Machismo in drag.

Hanna Rosin, (more recently known for The End of Men), did a book review a few years back.  Her lead-in was as follows:

A 19-year-old virgin walks into a bar. He’s got his lucky cross in his pocket and his best jersey on. Please God, he says to himself, let this be the night. He spies a girl sitting at a table—blonde, wholesome-looking, just his type. He sidles up closer to the girl, who is chatting with some friends. Over the din, he can make out snippets of her conversation: at Bible study the other nightPastor Ted sayssaving it for marriage. Discouraged, he walks away in search of a more promising target.

Did he make the correct decision? Or did he make a hasty judgment and miss a chance for a possible love connection? The answer to such a question can be found in Forbidden Fruit:  Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers by Mark Regnerus, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. The book is a serious work of sociology based on several comprehensive surveys of young adults, coupled with in-depth interviews. But it could also double as a guide for teenage boys on the prowl (who’s easier, a Catholic girl or a Jew?)…

I find it sad when 19-year-old men are spoken of as being on the prowl and in search of a promising target.  It isn’t that I discount the very real biological underpinnings of sexual behavior; I can spout the basic tenets of evolutionary biology just as well as the next guy.  Sure, young men have “evolved” to seek out sexual variety.  But so what?  I think I speak for more than myself when I say that on the prowl is not how a lot of young men actually feel when they are seeking out women with whom to explore their sexuality, and it’s profoundly alienating for a lot of young men when on the prowl is the major cultural model they have for their own sexuality.  And what’s all the more insidious is that the predatory model of male sexuality is often reinforced and promoted, as Hanna Rosen did, in a humorous tone of voice that seems to say we love our men anyway.  Thus the predatory model is reinforced in a voice that implies acceptance and understanding of men’s foibles, but the message itself is actually very alienating for many young men.

Which brings me back to Bob, of the Vagina Monologues vignette Because He Liked to Look At It.  Bob is supposed to be a “good man” in this story.  (I was encouraged when one of my commenters saw through this canard and stated bluntly that “Bob sounds like an asshole.”)  Now, whether Bob is in fact an asshole or a just a good man who happens to be a little pushy is something I don’t know from reading the short vignette.  But what’s troubling about the story is that it’s essentially a re-telling of the most hackneyed and stereotypical re-enactment of rigid sex roles that I could possibly imagine.  Bob is in control.  Bob has it handled.  Bob knows what he’s doing.  Consent?  That’s for the little men.  Bob doesn’t need to ask because he just gets it.  And what about the narrator?  She’s flighty.  Doesn’t communicate directly.  Can’t stand to look at her own body.  She’s neurotic.  (Read, human.)  The narrator is allowed to be scared, to freak out, and to have weaknesses, and still have amazing sex.  Bob, on the other hand, seems to take advice from the following:

She will rain and thunder all around you and you will shelter her until her storm passes. She will not drag you into her chaos or uproot you. When you have mastery over yourself, you will have mastery over her.

The Sixteen Commandments of Poon (XV), by Pick Up Artist “Roissy” in Citizen Renegade

I suspect that fans of The Vagina Monologues would find Roissy’s Citizen Renegade website somewhat less than charming, and I would tend to agree.  Yet all too often the feminist model for the “good man” promotes nothing more than – pardon the unfortunate metaphor – machismo in drag.

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21 Responses to Machismo in drag.

  1. Darque says:

    The idea of a “good man” by virtue of simple linguistic association seems to imply that there are two categories of men: the “good man” and simply “the man”. If the good man is good, does that make every other man bad?

    It kind of reminds me of people throwing around the term “good negro” in the past. As if there is nothing inherently good to start about men, and he only rises above his inherent “badness” by adhering to the tenants set forth for a “good man”. That is why I suppose I will never associate myself with a “good man” ‘s group. There is nothing shameful about who I am, and anyone else who disagrees can go to hell.

    Maybe I’m just being too sensitive. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of other men felt the same way about that term.

  2. Cindy says:

    Feminists don’t have a model for what a good man is. Everyone – feminists included – have their own idea of what a good man is. Not all feminists share a brain.

    Also, I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at? Are you saying that a “good man” to feminists is just a very masculine man parading around as a woman?

  3. Lynet says:

    🙂

    Oh, that’s what you were getting at.

    Yep, occasionally feminists get caught in sexist patterns just like everyone else. I’m acutely aware of this, what with having gone through a period when I thought that women who were openly sexual in a ‘slutty’ way were kind of air-headed. I’d never have used the word ‘slut’, but I looked at that sort of behavior and thought ‘how silly’ in my head, and ‘air-head’ is what that meant. I was explicitly feminist in my own mind, but I had this pattern of thought that I had forgotten to question.

    By all means call us on it when you see that shit. This post, in particular, is one heck of an insightful critique; thanks.

  4. Lynet says:

    I think what he’s saying is that the feminist idea of a ‘good man’ (or, at least, the idea promoted by some feminists of what a ‘good man’ would do, because, you know, feminists disagree on stuff, especially when there is sex involved!) often fails to go far enough in questioning assumptions about masculinity. Rather than going ahead and accepting that the stereotype of men always wanting sex, always knowing what to do in bed, and never backing down, is completely false, they merely take the false social construct of ‘man’ and dress it up in ways that they think would be nicer for women.

    Hey, I’m sure it happens. Even feminists can forget to question their gender assumptions. That stuff is deeply rooted.

  5. darkdaughta says:

    I think she’s trying to say that utilizing archaic models of the hunt as stand in for sexual relationship building with wimmin who have collectively gone through three (in north amerikkka) and maybe more or less waves of woman centred bursts of knowledge and power just doesn’t cut it. They, men who are interested in sleeping with wimmin, who function individually but also as a collective in north amerikkka and around the planet, need to find a way of getting their groove on that incorporates a new, augmented, layered, evolved understanding of wimmin or else they will continue to be seen as less than by those of us who are fully conscientized, who have developed our perceptions and criteria. I love run-on sentences. They’re so much fun. 🙂

  6. John E. says:

    It isn’t that I discount the very real biological underpinnings of sexual behavior; I can spout the basic tenets of evolutionary biology just as well as the next guy. Sure, young men have “evolved” to seek out sexual variety. But so what?

    Well, living in ones frontal lobes is all well and good, but sometimes it’s fun to muck around in the limbic system for a while.

  7. Jim says:

    “they will continue to be seen as less than by those of us who are fully conscientized,”

    Translation: You will retain the “right” to objectify and judge them who have developed our perceptions and criteria.

    “I love run-on sentences. They’re so much fun.”

    You also clearly love narcissistic objectification. These are human beings, with real lives. They are not fodder for your self-serving ideological masturbation.

  8. Jim says:

    “Yet all too often the feminist model for the “good man” promotes nothing more than – pardon the unfortunate metaphor – machismo in drag. ”

    It’s a very good way to have your cake and eat it too. You get someone else to make all the moves, take all the risks of rejection, with you siting back in judgement. If you settle onto one of these guys socialized this way, you have someone who you can expect to provde for you and protect you, and if he fails, you get to flay him for not being “a real man”.

    What’s not to love with this model?

  9. Danny says:

    I think I speak for more than myself when I say that on the prowl is not how a lot of young men actually feel when they are seeking out women with whom to explore their sexuality, and it’s profoundly alienating for a lot of young men when on the prowl is the major cultural model they have for their own sexuality.
    And it doesn’t help that despite what you say here male sexuality is still somehow seen as having the upside in comparison to female sexuality. I refuse to get into ‘which has it worse’ but more of ‘is male sexuality as free and unburdened as people like to think it is?’.

  10. John E. says:

    Mine is…

  11. P John Irons says:

    Jim’s harsh reply must have caught you by surprise. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the best when you say that men need to find “their own way” towards… something and assume that you are unaware how sexist your comment is.

    Firstly, you assume this as all about men who “are interested in sleeping with wimmin”. Yet the majority of men are very much aware that the problems and experiences of men who want to initiate long-term relationships are structurally very much the same as the problems that face men looking for a partner for short term sex: in both cases men still very much need to play the initiator role, since women by and large have still failed to share that responsibility.

    It is not that I want to claim that there is anything wrong with seeking short-term sex. Rather, by framing discussions like this in that way, it erases the lived experience of a huge proportion of men by focussing only on a subgroup, as well as giving a huge proportion of women who are not into short term sexual encounters to think that they are also co-responsible for this dynamic; when in fact they are.

    So far this is not the sexist part of your post; it merely illustrates how blissfully unawares feminists can be of huge swathes of the gender landscape, due to their female-centric starting points.

    But on top of this shaky foundation you build layers of self-congratulation.

    The issue is that men need to gain an “layered, evolved understanding of wimmin”. And what about women’s resposibility to gain a layered, evolved understanding of men?

    Or do you assume that women already have that? But you describe “north amerikkkan” women as being the heirs of three “woman centred bursts of knowledge”. Either purely women centred knowledge leads to severe bias; or maybe you believe that these burst of knowledge lead to an evolved understanding of men because there is nothing to men that needs understanding in the first place? That would be rank sexism.

    And yet, in your eyes, women are “fully conscientized” and “have developed our perceptions and criteria”.

    I see all of this as an illustration of the fact that feminism, by virtue of its female-concerned origins and constituency, can never become a totally equitable gender theory; therefore those who steep themselves in it run the risk of becoming more and more sexist and biased in their outlook. It is not the fact of looking at the world from the standpoint of womens’ concerns that is sexist; it is the act of claiming that such looking gives the complete picture.

  12. Hey, Jim. Following up someone’s comment with “You also clearly love narcissistic objectification” doesn’t promote thoughtful discussion. Don’t be hostile toward other commenters, please.

  13. Jim says:

    Mine is, but only because I’m gay. Thank God for bath houses. God help the rest of you.

  14. Jim says:

    “Don’t be hostile toward other commenters, please.”

    Point taken. But we’re all adults here.

    Objectification, per Barbara Nussbaum:
    Instrumentality – if the thing is treated as a tool for one’s own purposes;
    Denial of autonomy – if the thing is treated as if lacking in agency or self-determination;
    Inertness – if the thing is treated as if lacking in agency;
    Ownership – if the thing is treated as if owned by another;
    Fungibility – if the thing is treated as if interchangeable;
    Violability – if the thing is treated as if permissible to damage or destroy;
    denial of subjectivity – if the thing is treated as if there is no need to show concern for the ‘object’s’ feelings and experiences.

    That post hit fungibility, violability and denial of subjectivity. And it did it in a way that required denial of autonomy and imputation of inertness, in other words a thorough-going lack of empthy, which is typical of narcissists. Thus: “You also clearly love narcissistic objectification. “

  15. johnedens says:

    In those situations I just say, “Thanks for sharing…” and move on to another subject…like advice for Miguel on getting laid…

    So I think he’s established that he isn’t comfortable with the traditional man-as-predator model.

    From the Vagina Monologue posts, I think he’s making the claim that feminists, for all that they claim that the ‘enlightened, sensitive male’ paradigm is what they expect in a male, don’t really prefer that model, but instead react favorably to a confident male who is willing to push their boundaries.

    Arguing against that claim are posts from Lynet and Brett K suggesting that a sensitive approach might actually be preferable to some sub-set of the female population.

    This suggests to me that, assuming Miguel isn’t going to change his approach, he might do well to specifically direct his attention to that sub-set of the female population that would welcome a man with his qualities.

    Perhaps putting a personal ad in a pro-feminist or feminist publication might work, or an ad in an urban large circulation alternative weekly type of publication.

    “Non-traditional, pro-feminist male seeking romantic relationship with female who will appreciate his non-aggressive, non-threatening approach. I promise to respect all your boundaries.”

    Worth a try?

  16. Hugh Ristik says:

    Yet all too often the feminist model for the “good man” promotes nothing more than – pardon the unfortunate metaphor – machismo in drag.

    I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon.

    From Thomas at Yes Means Yes:

    If two people lean in to kiss each other at the same time and stick their tongues in each other’s mouths, I think we can be pretty clear on consent.

    Yet for a man to lean forward into a woman’s face and stick his tongue in her mouth, takes a certain amount of confidence… especially if he’s been told how important “explicit verbal consent” is, and how predatory and harmful his sexuality is. It’s still the case even if she is leaning in herself.

    Mutually initiating a kiss through body language is not a basic social skill for an introverted young man. It is an intermediate/advanced social skill. Many of the sexual behaviors that feminists advocate for men are actually intermediate or advanced, and ironically, it’s the macho and socially-skilled men who are best-positioned to pull them off.

  17. humbition says:

    Wait a minute Hugh. Although I don’t always see eye to eye with Thomas, his meaning here is, I think, almost the opposite of what you are saying. What he is trying to make clear is that sexual consent is not limited to “explicit verbal consent.”

    This is an extremely important point for someone with his general views on consent to have to make. Otherwise consent will be defined in a way far out of the mainstream (and particularly far out of mainstream practice).

    But he is hardly recommending “leaning in for a kiss” as against “explicit verbal consent.” There may be a mainstream preference there (one which I think is, anthropologically, interesting), but I’m pretty sure it isn’t Thomas’s!

    As for whether one or the other is more of an advanced social skill. Obviously you are right about your own background. Historically I am not sure that “explicit verbal consent” existed very strongly (or at all) as a concept before circa 1990. This means that I never had to deal with it in a dating circumstance (since I’m still in the same relationship I was in then).

    Sam seems to argue, for example, that “consent is sexy” (meaning, I suspect, the explicit verbal variety) is the more advanced social skill, since one has to communicate passion and confidence at the same time, while the practice of question-asking would seem to make it easy for one’s own insecurity and self-doubt to leak through. I think however you are right that internalized negative messages about one’s own sexual (and even personal) value are most of what make these things difficult. Once these are overcome, and with a little practice, I doubt that one practice is necessarily “more advanced” than the other.

  18. Jim says:

    “Historically I am not sure that “explicit verbal consent” existed very strongly (or at all) as a concept before circa 1990. ”

    Well, yeah it did. The formula was “I do” and it was considered permanent and unrestricted. It’s was a f*cked up concept of consent, but it did certainly exist.

  19. Hugh Ristik says:

    humbition said:

    Wait a minute Hugh. Although I don’t always see eye to eye with Thomas, his meaning here is, I think, almost the opposite of what you are saying. What he is trying to make clear is that sexual consent is not limited to “explicit verbal consent.”

    Yes, and I agree that Thomas’ acknowledgment is important. My point is that the behavior he mentions requires confidence, especially due to other aspects of his ethical framework.

    Historically I am not sure that “explicit verbal consent” existed very strongly (or at all) as a concept before circa 1990.

    Interesting. Do you think people had lots of misunderstandings over consent pre-1990? Or did people run around constantly sexually assaulting each other until “explicit verbal enthusiastic consent” swooped in to save the day?

    I think however you are right that internalized negative messages about one’s own sexual (and even personal) value are most of what make these things difficult. Once these are overcome, and with a little practice, I doubt that one practice is necessarily “more advanced” than the other.

    You’re probably right.

  20. humbition says:

    @Do I think people had lots of misunderstandings, or “run around constantly sexually assaulting each other,” etc., prior to 1990?

    The date is more or less based on Antioch College’s policy, because the philosophical work that I think it is based on, Lois Pineau’s concept of communicative sexuality, is not according to my reading of it quite as literal as its implementation.

    Most people didn’t then, and (I think) don’t now, live according to literal Antioch rules, and yet, most people didn’t then, and don’t now, rape each other, or sexually assault each other — even if these things are understood according to, say, Swedish law.

    Whether the adoption of such literal rules in colleges has lowered the rate of any of these things would be hard to study, not least because such rules are (aside from Antioch itself) mostly implemented to save colleges from lawsuits, a goal which is otherwise pursued by sweeping actual sexual assaults under the administrative rug. And such literal rules have not been adopted by any jurisdiction outside of colleges that I know of, not even by Sweden.

    Susie Bright had some rather strong things to say about Antioch’s policy when it was first implemented, not positive ones. But, if I were to encounter a community where people actually did live by them, full time, and not merely espouse them verbally — I think I would find it rather sweet. Not strictly speaking necessary — but sweet. And not necessarily unsexy, depending on how it was done.

    However I have some difficulties with the ideas about human communication which some people teach, in support of these rules. These are empirical, philosophical, and epistemological matters which run rather deep. Ethically I am in sympathy; epistemologically, that depends.

    Of course, people can get themselves in situations where there is situational doubt, based on ambiguity or ambivalence; and then they’d better talk. But the situation Thomas mentions is one where there really is not situational doubt. Forcing oneself to doubt in all situations, as a matter of principle, would be to my mind the same thing as forcing oneself never to be confident, as a matter of principle. And if even Thomas is not asking that, then we should take some notice.

  21. P John Irons says:

    Once these are overcome, and with a little practice, I doubt that one practice is necessarily “more advanced” than the other.

    Isn’t this a bit like saying “once one has already overcome all the hurdles that separate the advanced from the easier, then the advanced seems to be easy”?

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