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23 Jan 17:19

Why Can't People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?

by Conor Friedersdorf

My first introduction to Jordan B. Peterson, a University of Toronto clinical psychologist, came by way of an interview that began trending on social media last week. Peterson was pressed by the British journalist Cathy Newman to explain several of his controversial views. But what struck me, far more than any position he took, was the method his interviewer employed. It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication.

First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Fox News hosts all feature and reward this rhetorical technique. And the Peterson interview has so many moments of this kind that each successive example calls attention to itself until the attentive viewer can’t help but wonder what drives the interviewer to keep inflating the nature of Peterson’s claims, instead of addressing what he actually said.

This isn’t meant as a global condemnation of this interviewer’s quality or past work. As with her subject, I haven’t seen enough of it to render any overall judgment—and it is sometimes useful to respond to an evasive subject with an unusually blunt restatement of their views to draw them out or to force them to clarify their ideas.

Perhaps she has used that tactic to good effect elsewhere. (And the online attacks to which she’s been subjected are abhorrent assaults on decency by people who are perpetrating misbehavior orders of magnitude worse than hers.)

But in the interview, Newman relies on this technique to a remarkable extent, making it a useful illustration of a much broader pernicious trend. Peterson was not evasive or unwilling to be clear about his meaning. And Newman’s exaggerated restatements of his views mostly led viewers astray, not closer to the truth.

* * *

Peterson begins the interview by explaining why he tells young men to grow up and take responsibility for getting their lives together and becoming good partners. He notes he isn’t talking exclusively to men, and that he has lots of female fans.

“What’s in it for the women, though?” Newman asks.

“Well, what sort of partner do you want?” Peterson says. “Do you want an overgrown child? Or do you want someone to contend with who is going to help you?”

“So you’re saying,” Newman retorts, “that women have some sort of duty to help fix the crisis of masculinity.” But that’s not what he said. He posited a vested interest, not a duty.

“Women deeply want men who are competent and powerful,” Peterson goes on to assert. “And I don’t mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others. That’s not power. That’s just corruption. Power is competence. And why in the world would you not want a competent partner? Well, I know why, actually, you can’t dominate a competent partner. So if you want domination—”

The interviewer interrupts, “So you’re saying women want to dominate, is that what you’re saying?”

The next section of the interview concerns the pay gap between men and women, and whether it is rooted in gender itself or other nondiscriminatory factors:

Newman: … that 9 percent pay gap,  that’s a gap between median hourly earnings between men and women. That exists.

Peterson: Yes. But there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender, but that’s not the only reason. If you’re a social scientist worth your salt, you never do a univariate analysis. You say women in aggregate are paid less than men. Okay. Well then we break its down by age; we break it down by occupation; we break it down by interest; we break it down by personality.

Newman: But you’re saying, basically, it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top, because that’s what is skewing that gender pay gap, isn’t it? You’re saying that’s just a fact of life, women aren’t necessarily going to get to the top.

Peterson: No, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, either. I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it.

Newman: Yeah, but why should women put up with those reasons?

Peterson: I’m not saying that they should put up with it! I’m saying that the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex is wrong. And it is wrong. There’s no doubt about that. The multivariate analysis have been done. So let me give you an example––

The interviewer seemed eager to impute to Peterson a belief that a large, extant wage gap between men and women is a “fact of life” that women should just “put up with,” though all those assertions are contrary to his real positions on the matter.  

Throughout this next section, the interviewer repeatedly tries to oversimplify Peterson’s view, as if he believes one factor he discusses is all-important, and then she seems to assume that because Peterson believes that given factor helps to explain a pay gap between men and women, he doesn’t support any actions that would bring about a more equal outcome.

Her surprised question near the end suggests earnest confusion:

Peterson: There’s a personality trait known as agreeableness. Agreeable people are compassionate and polite. And agreeable people get paid less than disagreeable people for the same job. Women are more agreeable than men.

Newman: Again, a vast generalization. Some women are not more agreeable than men.

Peterson: That’s true. And some women get paid more than men.

Newman: So you’re saying by and large women are too agreeable to get the pay raises that they deserve.

Peterson: No, I’m saying that is one component of a multivariate equation that predicts salary. It accounts for maybe 5 percent of the variance. So you need another 18 factors, one of which is gender. And there is prejudice. There’s no doubt about that. But it accounts for a much smaller portion of the variance in the pay gap than the radical feminists claim.

Newman: Okay, so rather than denying that the pay gap exists, which is what you did at the beginning of this conversation, shouldn’t you say to women, rather than being agreeable and not asking for a pay raise, go ask for a pay raise. Make yourself disagreeable with your boss.

Peterson: But I didn’t deny it existed, I denied that it existed because of gender. See, because I’m very, very, very careful with my words.

Newman: So the pay gap exists. You accept that. I mean the pay gap between men and women exists—but you’re saying it’s not because of gender, it’s because women are too agreeable to ask for pay raises.

Peterson: That’s one of the reasons.

Newman: Okay, so why not get them to ask for a pay raise? Wouldn’t that be fairer?

Peterson: I’ve done that many, many, many times in my career. So one of the things you do as a clinical psychologist is assertiveness training. So you might say––often you treat people for anxiety, you treat them for depression, and maybe the next most common category after that would be assertiveness training. So I’ve had many, many women, extraordinarily competent women, in my clinical and consulting practice, and we’ve put together strategies for their career development that involved continual pushing, competing, for higher wages. And often tripled their wages within a five-year period.  

Newman: And you celebrate that?

Peterson: Of course! Of course!

Another passage on gender equality proceeded thusly:

Newman: Is gender equality a myth?

Peterson: I don’t know what you mean by the question. Men and women aren’t the same. And they won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be treated fairly.

Newman: Is gender equality desirable?

Peterson: If it means equality of outcome then it is almost certainly undesirable. That’s already been demonstrated in Scandinavia. Men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories if you leave them to do it of their own accord. It’s 20 to 1 female nurses to male, something like that. And approximately the same male engineers to female engineers. That’s a consequence of the free choice of men and women in the societies that have gone farther than any other societies to make gender equality the purpose of the law. Those are ineradicable differences––you can eradicate them with tremendous social pressure, and tyranny, but if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcomes.

Newman: So you’re saying that anyone who believes in equality, whether you call them feminists or whatever you want to call them, should basically give up because it ain’t going to happen.

Peterson: Only if they’re aiming at equality of outcome.

Newman: So you’re saying give people equality of opportunity, that’s fine.

Peterson: It’s not only fine, it’s eminently desirable for everyone, for individuals as well as societies.

Newman: But still women aren’t going to make it. That’s what you’re really saying.

That is not “what he’s really saying”!

In this next passage Peterson shows more explicit frustration than at any other time in the program with being interviewed by someone who refuses to relay his actual beliefs:

Newman: So you don’t believe in equal pay.

Peterson: No, I’m not saying that at all.

Newman: Because a lot of people listening to you will say, are we going back to the dark ages?

Peterson: That’s because you’re not listening, you’re just projecting.

Newman: I’m listening very carefully, and I’m hearing you basically saying that women need to just accept that they’re never going to make it on equal terms—equal outcomes is how you defined it.

Peterson: No, I didn’t say that.

Newman: If I was a young woman watching that, I would go, well, I might as well go play with my Cindy dolls and give up trying to go school, because I’m not going to get the top job I want, because there’s someone sitting there saying, it’s not possible, it’s going to make you miserable.

Peterson: I said that equal outcomes aren’t desirable. That’s what I said. It’s a bad social goal. I didn’t say that women shouldn’t be striving for the top, or anything like that. Because I don’t believe that for a second.

Newman: Striving for the top, but you’re going to put all those hurdles in their way, as have been in their way for centuries. And that’s fine, you’re saying. That’s fine. The patriarchal system is just fine.

Peterson:  No! I really think that’s silly! I do, I think that’s silly.

He thinks it is silly because he never said that “the patriarchal system is just fine” or that he planned to put lots of hurdles in the way of women, or that women shouldn’t strive for the top, or that they might as well drop out of school, because achieving their goals or happiness is simply not going to be possible.

The interviewer put all those words in his mouth.

The conversation moves on to other topics, but the pattern continues. Peterson makes a statement. And then the interviewer interjects, “So you’re saying …” and fills in the rest with something that is less defensible, or less carefully qualified, or more extreme, or just totally unrelated to his point. I think my favorite example comes when they begin to talk about lobsters. Here’s the excerpt:

Peterson: There’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the Western patriarchy. And that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. I use the lobster as an example: We diverged from lobsters evolutionarily history about 350 million years ago. And lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin just like ours. The nervous system of the lobster and the human being is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction, which it doesn’t.

Newman: Let me get this straight. You’re saying that we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters?

Yes, he proposes that we all live on the sea floor, save some, who shall go to the seafood tanks at restaurants. It’s laughable. But Peterson tries to keep plodding along.

Peterson: I’m saying it is inevitable that there will be continuities in the way that animals and human beings organize their structures. It’s absolutely inevitable, and there is one-third of a billion years of evolutionary history behind that … It’s a long time. You have a mechanism in your brain that runs on serotonin that’s similar to the lobster mechanism that tracks your status—and the higher your status, the better your emotions are regulated. So as your serotonin levels increase you feel more positive emotion and less negative emotion.

Newman: So you’re saying like the lobsters, we’re hard-wired as men and women to do certain things, to sort of run along tram lines, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Where did she get that extreme “and there’s nothing we can do about it”? Peterson has already said that he’s a clinical psychologist who coaches people to change how they related to institutions and to one another within the constraints of human biology. Of course he believes that there is something that can be done about it.

He brought up the lobsters only in an attempt to argue that “one thing we can’t do is say that hierarchical organization is a consequence of the capitalist patriarchy.”

At this point, we’re near the end of the interview. And given all that preceded it, Newman’s response killed me. Again, she takes an accusatory tack with her guest:

Newman: Aren’t you just whipping people up into a state of anger?

Peterson: Not at all.

Newman: Divisions between men and women. You’re stirring things up.

Actually, one of the most important things this interview illustrates—one reason it is worth noting at length—is how Newman repeatedly poses as if she is holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it is she that is “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.”

At every turn, she is the one who takes her subject’s words and makes them seem more extreme, or more hostile to women, or more shocking in their implications than Peterson’s remarks themselves support. Almost all of the most inflammatory views that were aired in the interview are ascribed by Newman to Peterson, who then disputes that she has accurately characterized his words.

There are moments when Newman seems earnestly confused, and perhaps is. And yet, if it were merely confusion, would she consistently misinterpret him in the more scandalous, less politically correct, more umbrage-stoking direction?

To conclude, this is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of Peterson’s views. It is an argument that the effects of the approach used in this interview are pernicious.

For one, those who credulously accept the interviewer’s characterizations will emerge with the impression that a prominent academic holds troubling views that, in fact, he does not actually believe or advocate. Some will feel needlessly troubled. And distorted impressions of what figures like Peterson mean by the words that they speak can only exacerbate overall polarization between their followers and others, and sap their critics of credibility to push back where they are wrong.

Lots of culture-war fights are unavoidable––that is, they are rooted in earnest, strongly felt disagreements over the best values or way forward or method of prioritizing goods. The best we can do is have those fights, with rules against eye-gouging.

But there is a way to reduce needless division over the countless disagreements that are inevitable in a pluralistic democracy: get better at accurately characterizing the views of folks with differing opinions, rather than egging them on to offer more extreme statements in interviews; or even worse, distorting their words so that existing divisions seem more intractable or impossible to tolerate than they are. That sort of exaggeration or hyperbolic misrepresentation is epidemic—and addressing it for everyone’s sake is long overdue.

15 Jan 11:53

Japan's latest sensation is a cryptocurrency pop group

by Jon Fingas

Of course it is.

If you're starting a pop group in Japan, where giant rosters and virtual superstars are par for the course, how do you stand out? By tying yourself to something trendy -- and in 2018, that means cryptocurrency. Meet Kasotsuka Shojo (Virtual Currenc...
04 Jan 12:07

Things Go Surprisingly Wrong For Driver At Bank Drive Thru

by Raphael Orlove

Bo and Luke would be proud...

Watch the brake lights as this Kia Sorento takes off from a drive-thru ATM in Rockford, Illinois two days before Christmas. They never come on, even as the car hits a berm, goes airborne and bunny hops another car.


03 Jan 12:11

Scientists get closer to replicating human sperm

by Rachel England

No job is safe from automation, apparently...

Scientists have taken an important step forward in recreating the way the human body makes sperm, which could one day mean creating artificial sperm and eggs for infertility treatment. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge's Gurdon Instit...
26 Dec 15:01

What Did We Get Stuck In Our Rectums Last Year?

by Barry Petchesky on Adequate Man, shared by Michael Ballaban to Jalopnik

"Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal...!"

If it’s Christmas, it must be time to learn what America shoved inside itself. The only worthwhile holiday tradition pushes on.


13 Dec 11:41

People are mortgaging their houses to buy Bitcoin

by Saqib Shah

Nice, borrowing from one bubble to fund the other bubble. Garth would be proud.

Bitcoin is sitting at $16,674 at the time of writing, after rocketing from $1,000 to more than $19,000 in the course of this year. Those types of eye-catching numbers (and the resulting media hype) are bound to draw the interest of casual folk. But,...
05 Dec 17:39

My $200,000 bitcoin odyssey

by Zach Hines
This was not what I expected to be doing with my October. But there I was, on a flight to Hong Kong, hoping I would be able to retrieve $200,000 worth of bitcoin from a broken laptop. Four years ago, I was living in Hong Kong when a fellow journalis...
05 Dec 12:37

‘Altered Carbon,’ Netflix’s answer to ‘Blade Runner,’ debuts in February

by Timothy J. Seppala

Read the book. NOW

Looking for something to sate your Blade Runner appetite until this year's 2049 hits Blu-ray? Then take a look at the first trailer for Netflix's upcoming sci-fi serial Altered Carbon. The quick look has it all: grimy retro-futuristic flying cars, lo...
24 Nov 19:06

A lost 'Doctor Who' episode featuring Tom Baker is finally here

by Devindra Hardawar
Doctor Who fans have waited nearly four decades for today. Shada -- an episode that began filming in 1979 with Tom Baker as the legendary Time Lord -- is finally finished and available to download (a DVD will be released in the UK on December 4th, an...
14 Nov 12:15

Bose uses Indiegogo to test wireless earbuds for sleep

by Rob LeFebvre

$249 USD buys a lot of orange Shoppers' earplugs...

It may seem odd for a proven audio company like Bose to take to crowd-funding, but an Indiegogo campaign for the company's upcoming noise-masking wireless earbuds (or 'sleepbuds') makes a lot of sense as a beta test its fans can pay to get into. The...
09 Nov 12:13

Netflix revives London street drama 'Top Boy' with Drake's help

by Matt Brian


Netflix is continuing its tradition of extending popular Channel 4 TV shows after confirming that London street drama Top Boy is being revived. In a tweet, the show's star Ashley Walters -- also known as Asher D from the So Solid Crew -- confirmed th...
03 Nov 12:45

Bus Company Boss: 'Fuck It'

by Erik Shilling

Hundreds of passengers no longer have a bus line to rely on, and several drivers are without jobs after a bus company in England abruptly shut down Sunday. The shutdown followed an internal memo from the company’s boss, who said, “There comes a time in any relationship when you just have to say ‘Fuck it.’”


02 Nov 11:52

'Descent' revival is coming to PS4 and Xbox One

by Jon Fingas
The classic zero-G shooter Descent may have been born on PC, but its revival won't be limited to one platform. Descendent Studios has announced that Little Orbit is porting Descent: Underground to the PS4 and Xbox One. While it's not certain what t...
31 Oct 14:52

Ford Has A Seat-Testing Robot Butt Called The 'Robutt'

by Ryan Felton

Robotics aren’t new to the automotive world, but Ford has a robot, and its shaped like a human butt, called the “Robutt,” and mimics how our butts move in and out of a car seat. How can we not talk about it?


24 Oct 11:58

238 Thirsty Cities to Amazon: Stimulate Me, Daddy

by Bryan Menegus on Gizmodo, shared by Justin T. Westbrook to Jalopnik

>1M population? Cya Halifax...

P.S. Damn, Bezos is yoked

The proposal deadline has come and gone on Amazon’s unusually public search to plant a second headquarters in one of North America’s metropolitan areas. Among other factors, Amazon’s stated “preference” for candidates cities with a population over 1 million should have whittled possible HQ2 locales down to a few…


18 Oct 11:50

AI-powered app finds and locks away your racy photos

by Rob LeFebvre
Hiding racy photos on your phone can be a tedious, manual affair. Depending on the app, you need to first select all the pics you want to move, move them and then delete them from your original cameral roll. That's not to mention making sure they did...
15 Oct 21:18

There's An Easter Egg On Russian Vans That Lets You Play Tetris On The Dashboard

by Jason Torchinsky

Ever since Warren Robinett hid his name in the Atari 2600 game Adventure, there’s been a rich and wonderful tradition of developers hiding little fun secret things in computer software. This one, found on Russian-made GAZelle Next vans and trucks, is especially good: you can play Tetris on the little dot-matrix screen…


11 Oct 16:47

Amazon's new Kindle Oasis is waterproof and has a bigger screen

by Devindra Hardawar


We called Amazon's last Kindle Oasis "the perfect e-reader for the one percent." That still describes the new Oasis, which Amazon is officially unveiling today. To be fair, it's slightly less expensive than its predecessor, starting at $250/£23...
09 Oct 20:54

FDA clears implant that treats severe sleep apnea

by Jon Fingas
Sleep apnea (where your brain doesn't properly send breathing signals while resting) is horrible enough by itself, but the solutions to it can be scary: you may have to take medication, rely on ungainly breathing machines or opt for invasive surgery....
22 Sep 12:42

Unlimited 'Stargate' streaming will cost you $20

by Rob LeFebvre

$20 one-time fee for all the Stargate shows/movies

MGM Studios announced a new web-based entry into its popular Stargate franchise, Stargate Origins, this past July at San Diego Comic Con. In order to see the prequel series, though, you'll have to subscribe to a Stargate-only streaming service, too....
14 Sep 13:42

Here's How A Corvette Was Totaled Because Of One Inch Of Damage

by Jason Torchinsky


When we think of a car being wrecked so badly that it’s effectively totaled, we tend to imagine pretty gruesome, mangled wrecks. What we don’t usually picture is an incident that left damage so small you could hide it with your thumb, but that’s exactly what happened to one deeply unlucky Corvette.


06 Sep 16:43

Taking ‘upskirt’ photos isn’t technically illegal, but it soon could be

by Jamie Rigg
This is a baffling one. You'd think that laws governing sexual offenses or rights to privacy or something would make it very obviously illegal to point a camera lens up a woman's skirt and snap a pic without their consent. But as it stands, anyone ca...
28 Aug 14:29

‘Safer’ thorium reactor trials could salvage nuclear power

by Saqib Shah


A Dutch nuclear research institute is conducting the first experiment in close to five decades on molten-salt nuclear reactors based on thorium. Long hailed as a potential "safer" nuclear power, thorium reactor research could provide clean, affordabl...
25 Aug 11:20

'Half Life' writer reveals what could've been Episode 3

by Richard Lawler
Nearly ten years after the debut of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, the world is still waiting for Valve to deliver the final episode in the trilogy, but we may have to settle for something else. Just a few months after the last of the game's writers left...
24 Aug 23:55

Multiple People Charged For Stunting During Enthusiast Friend's Funeral Procession

by Justin T. Westbrook

Four people have been charged and police are looking for others involved in “stunting” during a friend’s funeral procession in Enfield, Nova Scotia. When I go out, I want all of you to show up and rip sick burnouts in my memory, too.


23 Aug 11:56

Calgary Airport Replaces Handicapped Spots With 'Lexus Only' Parking

by Jason Torchinsky

lol, classy

You know those stupid novelty signs that say things like “Mustang Parking Only” that dorks like to put in their garages? They’re harmless fun, right? Of course they are. But you know, you could make them a whole lot less harmless if you replaced handicapped spots with signs like that, in exchange for money from one…


22 Aug 18:29

Window Shop At Your Own Risk: The 26 Worst Products for Men Ever Created

by Brett & Kate McKay

One of the very first articles we published way back in 2008 was a fun look at some of the “worst products for men.” A year after, we created another such list with even more wacky products we had discovered.

These gems have been gathering dust in the archives, so we dusted off our favorites from each list and then added a bunch of new ones we’ve unearthed since the aughts to create a comprehensive, all-in-one exhibit of these oddities.

Below you’ll find some of the funny, dorky, disturbing, and just plain out-there products that were pitched to the men of yesteryear — often playing on male insecurities like hair loss and impotence — that aren’t due a comeback anytime soon. Window shop at your pleasure, and your risk!

Male Virility and General Groinal Health

Radioactive Jockstrap

Radioactive materials were once thought to impart healing and vitalizing powers. Radium was infused into drinking water, baths, toothpaste, and, though the advertisement above doesn’t come right out and say it, packed into jockstraps. As is the hallmark of impotence-correcting ads even today, the copy doesn’t directly state the problem this radioactive banana hammock is designed to cure, instead coyly framing it as the antidote to a “decline of sexual strength,” “low vitality,” “premature old age,” and “loss of manly vigor.” Here at last was the cure for the fellow who “realizes his happiness depends on his ability to perform the duties of a REAL MAN,” and who isn’t “satisfied without the pleasures that are his birthright!”

If the jockstrap didn’t do the trick in restoring one’s vim and vigor, radium also came in the form of suppositories “guaranteed to be perfectly harmless.”

The Prostate Warmer

vintage prostrate warmer

Invented in 1918, this device promised to “stimulate the abdominal brain!” (I am not sure what that is, although men have long been accused of thinking with it.) The warmer consisted of a 4.25 inch probe which was plugged into the wall and then inserted into the rectum. When plugged in, a blue light bulb lit up to tell you it was working to restore your manly vitality. It really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “blue light special.”

Recto Rotor

Truth in advertising: the Rector Rotor was most certainly “in a class by itself.” This dilator promised to cure “piles, constipation, and prostrate problems.” It was designed to break up, your, um, “piles,” lubricate the rectum, and stimulate the prostrate from the inside out. With a motto like “large enough to be efficient, small enough for anyone over 15 years old,” how could you go wrong?

Heidelberg Electric Belt

In the early 1900s many people believed they were suffering from “neurasthenia,” a disease caused by modernization and over-stimulation. This “sickness” produced a wide variety of symptoms, from depression to impotency to fatigue. Touted as a cure for those suffering from such a “weak and deranged nervous system,” the Heidelberg Electric Belt encircled your waist with five electrodes — one which hung over your junk — and promised to zap “the proper organs and affected parts” back to vim and vigor.

The Dila-Therm

Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate gland and can cause your man junk to really hurt. The Dila-Therm promised relief, but only for the owner with the wherewithal to boldly apply it himself . . . or to ask someone else to do it for him.

The Lantz Supporter

The Lantz Supporter was basically an everyday jockstrap, for the man who felt his boxer briefs didn’t provide sufficient support for “freedom of action,” and whose quest for a “refined appearance” went beyond tailoring his trousers.

Anti- “Self-Pollution” Devices

Spike-Lined Ring

During the 1800s and early 1900s, extreme measures were recommended to control the sexual libido of young men. This particular device was aimed not only at preventing masturbation, but nocturnal emissions as well. Young men would tie this ring of death around their member, and whenever they became aroused, the spikes would sink into their flesh. Don’t worry though, as according to its creator, it would “produce no uneasiness till erection comes on, when the patient, roused by the pricking can jump out of bed and thus arrest an impending emission.”

Spermatic Truss

vintage illustration spermatic truss

Patented in 1876, the spermatic truss was designed to make erections impossible by binding the genitalia down. Twenty-one years later, the designer changed the truss a bit, making erections possible. The only downside? An erection would now drive the penis against painful spikes.

The Timely Warning

the timely warning penis cooling device 1893 illustration

Invented by Frank Orth in 1893, The Timely Warning was a penis cooling apparatus designed to prevent wet dreams. A man would attach the device to his penis before he went to bed, and when an erection occurred during the night, levers opened to allow cold water to flow through tubes around the genitalia. This cooled “the organ of generation, so that the erection subsides and no discharge occurs.” Basically, it was like taking a cold shower, but without the shower.

Clothing and Personal Appearance

Model 25 Nose Shaper

Why waste thousands of dollars on a rhinoplasty when you can simply smoosh your nose into submission? The ad says you can wear it day or night, but the former is only true if in addition to a large schnoz, you’re also a dedicated homebody who’s got a bad case of agoraphobia.

Paste-On Facial Hair

All men long to grow a manly mustache or sideburns. But it takes so dang long, and wouldn’t you like to be able to wear some sideburns to work and then attach a cool handlebar mustache for your date that night? And sometimes you just want to rock the Satan Van Dyke. With this kit, there are so many options to play with; as the ad notes, “The combinations are limitless!” Though, as the author of the Modern Mechanix blog observes, “actually there are only seven combinations, unless you count each side burn individually.”

Crosley Xervac Head Vacuum

This large device (which you could rent for home use) operated on the principle that sucking more blood into your scalp would make hair grow healthy and strong and prevent it from falling out. A hose attached to a skull cap surrounded your head with suction power. This reminds me of Garth using the Suck-Cut on Wayne‘s World. “It’s sucking my will to live, man!”

Here’s another device operating on the same principle:

A New Kind of Hat

vintage hair loss ad new kind of hat

Not only does this hat help you grow hair, it also protects your brain from mind control. The Allied Merke Institutes definitely should have invested more in their marketing department; they couldn’t even come up with a name for this thing except for “invention” and “new kind of hat.”


A compellingly passive way to regrow your hair. Just put on the topper you were going to wear anyway, insert the “Hat Sheath,” and let the magic vapor go to work as you go about your business!

Fleischmann’s Yeast Acne Cure

Did you know that chocolate makes you break out? 100% true. Also, the same substance that makes bread rise can cure your acne. Honest. Just eat a few cakes of it a day; your mouth will smell like bread, your face will be as smooth and clear as a baby’s bottom, and you’ll be on your way to the corner office.

Weil Reducing Belt

Here’s the pitch: you wear a rubber belt around your midsection constantly, and every time your portly flesh rubs up against it, it melts away your fat. It’s a man girdle. Much better idea than doing “strenuous reducing exercises which are liable to strain your heart.” Plus, it puts your “sagging internal organs back into place.” I know I hate it when my liver droops.

Rainat Hat Cover

Utilitarian, especially for a time where nearly every man wore a hat day in and day out? Surely. Suave? Surely not. Can you imagine Humphrey Bogart pausing at the first sign of drizzle to put a jimmy on his fedora?

Paper Hat Parasol

Hats are by nature supposed to keep the sun off your neck and face. But if the brim just doesn’t extend far enough for you, then you can place a very handsome paper parasol on top, and attach it with a rubber band. Ever enterprising, the manufacturer suggests printing the paper with an advertisement. Perhaps one for sunscreen.

Glow-in-the-Dark Kiss Me Tie

vintage glow in the dark kiss me necktie

Do you often find yourself in the pitch black darkness? While wearing a tie? With a woman who will do whatever your tie tells her to? Well, sir, do I have the tie for you! If this one doesn’t float your boat, the company also makes another equally suave design:

Glow-in-the-Dark Striptease Tie

vintage glow in the dark striptease necktie tie

This is the mullet of neckties. Business during the day and a party at night.

The Dribble Bib Necktie

At least with this product, the manufacturers are in on the joke, touting the tie’s “bright, gaudy, horrible stripes.” Perfect for overweight uncle types looking for a laugh at the family reunion.

Bow Legs . . . Cure?

What kills me about this ad is the sheer mystery and uncertainty of its intent . . . should a gentleman just send away for a booklet of perfect leg forms to gaze upon? If, after gazing upon them, a man is filled with envy and left bemoaning his less than perfect drumsticks, will the booklet then hawk a cure for those beset with dreaded and “unsightly” bow legs and knock knees? And . . . what kind of ghastly contraption could correct them??


Float-ees Swim Trunks

Making it to adulthood without learning how to swim can be quite embarrassing for a man. You can’t very well put on a man-sized puddle-jumper. Float-ees is the solution! But make sure no one sees you blowing them up; you might get a real funny look.

The “Stick-‘Em-Up…The-Joke’s-on-You” Gun

Recommended for the “well dressed Chicagoan” in “these days of flying bullets and indiscriminate hold ups,” this invention was introduced in 1929, but unfortunately still seems useful for navigating the modern Windy City. Don it underneath your clothes (no one will notice you’re wearing a pillow-sized contraption under your suit), and “Instead of merely throwing up the hands when threatened by a hold up man the wearer can spray a stream of lead bullets in his face.”

I surrender . . . psyche!


Note: Most of these old advertisements were found on Modern Mechanix — a fascinating, often laugh-out-loud funny, but unfortunately now-defunct blog that collected this kind of delightful ephemera.

The post Window Shop At Your Own Risk: The 26 Worst Products for Men Ever Created appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

13 Aug 20:47

Recommended Reading: The rise and fall of 'Mortal Kombat'

by Billy Steele
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09 Aug 16:26

Fingernail-sized chip can repair damaged tissue in seconds

by Rachel England
A new device can begin repairing damaged organs in seconds, heralding a major breakthrough for life-saving medicine. Developed at Ohio State University, the technology known as tissue nanotransfection (TNT) uses a small coin-sized silicone chip that...
02 Aug 17:52

This Is Why You Have To Visit The Car Museums When You're In Italy

by Ken Saito


Italy. A country of great food, great culture, and great driving. Well okay, two out of three isn’t so bad. In the five days I spent in Tuscany I fell in love with the country that gave us gelato, bolognese sauce, and of course, some of the best dream cars ever made.