My wife and I are so glad the issue of men’s sexual harassment and abuse has come to the surface of our national discussion. But these revelations also bring with them a perilous moment. It is understandable that after so many centuries of culturally accepted oppression by men in big and small ways, woman might only focus on the crimes and not some of the underlying issues. Without insight into these issues, any rectification will be perhaps satisfying, but temporary.
When all the revelations about male sexual abuse started to make the news, it was obvious to me—as it was to probably everyone else—that in a short time, things would go too far. Obnoxious males would be conflated with sexual predators, rapists and molesters with sexual misconduct which, while still egregious, is of a different ilk. Forgiveness would be in short supply and exposing sexual misdeeds across the spectrum, from a pat on the ass to out-and-out rape, would become a pastime. Each day’s paper would bring new revelations. It would make for salacious reading.
On the other hand, none of these behaviors are acceptable. Some are criminal. Others are grossly indecent. (To understand this physically and viscerally, just pretend it was a women doing any of these things to a man.) My attitude was: yes, this is going to get a little Big Sister-ish but it is long overdue, hundreds and hundreds of years overdue in fact, and this turning of the wheel was needed for everyone’s body and soul, men and women and families and kids and government and, well, everything and everyone. But there are warning signs that must be heeded or at least mentioned as we speed to the righteous land, out of the misery men have caused women from the beginning of time I suspect, until now.
There are two aspects to discuss. The first, is men’s sexuality, a sexuality that is different than women’s and whose biology excuses nothing but explains a lot. As a general rule—or even as a sort of stereotype that has a large degree of truth in it—men’s sexuality is highly visual and easily separated from the feeling that other people are real. I don’t mean this in a psychotic way, but in the fact that the sexual drive to fuck, to plant the seed, is so strong, delivered to men’s consciousness by the testosterone they produce, that they are easily dissociated from seeing their partner as a real person, in favor of seeing them as a walking group of organs of interest. Here I am not talking about long-term love relationships, relationships built on trust and love over a period of time, but rather a current that practically every man I’ve ever spoken to has at least to some degree.
Most men, if they are even aware of this current, either ride it as an emblem of masculine pride or suppress it as best they can. It is not civilized. It is not acceptable. Yet, for most men, it lies beneath the outer, spoken words and good behavior. These words of lust and intense self-interest are usually spoken only in the adolescent voice, whenever that adolescent voice is given speech, be it in actual adolescence or in its lingering return in high school, college, locker rooms, business meetings, clubs, places of work…and high-echelon meetings in government. It mixes with misogyny but is intrinsically tied up in men’s sexuality and how they think—or won’t think—about it. Put this procreating urge in the body of a powerful, vindictive man, one who has surrendered his scruples and his testicles to the will of the orgasm Über Alles, to the pleasures of body, power and control over all, and you have the de-humanizing men like Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly and others probably too numerous to mention, the Dorian Grey’s of our modern world.
What to do? Simple repression of this urge, this current, noticed or not, is not the answer. Neither, does it seem, that discussions among men themselves will completely do the trick. Speaking strictly about heterosexual men, perhaps this is because men unconsciously understand that women know a lot about this voracious, amoral aspect of men’s sexuality, an aspect that men are—even when they consciously deny it—deeply ashamed of. If someone knows some of your deepest secrets, knowledge of your most base parts, they have power over you—or at least that is the fear. And that fear brings both hatred of women and the desire to control them.
So it is both men and women who need to discuss all of this. It is men and women who together, need to understand this aspect of men’s sexuality, bring it out of the shadows without guilt and without acting it out so that, seen, accepted, and worked with directly, it can bring its positive, life-affirming power and none of its destructiveness into our social and personal lives.
Men’s sexuality is a potent force that has the potential to injure and hurt or be a powerful force for love, depending upon whether it is met, accepted and actually loved for what it is, the male version of the life force itself.
When men get together and joke about sex and women, when they talk grossly and often humorously about fucking and the women they’d like to do that to; when they talk about the specifics of women’s bodies—without talking about the women, they are avoiding the direct meeting with this potent, if often primitive, force. Contrary to popular thinking, including our president’s defense of his pussy-grabbing talk as being “locker room talk,” it is a rare thing indeed for men to talk to each other—and god forbid to a woman!—about this force within each of them they can hardly handle and little understand. Male sexuality only remains primitive when it is not related to, seen clearly, accepted and loved. When and as those things occur, there is no secret to keep from women; there is no shame and powerlessness, nor is there the urge to negatively act out something that is designed for love, for the meeting with the women’s own brand of sexual fervor and heat. This is a topic for men and women to talk about together.
Once accepted and rectified, this particularly male form of sexuality (and yes, I know many women have this type of sexuality too. These generalizations are here to make a point), male sexuality in its fortissimo but safe form, its ball-swinging, un-castrated form, is enlivening and pro-life in the deepest sense. It is also sexy. If women want to be safe with men, this frank discussion about men’s sexuality needs to happen between the sexes. Women need to hear about how men feel about this power and even how uncomfortable they are about this part of them.
This discussion is not only for women to hear directly from men but for men, in the company of women, to discover, perhaps for the first time, their real feelings about their sexuality. Remember: when ready for sex, men’s genitals feel powerful. When soft, these hanging pieces of flesh feel vulnerable and are always exposed to potential injury. Men often act out their negative sexual aggression when they are covering up—and defending against—that very real vulnerability and weakness.
When men’s sexuality is taken out of the darkness and brought into the light of consciousness, with full responsibility and honesty, it will serve the cause of reconciliation and repair. If men and women face this ages-old male problem together, we actually stand a chance of seeing a lasting change that allows for real connection, real passion and real love. (This article was written by Arlene and Jason Shulman)