A Thought Adventure

Sunday, February 28, 2016

39. The Libido

We all know and accept, I think, that our sexual drive is a constant presence in life representing a primal urge to live on every possible level. That the libido plays a part in all we do including problem-solving and constructive thinking, providing the kindling on the fire that makes successful business deals, legislative bills and peace accords. I also think we know that children are sexual beings already as babies and that, to ensure their sexual and psychological maturity, we must respect their auto-erotic needs.

That's why I call the taboo patriarchy imposes on free and unconstrained sexual activity one of the worst crimes committed against humanity. The repercussions on society of polluting this fountain of simple and easily available joy are so manifold that it's hard to take stock of them. But maybe the most seminal effect is the difficulty the sexes 

have to form whole and satisfying relationships with each other.

I have suggested that men have a twofold fear of woman--in her capacity as both
authority figure and sexual being, And I have described the universal phenomenon of misogyny as born of a hostility to the entire female sex that this fear had fomented in men; a hostility so momentous as to corrupt men's natural instincts. I'll  now take a look at male sexuality

Male sex
So far there hasn't been much public discussion about male sexuality. Because it's relatively easy for a man to release his sperm, it's been taken for granted that this also gives him an orgasm. But research shows--and many men know--that there is indeed a difference between orgasm and evacuation of sperm. Men can release sperm without experiencing any lust or very little (and sometimes feeling flat-out displeasure). They can also have non-ejaculatory orgasms, which are less intense and pleasurable but which can be quite enjoyable for older men, according to Shakti Amarantha in her article Ejaculation vs Orgasm. What's the difference? (Thought Catalog). "Orgasm," she writes, "happens in the brain, ejaculation in prostate and urethra. In brain scans, orgasms look like an epileptic fit--an electric storm that sweeps over the brain," 

Although a good amount of research has been done on male orgasm since Kinsey's first studies in the 1950's, "there is still much we don't know or understand," writes men's health expert Jerry Kennard in about.com/abouthealthMore is known about female orgasm than male. 

In his article in Den manliga Orgasmen, ed. Tor Nörrestrander, the Danish physician and sexologist Preben Hertoft says that being able to have an orgasm has got nothing to do
with technique or finding new stimulation. It has only to do with a man's personality, in particular his ability to enjoy intimacyBecause being able to experience intense pleasure at the release of sperm is a matter of feeling secure enough to let oneself go and about enjoying the dependence on one's partner without fear of losing control

I've found no statistics on how common the lack of orgasm is in men during sex with women, But some studies indicate it's more frequent than expected. Can the very scarcity of such information be linked to the current pressure on men to 'perform?' So that  the anxiety caused by this pressure may actually prevent them from even taking pleasure

into account when measuring the degree of their sexual satisfaction? Is it possible, in other words, that to many men what counts for sex to be successful is not how pleasurable it is but simply that they can do it--and rate as good performers?!

If this is so, it sheds light on fear of intimacy and commitment, a problem common in men (though by no means only in them), Because if we had believed that  the typically male angle on sex--getting laid as fast and as often as possible--sprang from a macho need to dominate womenwe may have to reconsider. And ask instead if it doesn't spring from a wish to avoid women, to flee from dependence and closeness--and in essence from their own need of women? A proof, it seems to me, that the age-old but unacknowledged male fear of womanhood, the creator and foundation of the male inferiority complex, is still alive and kicking.

Sexual attraction
Some people wonder what will become of the sexual attraction once the sexes realize how alike they are. Will open display of men's feminine side and of women's masculine side take away the thrill of the differences, the mystery of the otherness? If, as the French say, the psyche is indeed genderless (l'âme n‘a pas de sexe), isn't the body too? 

I think the effect will be just the opposite. First, once both men and women feel that their 'bisexual' psyche is accepted, the less reason they will have to resent and envy each other. Second, only when they can be wholly themselves, free from old restrictions, will the sexes be able to fully appreciate the real differences between themAnd the real differences are physical. 

Why haven’t we invented more imaginative and refined ways to savor everything that’s delicious about the corporeal presence of the opposite sex? Like how men and women look, sound, smell, dress, move their bodies and handle objects—all the things the French refer to when they exclaim, Vive la différence

Ways other than having sex I mean. Hopping into bed with everybody we are sexually attracted to can be just a bit crude, don't you think, and tiring too, not to speak of impractical? But shouldn't there be alternative modes of enjoying our libido needs, some middle way between infidelity and no sex at all? Because there's no reason we should shut down all sexual feelings except those we have for our spouse or significant other. 

In our modern world where working men and women constantly intermingle and there’s plenty of room for sexual interplay, why not practice more of the old sophisticated art of flirting, the tried and true form of lovemaking that stops short of intercourse? Why not make sexual love also a delicate game to play in the mind--yes, in glances, words and laughter too, but primarily in fantasies and dreams that mesmerize and satiate the soul! 

Of course to allow ourselves to exult in the attraction we feel for others and others feel for us we must first have learned to look at our sexuality without a hint of sin or shame, and to
treat it with respect as  both a source of joy and as our responsibility. It may take long to get there depending on how far behind we are and how much we want it, but get there we will!

Let me now sum up this
g, which has been an outline of my theory of  how the sexist society began and why we still live in one. See next post. 

I welcome feedback and would love for you to leave a comment. You can post a comment below this article or you can click on this article's headline.
For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com 

Friday, February 19, 2016

38. Fatherhood

During the decades we have debated sexual equality few things have amazed me more than that no one has challenged woman's near-monopoly on parenting. If anything is a sign of the sluggish state of our collective consciousness, it's that we don't question the altogether arbitrary idea turned truism that women are better suited than men to care for children. However true it is that only women can bear and nurse babies, where's the proof that after weaning them women are more apt than men to nurture the children and that kids are better off this way?

We could say that for the human species reproduction doesn't stop with birth, since the product, the infant, is so far from ready to function on its own. Bringing children into the world, then, is just the beginning of human parenting; mere prelude to the many years of arduous and unremitting work it takes to prepare them for adulthood in an ever-changing and steadily more complex world. Mom and Dad must not only transmit values and morals (preferably by example) but also encourage the kids to think for themselvesAs distinct from their animal counterparts, human parents have a two-fold task: first helping their young to fit into their cultural environment and then to gradually modify it.

As I see it, when handing men a constricted paternal role (typically one of wage-earner and disciplinarian without much room for emotional closeness to their children), society dealt a severe blow to their sense of wholeness. Because not to allow men to freely develop their emotive intelligence is to block them from using the entire range of their humanness; i.e., to cheat them of a vital part of their manhood.

But in so doing we also cheat ourselves. Because, in my opinion, a chief reason why we remain on an adolescent level of emotional development is that we spend our formative years with too little experience of true fatherliness--or the nourishing presence of a steady fatherly concern. This, I argue, is chiefly why we're incapable, as a collective, of establishing fair and equal social systems and, as individuals, of living the full and well-rounded life that is the birthright of every human being.

The parental roles
It's therefore high time we open a discussion about what we mean by 'fatherly' and 'motherly' and what the parental roles ought to be. Not in terms of making a strict division between dad’s role and mom‘s role, but rather to clarify why two separate roles are needed and what effects we want them to have. How do we best define these terms so that they cover the masculine and feminine principles of the psyche that they are based on? 

Might for instance a motherly task be encouraging children to BE--stay true to their inner selves, affirm and embrace life as it is (as Fromm suggests in his book The Art of Loving)? And might encouraging them to BECOME--use mental concepts, master new things and change other things--be a fatherly taskTo work, I think the parental influences must complement each other, one pointing inwards, the other outwards, because what makes it so hard for us--women as well as men --to grow up is not getting enough input from both parental sources.  

Whichever way we define the parental roles, the end in view must be that children learn enough from both to become able to use--and value as highly--both sides of their psyche. It doesn’t matter whether father plays a 'motherly' and mother a 'fatherly' role since each parent is capable of fulfilling either function. By the way, some of the best ‘mothers’ (e.g., in the sense of being patient, attentive, non-judgmental) that I've met in my life are actually men.

Parental equalityThe underestimated father role is a major ingredient in the male inferiority complex, and therefore an important catalyst of men’s animosity toward women. To me, men's derogatory attitude toward the maternal role (the only thing women can do) is nothing but an example of 'sour grapes.' Since becoming mothers (and wielding their
special power) is out of reach for them, men choose to depreciate the entire female sex.

I seriously doubt we’ll ever see the end of sexism until we stop denying and instead emphatically affirm two crucial--and embarrassingly obvious--truths. One, that the male is born with as much of a paternal instinct as the female is with a maternal. Two, that fatherliness is as indispensable as motherliness for the proper growth of human beings. 

If we affirm these truths and if men make the paternal presence in their kids' life (from birth onwards) as active, palpable and unfailing as the maternal presence, then gone with the wind will be every reason for men to resent the power of motherhood. Because now fatherhood will have the same power, and Dad will be as influential as Mom in molding the hearts and minds of his kids..  

And in the wake of this wind gone will also be a main incentive for misogyny

Let me now sum up this blog, which has been an outline of my ideas about the origin of the sexist society and why we still live in one. See next post.

I welcome feedback and would love for you to leave a comment. You can post a comment below this article or you can click on this article's headline.
For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com  

Monday, February 15, 2016

37. Womanhood

I started out this blog by arguing that equality between the sexes is a dictate of ‘natural law.’ As opposite and complementary forces of nature, men and women represent two sides of the same physical phenomenon, homo sapiens, and to define that phenomenon in its entirety we need to take both into account. I concluded that the sexes exercise an equal amount of power in society 
(regardless of whether they are granted equal rights or not), and that women therefore are as responsible as men for its sexist bias.

Western culture
Womanhood's systemic influence on our view of manhood isn't much talked about or analyzed in the West. As if we were more reluctant here than elsewhere to admit the power women have to shape our outlook on the world. Yet there is one interesting post-Freudian theory (put forward by psychologists like Erik Erikson, D.W. Winnicott and others) that no longer traces men’s struggles with manhood to oedipal traumas and castration fears but to the relation between mother and son.

But instead of exploring the role of nurture, i.e., the individual mother's relationship to her son--and holding out hope of finding the cause of men's fear of intimacy--this theory puts the onus on nature. It declares that it's harder for a boy than for a girl to grow up because, unlike her, he can't acquire an individual identity by simply reinforcing his early symbiotic union with mother. Since he is born male he must break that same union and create a masculine identity all by himself. Which supposedly explains men's regressive, so-called Peter Pan syndrome, or wish to remain in the blissful primeval oneness with mother.

Here again we have an example of the preposterous view of the sexes we inherited from the matriarchs: that masculinity is not a congenital characteristic in males the way femininity is in females but a quality men must develop, and prove worthy of, through their own efforts. A view that ranks men as Nature's stepchildren at the same time, admittedly, as it also offers them a chance to develop hero status. 

Back-piercing to please goddess Kali

Eastern culture
Other cultures are more outspoken about the power women exercise and its consequences for men. The theme of the evil mother (who holds back food and/or tempts her son sexually) is universal but, as Doniger O'Flaherty puts it,“seems especially prominent in India.“ The goddess Kali only loses her demonic characteristics and becomes kind and gentle in exchange for absolute male submission; or as G. Morris Carstairs puts it in The Twice-Born, “only when one has surrendered one’s manhood and become a helpless infant once again.” According to Doniger, in both old and contemporary local Indian mythology, tales abound of “male devotees who cut off their own heads in an act of devotion to Kali.” 

Because Hindu culture--in which androgyny is a powerful theme--puts great stress on virility, there’s much anxiety about it among men not only in India (where men‘s attachments to mother are unusually strong) but also in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to Carstairs, Indian men regard women, especially their wives, as more libidinous than they; if men can’t satisfy them, women become witches who may send the men to hell. A belief, writes Gudhir Kakar (in The Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society in India), that makes many men adopt “an avoidance behavior in sex relations” causing women to extend a provocative sexual presence towards their sons. And that in turn produces “adult men who fear sexuality with mature women.

From Gilmore we learn that although manhood has an androgynous quality in Chinese art and religion, the stress is firm on a real man to have a ’manly temperament’--be decisive, strong (both physically and mentally), never complain or cling and be devoted to work. A pronounced fear of losing manhood lies behind a male psychosomatic disorder in China and Southeast Asia, called koro.. Symptoms are anxiety, palpitations, trembling and intimations of impending death. Prominent is a belief that the penis is shriveling or retracting into the belly. 

So again, sisters, who besides ourselves do we think we’re kidding when playing the game of victims sacrificed on the altar of all-powerful men?

To more fully understand the impact the female half of humanity has on the male half, we need to look more closely at men's role as fathers, in particular at the father’s place inside the family. A place that I argue has been as overlooked and undervalued as woman’s place outside the family. See next post.

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For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

36. Manhood

Isn’t it amazing that politicians who change their minds or hesitate about what course to take are being accused by many of weakness and loss of prestige? To such people the most admirable quality in a leader appears to be the capacity to be so dead sure of oneself as to inspire fear. I thought any reasonably mature person realized that cocksureness spells self-importance, closed-mindedness and error of judgment. That good decisions are born of scruple and doubt, agony and struggle--anything at all that fosters inner deliberation and reconsideration. And, consequently, that the really admirable quality in any decision-maker--i.e., in any adult human being--is the courage to admit uncertainty yet have the resolve to defy it.

If anything should be the subject of vigorous debate, it’s the meaning of true manhood,  which is a topic hopelessly trapped in clichés. A debate based on the undeniable fact that the sexes have all the human qualities in common--intelligence in varying degrees, courage and cowardliness, aggressiveness and protectiveness, etc.The sexes may (or may not) express these qualities differently, but since both are equipped with the same human psyche, no quality belongs to only one sex. 

The psyche is bisexual
As Martine Rothblatt points out in her book The Apartheid of Sex, A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender, there are only a few “immutable and irreducible” sex differences, all having to do with reproduction. Persons producing more male than female hormones are male, and vice versa. These dissimilarities are reflected in their bodies and the claims these make on them, but not in a brain sex difference. And since the different behaviors of the sexes mostly stem from their having been socialized differently, nothing prevents them from unlearning them and choosing behaviors that suit their individual personalities better. As gays do, e.g., when adopting the fashion of the opposite sex.

Because at the dawn of consciousness humanity became so enamored with their newly discovered, so-called ‘masculine’ mental powers and looked down their noses at the ‘feminine’ instinctive powers, the two never managed to form what could be called a healthy symbiosis. Note that the word ‘symbiosis,’ which has come to stand for an unhealthy dependence between individuals, really means “the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship.”

But today we know, thanks to modern neuroscience, that everybody‘s brain, men’s as well as women‘s, has both a left and a right hemisphere. One thinks in logical step-by-step sequences and is responsible for language, the other thinks in images, grasps the totality of a given situation and is responsible for artistic creation. Each brain half feels, thinks and remembers in its own unique way, and, according to measurements of their rate of metabolism, both are doing the same amount of work.

Yet we haven’t fully fathomed that, despite being opposite, these two brain halves are complementary and that it’s up to us to integrate them. That before making decisions we must listen as much to information coming from the right as from the left side of the brain. Learn to identify the famously misnamed female principle (like intuitive knowledge, passion, creativity) NOT with women but with instinctive stuff; and the equally misnamed male principle (like logical reasoning, objectivity, reflection) NOT with men but with mental stuff. To grasp, once and for all, that both sexes have both principles. Because once we do, we’ll see how much we have in common and how little reason there is for the sexes to distrust and disparage one another.

Some cultures have understood this better than others. The Greeks see a metaphor for the psyche’s diverging trends in the two gods Dionysus, the pantheistic god of nature and emotion, and
Apollo, the Olympian god of order and intellect. Writes Camille Paglia in her book Sexual Personae, "The quarrel between Apollo and Dionysus is the quarrel between the higher cortex and the older limbic and reptilian brains." The Chinese see all contrasts (good and bad, high and low, male and female) as false distinctions since they can’t exist without each other; and so, when driven to extreme, each of the polar forces in human nature (called yin and yang) naturally flows over into the other.

In Gilmore’s universal survey Manhood in the Making two cultures stand out from the rest in that they lack sexual differentiation and role-playing. Masculinity is not a matter of concern to either the Tahitians or the Semai people of central Malaysia. They practice no warfare, devalue ambition (because the economy is cooperative) and men show no interest in defining themselves as different from or superior to women. Tahiti men are no more aggressive than women and just as soft or maternal; bravado of any sort is antithetical to the moral systems of Semai men.

So to find qualities that define true manhood, what about trying out the human ones? Maybe a Truly Manly Man is simply a Truly Human Human Being of the Male Sex. An individual, a unique living being equipped with a potential whose unknown ingredients are his, and only his, to probe, develop and put to use. Perhaps someone like the whole-bodied and ‘whole-souled,’ loose-limbed and free kind of male that Carl Sandburg conjures forth in his mischievous poem Wilderness? 

"O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart - and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and a mother and a lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.”

But how can we discuss the concept of manhood without taking into account how it's affected by the concept of womanhood? See next post.

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For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

35. The Lopsided Definition of Masculinity

Why have we failed to give masculinity a definition as simple and unequivocal as the one we've given femininity? Because as a society we're stuck in an underdeveloped stage of consciousness. We don't grasp that how we define something (or look at anything) is always a choice, our choice, whether we've made that choice consciously or unconsciously. We don't quite realize yet that society is a living, changing entity, and that it's our job to regularly revise its assumptions--rather than regard them as divine decrees or truths carved on stone.

A major element in this failure is the iron-grip our ideas of manliness have on us, especially but not only on men. I asked earlier why men put up with the self-destruction involved in so much of what they do. The answer is that few things scare men more than being seen as unmanly, a risk they run if not living up to a set of rigid and unforgiving masculine norms.     

At the center of these norms--which smack of antiquated fighter ideals like toughness, belligerence, detachment--is the egregious but deeply ingrained lie that to be a man is to NOT be like a woman. I remember coming across old men in my childhood who thought it below their manly dignity simply to feel content and satisfied. "Thrive?" one of them said, "That's what potted plants and domestics do!"

The idea that violence is associated with manhood goes far back in history and may be one of the hardest to erase when replacing the old concept of masculinity with a more modern one. In Power and Innocence, A Search for the Sources of Violence, psychologist Rollo May writes about how the experience of violence puts men in contact with deep and powerful emotions. “In the most primitive way possible, it makes us feel, and thus know, we are alive.” And in his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Charles M. Blow describes violence as the lingua franca of male communication, something you must learn to endure and administer if you are a man.

Be rational rather than emotional and always be in charge are demands made on men imale myths and hero stories the world over. In the Western tradition, from Jesus to James Bond, the hero often goes on a long, dangerous journey, The goal he pursues absorbs him so completely that it alienates him from his surroundings and makes him solitary. Examples are Odysseus, Faust, Robinson Crusoe, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Superman and maybe the most well-known modern icon, James Bond; for him winning is a necessity and losing spells irrevocable ruin. In the relationship between man and woman one always dominates and the other is the object. We find no story here about how to coexist with an equal by developing true mutuality. The same idea of manhood--albeit without the rugged individualism and sexual boastfulness--can be found also in China, India, Japan.

James Bond

The female counterpart
Though this role model no doubt answers to a positive need in men to be useful in the world, it also demonstrates that they must expend unconscionable energy to keep the instincts at bay and raise walls against people, especially women. What these stories show, in essence, is that when his restless activity speeds the hero away from the intuitive and feeling part of himself--as represented by the women in the stories--all he does is struggle against himself. I therefore see them as metaphors for men‘s failed pursuit of a complement to their rationality, i.e., the lost half of themselves

A good illustration of what’s required of men is Rudyard Kipling’s poem If--. Although it seems to advise some 19th century colonial officer-to-be how to interact with other men, most of it is actually common sense. For instance: be fair, don’t give tit for tat, stay calm, trust yourself, be brave, don’t give up--things that are just as applicable to people in general, women as well as men. It’s only in the last stanza when he glorifies emotional detachment (and holds out its reward in unlimited power) that Kipling applauds the numbness to natural human responses that are typically linked to manliness:

                        If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
                        If all men count with you, but none too much,
                        If you can fill the unforgiving minute
                        With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
                        Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
                        And--which is more--you’ll be a Man, my son!

In fairness, when humanity first woke up to a conscious apprehension of the world (which I connect with the last matriarchal reign), men may have felt that suppressing their softer, so-called` feminine side protected them from painful memories of matriarchal oppression. But the distrust of womanhood that followed has had disastrous consequences. It developed into a hostility to everything feminine so profound and all-encompassing that it not only distorted men’s relations with women but also cut men off from a whole half of their own selves--and thus from an important source of true manhood.

What then is ‘true manhood?’ To turn the searchlight on that conundrum, see next post.

I welcome feedback and would love for you to leave a comment. You can post a comment below this article or you can click on this article's headline.
For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com