Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Maleness and the Feminist Worldview, Part II

As an extension of the subtle differences between Man and Woman, much attention is often paid to that other obvious difference between the sexes--namely, that of Sex itself. Much has been made of male sexuality in Western civilization. Old Testament cautions about angels and women with uncovered hair (Book of Genesis, Chapter 6); Freud's theories of incestuous uterine worship; Andrea Dworkin's writings on males' use of sex as a weapon of oppression, even Camille Paglia's observations on the male fear of female sexuality; all represent attempts to interpret the role of male sexuality in determining how men react to the rest of their world.

As someone once said, "Sex sells." Ours is a trade-driven world centered on the precept that men are naturally supposed to give vent to their sexual urges, while women suppress their own. As a result, male sexuality, and the aggression and posturing which come with it, are often viewed as the demon behind many of today's social ills. And this is not entirely untrue. In Western religious dogma, the writers view sex as being so anthithetical to spiritual attainment that they go so far as to project their OWN sexuality onto women, blaming them for it. It's a common thread one hears during rape investigations. "Well, the woman drove him to it." A hideous and irresponsible view, to be certain, but one that nobody in our society has done anything to remedy. Even far-left feminists such as Dworkin still enslave their arguments to the perception of sexuality--in particular, male sexuality--as the enemy. In part because of this widely-held perception of men as being slaves to sex, many cases of male sexual-assault still go unreported. However, our societal perception of human sexuality is even more flawed than we realize. It isn't merely that men are oversexualized in their youth, it's that our cultural view of sex is still andro- and heteronormative.

Think about it. The entire perception of male sexuality--that is, on a man's "cojones" being the defining aspect of his gender identity--is skewed toward only one expression of that sexual identity. Not only are women oppressed by this view of the male sex, but so is any male not automatically tuned into the same sexual script. For example, look at gay and bisexual men. Because they experience sexual attraction toward members of their own gender, they are viewed as somehow lesser as men. A gay man is evaluated on how closely his sex life resembles a straight male--he is either a "top" or a "bottom." Women suffer similarly, though in this case the stigma is reversed. This author has known and befriended many gay men, and can assure the reader that a man's sexual proclivities are not the defining aspect of his maleness. There are plenty of exceedingly macho gay men out there, and their desire to bond with males does not in any way make them "less masculine." In fact, if one examines the art and poetry of ancient Greece and Rome, one can argue that it makes these individuals MORE masculine. Think about that: the most misogynistic Western culture of the past five thousand years was also one which openly accepted male-male sexual relationships.

Ultimately, all posturing aside, our societal view of sex can be interpreted thusly: We as human beings are naturally driven to express ourselves sexually. Sex is liberating, sex can be pleasureable, and it can have a large number of mental and physical health benefits. But sex also means reproduction, which in turn means population growth and the straining of social and economic resources. In bygone eras, such strains on limited resources had to be regulated, and since men were the ones doing the traveling and negotiating, the burden was placed on women to be "Guardians of Virtue." Now, as we move into a society where birth control and sex education become increasingly available, such regulations are superfluous. But the attitudes behind them remain, and young women are still taught to fear and suppress their sexual urges, to view sex as something passive--something performed UNTO themselves, as opposed to something performed in tandem. Clearly, sex is not what defines a male, unless one assumes that all men are unflinchingly heterosexual. Rather, the problem lies with the way that we--men and women alike--are taught to view inter-gender sexual scripts. This means accepting same-sex practices as normal and universal to human experience, as well as recognizing the rights of transgender individuals, for whom the fight for recognition and acceptance is only beginning.

Is this author denying that male sexual practices have contributed to the oppression of countless minority groups, to include women, gays, lesbians and transpeople? Not at all. However, the author does argue that traditional perceptions of male sexuality are helping to contribute to that continued oppression. Men DO have the capacity to be pigs, so to speak, but only because we are still allowed to and expected to, even by women. As a male and a sexual being, the only thing that makes ME male is the location of my genitalia. How I behave with those genitalia, however, is another matter. It is not my handicap as a male, but rather my responsibility as an educated human being, living in a society that is rapidly evolving past traditional perceptions of yin and yang.


4 Comments:

Blogger cinnabari said...

Honestly, I blame a lot of sexism (particularly that institutionalized through Christianity) on Augustine's freak-out over his own involuntary erections. Sex is the downfall of men, poor men cannot control the erections, and it's...it's... WOMEN'S FAULT! (Silly Augustine. It's your primate biology. Get over it.) But that notion stuck all through the Middle Ages (women are Of The Body, Women Are Wicked, Women vis a vis Eve lead to men's downfall through their inherent sexuality. Men, see, could rise about sex if there just. weren't. women. around.) and it's still with us today... as you note, it both distills Male to sexual response, without holding him responsible, and makes Female responsible for male sexual desire. Profoundly uncool.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous midge_ratchet said...

i still take issue with the idea that in "bygone eras" it made SENSE, it was PRACTICAL, it was LOGICAL, that women being responsible for any sexual acts helped limit and control the birthrate for any community. also, the idea that men were "traveling" while women were "at home" seems like it comes from a very specific little section of history and location, and i can't see how it can be generalized to explain anything.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

I didn't say it was practical or rational, or even that it made sense.

I stated that, based on the historical records we have, THAT's the way OUR particular civilization chose to do it. Yes, it's specific. Yes, it's one location and one culture. But that's the entire point. Because of the dominant religions, we have more in common socially with the tribes of the pre-Roman Middle East than we do with any other culture coming out of Western Europe or Asia. Doesn't make it any better than any other way, or even imply that there are other ways.

I never endorsed it. I just put forward a theory. Please understand that.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

Correction: "Imply that there are NOT other ways." Thank you.

9:12 PM  

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