I've spent half a century writing for radio and print (mostly print). I hope to still be tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
The internet is filled with videos of males riding skateboards off the roofs of houses followed by the entirely predictable visit to the fracture clinic. Others do stupid things with fireworks and explosives. Mountain bikes and motorcycles are favourite machines for causing serious injury.
These clips are a visual testimony to the existence of Male Idiot Theory (MIT).
Hospital emergency rooms are where victims of MIT go to get patched up. Anecdotal evidence suggests that more males than females get injured playing sports, or crashing cars, or mistakenly believing the gun wasn’t loaded. But, anecdotal evidence does not stand up to the rigours of scientific enquiry.
A British study offers some confirmation of MIT at work: “Between 15 and 49 years of age, males were 2.9 times more likely to sustain a fracture than females.” (The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery)
For those that like certainty, there’s never been definitive proof of the existence of Male Idiot Theory. Until now.
Empirical Evidence of Male Idiot Theory
Researchers in the United Kingdom have determined that men are far more likely to engage in dim-witted activity than women. They studied 20 years’ worth of Darwin Awards; these are trophies handed out to people taking such monumentally crazy risks that they end up killing themselves.
They are named after Charles Darwin because in bringing about their own demise these people voluntarily remove their idiotic genes from the global pool, thus helping ensure the survival and improvement of the species.
At last, numbers prove the theory correct.
Writing in The British Medical Journal, researchers noted that “Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final.”
Of 318 Darwin Award nominations, 282 (88.7%) went to men.
Okay, so this study doesn’t follow the most meticulous disciplines of sampling, comparison with control groups, elimination of observer bias and such, but it does demonstrate a definite imbalance between males and females.
Intelligence by Gender
If you look to social media, which you shouldn’t, you might conclude that all women a dumb and all men are stupid. That’s the only conclusion possible from postings on the topic of comparative intelligence.
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However, a 2016 study proves there is almost no difference in intelligence based on gender. A team from universities in America and Romania quantified the intelligence of 15,000 men and women across six different cognitive ability measures. The result is that in more than 90 percent of the categories there is no difference between the sexes.
This finding is consistent with one published in Educational Psychology Review (June 2000). In some areas, women are slightly better than men, in other areas men do better. But the overall result is that “there are no sex differences in general intelligence.”
The problem seems to be in the application of that intelligence and in impulse control.
Male Idiot Theory in Action
The act-then-think syndrome sits at the heart of MIT.
- A group of office workers watched from their windows as a workman began demolishing a parking garage. For two days they debated what plan the man had for taking out the last support. On the third day, they discovered he didn’t have a plan. The parking lot collapsed on top of him, squashing him and his excavator.
- We can always rely on alcohol to deliver a multiplier effect to the idiotic behaviour of males. Three men were in a bar in Cambodia taking turns slugging down a shot of liquor and then stamping on an unexploded land mine. Of course, you’ve figured out that this ends badly for the drinkers; demolished the bar as well.
- A 19-year-old man climbed over the fence of the tiger enclosure at the New Delhi Zoo. Apparently, his plan was to have lunch with the big cats; instead, he became lunch.
The Jackass Franchise
There’s money to be made out of Male Idiot Theory.
Jackass, the TV show, was unleashed on an unsuspecting public on MTV in October 2000. Men with names such as Spike Jonze and Rake Yohn performed stupid stunts for cameras in what was passed off as entertainment. With a singular lack of subtlety, the show’s logo was a skull and crossed crutches.
The Jackass crew brought us such inspirational escapades as:
- Putting a dead chicken in underwear and then walking a tightrope over a pond filled with alligators;
- Getting onto a four-way teeter-totter in an enclosure containing an angry bull; or,
- Sitting in a fully loaded port-a-potty and then being catapulted up and down on bungee cords.
Nothing says sophisticated comedic content like these antics.
The television show spawned several movies one of which grossed $171 million against a production budget of $20 million. The movie Jackass Forever was released in early February 2022. It cost $10 to make and, in its first week, grossed $23.5 million. So here, at least, we can understand the motive for engaging in idiotic behaviour.
As for those who take ludicrous risks involving the likelihood of broken limbs or worse for no apparent reason? Well, we’re still waiting for the PhD thesis to explain that.
The authors of the British Medical Journal study do suggest a possible line of inquiry: “ . . . presumably, idiotic behaviour confers some, as yet unidentified, selective advantage on those who do not become its casualties.”
Casablanca it isn't
- Cartoonist John McPherson celebrated Male Idiot Theory in his 2011 book Women Are from Venus Men Are Idiots.
- The Darwin Awards Class of 2017 brings us a 31-year-old man from Dortmund, Germany who will not become 32. Well lubricated in a bar, he thought he had a way of getting a free train ticket home. He sprayed aerosol gas into a ticket-vending machine and ignited it. Ka-boom and a one-way ticket to the afterlife.
- And, from the 2016 crop, we have hot-potter Colin Mathaniel Scott, 23. What is a hot potter you ask? It’s someone who takes a dip in thermal hot springs in areas of geyser activity. It’s against the rules in Yellowstone Park, but young Mr. Scott decided rules were for wusses. He tested the heat of a hot pot, slipped, and fell into the scalding, acidic water. The recovery team found there were no remains to recover.
- “Epidemiology of Fractures in 15,000 Adults.” B.R. Singer et al, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, March 1998.
- “The Darwin Awards: Sex Differences in Idiotic Behaviour.” Ben Alexander Daniel Lendrem, et al, British Medical Journal, November 7, 2014.
- “Proved at Last: Men really are Idiots.” Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2014.
- “There Really Is No Difference in Intelligence Between Men and Women.” Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes, August 1, 2016.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Rupert Taylor