The Huffington Post ran an article on 9 May 2012 suggesting to women that sexual relations with Republican men be unilaterally suspended as a form of work-to-rule, based on the current media characterization of a supposed “war on women”.
Setting aside the fiction that as the only sexual demographic who actually have any legal reproductive rights; women are currently subject to a “war”. This false but popular characterization obscures the actual political debate ongoing about whether women should benefit by forcing other people to pay for their birth control and other health services. However, on hearing about this from Bernard Chapin, it struck me as an applied case of the “appeal to force,” or collective blackmail.
However, there is an unexamined assumption in the Huffpo feminine-approval-seeker’s advice for a sex strike. This assumption is present in several other areas of superficially male-versus-female political rhetoric.
It is most strongly evident in a substantial fraction of anti-rape activism. A widely circulated list of “tips to stop rape” includes repeated admonitions, aimed at men, to “remember to not rape”. Of course, this timely advice reinforces the essential truth that men, as distinct from human beings, are simply appetite-driven rutting beasts. This is not only the logical basis for controlling men’s behavior (in particular, Republicans) by denying them what they quite obviously care the most about. Aside from this handle of ownership and control, the subhuman character of male creatures certainly justifies a continued blithe disregard for any of the complaining of so called activists in pursuit of male human rights.
The assumed, and indeed the expected response, by men towards overt female sexuality is of course, competition for access, sycophantic subservience, or simply a drooling, blatant caricature of lust, like a cartoon wolf. Modelling of behaviours outside these few allowable expressions is treated in an insecure society with revulsion and censure. This at least partly explains the continued prejudice, sometimes manifested as violence against gay men in some parts of the United States. However, there is another unacceptable masculine response growing in popularity.
This is the avoidance of sex, and of women. As a self defined man, this is entirely unsurprising to me. Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto mentioned a growing reticence of young men to become sexually entangled with women, referencing sociologist Amy Schalet’s New York Times article, misleadingly titled: Caring Romantic Boys. In her April 6 article Schalet claims first romance, then fear as the motivation for increased caution and reluctance to have sex. In both cases she misses the point, but comes closer to the truth mentioning fear.
Taranto, a writer who is coincidentally male, nails it in his discussion:
…there is good reason for males (men as well as boys) to be more fearful of sex than females. Contemporary reproductive technology and law place all the burden for unwanted pregnancy on them. Between the pill and abortion, women have complete control over the reproductive process. They can avoid or end any unwanted pregnancy, and the man involved has no say in the matter.
Schalet somehow missed this point, in spite of the obvious implication of this quote, directly from her NYT piece: “American boys often said sex could end their life as they knew it. After a condom broke, one worried: ‘I could be screwed for the rest of my life.’”
Apparently, there’s more to young men than a bottomless drive to ram-jam themselves into every willing feminine orifice. It might even be that beyond an intelligent awareness of their own total lack of legal rights in reproduction, coupled with their government’s willingness to compel their financial support of women’s exercised legal rights by force, asset seizure and imprisonment, that men, even the young and stupid, are increasingly unwilling to be controlled through their hormones.
This emerging conscious self preservation and rejection of a growing cultural censure of male identity is finding its way into mainstream reporting, as demonstrated by Schalet and Taranto. But as this becomes more obvious, attempts to force conformity with female-selected definitions of “real” masculinity also rise. This is evident in social conservative women’s organizations whose message to men amounts to: “get back on the treadmill of provide and protect” as well as unambiguous attempts to shame men into conformity with characterizations such as “peter pan syndrome”, “boy-men” and similar pejoratives directed at those opting out. Even Amy Schalet managed to characterize men saying no as if it were feminine romanticism.
The reality of this phenomenon was noted in 2002 by Naomi Wolfe in her online NY Magazine article “The Porn Myth”. According to Wolfe “By the new millennium, a vagina, which, by the way, used to have a pretty high “exchange value,” as Marxist economists would say, wasn’t enough; it barely registered on the thrill scale.”
The Beauty Myth author spotted the trend, but misattributed its cause, based on the old 2nd wave feminist conception of men as subhuman. But increasingly, the rutting beasts in this narrative are having none of it.
This doesn’t mean male culture necessarily embraces celibacy, as some critics of the MGTOW movement will sneer in their attack articles. Rather, that men are now and always have been human beings whose sexuality, desires, and human needs are as complex and nuanced as women’s, even if those desires and needs are not identical. This simple fact appears to run contrary to the feminist mainstream in which masculine character is one of violent, brutal, and indiscriminate lust.
And the men who say no thanks to such a vision of their identities are told they are unmanly, faggots, infantile children, man-boys, failures or any other of a host of pejoratives. The choice then seems to be between conform as a man-beast, or refuse as a testosterone deficient, non-“real” masculine example of failure.
The answer to these unappealing prospects, for a growing number of men is no thanks. No thanks to option A and no thanks to option B. But sex is critical to the interface between men going off the reservation and the culture which simultaneously depends on, and condemns them. The choices proffered are finding ever diminishing preference from men, opting for sex on their own terms, or not at all. Those terms generally being exclusive of conformity to external definition of what is a real man. A violent man, a domineering, oppressive man, or a weak, prostrate, and apologetic man seeking approval or permission to exist.
The absence in this narrative of just what is encompassed by men going their own way is deliberate. This is the province of men as individuals, many of whom; while not a collective, are disinclined to explain themselves, ask permission, or apologize.