Still Stumped

I have been following a thread about male sexuality on a feminist blog. The tone of the post and the comments that followed are unsympathetic towards men. The feminists present male sexuality as something inherently dangerous and that must be controlled, if not wholly expunged. What I found interesting was the shifting nature of the discussion. Whenever men brought up how ineffective feminist advice was, the feminist response was to simply dismiss those men’s comments. When men presented their own experiences, the feminist response was to ridicule those men’s experiences. At each step, anything that presented male sexuality as positive or questioned the feminist view was quickly slapped down.

This forces men to reach a very specific conclusion, as one commenter did:

But even when it became ok to be feminist and have sex with men, male sexuality was still mostly present in feminist discourse with respect to sexual violence. I mean, just look at feministe, feministing, yes means yes – and check for sex and masculinity and count the amount of genuinely positive posts you’ll find.

Richard Jeffrey Newman to issue with Sam’s comment, responding with:

Instead, you intellectualize and over-intellectualize and end up more or less right back where you started: asking feminists to “raise the social value of male [hetero]sexuality,” something which it simply is not in their power to do. And before you tell me that I should look at the ways in which feminist discourse has, society-wide, devalued male heterosexuality, I would point out to you that there isn’t a single negative thing that feminists have to say about male heterosexuality that men themselves have not been saying for a very, very, very long time. Women did not invent the notion that male heterosexuality is predatory and violent; men have been saying that for millenia.

Actually, that is not true. While there are plenty examples of societies viewing male sexuality as potentially predatory and violent, feminists are unique in conceptualizing male sexuality as inherently predatory and violent. Feminists start from that position, whereas other groups start from a neutral or altruistic position and argue that men can be corrupted or manipulated in order to give in to their basest potential behavior (and unlike feminists, those groups applied the same logic to women).

Newman is correct that feminists are not saying anything men have not said before, but his argumentum ad populum does not address Sam’s point. The issue is not that other men say these things, but that feminists says these things, use them in discussions about male sexuality, and therein place men in double-bind. If the feminist position were even remotely positive, this double-bind could be avoided, but by Newman’s own admission the feminist position on male sexuality is hardly supportive:

So why aren’t you writing, or at least trying to write, those feminist-oriented sex-positive positive posts? Why aren’t you finding your own vocabulary with which to say, “This is what it means for me to be sexual; this is how my sexuality grows out of my feminism.” Why aren’t you, in other words, trying to articulate the view of male (hetero)sexuality that you want to have? Having that kind of vision come from men like yourself will be far more compelling and will be far more likely, over time, to have the result that you want–”incorporated into mainstream feminism, hopefully amending, or even changing, the still very negative discourse”–than will waiting for feminists to do it for you.

Newman offers a nice possibility, however, most of the comments from feminists on that thread assert that male sexuality is inherently negative and that men must conduct themselves in a specific, yet amazingly unclear manner in order to win women’s trust. The unwillingness to view male sexuality as anything other than destructive leads to comments like this:

In terms of what you specifically object to, you seem to think that the conflation of male sexuality and male violence wasn’t an imbedded idea in human society until feminism came along, which is a very strange outlook on the subject indeed. All feminism did was make it socially acceptable to object openly to pervasive male sexual violence and insist that there was something wrong with it; the idea of pervasive male sexual violence and violence as something that inevitable colored male sexuality predated feminism by millenia, literally. The only thing feminists can do on the subject of male sexuality and violence would be to stop complaining about it, and given how hard it was for feminists to get their complaints taken seriously in the first place(and sadly this has hardly been eradicated as an issue) I can’t imagine what motivation feminists could have for shutting up on the subject til the link between male sexuality and male violence stops being a significant problem for women in general. [. . .] I’m sure that once male sexual violence becomes less of a problem for women than male sexual comfort levels and availability, feminism will shift its focus accordingly. But that’s not a problem imbalance that feminists, individually or collectively, have the ability to change. I think it’s fairly obvious who, individually or collectively, would be more likely to have the power to change that situation.

Again, the assertion that “pervasive male sexual violence and violence as something that inevitable colored male sexuality predated feminism by millenia” is incorrect. Feminists are the only group to view male sexuality as inherently violent and harmful. What feminists did is akin to what Roman Catholics did in regards to sexuality. While every culture and religion has rules of conduct governing sexuality, the Catholics were unique in Western society in demonizing all forms of sex and sexuality. It was not just a specific set of acts they objected to; they objected to the act of sex in and of itself. To have sex, let enjoy it, was (and in some communities remains) a sin. Similarly, among feminists is not that some expressions male sexuality (like some expressions of female sexuality) is dangerous; they contend that male sexuality in and of itself is dangerous.

Lisa, the commenter, also engages in doublethink as she argues that feminists had the power to “make it socially acceptable to object openly to pervasive male sexual violence and insist that there was something wrong with it” while lacking the power to do anything about that imbalance. This notion that feminists and feminism are simultaneously powerful and powerless is nothing new. Feminists frequently make that argument when they run out of answers.

Feminists object to the current dating climate and attempt to offer advice to men in order to improve the situation for women. However, that advice often harms, shames, and demonizes men sexually interested in women. Those men then turn to feminists for more advice, only to be told that there is no problem, men should figure out themselves, men should just be themselves, or men should just be confident. When informed that under feminism all of those things can result in a man being labeled a creep or predator, and few of them even work, feminists simply have no answer.

The reason is because they have never conceptualized male sexuality as coming from any place than men’s basest desires. Strewn throughout the comments is the refrain that men approaching women for sex view women only as objects. If a man only wants a one-night stand, he is tantamount to a rapist. If he wants sex first and foremost, but is willing to befriend the woman, he is still kind of a predator. Even a man interested in befriending a woman is still skirting with predatory behavior, especially if he does not take his public rejection well.

If one views men in this way, eventually one will run out of options to offer men because technically nothing men can do will prevent them from being perceived as predators.  The “it’s not feminists’ fault” retort is just another form of misdirection designed to dissuade criticism. And therein lies the irony: feminists want men to take responsibility for their actions and the social norms perpetuated by them, but feminists are unwilling to do the same themselves. Even when they readily admit they swung, readily admit they made contact with someone’s face, and readily admit they punched someone to the ground, they refuse to admit they are in any way responsible for the person falling down, hitting the ground, and lying half passed out.

 

16 thoughts on “Still Stumped

  1. I believe that feminism has two primary goals and that everything feminists say or do is said or done in an attempt to achieve those goals.

    1. The transfer of wealth (power) from men to women.
    2. The complete control and dominance of male sexuality.

    TDOM

  2. After coming across the attitude that TS mentions above from many feminists before I’d add a third one to it.

    3. To clear women of anything resembling any responsibility for any wrongdoings in today’s society.

    …I would point out to you that there isn’t a single negative thing that feminists have to say about male heterosexuality that men themselves have not been saying for a very, very, very long time. Women did not invent the notion that male heterosexuality is predatory and violent; men have been saying that for millenia.
    Translation: Since we didn’t start it its okay for us to do it. And its not really surprising. Richard’s words here are hardly original. When confronted with some of the negativity of their own movement feminists simply drop back to prepackaged arguments such as accusing critics of asking feminists to do everything for them, accuse them of being anti-feminists (a word which they go to lengths to paint up as an inherently negative term), or claim they’re being silence.

    TS:
    The issue is not that other men say these things, but that feminists says these things, use them in discussions about male sexuality, and therein place men in double-bind.
    I’d go further to say that the issue is that “The issue is not that other men say these things, but that feminists says these things, use them in discussions about male sexuality, and therein place men in double-bind while at the same time claiming they are the only ones trying to address the issue.

    That burns me more than anything. They will say those things, run off people who want to work with them, and then thrown their hands up in the air complaining that they are the only ones trying to do something about it. This is one of my biggest beefs with feminists. They actively ignore any positive efforts that are not under the banner of feminism then cry that no one else is doing anything.

  3. When feminists say they’re “pro-sex”, they only mean half the population.

    It’s very obvious that these people cannot handle responsibility or admit wrongdoing. I’ve come to see it as a comical mental disability that they have carefully nutured.

  4. Richard Jeffrey Newman is sloppily conflating sexes with ideologies- women have been saying the same negative things about male heterosexuality as men long before feminism came on the scene. More importantly, though, it’s curious how he says:

    “And before you tell me that I should look at the ways in which feminist discourse has, society-wide, devalued male heterosexuality, I would point out to you that there isn’t a single negative thing that feminists have to say about male heterosexuality that men themselves have not been saying for a very, very, very long time. ”

    as if this were a defense of feminism and not a damning criticism. The nature of male sexuality is an enormously important subject if you’re building a theory of the way the sexes interact, and especially so if you give male-on-female sexual violence the central role modern feminists tend to. Feminism is ostensibly opposed to traditional norms and assumptions about gender. If traditional norms are oppressive, unjust, cruel, and immoral, “defending” feminist criticism of male sexuality by pointing out that it just repeats traditionalist criticisms of male sexuality- and I think Newman is pretty much correct to say that it does- isn’t an excuse, it’s an indictment. If the problem really is what most feminists say it is, then most feminists are part of the problem.

  5. John: Probably what irritates me the most about feminism is how they’ll ploudly claim they’re all about challenging and overturning old-fashioned notions on gender, and in the next minute grandly present you with a sloppily-repainted version of the same stuff.

    A woman being sexually exploited by a cold, rapacious man is THE central theme of the novel “Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded”, written by Samuel Richardson back in 1740.

    Take the same story, change the names, put “feminism” stickers all over it, and now we’re supposed to “ooh” and “ahh” at how original it is? Puh-LEZE.

  6. Actually, that is not true. While there are plenty examples of societies viewing male sexuality as potentially predatory and violent, feminists are unique in conceptualizing male sexuality as inherently predatory and violent.

    I think you’ll find a pretty strong strain of penis-phobia in Christianity.

    Feminism is basically a secularization of religious attitudes towards male sexuality.

  7. Traditional View: Men’s sexuality is inherently immoral, and there’s nothing anyone can do (it’s the “Old Adam”), so there is no use in complaining.

    Feminist View: Men’s sexuality is immoral because of social conditioning, and men are able to behave better than that, and should do so.

    The possibility that men’s sexuality is in and of itself neutral and can be very positive as well as very negative seemingly occurs to neither.

    Yeah, I dislike wide parts of feminism because they *still* cling to outdated gender stereotypes – they are just too patriarchal for me.

  8. watson, I’ve said it before:

    The radical feminist/conservative viewpoints are that men are irredeemably bad so they ought to be punished for it.

    The moderate feminist view is that men are redeemably bad, so men ought to go sit in the corner and not come-out until they’ve groveled in apology for a few thousand years.

    Given the array of thought on the matter, I figure it’s more worthwhile to actually DO something which warrants punishment so you can at least deserve the inevitable scorn.

  9. The moderate feminist view is that men are redeemably bad, so men ought to go sit in the corner and not come-out until they’ve groveled in apology for a few thousand years.

    Very true. Feminists claim a unique access to moral authority, which is why they react poorly when you suggest that men can figure out the right thing to do without feminism, or even without women. Hugo has totally submerged his Christianity in Feminism – he looks to Feminism, not Jesus, for redemption of his prior sins. . He wants to be the feminist St. Paul.

  10. I think you’ll find a pretty strong strain of penis-phobia in Christianity.

    That is true, but it was not the only of male sexuality. It was explicitly tied to sex, and mostly a rebellion against Roman practices and later the native practices of various European tribes. It was also tied to the Fall of Man, and was equally applied to women. So even though Christianity does have a negative attitude towards male sexuality, that attitude stems exclusively from the Christian notion that sexuality itself is bad. With feminism the attitude is that male sexuality and only male sexuality is bad. It is tangentially linked to the concept of social conditioning, but as one sees in feminist discussions about male sexuality, even when men openly fight such conditioning or were not raised to engage in it they are still treated as if they were conditioned.

  11. “as if this were a defense of feminism and not a damning criticism. ”
    Bingo, John.

    STF, you might want to point is kind of thing out the next time Hugo cautions you about being anti-feminist at his place. What an unserious and anti-intellectual stance to take BTW. He obviously spent too much time with the Mennonites; they turned him into a rabbit-hole Christian and it has beld over into his feminism.

  12. Jim,

    Yes, but RJN’s prose stands without comment as a walking sign-board advertisement for anti-feminism. I wouldn’t want to get in the way of his making clear and compelling arguments like this:

    To feel desire is not to feel entitled; to give that desire the form of a wolf-whistle is to express that desire in an entitled way, is to express and enact entitlement. To set the wolf-whistle aside simply because it no longer works without looking critically at the ideology of the wolf-whistle is to avoid dealing with the sense of entitlement that makes the wolf-whistle what it is; and that sense of entitlement is not the fact of desiring sex; it is the fact of assuming that it is one’s right–in the sense that the world is obliged to provide what one needs, in this case the bodies of women–to have that desire satisfied.

    if there’s ever been a better, more pretentious example of postmodern, MLA, feminist gobbldygook I’ve never read it.

  13. TS: It’s the presumption of male guilt, perhaps feminism’s most important framing mechanism.

    A presumption of male guilt is, in my opinion, the most striking commonality to the entire body of feminist outpourings. Their morbid fixation on male wrongdoing (and constant attempts to exculpate female wrongdoers) are all about reaffirming what they already hold to be true. Men entering feminist spaces are expected to work hard to prove themselves innocent and male feminists accept this as a price of admission, as you have noted elsewhere.

    The presumption of male guilt is also what makes the protestations of “but feminists don’t hate men!” so disingenuous.

    Sorry, sweetie-cakes. If you think that men, as a group, ought to work hard to clean-away the prejudice you spray on them from the get-go, then you probably deserve to be called a hater.

  14. @ Toysoldier:

    So even though Christianity does have a negative attitude towards male sexuality, that attitude stems exclusively from the Christian notion that sexuality itself is bad.

    Saint Augustine, by all measures not an insignificant figure in the church, was pretty succinct about penises being ‘demon rods’ and tools of the devil.

  15. Saint Augustine, by all measures not an insignificant figure in the church, was pretty succinct about penises being ‘demon rods’ and tools of the devil.

    Yes, I had the pleasure of reading that in high school.

  16. Saint Augustine, by all measures not an insignificant figure in the church, was pretty succinct about penises being ‘demon rods’ and tools of the devil.

    That makes them sound way cooler than they really are …

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