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


Photo Courtesy of Ogawatsusyou

Much like my Uber rating, I am unabashedly proud of my “sensual soundtrack.” I’m sure you’re familiar with the one, lurking in the “secret” section of nearly every millennial’s Spotify. The playlist that magically makes its way to the speakers after a couple of glasses of wine, as the distance on the couch between you and your company slowly vanishes. Crafting that perfect ear aphrodisiac is my strong suit…. or so I thought until I heard my roommate’s concoction drifting through our paper-thin walls.

Delicately titled “I’m Getting Laid”, her playlist is not merely ambiance. No, it is a ballad, taking you on an epic journey that Homer himself would be impressed by. I don’t mean to be blunt, but it is sheer fucking genius. The exposition of her masterpiece begins with the ever so classic Marvin Gaye–and not that Kygo bullshit–but the actual authentic, original, dirty, baby-making music. Drake and 80’s rock hits concoct the rising action and eventually culminate in a conflict of palpable sexual tension accompanied by The Weeknd and The Arctic Monkeys. And finally, the apex of the journey (I would say “climax,” but that’s a bit gauche): it begins with Beyoncé’s “50 Shades of Grey” rendition of Crazy in Love, which is followed by more Weeknd (obviously). It’s truly tantalizing. As things begin to calm down, more soft pop flows from the speakers and spooning eventually transforms into a “boot and rally” of more raunchy R&B. Finally, the actual resolution of soft electronic music as you recover, sinking into your satisfaction.

While I would not follow her prescribed playlist to a T, it is awe-inspiring–a good model for understanding nationalism in today’s world.

Today is the “beginning of the end of nationalism,” as my Danish friend informed me. While I am largely ignorant to the European political scene, I have learned that, apparently, the upcoming elections are demonstrating a tendency to lean away from the more nationalist parties. To be honest, this isn’t surprising.

Like sex-playlists, nationalism is a good impetus for action, yet cannot serve as a solid foundation for the entire apparatus. While it takes different shapes according to the implementing actor, it is largely the same concept worldwide: a heavy emotional pride cloaked in politics. States and sex both have many complex parts synergistically working together, and a faulty reliance on a single apparatus such as nationalism (or a playlist) will likely lead to failure. From Hillary’s desperate attempts at patriotism at the Democratic National Convention, to Le Pen’s decline in popularity, it is evident that success cannot ride on nationalism alone.

While still crucial to the overall success, neither nationalism nor sex playlists, alone can climax in success.  

I think I read on the Core Curriculum website that it is, in fact, a requirement to self-identify as a nihilist in order to graduate. So, being the ever so proud CU student that I am, I am going to put on my Nietzsche thinking cap and use nihilist inspiration to poetically write about a relatively unimportant topic–yet another step towards my transformation into a hybrid of a “Columbia Sad Boy” and Carrie Bradshaw.

Note: if you’re reading this and do not go to Columbia, what I’m really saying is, “I am going to use a type of philosophy that rejects morals in order to justify trivial everyday occurrences”. But I promise to try and make it (ironically?) enjoyable!

“There are no moral phenomena at all, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena,” I tell myself as I eat my 11th Oreo cookie of the night, wondering if the same goes for calories. If I were in a movie, there would be a freeze frame, and the narrator would ask, “I bet you’re all wondering how she got here.” (Yes, I stole that from a old meme, and no, I have no qualms about doing so.) Anyway, the answer is midterms. Can you picture it now? Me, sitting without pants on, surrounded by a haphazard pile of highlighted notes, a feral look plastered across my naked eyes. I bet you can almost smell my annoyance and unquenchable desire to say “fuck” after every other word.

Now let’s analyze the events that got me here. I passively surrendered my elliptical to an old man today, WHICH I HAD DEFINITELY RESERVED DESPITE HIS INSISTENCE, texted yet another “no worries” to the most fuck-iest of boys, literally fake smiling through my disappointment at my own goddamn cell phone. *Turn on Carrie Bradshaw voice here* “When did I become this nice girl?”

All right, you can turn the voice off now.  But seriously, when did this stigma of “nice girl” get attached to me? I’m sure some of you are reading this, asking, “This petty bitch thinks she’s nice?” Believe it or not, I am often qualified as the “nice girl”. Sure, I try and hide it behind what is basically a satirical sex column and an edgy nose ring, but somehow this nice stigma keeps rearing its ugly head. That bastard. In reality, I don’t think I have a higher dosage of niceness than any other person. Sure I have that Midwest “charm,” which comes off differently here in the bustling city, but that doesn’t correlate to a legitimate higher level of niceness.

So Nietzsche, I turn to you. Maybe, as you have suggested, niceness doesn’t exist at all. Maybe all this niceness is just Midwestern ignorance caped in hopefulness, an identity concocted up by other people. A label which I, like my frequent meme use, embraced without reservations.

Guess what…. This happens in international politics, too! (Yes… this is where I relate my existential crisis to nukes, or more specifically unconventional weapons and warfare). You see, conventional weapons share this similar perceived niceness as me, whereas unconventional ones have this perception of immorality, or “not-niceness”.

In “A Genealogy of the Chemical Weapons Taboo,” Richard Price analyzes just exactly how this dichotomy of “conventional” vs. “unconventional” came to be in war. It is a thirty-page article, but in a reductionist summary, basically he traces this idea throughout history analyzing the strategic, tactical, and moral implications of these weapons, and why society developed a taboo against using “unconventional” weapons. 10/10 would recommend reading the article if any of these things sound remotely interesting to you. When you really think about it, there is but a slight difference between the output of these types of weapons. Each “type” has the same dosage of deadliness, so to speak, nukes just are perceived to be more deadly.

Oddly enough, Price goes to conclude his article with a lovely quote by Foucault.

“The successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules, to replace those who had used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them.”

Maybe it’s the one too many Redbulls, or a delusional sugar induced coma (I’m on my 15th Oreo now), but I found this approach oddly inspiring and applicable to my current situation. I want to exalt these nihilist findings with a solid white-girl confirmation: “YAS bitch”.

When it comes down to it, I am not nice, I just appear to be so. That being said, I am no longer going to adhere to this perceived identity. No more taking my goddamn elliptical. No more playing it cool with the douches lurking in the back of my political science class. Damn straight I am going to adhere to Foucault’s wise-words: invert my niceness and use it against those who see me as such.

Anyway, if nothing else goes well this midterm season, at least this mid-semester breakdown has taught me one thing (yes, in true Bradshaw form, I plan on concluding with a cliche…): maybe I just have to learn to “kill ‘em with kindness.

 

Courtesy of Unsplash.com

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