I was reading SUNY Plattsburgh professor William Tooke’s most recent blog post on this site about the old Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and started thinking about another Kubrick film: A Clockwork Orange. The main character in this movie is a symbol of wild depravity, with a clear lack of inhibition and a somewhat malevolent streak that is simultaneously aggressive and sexual—leading up to the somewhat climactic gang rape that lands him in the “reprogramming” project that dominates the remainder of the plot.
When thinking about this movie, though, I’m always reminded of a less often cited scene that occurs early in the movie. The main character goes to a record store where he meets two young women. He sweet talks them for a moment, at which point we are fast-forwarded through a departure from the store, and a thoroughly consensual, mid-afternoon ménage a trios romp.
I think what I like about this scene is that it reminds me that he is not merely a walking sickness, but a man with an unbridled, untrained testosterone system. Everything from picking up women in public, to being an intensely dominant leader of his little gang, to the rape scene, is a manifestation of this excessively testosteronergic behavioral strategy. Thus, his socially unconscionable behaviors arise from the same system that is making him more attractive to women, and in turn laying the groundwork for high reproductive fitness. (I mean, how many men can say they walked in looking for a Led Zeppelin vinyl and walked out with a threesome?)
This is actually the moment at which some evolutionists might say something to the effect of, “Shove your ‘depravity’ where the sun don’t shine, that’s a success story!” Now that’s the sort of bombastic, un-couched statement that might effectively emphasize a point, but, as any good publicist would be quick to point out, it reeks of a calculated insensitivity that may cause it to fall on deaf ears. I’d rather phrase it as follows (it’s a little bit less of a sound bite, but follow me): These crimes are part of a sophisticated strategy for attaining resources and sex partners. Furthermore, these tendencies are driven by a biological system that happens to be turned up to a very high volume. Someone with such a strategy needs to be socialized to the expectations that modern society puts on them, however, otherwise their selfish drives can become a cancer.
Owing to my involvement in quite a bit of research associated with the testosterone system, I’m just getting on a role. More in the next post on real-life examples of testosterone-pumped men and how they’ve helped to shape history.