Welcome to the Behavioral Sink

Threatening life and evolution are the two deaths, death of the spirit and death of the body. —John B. Calhoun

Don’t like gays and antinatalists? The paradoxical solution I would propose to you, then, is this: wear a condom once in a while, and for god’s sake quit voting for politicians who support the welfare state.

Personally I love gays; I don’t have to pay taxes to support their crotchfruit. But some folks I know, for whatever reason, aren’t fond of them. They aren’t making a lot of kids to compete with your kids, so it’s not really in your self-interest to discourage homosexual behavior; but eh, it’s not like we’re always economically rational. Here’s some food for thought for ya, though: gayness seems to function as an evolutionary release valve or safety brake on population growth.

But why do we need to brake our population growth? My technophile pals keep reassuring me that science will come up with enough food to take care of us all when we number 20 billion; no worries.

That, however, doesn’t tell me anything about the supply of social roles—the supply of meaningful niches for people in relation to others—which, as it turns out, is as important to a society as proper nutrition. How can even the current seven billion of us maintain the sense that our existence is necessary and desirable to the rest, when so many of us are—as the HR manager who tells you to clear out your desk puts it—redundant? Is there enough space in the social hierarchy for everyone to have a part to play? The constant roiling of insanity and damage, from crazy terrorist manifestos to the way Millennials refuse to make eye contact in public, implies that we are already failing to cohere socially.

sad cat
I want to help this more than I want to help your baby.

Part I: Blame Population For the Behavioral Sink?

In their grim way, and sub specie aeternitatis, the horrors of science are all amusing.

To preface an example known as “the behavioral sink”: Damn, the number of death threats, hate mail, and thickie ad hominems I get for being an antintalist are bewildering, even if the anomie has already rendered me fairly indifferent to social cues. It’s almost like people are confusing this philosophy for an ethnicity or a sexual orientation. Depending on the pet peeves of whoever is ranting, you would think I was a white cishet dude, a straight-up black Hitler, or—especially—a fashy homo. Because by and large uncloseted gay men, no matter how fashy, don’t have kids any more often than antinatalists do, and that drives harried parents up the wall faster than a pair of Daisy Dukes.

I often suspect that people with kids—however selfish their original fantasies of being a mombie may have been—in reality become so overburdened and miserable that they go mental at the thought of someone enjoying their life without a hominid-shaped albatross about their necks.

Funny thing is though, science says I’m your fault, my breederly friends. As are all these excess homos, fashy or otherwise.

Have you read up on the behavioral sink—otherwise known as the mousetopia experiment? Something tells me we’ll be talking a lot more about it in the future. It’s a sciencey way of saying “mammals get very strange when there are too many of them around.” Aberrational reproductive behavior is a large part of this phenomenon; in shorthand, the behavioral sink is nature’s way of telling you to quit having so many damn kids. Yeah, yeah, Ann is mean, and shooting the messenger is part of nature’s horrid little game as well. But allow me to explain while you sharpen your knives though, eh? Ya monkeys.

So! Back in the dark, Internet-disconnected ages of the 20th century, this scientist guy named Calhoun decided he wanted to see what would happen if you gave a few breeding pairs of mice unlimited food and water and a limited but secure space that was free of predators and incoming disease. With no limits on their reproduction besides their container, what happens to social animals?

Well, they eventually quit reproducing. They also get sort of bitchily violent.

Calhoun gave the mice space for about 3000 animals. But around the 2200-mouse mark, their mousy society began to take a crazy nosedive, and sexual behavior was particularly screwed up. Due to the lack of disease, predation, and scarcity, there were so many adult mice clogging up the adolescents’ possible roles in society (heeeey, I remember this point in human history: it was when Generation X was supposed to be getting real  jobs and starting families, but the Baby Boomers wouldn’t hire us to do anything but shovel shit) that these adolescents began to behave completely bizarrely.

Apparently, at a certain physical population density, social animals lose their way in the social hierarchy, and then all hell breaks loose. Forget about being an alpha male; all the jobs for beta and zeta males in mousetopia were full as well, so they didn’t know what to do. Soon they couldn’t even tell the difference between a male mouse and a female mouse (hm, does this sound at all familiar?) and began indiscriminately humping anything they could find that looked furry. Some males gave up on sexual behavior altogether and spent all their time grooming; they were called the “beautiful ones,” because they withdrew from society in favor of compulsively grooming their fur. Rodent ice kings, in other words.

Does this remind you at all of “grass eaters”? That’s the infamous subculture (if you can call people who never go out a “culture”) of Japanese guys who’s given up fucking people in favor of porn. In this grammar-damaged (I love you, Internet) but otherwise useful article by “Mark” on Return of Kings, he makes interesting comparisons between the mousetopia experiment and Japanese sexual weirdness in the 21st century; as one example, he demonstrates how the infamous “grass eaters” resemble the Beautiful Ones.

The females, meanwhile, forgot how to be mothers, sometimes to the point where their reproductive systems simply physically quit functioning (which was probably a better outcome than the mothers who became abusive and neglectful).

The male mice who were still interested in social interaction, on the other hand, slowly turned from sex to aggression, fighting almost at random and biting each other’s tails to shreds.

It rather reminded me of flame wars. Because physical population density isn’t the only social problem the human animal currently faces. Unlike these poor mice—who at least didn’t have to compete for social roles with mice in the cage down the hall—Al Gore made things even worse for his fellow great apes by inventing the Internet.

This turned the human mousetopia from a series of localized experiments into a global village called Hell.

Part II: Blame the Intertubes? Oh noes!

It’s no secret that, although I’ve been forced, as a writer, to “be” on the Internet, I hate it here. The gatekeepers of old might have quite often been unfair; they certainly were to people of my background, which is why I’ve been lucky enough to get fucked coming and going, but the Internet is far, far worse. The only standards for Internet writing are “does it appeal to the lizard brain sharply enough to get clicks?” and “can idiots understand this without having to furrow their brows”? My Internet pieces that have gotten me the most attention are the stupidest pieces of trash I’ve ever written. Tossing out all other standards for discourse by itself would be enough to destroy civility and people’s sense of “community” (to speak of “community” on the Internet is to betray that one is forgetting what a community actually was, if one ever knew). But then you add in the behavioral sink effect.

Let’s go back to Mark’s examination of Japan. The Japanese are displaying passivity and aberrational sexual behavior now, and it’s easy to chalk it up to a classic Calhounian drop in the population curve, due to the curve having gone too far up because of easy times: sheer physical overcrowding.

But think about World War II for a second. One of the reasons Japan went imperialist in the first place—that is to say, became extremely aggressive and virile—was excess population. That’s right: the growing needs of all those excess people turned them into a hyper-masculine military machine that had no qualms about going after a country the size of the United States. Remember kamikaze pilots? Not exactly grass eaters!

Even crazier than kamikaze warfare, however, is the amount of time it took Japan to surrender after we fucking nuked them. Have you ever looked at the timeline? It’s hair-raising. History’s first nuclear bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, rippling destruction as far as the eye could see, while the commander of the Enola Gay stood there with his mouth open muttering “My god, what have we done?” and turned the bomber around so everyone could rubberneck at the wrath of Satan they had just unleashed.

And yet the Japanese stood there for three more days with their middle fingers in the air, going “What else ya got?” 

American military commanders—who, by the way, were also a lot more aggressive back then—must have been astounded. So on August 9, we dropped a bigger nuke. And it still took those motherfuckers till the 14th to surrender. I imagine our generals standing there SMH’ing like mad: Jesus christ, when will they STAY nuked? They may have been the enemy, but they were a hell of a respectable enemy.

Now they can’t even be bothered to talk to a girl.

Sure, perhaps greater scarcity of resources back then was a factor in their aggression. During the 1980s, indeed, an economic boom coincided with declining birth rates. But at least they were still having sex, for Hades’ sake. Till the Internet.

Obviously, Internet porn can make the opposite sex seem useless in person. But I would also argue that Internet interconnectivity makes everyone feel as though they have no use themselves. Psychic overpopulation within a country is bad enough. But when punching a few buttons and going on a forum can put you in social contact with your counterparts all over the world, it gets even worse for us as social animals.

If I were an American computer programmer, say, I don’t think I could control my morbid curiosity: I’d be on Indian programmers’ message boards all day, following their conversations about the HB1 visa and waiting for the boom to drop. Someone who takes your jeorb isn’t just taking your paycheck—they’re taking away your usefulness. And they’re stealing your place in the tribe, however low, high, or weird that niche might be. As a writer, analogous situations are impossible for me to avoid, unless I want to give up the possibility of an audience entirely and bury my laminated manuscripts under a parking lot. As a citizen, my vote in the democracy becomes more meaningless with every wave of immigrants that globalization encourages to wander in and breed (not to mention the dissolution of language communities; how can you feel social cohesion with mice you can’t even talk to?). As Ryan Holiday argues, we’re not so much users of the Internet as cells in its massive uni-brain.  In other words, in this mousetopia, you’re not even an individual organism. And you expect these mammals to display normal reproductive behavior, do you? At some point, everyone is going to be MGTOW or WGTOW except for porn actors.

We have access to people all over the world—most of whom are competing with us for one form of being important to the megatribe or another—but we can still only handle social contacts with about 150 people. The three variables that cause the behavioral sink in humans would appear to be physical population density; density of social contacts; and lack of meaningful social roles—and they’re all hitting us at once. Not to mention the fact that anyone clever enough to be useful to society knows or at least senses that the welfare state is dooming the few kids they can afford to raise post-taxation to a dysgenic future.


If there’s a gay gene, this is a perfect storm for turning it on. If there’s a genetic propensity to lack the self-importance to want children, this environment ain’t exactly discouraging that, either. If it annoys you that much that your white neighbors aren’t having white babies for the white cause (or the black cause, or whatever your in-group might be) then maybe you should stop complaining about it on a message board with like-minded people who are hundreds of miles away and get up and go talk to the mice next door. By which I DON’T mean “Please PM Ann on Facebook with witless negs”—I mean what I said: go talk to your physical neighbors.

The only possible cure for weird behavior is genuine, meaningful, physically present social contact with a limited social circle that makes people feel like normal mammals again. The only cure for the behavioral sink is giving people the impression (however illusory) that they have a place in the human world.

I don’t know if that’s possible at this point, but if you and your six fatherless welfare babies are on your generic iPads all day, quit whining about the fags before I bite your tail off.


  1. Edward_Fortyhands

    I’d say the real problem is looking for value and significance in large populations. That just ain’t gonna happen.

    I’m sure big writers appreciate the big checks and the nice lifestyle but unless they are deranged no one wants to hang out with fans. Ordinary people want this person to care about what they say, and that person to come home on time. And they want to know that they have to do this for that person, and that for this person. That’s how your life has meaning.

    I do think overpopulation is a problem. History shows that humanity will grow until it outstrips its resources and then one tribe goes after another, etc. etc. So, yeah, really, we should all be past the “go forth and multiply” stage. But if you have one or two, you aren’t committing a crime.

    Having a child is a big deal, in a way, for some people. You have to think about whether life, with all of its rottenness, is worth living and is worth passing on to another being. Or, you may simply get in the throes of passion and forget to wear a condom. This is why some people believe that the universe is peopled with the spirits of unborn babies who want to be born, and so they are shooting arrows at men and women to get them to do the nasty so that they can have a chance to be born and do it too!

    Basically our bodies are programmed to engage in sex, particularly reproductive sex, and I am pretty sure that you could empty dump trucks of condoms on every street corner in America and people would still get pregnant. Because we are designed to reproduce from a biological POV, and one should never underestimate the cunning of reason that our hormones will employ.

    I think you are an important and valuable person to your family, friends, and people who know you on the intertubes. That’s about the best you can hope for. if you want to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home, that’s fine too.

    1. asterzinger

      That’s great for us if we want to feel all wise and shit. But most people aren’t very philosophical; saying “but looking for value and significance in large populations ain’t gonna happen!” to the anomie-drenched gunman who’s decided to pick the movie theater you’re in to shoot up ain’t gonna save you.

      1. Edward_Fortyhands

        I was responding to the lament that life was too crowded to allow people have to have meaningful and connected relationships: that’s not true, but it has been a complaint about urban life for a long time (I don’t recall it in Rome or Athens but I’m no expert on classics.) If we want to talk about mass murderers or spree murderers, that’s a related but slightly different problem.

        The “pale criminal” in Nietzsche and Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov have been around a long time. For that matter, Judd Frye in “Oklahoma!” too. There always are, and always will be, loners who can’t fit in, and some of them go on a rampage. I’m wide open to any ideas about how to control these mass murders, whether it be better supervised gun ownership or better supervision for people with mental illness. But it’s not because there are “too many people”, especially since the US isn’t even that heavily populated.

        1. asterzinger

          Once again, I’m not talking about the population on the ground. I’m talking about the fact that the Internet turns the entire human population into the same village where many, many people can no longer feel they have a social role.

    2. Three Stars

      “History shows that humanity will grow until it outstrips its resources
      and then one tribe goes after another, etc. etc. So, yeah, really, we
      should all be past the “go forth and multiply” stage. But if you have
      one or two, you aren’t committing a crime.”

      Mr Malthus had the excuse of writing in the 19th century, when the worthwhile part of the world was just escaping his famous “trap”. We have two centuries of Western history showing us that natural population caps, as Malthus envisioned them, aren’t a thing anymore in the West.

      I see Hitler and the Japs invoking limited resources as an argument for conquest to be merely an excuse, one that would make them less damnable for the dimmer segment of pacifists. If I read my Nietzsche and Heidegger correctly, I’d venture to say they saw war as a means to prevent cultural ennui.

      1. asterzinger

        For the (seven?) billionth time, I’m not worried about food shortages. I’m worried about anomie. I’m worried about the results of far too many people feeling that they’ve fallen through the social cracks, that they have no role to play, that they are merely producer-consumers, that no one would give a shit if they died tomorrow. That was the point of the mouse experiment: the mice had plenty of food, that wasn’t the variable. The variable was redundancy in the social pecking order. It’s fine to be a beta male… till there are far too many beta males.

          1. asterzinger

            (Sorry. Obviously I’m so fed up with people making that assumption that I assume they’re making it!)

      1. Three Stars

        They should go there and get pleasantly impressed, maybe they’ll get some new ideas while browsing…

        Some credit is due to SCALE as pleasureman’s favorite theory. The guy does put an admirable degree of passion into espousing it.

    1. asterzinger

      This shit is fascinating, I shall quote at length:

      Dr Calhoun replied that 1984 was not the year in which ultimate density would be attained, but a date beyond which the opportunity for decision making and designing to avoid population catastrophe might be quickly lost. He stated, in any case, that density per se was not the major factor, that rate and quality of social interaction were paramount issues. Basic to his thesis was that despite the thousandfold increase in human numbers since the beginning of culture, some forty to fifty thousand years ago, there had been no change in effective density. The reason for this, alluded to by Professor Young, was that man had discovered a new kind of space, conceptual space, which enabled man to utilize ideas in order to mine resources and guide social relations. However, there was a breaking point for this process, at which time physical density might overwhelm man’s ability to utilize conceptual space in order to cope with increasing numbers and it was that breaking point which we might be rapidly approaching. The fact that reproduction could be affected by density had been dealt with by Dr Thompson in Indianapolis (Thompson 1969). An older study for Scotland (Kincaid 1965) had shown that stillbirths and other parameters were density related. However, in terms of conceptual space, it might be the necessity for limitations to growth which might be the more difficult conceptual area for man to deal with. In that case a further increase in birth rate might be expected past the breaking point (Galle et al. 1972).

      Here in Calhoun’s “conceptual space” we find room for the psychological tax placed on mankind by increased complexity in the cultural, technological, and social spheres. This issue of conceptual space may implicate modern geopolitics, in which we see conflict develop among nations which were in the past removed from each other’s concerns by both physical distance and conceptual distance, a lack of awareness based on lack of interaction (even where there is knowledge and limited trade). Post-industrial globalization has changed this, and for the first time in human history it has put cultures which have developed more or less in isolation from one another (i.e. geographic non-neighbors) into direct resource conflict. That human culture as it has evolved for 50,000 years has been rooted to a limited geography with an ethnically homogenous identity may be a necessary condition for stable development, and an awareness of and economic linkage to alien cultures may lead inevitably to a “clash of civilizations”.

      This exchange (developed further in the original paper) also shows concern for crossing a line past which population control becomes effectively impossible–this concern is shaped by Calhoun’s experimental findings that even when the rat population fell the rats retained dysfunctional social behaviors and depopulation continued until extinction. While extinction is an unlikely fate for mankind (even Western man), it suggests that there may be very long term effects–and that pathology in one generation may lead to subsequent dysfunctional generations even when the main driver of the original pathology is removed. This can be viewed as either a conservative tendency of social behavior or as the destructiveness of pathology to social behavior (the latter could explain the development among advanced civilizations of high standards of ethical and moral conduct, rooted in religion, as a crucial safeguard against just such destabilizing pathology–and the evident erosion of these standards during periods of decline).

      Therefore it is wrong and misleading to view the implications of Calhoun’s experiment as bearing only on physical overcrowding. Care must of course be taken when drawing connections between Calhoun’s rats and human populations. For example, the common existence of large, thriving population centers does not in itself refute the notion that population density leads to social pathology, because other factors can influence the sense of conceptual overcrowding, including population diversity, advances in communication, and a smaller percentage of the population originating from non-urban settings (i.e. the relative inescapability and importance of the city to cultural life). Experiments conducted on human subjects measuring performance in crowded vs. non-crowded settings cannot hope to capture long-term psychological effects of overcrowding.

  2. MRDA

    “…I hate it here.”

    Thanks, Spider Jerusalem!

    I’ll probably write some spin-off thoughts elsewhere re: the whole Internet interaction thing. For now I’ll just note that breeding seems to to be the most easiest and concrete way for the average hyoomun to create the feeling of having a stake in the Webless world.

    Could it be that there’s a marked tension between the physical and psychological here, one which my not be so easily surmounted? As much as you complain about the Net, physical asociality helps to keep the birthrates down (if, indeed, people have stopped swapping bodily fluids due to ADSL).More people getting off it to get off with one another ultimately means more births in the immediate area, which means greater density in same….and we’re back to dat diminished significance before long!

    Perhaps overly-enthusiastic…erm…physical interaction would not so much cure the anomie but, rather, outsource it to fyuchaaa generations.

  3. Bunkercake

    Just stumbled across this great post. I’ve been a big fan of the Calhoun studies for a long time and I just decided to see what Google would pull up if I searched for what other people have written about them.

    This was actually a funny read because I wrote something similar (but much less eloquently) on my short-lived blog years ago. I still do believe that misanthropy and even homosexuality are naturally borne from too dense of a population. Homosexuality specifically seems like an inherent evolutionary limiter that ensures there are enough laborers to do the work that a society needs but that don’t have a drive that results in reproduction and even denser population.

    As for the “beautiful ones”, I’d like to take this concept a step further. What if population density and lack of social roles doesn’t result in specifically individuals that focus on personal grooming? Rather, what if the drive it creates is a deviant predisposition towards seclusive “practice”? As someone that does little besides read, write, and play games, perhaps I am biased or perhaps I am highly qualified to make this assertion. My thinking is that “play” and “study” are both forms of attempting to improve oneself and that an all too dense society results in individuals incapable of doing anything other than self-improvement, much like the “beautiful ones” only had a drive to groom themselves. Classically play, study, and grooming all serve a purpose of securing a social role and a mate, but if there are no social roles available what else is there to do than to continue to practice ad nauseum? At that point there may be no opportunity to escape the mental loop due to too intense and prolonged operant conditioning.
    That’s what I notice in myself anyway. I have little drive to do anything but improve myself, even despite desiring a mate. Playing games and reading interesting things are what drives me, as deviant as it may be.

    Well that’s my spiel. I was happy to have the opportunity to write it out.

    1. Post
    2. Post
      Ann Sterzinger

      Why thank you! And I think you’re on to something with the human beautiful ones = reading obsessively for no reason hypothesis. I don’t know why more people don’t pay heed to the spiritual/psychological dimension of overpopulation. You keep hearing “science will make more food!” Sure, but will science invent a sense of purpose and reason for living?

  4. Pingback: Crazy from the Start: A History of Gun Nuttery in the United States - Ann Sterzinger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 + 10 =