DOUBLE STANDARDS – Feminism’s sorry record on the subject of rape

It’s not unusual in the gender discussion to hear someone claim that feminism is horribly understood, that it isn’t man-hating or gender-biased at all; it’s really all about equality – see, it even says so right here in the dictionary. How valid an objection is this?

Let’s take one example, rape. Let’s look at feminism’s on the subject of rape. It turns out that the feminist handling of the subject of rape is one example of feminism’s opposition to an egalitarian discussion of gender. Domestic violence has been another, but that a discussion for another day

First, back in the 90s the standard feminist line of rape was that it was patriarchal violence to maintain the power system that governs gender. This developed put of Susan Brownmiller’s thesis which she enunciated in 1975 in Against Our Will. A logical extension of her position males, by definition, could not be rape victims. (The extension was logical but of course the proposition is not, being based on an illogical premise.)This was operationalized in rape victims services, where male child rape victims were often treated and lectured as if they themselves were rapists, to the point of being told they were the rapists, that they had really raped the woman who raped them. Toy Soldier experienced this and has written about the phenomenon in general.

Then later as consent became settled as the standard for defining rape – a very sane definition and a very good development – a new theoretical problem reared its head. What about men who didn’t consent to sex? Weren’t they rape victims too?

There were several responses to this challenge:

Agreement
One was acknowledgement of this and a refinement in the theory – basically there were feminists who said damn straight that’s rape and those men are rape victims. But they became an embattled minority….

Doubling Down with Rape Culture of Their Own
They were even called misogynist – apparently a woman has an absolute right to sex, however she likes it, from a man for these people and it’s misogynist of him to refuse. It’s like insulting her or something. When people talk about “feminist rape culture, this is the kind of thing they are referring to. Feminsts themselves have identified this problem.

Denial
By far the most common response was denial – “Well maybe women do rape men, but it’s a vanishingly small percentage of rapes.” This was a widespread response; there was advocacy research to back this up that did what it could to erase male victims. Mary Koss stands out particularly in this connection, both because of her insititutioanl influence over the discussiion and the voluminous discussion of her and her position. Google it if you care to see how voluminous it is. Or sometimes the feint was that if women did rape men, then somehow those men pressured their own rapists into raping them. The “erection as consent” canard got thrown in quite a lot.

Deflection
Another form this took was to deny that raped men suffer from the rape as much as women do, based on who knows what information or analysis. Another was a retread of the Patriarchy narrative above, where when a man was raped, or even a boy, it wasn’t the same, it wasn’t really rape, because of the power differential (You have to be a real believer to believe some boy has a power differential over a grown woman.) Hugo Schwyzer had a post several years ago to this effect, though he may have taken it down by now.

Deflection by accusation of deflection
A common attempt at deflection was to claim that talk of female rapists was intended only to deflect attention from the real problem, male rapists. No real evidence was ever offered to back up this mind-reading. The same accusation is often made of attempts to discuss false rape accusations.

Rape denial and rape apology
Everyone one of these responses were forms of rape denial, and one thing feminists have taught us is that rape denial is a part of rape culture. When people talk about “feminist rape culture, this is the kind of thing they are referring to.

Double standards
The sexist double standards – there literally two standards for what constitutes a rape victim, two standards for the degree of harm rape inflicts and two standards for when rape apology gets called rape apology, and a bitterly entrenched anti-egalitarianism in all these responses.

The feminist handling of the subject of rape is one example of feminism’s opposition to an egalitarian discussion of gender.

I doubt this is an exhaustive list. Please help expand it.

SUMMA GENDERRATICA: The Anatomy of the Gender System

Author’s Note: This is a summary of my entire theory of how our society’s gender system operates and how it originated. It is intended to be a ‘road map’ of society’s norms about masculinity and femininity. I believe that it can explain all gender norms in our society. The MHRM requires an integrated, consistent theory about gender in order to successfully compete with Radical Second Wave and Third Wave Feminism – this theory is an attempt at providing one.

The following does not mention every single aspect of our society’s gender system, but I believe that any unmentioned aspects of the gender norms can be successfully explained by this theory (feel free to propose “Explain This Norm As A Product Of The Gender System” challenges in the comments).

Note that whilst I called this post “Summa Genderratica” I do not wish to imply that the theory below is accepted (in its entirety) by anyone other than myself. I am only illustrating my theory here, and it isn’t meant to be taken as the “official philosophy” of GendErratic as a whole. The reason for the title is because I am a pretentious douche and as such I enjoy the self-important connotation/reference towards the works of Aquinas.

Onto the theory!

PART 1
The First Premise: The Purpose of Social Norms
Why do social norms arise?

This theory will take it as axiomatic that social norms arise for survivability and practicality reasons. Social norms arise as responses to the challenges of physical existence.

The Challenge
The gender system arose in the early days of our species. During these days, food and resources were scarce, accumulating them was a difficult and failure-prone task, and it was manual labor which performed these tasks; physical labor was the primary source of improvements to survivability and the standard of living (unlike today, where technological capital and knowledge work provide this (it is telling that the first challenges to the gender system only arose with the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution… periods during which the economy became less labor-dependent and more capital-dependent owing to technological advances. It is also telling that challenges to the gender system arose first amongst materially well-off groups in society)).

Because physical labor was the primary means of production, importance was placed on the means of producing physical labor, i.e. reproducing and growing the population. However, only a minority of children survived to reach adulthood, and as such much higher birth rates were required to grow the overall population size.

But only one half of the population could bear children.

The Response
Biology combined with the necessity of aggressive breeding essentially forced women to “specialize” and devote large amounts of their time to being knocked up and producing children (and when pregnant they are less mobile and thus more vulnerable).

Since males could not perform this important task, they provided protection and resource-provision (in essence, all the ‘rest’).

Social norms arose to push people towards their sex-mandated tasks. The “good female” and the “good male” were the female and male who contributed to their society by fulfilling their assigned role; the “good female” was the fertile mother, the “good male” was the strong warrior and productive hunter. These social norms were reflected in all of society’s institutions, including religion (see the warrior gods and the mother goddesses for more).

Summary 1
1. Social Norms arise as responses to the challenges of living and thriving
2. Low technology societies are dependent on physical labor to survive
3. Very high birth rates were required to increase the supply of labor
4. Only one half of the human population could give birth
5. Gender Roles emerged to encourage specialization on the basis of sex

PART 2
Maturity and Gender
As stated before, the “good female” and the “good male” were understood in terms of those who contributed to society by fulfilling their sex-assigned tasks. However, children of either sex are physically unable to do this.

A woman needs to be post-pubertal in order to bear a child. Young males are on average significantly less physically developed and thus generally lack the necessary strength to even have a chance at successfully performing their sex-assigned task.

As such, there is an association between maturity and gender-compliance. A female needs to undergo a process of biological maturation in order to perform the feminine contribution to society, however this process is essentially automatic and is basically assumed to occur over time, with mensturation serving as a clear biological indicator of fitness to perform the task.

With males, things are more tenuous. Proficiency or even ability to perform the male function, let alone perform it well, is not biologically guaranteed. Additionally, there is no single clear “he’s ready” indicator delivered by male biology.

Whilst females “grow into” being women, males do not automatically grow into being “real men.”

Aristotelian Femininity, Platonic Masculinity, and the Subject-Object Dichotomy
A young female just becomes a woman automatically, due to the innate properties of her biology. Her mensturation evidences her maturation. Her womanhood simply is. She is assumed to be gender-compliant and thus socially contributive by default.

A young male has to demonstrate, through action, the ability to perform masculine tasks successfully. A young male must prove he has “grown up” and become a “real man.” Males are not assumed to be gender-compliant (and thus socially contributive) by default; by himself he is just another mouth to be fed by the work of “real men.” A man must validate his manhood by action, otherwise he is not a real man but rather a “boy” (i.e. immature, not-an-adult male).

As such, one can correctly understand traditional gender roles as premised on epistemological essentialism, however different kinds of epistemological essentialism underpin each role. Femininity is mostly understood as innate to female biology, as an immanent essence, whilst masculinity is mostly understood as an ideal to aspire to, a “form” which one “participates in” in order to gain an identity.

It is a particular quirk of human psychology that we tend to perceive moral agency (the capacity to do things) and moral patiency (the capacity to have stuff done to you) dichotomously, even though human beings are in fact both. As such, the association of agency with manhood combined with the innatist understanding of womanhood (as well as, perhaps, the fact that pregnancy does render a woman less mobile and more resource-dependent) led to the association of womanhood with moral patiency. Men are seen as actors, and women are seen as acted upon. This is the traditional subject-object dichotomy.

The Disposable-Cherishable Dichotomy
A gender-compliant person of either sex is seen as valuable to society (since they are acting in ways which conform to survivability-oriented norms). However, females are assumed to either be (or will be) gender-compliant; naturally infertile women are the exception rather than the rule and thus the assumption is that any given female is (or will be) capable of bearing children due to their biology.

As such, females are ascribed an innate value simply for being female. Females are seen as inherently cherishable because they are the incubators of the future.

Males lack this. Their gender-compliance is not seen as an inevitable feature of their biological maturation but rather an ideal to live up to. Males neither are nor will become “real men” by default. As such, they have no innate value. The value of a man is exclusively contingent on the consequences of his agency and by himself, he is ultimately disposable.

Because men are valued not for properties of their biology but the outcomes of their actions, the death of one man is ceteris paribus a smaller tragedy to society than the death of one woman. After all, when tragedies happen, the death counts typically specify the toll taken by women and children (i.e. the future).

Our society may lionize its male heroes who go and die so that others may live, but as stated before, social norms arise to push individuals to perform socially beneficial tasks; the worship of heroic male self-sacrifice is a way to encourage men to see their deaths for noble causes as a worthy contribution to society, and thus to make men more willing to die for others.

The Gender Norms In A Nutshell
As a consequence of all of the above, males are innately disposable subjects, females are innately cherishable objects.

All gender norms ultimately are reducible to this.

Summary 2
1. Maturity, for each sex, is conceptualized as gender-compliance
2. Female maturity is seen as a natural result of biological development
3. Male maturity is not seen as guaranteed, but rather something proven/earned
4. Men do, women are, because manhood is about doing and womanhood just “is”
5. Because gender-compliance is seen as valuable and women are seen as innately gender-compliant, women are seen as innately valuable
6. Because men are NOT seen as innately gender-compliant, men are seen as innately expendable
7. Ergo, the subject-object dichotomy is overlaid by the disposable-cherishable dichotomy, casting males as innately disposable subjects and females as innately cherishable objects

PART 3 – Some Advanced Implications
Agency and Feminine Power
Everyone derives a sense of power – used here to mean efficacy or competence – when they successfully perform a task which has the end result of providing for their needs. This makes evolutionary sense – if survival-enhancing things did not give pleasure and survival-diminishing things did not cause pain, an organism would be significantly less likely to survive.

But the performance of tasks was typically assigned to males; femininity was not associated with agency and due to the innate reproductive utility of women, women were kept safe and away from potential danger where possible (which in turn generated a self-reinforcing (and perhaps somewhat self-fulfilling) presumption of diminished female competence – a presumption which was somewhat true during pregnancy (and may be somewhat true on average with tasks that require very high upper body strength) but clearly got exaggerated and overgeneralized).

However, every human being has material needs for survival, and these material needs must be satisfied through action (food must be acquired, shelter must be found). So how would a woman, someone culturally perceived as and encouraged towards remaining deficient in agency, acquire these needs?

The answer is that women are encouraged to rely upon men, and not merely in the passive sense, but to actively enlist the agency of males to provide for their survival. Masculine power is thus equated with anything which enhances successful/competent agency (e.g. big muscles), and feminine power is equated with anything that enhances enlisting successful/competent agents. Masculine power is that which augments agency, feminine power is that which augments the acquisition and preservation of agency by proxy.

The gender system, therefore, always contained a form of feminine power – i.e. ways in which women could act to service their material needs. Whilst it reserved direct acquisition through agency to men, the system also reserved agency by proxy for women.

Male Hierarchy
Society’s understanding of manhood as a Platonic ideal to aspire towards explains the fact how there can be “better men” and “worse men” (as men), as well as how biological males can be “not real men” – the use of “real” to mean “ideal” is telling.

Because manhood is demonstrated by performing certain tasks, men are ranked in accordance with how well they perform these tasks. Men are ranked by other men and by women – their gender identity is heavily subject to social validation and revocation. This means “real manhood” is an earned social status which is collective-dependent, hierarchical and competitive, and men can be socially emasculated at any time. Male identity is made contingent on competing with each other to prove oneself a “better man.”

As stated above, maturity is linked with “real manhood” but male maturity is again socially validated due to the fact that masculine task-performance isn’t biologically guaranteed – this means male elders (particularly fathers) are placed in a position of evaluator where they judge prospective males to separate the “boys” from the “men.”

The male hierarchy can be effectively divided into three basic categories (from lowest social status to highest social status)

1) Males who are “not real men.” The socially emasculated. “Boys.” Omega males.
2) Males who are “real men” but who aren’t able to revoke another male’s “real man” status. Beta males.
3) Males who are “real men” with the ability to revoke another male’s “real man” status. Alpha males.

The division between statuses 2 and 3 is contextual and often dependent on other institutional arrangements as well as the surrounding males – someone can in fact be Alpha in one hierarchy and Omega relative to another.

This setup ironically enough compels that a Beta be submissive to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. In other words the male gender role isn’t entirely about dominance but rather demands submission to “better” men.

Social Genders
Typically, “gender” is taken as a binary – as a reference to masculinity or femininity. However, this is hard to reconcile with the above situation – males who aren’t “real men” aren’t regarded as possessing manhood (i.e. they do not contribute masculine value). They are “boys” rather than men, according to the gender system.

They do not receive many aspects of ‘male privilege’ because much ‘male privilege’ is in fact ‘real-man’ privilege. And whilst they are socially emasculated they receive no female privilege either, because due to their biology they cannot perform the essential feminine task of bearing children.

In short, socially emasculated men are not seen as masculine or feminine but rather they are perceived, treated and categorized as a third gender. They are neither a man nor a woman (socially speaking rather than biologically speaking).

PART 4: Challenges
There are several classic problems in gender studies which any prospective examination of the gender system needs to explain. Below, I take several of these phenomena and reconcile them with the theory proposed above.

The Promiscuity Double Standard
The Promiscuity Double Standard (henceforth PDS) of our culture is well-known; a man is seen as a worthy and virile stud for sleeping around, but a woman is seen as a degraded and self-cheapening slut for doing the same thing.

Typically, the PDS is treated as a unitary construct – as if the PDS’s gendered imperatives arose from the same source. This is counter-intuitive because the imperatives of the PDS are in conflict – men are encouraged to sleep around and women are discouraged from doing so, thus meaning men cannot comply with the system without women failing to comply with it (and vice-versa). The PDS certainly isn’t in the interests of men, since it encourages women to prevent men from being studs (through the withholding of sexual access).

Typical feminist analysis sees the PDS as a male construct invented to control female sexuality. The fact that men’s interests are not served by encouraging female chastity complicates this explanation, but it is further complicated by the empirical fact that most slut-shaming is perpetrated by women against each other. If men created and enforced the PDS, one would expect men to be the primary shamers of sluts.

As such, it may be more accurate to see the Promiscuity Double Standard not as a single construct, but two different constructs, proposed and enforced by different parties for different purposes.

An interesting thing about the concept of “slut” is that women who are sluts are seen as “cheapening themselves” or “debasing themselves” – they are seen as giving sexual access far too easily (i.e. giving away a good without getting enough in return). Let’s look at the transactional framing here: a market exists, women are the suppliers of sexual access and men are the demand side of the equation. Women are encouraged to not give away sex “too easily,” i.e. they are encouraged to receive something in return for sex. It is mostly women who shame other women for giving sex away.

From an economic perspective, we are seeing cartel behavior; sellers colluding amongst themselves to raise the price of sex by restricting the quantity of sexual access that is immediately avaliable.

So what is the ‘price’ of sex? As explained above, women are encouraged to enlist male agency in their service, since the gender system discourages them from developing their own. Thus, the ‘price’ of sex is male agency, typically framed as a committed relationship. When women are sluts and thus ‘put out too easy,’ competitive pressure lowers the price of sex and thus damages (traditionally-understood) female interests.

The implications here are quite depressing; because women are encouraged to experience power through enlisting male agency, “sluthood” is opposed to traditional feminine power by eroding women’s bargaining position. Women are encouraged by the traditional gender system to experience their sexuality as being defeated and being conquered, rather than getting something they desire (i.e. sexual satisfaction). Women are also encouraged to see men as adversaries, and to see male advocacy of female sexual liberation as threats to their material security (i.e. “they just want cheaper sex, the cads!”).

In conclusion, the PDS wasn’t invented “by men” – at least half of the PDS is a mostly female-maintained standard intended to sustain traditional feminine power through preserving the value of sex and thus maximizing the agency women can enlist in return for granting sexual access. The imperatives of the PDS conflict with each other, and the PDS’s implicit sexual transactionalism sets up an adversarial situation that sabotages sexual fulfillment for both sexes.

The Childhood Gender Conformity Double Standard
A common double standard in our society is one relating to gender conformity amongst children. Look at the ease with which our society accepts female children going through a “tomboy phase.” Compare this against the worry and concern that accompanies any male child that may want to play with dolls. It is “normal, she’ll grow out of it in a few years” for a young girl to want to play with the boys, but if a boy confesses liking pink he’s immediately suspected of being homosexual or a gender failure.

This is an obvious consequence of the fact that female biological maturation (and thus gender compliance) is seen as an automatic process which “simply happens.” Because womanhood is seen as biologically innate, a woman’s actions are not seen as the primary source of the value she can contribute to society.

Male biological maturation, on the other hand, is not a guarantee of being able to perform the socially-mandated male tasks. Being a “real man” (i.e. able to contribute masculine value to society) is not biologically guaranteed. Since a male’s gender compliance is evaluated not on what he is but rather what he does, a male’s actions place his entire social value at risk.

Many gender theorists argue that society worries more about males because our society allegedly values masculine traits above feminine traits; this conflicts with the fact that feminine traits are praised when they are exhibited by women (it also conflicts with the fact that historically, societies have sacrificed men to protect women; societies don’t sacrifice higher-valued members for lower-valued members). Biology means that a man who acts feminine cannot perform the socially-mandated “core” feminine task (bearing children), and thus for him to be feminine represents wasted potential (but when a woman acts feminine it isn’t a threat). Thus, a man who acts feminine isn’t perceived as a social woman, but rather a social neuter (an Omega Male).

However, since both men and women are (in fact) agents and masculine value is dependent not on what someone is but rather what someone does, females can in fact contribute masculine value to at least some degree (and the feminist movement has influenced people to accept the reality of female agency, and even to celebrate when women transgress gender roles). As such, women can “value-add” through gender nonconformity, whilst men cannot; females can be socially androgynous whilst men (due to their inability to perform the core feminine task under the gender system) can only be social neuters.

Thus, it is the Subject-Object Dichotomy (and not any alleged valuation of masculinity as superior to femininity) which forms the basis for the Childhood Gender Conformity Double Standard.

The Madonna-Whore Complex and Gendered Evaluations of Moral Character
Our gender system has influenced the ethical standards which are placed on both sexes. In the case of this problem, whilst men are subject to normal ethical standards, women are not; questions about a woman’s character are entirely centered around whether or not she is chaste.

This is an obvious product of the subject-object dichotomy, which casts women as moral patients. As women are not seen as moral agents, they are not treated as subject to moral standards or as possessing capacity for great moral virtue (or vice).

Slut-shaming under the gender system is explained above, however it is obvious that religious norms have influenced the Madonna-Whore Complex (look at the name!). Religion is a separate system to the gender system (although the two clearly interact), and Abrahamic monotheistic religions condemn promiscuity in both sexes (not just women). Women, however, are slut-shamed under both traditional gender norms and religious norms, whereas men are shamed for sleeping around under one set of norms but praised for doing so under the other.

This confluence of gender norms and religious norms, coupled with the objectification of women under the gender system, explains why chastity/sluthood is so heavily emphasized in discussions of women’s character: women are typically left off the hook with standards relating to other issues (minimizing both their virtue and vice), so the Madonna-Whore standard fills the vaccum.

PART 5: Conclusion
The above is a summary of my entire theory of gender as expressed in all my previous articles. I believe it to be a superior explanation of the gender system, for both sexes, than the status quo theories accepted in most gender studies departments. Feedback, commentary, suggestions and critiques are encouraged.

Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny

And now for my first piece of original content exclusively for GendErratic! Again I wish to extend my gratitude to Ms. Tieman for inviting me to contribute to this blog, and I can promise there is plenty of theoretical analysis and discussion of cultural issues to come in the future. Now, for the article.

Proposition: Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny
Feminism’s engagement with “nerd” culture has, for the most part, come entirely from a critical and contemptuous angle; one of these criticisms is that “nerd” culture is allegedly a “boy’s club” which excludes women. To prove this, feminists point out the fact that females claiming a geek identity will be interrogated to see if they are “real” geeks or fakers.

This is not misogyny. Demanding “geek girls” prove themselves would only be misogyny if the treatment were motivated by an animus towards or prejudice against women as a class. Nerd culture would be equally suspicious of “fake geek guys.”

Wait… fake geek guys?

The fact that there is no such thing as the fake geek guy is in fact an important piece of the puzzle. Some feminists would argue that the lack of fake geek guys is evidence yet again of discrimination against women, but in reality it is because the status of “geek” has never been desirable for men to claim.

No ladies, we are not discriminating against you because you didn’t dance with us at the prom. We have no problem with you being girls. Our problem is due to the fact that fake geek girls (not to be confused with real geek girls, who do in fact exist and have been part of geek culture ever since the beginning) are subcultural poseurs claiming an identity which they in fact lack.

The Essential Characteristic Of “Nerd”
There’s a reason why Spider-Man got ruthlessly beaten up in high school. There’s a reason why Loki grows up as the undervalued intellectual in a society of macho warrior brutes. There’s a reason Steve Rogers was originally skinny and frail and got beaten up regularly. There’s a reason for the “Revenge of the Nerds” films.

Being a “nerd” isn’t about just liking certain things. It is about having culturally atypical interests and experiencing social persecution as a result.

It is a subculture which embraces esoteric and often intellectual interests that go against what is expected of “real men.” This is why there are “sports fans” and “automotive enthusiasts” and “petrolheads” and “aviation buffs” (all acceptably masculine interests) but to be into comics or video games or analog synthesizers makes one a “nerd” or a “geek.”

Nerdiness is about being set outside the mainstream, often with violence. It isn’t merely about a specific set of interests, but about the social consequences of these interests.

Nerdiness is a culture primarily composed of socially emasculated males – a culture of “not real men” – a culture which has paid the price for failing to measure up to our society’s standards of masculinity.

Female nerds are also outside the mainstream – but their experiences rarely include being beaten up for this. Being intelligent and possessing a rational temperment is also gender-deviant because traditional gender roles see women as fundamentally emotional. But even if they don’t necessarily face the same violent retribution for gender-nonconformity that male nerds do, they share the experience of being socially alienated (to at least some degree) from one’s same-sex peers, of being gender-atypical, and of not having “normal” interests.

Nevertheless, we need to recognize that the gender system is far more willing to be suspicious of gender-deviance amongst males; as I have argued before, the gender system treats femininity as an innate characteristic and masculinity as an earned status that needs to be guarded, demonstrated and socially validated – hence why the Tomboy is just “going through a phase” (and is also perhaps worthy of some encouragement for proving she can compete with the boys) whereas the boy who plays with dolls is instantly suspected of being defective/damaged/gay/etc.

As such, it isn’t surprising that the experience of being socially de-gendered due to atypical interests is more common amongst males than it is amongst females (although perhaps potential on-average tempermental differences between the sexes may play some role too, but that’s another discussion). The primary narrative of nerd culture is the narrative of the “Omega Male” (the “not-real-man”) – this is a narrative of being bullied, brutalized and victimized for not being “one of the guys.”

The Case Of Video Gaming
The “fake geek girl” issue is often discussed in relation to video gaming – a pasttime which (in its super-hardcore manifestations), in the pre-PS2 era, was an extremely effective method of social suicide performed by spending exhorbitant amounts of money on 3d-capable bleeding-edge graphics hardware.

Console gaming at the time was primarily seen as a children’s toy – Sony’s Playstation platform was the first to deliver 3d gaming with mature themes alongside the low cost and relative convenience of a console. But the Playstation was relatively easy and inexpensive to develop for, meaning a wide variety of different kinds of game could be created.

The Playstation 2 was not, but it achieved phenomenal market success and essentially turned 3d gaming into a pasttime the general population (many of whom bought it for the DVD playback) could partake in.

But the generation following the Playstation 2 was even more difficult for programmers and developers; the jump to HD gaming as well as the increased difficulty to program both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 (relative to their predecessor consoles as well as the PC) further increased the costs of developing games, particularly multiplatform ones. Publishers, having to fork out larger amounts to make competitive and cutting-edge games, were becoming more cautious with their money. The used game market on consoles as well as piracy on the PC substantially cut into developer/publisher margins. At the same time, however, the market was potentially extremely lucrative and becoming even moreso due to the attraction of mainstream audiences.

This essentially led to the “blockbusterization” of video gaming as a hobby; instead of the niche markets of the past, gaming targeted the mass market. In order to attract mass market, games began to pander to this market; even games from traditionally “hardcore” genres began to emulate (to varying degrees) mass-market games in the hope of winning the money of “the CoD crowd.”

At the same time, Nintendo’s success with the Wii console as well as the success of small online games (via platforms such as Facebook) led to the proliferation of lower-cost and sometimes free-to-play casual gaming. This genre ended up migrating mostly to smartphones and other portable devices.

The ultimate result of this series of technological and economic pressures was that gaming ended up subdividing itself into three “markets” -

First, the original “hobbyist gaming” market segment, the nerdy gaming culture which we all know.

Second, the casual gaming market, which was mostly situated on Wii, Facebook and smartphones.

Third, the AAA “Blockbuster” gaming market, focused on best-selling (and sometimes annualized) sports and action titles like Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Gears of War.

The focus which once lay on Hobbyist gaming took a backseat to the newly-ascendent Blockbuster and Casual sectors of the market. Economic pressures forced a formerly niche-market hobby to conform to mass-market tastes.

The Absense Of Fake Geek Guys
In light of the above, we can address the absense of fake geek guys. For men, geekiness has always been a ticket to social emasculation, but with the arrival of Blockbuster gaming, one did not have to be even remotely geeky to game. Blockbuster games were aimed squarely at mass market gender-typical male tastes (and were rewarded with billions of dollars for doing so). A subset of games were essentially de-nerdified.

Thus, the cultural link between gaming and nerdness was cut, at least with respect to certain franchises and genres and subject-matter. The target audience – an audience which genuine nerds describe (and often still describe) disdainfully as “the dudebros” – did not claim a nerd identity. They didn’t want to do so due to gender pressure, and with the mainstreaming of certain video game franchises the identity would not be forced upon them from the outside.

This is why “fake geek guys” don’t exist; of course there are males who play games without belonging to geek culture! This has even been acknowledged by Mark Rubin – executive producer of the latest iteration of Call of Duty (see http://ign.com/articles/2013/10/21/call-of-duty-players-arent-hardcore-gamers-says-infinity-ward), as Rubin was clearly using “hardcore gamers” and “gamers” to refer to “Hobbyist gamers” (i.e. the nerdy subset). But because guys have no incentive to identify as nerds or geeks, they don’t claim to be such unless they genuinely are (and even then, sometimes they’ll dodge it because it is a persecuted subculture).

In the early days of geek culture, women faced some disincentives to identify as geeks or to at least keep their geekiness secret (and these days they still face some – certainly there are many women who probably would face some degree of ridicule or derision if they confessed to reading and/or writing slash fanfiction.. although in some cases that may be due to the quality of the writing rather than the subject matter). These days, however, the disincentive to be a female nerd is significantly lower, and indeed it is arguably the case that women face incentives to identify as nerds.

Princess Poindexter (This Phrase Is A Keeper!)
The idea that women may benefit from entering nerd culture is hardly new; Rebecca Watson, an internet atheist who has made absolutely no contribution to atheist philosophy or theory or rhetoric and has built her entire career off the relative rarity of her sex in the atheist community, said it best:

“In the land of the nerds, the double “x” chromosome is queen. The lack of women getting actively involved in skepticism has led to a peculiar deification of any female brave enough to dive into debates, engage in philosophical arguments, or just withstand the flirtatious banter that permeates online forums. The skepchick is held up as an ideal in an intellectual community – a woman who is smart, interesting, and most of all, approachable.
Despite what I saw as a distinct willingness for men to accept and embrace (sometimes literally) skeptical women, there were just not that many around. Somehow, the word was not getting out.”
(Watson, R (2005), Skepchicks International, eSkeptic, http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-11-03/).

Did she talk about how oppressed she was? Does she sound like she is complaining about being held up as an ideal or being deified or being embraced? Does she claim atheism was a ‘boy’s club’ aiming to keep her out? No, she shounds like a shrewd businesswoman spotting a market niche full of attention which was ripe for the harvesting!

Note that she described the atheist community as “the land of the nerds.” She clearly didn’t have a problem with their attention (assuming, presumably, it didn’t get expressed in a small confined space like an elevator).

This enjoyment of men’s attention is another facet of traditional gender roles; traditional gender norms treat men as subjects and women as objects, men as innately disposable instruments and women as innately precious and fragile. Men are thus encouraged to gain feelings of self-fulfillment through exercising agency, whereas women are encouraged to gain these feelings through enlisting male agency with innate feminine preciousness and specialness; being the center of attention, being considered extremely special and precious and worthy due to one’s innate value as a woman (and thus worthy of men doing things for you) is the essence of the female power fantasy under the traditional gender system.

Combine this with a culture which, historically, has very few women and thus very few competitors.

No matter what one may think about Ms. Watson, it is clear she acted with incredible business acumen. It should also be noted that at the time she wrote this article, the atheist community was gaining significant energy as an opposition to the Third Great Awakening and the growing influence of the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. She, in a sterling display of economically rational attention whoring, demonstrated that “the land of the nerds” is in fact a goldmine for women looking to benefit from traditional feminine norms.

Just as Rebecca Watson managed to be part of New Atheism during its time in the sun, the feminist engagement with geek culture seems rather conveniently timed to have occured only after Blockbuster games started making more money than Hollywood.

This mode of behavior – coming into a space and refocusing it on oneself – is extremely gender-traditional. It is also extremely unlike the actions of genuine female nerds; after all, like male nerds, female nerds are gender-atypical. Female nerds, like male nerds, typically possess what Myers-Briggs Temperments would classify as a rational temperment (xNTx) – NT’s are statistically rare in the overall population, rarer amongst women than men but still a small minority within both sexes (after all, male nerds are gender-atypical too). Thus, this mode of behavior or things resembling it come off as a “red flag” – an indication of being into the culture not due to sharing its interests but for other motivations.

In all fairness, it is quite plausible that many women who are genuinely interested in video games have been unfairly suspected of faking it – we couldn’t have all been born early enough (or had enough money) to be part of the golden age of PC gaming. But when a significant uptick in feminine interest in nerd culture (something which was significantly more atypical than male interest in nerd culture) seems to happen in ways which make sense as products of traditional feminine behavior patterns, there are grounds for skepticism… particularly in light of the extreme stigma nerdiness used to carry merely one-and-a-half console generations ago.

It certainly doesn’t help that there is footage on Youtube (courtesy of thunderf00t) of Anita Sarkeesian openly admitting she hates video games because she finds them too gory.

So, in a world where video gaming is far less stigmatized than it used to be, women can enter gaming culture and gain attention, receive adulation as an innately special creature simply for being there, and apparently get a warm welcome. They can, as Watson pointed out, be treated like princesses, and doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess? They can also receive praise for confronting “the boy’s club” and be heroines fighting against oppressive sexism – the cheers of “you go, girl!” rain down upon them.

Compare this to the treatment men have historically received for being affiliated with nerd culture. Hell, compare this to the treatment which actual female nerds receive (indeed, you could argue that the feminist influx has made it worse for them – they get accused of being gender traitors now for being ‘one of the boys’).

Subcultural Poseurs
Marginalized subcultures have always hated poseurs – those who claim the identity without knowing what it truly means. The goth subculture went through a strong period of rooting out perceived “fakes” in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, particularly focusing on anyone who was considered too fond of Marilyn Manson (one of the artists most blamed in the aftermath of the massacre, even though the killers in fact did not like his work).

In the history of geek culture, almost every single geeky pasttime was the subject of a moral panic; The Seduction of the Innocent argued that comic books would turn your sons into juvenile delinquents who fantasized about being Robin while Batman sodomized them, Dungeons and Dragons was accused of promoting Satanism and suicide and occultism by the religious right during the Satanic Panic, and every single school massacre brings out a gaggle of “blame Grand Theft Auto” from several psychologists, religionists and political personalities.

Combine this with how nerds have been social outcasts pretty much since day one. In the light of this, resentment of poseurs is hardly surprising. Again, the goth example is illustrative, and goth is a relatively gender-balanced subculture in terms of its adherents; the resentment was against poseurs rather than any specific sex.

Another factor which has made nerd culture defensive of its distinctiveness is the prominence of Blockbuster gaming and how its success encouraged several gaming franchises to aim for more mainstream appeal (“dumbed down for the dudebros”). To someone who has literally been beaten up for playing video games, seeing a beloved hobby start to cater to people who may be perceived as the same kind of person as those who inflicted the beatings feels almost like a betrayal. Hobbyist gamers have already felt like “their” hobby was being taken away from them and formatted towards a different target audience – the fact that some women (particularly women who haven’t shown any interest in games until recently) seem to want to do something similar naturally comes off as a threat (of course there is nothing wrong with catering to all audience niches, but until relatively recently this seemed impossible due to the dominance of Blockbuster gaming – thankfully this situation seems to be getting remedied but that’s another story).

Indeed, the gender-flip of the fake geek girl, from the perspective of nerd culture, is the bro-who-plays-CoD-with-his-bros-on-saturday-but-isn’t-a-nerd. The salient difference between the fake geek girl and the CoD-bro-who-isn’t-a-nerd is not that one is a girl and one is a guy, but rather that one is claiming to be part of nerd culture and the other is not.

We are not seeing sexism here, we are seeing typical dynamics one would find in any marginalized subculture, even one with a far less skewed gender composition. Marginalized subcultures resent poseurs; the reason that the poseurs in this case are only from one sex is due to the way our society’s gender system creates different incentives for the sexes to affiliate with the subculture in question.

Conclusion
The culture of nerds has always been a culture of those who are gender-atypical due to cerebral temperments and specific hobbies. It is a culture born of the experience of those alienated from their peer group and persecuted for not fitting in. It is a culture of not-real-men and women-who-think-too-much-and-this-may-scare-boys-away-from-dating-her.

It is a culture of gender-nonconformists, built upon the experiences of these men and (admittedly much less frequently and influentially) women. It is a culture defined by its outcast status.

But, certainly these days, a female does not automatically commit social suicide by playing (or claiming to play) video games. Some men might even find her nerdiness cute. The incentives to be a nerd are like the incentives to identify as bisexual – the incentives are much more positive for women than for men, and in the case of nerd culture particularly so for women with relatively gender-traditional desires (which are typically not those of actual female nerds).

As such, suspicions of fake girl geeks, whilst obviously not always correct, are hardly indefensible bigotry. We are not seeing misogyny but rather a disdain for poseurs common to all marginalized subcultures – a disdain which would clearly be gender-neutral if the poseurs in question included members of both sexes.

There are real female geeks. There are also fake girl geeks. Fake girl geeks do not share the values or experiences of real female geeks or male geeks. Marginalized subcultures will expel those perceived as external invaders irrespective of the invaders’ sex – the problem with fake geek girls is not that they are girls but that they are fake.

Perhaps as the world becomes more accepting of genuine geekiness, geek culture as we know it (i.e. built in the context of persecution) will disappear. However, acceptance of genuine nerds grates against our society’s gender system; the system has no affection for not-real-men.

Irrespective of this, to claim that the only reason suspicions of “fake geek girl” are raised is sexism is false; if there is any gender issue that explains the lack of ‘fake geek guy,’ it is the fact that nerd culture is a culture built from the experiences of socially emasculated men (and to a lesser extent gender-atypical women); men lose their real manhood by being nerds, but women usually lose less and (these days) in some cases can make substantial gains from being geeky. In the light of this fact, it makes sense that many women want in (even if they are not nerds), but most men do not (sometimes even if they are).

Reddit Repost: “The Subject-Object Dichotomy, Female Power, And The Loving Of Sluts”

This is a repost of an article I posted at /r/GenderEgalitarian here: http://www.reddit.com/r/GenderEgalitarian/comments/1t8frm/the_subjectobject_dichotomy_feminine_power_and/

I would like to point out that this is my last Reddit Repost! In the future all of my articles will be original content exclusively for GendErratic.

In hindsight I have one regret about this article: I over-focused on one instance of a pattern (specifically the Edmonton SlutWalk telling Men’s Rights Edmonton to go away). I was trying to propose a theory to address a pattern of pervasive “I’m a slut but NOT FOR MEN” behavior… perhaps we could call this “slut-shaming in the name of sluttiness” (any suggestions as to a nice-sounding label for this phenomenon would be awesome!). Basically, a knee-jerk hostility to the idea of men benefitting from sexually liberated women, and things like the advocacy of female sexual liberation but consistently treating male sexuality as inherently problematic.

I focused far too much on the SlutWalk (admittedly because doing so allowed me to use rather witty subtitles), however I think my theory with respect to the pattern holds up. Anyway, here’s the article!

Introduction
When Men’s Rights Edmonton showed up to support the Edmonton SlutWalk, they brought with them a banner which stated “We Love Sluts.” Several SlutWalkers told them to go away; the banner apparently made the SlutWalkers uncomfortable.

This incident raises an interesting question.

SlutWalk is a feminist event. The feminist movement claims to be against “slut-shaming” (i.e. condemning women for having lots of sex). Many feminists embrace the label “sex-positive” and encourage women to explore their sexuality. So why would a pro-slut message… a message which is literally the opposite of slut-shaming… cause discomfort in an event which is meant to be an archetypal example of sex-positive feminism? Why would sex-positive feminist women be made uncomfortable by “We Love Sluts”?

After all, would marchers in a gay pride parade be made uncomfortable if supporters held a banner reading “We Love Gays”?

Some have argued that the problem was not the message, but the messenger; the message “We Love Sluts” was being delivered by male representatives of a men’s rights organization. However, most feminists argue that “slut-shaming” is part of the Patriarchy, so wouldn’t pro-slut men be seen as a positive development?

Indeed, the pattern of allegedly pro-sexual-liberation feminists seeming to reflexively be prudish is hardly new. Why, however, does this paradoxical pattern exist?

In this article, I will propose an explanation. I will argue that traditional gender norms (which treat men as subjects and women as objects) do not completely disempower women (as most feminists typically allege); they in fact imply a specific vision of feminine power (distinct from agency, which is traditionally masculine power). This specific kind of feminine power is the ability to enlist male agency in the service of one’s own ends and thus the exertion of agency by proxy. One of the ways in which women have historically enlisted male agency in their service is through sex appeal, essentially “trading” sex in order to get agency by proxy in return. The ultimate consequence of this is that women have been culturally trained to see power in terms of their “agency profit,” i.e. getting as much agency by proxy as possible for as little sex as possible; this in turn means that women instinctively see men getting lots of sex as a loss of feminine power (which is analagous to bargaining power/market power/producer surplus in economics).

The paradoxical pattern of “proud sluts” being made uncomfortable by pro-slut males is due to the fact that traditional gender norms make being a “slut” a position devoid of traditional feminine power. Traditional feminist analysis of the gender system, which typically denies the existence of feminine power and typically casts slut-shaming as an attempt by men to control the sexuality of women, lacks the conceptual space to accomodate (and thus critically address) this feature of the traditional gender system.

Understanding, criticizing and (eventually) rejecting this feature of the gender system requires the acknowledgement of traditional feminine power, the role that sex-as-incentive plays in maintaining this feminine power, and the role that women themselves play in enforcing this element of the traditional gender system. Women who sincerely embrace sex-positivity owe it to themselves to follow this line of inquiry further.

Part 1: The Subject-Object Dichotomy
The basic gender role which has been consistent throughout all human history is the Subject-Object (or Hyperagent-Hypoagent, or Agent-Patient) Dichotomy, which can be briefly summarized as “men do, women are.” Masculinity is understood as a platonic ideal which demands men act to maintain congruence with it, whilst femininity is simply an innate trait of female-bodied persons. Men act, and women are acted upon.

The reason this gender role came about is because both masculinity and femininity were conceptualized as (essentially) ways in which men and women respectively contributed to society. The feminine contribution – the ability to bear children and thus grow the population – was innate to female biology, whilst the masculine contribution – producing food and protecting the women and children – was not biologically given and thus had to demonstrated through risky action of uncertain outcome.

The gender system ascribes value to the fulfillment of both the masculine and feminine functions. However, because a woman is assumed to be capable of fulfilling her function of incubating the future, women are ascribed an innate value by the gender system. Males are not assumed to be capable of fulfilling their function; they must prove it. Therefore, males are seen as ultimately expendable.

This gender system reserves the power of agency exclusively for men. However, agency is a requirement of human life; in a world where material needs exist and resources don’t just materialize in response to cries of “I want X!,” teleological action is unavoidable. Women have to provide for their needs too, but for a woman to directly go out and provide for them is gender-transgressive to at least some degree. As such, the system mandates that women secure their needs by trading off their innate feminine value and convincing men to do things for them.

Part 2: Feminine Power as Agency By Proxy
It is commonly said that an action video game is a “male power fantasy.” By the same token, one can argue that a romance novel is a “female power fantasy.” The typical romance novel ultimately is about having an extremely strong, powerful, competent, desirable man being so hopelessly devoted to a woman that he will do anything for her.

This pattern even holds in romances like “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades Of Grey” where the woman is often seen as being controlled. Edward’s creepy stalker behavior is intended to underscore his devotion to Bella – how he will do anything at all to be near her, how much he needs her. Christian Grey offers to sub for Anastasia just to keep her with him and he eventually gives up most of his kinks for her.

Even if one takes a look at pornography, one can find that in much femdom porn, the dominant partner (the woman) is typically being the passive partner; the submissive male is exercising agency to cater to her whims.

Let us take a look at the most groan-inducingly gender-traditional childhood fantasies; young males typically dream of being firefighters, soldiers and superheroes, i.e. agents who save and protect people. The equivalent feminine fantasy is the princess, who is an object of adoration whom occupies a place of status merely by birth and doesn’t really do much other than stand around and look pretty and get waited on by servants and protected by bodyguards. Can a princess be truly described as powerless when Prince Charmings will risk life and limb to save her?

As Anita Sarkeesian argued in her Master’s Thesis, the “Strong Woman” archetype in action films and video games practices a male form of power (i.e. agency) under the traditional gender system. Feminine power is found not in the exercise of agency but in the ability to enlist the agency of men.

Part 3: Sex As An Enlistment Perk
So, what traits enable women to enlist the agency of men? The fact that the male gender role pretty much glorifies rescuing vulnerable women and soothing hurt female feelings certainly helps, but what traits held by a woman specifically make it easier for that woman to enlist male aid?

Let’s face it: if a woman is sexually attractive, it helps.

A simple biological fact is that men, due to the average higher levels of testosterone in their systems, want more sex than the average woman (women with higher-than-average sex drives have higher-than-average amounts of testosterone (yes, testosterone is found in both sexes!)). For many men, sexual stimulation can be a need on par with the need to eat.

This difference between the sexes, combined with the fact that men are culturally trained to pursue women to validate their manhood, sets up what might be described as a marketplace for sex with women on the “supply” side and men on the “demand” side; after all, prostitution has been an historically female-supplied industry with male consumers. Ceteris Paribus, a man would rather get a blowjob on his third date than on his fourth date, and a woman would rather a man buy her four dinners than three dinners before she gives him a blowjob (assuming she herself gains less marginal utility from giving a blowjob than from the meal).

And so the basic terms of trade are simple: women exchange sex in return for male agency (or the products thereof, such as money). Of course women in fact desire some sex, but under the traditional gender system this is essentially ignored (women are the objects, not subjects, of desire). As women are in fact rational economic agents, their objective is to get the highest amount of agency for the lowest amount of sex (vice-versa for men), because this represents the most effective ability to enlist male agency (being more sexually attractive raises one’s market price and thus increases one’s effectiveness at enlisting agency).

For those skeptical of the proposition that traditional feminine power is ultimately about getting the most agency out of men for as little sexual satisfaction (for the man) as possible, I again offer the example of Femdom porn and how it often has the domme controlling and denying the man’s orgasms whilst she kicks back and he does the work.

Part 4: The Pussy Cartel, Sexual Market Dynamics, and Slut-Shaming
Traditionally, feminists have argued that slut-shaming is a product of the patriarchy. This argument has two distinct problems; first, we live in a stud-praising culture and are members of a species where men have higher sex drives, which would seem to suggest that men would want more sex from women and thus slut-shaming would be against male interests. Second, women are the primary slut-shamers; the patriarchy theory would seem to suggest that men would be the primary agents of slut-shaming.

In reality, as both economist Andrea Callisto (http://theumlaut.com/2013/07/02/the-economics-of-slut-shaming/) argued and Dr Tracy Vailliancourt’s recent study (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/science/a-cold-war-fought-by-women.html?_r=2&) has shown, women are the primary slut-shamers because as explained above, women want to maintain their market power with respect to sex (i.e. make the market price as high as possible). The same micro-level dynamic, where individual women exert power by trying to enlist male agency through sex as efficiently as possible (i.e. getting the most agency for the least sex, or in economic terms getting the greatest Producer Surplus), applies at the macro-level where women shame and humiliate other women who charge lower prices for sex than they do. This dynamic, which Callisto correctly describes as a cartel, is about increasing female power under traditional gender norms (by making smaller amounts of sex able to enlist larger amounts of male agency – raising the market price of sex, in other words).

The implication? Sluthood is opposed to traditional female power. Sluts increase competition and lower the market price of sex, lower the Producer Surplus which can be extracted, and weaken the female bargaining position.

Part 5: SlutWalk, Slut-Shaming and Slut-Loving
We now return to the fundamental problem this essay wishes to address: why were the (presumptively sex-positive) SlutWalkers made so uncomfortable by Men’s Rights Edmonton’s statement that they love sluts?

The answer: Cafeteria (or perhaps subconscious) Gender Traditionalism.

Typical feminist analysis essentially ignores or misses a logical consequence of the subject-object dichotomy; specifically, feminine power as Agency By Proxy. As such, said analysis doesn’t comprehend the effects that this has on the sexual marketplace. By not confronting this feature of the traditional gender system, this feature of the system has been left unchallenged (fish not being able to see the water they swim in) and as such the mentality has been internalized by many people who claim to reject traditional gender norms.

Hence, presumably sex-positive SlutWalking feminists see the “we love sluts” sign and all of that subconscious gender traditionalism is immediately thrown into overdrive.

The sign points out that men love sluts, and thus genuine sex-positivity does men a favor by increasing the supply and thus lowering the market price of sex, which works against feminine power as defined by the traditional gender system. When people are made to feel less powerful, they generally feel uncomfortable, particularly when they’re participating in an event where they claim to embrace the thing which disempowers them.

Part 6: Conclusions, Implications and Further Questions
In summary, MRE’s statement that “We Love Sluts” caused discomfort because it played into a (perhaps subconsciously held) meme complex about feminine power promoted by the traditional gender system; since female sexual power is about using sex to extract male agency in return, a “slut” is not a sexually powerful woman but rather a woman who is cheapening herself and other women by acquiescing to men’s desires without getting enough in exchange.

The reaction to MRE’s sign demonstrated, rather unfortunately, that the self-proclaimed “feminists” who participated in the Edmonton SlutWalk still accepted several components of the traditional gender system. I speculate that this indicates a significant blind-spot in feminist theory; specifically, how the gender system accomodates a specific type of “feminine power.” Gender theorists of any label who truly wish to fully analyze and oppose the traditional gender system would benefit from further studying this aspect of gender roles.

The event also shows that sex-positive thinkers (particularly sex-positive feminists) should oppose the traditional gender system, for this system encourages women to perceive sex as disempowering and something to be endured as a means to an end, rather than as a pleasurable and joyful experience.

The fact that traditional gender roles encourage women to experience power through extracting the highest possible “price” for sex may be relevant for several other gender questions. First, in the debate over sexualized female protagonists in video games, how much female resentment of these protagonists is really a reaction to a perceived threat (i.e. a woman who does not even need male agency since she possesses that herself, yet seems rather able/willing to satisfy men’s desires)? Second, can sex-negative feminism (with its attempts to control pornography and prostitution) be explained as an epiphenomenon of this aspect of traditional gender roles? Third, can the paradoxical situation of a woman dressing in revealing clothing and complaining about men sneaking a peek (“I don’t dress for men!”) be explained by this feature of the gender system?

Comments and feedback are welcome.

SLY INVERSIONS – The “man-child” trope

We’ve all heard the jibes “The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys” and seen the commercials that show husbands as bumbling idiots with their indulgent wives looking on in amusement standing by to make sure they don’t harm themselves somehow. It’s a structural feature of modern culture. It’s relatively new. It started only in the 60s and gained momentum with the accumulating success of the Women’s Movement. It is an expression of female supremacy perhaps; at best a form of women’s empowerment, at bottom just plain old rancid gender bigotry.

This is a running theme in “literature” marketed to women (“Literature” the way action movies are “film”.) One example is the Crossfire series of novels by Sylvia Day. The form this theme takes in these novels is the very familiar “broken man saved by the love of a good woman.” At root this comes from a protective and loving instinct, but the idea that you have the right or the competence to go in and fix someone else and their life because after all you’re the adult, you understand them and their life better than they do, is distorted and objectifying.

Another example of this thinking is the recurring trope that if only women ran the world!!….. life would be a paradise of peace and sweet reason. There would be no war, there would be no evil hierarchies, the Great Recession would never have happened because that was all just testoreone poinsoning. The world would just all be peace, love and understanding.

This is the man-child trope. We see it in a thousand forms – the dopey husband, the clueless father, the overgrown boy who won’t pick up his socks – a steady drumbeat of derogatory and false images of men. Surely there is some advantage to someone that is driving all this.

Where does this come from? There are probably whiffs of it in other cultures, but no one seems to take it as far as Anglophone culture does. What gives?

One explanation is that it is simply a power grab, an expression of supremacy. But there is another possible explanation. Given the much wider latitude women have in our culture for childish behavior* – not just extravagant displays of emotion but appeals to emotion as justification or to manipulate, and celebration of forms of conversation that are really just emotional group masturbation – this man-child trope looks like it serves a real purpose, especially in light of the fact that men are generally held to and generally have to meet higher standards of mature behavior. Have you ever wondered why “woman up” doesn’t carry the same admonition to suck it up and be strong and carry on, like an adult, as “man up”’ does? Because it doesn’t have to, that’s why. Real adulthood is not part of the defintion of “woman” anymore.

 And if anyone calls bullshit on this man-child trope, well, you just smile and smirk and remind him he’s really just a woman-hating little boy with “issues”, not a Real Man, and he is supposed to just tuck tail and slink away. That’s if he knows what’s good for him.

What this man-as-child trope looks like is a defensive mechanism, psychologically necessary for those women who are the real children in the relationship. That’s why you only hear this trope out of some women. It might be interesting to see how many women actually are an audience for this stuff and how many just roll their eyes at it. This way th e women who use this trope get to go on being children, with all the indulgence that entails, and call themselves the adults in the relationship, with all the rights that accrue to that.

How does this get going in actual life, how do people men fall into accepting this and how do women learn to perform this sly inversion?

Most children grow up these days with the mother in charge of the house, even if she works the same numbers of hours outsidie the home as the father. Her word is final and her defers to her. This can take forms ranging from simple mommy-blocking to unsubtle reminders about who will get the kids if she decides to take her ball and go home. Children observe this and generalize it to gender relations, as they do with every observation of their parents’ interactions.

Outside the home the pattern is repeated at school, where the overwhelming majority of authority figures are women. Thoughout childhood boys see that female approval is the foundation of everything. Men propose and women dispose.

By the time they graduate both boys and girls are fully enculturated in this pattern. It is a cultural norm. The way it is expressed is in the man-child trope.

The man-child trope exists to compensate psychologically for the contradictions that arise out of the hyperagency/hypoagency binary, and it arises out of distorted patterns of child rearing. And all three of those things must die.

 

 

* A Checklist: 10 ways your wife is just another child
1. She’ll cry when she’s sad, or scream and carry on when she’s angry, without regard for where she is.
2. She’ll cry and whine to make you do what she wants.
3. When there’s a scary noise in the night, she’ll hide under the covers and expect you to go investigate.
4. She is adamant about foods she will or will not eat, and considers the ones she doesn’t like yucky and wonder, and even ask you, how you can stand to eat them.
5. She expects you to attend every one of her family functions, or even tag along clothes shopping with her, but has no time for your family or their events, and whines if you try to attend by yourself because “How does that make me look?.”
6. She thinks your friends are “immature.”
7. She is affronted that you think her friends are boring and takes it personally and calls you selfish or “immature.”
8. She thinks she can say all kinds of derogatory things about you to her friends but is constantly on guard and accusatory of anything you say that can possibly be interpreted or even just mischaracterized as derogatory of her.
9. She calls you unappreciative when she puts on a big birthday thing for you and invites all her friends, and you really don’t appreciate it, after you told her you just wanted a family dinner with the kids.
10. She insists on leaving the toilet seat down, and she even expects you to.

Reddit Repost: “Objectification and the ‘Male Power Fantasy’”

This is a repost of an article originally posted on /r/Masculism, here: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/1j9vy4/objectification_and_the_male_power_fantasy/

This is probably my most successful/popular article to date, probably due to its analysis of some pop culture artworks rather than simply sticking to theory. But theory plays a big part (of course).

Introduction
A common debate that takes place within the gendersphere is one which focuses on how (typically male-targeted) fiction portrays female characters. Many feminists allege that, speaking generally, the predominant portrayal of female characters constitutes objectification by portraying women as “sex objects.” Typically (although not universally), these feminists express concern that these kinds of fictional portrayals encourage men to see real-world women as not individual persons with the capacity to make their own decisions but rather as physical things that exist principally to serve the sexual demands of men.

In response to this, many advocates for men’s issues point out that male characters are also depicted with idealized body types that don’t represent real-world males.

The typical feminist rebuttal to this argument is that a false equivalence is being made – the physical idealization of female characters is intended to serve as erotic titillation, whilst the physical idealization of male characters is intended to be empowering; the women are sexual fantasies, the men are power fantasies, and in both cases the characters are created to cater to the fantasies of an assumed-to-be-male audience. Thus, the women are still portrayed as objects, whilst the men are portrayed as subjects (and the physical idealization serves to emphasize this).

This argument has, in my judgment, a degree of truth. The traditional norms of gender are ultimately predicated on the subject-object dichotomy, with manhood conceptualized as a precarious social status that is earned and validated and reinforced via actions producing specific outcomes, and womanhood conceptualized as an innate property of female individuals. Men do, women are, because a manhood is about doing and womanhood is about being. I agree that the traditional norms of gender are outdated and destructive towards individuality, and as such I believe that reinforcing these norms is something best avoided.

However, I disagree that the so-called “male power fantasy” is devoid of objectification. Indeed, I would not describe it as a fantasy of power or agency at all. Rather, I am going to argue that the “male power fantasy” is in fact objectifying of men, and that to call it a “power” fantasy is a substantial error. In reality, the “male power fantasy” is better understood as a gender conformity fantasy – a fantasy of being or becoming a “real man” – rather than a fantasy of power. And if one accepts the proposition that traditional gender norms reduce people’s power (defined as control over one’s own life), then the so-called “male power fantasy” is in fact a fantasy that glorifies powerlessness.

As examples of my point, I will be using two works of male-targeted fiction; the movie Thor (a superhero film based on an intellectual property owned by Marvel Comics) and the video game Gears Of War (which Cliff Bleszinski, in an interview with Kotaku, said used unrealistically muscular characters specifically to serve as a fantasy of empowerment).

Part 1: Objectification
The feature which separates Subjects from Objects is that a Subject possesses a mind/consciousness/free will – in brief, a Subject makes choices. Subjects, unlike Objects, can initiate action, and their actions are not the product of “causes” but rather proceed from reasons, goals and motivations. As such, Subjects can be held responsible for their actions whilst Objects cannot; a murderer is put on trial and imprisoned, but the murderer’s weapon is not.

Human beings are Subjects – indeed out of all entities which we know of, human beings demonstrate the most indisputable level of subjectivity. This has led to a situation where we often see “humanity” and “subjectivity” as essentially synonymous, and as such “objectification” (denial/marginalization of a subject’s subjectivity) is seen as dehumanizing. The possession of a mind/consciousness/free will, the ability to initiate teleological action, the capacity to choose, are the traits which separate us (as human beings) from all other known entities (there is some debate as to the cognitive capacities of higher animals, but that issue is beyond the scope of this essay). The denial or marginalization of these traits constitutes a denial/marginalization of our very humanity.

But in discussions of fictional portrayals, “objectification” goes beyond a mere acknowledgement of a character’s possession of free will/choice/etc. Let’s take, for example, the classic piece of BDSM erotica The Story of O. This piece of literature portrayed a fully consensual BDSM arrangement, with the consent of all parties repeatedly affirmed over the course of the story – and unsurprisingly, the anti-sex Radical Second Wave feminists Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin and Joan Smith attacked The Story of O as objectifying, even though all characters (particularly the submissive main character) are repeatedly acknowledged as possessing free will/choice/agency.

This leads me to make a proposition about what constitutes objectification – to use Kantian language, to portray a character (in-universe) as a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves, marginalizes their agency by reducing it down to acting as a functionary of some other will, and thus portrays them as an object (an instrumentally useful tool). In this way, being acknowledged as a subject is not protection against objectification. Sexual objectification consists of showing a character as existing principally to satisfy others’ sexual desires, however one can objectify characters across multiple dimensions depending on which ‘ends’ they exist to serve.

This is hardly a controversial proposition – the concept of objectification is Kantian in origin and radical anti-pornography feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon both appealed to the Kantian reasoning (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/). Non-radical feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum also appealed to Kantian reasoning in her famous 1995 article Objectification (published in her book Sex and Social Justice) and described treating someone as a means to another’s end as “instrumentality” – which she classed as a form of Objectification.

Part 2: Traditional Masculinity As Objectification
If to be reduced to a functionary of others – a means to others’ ends rather than an end in onself – constitutes objectification, then both traditional gender roles are objectifying. Firstly, the gender system arose primarily to incentivize reproduction and population growth in a world where most children didn’t see their tenth birthday – sexual dimorphism necessitated that women bear many children over time and men serve as protectors and providers. The resultant social norms – good woman is mother, good man is hunter-warrior – reduced women to fertility objects and men to provision-protection objects.

Females, with a few exceptions owing to natural infertility, would simply gain the biological capacity to bear children owing to their maturation process. In short, their ability to serve as a means to socially-mandated ends was assumed, and thus their womanhood was conceptualized as an inherent part of their nature.

Men lacked this particular developmental feature, since the socially-mandated end of men was to provide and protect for others across a long span of time and biological maturity was no guarantee of being either able or particularly proficient at fulfilling this end. Thus, a male’s ability to serve as a means to their socially-mandated end had to proven and demonstrated, and thus their manhood was conceptualized as an ideal to aspire towards. As is typical with Platonic idealism, the normative pressure is to aspire towards the ideal – to prove oneself a “good” man by complying with the role’s demands.

The good man was a good provider – i.e. one that provided for his tribe and family and not only for himself. The good man was a good warrior – i.e. one that defended his tribe and family from external threats and was willing to die for the ‘greater good’ of his group. The good man may have been competent and powerful, but this power was justified in terms of service to an higher will (the idea of individuals living their own lives in accordance with their own wills is historically quite recent – principally it is a product of Enlightenment Individualism, which is far newer than traditional gender roles). The good man was thus a means to an end – a disposable tool – an object (albiet objectified in a very different manner to women).

Part 3: Masculinity, Dominance, Submission and Self-Determination
This naturally clashes strongly with an understanding of masculinity as dominance. Both feminist gender theory and traditionalist gender norms often conceive of masculinity in terms of dominance and femininity in terms of submission. This contains some truth but it is an oversimplification which ignores a feature of traditional masculinity that has been long-ignored; traditional masculinity, owing to its hierarchical nature, contains a significant component of submission.

As explained in my article Separating The ‘Boys’ From The ‘Men’ (http://www.genderratic.com/p/3977/reddit-repost-separating-the-boys-from-the-men-male-hierarchy-and-the-oppression-of-men/) , the Platonic Essentialist nature of the socially-mandated male role results in a multi-tiered hierarchy of “real manhood.” Those who are not “real men” are practically treated as a third gender. Those who are “real men” compete with each other in order to attain superiority, and eventually an “Alpha” status defined by possessing the ability to revoke an inferior’s “real manhood” and socially emasculate said inferior. For the purposes of this article, let us call those “real men” who lack “Alpha” status “Betas” and let us call those males who lack “real man” status “Omegas.”

Traditional masculinity, whilst often mischaracterized as being centered on dominance, mandates that a Beta submit to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. Sure, the Beta isn’t as good a man as the Alpha (by social standards), but he is still a “real man.” The penalty for unsuccessful rebellion is a loss of status, which may reach the level of social emasculation.

As I have argued above, traditional concepts of gender are heavily grounded in notions of maturity – hence how “grow up” and “man up” are functionally synonymous. A Beta who unsuccessfully rebels against the Alpha is often called a “brat” or “punk” – two terms with immature connotations (bringing to mind discontented children/teenagers who dare question their allegedly-omniscient elders). To be a “real man” is to not act like a child male (a “boy” – a common emasculating slur), and to rebel is childish.

In short, real men acknowledge rank and obey their superiors. The military is an institution held as the height of masculine, and it is brutally hierarchical (and, in what would be a paradox to those that define masculinity purely in terms of dominance, it is the soldiers rather than the officers that are considered more macho even though the officers hold command).

As such, submission to authority is not inherently emasculating, but rather masculinity-mandated under certain conditions.

When asserting one’s own self-sovereignty (which is inherently rebellious since it denies the legitimacy of others’ dominion over oneself) is seen as transgressive of the gender norms, when surrendering one’s will is seen as properly masculine, when obedience is elevated to virtue, it becomes impossible to see traditional masculinity as being about dominance alone. When knowing one’s place and being a good soldier is a masculine duty, one can scarcely describe traditional masculinity as empowering men to live their own lives on their own terms.

And it is this self-sovereignty-sabotaging ideal of masculinity which is being aspired to.

Part 4: Case Studies
In light of the above, the discussion moves to two real-world works of fiction targeted primarily towards young males and aimed at providing a so-called “male power fantasy.” I shall argue that the object of these fantasies is in fact gender-compliance, of being a “real man” rather than possessing power (“power” being understood as self-determination).

Study A: “Thor”
The movie “Thor” provides an interesting case-study in the culturally-induced self-loathing of many nerdy young men; simply take Thor and his brother Loki and ask oneself “which of these characters is the audience surrogate?”

Clearly, it isn’t the six-foot-three, unshaven, heavily muscled, popular, father’s favorite Crown Prince. Thor embodies the normative ideal of Asgardian masculinity – a warrior who wins with as much force and as little tactics as possible.

The slightly shorter, slender, pale, dark-haired Prince Loki fights with deception, trickery, illusions, sorcery and throwing knives – all of which transgress Asgard’s concept of how a “real man” fights. His skills are seen as mere “tricks.” And Thor’s friends are arguably Thor’s friends who endure Loki’s presence out of respect for Thor rather than like of Loki.

To use language suited for the high-school target demographic, what we have is a simple contrast between the popular, gender-normative jock and the unpopular, gender-atypical nerd. Out of these two archetypes, who is more representative of the typical audience of comic books? And who exactly is the villainous one?

In a way, Loki’s relationship with Thor can be seen as having similarities to that of the target audience’s relationship with Thor: jealousy and resentment and wishing to be the golden, approved of, normal kid. Loki is in effect a representative of Jung’s Shadow – the parts of the self which are disowned on some level.

But the relationship between Thor and Loki cannot truly be understood without viewing it in the context of the Princes’ relationship with their father, King Odin – they both crave their father’s approval and endorsement. It is implied that Thor begins with this endorsement, and Loki does not. As I wrote in my article The Literal Patriarchy (http://www.genderratic.com/p/4021/reddit-repost-the-literal-patriarchy-men-and-masculinity/), this approval/endorsement is something which our gender system places a high value upon; the result is that culturally speaking, father figures have the ability to bestow or revoke “real man” status.

This is precisely what Odin does to Thor during an early part of the film. After Thor rashly causes an incident which nearly triggers a war (an incident caused by Thor reacting with outrage at another character verbally emasculating him), Odin makes Thor human and casts a spell on Thor’s hammer which results in Thor being unable to use the hammer until proven “worthy.” During a verbal admonishment, Odin verbally emasculates Thor further, calling him a “boy.”

The implications should be obvious – verbal and symbolic (the hammer being a pretty obvious phallic symbol) emasculation combined with depowering until Thor began to meet Odin’s standards.

Thor only reclaims the hammer by proving himself, i.e. complying with Odin’s will. He regains his symbolic masculinity by sacrificing his own life for the humans (both affirming male-sacrifice (and hence male disposability) as well as self-sacrifice (and hence Christian and Comtean ethical beliefs)), simultaneously complying with his father’s will and a deeply-rooted premise of the gender system. Thor regains his masculinity through acts of submission (as paradoxical as this may seem).

This is further validated when at the end of the film, Thor confesses to Odin that Odin is a better King than Thor would ever be and how he longs to make Odin proud. Odin then confesses pride in his son. Yet again, Thor acquiesces to Odin, and through that gains approval and is validated as a “proper” man.

Thor may be physically mighty, but he lives essentially as his father’s vassal, motivated entirely by the desire to prove himself and live up to his father’s standards. He desires to serve as a means to his father’s ends and be a good, dutiful son. How, with any depth or meaningful contemplation, can this be seen as a power fantasy?

Indeed, if Loki is the audience surrogate, then the film itself explicitly denies being a power fantasy; Loki clearly states that he never wanted the throne (i.e. wasn’t interested in power) and only ever wanted to be Thor’s equal (the “in father’s eyes” is implied).

At the climax of the film, after discovering his actual heritage as a frost giant foundling adopted by Odin, Loki uses a superweapon to attempt genocide on his race’s homeworld (after killing their King, who was Loki’s biological father). Loki’s motivation was to prove himself to Odin, to prove himself a good son, and to essentially out-Thor Thor, by demonstrating (though an extreme act) compliance with Asgardian standards (including gender standards (we could describe Asgardian gender standards of embodying certain elements of Toxic Masculinity)).

Loki’s plan failed, and when Odin looked at him with nothing but disappointment and regret, Loki committed suicide. As Warren Farrell pointed out, suicide is not a response to power, but to powerlessness.

If Loki is the target demographic’s representative and Thor is the escapist character, then the Thor film is no power fantasy. It is a fantasy of fitting in, of meeting popular standards of masculinity, of pleasing authority figures. It is a fantasy of being the good son that makes Daddy proud. It is a fantasy of proving oneself a “real man”. It is a gender conformity fantasy, and therefore it is the opposite of a power fantasy.

Study B: “Gears Of War”
Amongst gamers, “Gears Of War” as an IP is infamous for extreme levels of conventional masculinity. In an interview between Cliff Bleszinski (the game’s creator) and Kotaku, Bleszinski stated that the unrealistically muscular (i.e. hyper-masculine) bodies of the main characters were intended to give a sense of empowerment to the player. This statement is of course in line with the “power fantasy” narrative, but to paraphrase Warren Farrell, men have been taught to think of that which makes them powerless as power.

“Gears” takes place in a world run by a totalitarian-collectivist dictatorship called the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG). The symbolism of the acronym should be obvious – being a cog in a machine is clearly objectification, isn’t it? So, obviously, since this game is a power fantasy (i.e. a fantasy of having/attaining/increasing one’s control over one’s own life), the plot must be about a rebellion against the COG, right?

In reality, the plot focuses on a super-gruff, super-growly, steroidally-sized soldier named Marcus Fenix; a war hero who fought for the COG in multiple battles, but got stripped of his rank and thrown into prison for going against orders. The story begins with Fenix being reinstated, although Fenix’s CO Colonel Hoffman is not happy at all with this. Over the course of the story, Marcus Fenix aims to prove himself to Hoffman; at the climax of the game when Fenix is hanging on for dear life to the struts of a flying helicopter, Hoffman finally reaches down and helps him up. The music grows to a soaring, triumphant crescendo.

The story here is one of Marcus Fenix proving himself, through compliance to an authority figure, as a reliable and effective servant – a very good cog in the machine, as it were. Like Thor, Fenix is punished for a transgression against his overlords, and is given a chance to redeem himself through compliance to his ruler’s standards. Like Thor, Fenix is eventually redeemed for his transgression through servitude. Like Thor, Fenix has to please an elder male authority figure (Colonel Hoffman in this case), and just like in the movie Thor, the audience is expected to find fulfillment in the approval of said figure.

“Power” is not the object of this fantasy – being a good soldier boy is not a position of power. One might be shooting tons of enemies and kicking proverbial ass across a pixel-gore-coated screen, but one is doing so on orders. As E.S. Raymond points out in The Myth Of Man The Killer (http://catb.org/~esr/writings/killer-myth.html), military insociation is based upon breaking people’s individual will and reformatting them into collective-identifying agents of the wills of their superiors – in short, removing the sense of individual agency/responsibility – in short, objectification. It is a fantasy of instrumentality (in the sense Nussbaum used the term) that powers “Gears Of War” – a fantasy of being an effective attack dog who is rewarded by his master.

Marcus Fenix is the slave of a totalitarian regime and exists to serve his government. His career consists of following orders. He is merely a tool with a gun and even though he is unrealistically muscular and speaks in a guttral snarl, he has no control whatsoever over his own life. His motivations consist of pleasing the higher-ups. The sales figures of the “Gears” series make it clear that a disturbing number of young men indeed believe that Marcus Fenix is an empowered man.

But Fenix is a clear case of Nussbaum’s instrumentality – in slaughtering legions of enemies, Fenix proves his usefulness. In ordering his squad around, he fulfills the demands of his own superiors. In fulfilling aspects of the masculine gender role, he serves. He may not be sexually objectified, but he is clearly objectified.

A soldier fighting for a totalitarian state, striving to prove himself a useful instrument of his rulers, is hardly in a position of power. But what Marcus Fenix does display is a level of gender conformity which is borderline ludicrous – as explained above his instrumental efficacy is perfectly in line with the traditional expectations of manhood. His stoicism is practically a running joke. His size is extraordinarily unrealistic considering his nation is living at near-starvation. His voice and mannerisms and facial features speak for themselves. So what is the object of the fantasy?

An interesting case could be made that a fantasy of power over others is exhibited by Gears Of War. For one, as the game is a Third Person Shooter, one can argue that the nature of the gameplay involves exerting power (in this case, violence) over the opponents the player faces. For two, in the context of the game’s plotline, Marcus Fenix is the leader of his squad. However, with respect to the second point, the fantasy of power over others is marginal compared to the overwhelming lack of power that Fenix has in the storyline – he has superiors too, after all. And with respect to the first point, almost all action games fulfill this role, even those with female protagonists; is Bayonetta thus a transgendered or autogynephiliac power fantasy?

The power over others Marcus has is justified in terms of how he uses it to serve his own superiors, nation and family – he is merely a conduit for the power over others possessed by his superiors. He is a senior slave who sets out to win the approval of his rulers and prove himself a good soldier. He is not a fantasy of power, but rather a fantasy of appeasing traditional standards of masculinity. Compliance is hardly an assertion of power.

Part 5: Conclusion
The depiction of men in popular (and typically male-targeted) fiction is an important issue for anyone that wishes to criticize the traditional gender system. However, some feminists react to attempts to discuss the topic by arguing that it falsely equates female-characters-as-sex-objects with individuated, powerful and truly human idealized men.

But this argument errs because traditional masculinity has always been objectifying, albiet in a very different way to the manner in which traditional femininity objectifies women. The male gender standards demand that a man be an instrumentally useful, compliant servant; a male may possess agency but he is no “real man” unless he deploys that agency in an approved fashion.

As such, works of fiction typically seen as “male power fantasies” become more comprehensible as fantasies of compliance with gender norms. As demonstrated by the two case studies provided, neither central character could be described as possessing control over their own life; both central characters act as executors of an higher will than their own and follow narrative arcs where they are rewarded with approval for being good subordinates. If Thor Odinson and Marcus Fenix are embodiments of normative masculinity then to fantasize about being them is hardly a fantasy of power.

A different kind of objectification is not a power fantasy. A fantasy of measuring up to social norms is not a fantasy of power, nor are such fantasies a product of power; rather, they are a response to and manifestation of a profound powerlessness.

Those who wish to address how the gender system harms men should continue to analyze the depictions of men in popular culture, particularly in male-targeted fiction. Fiction crafted for a target audience will typically attempt to embody and flatter the beliefs, norms and values of this audience; thus, fiction can serve as a reflection of that audience’s greatest desires and aspirations. What does that imply about the so-called “male power fantasy”?

Feedback and discussion is appreciated.

Reddit Repost: “The Literal Patriarchy, Men And Masculinity”

This is a repost of an article I originally wrote for /r/Masculism and posted here: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/1csoi7/the_literal_patriarchy_men_and_masculinity/

“Patriarchy” is typically used in gender studies to refer to one of two things; either a gender system which is masculosexist and femmephobic (Third Wave definition), or a gender system which is systematically constructed as a tool of class oppression by men to oppress women (Radical Second Wave definition).

But the literal meaning of “Patriarchy” isn’t synonymous with “Androcracy.” The literal meaning of “Patriarchy” is the rule of the father.

In this essay, I will be looking at a feature of the gender system which disproportionately oppresses males, particularly young ones – the Literal Patriarchy.

Part 2: A Quick Recap of the Gender System
The social norms around gender evolved in an environment where many, even most, children did not reach adulthood, and humans lived at subsistence level or close to it (this is why the first substantial challenges to the gender system did not emerge until the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution – for the vast majority of human history, the gender norms were a survival necessity). Because of the low level of technological development, human survival was predicated on a consistently expanding supply of labor, i.e. consistent population growth. We needed more protector/providers and we needed more producers of protector/providers. Sexual dimorphism provided the template for the basic division of labor between the sexes.

As such, the social norms were established to reward men that were good protector/providers, and reward women that were good (i.e. fertile) mothers.

Society demanded that women serve the function of bearing children (a risky, high-maintenance process which renders a woman less mobile and more resource-consuming during pregnancy), whilst men serve the function of protecting the women and children and sustaining them. Individuals of both sexes were judged on the basis of how well they served these socially mandated functions (or gender roles)… “proper” femininity was the mother, “proper” masculinity was the warrior/hunter.

But females would, almost inevitably, end up capable of bearing children due to natural biological maturation. “Girls” would just become “women” due to the onset of puberty (with a small number of exceptions due to natural infertility). A woman’s “proper” femininity (i.e. value to society in serving the female function) was thus socially conceptualized as an innate property of women.

Males, on the other hand, did not have the biological assuredness of becoming a satisfactory protector/provider. These tasks required proving oneself in dangerous, strenuous physical activity. Not only that but they required the demonstration of a reliable track record (consistency) in results. Not all male individuals managed to do this, and those that did still varied in the level of skill they displayed. Whilst “girls” managed to just “become” “proper” women, “boys” were not guaranteed “real manhood.” They needed to prove themselves to their peers and elders. “Real manhood” (i.e. value to society in serving the male function) was thus socially conceptualized as an ideal to aspire to for males.

As a result, there are two kinds of Epistemological Essentialism which underpin our gender system. Femininity is understood through the lens of Aristotelian (or Immanent) Essentialism. Masculinity is understood through the lens of Platonic (or Transcendent) Essentialism.

This is ultimately the underpinning of the basic gender role in our society; the subject-object dichotomy. Men are seen as subjects, i.e. actors and agents, beings with the capacity to choose a goal and strive to achieve it. Women are seen as objects, since action is not a necessary component of femininity. Men do, women are. Men have to act, women do not. Men are actors, women are acted upon.

But there is a twist here – as stated before, the gender system ascribes value to the fulfillment of both the male function and the female function. Since females are (assumed to be) automatically capable of fulfilling this female function, they possess an innate value. Males do not have this assumption on their side – they must prove their capability to serve the male function, and thus they possess no innate value. Women are innately valuable objects and men are innately valueless subjects (with the capacity to acquire some value).

This system arose to incentivize population growth during a time when most children did not survive to reach puberty, let alone to reproduce. Thankfully, the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution made the prosperity of the modern world possible, but as such our gender system has been rendered obsolete. The system needs to be examined, critiqued, and rejected or modified where necessary.

Part 3: Maturity and Manhood
As alluded to above, the gender system’s mandated roles are connected to biological maturation. Women cannot serve their mandated function until their body is sufficiently developed (i.e. they start mensturating). In the case of female maturation, the onset of mensturation provides a clear biological sign of a woman’s ability to bear children.

A man, however, is biologically incapable of serving this function – he can only serve the mandated male functions of protector/provider (protecting women, particularly pregnant women, and providing for them and his children). But there is no single biological “he’s ready” indicator. Not only that, but merely reaching puberty doesn’t guarantee capability or competence at physical tasks. As such, various social institutions (such as initiation rites into manhood) evolved to fill this function – these rites typically consist of testing the man’s ability and, should he succeed, granting him the social status of “real man.”

But in both cases, the gender system’s mandated roles are based on notions of maturity. After all, a male that is not a “real man” is considered a “boy” and socially emasculated. “Boy” just means “young male” but the way the term is used contemptuously as a form of verbal emasculation is quite telling (“girl” isn’t used the same way (or at least not nearly as commonly), because a female’s ability to serve the mandated female function is treated as innate). So to be a “real man” is to not be a “boy” is to “grow up” and be “mature.”

As stated before, however, male biological maturation is only part of the picture. Since there is no simple biological indicator of “he’s ready to go out and be a hunter/gatherer,” various social institutions took that role, and these social institutions were typically administered by elder men (those men that had earned “real manhood” in society’s eyes). The elder males became one of the judges of manhood (particularly the judges of the manhood of younger males), and also one of the conferrers of manhood. This status is not exclusive to the elders – the gender system creates many other judges and conferrers of manhood (peer groups and women particularly), but the point is that there is an intersectionality effect between ageism and masculosexism.

So who is the first elder male that most male children know? Who is the first elder male in a position to judge the child’s maturity, capability and competence?

Part 4: The Literal Patriarchy
Whatever one’s stance on feminist Patriarchy Theory (in either its Radical Second Wave or Third Wave variants) is, it is hard to deny that a huge number of males are psychologically “ruled” (so to speak) by their fathers. This “rule” is based on the fact that our gender system sees fathers as possessing the ability to legitimately confer or revoke their sons’ status as a “real man.” Your father automatically possesses Alpha Male status over you (in my article Separating The ‘Boys’ From The ‘Men’: Male Heirarchy And The Oppression Of Men I define an “Alpha Male” as a male with the ability to revoke another man’s “real man” status, and thus to reduce them to a “boy”).

As I have emphasized, this is an extremely effective form of psychological control – it makes a fact of one’s nature (one’s gender identity) socially contingent on validation granted by others (in this case, one’s father). If by “power” one means the ability to live one’s own life on one’s own terms, then this Literal Patriarchy is very destructive to the power of male individuals.

The cultural prevalence of so-called “Daddy Issues” in countless amounts of male-targeted art and fiction – even the classical “Hero’s Journey” monomyth has an “atonement with the father” component as well as the Wise Old Man that blesses/endorses the hero – goes without saying. Now, whilst there are a few exceptions, “Daddy Issues” in fiction typically is of the “I wish I pleased you, Dad” variety. Why would this fictional trope be so prevalent if it weren’t a trope which vast numbers of males relate to?

As stated before, there are other avenues besides paternal endorsement by which one can gain “real man” status – peer endorsement and female endorsement being two common alternatives. A male denied paternal endorsement may choose to pursue one of the other two avenues in order to achieve their validation, or they may decide to employ paternal substitution in order to do it (or some combination of the aforementioned avenues).

Paternal substitution is possible because of the ageism-masculosexism intersection effect; because our gender system implicitly casts the “real man” in terms of maturity, a male that believes the gender system is true will see elder males in general as embodying “real manhood” more than he does. If a young male does not receive paternal endorsement from his biological father (or perhaps suffers a sufficient trauma from his father so as to nullify the father’s credibility) yet still believes in the gender system, he will revoke the power his father has over him but then grant it to some other elder man.

This younger man will voluntarily take a subordinate role, as a “lesser man,” to that elder. This younger man has made the elder into his Alpha, possessing the power to confer or revoke his “real manhood.” The younger man then attempts to earn the elder man’s approval so as to finally have his real manhood conferred upon him. A young man can in fact disperse this power amongst multiple different “father figures,” and perhaps even invest that power within certain heirarchical institutions (the military, or a street gang, serve good examples). In each case, the dynamic is fundamentally the same.

Part 5: Empowering Men, Depowering The Father Figure
Masculism, or Men’s Rights, seeks to do for men what first-wave and early-second-wave feminism sought (at least nominally) to do for women: guarantee legal equality of the sexes and to attack popular stereotypes, prejudices, obligations and expectations assigned on the basis of sex. In short, the objective is to empower men to live their own life on their own terms (assuming they respect the right of others to do the same), irrespective of the demands of traditional gender norms.

Doing this requires that we destroy the power that the Father Figure has over us.

Just to clarify, I am protesting not fathers, but rather traditional masculinity. I am simply pointing out that traditional gender roles are entangled with notions of maturity in such a way as to place elder men into a position which can grant them (within the gender system) the ability to pass judgment on a younger male’s masculinity/maturity. I also argue that plenty of male-targeted culture reinforces this (and the foundational attitudes for it). This does not mean fathers are bad – it simply means that the gender system burdens males with having to “earn” social recognition of their gender identity, and one of the ways this is done is through proving oneself to one’s Father Figure/s (who can be one’s biological or adoptive father, or not).

This is a change which must begin in men themselves. We must reject the gender system, in particular the Platonic Essentialist idea of “real manhood.” We must reject attempts by anyone (especially our elders) to gender-police us. We must ruthlessly question the “wisdom of the fathers” and acknowledge the fallibility of our Father Figures. We must attack the idea that a “real man” is a servant of others. We must refuse to let our sex impose a list of arbitrary duties upon us. And most critically of all, we must not live to make our Father Figures proud of us. We can desire that he/they be proud of us, but if we are willing to alter ourselves in order to win his/their approval, then we have lost and the gender system has won.

Part 6: Conclusion
The gender system of our society evolved to incentivize consistent reproduction; sexual dimorphism meant that the most “efficient” (from the perspective of population growth) course of action was for women to be mothers and men to be protector/providers. This formed the basis for our society’s concepts of masculinity and femininity. However, females were more-or-less biologically assured of being capable of serving their socially-mandated function and males had to prove their capability at performing tasks with far less certain outcomes. This led to femininity being seen as an innate property of women, but “real manhood” being cast as something a male must “earn” (which in turn underlies the men-as-actors, women-as-acted-upon distinction in our culture).

Both femininity and masculinity were connected with maturity, yet a male’s ability to serve his socially-mandated function was not biologically evidenced in the same way that a female’s ability was. As such, various social institutions developed to separate the “men” (those capable of serving the male social function) from the “boys” (those incapable of doing such). This resulted in a situation where elder males held the ability to extend or revoke “real manhood” to younger men. Thus, becoming a “real man” was, at least in part, about proving oneself to elder men. The father-son relationship, at least as traditionally cast, seems to be the archetypal and obvious example of this pattern.

Since males, to earn their “real manhood,” are incentivized to please their father (or substitute), the gender system can be described as perpetuating a Literal Patriarchy (so to speak) amongst males. Since this damages the psychological self-sovereignty of males, it is a bad thing and we should oppose it.

Discussion and feedback is appreciated.

Reddit Repost: “Separating the ‘Boys’ from the ‘Men’ – Male Hierarchy and the Oppression of Men”

This is an article originally published here on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/11w04k/separating_the_boys_from_the_men_male_heirarchy/

As this piece was published at /r/Masculism it tends to take a less vehement tone than the ‘typical’ pro-men’s-rights piece. Upon re-reading I couldn’t find any substantially objectionable material within it and as such I wish to preserve it here.

Part 1: Introduction
In my article on /r/GenderEgalitarian/ A Few Thoughts On Some Feminist Concepts, I pointed out an interesting quirk of language use:

“It is interesting to note how the phrase “real men” is used in a way that contradicts what people typically mean by “real.” You are probably reading this article on a computer or similar electronic device; this device exists and is therefore real. Yet the minute we shift to “real men” we start talking not about men that exist, but men who embody a specific ideal of correct manliness (also called the Hegemonic Masculinity). The word “real” is used to mean “ideal.”"

This sudden shift in the definition of “real,” from “something that exists” to “exemplar of an ideal,” is a process I call a Platonic Inversion (because it is an instance of underlying residual Platonism in people’s thought processes – Plato after all believed that the “ideal” was “more real” than physical stuff).

In the mainstream of our culture, this Platonic Inversion with respect to “men” is nearly unquestioned. When we talk about a real DVD player, using the term to mean a “far better DVD player,” we all know that the term “real” is being used metaphorically.

But, on the other hand, being a “real man” is not a matter of metaphor. It is a matter of personal pride. It is a big deal (socially speaking), not a simple case of a metaphorical invocation of Platonism.

Why?

The reason for this is that, according to the cultural mainstream, being a “real man” is an earned social status rather than something innate in physically real men. “Real manhood” must be repeatedly demonstrated, proven, confirmed and defended. Psychological studies have backed this point up.

How did this situation come to pass?

A common theory, one which I think has significant explanatory power, is that women’s signs of biological maturity were relatively obvious; they had their menstural cycle, grew breasts, and (most importantly in societies which were fed through the manual labor of a growing population) bear children. “Girls” simply became “Women” (with the exceptions of infertile females), at which point they could fulfil their expected social role of bearing children.

Men, on the other hand, had less physically obvious signs of biological maturation. This was coupled with the fact that early human societies had reproductive pressures that incentivized protection of the females, as well as the fact that pregnant females were less able to perform hard labor/hunt/fish/farm/etc. The social role of women was something that the vast majority of women would grow into being capable of performing just by the nature of female biology.

The social role performed by men was not as biologically assured. Men had to be protectors and providers; tasks which were physically strenuous, dangerous, and could be performed with different levels of success and/or failure (i.e. men could be “good men” or “bad men” in the sense of being more or less competent at fulfilling their assigned roles; women of course had something similar (infertile women being seen as “bad women” or “barren”) but as a matter of degree the pressure wasn’t as strong since any given man was more likely to be a bad warrior/hunter than any given women was likely to be infertile, and then we have to introduce the matter of levels of skill at performing warrior/hunter tasks relative to breeding tasks (women do have different levels of fertility, but how wide is that scope vs. the scope of competence at warrior/hunter tasks?)).

As such, “proper” femaleness was seen as innate, but “proper” maleness required actions which produced specific outcomes. Barring infertility, a female would always become a “real woman,” but a man would have to continually fulfill his social functions in order to be seen as a “real man.”

It should come as no surprise that this formed our society’s most basic gender role; a role that I’d generally say Feminists and Masculists and Gender Egalitarians of all stripes basically accept as the foundation of our society’s gender system. This is the Subject-Object distinction, often phrased as “men do, women are.” Men are actors, women are acted upon.

Feminists, Gender Egalitarians, and MRA’s have consistently traced out the misogynistic and misandric implications and outcomes of this role system.

So, the above is a brief sketch of how our society came to its basic gender system. During early human history, this system probably had significant utility – human survival was predicated on manual labor, and a steadily-growing supply of manual labor was premised on consistent reproduction (ergo women having to have children and men having to protect/feed the family).

When the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution ushered in modern civilization as we know it, things changed. Manual labor stopped being the engine of human survival and prosperity; a progressively automated, capital-and-enterprise-dependent economy took its place. It is no coincidence that modern gender discourse, kicked off by Classical Liberal Feminism, was a product of the Enlightenment era. Fundamentally, gender discourse is a product of the fact that our technology has developed far more quickly than our received cultural wisdom; now, the “received wisdom” about masculinity and femininity is clearly obsolete.

From this point onward, I wish to focus on masculinity, or more correctly our society’s understanding of “correct” masculinity, and how it has constructed a system which oppresses men

Part 2: The Machismo Economy
So how does our society’s “masculinity system” (whatever you want to call it) operate?

As stated above, the casual acceptance of “real men” to be used to refer to men who meet some ideal standard gives us an important clue; under this system, not all physically real men are “real men.” Manhood (in the “real man” sense) is a socially-earned status. It is conferred. Because it can be conferred, it can also be revoked.

This means that the system has a binary component, where a man either is a “real man” or is not a “real man.” They either “pass” or “fail.” They are “real men” or they are socially emasculated.

This binary component is one of “separating the men from the boys.” Degrees do not exist within this component of the system. Note the use of “boys” here; the implication being that insufficiently masculine (by social standards) men are not fully mature (i.e. they are child males rather than adult males). This further validates the hypothesis expressed in Part 1; “real manhood” is a socially-earned status because a man’s full maturity isn’t as biologically obvious as a woman’s, and that the male social role wasn’t as connected to innate biological capabilities as the female’s.

It is often noted that various institutions mediate the conferral of social manhood; sports teams, the military, fraternities, etc. Again, the need for institutional validation of social manhood seems to back up the hypothesis that the relative understatedness of male biological maturation is an important reason for the nature of the current gender system (also note how real-world tribal societies frequently have rituals which initiate “boys” into “manhood”).

Thus, within the “manhood” system developed by our society, you will typically find an underclass of “not real men.” Call them “boys,” “beta males” or “omega males,” “the socially emasculated” or whatever; if being a “real man” is like being in a nightclub, these men are outside of the club.

But then we move into the second component of the “manhood” system; inter-male heirarchialism. Once someone has been admitted into the category of “real man” there is competition amongst the men inside to establish an order of rank. As explained earlier, there are differences in degree of how well men can fulfill the social role of “real man,” and whilst there is the aforementioned binary distinction between “those that can’t” (“boys”) and “those that can” (“real men”), some “real men” can do it better than others.

This is the familiar battle for “Alpha Maleness.” With it comes power over one’s underlings and, crucially, the ability to socially emasculate them (kick them out of the “real man” club and reduce them to a “boy”). The battle for Alpha status is not pleasant, it is endless and must be repeatedly fought, yet the alternative to being “one of the real men” is social emasculation.

In brief, you could say the social system of “real manhood” operates with three basic “tiers.” At the top, the Alpha who can bestow or revoke “real man” status. In the middle, those “real men” who are attempting to continually acquire more “real man” status and outcompete their opponents. At the very bottom, the “boys” or “not real men,” the socially emasculated, the outcasts.

We might describe these tiers with the labels “Alpha,” “Beta” and “Omega” but those would just be shorthand, plus I wouldn’t want to get the above confused with PUA terminology (PUA terminology refers to frequency of sexual success, which is related to but certainly not the same thing as status amongst fellow males).

Part 3: Some Effects Of This System
1) GENDER POLICING: A simple truth of economics is that people respond to incentives – if conduct X confers a benefit, and conduct Y bears a cost, then ceteris paribus people will be more likely to engage in X and less likely to engage in Y.

The “real manhood” system operates in such a way as to incentivize gender policing; by outperforming another man at a specific masculine-coded task, one gains more “real man” credit whilst at the same time diminishing the social masculinity of the outperformed men. The incentive isn’t to be good or competent at these specific tasks, but rather to be better than others at these specific tasks. Thus, men are motivated not to view other men’s strengths as good, but as threats. Men are motivated to view other men’s weaknesses as opportunities to be exploited.

Let’s put aside the strange moral inversion (resenting the admired, wishing to see more of the disdained) that this system implies for now; the obvious effect is gender policing. Make one slip and your “fellow men” will be right there to tear you apart and degrade you for it; it is the only way for them to increase their own status.

Obviously, this makes authentic self-expression and pursuit of one’s own happiness into a minefield for men, particularly those with some preferences that fall outside of traditional gender boundaries (in fact it is fair to say that almost all men have at least one interest which transgresses gender boundaries). Even those that, to their knowledge, have purely gender-typical interests, are socially penalized by this gender policing to some degree; they are discouraged from exploring things which may end up potentially enhancing their lives.

2) HERD CONFORMITY/GROUP IDENTITY: Significant neurological evidence exists to indicate that one’s gender identity (innate feeling of being male or female) is a result of neuroanatomy (for instance, transgender persons have been shown to have neuroanatomy of the opposite sex to the anatomy of the rest of their bodies; transgender conditions are arguably the neurological version of intersex conditions). When one’s gender identity is attacked or questioned, it can be distressing.

But, as stated before, being a “real man” is a social status rather than something innate, and the mechanism for acquiring and reinforcing this status is interpersonal. Basically, it is conferred by group insociation.

As a result, males have a portion of their innate identity subject to social approval and validation.

Now, most readers of this piece would accept the proposition that there is a mind-independent reality, and that facts aren’t the same thing as group consensus. And yet, this is precisely what “real manhood” requires – subjective acceptance of someone as a “real man.” So not only does “real manhood” refer to a Platonic ideal rather than physical reality, it also refers to a socially subjective status, as if the World Of Forms and the Consensus Reality were one and the same.

Leaving aside the utterly crackbrained metaphysics and epistemology that seem to be entailed here, the psychological effects of such an attitude are pretty obvious; if a critical part of one’s identity is dependent on the group, then one is far less likely to be fully individuated. One is far less likely to go against the grain, to think for oneself, to live with authenticity and integrity, when critical components of one’s identity are heavily invested in a group membership that is granted by mass consensus.

This goes far beyond gender policing. The damage that can be caused is fundamentally cognitive; if someone’s primary reference point for facts of reality is social rather than empirical, then that someone has basically abandoned any pretense at rationality.

This group-granted, group-dependent “real man” identity does nothing less than encourage complete cognitive dependence in males, crush unorthodox thinking, and incentivize “fitting in” and being “one of the guys” over being one’s authentic self.

3) PARALLEL HIERARCHIES: As stated above, having one’s innate gender identity questioned or attacked is a distressing experience (as many transgender people will attest). And, as stated before, plenty of males are not granted the status of “real men,” rather they are seen as failed men, as “boys” or some other emasculated label. Thus, many real men (physically real men, not “real men”) unfortunately live in a state where they commonly are inflicted with the distress of having their innate gender identity socially denied.

Denial of an individual’s innate gender identity – in effect a claim that this individual doesn’t really know their own mind and that the denier knows that individual better than that individual knows themselves – is offensive. It is offensive when it happens to trans people, and it is offensive when it happens to cisgender people, including cisgender men.

Given how social sanction and reinforcement has always been a crucial component of “real manhood” (a component which, it can be plausibly argued, is more important to “real manhood” than “real womanhood”), social emasculation can cause a remarkable amount of distress to men.

So, how do those men that have had their “real man” status revoked react? Sure, there are some that simply reject the whole enterprise of proving themselves to others, but this reaction isn’t as common as we’d all like. Indeed, the more common reaction is to form a parallel institution – in this case to simply create a different kind of heirarchical masculinity with its own cultural standards of “real manhood.”

The pattern of traditional masculinity is taken; there’s an heirarchically-structured “in group” led by the person that most exemplifies the group’s standards, with subordinate members competing with each other in an attempt to outdo each other at compliance with the group’s standards; unsurprisingly there is also an “out-group” composed of those that are not considered the “in-group” and who’s masculinity is held as fundamentally deficient/failed.

Why would some of the socially emasculated react by reproducing a variant of the same system that humiliated them? The answer is simple – those that are socially emasculated and respond by forming a parallel masculinity do so out of a desire to be accepted by the “real man” group that rejected them, and create their own as a substitute. They don’t reject the underlying premises of the system, they simply alter the standards to ones more favorable to their own traits.

Those familiar with the theory of Hegemonic Masculinity should see the parallels here; there is a socially normative model of “real manhood,” but not all can practice it successfully. Those who are heavily dependent on such group validation for their gender identity, yet find themselves socially emasculated, will desire to have their “real manhood” reinstated through insociation. In order to cater to this need, they will seek out or set up a parallel institution more likely to accept them.

4) DESTRUCTION OF PEER BONDS AND TRUE BROTHERHOOD: And we finally come to the most ironic and arguably most pernicious effect that the traditional system of “real manhood” has inflicted upon actual men: the poisoning of male relationships.

The “real manhood” system is hierarchically structured and incentivizes competition with and subjugation of one’s fellow man. After all, if one begins a gender system by positing a Platonic ideal then the moral imperative is to refashion oneself into that ideal as much as possible; if one defines the process of moving closer to this ideal as defeating others, then defeating others becomes a duty.

A peer relationship, i.e. a relationship of equals, cannot exist in this framework. Benefit can only come from a violation of the peership. If one posits hierarchical behavior as a proper component of “real manhood,” then peer relationships become emasculated (hence accusations of “those two men are getting too friendly/buddyish, obviously they must be gay” etcetera).

And yet, is not true brotherhood inherently about an ultimate sense of peership? Is it not about admiring and respecting the competencies and virtues of another, rather than conspiring to defeat or lessen those competencies and virtues? Aristotle famously described a true friend as another self – does one attempt to diminish, demean, defeat, humiliate and subjugate oneself?

Human beings relate to those that are like themselves – birds of a feather flock together is more than just a saying. This is why women like their “girl’s nights out” and men like their “boy’s nights out.” Same-gender social bonding is normal and healthy; it is almost certainly a human need (arguably this is another reason for the phenomenon of Parallel Heirarchies discussed above). To make this bonding into an adversarial exercise and a threat to one’s gender identity is a cruel joke at the very least.

Part 4: Conclusion
Traditional concepts of gender were Gender Essentialist, but the type of Essentialism differed between men and women (due to the different roles men and women had to play in pre-modern societies and the differences in the obviousness of their physical maturation). Femininity was typically treated as innate, i.e. as an immanent essence (Aristotelian/Moderate Essentialism) which women possessed by virtue of birth.

Men, on the other hand, were saddled with a Platonic Essentialist concept of masculinity. As such, identity as a “real man” was always a less sure thing than identity as a “real woman.” Women were beings and men were doings. This basic Subject-Object separation ultimately underpins our society’s traditional gender roles, and provides both men and women with various different advantages and disadvantages relative to each other.

One specific disadvantage the traditional conception of the “proper” way to be a “real man” has is that, by virtue of its Platonic nature, it emasculates many men. It compels men to be unsure of their identity, to rely on social verification, to conform and be “one of the guys” at any cost. It encourages men to police other men’s gender expression, to capitalize on each other’s “weakness” and resent each other’s capabilities and skills. Ultimately, it generates a toxic hierarchical environment where even the basic human need of same-gender camaraderie becomes a veritable battleground.

If gender policing, sabotage of individuation and individuality, and the corruption of the process of fulfilling a natural human need, are correctly called “oppressive,” then the current sex/gender system is oppressive of men.

In my earlier article, A Few Thoughts On Some Feminist Concepts, I argued that “Platocracy” is a better term than “Patriarchy” to describe the traditional gender system. It is in traditional ideas of “real manhood” that we find the clearest evidence for the Platonic basis of this gender system.

MISANDRY – Masturbation Hysteria

Masturbation hysteria is a bit of history that isn’t really history yet.

The moral panic around boys masturbating back in the late 19th, early 20th centuries was profound and it manifested in many ways. One was a market for what can only charitably be called chastity devices, since the sex they were aiming to prevent wasn’t going to result in inflicting someone else’s baby on anyone, and so was otherwise pointless.

This masturbation hysteria was general in the western world. Note how the inventor of one of those devices above was Hungarian. I get the sense there was a general fear of demasculinzation in this era – the popularity of Annie Oakley-type women shows just how much bully-boy masculinity was celebrated – and I think this played into fears of loss of vigor and sanity, all due supposedly to the supposedly enfeebling effects of masturbation.

The German film “The White Ribbon” explores another aspect of this hysteria. From the wiki:

The puritanical pastor leads confirmation classes and gives his pubescent children a guilty conscience over apparently small transgressions. He has them wear white ribbons as a reminder of the innocence and purity from which they have strayed. When his son confesses to impure touching, the pastor has the boy’s hands tied to his bed frame each night.

Then there routine circumcision as preached by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg to prevent masturbation. The quick spread of the practice speaks volumes about the dread the public felt in the face of this threat to the health of their boys.

Not content to be a sexual obsessive, Dr. Kellogg was also an early eugenics advocate, unsurprisingly. This was a man truly zealous for social reform!

As a side note, when people insisting that MGM in no way compares to FGM, saying that only FGM is intended to curtail sexual activity and satisfaction, they are just ignorant of the facts.

As I said, this history is not really history yet, because this attitude persists. It is encoded in slurs like “wanker” and “jerk”. Interestingly, while female masturbation is only recently celebrated as empowering, and often by people who sneer at male masturbation, it has never excited the frenzy to stamp it out that male masturbation has. I think the hyperagency/hypoagency binary is at the root of this. A woman who “fails”’ to get laid is not failing at anything because there is nothing here for her to succeed at, whereas a man who fails to get laid is a loser, a weakling, (and by the way this is where a lot of the energy in homophobia comes from.)

We still see this attitude expressed as virgin-shaming and gay-shaming. It is a common slur aimed at MRAs in feminist spaces, for instance – because they are progressive and gender egalitarian like that.

So masturbation hysteria is not history yet until we finally kill it. Grab your axes.

IT’S SHIT LIKE THIS, FEMINISTS – If you want to talk about rape…..

We have some tips for you.

There are a couple of things you should try to avoid….

Don’t engage in rape denial, rape erasure and rape apology – Don’t try to insist that the overwhelming majority of rapists are male, so as to cover up female rapists; don’t deny that women are socially enabled to apply much greater sexual coercion – gay-shaming, claiming if the guy doesn’t want it he’s insulting them or hates women – to men than men can on women; don’t deny that male rape victims get ignored, erased and that their rapes are often dismissed by law enforcement.

And when it comes to the matter of consent, please, please don’t make the mistake of indulging in dehumanizing, sexist stereotypes that claim that men are all sexual animals who want sex all the time 24/7, so that a woman can just have sex with a man anytime she feels like it, because he’s in some kind of permanent state of consent. And please don’t indulge in the peasant ignorance of basic biology that claims that an erection equals consent. Because either of those will just make you look like stupid and hateful and not really worth discussing this with.

Feminists have done such good work getting everyone to see that non-consensual sex is rape; please don’t go and shit on all of that.

Don’t try to say that female-on-male rape is so rare as to be insignificant, that it is such an anomaly that it really doesn’t merit much attention, or worse yet, that talking about female-on-male rape is just a ploy to divert attention from women who are raped, “the real victims of rape”. Instances of female-on-male rape and sexual aggression are in no way anomalous.

Don’t try to  claim that men categorically cannot be raped because rape is a crime of power and men have all the power. That will just makes you look ridiculous to anyone who has lived as a man for more than a week.

And don’t try to claim that being made to penetrate is somehow any less of a rape than being penetrated. That’s just noxious sexist bigotry, and it’s probably not a comparison you’re in any position to make anyway. Also please don’t try to claim that very influential people have insisted on this very distinction and succeeded in getting it recognized as authoritative.

Don’t try to insist that rape is socially condoned and ignored – Don’t claim there is a “rape culture” in a society where rape is punished almost as severely as murder, where accused rapists are denied specific Constitutional guarantees, and where there is a bloody history of rape accusations being used in the service of racist terrorism and oppression, resting on a cultural valuation of women’s bodies as sacrosanct, because it puts you in nasty, nasty, nasty company and can even suggest you may be a nasty, nasty, nasty fellow traveler.

Don’t try to deny that false rape accusations are a real problemDon’t advocate for policies at schools that enable anonymous accusations without any provision for verification, don’t deny that people accuse other people of rape for all kinds of spurious reasons for completely self-serving ends, or that they can and quite have had quite deadly consequences. So please don’t try to claim that a false rape accusation is somehow less serious than an actual rape. And when people advocate for reasonable penalties for false rape accusers, don’t come up with every squirmy prevarication and distortion you can to argue against that.

Don’t try to insist that when a woman rapes a boy it is somehow not as harmful to him as when a man rapes a girl. I hope this doesn’t require any explanation, but that’s just a disgusting thing to even say.

And last and most important:

Don’t try to monopolize the discussion – Don’t assume rape is a feminist issue or that the issue belongs to feminists, or to women, and that you as a feminst have some special insight into the problem that others don’t, because that just shows very clearly how little insight into the problem you do have.

 

This is really simple – simple gender equality – just make an effort to regard and assess female and male victims and perpetrators the same way, by the same standards, without special exemptions and excuses for rape. It is simple but very difficult, because it will mean jettisoning everything traditional society has taught you about gender relations and rape. And don’t be surprised to find a lot of those traditionalist assumptions embedded even in your feminism.

We can finally start to have some productive discussion about rape, but it is going to take some work. Some of us really have some trash to take out before that discussion can get under way.