Our thirst for blood

While we were having an interesting discussion about Michael Vick and dogfighting a few weeks ago, I was watching the Tour de France.  At the time, everyone in the media, and most of the folks in the discussion here were bemoaning how terrible dogfighting was and couldn’t understand how people could possibly enjoy watching such a cruel (to the dogs) sport.

But, at the same time, Versus, the network that was telecasting the Tour was advertising their “Red, White, Black and Blue Summer” with one of their lines being “Sometimes pain is a good thing.”  Apparently, we’re quite fond of watching human beings bloody each other, too.  Now I get the difference between dogs, who have no choice in the matter and are fighting for their lives, and human beings, who choose to engage in “extreme” “cage” mixed-marshal arts” and the like fighting. 

But why do we spectators enjoy it?  Why are boxing and wrestling suddenly too boring and the more extreme, violent fighting sports exploding in popularity?   I’ve got some not-very-well-formed thoughts on the subject, centered around a reaction to the feminization of our society, but I’d be very interested to hear what you think of the whole phenomenon, why you think it exists, and what long-term implications you think it has for our society.

7 Responses

  1. I think blood sports (and non-blood extreme sports like sky-diving) are thrilling because they get the adrenalin up. And the adrenalin gets pumping because we identify with the combatants. I suppose there must have been a survival advantage in winning a fight so an appreciation for it was bred into us. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t — and shouldn’t — rise above our instincts and give it up.

  2. http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/archives/2007/08/feminine_fantas.html

    Grim Beorn asks questions about feminism and romance. You might be interested, Book.

    As for cage matches, they seem to be analogs to Roman coliseum fights. People like to watch violence because it stimulates certain receptors in the mind-body connection and also because violencei s normally repressed in our civilization. The savage beast may be repressed but it is still there.

    You also might be interested in blackfive’s Jimbo post about the X Games where one guy fell 40 something odd feet after his skateboard went “squirrely”.

    As for the feeling one gets from watching, I suppose it is something like being outside in a thunderstorm away from shelter. You feel the mighty and savage nature of what your ancestors experienced and thus form a primal connection to the Blood. Humanity, for all its attempts at modernity, is still connected to our past and evolutionary footholds by our blood.

    With arena style fights, peole get to watch survival in action without the fear that would normally course through them if they were trying to survive. Besides, human beings learn best by observing and then emulating. The survival instinct becomes triggered when people see fights, because at a basic level, they are trying to learn from the fights. Most people don’t engage higher brain functions when they watch fights, however, so they don’t really learn anything.

  3. Evolutionary wise, our ancestors might have avoided many a pitfall by watching others get staked, so to speak. A survival instinct to pay attention when violence calls, perhaps?

  4. I believe it has most to do with being immersed in a culture of sensation while being void of spirituality. We’re not talking about people sampling a thrilling experience here and there over time; we’re talking about a headlong, endless pursuit of the next new sensation. When sensation is all there is, each new sensation becomes unsatisfying after just a few repetitions, and something new (and more shocking) must be pursued.

    DQ, I also think that a reaction against the feminization of society is a part. But a spirituality-based reaction has guys heading off into the woods to gather around a campfire to play drums, to seek a shared spiritual elevation. For those completely cut off from any avenue of spiritual exploration, all they have to satisfy their needs is an endless pursuit of, not happiness, but thrills and sensation.

  5. My thoughts aren’t perfectly well-formed yet, either, but I have done a fair amount of thinking about it. Our culture is being tugged by two main forces where men and manhood is concerned: the therapeutic, make-nice, no-competition, discuss-your-feelings element on the one hand (as so well documented by Christina Hoff Sommers), and the yee-haw, let-er-rip / the-more-aggressive-my-sports-and-my-music-the-better element. Indeed, how are they related? Is there a backlash-and-backlash-against-backlash effect going on?

  6. There are, and have always been, those who watch Grands Epreuves hoping that someone will crash, burn, and die before their eyes. There are always those who hope the bull will kill the matador. There are those who watch downhill skiing in the Olympics in the well buried and secret hope that some Northern European kid might fly off the course and into the trees at ninety miles an hour.

    Dancing on the edge, and the attendant possibility of going over it and winding up with blood seems to be a large part of the attraction. Since it is, and is so universally discoverable across national and cultural boundaries, the only conclusion possible seems that it is hard-wired in us all. We evidently like wreckage, in one form or another.
    Throughout history, literature likes heroes to fail.

    The reason – if there is a reason – is probably buried so deeply in the genes that it’ll forever defy isolation.

  7. DQ,
    First, let me recommend Harvey Mansfield’s “Manliness”, a tour de force on feminist nihilism and the hostility to manliness inherent in liberalism.

    I would like to hear your thoughts, however undigested, on feminism and the growing violence of males.

    For my part, I see a part of the problem in the current vogue for primitivism, most visible in the rage for tatoos and body piercings. Sentimentality and violence go together, since a real appreciation of the noble and good is replaced by treacle, and true manhood is seen as oppressive and authoritarian. White, male, logocentric, phallocentric, imperialistic, colonialist…the list wearies the mind. But that PC mindset is what leaves us where we are today–with Fight Club tendencies, unbounded promiscuity, and all the base tendencies the male nature is susceptible without the necessary, and normal, feminine component to restrain it. Women in their traditional role are far more important and influential than modern feminism credits or understands. This distortion is very much to our loss.

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