Friday, October 06, 2006

"Sexual Violence and American Manhood" the title of a recent library check-out, which i was motivated to crack open and start citing by a recent thread at Punkass Blog ("Rape spam leads to secret patriarchy handbook") gist of the original thread: "rape porn" on the Internets found, discovered, considered horrifying by most folks. some taking it a bit more literally than others, it would seem. This was part of my own attempt to maybe dig a bit deeper than "oh my god, that's just awful." The book's probably worth a more in-depth fisking, so: reposting here, perhaps will continue in later posts.

“A company of sociologists and psychologists–including Gary Brooks, Ronald Levant, David Lisak, Joseph Pleck, and William Pollack–analyze manhood as a socially conditioned role that possess built-in liabilities. Their work has shown that the traditional male role is traumatic for boys entering the process of socialization and entails humiliation and perplexity throughout a man’s life.

Boy babies, it turns out, are more emotionally expressive than girls; they show delight and irritation more readily, and they cry more. But boys are trained through systematic shaming and rebuffs to bottle up their distresses and joys, and by the age of six they are far more inhibited than their more emotionally confident sisters. The early attack on the emotional vitality of boys bequeaths a familiar set of troubles. Adult men find their intimate relationships blighted by emotional dilemmas they can scarcely discern in themselves. Afflicted by a craving for emotional comfort that is crosscut by resentment, they demand compensation in the here and now for the traumas of boyhood. (Levant, “Nonrelational,” 16,21)”


So to answer this comment at the original thread:

So how did nookie, beer, and flattery come to be considered “birthrights” in the first place? Did that happen by chance, or was it magic? Why do men who don’t feel oppressed feel entitled to women’s attention just as well? Your point that thwarted entitlement leads to feelings of powerlessness is well-taken, but where did that entitlement come from in the first place?
[--junk science]

...“here and now” includes beer, babes, trampolines, and whatever else the culture wants to market, to market. On the whole we’re pretty good at selling “instant gratification;” and I don’t have to reiterate here how the male-directed marketing is influenced by sexism, misogyny, and alienation all toxically wrapped up with, yes, a sense of entitlement. (A good sociological-type example to flash back on: that stupid Burger King commercial “I Am Man” from not long ago. yep, lame, mocking the feminist movement, insulting to pretty much everyone…and at the end of the day it’s also just one damn more example of how “Have It Your Way” has been substituted in a lot of peoples’ minds for “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” without much fanfare or conscious registering of the bait and switch).

Herbert continues:

“The classic pattern of traditional manhood demands an impossible performance of self-reliance and self-command. Men test their manly mettle against other men, in which there are always more losers than winners; and even winners are subject to the uncontrollable mischances of living. American men are not exempted from the the tragic limitations and vulnerabilities of human experience generally, yet the code of masculine toughness requires denying their reality. It is impossible to maintain stoic compsure–to “take it like a man”–when distress is overwhelming, so that a compulsively self-reliant man refuses to believe that overwhelming distress can ever befall him. He cannot afford to acknowledge what everyman suffers: the contingencies of his economic fate, his need for intimate companionship, his exposure to illness, to emotional tumult, to accident and misfortunre. However strenuously banished from consciousness, these realities continue to exert pressure onhis psychic life.

…Sexual desire is among the subversive experiences that disconcert masculine self-command and thus menace masculine self-respect. Sexual yearnings place a man at another person’s disposal, subject to that person’s impulses and decisions. Michael Warner has noted that gay men become targets of phobic hatred not only because they desire other men but because they *desire*; same-sex preference calls attention to a disquieting fact, namely that they are sexual men. The politics of sexual shame trap heterosexual men as well, especially if their lives suggest a sexuality not wholly under voluntary command. (”Trouble,” 17-40)…Sexual intercourse also poses the prospect of interpersonal closeness, which…men perceive as a danger to their autonomy.

Students of contemporary masculinity have noted the prevalence of a “nonrelational” sexuality in which sexual intimacy is divorced from emotional intimacy. The “centerfold syndrome” is an example of this: men caught up in a persistent fantasy life that feeds on images of women with whom they will never exchange a word, while they feel sexually awkward with actual women who love them. Traditional manhood encourages men to be aggressive, moreover, and to funnel emotions of vulnerability and neediness into anger, and this syndrome can generate a sexuality in which coercion is routine (Brooks, “Centerfold,” Levant, “Nonrelational.”) Gary Brooks and L.. Silverstein argue that the “dark side of masculinity–including violence against women in the family, rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment in the workplace–is not a problem of aberrant men who have somehow failed to fulfill the conventional role. On the contrary, such pathologies represent hypermasculinity, the accentuation of traits entailed by manhood as traditionally defined.”


[In other words: not news to most people here, I expect, that last bit; and yet, slightly different framing.


”The dominant American tradition of manhood visualizes a lone figure against a vast horizon, on horseback in the Wild West version [hello, Brokeback Mountain, anyone?], a myth that denies the interactive dramas that make us who we are and sustain us in the selfhoods by which we know each other and ourselves.

Groups in power take roles that require the disempowered to assume…subordinate postures that acknowledge and bolster the position of their superiors.
**Yet the powerful are also required to sustain the existence that their place demands** [emphasis mine]. “Why can’t they live like white people?” a racist white woman once asked me about her white next-door neighbors, whose house and yard were unkempt. Men face similar imperatives to “be a man,” behind which lies a gender bigotry enforced against women [and gay folk, and other “deviants”].

…Pornographic fascination is not provoked exclusively by images in movies and magazines; it is widely accepted as a romantic ideal, and it gives form to living relationships. Code manhood produces pornographic marriages, Terrence Real notes, in which the woman’s compliance–whether voluntary or coerced–performs the man’s need…

[again, this bit: not news]

…Men who chronically batter and rape their wives further illustrate the syndrome in which men project the maladies of their own manhood into women. An abused wife is most acutely at risk when she seeks to terminate her relationship with the abuser, because this awakens the man’s deep-lying dread of abandonment. But, as Donald Dutton asserts, “the men need never frame the abandonment in terms of needing the woman and depending on her emotional support.” In order to preserve the illusion of their masculine self-sufficiency, such men **project their self-loathing onto their mates** [emphasis mine]. Dutton describes the resultant diatribe as “playing the bitch tape,” which invariably contains the same four words: bitch, cunt, whore, slut. The man’s stereotyped but unconscious self-hatred sets this tape running in his head, and it then comes to consciousness as a torrent of abuse aimed at his spouse. Unaware of his dependency on her because he is ashamed of it, and unaware of hating himself for his neediness, the man projects on her the “bitch, cunt, whore, slut” that he feels himself to be. Like Captain Ahab in his demoniac hatred of the white whale, the abusive husband believes that his hateful inner womanhood is visibly embodied and made tangibly assailable in his wife.”

–”Sexual Violence and American Manhood,” T. Walter Herbert


JackGoff said...

Well, I did feel a sort of revulsion at the rape porn and didn't attempt to go beyond discussing the gross-out factor because of my own ignorance. That's why I love reading multiple feminist blogs (enlightenment comes slowly but is well worth it). I like that you brought actual analysis to the debate, and the straw-belledame arguments by Benita et al were stupidly put. I often find myself at a loss in these arguments and rarely interject because I will not make a good argument whatsoever. Sigh.

Guys are, in my opinion, are too prone to society's machinations against women simply because it makes them less apt to feel bad about their own situation. We are constantly told "not to be women"; to be "real men"; to strive harder and make society conform toour wishes, when we should be exhorted to humanity, a much different system of understanding of the world. Anyway, good post!

belledame222 said...

thanks, JG.

I don't actually mind people not having any reaction beyond "my god, that's awful." What I minded there were the people going "my god, that's awful, and if you say anything else you're a rape apologist and/or not as sophisticated as us in our EXAMINATION hooha."

>Guys are, in my opinion, are too prone to society's machinations against women simply because it makes them less apt to feel bad about their own situation. We are constantly told "not to be women"; to be "real men"; to strive harder and make society conform toour wishes, when we should be exhorted to humanity, a much different system of understanding of the world.>

Yea, pretty much where I was going with alla that. nicely succinct.

Renegade Evolution said...

interesting stuff, BD. Mr. Evolution was a frat-rat back in his day, and would certainly agree that men are programmed, via their own manly ways and manly systems of shame and ritual, to be assholes.

Unsane said...

Thank you - a very good analysis.

I think we need a different way of conceptualising strength. If we continue to see strength as a desensitising process, then will lose what is left of our collective humanity. Strength can be the ability to face the truth, it can be the ability to combat styles of thinking which lead to impoverishment and dehumanisation, and so on. In only rare instances does strength naturally equal an ability not to feel.

fastlad said...

lots to discuss here, koff.

re: Brokeback. what makes it especially unsettling (and more than once I have witnessed some young men physically fold over when they see it on the DVD shelves) is that it employs the sanctified tropes of the western frontier and simultaneously unmasks them for what they ARE: the stoic male, his horse, and them rolling hills - a man living in nature but unable to live with (or give expression to) his own nature; crossing frontiers but unable to etc etc.

a lonely, self-immolating husk that wants but significantly never can connect with another living being. remember how the wingnuts called the film “the rape of the Marlboro man”? (hello).

what Brokeback really did was hold a mirror up to a million faces.

no wonder so many men can't bear to look at the reflection.

Mandos said...

Did you see the giant flamewar that ensued on Pandagon about this sort of thing? The Worm Can post.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
belledame222 said...

well, i lied. went over there to check out the Biting Beaver post and ended up reading that thing after all. yeah, delphyne, now, too, bless her. and yeah, i threw in my two cents at the end, seeing as how i just love the constant fucking misrepresentation. not that i would expect any better, all things considered, but: yeah, whatthefuckever. i knew better than to even bother and i fucking did it anyway. so, mandos, you got your nut; i hope you enjoy it. because, you know, i'm really not, right now: somebody ought to.

Mandos said...

I knew you couldn't withstand temptation. I can't either, but for some reason I'm just not exciting enough to be flamed by big blogs.

belledame222 said...

Try going in there and telling Amanda to suck your tampon (along with everyone else); i assume that's what elevated me to that honored status.

Anonymous said...

Evidence abounds that mankind is coming face to face with himself, and his utter disregard of human and animal survial, his failure in ecological conservation, etc. that extends not just to animals, and global resources, but also to humans.

In his predatory attitudes, humans are not exempt - male or female - and the extent to which they prey upon each other is symbolic of his respect for humanity, as well as his dignity.

To tolerate the predatory human is as irresponsible as tolerating the predatory animal, or organization in the disruption and destruction of the world.

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