Liberal Male Guilt: Virtue Signals and Truths

A reader posted a link to the article The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido by Stephen Marche in her response to my post Are Men Who Avoid Women at Work Being Childish? Here are my comments:

libidoAfter 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.

Only a man who lacks integrity would say that a man’s opinions have no relationship to his behavior.

Through sheer bulk, the string of revelations… have forced men to confront what they hate to think about most: the nature of men in general.

Bullshit. While it may be the nature of many, it is not the nature of all.

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.

Dworkin is a misandric radical feminist and a marxist. Not exactly a credible citation.

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.

If you feel this way about yourself, I feel sorry for you. My conscience is clear.

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.

Have you ever thought it might be you? Having read your article, I would not talk to you about myself.

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.

I watch and read content produced by many other men. While men don’t deal with their nature in the way women do, we are far from ignorant. Holding up the sex education taught in government schools as good is laughable.

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.

And yet many of the offenders are feminist men. Perhaps it’s time to stop doubling down on your ideology and instead start delving into philosophy, literature, and the world’s religions.

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.

Liberalism in it’s (so called) progressive form has destroyed the family, made women less happy, and led to movements such as MGTOW who are walking away from society. Hardly a triumph.

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?)

Sex is about survival of the species. If you don’t believe sex is about pleasure, you’re doing it wrong.

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.

If you believe that, you must have had a fucked up childhood. Freud was a sad one trick pony, but he realized that these were subconscious motivations. How many men do you know who have murdered their fathers or slept with their mothers?

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.

As I said in my post, we see that men are being hung without trial in the court of public opinion. Why would we not retreat?

Sex is an impediment to any idealism, which is why the post-Weinstein era will be an era of gender pessimism.

Feminism and gynocentrism have already led to immense pessimism among men. But I agree, it will now be worse.

What if there is no possible reconciliation between the bright clean ideals of gender equality and the mechanisms of human desire?

The genders are not equal. The best we can do is give everyone an equal opportunity, which we are failing at doing. But even if we do our best, we will not have equal outcomes, because people are different, and that is a good thing.

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.

I disagree. You are using fear, not shame.

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.

Men and women are different. Healthy sexuality has existed for millions of years, albeit along side brutality. Shaming all men as brutal is certainly not going to help bring them to the table.

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.

Why would I take advice from someone who believes he is a monster?

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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3 Responses to Liberal Male Guilt: Virtue Signals and Truths

  1. jonolan says:

    Well actually, “thanks” to ever degenerating agenda of Feminism, sex is more about power than pleasure today. Just look at how much power women wield just by making the accusation that a man somehow, some way (The details are normally vague) “sexually harassed” them.

    Frankly, I say that, if it’s reasonable to assume she’s a feminist, don’t interact with her one iota more than you are forced by circumstance to do so. No greeting beyond a nod in passing; don’t even look at them beyond checking their position if you’re moving; certainly spend no time with them at a personal level. Shun them for they are abhorrent and should be an abomination to you!

    • jimbelton says:

      Personally, I distinguish between sex itself, which for (hopefully) most of us is not about brutality, and sexual politics, which I agree has become brutal. Allegations of sexual misconduct were the nuclear weapons of sexual politics, but they are now being deployed (in some cases) to swat flies, which is dangerous for all involved.
      Business interactions with women cannot always be avoided. My advice is to be courteous and professional and to avoid situations that could allow your reputation to be compromised.

      • jonolan says:

        I just take it farther than “courteous and professional.” I say to take NO actions to make them welcome because doing so puts a man at risk. Sure, no rudeness and no unprofessional actions, but no real courtesy, at least as I think of that.

        Let them know that they’re there SOLELY because we either have to grant them that privilege or that they’re properly useful just as we are – well, I hope we are at least.

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