First, and foremost, let me say, “me, too.” And let me share my wish of so many deep, hugs and bottomless glasses of wine and fathomless conversations with loved ones that heal with their words and their presence to every human that has felt denigrated in that way.
I’m not going to say, “but” here, because there is no “but” in denigration, so I am going to say. . . ALSO…..because someone needs to be the Lorax for the good men who are confused. And to stand among the angry women with a sign that says, “I’m angry, but I want my anger to be constructive, not destructive.” Or something better, shorter, and maybe rhyming, you know, for tv.
I am the mother of men. And shit, are they amazing men. Really. Funny, smart, handsome, they cook, they mow, they clean, they care. . . And they’re scared. They’re scared because I have had to raise them in a society where they are supposed to act asexual without sacrificing their masculinity. Where, in addition to all of the things that men have had to know since the beginning of time—how to provide, how to protect, how to lead, when to follow, how to adapt—they are also tasked with knowing all of the things that modern society demands—how they are perceived, how to interpret nuances, how to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of others around them, which emotions are appropriate to show in which situation and when to mask their emotions, desires, and opinions in order to tread lightly on the other humans around them, and how to protect themselves when what has historically been sold as tacit consent sometimes isn’t actual consent at all. Don’t freak out. Hear me out here, please.
I’m not saying that these traits are dumb, but I’m saying that as recently as 50 years ago, these traits were not only NOT desirable but actually deemed unsellable for a man who wanted to find a life or sexual partner and that maybe we might need to take a second and wonder if we’re demanding a lot of things from men in a time frame that is incompatible with the speed at which human evolution works? Bear in mind, for example, that all of the changes that women are demanding of society are changes that we WANT and we still find it hard to adjust (ask any working mother how much easier her life is now that she has the potential to be as successful as her husband if her life is so much easier now than if she was just tasked to be a mother). We’re asking an entire society of men to change their lives for the worse and to be fair, we’re not really clear about what our expectations are of them. Really, think of the mixed messages we send.
Most of us will shout from the rooftops that there’s no correlation, but we live in a time where 50 Shades of Grey—arguably one of the worst written novels of all time with poor character development, a trite (if I’m being generous) story line and a fourth grade level vocabulary sold more than 125 MILLION copies in it’s first two years on the market. Those numbers are more than two years old, so they’re underestimated. At 125 million copies, 50 Shades is one of the top ten best selling novels of ALL TIME. Of. All. Time. A book that sexually aroused women—apparently more than 125 million of them—through the denigration and sexual abuse of a woman who actually found her abuser to be marriage and father material. And lived happily ever after. Let’s not even get into how many women went to see the movies. So why, if we think that men who demand sex or are sexual predators should be arrested, do we as a female society at large find it titillating to read about? To sexually idealize? To fantasize about? I’m not making a judgement call here, I’m just asking the question.
Almost every single romance novel marketed to women has a male character that is: 1. Wealthy and powerful with a ruthless ability to succeed. 2. Tall, has a full head of hair and a minimum of six abs—eight abs are also acceptable. 3. Commanding and forceful in a sexual situation. If that’s what turns hetero sexual women on is a rich ruthless prick who can pick us up and throw us against a wall (in a good way), why are we grinding the men in our society into man bun wearing feminazi’s THEN complaining from the rooftops about how hard it is to find a good man?!?! Are we being truly honest about what our definition of a “good man” is?
I would never justify or belittle the disgusting antics of the likes of Weinstein or Cosby, or Trump or Clinton or. . . .whomever, however, I DO think that this behavior speaks to a greater problem. Successful men are what society reveres and to be successful requires a certain amount of ruthless narcissism. Sorry, there. I said it. There is evidence that 15 of our 44 presidents have been involved in sexual misconduct. That’s more than 1/3 of the leaders of our nation. We revere them, we write history books of their great deeds. We made Monica Lewinsky famous and Clinton never spent a day suspended from his job without pay. JFK is still adored by women and his oft scorned wife held up as a paragon and we pretend that presidential sex scandal is news. But it’s the same prechewed and regurgitated baby bird food that the press has been spitting in our mouths since Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Cleveland and FDR. Do we love testosterone? Does it give these men success and charisma? Why do we LOVE men who assault women, harass women, use their power to seduce women and then pretend criminalize it but offer no real consequences?! Why do we want them to lead our nation and be the men that we ask our sons to idolize and emulate? Don’t even get me started on professional athletes.
What are we teaching our girls about the big bad world out there? They have hair colorists, sexy clothing, sultry role models from cartoons to play dolls. There’s teasing everywhere we look—makeup, push up bras, camera filters. . .girls are expected to entice. We are teaching women that their goal in life should be all about “look at me” first, substance second and that “look but don’t touch” is what they should expect of the world. A world that has been a little more “you break it, you buy it” for generations. They are trained by society to primp every day and to document it with photography that is ever present. There is no privacy. Nothing is sacred. And, apparently, teenaged boys are now supposed to asexually support all of these Disney style fantasies of prudish Victorianism and pine at home content with chaste kisses until marriage. But these girls aren’t wearing floor length skirts and pouring tea in sitting rooms with supervision. They are half naked, grinding, fleshy touching sirens who text naked pictures of themselves. . .and teenaged boys don’t know when they’re crying wolf and when they’re not. They’re teenaged boys. And let me clue you in on a little bit of accurate history here—Courtship and engagement in Victorian times rarely took longer than 90 days from kissing gloved hand to married copulation—and that was for the top 1% of the population. Most marriages took place within weeks of meeting. The couples had rarely spent time together alone and there were certainly never boobs or legs showing in this equation. But don’t worry. The men were taught about sex by prostitutes and lower classes of women with different views on sexuality and were frequently just marrying for financial means. . . Not love. Sex within marriage was for the means of procreation. Sex for satisfaction, fun or love occurred outside of the institution. Do I think that’s appropriate for now? NO, but I also don’t think that men have changed all that much in the time between then and now. My sons don’t want to “date” the vapid simpering baggages that some people call daughters for three years and wait for marriage. And if they did, those daughters would find them unattractive because asexual men are not masculine enough to elicit sexual attraction in a woman! Expecting hormonal teenaged boys to spend time and money on girls who tease and tease and tease and tease and tease is well, a pretty tall order when girls are being told to wait until they’ve graduated college and started a career to entertain marriage.
My sons and I talk about consent a lot. We talk about booze and passion, drugs and knowing who you are with. We’ve talked about having girls sign condom wrappers or asking them to videotape consent. When I think back to the onset of my sexuality, I try to superimpose these regulations onto my experience in love. And it sucks.
I think about my “Me, too” moments. There have actually been a fair few. I think about how I blamed myself or laughed them off and I’m disgusted with how ambivalent I am about all of it. But it helps, I think, for me to live in a world of men. It sounds counter intuitive, but it is cathartic to live with the “enemy,” to know his struggles. I was raised with only brothers and I have only sons. I have been forced, by situation, to view the world through a man’s eyes and despite the media’s opinion that white men rule the world and that life is all a box of chocolates, it’s not true. The good men are struggling, too. They feel marginalized by a society that can’t seem to make up its mind. Where, because of their sex or sexual orientation or the color of their skin, THEY aren’t entitled to voice an opinion about marginalization because society pretends that they hold all of the cards in a very stacked deck. They are expected to silently play the hand they’re dealt fairly and honestly while tacitly accepting that society believes that they are cheating just by being dealt in.
There is no justification for assault. None. But there continues to be celebration of it because our society makes heroes out of these criminals. By giving them money, votes, buying tickets, making documentaries and books, they are our leaders, business owners, professional athletes and entertainers. Yes, we are calling out these instances today, but we have been here before. And we have actually discovered that pointing a finger at it and shouting about it doesn’t affect change. What will make change happen? By continuing to place men who act in this way on a pedestal, are we saying that there is some part of us that doesn’t want change? For what it’s worth, that’s my question and probably more than a Susan B Anthony dollar’s worth of soapboxing.