Is it Time for Masculinism?

On men being men again.

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From “Desire,” a poem by Stephen Dobyns:

Why have men been taught to feel ashamed

of their desire, as if each were a criminal

out on parole, a desperado with a long record

of muggings, rapes, such conduct as excludes

each one from all but the worst company,

and never to be trusted, no never to be trusted?

Why must men pretend to be indifferent as if each

were a happy eunuch engaged in spiritual thoughts?

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The feminists have had their say over the years, and most men got the message: It’s not okay to objectify females, to see them as a conglomeration of body parts, to speak to them as if there is a microphone nestled between their breasts, or to act as if young women strutting the streets in mini-miniskirts and revealing halter tops are the least bit interesting to us unless they also happen to be carrying a copy of Goethe’s Faust. (I just learned that photographers would often stick a copy of Proust or Dostoevski into Marilyn Monroe’s hand before shooting, to round out the picture, so to speak. Ironically, Monroe actually was an avid reader of great literature and, contrary to her two-dimensional, pin-up calendar image, it turns out she was actually a person as wellWho knew?)

So we got it. Women are not merely sexual objects of desire. But what happened to men in the process of their feminist education? Poet Robert Bly, in Iron John, was very critical of typical “New Age Sensitive Males” who had essentially cut off their own genitals in the effort to distance themselves from the macho idiots that incur the wrath of women, and to become the thoughtful feeling blokes women claimed they wanted them to be. There was a rude awakening for many of us though, when we discovered that yes, women wanted us to be sensitive and respectful friends and fellow workers, but more often than not, they still often preferred the “bad boys” in the bedroom. We were duped, and gypped.

I remember as a teenager, the single worst thing a girl could ever say to you was, “Let’s just be friends.” It was the kiss of death. Like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, it essentially meant, “NO NOOKIE FOR YOU!” As I got older, just once I wanted a woman to say to me, “Listen, let’s just be lovers, I can’t handle a friendship right now.” I once mentioned this in a stand-up comedy performance, and an enterprising lass in the audience approached me after the show and took me up on it. We made a date to get together, but when I got to her apartment, I found it was filled, floor to ceiling, with 32 years worth of the New York Sunday Times. When I inquired, she said if she ever got around to “catching up,” she would most likely begin with Section Two, the Arts and Leisure pages. Needless to say, this opening conversation was not a harbinger of erotic adventures to come, and I left soon afterward, with a 1973 copy of the Book Review tucked under my arm, a consolation prize.

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My old college friend Billy had a unique way of dealing with the sex and power issues within a stable marriage. He writes:  “Even though as a gynecologist, I knew there were better methods available for birth control, I always recommended the old-fashioned diaphragm to couples because it had a distinct advantage: it had to be stored somewhere, usually in the soap dish or shampoo caddy in the shower. Early on in our marriage, I learned that if I let my wife get into bed first, I could go into the bathroom and check the shower, and I could eliminate the guessing game as to whether that night would be a go or not. If the diaphragm was not in the shower, there was only one other place it could be. If it was still in the shower, then I could get into bed with a pre-emptive strike, saying, “Is it okay if I just hold you tonight?”  After our last child and after the tubal ligation, I was back out in the woods, figuratively. When I asked my wife if she would mind continuing to use the diaphragm, and she figured out why, I got cut off for a good two weeks.”

I took a popular workshop in the early 80’s called “Men, Sex and Power” (now “The Sterling Men’s Weekend”) in which the following riddle was proposed as a summary of male-female relations around sexuality:

“How does an 800 pound (male) gorilla make love to its (female) mate?”

Answer: “Anyway he wants to.”

The message was that women ultimately want men to be men, and that they want to be “taken,” often with force (in a safe and mutually agreed-upon, consensual way), and it was high time that New Age men—there’s no better way to say it—“got their balls back.” (I actually don’t think women want to be taken by force, except maybe once by Javier Barden; they mostly want us to beg, plead, and clean the house.)

But the message of the gorilla is dangerously close to the belief system of right-leaning Christian groups like The Promise Keepers who assert that a man must reclaim his rightful place as head of the family, the one who “wears the pants,” while the little woman returns to her rightful place as nurturer of hearth and home. Certainly as a society we have thankfully moved way past such limiting roles long ago. But in the sexual arena, even wise teachers of sexuality such as David Deida, author of umpteen books on the subject, insists that in striving for equality of the sexes, women have become more like men, men more like women, and in that sameness we have lost the fundamental male-female energetic polarity that makes for desire, lust, and hot sex. How to bridge this gulf, in which men are men, women are women, and raw, primal desire is real and allowed, yet not cross over into the world of inequality, rigid roles, objectification, and pre-feminist values?

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It’s the marriage of love and desire, the blending of Eros and Agape that has been particularly problematic for men forever: if I want you, I don’t love you, and if I love you, I don’t want you. How many men have sectioned off their lives, keeping love in the home and hiding Eros in the pornography closet?

What would a “Masculinism” movement entail? Preferably, something other than the Bly-inspired Men’s Movement that usually had us sitting in sweat lodges and drumming naked in the woods, desperately trying to reclaim our primitive roots. (Some children’s summer camps try to instill these male instincts early: my friend’s son came back from one such place with the new name, “Flows With the Dolphins.”  When I heard that, to honor my sweat lodge experiences, I briefly became “Shvitzing with the Schmucks,” but it didn’t stick.) I don’t think becoming imitation Native Americans is the answer for guys like me, or most men I know. Somewhere between Ward Cleaver and Geronimo the answer lies.

My friend Charley, however, a veteran of the Men’s Movement, points out, in its defense, that “Men in America are divorced from the earth, the sky, the air and fire and water and every thing that made men men for thousands of years because they were close to nature.” (I beg to differ; when I was a kid, there was no such thing, for example, as indoor malls. When my mother took me shopping for clothes, all of the stores were right out in the open, exposed to the elements. And she often allowed my brother and me to set up our little pup tent in the living room, where we kept a window open so we could hear the crickets and other wildlife sounds of the Fair Lawn, New Jersey nights. Cut off from nature? I don’t think so.)

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Photo Ben Husmann/Flickr

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About Eliezer Sobel

Eliezer Sobel is the author of The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist's Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments, and the prize-winning novel, MInyan: Ten Jewish Men in a World That is Heartbroken. See www.eliezersobel.com.

Comments

  1. MasMadness says:

    In a word, no.

    “How to bridge this gulf, in which men are men, women are women, and raw, primal desire is real and allowed, yet not cross over into the world of inequality, rigid roles, objectification, and pre-feminist values?”

    You do it yourself.

    The whole reason feminism is an “ism” is because it absolutely required some form of solidarity to make it happen. The inverse is not the case. We don’t need an “ism”. We need men making good decisions, of their own accord, every day. Be smarter, be more well rounded and more critical of the various idiotic “norms” out there that you may be prescribing too. Movements are for power. Men still have that in our society. We need better men, and better men are forged with better decision making. Then, down the line, once we show women and ourselves that we can act like adults, you can start all the movements and “isms” you want. But we’re not anywhere near there yet.

    • Movements are for power. Men still have that in our society. We need better men, and better men are forged with better decision making.
      I’m sorry but I have to disagree with that. It isn’t a matter of men having power but a matter of men with the wrong mentality having power. There are plenty of good men out there making proper decisions.

      And I would go as far as to say that those men do need to come together and show that we exist. And right now I really don’t think that men that are making those better having made their presence known.

      Then, down the line, once we show women and ourselves that we can act like adults, you can start all the movements and “isms” you want. But we’re not anywhere near there yet.
      How are we going to show that we can act like adults if no one knows about us?

      • And for those men looking to be in community with other men … making good decisions, empowering, mentoring, supporting and challenging one another … there is a great opportunity in the ManKind Project [http://mankindproject.org]. Men ‘going it alone’ is the old way – isolating, lonely, relying on women to meet our emotional needs, denying our dark sides and repressing the brilliance we are capable of manifesting in the world. The ManKind Project has been a life-changing part off my life for 8 years now – and I have met the best, most evolved, wise men I’ve ever known in MKP groups.

  2. “The feminists have had their say over the years, and most men got the message: It’s not okay to objectify females, to see them as a conglomeration of body parts, to speak to them as if there is a microphone nestled between their breasts, or to act as if young women strutting the streets in mini-miniskirts and revealing halter tops are the least bit interesting to us unless they also happen to be carrying a copy of Goethe’s Faust. ”

    These issues are actually still a problem for most women. I don’t find that most men are aware in the moment of when they’re objectifying or what message it sends.

    I also agree with the above comment that men still hold an unequal amount of power in our society. The inequality is apparent to anybody who looks at the # of male and female CEOs and politicians.

    However, we do need men to speak up about what’s important for them to keep. Women have spoken and will continue to speak, but generally the men’s side seems to be populated with angry MRAs who speak with great hatred for women (which discredits their arguments), or silence. I did not entirely agree with this article, but I appreciated reading it and want to have more moderate povs from men.

  3. visitor says:

    I agree with MasMadness. It’s important for each individual man to think about what manhood and masculinity mean to him, and how he chooses to draw goodness and strength from them.

    What I’m bothered by is the idea that feminism has in some way forced men to distance themselves from their desire, or feel guilty about it. I’m not sure why that should be the case. Being horny or aggressive or even crude doesn’t necessarily mean being a sexist asshole. Respect is not an either/or. I don’t understand why people think it’s impossible to view and treat a woman as a complete human being — not a collection of socially-assigned attributes — and at the same time want to have naughty, mind-blowing sex with her.

    “Masculinism” is not required to “balance out” feminism, because feminism — and the fields it has begotten such as gender studies and, yes, men’s studies — is aimed at looking critically at cultural ideas of gender(s) and the way they interact. It really ought to benefit everyone.

  4. So we got it. Women are not merely sexual objects of desire. But what happened to men in the process of their feminist education?
    You know for a while I was wondering about that question but over time I saw the answer for myself. In my own experience when it came to feminists education men only show up when they are useful. Frankly instead of trying to change that I just struck out on my own to find my own way.

    What would a “Masculinism” movement entail?
    I can’t speak definitively what it would entail but I do think, at least for the time being, it has a place in the gender discourse. If for no other reason than people who will try to speak on men as a whole (on such subjects as how much power men have) by pointing to a few elite.

  5. ClayTheScribe says:

    “The feminists have had their say over the years, and most men got the message.” In what world are you referring to? This is one the dumbest articles I have read on here.

  6. Interesting article, but I actually think men (and women, come to think of it) have much freer rein in modern, American society to express and indulge their sexuality than they have throughout most of history. But I do agree that there is still a double-standard that is holding men back from feeling fully well/fulfilled–and it’s actually precisely the opposite of this retro hyper-masculinity movement. In this age when women are allowed to dress/comport/express their identities in a pretty full range (all the way from ass-kicking butch/tomboy to lovely-in-lingerie frilly/lacy), men are still stuck in a fairly rigid range of what’s permissibly “male.” And as far as I can see, there’s really nothing outside of the current self-policing system of derision and fear of being called “gay” or “unmanly” that curbs men’s fashions so that it precludes the frills and the whatever else. In past eras, men have worn make-up, powdered wigs, lace, jewelry, the works. So I don’t think it’s necessarily an inborn aversion for prettier things that keeps the modern man from dressing that way. So, here is society exerting a kind of pressure/limitation on men that it does not exert on women.

    This limitation extends beyond fashion, and to relationships as well. Both in the way men relate to women (and modern-day women are just as guilty of perpetuating this double-standard)–having to put on the braver face even if you actually HATE bugs because your girlfriend’s shrieking for you to kill that hideous, fuzzy spider, etc–and in the way men relate to each other. Because while women are allowed to have deep, loving, emotionally-fulfilling platonic friendships with other women, men (or at least, straight men) seem to be scared away from having the same with one another out of fear of being labeled “gay,” etc. And while I’m not saying men and women never understand each other deeply, there are just some things that you need to talk/commiserate about with someone of your own gender, who has experienced exactly the same sorts of woes that you have.

    And there, I think, is where the unfortunate double-standard that keeps men from living totally fulfilled lives lies–not in the need for more sex.

  7. This article gets too many things backwards…

    • No wonder men are having such a hard time being men when they want to cater to princesses (royalty, supremacists…) in order to feel like men or feel any semblance of happiness?

  8. To tag on to Cy’s response (which I fully support):

    Is it time for resurgence of masculinism? Yes. But this time the goal should be to achieve social acceptance and liberate the stigma that surrounds antiquated (and constraining) views of male sexuality. Along with the feminist movement, men have fought to gain equal rights for statutory rape laws, child custody and military draft regulations to name a few. Women have come a long way from days of Emily Post, and have broken down gender barriers. Now it’s time to fight against societal “norms” and allow men to be men, without forcing them to adhere to some macho perception of what a man *should* be. Both men and women are equally capable of being dominant and submissive…the notion that only men should display the dominant (primal) characteristics in a relationship is absurd.

    I do see these sexual boundaries for men evolving, especially as the LGBT community continues to gain wider public acceptance. As the ignorant perception of being gay loses its negative connotation, the more these shackles will break and masculinism will surface. Or I should say, the more sexuality will become fluid – as it should.

  9. As a queer bystander in the war between the sexes, I’m always struck by the way men and women blame themselves for having inherently incompatible sexual agendas. After a six pack, I listen to straight male friends admit the truth about married sex and want to shout “Stop beating yourself! It’s not your fault! It’s not her fault! It’s nobody’s damn fault!”

    Stability and excitement are antithetical, domesticity kills passion, and you can’t be both a comfy cushion and a bolt of lightening – at least not to the same partner. These aren’t choices any more than gravity is, which is why pop songs repeat the chorus and fade out when it’s time to look beyond the first three months of a relationship.

    But nobody wants to hear “you can’t get there from here,” and so we pretend we have conscious control over it all. We can fix it if we just work harder, get smarter, and do our damnedest to make it right. Never mind that whatever self-help authors say, everything we know about our neurology and awareness says nearly all our decisions are made without conscious attention, and that we fudge the record after because we need to feel in control. We do so like feeling in control, but lying to ourselves about what we can control comes at a price.

    Attraction and sexuality exist for the continuance of the species, not for the happiness of the individual. Taking responsibility for the hand natural selection has dealt us is a terrible, heartbreaking mistake. In our culture, most men would probably find it a relief if familiarity increased desire, but any such species would quickly turn its gene pool into a stagnant sewer and vanish, and so the opposite is true. Climate change is not the only inconvenient truth we ignore en masse.

    To be both driven and self aware would be difficult under any circumstances, but it’s the lies we tell ourselves about it make it hell. In particular, our main religious traditions fear and loathe the body and regard desire as radioactive waste that must at all costs be kept contained in leaden shame.

    Once on a 95° day in August in Maryland, my father looked up from putting gas in the mower and said to twelve-year-old me, “I fell in love with a beautiful woman but ended up married to a lawn. I wonder how that happened?” He was literally dispirited, and stayed that way for another 50 years until cigarettes and alcohol put an end to it. In western culture, women have spent the last half century becoming aware of how their sexuality has been twisted and used against them, but men are just starting to wake up and ask “WTF?”

    It’s a mistake to regard the question that begins this article as rhetorical. Men _have_ been taught to be ashamed of desire in an attempt to control it, and as a tool for social control, shame has worked very well. How not? It leads to the loss of confidence, a pervasive sense of failure, feelings of unworthiness, and depression. These are all passive states, and passive people always take the path of least resistance. Convince somebody he’s dirty and that dirt is bad and he’ll spend his whole life scrubbing for you.

    I’m not young and have had three long term relationships. (They keep dying: it sucks, but that’s another story.) I’ve never wanted or agreed to be monogamous and neither have any of my partners. I’ve never lied about having sex, or – to my knowledge – been lied to. While it’s required generosity, tact, and trust, having sex with men other than my partner has ultimately been no more remarkable than having friends outside the relationship. I’m aware this is one of the reasons straight people have difficulty recognizing the seriousness of relationships between men, because exclusivity is the sine qua non of heterosexual marriage and many if not most gay men don’t much care about it. (I confess I find it sinister, just as I would if someone told me I could have no other friends but him.) Ironically, never being reliant on my partner for sex has taught me just how serious I am about relationships. When you can’t tell yourselves you’re in it for the sex, the income, or the children, there’s not much left except to admit how much you really value the other guy for himself. The payoffs for working through jealousy and possessiveness are huge.

    As a little gay boy, I grew up being taught that my heart was evil, sick, and shameful; the people who loved me most lied to me. By the time I was 16, I had to ask a pointed question every time I exhaled in order to ensure I’d be able to draw another breath. To survive, I had to refute everything I’d been taught about desire, turn my back on it, and hit the road, not knowing what I’d find. The whole experience was nothing you’d wish on a friend, but the result is priceless. I know that I have some control over my actions but none at all over my strongest feelings, and that the failure to make a place for those feelings makes for a life that really is worse than death. The risk was worth it.

    Our hearts are not impressed by common sense or consequences: they won’t and can’t listen to reason. There’s no negotiating with that voice inside. There’s only clapping our hands over our ears and refusing to listen, and refusing to hear our own souls comes at a terrible price. It’s up to each of us to make some space in which we can be free without abandoning responsibilities, betraying people we love, or (a gay men’s speciality) destroying ourselves. We could start by saying out loud, if only to each other, as men, that monogamy can kill joy, break hearts, and deaden souls. We could let the pain of past experience scour our minds clean so that we can question what we’ve been taught about our desire with new minds.

    • Thank you for this Bryan. Your response touched me, felt spot on, and amazingly clear. –Eliezer

    • Bryan, I have a question. How does a gay man say: “Attraction and sexuality exist for the continuance of the species, not for the happiness of the individual.” ? I honestly don’t understand that statement coming from someone who, by his sexuality, enjoys sex not to “continue the species” but to further his “happiness as an individual.” Help me understand that.

      Also, as someone who is happily married and still enjoying sex exclusively with my wife, I could not disagree more with your statement: “We could start by saying out loud, if only to each other, as men, that monogamy can kill joy, break hearts, and deaden souls.” It is not, in my view, monogamy that kills joy or deadens souls. It is lack of imagination and the willingness to do the hard work of keeping a relationship fresh. When I stop and look at my wife, and think about the beautiful person she is, I can’t wait to get into bed with her. And when I let her know that, long before we get to bed, she can’t wait to get there either.

      • You make a good point, especially with the second paragraph. I think some number of people focus so heavily on how to GET a significant other that they never really put any thought into how to keep it up. Also, I know a lot of people think it’s incredibly romantic when sex happens “spontaneously,” but some amount of pre-foreplay that can be really helpful. Or rather, it’s nice when my partner expressing affection and interest in me isn’t an indication that he wants sex to happen NOW.

        Also, is it really so stressful for most guys to be told that someone just wants to be friends? I ask because (1) I KNOW of guys who are of the opinion that it’s not that big of a deal, because friends are pretty cool anyways and (2) I’ve had the same rebuke from guys, and it’s far from the worst thing that’s been said to me. What’s the difference? I wonder if understanding this might be a good first step in understanding what masculinism should entail; I’m not convinced that the explanation is as simple as “Men desire sex more.” It just isn’t consistent with my experience.

        That being said, I think it is important for people to understand the difference between declining advances and guilting someone for feeling desire. There’s a world of difference between, “No, thank you, I’m not interested” and calling someone selfish or an out-of-control sex-crazed maniac.

        • Hi Riti!

          Mostly that phrase dates back to high school days when the message of “let’s just be friends” very clearly meant “I am not interested in you in ‘that’ way and I’m only saying ‘let’s just be friends’ to be nice and soften the blow.” But the average, pimply insecure teenage boy will generally interpret “let’s just be friends” as “She thinks I’m a complete loser and she’s probably laughing at me with her friends.”

          As an adult, it has been a long time since I’ve been single, but in the dim recesses of my memory, I don’t think the situation ever really came up much, because generally it was pretty obvious to me when attractions were mutual and I could proceed with confidence.

          • As someone who admittedly has used the “I like you as a friend” line, what’s a better way to let a guy know, nicely, that you don’t reciprocate his sexual feelings? Sometimes a woman really does like a guy a lot as a friend, but there’s no chemistry. That’s not anyone’s fault. Not every guy I’m attracted to feels the same way about me.

            • There’s always the old stand-by: “It’s not you, it’s me; I’m just not available for an intimate relationship right now because of ____________.” Fill in the blank: “I’m just getting over a difficult break-up; my entire extended family just perished in a mine shaft explosion; the doctor says I might never make love again and if I do the man’s penis is likely to become disengaged from his body; my family only permits me to date men from Latvia.”

          • Ahhh, so is it probably more of a self-esteem thing than disappointment with the fact that she declined a relationship? That makes more sense to me; I’ve known some guys who feel like they need to “objectively better” than the competition in order to get a girl, and they always seem to feel a lot more distressed when a girl declines a date with them than most of their peers.

            If feminism has been moving us away from cultures where young men could count on sexual interactions with women in order to get some sense of self-worth, I think it’s very important for men to be involved with redefining self-esteem, especially from the feminist perspective. If the “norm” is to define something in a way that isn’t compatible with equality, we do need to dedicate a fair amount of thought to how to change it, in a positive, “This is what you can do” sort of way, instead of a, “Don’t do this.”

      • Thanks for your question.

        Whenever we discuss existence, our need to assign meaning to ours tends to cause us to confuse the wherefores with the whys, when in fact the two are often unrelated. Our need for meaning is so strong that we tend to stack the semantic deck in a way that guarantees we’ll find it, even if we’re cheating ourselves at solitaire.

        This is never clearer than in discussions of evolution. Our insistence on meaning results in misstatements like “The human visual system was designed to…” These are all based on the implicit assumption that cause and effect imply intention merely because they tend to occur together in human experience. Of course no such relationship is required and even in human affairs frequently none exists.

        It’s easy to demonstrate this. Given that “design” implies intent, natural selection didn’t design us any more than than the Colorado River “designed” the Grand Canyon. But we don’t enjoy knowing that creation doesn’t require conscious intent – we immediately feel the cold draft of our mortality, which is why it’s anathema to religion in particular. So we go on saying things like “Human sexuality was designed to…”, building elaborate arguments on semantic sand. We apparently lack the confidence that would leave us able to accept that there is no meaning to anything other than what we ourselves assign to it.

        I believe we’re here because we’re here, so I’d say sexuality came to exist for the continuance of the species but has no intrinsic purpose. Purpose is the close cousin of meaning, which is meaningless without intent, and natural selection has no purpose outside of whatever meaning we assign to it. Like everything else about us, the purpose of sexuality is found art we make out of materials discovered in a junk yard not of our creation. Part of my point is that we should treat the often lurching, clattering Rube Goldberg result (and by extension, ourselves) with generosity, compassion, and humor.

        I note that you object to my characterization of monogamous relationships while simultaneously admitting that they’re brutally hard work, particularly in terms of male sexuality. To me, this is the result of being forced to build them out of found materials and very conflicted intent. The hard work comes from the committee in all our heads, whose members seldom share an agenda, particularly when it comes to sex. My point was that our current dominant model of positive male sexuality offers a false dichotomy: dutiful monogamist or faithless shit head, and my personal experience is that I’ve found much joy as a result insisting on additional options.

        During the heyday of that particular fad, I noted that gay men regarded Robert Bly and his followers with wry amusement when they regarded them at all. Given our particular culture, it was impossible for us not to note that what the Wild Man really wants has little to do with running around in the woods beating a dream. Given that nearly all such discourse centers around words like “neutered,” dancing around a fire struck us as a comically oblique approach to recovering one’s balls.

        Regardless of what any of us choose to make from our found sexuality, it would help to start by being bluntly honest about just what it is we find ourselves with. Judgment, obfuscation, socialization, and rationalization aside, one of the things men are involves an inescapable drive to fuck like animals without regard for the limitations imposed by anyone else’s agenda. I’ve made space in my life for this part of myself for 35 years, and despite the hopes/claims of Christofascist hysterics and others, my relationships and the fabric of society have yet to come undone.

        • Given that most people, whether liberal or conservative, genuinely want to live in a society where stable longterm relationships are possible and children are able to grow up with loving parents and stable home lives, how would you reconcile that with the idea that men should reclaim their rights to f$&k like animals? As a woman, I do not see much benefit for myself in such a society, honestly. Unless we are talking about a society where men basically become irrelevant as fathers and husbands, and simply act as mobile spem donors. Because if a man is out f$&king everything that moves for 35 years, he won’t have much time or energy to be a father or support his kids (if he even knows who all his kids are). So if all men did that, I think the role of men would have to radically change, and maybe not for the better.

        • Bryan, thanks for your thoughtful response. I understand your points – don’t agree with them – but I think I understand what you are saying.

          You say:
          “Like everything else about us, the purpose of sexuality is found art we make out of materials discovered in a junk yard not of our creation. Part of my point is that we should treat the often lurching, clattering Rube Goldberg result (and by extension, ourselves) with generosity, compassion, and humor.”

          I agree that we should be gentle with ourselves. There is a Rube Goldberg quality to the psyches we cobble together over our lifetimes. But you make another important point: comparing sexuality to art. I think that’s a good analogy, as far as it goes. You have begged the question, though. Survival has to be part of the equation, at some level. As far as I know, our species has not figured out how to reproduce asexually. Would we, if we didn’t have sex? Maybe. But, back to your point about art. This planet has evolved to a point, in humans, where we make things, with no intrinsic value, other than our enjoyment. We make music, we make art, and as you suggest, we make love, simply to enjoy it. Sex is artful expression. Now for you, the pleasure or sex, as art, compels you to screw whomever you want, whenever you can. If that is art/sex for you, then who am I, or who is anyone else, to judge that? But just because that is appealing to you, don’t expect it to appeal to me, just because I’m a man. I find pleasure in the expression of art/sex, with my life partner. And the thought of multiple partners, even if in a serial string, holds no appeal to me at all. Am I strange, or less of a man, because I like that kind of art/sex? I would think not.

          Another thing you said that caught my attention is this:

          “I note that you object to my characterization of monogamous relationships while simultaneously admitting that they’re brutally hard work, particularly in terms of male sexuality. To me, this is the result of being forced to build them out of found materials and very conflicted intent. The hard work comes from the committee in all our heads, whose members seldom share an agenda, particularly when it comes to sex.”

          Yes, monogamous relationships are hard work, not because they are monogamous, though; it’s because they are relationships. Relationships are hard work. I’ve got a group of guy friends that I like to hang out with. I like these guys, but there are times when I want to tell them to go to hell. There are times when I don’t like them at all. There are times when I want to punch one in the nose. But I hang in there with these guys, because I get something out of the relationship. It’s hard to stay real with people. But it’s worth it, ultimately. Relationships are hard work. Life is hard work. Work is hard work. It’s just part of it. But we do the hard work, because there is something of value there for us. No one is forcing me to do the hard work, but me. It’s a choice I make. And I find it immensely worthwhile.

          Now the place where you and I are worlds apart is here – you say:

          “one of the things men are involves an inescapable drive to fuck like animals without regard for the limitations imposed by anyone else’s agenda.”

          Again, if that is your drive, you have every right to it. But I don’t want you constraining me to some forced imprisonment to “inescapable drive” any more than you want me to constrain you to the “imprisonment” of monogamy. We’re different, Bryan. It’s that simple. And that should be ok. Shouldn’t it? I’m not sure what Christofascist hysterics has to do with anything. I don’t even know what that means. But at the end of the day, I think that there is a broad spectrum of manhood and sexuality and you and I seem to be at very different places along that spectrum. And that’s part of what makes life interesting to me.

  10. ClayTheScribe says:

    My main problem with this article, and many on this website, is that it supposes there is only one type of masculinity and that that is what defines being a man. I would be all for a masculinism movement if it was about accepting all types of masculinity rather than just the traditional one. And just because a man is sensitive and caring doesn’t make him not tough. I’m a very sensitive, caring and pro-feminist man, but I’ve also been through a lot of pain in my life and have come out on top because I’m tough. I also think that I’m not an asshole and don’t push women around makes me more of a man than many boys out there. Men are never going to evolve if we keep trying to put them into boxes.

    • ClayTheScribe – are you reading the same articles that I am reading on this website? I see a pretty broad spectrum of conversation. Keep coming back and see if there isn’t more diversity than you think.

  11. “How does an 800 pound (male) gorilla make love to its (female) mate?”

    Answer: “Anyway he wants to.”
    This person is describing rape: ignoring the other person’s feelings because you have total power over them. And they make it sound fun.

    I know you don’t agree with it, but why is that joke in this discussion? Why would anyone have anything to say about that joke except that it’s disgusting? Why do you use the term ‘taken by force’ which has no use other than being a nicer way to say ‘rape’?

    I do what a lot of people do: try for a world where ANY way of being a man that isn’t harmful to yourself or others has a place.
    But this kind of language is really hurtful, and that’s what feminist education teaches. If you don’t see this, then no, you haven’t got the message yet.

    • Well it was interesting Daniel, because after spending the weekend with some 200+ men, the leaders brought in about 20 women to stand on stage and answer any and all questions, no matter how blunt. And in fact, that particular group of women, anyway, agreed with the message of that gorilla riddle; they wanted their men, their husbands and boyfriends, to at least be willing to sometimes simply “take” them, but obviously within the context of a loving consensual relationship, so it bears no relationship to rape, more in the realm of sex play. I don’t that sort of fantasy which COULD be called rape fantasy, is so very uncommon among women AND submissive men.

      • missing a word above: “I don’t think that that sort of fantasy which COULD be called rape fantasy, is so very uncommon etc…”

      • It’s interesting, and yes that is worth discussing. But the distinction of fantasy is all-important -I didn’t see that distinction made, and I mean no offence, but this didn’t feel like a context where that could be taken for granted.

        And then I start wondering why women might be have that kind of fantasy -do they have it more than men? Are women just more able (and more permitted) to decide they enjoy feeling submissive at times? I know I’ve had a variation of that fantasy. Also: I’m not a submissive person. Similarly I date a woman with that fantasy, though I don’t think I’d be attracted to someone who wasn’t assertive and strong in some way. We wear different hats in different places and sharing *that* is also what this issue is about. But now I’m navel-gazing.

      • Wanting someone to be more aggressive with you and make all the work in a consensual way could never, in a more deep perspective, be called “rape” fantasy – rape is all about non-consent.
        And that is interesting you say it can be common among “women and “submissive” men”. This speech makes it sound like women are always submissive, or that only men can choose between dominant and submissive. Dominating women (if you believe they exist) and men could never have fantasies of this type?
        I believe that, in a lot of Countries, women are still castrated to show less sexual aggression and be less active. The media and all sociocultural conditioning maybe mostly always shows that to them since they are young, making it more difficult for women to develop a more aggressive personality when, and developing it, feeling insecure to show it. The same goes to men, in reverse. Men feel ashamed of their own sensuality, when they even know that they can also be sensual, and not only sexual. A lot of North American men even feel “emasculated” (a term difficult to understand for an outsider) when not taking a “dominant” role or even when women are just secure enough to be themselves, I heard. That is totally noticed even by just looking at any kind of sensual poses males and females usually do for standard media – women are always more expressive, more alluring; men usually just stand still, have a straight face and show force.
        (Not that I fully agree with the terms “dominant” and “submissive” as well, even thought I know that is what most Americans use to describe being aggressive or not in a sexual encounter… I think passive and active are more appropriate, and reach a wider spectrum – you can be passive-aggressive and active-aggressive, etc. Domination is about getting what you want without taking in consideration the other’s feelings and thoughts; being submissive is, in the end and if read literally, being abused and/or castrated (and when it’s allowed, you cannot call yourself really submissive anyway, as you are dominating your own ways in the end) in many ways.)

  12. “I also agree with the above comment that men still hold an unequal amount of power in our society. The inequality is apparent to anybody who looks at the # of male and female CEOs and politicians.”

    That’s what Donna said a few replies above….

    This is an absolutely true statement, I believe called androcracy…

    However where many feminists get things wrong is when they conflate that idea with the idea that men as a class hold power over women as a class. Now, I don’t know that the average man has much more power than the average woman. One thing that is measurable is that men have shorter average lifespans than women. Now she didn’t state anything about men as a class versus women as a class, so I don’t know what her beliefs are but I did use that one statement as a starting point. And, in fairness, nor did Donna claim to be a feminist.

    So, one of the issues I have with feminism, is that while they have studied the power dynamic and “privilege”-I believe many of their views are skewed. I believe this ultimately creates injustice and inequity–and surely there was before feminism. Now if there is to be a movement of masculinism-first, masculinity seems something difficult to define. Also, shouldn’t it provide men more choice than they currently have? Shouldn’t it create it’s own theory instead of building on what feminism started. Also, there are more issues such as class/socioeconomic status. Doesn’t a poor man have more in common with a poor woman than the President of the United States?

    One issue for masculism could be Selective Service. I resent my obligation to potentially be drafted for an oil war. I feel it is unfair that one gender has this obligation and not the other. Ideally, I don’t think anyone should be drafted to die in a war they don’t agree with. Now feminists have told me that it is benevolent sexism that keeps women from combat roles-that is where I often see a dynamic in play in society. From my point of view, gender discussions often involve “rights” for women and “responsibilities” for men. So, simply would this be a reaction against feminism or it’s own thing.

    Doesn’t seem like you can talk about one gender in a vacuum. That is often why you see misandrist statements like “what about the menz.” It is partially because males don’t really have many venues to talk about their own issues. They might sometimes go online to a venue were gender is discussed but from a feminist perspective. When they say things like “none of this matches my life experience,” they are told they are “mansplaining.” So, somehow there is a need for a new movement that gives men more freedom. Freedom to pursue other roles than breadwinner, soldier, protector, father and husband.

    • Shouldn’t it create it’s own theory instead of building on what feminism started.
      It most certainly should be able to do just that. Frankly a good bit of the push against masculinism seems to boil down to “but feminism already covers that”. If that were the case then why are there men that are choosing to go in a different direction? You’re not going to win people to your cause by telling them your cause already has everything they need while at the same time shutting them out when they try to speak.

    • But men do have the freedom not to be a provider, breadwinner, protector or father. You can be a lifelong bachelor if you want. No one forces you to get married or have children. I realize there is social pressure (as a single woman without kids, I really do understand the enormous pressure put on those of us who don’t follow a conventional life script), but to say that men don’t have options doesn’t make much sense to me.

      I’m in agreement on selective service, though. I think if there is a draft it should be mandatory for both men and women, with NO deferments of any kind. See how many wars we have when members of Congress have to send their sons and daughters to Afghanistan!

      • Jill,

        Actually, I think we are in disagreement, I am for ending the Selective Service altogether, not administering it for both genders. There are two arguments that often get confused-one is women’s rights to fight in combat roles–I have heard this described as benevolent sexism by some feminists. The other is ending Selective Service altogether which I am personally for. Anyways, I do know that some anti-war advocates have proposed what you are mentioning as it would surely increase anti-war sentiment for precisely the reasons you state.

  13. It’s funny how often the percentage of female CEOs comes up when people talk about all the obvious examples of how men still dominate society. Nobody ever mentions the percentage of female homeless people, convicted criminals, wrongly convicted criminals, military deaths, occupational deaths, murder victims. etc. Women are vastly under-represented in these categories. Where’s the outrage?

    • More men are murder victims because more men are in gangs or involved in criminal lifestyles that lead to being murdered. It’s not like vast numbers of surburban dads are being gunned down randomly. It’s young men in lower socioeconomic groups who are getting murdered. The murder rate among young inner city men is tragic but I think there’s a lack of outrage because the statistics are seen to be driven by personal choices. Similarly, being arrested, joining the military and working in hazardous jobs are choices. We can talk about socioeconomic factors that influence those choices but the most Americans do not get that upset when someone is perceived to be suffering the consequences of their own decisions.

    • What bothers me is that people will ignore those percentages you mention Maggator, point to the few men at the top, and declare that men control society as if we are some monolithic entity.

  14. In deed, it is way past time for men to own their authentic power, their balls and desire. Denying it does not work and drives us to depression, fear of being a man and ultimately, makes our intimacy an impotent failure. Being a man does not mean demeaning women, it means empowering them as well. A friend, David Bruce Leonard wrote a book…’How to Worship the Goddess and Keep Your Balls’. At 60, I love my lust; not just as a sexual being, but as a man who lusts after living his mission. Maybe the next phase of our mens’ movement will finally deal with our sexuality. Who is ready?

  15. Men love p*ssy so much that eventually become one…

  16. We need fewer isms, not more.

  17. There are much worse problems with todays society, many are derived from binary thinking and inability to critically think and develop a personality for oneself.

  18. Wonderful thought provoking article by someone who doesn’t pretend to know all the answers.

    In the matter of sex I have conducted myself on the suck it and see method. (no pun intended)

    If one approach didn’t work, try another.

    Turns out one of the most successful ploys from my experience, is to ask questions of the young lady, making sure the questions are about her, look into her eyes, then shut your mouth and, here’s the difficult part…LISTEN!

    I once listened to someone for two hours at a party many years ago, barely inserting the odd, really? or uhhuh.

    She later told a mate of mine that I was a great conversationalist!

    Quite!

    Whatever you do, don’t try using smart chat up lines.

    Especially ones like…’How do you like your eggs in the morning? Fertilised?

    That’s a no no.

    Women will either think you’re an arsehole, or reply with a smart answer of her own.

    Not the response you are looking for.

    I’ve had a fair share nof success.

    Good luck with it.

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