10 12 2017

As one public figure after another tumbles, I’m starting to wonder whether any man in any position of prominence or authority will be left standing. The number of American politicians and entertainers who are being sacked due to generally well-substantiated charges that they used their power and authority to coerce women who needed their co-operation, into sexual contact that was not voluntary on the woman’s part continues to, um, mount.

It is simply outrageous that there is so much sexual predation in our culture. That it is so pervasive, I think, is because it is not a case of “a few bad apples,” but something systemic. The good news, I think, is that it’s very healthy for this to be coming to light, because awareness of a problem is  the first step towards solving it, and a saner sexual ethos is essential if our species is going to evolve. If we don’t evolve, on this and several other fronts, we are likely headed for a very messy extinction.

I think that the best place to begin is with personal disclosure. For the first several years of my sexual maturity, in my late teens and early twenties, I assumed that what we now call sexual predation was normal male behavior, and many of my early sexual experiences involved me being pushy in ways that, when I look back on them now, make me wince. I had no fame or power to offer, but it was the sixties, and “girls said yes to boys who said no.” I was one of those boys who said no, and I expected my due. I was never “violent,” but you don’t have to be “violent” to be a jerk. I was definitely a jerk.

I was raised by a mother who, by any standard, was a strong feminist, but the messages I got from American culture in the late 50’s and early 60’s far outweighed what little she had to say to me on the subject of sex and relationships. As I understood it, women needed to be seduced, if not outright pushed, into being sexual.

Back in those days, a certain amount of media attention was focused understanding why some women were “frigid.” (When was the last time you heard that word applied to a woman?) “Frigidity” was a term that objectified women, made it seem as if they were the ones with the problem, and absolved their upbringing,ignored their personal preferences, and, to a large extent, excused their partners from any role. The humor I enjoyed, likewise, re-enforced the notion that men want sex and women don’t, so it was up to men to trick women into it. Of course bosses chased their secretaries around the office.That was considered funny. Even my eventual exposure to Timothy Leary, who pointed out that the common sexual strategy was “load ’em up (with alcohol) and roll ’em over,” and declared that sex ought to be an act of sacred communion, didn’t penetrate from my intellect into my tail brain, at least at first.

But, thanks at least in part to the perspective on myself that Dr. Leary’s favorite pharmaceuticals and botanicals enabled. I started to notice that the arc of my sex life was an increasingly steep downward spiral. Each relationship seemed to be weirder and less satisfactory than the one that preceded it. Finally, with the help of some friends who were willing to give me tough love and peyote tea,  I faced up to the fact that the problem with my sexual/relational life was me. and formed a strong determination to refrain from initiating contact unless my prospective partner was making it explicitly clear that  she was interested in being intimate with me. About a year later, there was, indeed, an explicit invitation from a woman, resulting in a marriage that lasted for about twenty years, and came unglued for reasons that don’t particularly relate to the issue of sexual predation.

In the years since my first marriage broke up, I think I’ve generally respected the boundaries of the women in my life. Of course I’ve trespassed a few times–sometimes you have to cross a boundary to realize it’s there, but once you know it’s there, you’re supposed to apologize, not tell a woman she’s a prude for having her boundaries where they are. I have always chosen to apologize. That’s what you do when you step on somebody’s toes, right?

OK, now for the “Deep Green Perspective” part. What is “attractiveness” in women? It’s not just about being “pretty.” “Attractiveness” is, literally, an electro-magnetic quality, and I think that kind of “attractiveness” is an innate part of what constitutes femininity, just as it is an innate quality of one pole of a magnet. At a very basic level, women attract men the way a magnet pulls in iron filings. Before we get any further into this discussion, I want to make it clear that I am discussing electricity, not plumbing, and that an individual’s plumbing and electricity may or may not match up. For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter.

There’s another layer of female attractiveness: much as we try to disguise it with perfumes, aftershaves, and deodorants, each of us has a unique body scent. We also emit various transient pheromones that signal whether we are happy, sad,, or, in the case of women, in heat–i.e., ovulating. The scent of ovulation (subconsciously sensed, like the vast majority of what we smell) tends to arouse men, and the internal changes it produces make a woman’s body more interested in mating, no matter what her head may be thinking.

Note that I said “make a woman’s body more interested in mating.” All this electro-chemical attracting is taking place outside the realm of our conscious minds, which will tend to come up with excuses (“It seemed like good ideas at the time.”) to act on the feeling of attraction. Or to not act on it. While they are “universal attractors,” women have every right in the world to choose whom they will accept from among all the iron filings, er, guys, they attract, and all us iron filings, er, guys, need to understand that a woman’s basic attractiveness is radiant, not selective. The question isn’t whether you, or I, notice that a woman is attractive. The question is whether it’s you, or me, she wants to attract. We men need to have enough perspective on our desires and hormonal responses to notice that before we go charging ahead, cramming our tongues into women’s mouths and laying our hands on private places.

Another important aspect of sexual predation, I think, is the inherently unsatisfactory nature of exploitive sex. It’s kind of like an addictive drug–the first few times you do it, it’s really exciting. After that, it stops being so thrilling, but you keep doing it, hoping that this time, it’ll be like that again, and, even though it never is, you keep trying, because you don’t know what else to do. As somebody put it, addiction is trying to solve a problem with the same wrong answer, over and over again. Sometimes the wrong answer is heroin, sometimes it’s shopping, sometimes it’s an orgasm. The women a serial predator abuses aren’t human beings to him. They’re fixes.

Look, guys: What is freely given is far, far sweeter than what is rudely taken. Always. Every time. Just because males of some of our ape relatives get pushy, doesn’t mean it’s OK for us. Ever heard of “evolution”?

One of the original feminist memes was that patriarchies are “dominator cultures.” Originally, feminism was about ending the dominator/patriarchal culture, not on insisting that women have the right to be dominators, too.

As bel hooks put it,

““patriarchal culture continues to control the hearts of men precisely because it socializes males to believe that without their role as patriarchs they will have no reason for being. Dominator culture teaches all of us that the core of our identity is defined by the will to dominate and control others. We are taught that this will to dominate is more biologically hard-wired in males than in females. In actuality, dominator culture teaches us that we are all natural-born killers but that males are more able to realize the predator role. In the dominator model the pursuit of external power, the ability to manipulate and control others, is what matters most. When culture is based on a dominator model, not only will it be violent but it will frame all relationships as power struggles.”

Or consider this from Riane Eisler:

In the domination system, somebody has to be on top and somebody has to be on the bottom. People learn, starting in early childhood, to obey orders without question. They learn to carry a harsh voice in their heads telling them they’re no good, they don’t deserve love, they need to be punished. Families and societies are based on control that is explicitly or implicitly backed up by guilt, fear, and force. The world is divided into in-groups and out-groups, with those who are different seen as enemies to be conquered or destroyed.
Does any of that sound familiar? Do those shoes fit anybody you can think of? Note that, in the last Presidential election, our choose-the-lesser-evil political system downspiraled to a choice between a notorious sexual predator and the wife/enabler of a notorious sexual predator–who had twice been elected President himself in spite of numerous women’s well-documented allegations against him. The many so-called feminists and so-called progressives who insisted that the enabler was “well vetted” as a candidate for higher office somehow missed this issue. Hey, so did I, or I would have been screaming my head off about it, or maybe laughing my head off about it, during the campaign. Ah, hindsight.
The question of what needs to be done to raise human consciousness to the point where exploiting another person sexually is as unthinkable as eating them for dinner is relatively easy to answer: our society needs  to inculcate a deep tradition of respect for women,through clear initiation rites that help imprint that respect in the psyches of young men and women alike.
How to do that is another matter entirely. Like the obvious, logical solutions to excessive CO2 emissions and other forms of pollution, over-extraction of “resources,” income equality, and just about any other systemic problem you’d care to name, there appears to be insufficient sociopolitical will to make the changes that still could save us. But the good news is, all this outrage over what has been standard human operating procedure for so very long might just signal the beginnings of a shift in consciousness. This kind of self-examination is, I think, a much more productive pursuit than blaming the Russians for the mess we’re in. It is likely to take tougher love to bring society to its senses than it took to bring me to my senses–the use of peyote tea or its equivalent wouldn’t hurt, either–but perhaps this is the beginning of our societal path to redemption. I certainly hope so.
music: Richard Thompson, “Read About Love



2 responses

11 12 2017
Caz Loth

We’re still a young planet and women were once considered as either property or pets and we’re still evolving out of that kind of thinking.

16 12 2017

Up to a certain point in our individual evolution, “we’ve always” pooped and peed in our pants without a second thought. We get over that just fine!

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