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Masculinity Without the Abuse of Women

November 12, 2017

via change without force….


The spike in charges by women against men over the past few years regarding alleged sexual improprieties and acts of aggression doesn’t suggest any discovery of new information, but does indicate that more women are finding that they are being listened to more, which in turn encourages others to come forward.

The only downside might be that, thus far, the process has been like the sound of one hand clapping. To generate anything of substance, this needs to be a two handed effort. The time-worn women in white hats, men in black theme may inject energy and drama into the issue, but real substantive change will require something new and different if we hope to do more than just wrestle over power and control. It’s time to move on from the “who did what to whom?” question and work on “So, what do people want, and what steps need to be taken in order to realize those goals?”

Any such goals should be realistic rather than be rigidly tied to idealism driven by social and political forces. That is not to say that ideals shouldn’t guide us, just that they should not dictate the details.

Human beings, like other animals, have an innate nature that is followed whether they are behaving in positive, constructive ways or are being negative and destructive, and everywhere in between. Sometimes, both qualities are expressed simultaneously. Therein may be the challenge: to figure out how to minimize or redirect behaviors and attitudes that threaten to be negative, destructive, or self-contradictory, while favoring and fostering those that are positive and are likely to help the society achieve its goals.

Certain adversarial aspects of the male-female relationship are as old as humanity itself and are rooted in the human nature referred to above. As with all life forms, we are subject to two primary drives: to survive, and to reproduce. Our generally competitive nature is an expression of both, as is our history of violence and conquest that I refer to as the perpetual game of King of the Mountain. The underlying drives may be unlikely to change, and perhaps that is as it should be, but associated behaviors can be changed, and progress has been made over the civilized millennia, as is demonstrated by the evolution of sports as a partial substitute for warfare and other competitive acts of violence.

With the current focus on the historical prevalence of men perpetrating different kinds of sexual aggression and violence against women, I think we need to be cautious not to set our sights on changing those underlying drives, and instead focus on the behavioral responses to them. More realistic, achievable goals should address the ways those drives are specifically manifested in men and in women, and in human beings as a species.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead discovered certain matrilineal cultures among the South Pacific islanders, and some pre-Norman Conquest British societies were said to have had matrilineal systems of succession, but most societies around the globe have been patrilineal. Whether such relationships are desirable within the existing cultures or whether changes will occur will become evident, but changes or the creation of new adaptations will develop through a deeper understanding of ourselves and momentum, not the application of force.

Our cultures have traditionally groomed boys to assume certain roles just as they have groomed girls to assume paths of their own. Those roles weren’t dictated, they developed by way of several influences, including biology, adaptation to circumstances, King of the Mountain, and more. Those roles can change, of course, and most likely will over time, but attempting to effect such changes by force would be self-defeating.

It would be helpful to look at the challenges to be faced by males if they are to foster younger generations that retain the positive aspects of their masculinity, yet are not defined by abuse and dominance over women. We would presently hope for future women to retain their femininity without being sexualized in ways that set them up to be predated upon. The idea is not to do away with sexuality, but to try to develop cultural mores around it that are mutually acceptable and fulfilling for both genders

How does one raise a boy to do the things boys do, develop a positive, nonviolent sense of his sexuality while discouraging a disrespectful or exploitative understanding of women and how he should relate to them?

How does one raise a girl to enjoy the activities of her gender-peers, develop a positive, non-submissive knowledge of her self as a person, with a fulfilling sense of her sexuality, and healthy expectations for herself and any mate or mates with whom she establishes a relationship?

We need to discover what the modern male and modern female desires, need, and expects from different kinds of relationships with members of the opposite sex. Men and women need to think about these things and to come up with new, previously unasked questions that can help them begin the process of creating a culture wherein the concepts of rank, power, and value depend upon factors such as ability and achievement rather than simply as a function of biological gender.

Western cultures currently appear to be experimenting with how we view men and women, maleness and femininity. The processes involved and the eventual outcomes may or may not gibe with the current generations of political correctness, but the undertaking will have to look at prevailing historical gender idealizations, understand the genesis and function of those presentations, and make changes where mutually desirable and possible.

This kind of culture would have the potential for a version of “equality” I think people, especially women, have been seeking. We have been attempting to establish concepts of equity by force, and it seems we have not yet recognized that to be a self-defeating process. If humanity is to successfully create new cultural mores, we must facilitate their evolution, not just try to enforce a prescriptive idea of how things should be according to some committee or temporary political majority.

I think we should try.

 

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