I’ve been feeling a bit low just lately, what with it getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s the kind of lifestyle in the kind of latitude where you realize that it’s entirely possible that you became a vampire weeks ago, and you just haven’t noticed because sunlight hasn’t touched your skin since god knows when.
One of the things I’ve done to try to avoid sinking into serious depression is spend more time with the women I’m involved with, including making a point of seeing up to three girlfriends in 24 hours. One reason for this, obviously, is that spending time with people who love us can, in some cases, really help with mood issues. The other reason is, equally obviously, much much creepier. Reminding myself that I have all these girlfriends makes me feel like a big man, for societal reasons I’d like to dig into a bit. Bring a shovel and a revolver; it’s gonna be one of those Indiana Jones kinda digs.
It’s no secret that part of how a man is judged in our society is by the woman or women he’s got around him. This, oddly, isn’t tied to the perception of the man’s sexiness, it’s more perceived as a measure of his success (of friggin’ course). Some people take this to sociopathic extremes, of course, but let’s face it, there’s a reason “trophy wife” is a trope everyone knows.
Now, there’s certainly a generous reading of this impulse; if you prioritize schtupping attractive women (for whatever definition of attractive you like) in your own life, then actually schtupping a lot of them does, by definition, count as a genuine success. You intended to do it, and you succeeded! Well done, old chap! Obviously, this is the interpretation I prefer to apply to myself.
Thing is, it’s still problematic as fuck. On the most obvious level, there’s the fact that it undeniably objectifies women, turning them from human beings into… well, “trophies” is actually the word everyone uses. Hence my guilt about, on some level, thinking of the women I love as a collection of prizes that prove how awesome I am. Yeah, it’s an enculturated notion and it’s not like I made it up, but… damn, I want to punch myself in the head.
Ow. That was ALSO a bad idea.
Here again, though, Ozy’s Law is like Ozy’s love: merciless. The flip side of the idea that being waist-deep in pussy makes a guy successful and awesome is that guys who aren’t… well, they must be losers. Failures. In that endlessly mockable Roissy piece I’ve now linked twice, he explicitly says that no other form of masculine achievement is of any worth whatsoever. Thus, this ridiculous, sexist, ugly idea also serves to make more men feel like failures.
Asexual or just low libido? Doesn’t matter, loser. Monogamous with one person your whole life? Doesn’t matter, loser. Only into long-term committed relationships? Pffff, yeah right, you must be gay. Actually gay? …okay, maybe that’s a different issue.
Perhaps most commonly, you get the attitude that’s all over, among other places, the comments in Ozy’s Nice Guy threads. The genuine pain of guys who’d like to be with more women than they are, but it’s not working out for whatever reason. Then there’s the ugly resentment that often comes out of that pain, which is as unfair and indefensible as me looking at my girlfriends like so many Steam achievements, but alas, is just as enculturated.
The fact is, it’s very easy for a guy to take “No thank you, I would prefer not to touch your penis” as “You are a worthless human being, a loser, a failure, worthy only of contempt and the mockery of your peers. You will die alone in a ditch and be eaten by wolves and nobody will miss you.” The system is set up so that the former actually implies the latter. Sleeping with women=success, not sleeping with women=failure, so therefore if a woman declines to sleep with you, she has on her own authority made you a failure.
This is, of course, utter horseshit. “No thank you, I would prefer not to touch your penis” means only what it says. The lady declining the ride on any particular baloney pony is not calling the pony owner a loser, she’s just saying no thanks, and then this ugly, dehumanizing cultural expectation comes in and calls him a loser. Since these happen almost simultaneously, though, it gets real easy to conflate them. Take things the wrong way, put the wrong spin on them based on some bad unexamined assumptions, and… well, we’ve all seen the kind of vicious misogyny that can result, haven’t we?
So once again, we see misogyny inextricably bound up with misandry, and not bound up in a sexy way. The only way out that I can see is to begin to separate out the assumptions from the actions. That feeling of worthlessness that comes over you when the lady (or gentleman, or whatever term you prefer) of your desire rejects you has nothing to do with her. That feeling is entirely separate, and comes down to us from a million sniggering locker-room jokes, a million sneering virginity references, from… well, probably every single thing that happened to you in high school. Including that one geometry test, somehow.
This, to my mind, is the point of examining and dissecting men’s issues. We can separate out the actual sources of our pain and alienation from the unspoken assumptions that we take for granted, and we can begin actually addressing the real issues. The more we dig down beneath the surface, the more things turn out to be caused by unspeakably awful forces we never suspected. I warned you this was gonna be some Indiana Jones shit.