Sex and the City… and Deterrence

A Column by Jamie Withorne

About the Author


Jamie Withorne

Columnist

Jamie Withorne is a junior at Columbia studying Political Science, focusing specifically on International Relations. She is currently active with the Columbia European Society and Nourish International here on campus, when she is not running around the Upper West Side as a dog-walker. Originally from South Dakota, Jamie is constantly fascinated by life in New York. In her free time she likes to travel, find instagram-able coffee shops, and read Nordic murder mysteries.

Jamie is currently studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, focusing on terrorism and counterterrorism from a European perspective.

About the Column


“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” will dive into all things dating, New York, Columbia, and international relations. From sloppy Tinder hookups to the JCPOA, nothing is off limits.

Jamie’s Posts


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This week, I told my friend I was going to make my next column about something even better than sex. To which she responded, “So… like…orgasms??” No, dear friend, no more blatantly risqué pieces… at least not this week.

This week’s column discusses self-love. Self-love is arguably better than sex. If you have self-love, technically, you really don’t need anything else. Realists who have studied International Relations would agree.

These realists believe that states are the main power players in international politics. They argue that the world is an anarchical system, in which no single authoritative power can enforce laws so as to protect one state from another. Realists believe states institute a “self-help” doctrine. This doctrine suggests that states rely on their own resources and capabilities to protect their own sovereignty, with the ultimate goal of survival or sovereignty.

I think people should be more like the states in realists’ theories. Simply put, we need to stop hating ourselves. If you hate yourself, you inevitably cannot protect yourself from the world you must reside in. Once you recognize your own resourcefulness and capabilities, you take your first steps towards implementing a “self-help” doctrine of sorts. Only in seeing and utilizing your own value can you survive external threats.

These external threats are undeniable constants of our every day life. Sometimes you are choked by the guilt at the bottom of an ice cream tub, or you wrestle with unprecedented loneliness that you just can’t quite satiate. Sometimes great loves come to an undesired end, blinding you with remorse. On the other hand… sometimes you are ahead of all of your assignments, or you are unashamedly doing nothing and enjoying the sweet reprieve of relaxation. Sometimes you find a jewel of a person who makes your cheeks hurt from grinning and is steadfast in their friendship, unable to be scared off by trivial anxieties.

However, in all of these examples, there is only one main character. That is a creative way of saying, no one is going to be able to experience these events in exactly the same way as you, and therefore no one is going to be able to protect you from them except yourself. Your only strategic move is to love yourself first. Focusing inward on your development will yield progress with time, inevitably giving you the strength to deal with the bullshit that surrounds you.

I know I sound cheesy, but let’s look back at our realist state model. Alliances break, economies crash, victories are won, and sometimes people learn how to get along. But states only survive because they work through their domestic problems first, and then begin to tackle their international ones. Colloquially: weak states usually get crushed in international politics. Sure, other actors influence an individual state’s development, but ultimately it boils down to that state’s innate ability to survive the unique circumstances it has been placed in.

Self-love, or self-help, or whatever you want to call it, is the beginning. It is the first defensive move in international politics, the first step towards survival, and the first step on the journey to progress.

Photo courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

This past week, my younger sister created a blog documenting her trek through Christianity. Being that I greatly appreciate stark contrasts, my first column of 2017 is just straight up about sex.

In short, I have come to believe that international agreements and sex are basically the same thing: the more complicated, the kinkier.

Alright, to begin, I’m sure you’re all wondering, “what the hell does she mean by international agreements?” Instead of dumping a long, wordy, and quite frankly boring definition (that is likely to be contested anyway) on you all, I am just going to use a type of “realist logic” to provide a basic glimpse of the subject.

From what I have gathered so far in my Rising Great Powers class, state-on-state interactions are mainly concerned with balancing power. When a state begins to enter into dialogue with another state, they are mainly concerned about their own survival and survival of their interests. Therefore, in order to not be threatened by another state, states must explicitly lay out what they want and what they are willing to do in order to achieve this. As more and more states begin doing this, compromises, treaties, laws, etc., begin flowing readily with a wide range of complexity. All in all, at a very basic level, these agreements are just simple declarations of trust and limitations.

I am going to use that last statement to gracefully segue into talking about sex, the real reason you’re probably reading this piece. If you have seen the new trailer for the Fifty Shades of Gray movie, or even watched desperate sophomores at 1020 hit on women, you know exactly what I am talking about. Sex, at its very basic level is a power play. Each player establishes what he or she wants through initial dialogue and subtle actions. A hair flip here, a risky statement there, and BAM you have begun your journey down the path that ultimately culminates in copulation. Be it a quick, drunk, hookup twenty minutes after meeting or a more meaningful act of “making love” after the pre-established three dates rule, sex is dependent on trust. Trust that the other player will adhere to what you want, and even more importantly respect what you don’t want.

This is pretty doable in what millennials are nowadays calling “vanilla sex”, or a relatively uncomplicated sex session. Vanilla sex is representative of Canada-U.S. agreements (pre-Trump…) on the international spectrum, if you will; simple, rather uncomplicated, but still dependent on a basic trust between the two. More is put at stake when more uh, “goods”, if you will, get involved. Like the JCPOA (or the Iran Deal), with BDSM or just good ol’ kinky sex, more is at stake, becoming a more serious game of trust.

Like sex, sometimes international agreements can be bad, culminating in war and breakups, but are still necessity in this wild world of ours. No matter the type, both agreements and sex, teach us about coexisting, and when done correctly, make life just more enjoyable.

Happy Holidays! What better way to celebrate than with a column on overthinking and terrorism? In summary, this post is essentially just one gigantic middle finger to human emotion and irrationality.

Sex and violence. Violence and sex. Two majestic beasts, when boiled down to the very basal level are actually rather simple. Take for example, sex. I’ll save you the gory details, mainly because I know my mother is probably reading this, but essentially sex works as follows: “Hey wanna have sex?” To which the other responds yes or no. That’s it! There is not even uncalled for pussy grabbing involved, surprise, surprise! Violence too, is essentially as black and white, except in this instance; a person may ask, “Is there any other means to which I can get this person to work with me?” Violence inherently tags along with a negative answer.

No, it’s not until you are in bed alone on an early Sunday evening replaying the previous evening in your mind as your phone sits as quite as a mime next to you, when emotion comes lurking up under the covers and grabs you, that relationships become hard. Emotion beats the living shit out of your memory or interpretation of your relationship, simultaneously transforming it and weighing it down, anchoring you to a malicious carbon copy of something that was once so beautiful and simple.

Emotion uses the same tactics in political violence. Political violence is merely a statement, or rebellion until emotion, disguised as mass fear, is invited to the party. Emotion aggrandizes single acts of political violence, painting perpetrators as grandiose colonels of an unknown but powerful aggressor, ultimately yielding an effective tactic known as terrorism. Terrorism then, is a byproduct of emotion.

This is why humans suck. But lucky for us, we also come equipped with this handy little thing called logic.

The other day, I was Facetiming with my best friend, bawling my eyes out because I witnessed a man I was VERY interested in fall for my much cooler other friend. (I know what you must be thinking here 1) this seems to be a reoccurring theme with Jamie’s columns and 2) we need to find Jamie a different pool of men… and to be honest, I would agree with both of those thoughts). Anyway, I digress. As I was crying, she interrupted me and told me to think of the situation in a logical manner. She and I then went through the situation point by point, wiping away the damage done by emotion with logic, her pointing out essential things such as “he isn’t going to be around much longer because he is moving so it doesn’t really matter anyway” that emotion had completely blurred from my mind. After our conversation I instantly felt a sense of relief and was able to move on.

Why then, can we not apply the same tactic to terrorism? When hyperbolic images of seemingly irrational acts of chaos and destruction inundate our news feeds with a label of “terrorism” haphazardly plastered to them, logic can trump fear. Logic would suggest that sensational reactions are exactly the goals of terrorist attacks, and by not providing that, terrorism begins to fail. Only when people begin to use logic to see terrorism as the emotional phenomenon it is will terrorism begin to become less and less prevalent in today’s society.

Photo by Luke Haubenstock (CC ’20)

Let me start of by saying that I personally, like all the fuck boys out there, hate the “friend zone”. I think it’s a candy-coated way of saying, “he’s (or she) is just not that into you”, and like any good realist, I am very anti-candy coated.

That being said, I don’t think the phenomenon can be simply ignored in the world of modern relationships. In fact, its contested definition and ambiguous nature remind me very much of an emerging field in IR: “gray zone conflicts”.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute defines gray zone conflicts as, “activity that is coercive and aggressive in nature, but that is deliberately designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict and open interstate war.[*]

But Jamie, what does this have to do with the friend zone? Oh, let me tell you.

As a frequent resident of the undefined relationship zone, AND being a self-proclaimed aggressive flirt, I can safely say relationships today, especially in college, are 50 shades of gray (innuendo intended).

Let me paint a picture:

Two people, who are not very close friends, but are acquaintances, begin talking more and more. Suddenly, one person (B) starts to think “Hey I want to take this relationship to the next level” or “Damn, I never realized how sexy person A was before”. So, person B begins to escalate their actions, touching person A seductively on the shoulder, laughing at their jokes, etc.

Then, Person A and B get drunk together at a party, and kiss (maybe once or twice), but later on Person A tells Person B that they should just be friends. Person B tries to keep their cool, despite wanting more, and in attempts of salvaging the romance, stays Person A’s good friend. As the friendship continues to develop, Person B still has underlying hopes of making something happen with A. B dresses well, sends flirty snaps, talks about other love interests, and continues to test just how far it can push A into either:

  1. Entering into some sort of romance with B
  2. Completely ceasing all flirtation and romance and being the most boring of friends.

This essentially lasts until B gets over A or recognizes that it will never be, and that’s okay.

In this scenario, B is essentially forcing A into a gray zone conflict. Its neither romance nor friendship, but a blurry in-between area where feelings are a whirlpool of friendship and passion, just as a gray zone is neither war nor peace, but a conflict between the two.

Foreign Policy suggests fighting gray zone conflicts using unconventional warfare, such as Special Operation Forces. I however, have no suggestion for the non-military world. I can simply offer my condolences and best wishes to Person B, and hope one day a better relationship guru than I can figure this phenomenon out [*].

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Photo Courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

And we’re back! Hi folks! I apologize for my recent absence of posts; I was traveling and then what I like to refer to as the “election explosion of chaos” occurred. I know what you’re all thinking… “Great, another article on Trump”. But fear not! I promise to only mention our good ol’ president elect once.

Today I want to talk about a concept I’ve been wrestling with recently: the role of age in relationships. My findings would suggest that things do in fact get better with age, BUT our proclivity for conflict also increases, essentially just making relationships a gigantic pain in the ass. So, “you’re going to suffer… but you’re going to be happy about it.” (Please note that this is definitely a Harry Potter reference, and not some weird/kinky Fifty Shades of Grey bullshit.)

There is a tendency in today’s society to think that younger people are more reckless, ready to throw the first punch or spit the first insult. However, recent Conflict Resolution Researchers have disproved this stereotype. After examining 100,000… I repeat, 100,000 cases, throughout the years, these researchers came to the conclusion that “in general, as the age of leaders increases, they become more likely to both initiate and escalate militarized disputes.” Insert a worried glance towards our post-January, and every so wrinkly, future White House here.

While at first I found these conclusions profound, the more I thought about them in terms of dating, the more obvious they became. As a twenty year old, I can safely say that I have been in maybe one serious relationship conflict. And honestly, that makes complete sense. In comparison to an older dating pool, I simply don’t have as much time or experience, two very potent ammunitions for conflict. Basically, there is a lot more to be pissed off about the longer you’re around.

The researchers also found that “in personalist autocratic regimes… as the leader’s age increases, the relative risk of conflict declines relative to the rising risk of conflict associated with aging leaders in other types of regimes.” I think this conclusion is very suggestive of a certain phenomenon in the age-relationship rhetoric, i.e. the cougar. I must admit, while writing this I couldn’t get a picture of Putin dressed as a Mrs. Jones character, listening to “Forever Young” out of my mind.

After fighting for so many years, I think both the dictator and the cougar are just looking for some sweet simplicity in their lives (obviously using slightly different tactics to achieve this). While dating a younger partner is sometimes frowned upon, I think it provides an understandable reprieve from the war caused by time that inevitably surrounds the elder’s more typical relationships.

All that being said, I personally look forward to getting older. Not because I am looking forward to more conflict in my life, but because I think conflict so often yields growth. I am ready to fight, and consequently grow, my way into a relationship that is right for me. And hell, if that doesn’t work, I’ll start taking notes from Mrs. Jones or Madonna. The following link provides more information on the research I’ve discussed in this article.

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

In order to begin to try and understand the confusing world that is dating, we have to break it down to the basics. Sure, it can be said that some people just ‘stumble’ upon their ‘soul mate’, but being the neurotic single-lady that I am, that answer really just isn’t good enough for me. So using my handy-dandy side kick of statecraft theory, I have decided to really break down and dissect what factors, or personality traits, people posses that eventually lead to their perceived ‘happily ever after’.

 

As I began thinking about this more, and attempted to cut away all of the bullshit and stereotypes that so often hover as a poisonous fog around most relationships, I tried to discern what truly was the single most important factor in building a romantic relationship. My findings can essentially be summed up in the age-old debate… “It’s not all about looks” or perhaps even more demeaning, “but she has a great personality!” That’s right folks, apparently there is not a single solution! Apologies in advance to those who thought I was some sort of relationship guru and had actually figured this shit out.

However, I would like to suggest that maybe looks vs. personality isn’t necessarily a zero-sum game. Maybe one is not more important than the other.According to Robert Art in his piece “Force and Fungibility Reconsidered”, he suggests that identifying a most important factor (i.e. choosing between force and diplomacy) is an absurd task. However, he doesn’t use this statement as a cop-out from answering the question of “what factors make a great state?”. Rather, he transforms the argument, stating that force is the central factor in statecraft. He contends that force gives meaning to diplomacy, however both are crucial to building a strong state.

 

Enough theory, let’s talk about sex. Or rather, sex appeal. Using Art’s theory, I have come to the semi-superficial conclusion that sexual attraction, or even just good looks, is at the center of every well-crafted relationship. The personality can only work its magic after the initial ‘punch’ of the flawless facial features or well-chiseled body.  

Just as David Baldwin criticizes Art in “Force, Fungibility, and Influence”, this argument also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The main contention being: perhaps a charming personality actually makes a person more attractive, or as Baldwin states, “it is also true that diplomacy, economic statecraft, and propaganda enhance the effectiveness of military force under certain circumstances”.
I unfortunately reached no solid conclusion, or revelation for that matter, in untangling the mess that is the modern relationship. But, perhaps that is what is so beautiful about both security and the modern marvel that is relationships; no one ever really knows “why”, and hell, there may never just be a single solution.

This past summer, being the existential early 20 year old I am, I decided that I should start a blog. Being that I was going abroad for the fall semester, I naturally came to the conclusion that “I should definitely write about the totally “eye awakening” experience of life in a foreign country”. Shortly after my epiphany, I popped my own bubble, remembering that I was in fact going to Denmark… a country arguably whiter than me. Plus, everyone and their mom blogs about their study abroad experiences, and I wanted to be different. So I sat and pondered for a bit, contemplating my interests. After first reaching the conclusion that I needed more hobbies, I realized that the two things I am most passionate about are “Sex and the City” and strategic stability. Two peas in a pod… right?!

As I began thinking about the two subjects, I began drawing more connections between the two. I explicitly remember sitting in Professor Zachary Shirkey’s “Topics in International Security” class, where he would give “real world” examples of complex theoretical models, such as crafting strategy to try and get to Brooklyn when the L train was down. The more classes I sat through, the more I often thought, “holy shit, avoiding war is almost as hard as finding a steady relationship in New York”. I continued my studies, interning with an Arms Control affiliated office, and continued to draw these parallels between international relations and life in the Big Apple with thoughts such as “Russia acts up more than the MTA”, and “I should have made stronger alliances my first year”.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to my series: “Sex and the City…. and Deterrence”. It is my aim with this column to make strategic stability and international relations sexy again—a Cosmo of Jervis and (Samantha) Jones, if you will. Hell, maybe I’ll even inspire other aspiring Louboutin-clad warmongers out there. Through multiple extended metaphors, drastic simplification of IR theory, a strict avoidance of dry texts, and a hint of humor, I hope to take you on a journey through the streets of New York and the complexities of foreign policy.

Alright, enough clichés. For my more doubtful readers, who are wondering just how exactly I plan to go about this, think of my series as a type of intelligence analysis.

In the Intelligence Community today, one of the most common approaches to understanding data is through a Synthesis Analysis Model. Essentially, it models relationships between two elements to better help the consumer of the data understand it. It requires that the analyst is first creative, simplifying the data and creating a model, and then analytical; pulling his or her own model apart to see if more elements can be made more precise.

That is exactly what I tend to do! I am going to create elaborate models through Carrie Bradshaw like rhetorical questions, using data such as Professor Jack Snyder’s Why Emerging Democracies Go to War, in order to better digest the material.

I cannot wait to begin this journey, and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

For an example of a common Synthesis Analysis Model, please visit the following link:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/apr/29/mcchrystal-afghanistan-powerpoint-slide

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com