered the most expensive drinks in the bar, and she would constantly promise sex and then back out at the last minute.

    Where did she promise sex?

  53. Shaggy Says:

    So…apparently this guy attempted for weeks to purchase sex with drinks and/or sandwiches, and he failed. This is not evidence that nice guys don’t get the girls – it’s evidence that the man is ridiculously stupid. If he wished to purchase sex, he should have sought out a prostitute and given her CASH instead of drinks. If, instead, he wanted sex with a woman who also wanted to have sex with him, he should not have tried to purchase it with sandwiches and should not have been surprised when it didn’t work out. It’s quite simple.

  54. Feynman called a woman “worse than a whore” for not exchanging sex for sandwiches. | Geek Feminism Blog Says:

    [...] This post was originally published at Restructure! [...]

  55. Tafadhali Says:

    Man, aside from pissing me off, this makes me profoundly sad. Feynman was one of my biggest heroes as a kid and I probably read this book three times when I was eight, after my dad, who spent half his time at USC sneaking away to go to Feynman lectures at Caltech, gave it to me. I think I’d read everything autobiographical Feynman had written by 11 or 12, but I’ve only read his sciency stuff in the intervening decade, and so I don’t remember this chapter from “Surely You’re Joking” at all. I know I read worse stuff at eight, but it kind of makes grown-up me sad that I was reading someone I respected talking about women like this as a kid.

  56. pete275 Says:

    the conclusion that “most of the male geeks who read his book will” (etc) is just as logical as the assumption that most of the female bar frequenters are using the promise of sexual favors to get drinks from guys (or whatever this guy is on about)

  57. Male IT geeks tend to think they are “low status” males. | Geek Feminism Blog Says:

    [...] Among male geeks, a popular explanation for both these phenomena is that women avoid “low status” males, because women are programmed by evolution to have sex with men in exchange for men’s material resources. [...]

  58. Yasha Says:

    As a male science geek (Physics grad student, 24, Israeli, married), I’d like to give my two cents:
    1. The story has very little flavor of the (quite real) gender inequalities of the 50’s. The particular women involved are clearly in charge of their actions.
    2. From all my life experience so far, the pattern described is real. On the instinctive level, women/girls tend to prefer jerks over nice guys. It’s one of the many flaws of human psychology. An analogous flaw with men would be our over-obsession with looks when making the initial choice of partners.
    3. This is not only real, but also important, because it makes so many people unhappy. “Nice geeks” (and “ugly girls”) suffer throughout high-school for being unfairly left out. A short while later, the people who left them out often painfully realize that they’re with the wrong sort of partner, picked by the wrong criteria. These things can sometimes ruin lives.
    4. Flawed instincts don’t oblige thinking human beings. We can and must rise above them, as I’m sure the author has. But to facilitate that, it’s much better to acknowledge their existence, rather than being offended at someone for pointing them out.
    5. The feminist cause is very real and important, particularly in the poor world and its emigrants in the West. There are girls being murdered for trying to read; there are women being murdered for letting themselves get raped. Let’s have some perspective instead of this PC nitpicking. We don’t want to give people the impression that we’re fighting over conjured-up trivialities.
    6. Cheers. People, read the Feynman Lectures while you’re at it!

  59. numol Says:

    Lotsa comments here so I’ll only do the more recent ones for now:

    @pete275: Nope. Restructure! already pointed out (http://restructure.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/sexist-feynman-called-a-woman-worse-than-a-whore/#comment-6453) that the woman in the story asked if anyone wanted to go for a walk, and then suggested that they get some stuff to eat and drink. If that implies sex, I’ve been unintentionally hitting on my relatives for years. So… no, not logical to assume she (or the other women) were implying sexual favors for drinks/food. Probably a few women do this (and I’ll bet more guys do this than we ever hear about), but most women do not — assuming it’s the norm is just believing stereotypes about women. On the other hand: assuming the behavior of male geeks, basing those assumptions on life experience with male geeks? Pretty logical. Sure, there will be a few exceptional non-misogynist male geeks, but if you are such an exception (which is doubtful, based on your comment), this is not about you, is it?

    @Yasha:
    1) “The story has very little flavor of the (quite real) gender inequalities of the 50’s.” Uh, what?
    2) As a guy, you have neither the insight nor the moral right to be telling women what it’s okay to complain about, or trying to delegitimize those complaints. You do not have the right to decide for us what is “PC nitpicking” and what is worthy of complaint. And acting like you know how women think “on the instinctive level” better than we women do is just disgusting misogyny — if you have actually known a lot of women who prefer jerks, that’s one thing (although I’d like to hear your definition of “nice guy”), but stick to talking about your life experience and keep your assumptions about our “instincts” to yourself.
    3) ““Nice geeks” (and “ugly girls”)…” Congratulations, you erased female geeks about as casually as though you were saying the sky was blue! Hint: WE EXIST — obviously evidenced by Restructure! frequently calling herself a geek, and the numerous other self-identified female geeks who comment here (for the record, I’m one, too).

    @JeffMo: How are you any more immune to “the bounds of a foregone conclusion” when you’re so quick to believe the woman was a scammer?

    @Justin: There are better ways to keep yourself in the news than trolling blogs, Mr. Timberlake.

  60. Yasha Says:

    @nimol: No need to bite my head off. Short comments require some laconic generalizations – sorry about that. Female geeks just weren’t very relevant for the point. I’m surrounded by them of course, and in fact married to one. A biochemistry geek, of all things. Who happens to agree with my post. Nice to hear that YOU EXIST, though. Come by for tea.

    I was quite honestly expressing what I think is a serious stumbling block in human relations. It’s consistent with many stories I know, of myself and of others, men and women. A random minor example (that turned out for the better): after we’ve known each other for some time, my wife told me that she was turned on by me initially because she thought I wasn’t answering her calls (in real life, I just wasn’t allowed to use my phone at work).

    Now, suppose I’ve got it all wrong. So what? I’m just saying that people have some silly subconscious tendencies that they might want to take into account. You don’t have them? Good for you. Much of the little understanding I have of myself comes from other people’s points of view – particularly women, who are better at it. I’d think that telling people how you see things is worth a shot, especially in an area where so much well-being is at stake. Sorry if I caused any unnecessary offence.

  61. numol Says:

    @Yasha: Oh, I see. You’re sorry you caused offense, but not sorry that what you said tied in to (and attempted to validate) a lot of misogynist tropes about women. Whatever, dude.

  62. Yasha Says:

    Ah, civility is discouraged yet again. Let’s try it your way:

    Damn right I can say whatever I want about you man-hating hypocritical bigots! Spreading about your despicable stereotypes about us science geeks! We spend our best years trying to please your pretty little faces, and you spit in ours hanging out with abusive bastards. And now that we figured you out, we can’t talk about it, because you’re boo-hoo so touchy? You know what? DON’T come by for tea! How d’ya like that, sister? And that’s some good tea we’ve got here. I’m talking Earl-Grey, baby. With freakin’ lemon. See it and cry.

    Meekly hoping that this will finally get me some babes (and sorry for some previous typos),
    Yasha.

  63. Restructure! Says:

    Yasha,

    This is just a reminder. Porn doesn’t count as evidence that women go for jerks. Porn is fiction.

  64. wethepeoplereport Says:

    I dont know what kind of women your going after? I consider a woman the kisses before marriage a unpure tramp whore slut…ect.

  65. numol Says:

    @Yasha: You were never interested in discourse, dude. Your initial comment was just an elaborate troll.

    @wethepeoplereport: Uh, WTF does your ultra-conservative crap have to do with anything? Unless you were being sarcastic, in which case I’m sorry for insulting you.

  66. foo Says:

    There are worse things than whores. (“whore” is just a mean name for an honest business girl.) A girl who makes a fake offer to spend time with you, gets what she really wants from you, and then reneges on her offer certainly qualifies as “worse than a whore”. (I mean, isn’t pretty much every bad person worse than an honest business girl?) The man sees through her lies and calls her on it. (And his statement was perfectly honest, even if society of that day might call it rather rude, but the rudeness was part of his experimental state of mind and subsequent behavior.) So really, he did nothing morally wrong.

    But you know what the real kicker is here? The girl sleeps with him *after* he said she was worse than whore. This whole stupid blog post is about how bad it is that he said what he did. But hell, she didn’t seem to think so. And she was the target of it! And do you know why she didn’t think it was that bad for him to call her “worse than a whore”?

    Because she knew it was true.

    Note that even if you (incorrectly IMO, but I may be giving the girl too much credit) instead assume that she *did* think he was bad for calling her that, then the conclusion just becomes that she chose to *sleep* with Feynman the Jerk instead of *spend* *time* with Feynman the Nice Guy, thus validating the findings of his experiment!

  67. Restructure! Says:

    This whole stupid blog post is about how bad it is that he said what he did.

    No, this whole stupid blog post is about Feynman’s confirmation bias, how he doesn’t consider alternative explanations for his findings.

  68. foo Says:

    “No, this whole stupid blog post is about Feynman’s confirmation bias”

    So, let me get this straight. That stuff you put over and over again in the blog post text, and that you also put in the post’s title, that’s *not* what this blog post is about? But, confirmation bias, which is not even mentioned anywhere in the blog post before this point (except in karinova’s comment) *is* what it’s all about? Yeah, that sounds really reasonable.

    “how he doesn’t consider alternative explanations for his findings”

    And where exactly have you provided any believable alternative explanations for Ann’s behavior?

    In science you pick a hypothesis and you test it. If the results of a test are consistent with the hypothesis, then the hyothesis gains some amount of credibility (aka its likely utility as a tool of prediction). More tests (of the same type for confirmation/statistical purposes, and/or of different types for testing different aspects of a hypothesis and for differentiating between competing hypothesis) can be used to further determine the credibility of a given hypothesis.

    What makes for bad (or non) science?: Getting results that are repeatedly inconsistent with your hypothesis and sticking with it anyways. Making untestable and/or illogical hypothesis. Making up all kinds of (testable) hypothesis that neither you nor anyone else will ever test. *** Complaining about someone else’s hypothesis while offering no evidence it is incorrect and no alternative hypotheses of your own. Judging hypothesis based on ideology rather than facts. ***

    What doesn’t make for bad science?: Failing to think of every conceivable hypothesis. History indicates that this is not how science operates. Scientists don’t waste time on coming up with more and more hypothesis when they already have something that appears to be working. Instead they’ll just keep testing it (to the extent that such is deemed worthwhile) and see if it continues to hold up. Eventually they or someone else may find some evidence which is inconsistent with the hypothesis, and *that* is when scientists generally start trying to come up with a new hypothesis that is consistent with both the new evidence as well as the results of the previous experiments.

    So why should Feynman come up with more hypotheses when the one he has (the one he was given by the way, he didn’t come up with it himself) was working? Should *he* have done so just to satisfy *your* ideology?

    And where is your evidence of confirmation bias? The experiment with the “ordinary girl” qualifies as confirmation of the hypothesis, not confirmation bias. (It’s entirely possible that something inherently different is going on in that case, but scientists don’t make up new hypothesis “just because” when their existing hypothesis continues to work.) If you want to show confirmation bias on Feynman’s part, you would have to find some evidence of cases where he was trying to get a one night stand and completely acted in a way he considered respectful *and* he succeeded. Or cases where he was trying to get a one night stand and he was disrepectful and was unsuccessful. Then show that his presentation of cases in “Surely you’re joking…” is misrepresentative of the frequency with which this technique actually worked/bombed for him. But you offer no such evidence. You just proclaim “fait accomplis” without it. That may be convincing to readers of your blog who are just looking to feed their own ideological confirmation bias, but it’s not convincing to anyone with functioning reasoning skills.

    As mentioned above, you complain about Feynman not considering additional hypothesis while failing to present any of your own hypothesis consistent with the results of the experiment (most notably, all of Ann’s behavior). I suspect the reason you don’t is because they are all rather unflattering for Ann — either she’s a moocher/user, and/or drawn to assertive men regardless of the inappropriateness of their assertiveness, and/or just plain ditzy. What also likely needs to be explained by any hypothesis is the confidence and accuracy of the bartender, in spite of how incredible the prediction appeared to Feynman when the bartender made it: It’s either an extraordinary coincidence (unlikely by definition), or the bartender knows what he’s talking about (and Ann really is that predictable). But this is all inconsistent with your ideology, and so you choose to pretend it doesn’t exist and continue to let your ideology trump reality.

    Frankly, none of the hypothesis I am coming up with that are consistent with your behavior on this blog are particularly flattering for you. Consider your claim: “Ironically, Feynman believed that Ann was a whore” That indicates you have a serious lack of reading comprehension and/or logic skills because he did not believe she was a whore. As per the Feynman quote, he believed she was “*worse* than a whore”. “*worse* than X” does not imply X. That is only one of among a dozen+ trainwrecks of logic/comprehension you exhibit in just this one blog entry.

  69. Restructure! Says:

    So, let me get this straight. That stuff you put over and over again in the blog post text, and that you also put in the post’s title, that’s *not* what this blog post is about? But, confirmation bias, which is not even mentioned anywhere in the blog post before this point (except in karinova’s comment) *is* what it’s all about? Yeah, that sounds really reasonable.

    The post title is supposed to draw attention to the irony of Feynman being upset when women do not consider drinks or food to be pre-payment for sexual services. The post is written for a target audience who finds it absurd that if someone buys your a drink or food, you owe them sex. For people who think it is “common sense” that a man buying a woman a drink means that she owes the man sex—such as yourself—the post would contain commentary that you find confusing and you would miss the “confirmation bias” subtext.

  70. foo Says:

    “The post title is supposed to draw attention to the irony of Feynman being upset when women do not consider drinks or food to be pre-payment for sexual services.”

    I believe you are completely (and willfully) mischaracterizing why Feynman was upset. (See below for details.) When you look at why he was really upset, there is no “irony”. Attempting to draw attention to something that does not exist is a futile exercise, and only results in drawing attention to your own failure.

    “The post is written for a target audience who finds it absurd that if someone buys your a drink or food, you owe them sex.”

    Wow! What a strawman! That takes some crazy skillz! (Use of the ‘z’ is as far as my “leet speak limiter” will let me go.)

    In case you don’t get it (even after looking up “strawman” if need be), your logic train has just had another major wreck: *Everyone* posting here almost certainly agrees that it is absurd to believe you are *owed* sex if you give food or drink. Feynman would also agree it is absurd.

    You apparently want to take this strawman and push it onto Feynman, and then turn around and use the strawman to convict Feynman as a sexist. But, where does Feynman say a woman *owes* him sex if he gives them food or drink? Once again you are making proclamations with zero evidence.

    It *is* true that Feynman was seeking sex. (If you expect men to stop wanting sex, stop seeking sex, or stop being disappointed when they don’t get it, then you really need to realign your beliefs with reality.)

    However, what is most infuriating to him is *not* that giving drinks doesn’t “buy” him sex. It’s that (as you quote him in the post): “all they’re in there for is to get you to buy them a drink, and they’re not going to give you a goddamn thing”; “all she’s doing is getting him to buy her drinks, and she’s going to give him nothing!”; “I bought her $1.10 worth of sandwiches, and hadn’t asked her anything, and now I know I’m gonna get nothing!”; “You got me to buy these sandwiches, and what am I going to get for it? Nothing!”

    Since you’ve already shown poor comprehension skills, let me spell it out for you: He did *not* complain in any of those quotes that he didn’t get sex for drinks (even if sex is what he would really like). He *did* complain that they take the drinks/sandwiches and give *nothing*.

    I.e., what he is upset about is that the interactions are not fair. And it’s not just occasionally that the interactions are not fair, it’s pretty much all of the time. If you give, give, give and others just take, take, take, it is natural that you will not be happy with the situation (with the exception of explicit charity cases). Just start treating your friends like that and see how many friends you lose.

    Furthermore, there is the element of deception which also upsets him. In Ann’s case that deception is explicit — she makes a verbal offer that she very likely had zero intention of keeping (and in fact did not keep). But deception can be much more subtle than that, and often is. People can act like they like you, act like they are interested in you, until they get what they want. Then suddenly they’re really not all that into you. Subtle deception is still deception, and it is still immoral, and it’s only natural that the target of it (if they realize what has happened to them) is not going to be happy about it.

    You want to pretend that this just doesn’t go on, that *no* women are moochers/users, that *no* women use deception to get what they want? Or is it that you want to pretend that yeah, mooching/using/deceiving are normally bad, but as soon as sexual desire is involved the girl can do no wrong and mooching/using/deceiving are OK? Because *those* claims are ones I would find “absurd”. And to be clear, I am in no way suggesting that either gender has any kind of monopoly on this behavior, and have no wish to try to determine or debate which gender is “more guilty” of it, if either. All I claim is that this bad behavior *does* exist, and here in the real world people have to either learn to deal with it, or be prepared to be the victim time and again.

    Feynman, having been the victim time and again, was understandably not happy about it.

    “For people who think it is “common sense” that a man buying a woman a drink means that she owes the man sex–such as yourself”

    And exactly where did I ever say that? Not only is that a baseless ad hom, if I weren’t behind an anonymous ID it might be grounds for a libel suit. Congratulations on taking the moral low road all of the way to the brink of illegality. It truly demonstrates your moral superiority.

    For the record, I have never, not once in my whole life, felt that any woman *owed* me sex. Not for buying her a drink, not for doing her favor, not under any circumstance.

    You have now made it blatantly clear that you have absolutely no qualms about accusing others of wrongs they have never committed. You just make accusations and reach conclusions without any evidence whatsoever. Who the hell cares about evidence or truth or justice when you have a “morally superior” ideology to defend, right?

    “the post would contain commentary that you find confusing and you would miss the “confirmation bias” subtext.”

    So you retreat to the last bastion of the person weak in logic skills and short on facts by saying it’s “subtext”, which means it is purely subjective and therefore can neither be proved nor disproved, and is basically off-limits for all rational discourse. But for the sake of argument let’s say it’s there. The fact still remains that you have provided (and continue to provide) zero evidence of confirmation bias. So even if that subtext is there as you claim, it is nothing but unsupported defamatory innuendo.

  71. H Says:

    The only time I read Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, I didn’t notice this much, but now I’m recollecting that it made me uncomfortable to read, but I didn’t at the time know why. I was 14, and it was before I’d learned a lot about the pervasiveness of sexual assault and the forms that acquaintance rape can take. Thank you for highlighting this segment of the book. The comments from others above seem to only be from people who aren’t willing to hold Feynman accountable and admit that their hero is capable of having flaws. I still admire Richard Feynman’s astounding teaching skills, experimental skills and theoretical skills within physics as a physics student, but I am willing to hold him accountable and admit that he most definitely had problematic ideas about sex and relationships. If only “[Well-liked famous person] had problematic ideas about consent” harmed that person’s reputation as much as the above commenters claim–maybe then we’d be a lot less of a rape culture.

    Thank you for this post!

  72. Matt Says:

    I absolutely love how everyone commenting here thinks that they are smarter than Feynman. You all clearly don’t have the analytical ability to understand what he’s trying to say here. And yes, overall it’s not very positive in its attitude towards humanity and women in general, but I don’t think most of you can get that far into the meaning. The person who wrote this article clearly missed the point, and clearly thinks they understand what went on better than Feynman. They approach his writing like he’s not completely aware of what he’s saying, and then try to analyze his actions as if his writing were only a recounting of his actions. It’s fairly amusing actually, and a little sad that the majority of people are like those commenting on this thread. Blind fools warped by society.

  73. Fabio Cunctator Says:

    Great post,

    and still very timely considering the recent out-and-out celebration of Feynman at the TEDx at Caltech and the forthcoming, widely advertised on science-related media, Feynman biography by Lawrence Krauss.

    I am not a physicist, but I understand enough of physics to know that Feynman contributions to the field were immense, and well worthy of celebration and respect.

    But. As often tends to happen in the scientific community, scientific merits are all-too-quickly turned into a misplaced personality cult.

    Let me make an example. I am a philosopher (a category of people that Feynman of course despised) and have often read/worked with the german philosopher Martin Heidegger. During the 1930s, Heidegger was a card-carrying Nazi, and he never really repented for that. Today, most of continental philosophy is still in one way of the other referring to or arguing against his impressive work. However, given the circumstences of his personal life, none would dream to write openly celebratory biographies about him (as a matter of fact there are mostly *highly critical* ones) or to use him as a sort of ‘philosophy hero’. He was a petty, obnoxious human being with a brilliant mind. As there are many. For another clear example, as far as we know about him, none less than Isaac Newton was one of them.

    Personality cult is in general highly debatable, and in these cases plain wrong.

    And yes in my book, being a Nazi-sympathizer is as bad as being a flaming sexist.

  74. focal Says:

    This article suffers from faulty logic, specially in responses to criticism, plagued with ‘strawman’ arguments, ‘confirmation bias’ and ‘ad hominem’, etc.

    A summary in brief of some of the problems with the arguments:

    1 – About the “contract/promise of sex for drinks”. It is understood by Feynman and the posters that such implied/expected exchange is never as definite as that, people talk about having a conversation, spending time alone in the apt, all these are just a willingness for providing an opportunity for a connection that may occur in many levels. This long caveat is sometimes not mentioned because it is long. But if a man says that “he buys drinks for women in a bar to help him getting laid”, most (not counting rapists, etc…) are just asking from the lady for a fair chance to connect, not a service delivery guarantee!

    2 – The woman suggesting to buy sandwiches, and not offering to pay, that was in the context of the 50’s implies a requests for the man to pay for it, because that was the norm. To claim that she didn’t ask for anything explicitly ignores the context. It was an implicit request. And if you are not convinced, at least you have to believe the author impression that this was implicitly required of him. He was there, so he would have understood better than you.

    3 – Anne inviting Feynman to her apartment implies in the context of bar-flirting – if not guarantee of sex – at least providing the opportunity and give a fair chance for some level of intimacy, at least time spent alone. But she knew there will be a 3rd person there, she “forgot” to mention it! She also forgot to mention that Feynman will be paying for the sandwich of this 3rd man (“too many sandwiches”). The most reasonable interpretation is that she didn’t really forgot, but concealed this important facts with the purpose of misleading Feynman, and having him pay for the sandwich. She obtained material goods by mean of misleading/deception. She is a ‘cheat, which is not the same as a “whore” who is not deceiving anybody. Feynman didn’t say she was a whore, but “worse than” a whore. You don’t like that phrase. You may have your opinion if a ‘cheat’ is worse or not than a whore, but you don’t discuss that.

    4 – Did Feynman feel she owed him sex in exchange of the sandwich? No. He thought she owed him honesty. Was the reason of him being upset was the luck of sex itself? He was disappointed due to the lack of sex, but the reason for being upset was the deception.

    The last point disproves the title, but you admitted that you just put it there to grab attention.

  75. Wastrel Says:

    Have you read Histoire de ma vie by Giacomo Casanova? You could get a lot more material for your agenda out of that.

    I deplore the attitude Feynman showed toward women in this chapter of the book. At the same time, there’s more to this than his attitude; there is biology and the dynamics of human male-female dyads. Speaking in general (in other words, I’m not talking about you) men sometime feel such a need for sex that they could be considered insane, and women will play them like yo-yos on a string. Feyman, being naive, adopted a method that was suggested to him by a sexist practical joker and by golly it worked. It might never have worked on another woman. “Sometimes you just get lucky”, as they say.

    There is no reason to assume that Feynman was a bad man, a bad person, or a sexist person from this story. “Sadly, in both these cases, he never considered the possibility that a woman’s sexual consent and worth should not be monetized in the first place.” I disagree. The reason he had no success with women before this incident is he didn’t understand the game that he had to play. Men just want sex, women, in general (again, this means I am not talking about you), want something in exchange for it — sometimes money, sometimes a sandwich, sometimes lifelong security, sometimes just to be treated like a woman — it varies from woman to woman but they always want something. In other words, it is not men that “monetize” (when I first saw this word, I thought it meant to paint like a Frenchman) sex, it is women. This is based in our biology. I’m sorry it offends you, but I have no hope that this will change in the next 10,000 years or so.

  76. Fizzix Says:

    I don’t know how many here has actually read the book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” but this article seems to have misplaced Feynman’s character. First off I would like to list possible biases: I have read the book many times (5+) and many of his other books (The pleasure of finding things out, Why do you care what other people think (the follow up of this book) and etc) and books/talks/articles (currently studying “The Feynman Lectures on Physics” aka physics Bible) about Richard Feynman, I’m currently a physics student who admires Feynman alot and agree with almost all of his ideologies.

    This very much was a social experiment done by him. It might be wrong to do this kind of experiment, but he does not share the view he used in the experiment. This chapter is part of the book where he talks about how we view the world and how it can be very very different from what it actually is. (Later he talks about things like how views on view on nakeness is very uncivilized compare to the Japaneses culture… and how different people view things. His views on metaphysics, pseudosciences and religion.,,) He said in the book (and cited above) that he does not view things this way, he does not view woman like he does here in here. “All during the next day I built up my psychology differently” also later he says “But no matter how effective the lesson was, I never really used it after that. I didn’t enjoy doing it that way. But it was interesting to know that things worked much differently from how I was brought up.” This clearly shows that he doesn’t not personally has the view that the author of this article make it seems he does.

    Author of this article “Sadly, in both these cases, he never considered the possibility that a woman’s sexual consent and worth should not be monetized in the first place.” Yes he did, it was a social experiment. “All during the next day I built up my psychology DIFFERENTLY”: Feynman.

    Also please don’t bold very work that has a sexually content or inappropriate content, it makes the article very biased and force your views on others.

    Feynman (at the time of the event) views on woman and love was very much shaped by two important factors. His first love Arline Greenbaum died at a young age due to cancer and he seemed to never gotten over it. (He ignore it at the time because he was working in the Manhattan project and didn’t want it to effect his work. He say it was years later when he truly cried for Arline’s death.) The fact he has met his perfect love (and it was really perfect to him, he fell in love with her during school, he taken a art course just to be with her. His view on love back then was as pure as it can be, he married Arline while knowing she had a little time left.) and lost her during such a short time has changed his idea of love (maybe because he didn’t want to get hurt again). And his third wife had very modern (understatement) views on love. But Feynman did not in any way disrespect woman (or and culture, religion, age, disabilities.. etc.), he viewed man and woman as equals as it should be. (Even more than what is socially accepted now.)

    Feynman loved doing experiments, whether it was socially or physical. He often toyed around with things. Some might say it wasn’t appropriate to do the experiment above as he did. And it was not. That action was wrong of him, it was wrong of him to PRETEND to disrespect woman and say inappropriate things. But that was a wrong from a action but not a wrong of ideologies.

    In thinking, I think, Feynman was perfect. I cannot think of a ideologies he has that is wrong. He was truly a great person. He was brilliant, truthful to himself and others, great thinker, great at mathematics (a master at mathematical machinery), very intuitive physicist and a fun loving person. He has many traits that I admire and one day hope to have. Now if you think that I’m biased towards this because I’m a physics student, I feel I’m not. I can say that another great admirer of my Einstein had some very bad ideologies, he had some very bad political views. He bad views/hope for woman just for sex/food/housework so he can work on physics, he had affairs with young woman (Not 100% sure, but I remember a PBS video saying that.). Also, another great scientist Newton had some very bad views and was very abnormal than most of us view him. (Though this doesn’t not to say his scientific abilities are any less and world changing.)

    To the author, I feel you should reread the book and analyze a bit more. And be open minded about it. Maybe even read some books about Feynman and from Feynman. You might change your mind about him. I truly feel offended about how you stated Feynman as and I think many Feynman lovers are offended.

    Feynman’s Biggest Fan,
    Fizzix

    P.s I would like to apologize for my bad English/writing skills.
    P.P.s is anyone would a line by line analysis of this article, I wouldn’t mind doing it. Email me at fizzix12345@hotmail.com.

  77. The Guilt-Free Pickup Artist: Advice about Dating, Minus the Misogyny « Thoughts of an Average Bear Says:

    [...] seen advice about how to engage with women (and sometimes men) that doesn’t sit next to someone’s personal crusade. I want to spare others the twisted journey that led me to where I am today. Ultimately, I want to [...]

  78. Feynman: A comic biography of an iconoclastic physicist | LandoftheFreeish.com Says:

    [...] five nights a week at a local strip-bar; but they don’t dip into his embarrassing writings on convincing women to have sex with him, in which he comes across as a sexist pig. He was surely a product of his times, and he was surely [...]

  79. TheSameGuy Says:

    @Fabio Cunctator: Heidigger was not merely a Nazi sympathizer, but an actual Nazi, albeit on the civilian/political side rather than on the military/police/bureacracy side. Thus, being a Nazi-“sympathizer” is irrelevant. You are effectively claiming that being a flaming sexist is as bad as being a Nazi. And that may well be true (patriarchy in general is responsible for a Shoah with millions of victims)—yet let’s be clear that you are going Full Godwin here.
    ***

    When I first read SYJMF as a mid-teenager, I took Feynman’s approach very literally. I didn’t and still don’t think he was being subtle and I don’t think he was positing other than that he was owed some amount of sex from some of the women for whom he bought so many drinks an other things.

    As a geeky, uber-shy, and social awkward kid who was an utter clod and sexytime-procuring-failure with the women I was attracted to, I also took Feynman’s approach to heart, while I read it and from time to time afterward. Without thought of excuse, only explanation, it would have been tough at the time to ladle on even more self-loathing; far less painful to spend at least some of the frustration on internal recitation of Feynman’s “bitches ain’t shit” routine.

    That approach and attitude really wasn’t me, however—neither how I was “by nature” nor how I was raised. As a result, I never experimented with it outside of my own head. I was gratified that Feynman was not comfortable with it either and eventually dropped it. Nevertheless, I admired his ability to play with the role, and admiration came easily because the women in his story did not really seem to mind the treatment. (Yes, at the time, concepts of structural patriarchy and mind-colonization were unknown to me, despite my mom’s feminist books and subscription to Ms. magazine.)

    Moreover, I’ll admit that I was more interested in What It All Meant About Women than in what it meant about Feynman or patriarchy. Ultimately, though, what I learned most from Feynman’s story was about myself, through my complete inability to be That Guy. At the time, I thought that made me a pathetic loser. Later in life, I realized that even if some women were as-described, I just didn’t *want* to be That Guy. And I met and dated and had sex and relationships with awesome women who showed me Feynman’s experiment and insights were irrelevant to my life.

    Feynman was still a problematic 50s man, though. I believe another of his stories may illustrate this. He writes (I think in SYJMF) about how, after the war but still very boyish-looking, he couldn’t get anywhere with women grad students if he truthfully told them he was a professor of physics. (One woman reportedly mocked by saying “I’ll bet you were on the Manhattan Project, too;” IIRC, she walked off on him after he truthfully responded Yes.)

    Even in my mid-teen hormonal tumult and ambivalence, I was at least partly troubled by the notion he’d be trying to fuck students. Yes, they were grad students; yes, they were his age; yes, they were the women around him; and yes, most of them were probably not physics students. Still, he was in a position of power, and his pursuits didn’t seem right. Still less right seemed his solution to the student’s disbelief that he was a professor and Manhattan Project alumnus, *lying to them* by claiming to be just another physics grad student.

    I think the OPs analysis is not wrong (although perhaps not the only right reading). I don’t think it defames Feynman or “soils” his legacy/memory. Feynman was no dummy, and I’m confident he knew precisely the many ways in which his “bitches!” chapter would be read. To the extent people think ill of him based on this chapter, I think he knew they/we would do so, and he put it out there anyway. That could be a poke in the eye or it could be admirable candor. This was, after all, a man who famously liked to ask (as did his first wife, Arline) “what do you care what other people think?”

    I still like Feynman a great deal, but I have the luxury—the *privilege*—of being a man whose worst-case, like that often of Feynman, was no more than not getting laid. I think from the perspective of a woman, who might be a target, such predatory tendencies as Feynman discloses are much more disturbing, and might outweigh his positive contributions (as in, does anyone even give a damn anymore that Roman Polanski makes movies).

  80. ELF-IS Says:

    As a physicist he was excellent, but his idea of how to understand women? I think even he would have admitted that he had a lot to learn. As do all of us men.

  81. Tara Williams Says:

    Feynman is frequently glorified in physics circles. In fact, he is a hero to some young physics students. Certain types of young men often times are socially awkward, have had bad luck with girls (usually the perfect 10 shallow type drama major types that they think they “deserve” despite being very unattractive themselves), and naïve yet use their higher than average intelligence along with their desire to “be like Feynman” (whether they’ve properly understood him or not) as a justification or excuse for either treating minority members of the physics community poorly (or inappropriately focusing on them) rather than addressing their psychological inadequacies, analyzing their failures with particular member of the opposite sex, etc. that have manifest as intellectual masochism and even misogyny and contempt at times. Sadly, some of these young men grow up without addressing their emotional inadequacies and become physics professors; the environment for female students is consequently very hostile (hated by the students and professors alike); sexual harassment, inappropriate interest, or at best disregard and arrogance toward female students aree nearly givens… God help you if you don’t want to go out with one of them not because you “think you’re better”, “are a stuck up bitch”, etc., but because you understand full well that it will be talked about in embarrassing detail and/or there’s a huge double standard in play… Being a female physics student wasn’t a fun experience. It completely ruined my self esteem. I realized that I wouldn’t want to work around that for the rest of my life. It’s hard to learn and focus under those types of conditions; I’m so glad I left my school and now am studying physics online as a hobby as it still does interest me although I’d never want to make a career of it as I don’t feel like I deserve to be abused on a daily basis. Furthermore, I observed young men without even so much as an associate’s degree in physics treating our few female PhD professors with disregard and disrespect. This is the reason Feynman’s behavior toward, internal dialog regarding, and treatment of women shouldn’t be glorified. You can’t expect most young female physics students to just “write off the behavior” of the males who harass them in an effort to be an “intellectual rogue/rebel” or “feel sorry for these socially awkward” guys as many of the women are socially awkward not to mention insecure as well; although they aren’t generally quite as bad/auspie as their male counterparts as society hasn’t permitted them to be, they frequently aren’t “typical women” who desire husbands with thick wallets (and perhaps don’t want husbands at all!) nor do they understand emotions/male psychology as well as normal women at least when young nor do they care to play “mommy” or be a caretaker, so they’re left very hurt but mainly confused…


Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers

%d bloggers like this: