In Pt1 I tried to simply argue that it is not “natural” for men to essentially “hunt” women. Men “hunt” to get social standing and mating opportunities; they don’t stalk their mates! I argued that aggressiveness is not an exclusively male thing, that the idea of a “rape instinct” at the core of male assertiveness is wrong, and that healthy, wholesome men, when they are truly honest about it, generally fantasize about proceptive women rewarding them for some virtue or brave feat, not forcibly taking what they have no right to under the dubious assumption that such assertiveness is what women really want. I argued that the playful aggression, sexual or otherwise, seen in our species and many others is used to heighten awareness and excitement precisely to highlight the true message of care and trust. However, I failed to emphasize certain things and left others out entirely, so read on if you enjoyed Pt1 and have the patience to indulge my fumbling through this murky issue. The emerging theme that most resembles a conclusion seems to be that of a healthy, useful male drive being channeled into rather maladaptive and tragic purposes, but please read none of what follows as either an apology or condemnation, but instead, an exploration of some possible leads.
In-Group Competition Ain’t No Picnic
I mistakenly under-emphasized how nasty in-group competitiveness and politics can be in my attempt to show that the really heinous forms of aggression, such as genocide and rape, are not standard human “programs” for dealing with members of one’s own tribe. Really, the occasional fist fight just doesn’t compare to the methods we have been programmed to pursue in the presence of an outside threat, crimes of passion notwithstanding. But this led me to overlook something rather important. Males are built to compete with other males in the community of men, but now that females are competing in the same circles, perhaps natural male competitiveness is growing increasingly confused and conflicted. I hesitate to say that this competitiveness is “misdirected,” for it is directly precisely where it has been designed to be directed, only, women have historically never been in the cross-hairs of such political ambitions. This surely is no fun for the women, but essentially they asked to join the men’s club, perhaps not realizing what a shark-tank they were diving into. Perhaps I am not really in touch with how much aggression this involves or how much impotence and rage get vented at women these days. All I’m trying to argue is that this situation is not “natural,” if you will forgive a clumsy term; that this aggression is not meant to be directed at women and is certainly not the core of male sexuality.
A male’s sexual identity requires challenge, competition, and accomplishment for him to feel like a “man,” whereas a women’s sexual identity and power are a given of biological development. But with women in the workforce men suddenly find themselves with half the available job openings, half the opportunity to compete to deserve their manhood, and furthermore must compete, quite unprecedentedly, with women in a game that has only always been predicated on being a fair contest among men. Furthermore, it is acceptable routine for guys to bust each others balls in this contest as they establish their identities, but it is far more devastating to have this done by a female (whose sexual identity is under no threat whatsoever), while reciprocating would just look like misogyny or sexual harassment. The game has certainly changed and contains all of the hazards of a co-ed, tackle football match. You could fairly say that the “carrot” is now a baby one that has already been nibbled in half. The man is no longer “the provider,” so what exactly can he stake his identity on, threatened as this identity already was in the face of early feminist attacks? What does he uniquely have to offer a woman and what will he get in return these days? Schopenhauer, writing at a time when the man was “the provider” and “man of the house” and competed only against men for status, asserted that “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties.” What’s in it for him now?
This predicament is essentially what I think is causing the strange inversion of the sexual equation whereby men seem to think it deeply masculine to hunt women, thereby achieving manhood and social status by obtaining sex, instead of the other way around. It’s easy for them to confuse sex with the relevant challenge and test of manhood, given that their identity is predicated on accomplishment and no suitable test or initiation is provided by society. Guys idolize the playboy because there are precious few options left for establishing one’s masculinity. I shudder to think that this may be fueled also by a wounded resentment towards women built up for a plethora of reasons, not least of these being instances where women seem to benefit from a double-standard: enjoying special treatment and chivalry when they want, but claiming equal status for their accomplishments. Perhaps there is more misogyny today than I am aware of, but for my part I doubt it springs from authentic male sexuality.
Evolution has put mankind in an awkward position somewhere between a tournament species and a pair-bonding one; a polygamous species and a monogamous one. Therefore, any system or institution society devises will be a compromise. I am trying to argue that the current compromise in western cultures is far from the best option available. The present situation is all mixed-up, not least of all because it was in no small part created by a just, progressive, and necessary feminist movement. This, however, denied certain stable features of human nature in a society that was already banishing male relevance for technological reasons. The result? Well, there was the unrealistically hyper-male action-movie star of the 80’s. Apparently, by that time natural male assets were so vilified by society that men could sit through movies like Commando or Conan in a desperate hope to glimpse or recover something authentically masculine. Society continues to confuse this situation and concludes that these hyper-violent films are causing males to be violent, entirely failing to see that violence springs from powerlessness, as does the fantasy of violence or the fantasy of having super-powers, for that matter. A man who has proven himself does not long for battle. Cinema has become more graphic and violent just as society has become more peaceful. Violent movies fill a need in men that has been building in intensity for decades, knowing as they do on some level that men have a right to be proud of the assets they used to be able to celebrate openly.
If you want to see just how tragically irrelevant men have become, just watch the show The Walking Dead, for it is actually a male fantasy! That’s right, a zombie Apocalypse is a fantastic world for male identity to thrive in compared to the society of today, as his physical strength, navigation ability, willingness to fight to the death, and hardhearted decisiveness are suddenly invaluable traits again; men can return to their preferred job of building shit or organizing and leading groups of men for scavenging, raiding, and war parties. (I would watch the show just to escape to a fantasy world without paperwork and taxes!) This should really shock you, actually, for, as Roy Baumeister argues, men have always been the expendables: those we send to war, to hunt, and to kill menacing animals. To the extent that we are a tournament species, only select men have been able to actually procreate, while nearly every available female passed on her genes throughout human history. To make matters worse, the men had to compete with each other, often using violence, just to get a shot at potentially, just maybe, getting mating rights. Thus, it should shock you that so many men truly do long for the “good old days” where they were at least relevant and where those who couldn’t get laid could at least make themselves useful to the tribe by making a rash decision or two. If the gambit was successful, this male might even get mating rights, and if not, then at least he was overtly pursuing the interests of the community. Besides, he’ll die by 30, so what is there to lose? But perhaps I am being too generous with this hypothetical frustrated male of ages past. Perhaps his wounded merit drove him to think of options like rape and while the taboo against it and threat of reprisal may have stopped him from carrying out such plans within the tribe, he may have wandered to a neighboring one looking for an easy score. Or maybe he turned to homosexuality? I’ll stop rampantly speculating.
Rape has been used as a tool in warfare for a long time, but let’s keep in mind that it was often perpetrated against men! Even today, prison rape is one of the most under-reported forms and plenty of studies suggest that men are perhaps raped more often than women if this is taken into account. This hideous practice is pursued when humans feel an annihilating threat to the tribe or when they are dehumanized and stripped of any sense of belonging in the brotherhood of man, rendering them powerless to pursue legitimate forms of sex. It is not the core of their (“normal”/”healthy”) sexuality. But what is then? Perhaps the reader of Pt1 also felt that I could have given a better treatment of male proceptivity.
Male Proceptivity: A Blessing Misunderstood and Misused
The natural proceptivity that men must display results from the fact that a woman has much more at stake when it comes to sex: she risks her reputation, freedom, enormous amounts of calories, years of investment, and potential death during childbirth. This is why males in our species are so “horny” and females remain the “gatekeepers” of sex. People feel horny when it is an opportune time for them to indulge their sex drive, a drive no less powerful in women than men perhaps, only, it is always an opportune time for men, while this is hardly the case for women. (see lesbian death bed for an interesting if controversial angle on this) Thus, men usually initiate sex, but assertiveness and initiative are not aggression. A woman’s sexual reputation is more fragile and valuable than a mans, rendering it pragmatic for the man to initiate overt contact. However, women routinely initiate covert contact (thank god!) through a telling glance and so forth, which is really just as assertive in a sense. But regardless, assertiveness is not aggression and, importantly, this male assertiveness is meant to serve and protect female virtue! That this drive has been twisted into the untoward cat calls and wolf whistles of the modern metropolis is not exactly a mark against this feature of male psychology, per se. If anything, what is required is more angry, macho male protectors around to defend a woman’s honor and keep others in check (and legal protection for doing so, of course).
Though men and women, some argue, enjoy sex drives of equal strength, surely everyone is willing to admit that this drive manifests more frequently for men. That is, they are hornier. But, you see, a drive and a desire are not the same thing. Often we mistakenly desire and pursue things that we later find we really had no genuine wish to obtain. My first one-night stand is a perfect example. I discovered that this is not actually something that I wish for naturally and that I was likely more interested in regaling my male friends with such “brave” exploits. This kind of misunderstanding is largely what drives men to be as promiscuous as they now are. Think about it: if men are really just interested in getting laid, having a steady girlfriend is a far more secure bet than trying your chances at the local watering hole. However, to be fair, it does seem that men desire and genuinely wish for more variety than women seem to require. The fallacy is to think that their wandering gaze cannot be steadied by the right pair of caring female hands. Still, there are those who argue that strip clubs and brothels are simply necessary because of this “biological reality.” Who am I to say that my sex drive is of “normal” intensity and that others don’t suffer from an imperious will so intense that such things prevent crime and war? However, even if we grant this, I implore the reader to look a little deeper even at this apparently raunchy and disgusting aspect of male culture.
Norah Vincent pointed something out that I had only vaguely grasped before: financial and health concerns notwithstanding, the male propensity to go look at strange ladies naked is actually a noble attempt to protect the virtue of the women they actually intend to pursue. Bare with me here. One of the most disgusting features about strip clubs, porn, etc is that the women more closely resemble dolls than actual human females, a fact that largely grounds the feminist attack of “objectification” and “misogyny.” However, this attack is entirely unfounded because the very point of making these females look like dolls is to protect a mans respect for women and buffer him from the shame of treating them like objects. He finds women who have already abdicated their virtue, for the most part, and who gladly contract to sell their bodies (who is objectifying whom again? Hint: customers don’t set lap-dance prices!). This way the man can in good conscience simply negotiate a deal with a businessperson instead of skulk around singles bars looking for an unsuspecting woman to seduce and then ditch. I’m not just saying that strippers and hookers are the better of two evils when it comes to the problem of the imperious male libido, but also, that this arrangement, if utilized wisely, is a sort of sweet or endearing attempt to keep the truly feminine sacred! Porn and so forth allows men to explore odd curiosities without degrading their wives and girlfriends, only, today far too many men confuse their most twisted and perverted curiosity for the very core of their sexuality! Its terribly sad really that these supposedly virile, libido-addled men actually get bored with regular old intercourse, mistaking, as they do, erotic curiosity for a genuine wish and need. If they were truly honest with themselves, my guess is that they really wish for and need dignity and respect but fail to find a stable source of it. You see, the one stable feature of male hierarchies is that respect is always in short supply, which is one way of maintaining its meaning and value. With women competing for the same spots in this hierarchy, there is far less of an already scarce commodity to go around, while the status of what remains attainable for men is rendered ambiguous at best. Is it any wonder that men have opted to indulge in cheap philandering for their self-respect? But there is another angle here that should be explored, at my great peril, I’m afraid.
Female Sexual Competition & Male Resentment
Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies. -Schopenhauer
I am generally sickened by the actions of my male compatriots when it comes to sex and relationships, but my disgust has been growing stronger as time goes on. You see, by about age 27 men have figured out a loophole in Nature’s design, one that they often ruthlessly exploit. I think they do so in response to built-up resentment, but please, my dear reader, do not read the following as an apology for this male behavior or a condemnation of women.
Because females blossom earlier, both physically and emotionally, they hold the power for at least the first decade of sexual maturity. The pendulum begins to swing the other way around 27 when women realize that they need to snag a decent guy and stop fooling around with whatever bad boy they were having fun with or showing off to their female friends. What does the above Schopenhauer quote have to do with this? Well, he reasoned that because men were competing in the economy but employed in different trades that they were merely indifferent competitors, whereas women (at that time) were all in the same trade–that of landing a decent husband–making them natural enemies. While the economy has evolved dramatically since this quote was penned, the point about female competition continues to sting. While men compete with each other for women indirectly, that is, via sports matches, hunting expeditions, promotions, and so forth, women compete with each other for men directly, buffered only by the kind of sly, nuanced politeness you expect in a Jane Austin novel. Therefore, today, plenty of rather nice and upstanding young gentlemen must wait their turn as they watch female friends and love interests continually choose assholes, over and over again, largely for social advantages that include status in the female hierarchy. The resentment builds up over long and lonely years, fueled by an unconscious genetic alarm clock that seems to scream “get laid as many times as you can, right now! You shouldn’t expect to live past 30! If you are failing, just do something rash, as you have nothing to lose.”
This “inarticulate rage,” to borrow a phrase, gets more and more intense, leading to misogynist conclusions like “ok, well, I guess she wants an asshole, so I’ll damn well give her one then!” But then he hits 27-30 and realizes that the genetic messengers were wrong: he is not dead, the king has not sequestered all fertile females in a harem, and suddenly the power dynamics have entirely shifted in his favor. There are now plenty of eager women looking for a decent husband to settle down with, women who may have had their fill of jerks. The moral question many of these men fail to answer correctly is “do these girls deserve forgiveness or retribution?” Thus, many men are led by their resentment to lead women on, wasting their precious reproductive years in the dating circuit as the women’s unconscious alarm clocks blare desperate warnings of lost immortality. If there is a sickly, aggressive core to modern male sexuality, it is to be found here. Ironically, this aggressive betrayal is hidden behind the false intentions of a good gentleman looking for love, and so appears innocuous or noble. But as we have seen, appearances and easy moral judgements on male behavior are hazardous in a society as twisted as ours. The greater irony is that males have essentially adopted an historically (and biologically?) feminine strategy of obtaining sex to gain social status, perhaps, as I have speculated, in response to their witnessing young women do the same. If so, it appears that these angry men have become what they hate, just as perhaps many feminists have also.