You can’t see my face, but my palm is firmly attached to it right now. Stephen Marche, a Canadian writer and male feminist who can’t lower himself far enough in the dirt for the sake of feminism, has put out a new hatchet-piece in the New York Times. I strongly suspect this is causally linked to the recent investiture of Jessica Bennett as the ‘gender editor’ of the paper, but I can’t prove it. Nonetheless, Stephen Marche has, as he has done so many times before, written something lamentably stupid and I am going to point out why it is stupid.
After weeks of continuously unfolding abuse scandals, men have become, quite literally, unbelievable. What any given man might say about gender politics and how he treats women are separate and unrelated phenomena. Liberal or conservative, feminist or chauvinist, woke or benighted, young or old, found on Fox News or in The New Republic, a man’s stated opinions have next to no relationship to behavior.
Sort of like how the statement “feminism means equality” has no relationship to the behavior of feminists in trying to disqualify men from jobs through quotas or due process through Title IX hearings and ‘Listen and Believe’ blathering in rape cases.
Through sheer bulk, the string of revelations about men from Bill Cosby to Roger Ailes to Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Al Franken and, this week, to Charlie Rose and John Lasseter, have forced men to confront what they hate to think about most: the nature of men in general. This time the accusations aren’t against some freak geography teacher, some frat running amok in a Southern college town. They’re against men of all different varieties, in different industries, with different sensibilities, bound together, solely, by the grotesquerie of their sexuality.
Except it’s not a variety of men. The particular men being accused are a very narrow group: Men in the entertainment industry. Men who used their status as decision-makers and stars to get something vaguely resembling sex. Unfortunately, they ignore red pill truth number 1: You cannot negotiate attraction. You can negotiate sex and that’s fine.
Men arrive at this moment of reckoning woefully unprepared. Most are shocked by the reality of women’s lived experience. Almost all are uninterested or unwilling to grapple with the problem at the heart of all this: the often ugly and dangerous nature of the male libido.
Feminism means equality…but, MEN ARE EVIL!!!!
For most of history, we’ve taken for granted the implicit brutality of male sexuality. In 1976, the radical feminist and pornography opponent Andrea Dworkin said that the only sex between a man and a woman that could be undertaken without violence was sex with a flaccid penis: “I think that men will have to give up their precious erections,” she wrote. In the third century A.D., it is widely believed, the great Catholic theologian Origen, working on roughly the same principle, castrated himself.
Let’s hit the first and easiest deception in this paragraph: It is unknown whether or not Origen castrated himself or not. The story comes from Eusebius of Caesarea, who, while an admirer of Eusebius, like had the tale from Demetrius, the Bishop of Alexandria who was an enemy of Origen and ran him out of the city. Also, Origen interpreted the Gospels as allegory, so it is unlikely that he would suddenly hit Matthew 19:12, read the word “eunuch” and after interpreting the other three books as allegory, decide that this part is literal, and then cut his own dick off.
As for Andrea Dworkin, Marche left out the rest of the Dworkin quote, which I will reproduce here:
“I think that men will have to give up their precious erections and begin to make love together … men will have to phallocentric personalities, and the privileges and powers given to them at birth as a consequence of their anatomy, that they will have to excise everything in them that they now value as distinctively ‘male.'”
Unless Stephen produced those kids of his by artificial insemination and is letting wifey stuff a strap-on in his ass, it doesn’t seem like he has given up on his ‘precious erection’, his ‘phallocentric personality’ or his ‘privileges and powers.’
Fear of the male libido has been the subject of myth and of fairy tale from the beginning of literature: What else were the stories of Little Red Riding Hood or Bluebeard’s Castle about? A vampire is an ancient and powerful man with an insatiable hunger for young flesh. Werewolves are men who regularly lose control of their bestial nature. Get the point? There is a line, obviously, between desire and realization, and some cross it and some don’t. But a line is there for every man. And until we collectively confront this reality, the post-Weinstein public discussion — where men and women go from here — will begin from a place of silence and dishonesty.
Funny. And yet, feminists get aghast when men quote Andrea Dworkin’s own novel, Mercy, of her psychopathic misandry against heterosexual men.
“I’ve always wanted to see a man beaten to a shit bloody pulp with a high-heeled shoe stuffed up his mouth, sort of the pig with the apple; it would be good to put him on a serving plate but you’d need good silver.”
Stephen will never give females the credit of having a line between desire and realization. He has the same view of female nature that the jurors in the Lizzie Borden and Minnie Foster trials did. Females simply do not have the ‘bestial’ nature as men, or, put simply: Women are wonderful.
The masculine libido and its accompanying forces and pathologies drive so much of culture and politics and the economy, while remaining more or less unexamined, both in intellectual circles and in private life. I live in Toronto, a liberal city in a liberal country, with Justin Trudeau for prime minister, a half-female cabinet and an explicitly feminist foreign policy.
That’s right, the masculine libido has driven culture, politics, and the economy in Western civilization.
You’re welcome, women.
And no, you couldn’t have done it better.
The men I know don’t actively discuss changing sexual norms. We gossip and surmise: Who is a criminal and who isn’t? Which of the creeps whom we know are out there will fall this week? Beyond the gossip, there is a fog of the past that is better not to penetrate. Aside from the sorts of clear criminal acts that have always been wrong, changing social norms and the imprecision of memory are dark hallways to navigate. Be careful when you go down them; you might not like what you find.
So much easier to turn aside. Professionally, too, I have seen just how profoundly men don’t want to talk about their own gendered nature. In the spring, I published a male take on the fluctuations of gender and power in advanced economies; I was interviewed over 70 times by reporters from all over the world, but only three of them were men. Men just aren’t interested; they don’t know where to start. I’m working on a podcast on modern fatherhood, dealing with issues like pornography and sex after childbirth. Very often, when I interview men, it is the first time they have ever discussed intimate questions seriously with another man.
That’s right, men are not interested in self-flagellation or living in constant repentence for having a penis. And despite all of the decades feminist whining and haranguing and required training, men in general are sick of it. Men are not going to smack this feminist nonsense down for two reasons: First, the average man does not have the power to do so. This dives into the second reason: Feminism benefits the powerful. Feminists have helped make Americans less-free as they always have since their inception (the first-wave feminist movement died on the hill of alcohol prohibition).
A useful feature of our ‘toxic’ masculine nature is that we have the capacity to work around people and things we don’t like.
A healthy sexual existence requires a continuing education, and men have the opposite. There is sex education for boys, but once you leave school the traditional demands on masculinity return: show no vulnerability, solve your own problems. Men deal with their nature alone, and apart. Ignorance and misprision are the norms.
Male nature must be “dealt with” sort of like how cancer has to be dealt with.
But, feminism means equality, not man-hating.
Which is how we wind up where we are today: having a public conversation about male sexual misbehavior, while barely touching on the nature of men and sex. The (very few) prominent men who are speaking up now basically just insist that men need to be better feminists — as if the past few weeks have not amply demonstrated that the ideologies of men are irrelevant.
No, feminist ideology is irrelevant for the same reason that all ideologies rooted in socialism are irrelevant: Socialists cannot distinguish between coercion and persuasion. They jabber mightily about ‘mass movements’ but ultimately, they would rather seize the mechanisms of legal force and threaten your compliance than to win you to their cause.
Liberalism has tended to confront gender problems from a technocratic point of view: improved systems, improved laws, better health. That approach has resulted in plenty of triumphs. But there remains no cure for human desire. (“It isn’t actually about sex, it’s about power,” I read in The Guardian the other day. How naïve must you be not to understand that sex itself is about power every bit as much as it’s about pleasure?)
I wasn’t aware that human desire was something that required a “cure” Comrade O’Brien:
“The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party.”
Acknowledging the brutality of male libido is not, of course, some kind of excuse. Sigmund Freud recognized the id, and knew it as “a chaos, a caldron full of seething excitations.” But the point of Freud was not that boys will be boys. Rather the opposite: The idea of the Oedipus complex contained an implicit case for the requirements of strenuous repression: If you let boys be boys, they will murder their fathers and sleep with their mothers.
I’ll see your Oedipus Complex voodoo psychoanalysis with a Westermarck Effect. Also, Freud’s theories have be unverifiable by contemporary psychology.
Freud also understood that repression, any repression, is inherently fluid and complicated and requires humility and self-searching to navigate. Women are calling for their pain to be recognized. Many men are quite willing to offer this recognition; it means they don’t have to talk about who they are, which means they don’t have to think about what they are. Much easier to retreat, into ever more shocked and prurient silence, or into the sort of reflection that seems less intended as honesty, and more aimed to please.
Yes. Silence is the ultimate response to feminists like Stephen Marche and females in the West screeching about how oppressed their are on the IPad 6s from the comfort of the local Starbucks. More men are realizing attempting to please females is not a solution; it only invites more screeching and more demands.
Sex is an impediment to any idealism, which is why the post-Weinstein era will be an era of gender pessimism. What if there is no possible reconciliation between the bright clean ideals of gender equality and the mechanisms of human desire? Meanwhile, sexual morality, so long resisted by liberals, has returned with a vengeance, albeit under progressive terms. The sensation of righteousness, which social media doles out in ever-diminishing dopamine hits, drives the discussion, but also limits it. Unable to find justice, or even to imagine it, we are returning to shame as our primary social form of sexual control.
Shame for men. Only men.
The crisis we are approaching is fundamental: How can healthy sexuality ever occur in conditions in which men and women are not equal? How are we supposed to create an equal world when male mechanisms of desire are inherently brutal? We cannot answer these questions unless we face them.
‘Healthy sexuality’ in Marche’s opinion appears to men acting like lesbians with penises, or rather, lesbians without tits and large, flaccid clitorises.
I’m not asking for male consciousness-raising groups; let’s start with a basic understanding that masculinity is a subject worth thinking about. That alone would be an immense step forward. If you want to be a civilized man, you have to consider what you are. Pretending to be something else, some fiction you would prefer to be, cannot help. It is not morality but culture — accepting our monstrosity, reckoning with it — that can save us. If anything can.
And Stephen Marche ends with the typical, boring call to action that all of these advocacy puff-pieces ends on: Men, you are bad and evil and you should be ashamed to have a penis. Reflect on your evilness, then tie your white good-boy cape and pledge eternal servitude to WYMYNKIND. The man conflates ‘masculinity’ with ‘monstrosity’ and imagines that men are supposed to take his bullshit seriously.
Now, if Stephen wants to confess to monstrosity, that he needs to start taking the strap-on and wants to fuck his mother, that’s his business. But this is how he gets to write for the New York Times: He is the successfully re-educated class enemy of feminism, who loudly and publicly denounces others to prove his loyalty to Stalin and the Party and to buy mercy for himself. He spouts meaningless, mindless doctrine, using his hated class as a male as authority to speak on the subject of men while denouncing all things masculine as monstrous.