Sunday, October 28, 2007


I was reading this article and it got me thinking. With few exceptions is something that men do to women and other men. Women, generally, do not seem to rape people. While there are some biological facts that make it somewhat difficult for a woman to rape a man, the impetus to even consider doing it just doesn't seem to be there.

First though its important to distinguish two main types of rape. While current thinking likes to argue that all rape is not about sex, but power, this does not seem to be the case. I am thinking specifically of date rape. Especially date rape that occurs after some level of sexual activity has begun. Here I think the main motivation is sexual release.

I am not saying that power is not at issue, it is, but it is secondary to the sexual motivation. Power comes up in the belief that one can, or should, be able to gain sexual pleasure from an unwilling partner. Whether that partner is unwilling by threat of force, or though the affects of substances. Nevertheless the belief that one can force someone to have sex, is problematic.

What I find interesting is why men, at seemingly increasing frequency are raping women, or who at least in theory find it ok to force a woman to have sex with them. Beyond that the increasing appeal of porn that degrades women, and overall attitudes that seek to demean and degrade women. You could add to this the rise of fundamentalist religion that argues for women to return to the traditional roles.

The answer I think is that women are winning. Whether its college admittance, entry-level jobs, or happiness with life women are beating men. They are going to grad school, getting better jobs, and gaining power. While the upper echelons of power are still(mostly) held by men, that seems to be more and more the final legacy of sexism.

From the stand point of masculinity that is unacceptable. We are supposed to be the ones in charge. It is our job to protect. provide, and control women. If you've gotten somewhat annoyed when someone turns down your help you can see where I'm going with this.

Men are told and encouraged to adopt this kind of masculinity. From media to parents we are shown an idea of masculinity that requires us to view women as somewhat childlike. Even when strong women are portrayed in media they eventually will require the rescue of a man. Torture porn being the most egregious example, but one can see it in many other forms. The strong, independent heroine is eventually placed in a situation where only a man can get her out.

The thing is, the world doesn't work like this. Women rarely need us men to come rescue them. While they welcome mutually supportive partnerships, many aren't looking for a protector to control them.

Beyond that men are increasingly finding themselves unable to compete with women. As mentioned early women are out pacing men in most fields. Again we have been raised to believe we are the one who should go to the good schools, have the good jobs, and be in charge.

A good case study of this is in South Africa. South Africa is experiences an epidemic of rape. Rape by young black men. As with the US, it's women, in this case black women, who are doing the best. In the post-apartheid world black women are earning the most, doing the best in school, and beginning to gain power.

Perhaps more so then in the US, South Africa is a very patriarchal culture. The myriad social problems this has cased, from AIDS to spousal abuse are too numerous to go into. However its clear that while patriarchy is still prevelent, the success of women is undermining it. A women with a steady job is not going to(willingly) take orders from an unemployed man.

Faced with this reality many (and I mean many) men in South Africa are responding violently. Brought up to believe they are entitled to have power yet lacking it, they respond by exercising the one power they have left, physical force. One of the surest ways a man can "put a woman in her place" is by raping her. It reaffirms physical superiority and the resulting trauma inflicted on the victim further reinforces ideas of superiority.

Back in the US, we are seeing somewhat the same phenomenon. From Girls Gone Wild, to the increasing accepetence of date rape, men it seems are responding in the same way South African men are. Women are in charge, we resent that, so we we respond by exerting our power in the only way we can, through force.

This is why I think that in responding to rape feminism has reached the limit of what it, as a womens movement, can do. The problem is not legal, or a matter of womens rights, studies, or the like. Its a problem of masculinity. Masculinity, as it has been defined is no longer able to function in society. It has to change.

Feminism broke the ground and has lead the way in how to do this. the reexamination of femininity that began with the rise of feminism has taken femininity into the modern age. The reexamination of female gender roles has not been wholesale of course. There are aspects of femininity that are still the same as they always have been. Whether its fashion, emotional sensitivity, or romance movies, many women still enjoy these things while being strong leaders in society. Of course many don't and thats ok too. Feminism has showed us that we can decide for ourselves how we construct our gender identity. Unless your a man.

this not, per se, a problem of feminism. It is not anti-men, nor has it purposely neglected men in its pursuits. However, no more then a man could tell women how to reform femininity, women can't tell men how to reform their masculinity. In fact in doing so it only fuels the problem were talking about. Masculinity is at the core of many mens sense of self and such things do not respond kindly to critique.

What is needed is a mens movement in line with the feminist movement. Men need to reevaluate what it means to be a man. Specifically we need to jettison the sense of entitlement brought about by antiquated notions of patriarchy. We need a maculinity that is acceptable in a 21st century egalitarian soceity.

This does not mean a complete rejection of masculinity. Just as feminism maintained many aspects of feminism, so to can our reevaluation maintain many aspects of masculinity. In some case aspects of feminism shifted from a subservient roles, to a role of equality and even power. For example the care ethic enjoys substantial popularity amongst committed feminists.

For example one element of masculinity is the chivalrous notion of defending the defenseless, more often the not cast as women. This motivation is not in and of itself bad. The notion of coming to the aid of those suffering is a noble and good thing. The problem is its entanglement with sexism. Just as femininity detached care from subservience, so too must masculinity detach defense from dominance.

There are some doing this work already, but not enough. More then that it needs to permeate the culture. Feminism was added in this by a political movement. There seems to be no such movement for men aside from destructive mens rightest who want to do the opposite of whats needed.

I am not sure how we can do this but it needs to be done. Not only will it, I hope, curtail instances of rape, but it will I believe better enable men to succeed in society. When we lose our sense of entitlement hopefully we will understand that our success in life is measured by our ability and hard work, not by the fact that we have a cock.

One way I know we can do this is by raising the next generation of men to view the world differently.

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