Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Concerning Single Young Men

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I have long argued that the strong influence of feminist ideology on Western societies has had profound influence on young men. Growing up with feminism, if you’re a boy, can easily lead to being shamed, having poor self-esteem and being confused about what role you are expected to play in society.

The fact that gender roles evolve is inevitable, so from that perspective the confusion seen in young men of today couldn’t have been avoided. On the other hand, I believe that feminism has unnecessarily put the blame on men for the gender roles of the past, instead of realizing that both sexes co-created the past, and we can co-create new gender roles in the future.

Anyhow, the point is that men have been deeply affected by the change in gender roles and by the influence of feminism on young men and women alike. This is finally starting to be acknowledged in the media, and the other day I came across a very interesting text dealing with this phenomenon. I don’t agree with everything being said in the article, but several of the observations made are interesting, and worthy of discussion.

The article starts out with the following observation about SYMs (single young males):

Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he’s immature but because he’s angry. He’s angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He’s angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He’s angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

The anger of these SYM is palpable:

“Maybe we turn to video games not because we are trying to run away from the responsibilities of a ‘grown-up life’ but because they are a better companion than some disease-ridden bar tramp who is only after money and a free ride.”

“Men are finally waking up to the ever-present fact that traditional marriage, or a committed relationship, with its accompanying socially imposed requirements of being wallets with legs for women, is an empty and meaningless drudgery.”

When young men actually enter the dating scene, they find that the rules have changed, and that double standards abound:

But when they walk to his car, he makes his first mistake: he fails to open the car door for her. Mistake Number Two comes a moment later: “So, what would you like to do?” he asks. “Her idea of a date is that the man plans the evening and takes the woman out,” Straus explains. But how was the hapless social worker supposed to know that? In fact, Doesn’t-Open-the-Car-Door Guy might well have been chewed out by a female colleague for reaching for the office door the previous week.

The cultural muddle is at its greatest when the dinner check arrives. The question of who grabs it is a subject of endless discussion on the hundreds of Internet dating sites. The general consensus among women is that a guy should pay on a first date: they see it as a way for him to demonstrate interest.

It’s understandable that SYM become confused. The current dating scene is a mixture of new ideals (women own their own sexuality and have casual sex, often earn just as much money as young men, and will cry foul if you use chivalry on them) and old ideals (men should pay for the dinner date, be chivalrous, etc). Is it any wonder that young men become bitter if women expect the new ideals when it suits them, and the old ideals when those are more advantageous?

Kevin from Ann Arbor writes. “They want to compete equally, and have the privileges of their mother’s generation. They want the executive position, AND the ability to stay home with children and come back into the workplace at or beyond the position at which they left. They want the bad boy and the metrosexual.”

SYM also feel disillusioned when they discover what kind of men are successful in the dating scene. After having been taught by their mothers and by culture that girls are fragile, kind, moral and non-aggressive (i.e. the opposite qualities that feminism ascribes to traditional old-fashioned men), SYM are in for a brutal awakening when they discover how things really work:

This attraction to bad boys is by far guys’ biggest complaint about contemporary women. Young men grew up hearing from their mothers, their teachers, and Oprah that women wanted sensitive, kind, thoughtful, intelligent men who were in touch with their feminine sides, who shared their feelings, who enjoyed watching Ally McBeal rather than Beavis and Butt-Head. Yeah, right, sneer a lot of veterans of the scene. Women don’t want Ashley Wilkes; they’re hot for Rhett Butler, for macho men with tight abs and an emotional range to match.

On Craigslist, one guy posted a succinct, albeit somewhat bitter, analysis of how nice guys fare in contemporary culture (post-sexual revolution):

According to a “Recovering Nice Guy” writing on Craigslist, the female preference for jerks and “assholes,” as they’re also widely known, lies behind women’s age-old lament, “What happened to all the nice guys?” His answer: “You did. You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy.” Women, he says, are actually not attracted to men who hold doors for them, give them hinted-for Christmas gifts, or listen to their sorrows. Such a man, our Recovering Nice Guy continues, probably “came to realize that, if he wanted a woman like you, he’d have to act more like the boyfriend that you had. He probably cleaned up his look, started making some money, and generally acted like more of an asshole than he ever wanted to be.”

Ouch.

Carrying on, it seems that many men have made similar observations to what I sometimes address on this blog:

Adding to the bitterness of many SYMs is the feeling that the entire culture is a you-go-girl cheering section. When our guy was a boy, the media prattled on about “girl power,” parents took their daughters to work, and a mysterious plague seemed to have killed off boys, at least white ones, from school textbooks. To this day, male-bashing is the lingua franca of situation comedies and advertising: take the dimwitted television dads from Homer Simpson to Ray Romano to Tim Allen, or the guy who starts a cooking fire to be put out by his multitasking wife, who is already ordering takeout. Further, it’s hard to overstate the distrust of young men who witnessed divorce up close and personal as they were growing up. Not only have they become understandably wary of till-death-do-us-part promises; they frequently suspect that women are highway robbers out to relieve men of their earnings, children, and deepest affections.

I’ve never understood the “take your daughter to work” concept. Why discriminate so blatantly against young boys? Wouldn’t the natural impulse be to take you child to work, regardless of gender? Feminism has indeed been successful in the US educational system.

As the article carries on, it becomes obvious that a substantial portion of young men are ready to pull out of the dating game:

As the disenchanted SYM sees it, then, resistance to settling down is a rational response to a dating environment designed and ruled by women with only their own interests in mind. “Men see all of this, and wonder if it’s really worth risking all in the name of ‘romance’ and ‘growing up,’ ” a correspondent who calls himself Wytchfinde explains. “After all, if women can be hedonistic and change the rules in midstream when it suits them, why shouldn’t men? Why should men be responsible when women refuse to look into the mirror at their own lack of accountability?”

Every action has a reaction. The action taken by feminists during the last few decades, is now eliciting a reaction in SYM; a reaction that can easily lead to men becoming hyper-masculine and more irresponsible:

So, men like Wytchfinde conclude: No more Mister Nice Guy! They will dump all those lessons from their over-feminized childhood and adolescence. They will join what the Boston Globe has called the “Menaissance.” And they will buy titles like The Alphabet of Manliness (K is for Knockers, Q is for Quickies), The Retrosexual Manual, Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants, and actor Jim Belushi’s recent Real Men Don’t Apologize.

Is it any wonder that young men become more narcissistic and less interested in being responsible family fathers and citizens, when Western culture has marginalized the voice of young men?

Conclusion

I believe that the feminist revolution has missed its target for a few different reasons:

  1. Men’s needs, wants and perspectives were ignored
  2. Biological differences between the sexes were ignored, which is a terrible oversight when discussing career choices and partner choice
  3. Feminism focused on changing the negative aspects of the female gender role, while being all too happy about keeping the positive aspects

You ignore biological differences between the sexes at your own peril, as the author of the article notes:

Most of the women interviewed by Jillian Straus say that they’re looking for a man who can be the primary breadwinner. A June 2008 New Scientist article reports on two studies that even suggest that women are biologically attracted to “jerks”; researchers speculate that narcissistic, risk-taking men had an evolutionary advantage.

So women want a man who is a risk-taker and a primary breadwinner? Those wishes certainly go against what feminism has taught young men that women want, and also what young women have been told that they are supposed to want.

If they did similar research on young men and what they desire in women, I’m pretty sure that the response would be that they want a woman who will be the primary caretaker of the children, and only focus fulltime on her career once the children are a bit older. And just like women enjoy men who are confident and risk-taking, many men want a woman who can be loving and feminine. This is extremely politically incorrect, but if there is truth to these claims, do we not need to include them in any movement for gender liberation?

Personally I don’t believe that biology can explain the whole male-female sexual dynamic, far from it. We always need to include cultural and psychological factors, in addition to what biology can teach us. But it is clear that due to the three reasons I listed above, feminist reforms have misfired in a number of important ways, and it is up to us to develop a new, more robust version of gender equality. We need a version that defends the equal value of women and men, without claiming that men and women are essentially the same – while also offering a clear path to success for both genders that does not involve a total absence of moral development.

When Personal Accountability Is a Challenge

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I’ve recently written about Intimate Partner Violence (part 1, part 2), and some time ago I wrote about the Culture of Victimhood and the absence of personal accountability in feminist rhetoric.

In this post I’ll combine the subjects of physical abuse and personal accountability, by publishing an edited version of a piece that I originally posted in an online forum, in a response to a woman who had been abused both when growing up and later on in her marriage.

The gist of what I’m trying to get across to her is that it’s possible to hold ourselves responsible for our actions no matter how difficult the situation is, and that holding ourselves responsible is not the same thing as blaming ourselves.

I feel a lot of compassion for your experience, and I agree that placing blame on a victim doesn’t lead to anything constructive, but like J, I would like to make a few distinctions.

You cannot be responsible for another person’s actions. If someone beats you up regularly in your own home, then you have zero responsibility for their actions. The person who’s doing the beating has full responsibility for his/her actions.

You however, have full responsibility for your response/reaction. You can respond in a host of different ways (maybe not when the actual beating is going on, but afterwards). You can stay, you can leave, you can call the police, you can go talk to a friend, you can do nothing, etc..

This is not to say that you are to be blamed for your response! Blame leads nowhere, and has no purpose except to put another individual down, or to put ourselves down.

But as long as you are responsible for your actions, then you can choose a different, and better, response. So holding you responsible for what you do is not about blaming you, it’s about believing that you can make better choices for yourself. It’s about trusting your innate power and the fact that the path to empowerment remains open for every human being during their whole life.

Nothing of this denies the fact that if you had a terrible upbringing then it may be awfully hard to respond in a constructive way, and to get out of a destructive relationship. Even if you didn’t have a bad upbringing, you can get sucked into a bad/abusive relationship, to the point that you hardly can see your options. But you are still responsible! You still have access to your free will, and saying that you are responsible is a way of honoring your integrity and autonomy, and not treating you like a child.

Because children… are not responsible. When you are under a certain age, you simply are not a fully autonomous individual with full access to your own free will. Therefore society has an extra responsibility to look out for children that are being abused, because they cannot even be expected to call out for help, and it is developmentally incorrect to refer to them as response-able individuals.

So children can be, and are, helpless victims of abuse. But when we extend that view to adults, as has often been done in feminist literature aimed at women who have been abused – then we start to disempower adults, and that is something I simply cannot agree with.

The “helpless victim” line of reasoning is sometimes even extended to persons who molest children, and the reasoning is then that they are simply repeating the behaviors that they themselves were subjected to when growing up. However much compassion I may feel for what these persons were exposed to as children, I still hold them responsible for their own actions. They are adults, with access to their free will, and if they choose to molest they should go to jail. And should they be pathological to the extent that they have lost access to their free will, then they have no place in a free society anyhow – they have then become “automated response mechanisms” that are programmed to do damage in society.

Again, I feel deep compassion for people who have been subjected to abuse. However, once we are adults we have choice, and we can be empowered, and as a consequence we have responsibility. I consider holding another person responsible one of the most loving things you can do. Because by doing that you show them that you believe in their ability to make better choices for themselves, and their ability to break free from destructive relationships.

None of this negates the fact that you can help abused people by being a friend, offering them a place to stay, driving them to the police or to a hospital, etc. But if you help people without holding them accountable for their own responses, then you are simply helping them perpetuate their personal tragedy.

The Truth About Intimate Partner Violence – Part 2

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

In the previous blog post I wrote about how partner violence is falsely presented as a problem where men hit women. The myth of the male perpetrator and the battered woman is so pervasive that even most mental health professionals and social workers ascribe to it, though it flies in the face of substantial amounts of academic research.

In reality, gender is a very poor predictor of violence in the home, even though conventional feminist wisdom portrays men and presumed male privilege as the leading reasons for domestic violence.

So what are the consequences of misrepresenting the causes of domestic violence? What are the effects of perpetuating the myth of the male perpetrator?

  1. You move further away from solving the issue. Partner violence is caused by psychosocial problems such as mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, raising young children, unemployment and poverty. If you don’t deal with these issues directly, and instead try to solve the problem by telling all men that manhood is the cause of violence, then your chances for success will be slim indeed.
  2. You perpetuate current myths about the sexes. By incorrectly stating that nearly all partner abuse is caused by men hitting women, you cement the notion that women are weak victims that are easy to exploit, while men are strong individuals who are likely to abuse the power awarded to them from society. In reality, women are far from weak, and men inhabit the whole spectrum from being empowered to being disempowered.
  3. You blame and shame men for an issue that is actually a human issue and not a male issue. The traditional male gender role presents men as stoic creatures that can handle anything life throws at them. While it may be true that many men have the ability to persevere under difficult circumstances, men are far from immune from being shamed, and having this affect them on a deep level. Blaming ordinary men for the societal issue of domestic violence, when women in fact instigate just as much violence (and most perpetrators have psychosocial problems), is in itself a subtle form of psychological abuse.
  4. You scare women and children by putting out the message that it’s ordinary men who hit their spouse. In reality, men who hit their spouse are much more likely to have psychological issues or drug abuse than ordinary men. Criminality is also vastly over-represented in men who physically abuse women.
  5. Children stay stuck in violent environments. Since female violence in the home has been made invisible by the current myths around partner violence, these women can carry on their abusive activities without any interference. This leads to children of all ages having to grow up in a violent environment, and potentially being physically abused themselves.
  6. Male victims cannot get the help they need. In the dominant worldview broadcasted by the media and politicians, male victims of partner violence hardly exist, and therefore there is no need to offer much help – if any – to men who have been abused. Men are thus doubly traumatized: first of all by the violence itself, and second of all by being made invisible by society and not getting any help to heal psychologically. 

It’s great that women have access to women’s shelters nowadays, and that social workers and the police alike are vigilant about battered women and male perpetrators.

But when will we see similar support systems geared towards battered men, and have the police be as vigilant about female perpetrators who hit their husband? When will men be able to bring themselves and their children to a safe-house in order to escape a violent wife?

The Truth About Intimate Partner Violence

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

What do you think about when read or hear about intimate partner violence? A sobbing woman with visible bruises?

Physical violence is a horrible crime that can take many shapes or forms. One of the most tragic kinds of physical abuse is when violence takes place within the context of an intimate relationship between two adults. An intimate relationship is supposedly the place where one can feel safe and loved, and having that bond be hijacked by a slap, fist or baseball bat is a traumatic experience indeed.

Nowadays there is considerable awareness around partner violence, and the signs of this increased awareness abound in the public sphere. The number of shelters for battered women have increased drastically in many modern countries, policy makers pass specific laws to combat domestic violence against women and the media no longer refrains from reporting about the damage that men inflict on women in relationships.

On first glance, this may all seem to represent real progress, and in many ways it actually does. However, there is a major omission built into the burgeoning domestic violence industry, and that omission has to do with the image of the sobbing woman that many of us have been taught to believe is at the core of partner violence.

While it’s certainly true that domestic violence against women is a huge problem that deserves our attention, society remains unaware of the fact that violence against men – perpetrated by women – is a problem of equal proportions.

Statistics or Research?

When you look at the statistics of domestic violence, it is far from obvious that men are the victims to the same extent as women, since 80 to 90 percent of the reported victims are women. Statistics, however, are not the same thing as academic research.

Statistics can be seriously biased due to large amounts of people not wanting to report what has happened to them. In the case of violence in the home, men rarely report what has happened to them, since they know that they would likely be shamed, laughed at, and not believed when telling their story.

Thankfully, the issue of partner violence is one that has interested lots of researchers around the world, and they have produced large amounts of reproducible research that consistently tell us the same story:

  • Men and women instigate domestic violence in equal amounts, with a small tendency of women instigating the violence more often
  • Men and women hit each other with the same frequency
  • Women tend to get hurt more than men, due to the superior upper body strength of men. However, the most serious injuries are sustained by both sexes in equal amounts, or even with a majority of male victims, since women are more likely than men to use a weapon or a tool when assaulting their partner.
  • Same sex couples experience similar levels of partner violence as heterosexual couples

Examples of Research

As noted above, the amount of research done on partner violence around the world is impressive, and consistently shows us the same thing. Perhaps the most overwhelming proof of women assaulting their male partners to the same extent that men assault their female partners, is the annotated bibliography by Martin S. Fiebert.

Other research studies include:

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study performed on a cohort of more than 1000 subjects in New Zealand. Some of the key results of this this study can be seen online in this report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the study, about 27 percent of women and 34 percent of men reported having been physically abused by their partner. Furthermore, about 37 percent of women and 22 percent of men said they had perpetrated the violence.

What is especially interesting about this study is that the characteristics of the male and female perpetrators differ significantly. Male perpetrators had “extreme levels of polydrug abuse, antisocial personality disorder, dropping out of school, chronic unemployment, poor social support and violence against victims outside the family”. However, “these extreme social and personal problems were not found for Dunedin study female perpetrators.”

The researchers speculate that the reason that ordinary men do not dare hit women, while ordinary women do dare to hit their men, is that the women feel safe in the knowledge that the police will not believe a battered man, while the men know that laying your hand on a woman means that she could easily have the police arrest you.

Like many other studies, this one shows that women were more likely to get physically hurt than the men were.

The British Home Office Research Study 191 found that men and women perpetrate equal amounts of domestic violence. 4.2 percent of men and women had been victims of partner violence in the year preceding the study. The following risk factors for domestic violence were identified: marital separation, young children, financial pressures, drug/alcohol abuse, disability/ill health.

Straus and Gelles (1986) found no difference in spousal abuse prevalence among men and women, and no difference even when it comes to severe abuse. Just like many other researchers, they concluded that mutual violence occurs more frequently than either male or female violence alone. 

Conclusion

The available research, which is substantial and of high quality, makes it clear that gender is not a good predictor of partner violence; both genders hit each other with the same frequency. Women aren’t able to hurt their men to the same extent that they get hurt themselves (though some research contests this point), but this is certainly not from lack of trying.

Good predictors of domestic violence have consistently been shown to be mental illness, drug abuse, young children and poverty (i.e. psychosocial issues).

If we are ever to make progress in the difficult area that is partner violence, policy makers and the media need to start focus on the real causes, instead of buying into the feminist myth that partner violence is caused by some kind of male oppression.

Monogamy

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Monogamy is often given a bad rap these days. According to many feminists, monogamy is a way of controlling women and enforcing patriarchy, and rebelling against this social convention is an integral part of women’s liberation.

Before accepting this worldview, it’s important to examine why monogamy was introduced in the first place, because it certainly hasn’t been around since the dawn of humanity.

As we all know, virtually all modern societies only permit monogamous marriages. However, most cultures that now consider polygamy to be illegal, at some point allowed men to have more than one wife. As long as a culture was governed by an emperor or tribal laws, chances are that polygamy was allowed, especially for men who had the resources to provide for more than one woman.

The interesting thing to note, is that there is a clear correlation between the formation of traditional (conventional) societies, and the abandonment of polygamy. As it turns out, a region or country was simply much easier to organize if monogamy was the norm.

Monogamy decreases violence and civil wars, since almost all men get a wife. Polygamy leaves a lot of men unmarried, and groups of unmarried men have always been a source of civil unrest. In polygamous cultures, wealthy men are the ones who get several wifes, while poor, low status men go without. The only way for these unmarried, poor men to raise their status and get access to one or more women may be to start raiding or robbing, and constantly dealing with those kinds of troubles is not the way to have law and order prevail.

Furthermore, in addition to motivating men to stay law-abiding, monogamy was and is a way for the state to make sure that all children have two parents (and therefore likely to be supported and survive without any help from the state). Lots of children surviving and thriving was tremendously important to the evolution of any culture at this point in time, since population growth was a key factor for progress before the advent of industrialization.

Monogamy was thus a key building block in the creation of a functioning traditional society, that had moved beyond chaos and lawlessness. For all its faults and shortcomings, the traditional way of life represented a huge step forward in human civilization, and monogamy can therefore be said to represent real progress at that point in time.

What’s interesting is that homosexuality likely became taboo in traditional societies and traditional religions since it was perceived as a threat to the (unconscious) model that prescribed heterosexual monogamy and “child production” as the cornerstone of society. This is obviously not the only reason that homosexuality has been discriminated against, but it is one interesting factor that is not often discussed.

What Did Monogamy Mean For Each Sex?

I started out this post by saying that feminists are often critical of monogamy, and view it as a patriarchal construct that benefits men at the expense of women. However, given the historical facts just outlined, we can see that monogamy meant that:

  • Men had to support their wife and family
  • Each child was assigned a father (whether biological or not)
  • Men were expected to give their lives protecting their wife and children
  • Each man had a very good chance to become married and have children
  • Women’s sexuality was controlled, so that the biological father be known with some certainty
  • Women could be sure of being supported and having the children be supported, since divorces were illegal

Many of these implications of monogamy are still true, and therefore it is clearly unfair and incorrect to state that monogamy only benefited men. Women, children and men alike benefited from monogamy – even though it certainly wasn’t a perfect model by any measure, since the static male and female gender roles were still around.


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