I usually keep my personal life out of my writing, but it’s impossible to write about the flood of men accused of sexual assault without some reference to my own experience as a male in the 90s and 2000s.
It’s weird—ask any guy and they’ll agree that of course (of course!) sexually assaulting women is wrong, but there’s a feeling in the air that this surge of men being accused of doing just that is dangerous or somehow bad.
I’d like to try explaining this. Men have taken a hit lately, and for good reason, but I don’t want my explanation to read as an attack on men, or an apology / justification for assault or bad treatment. Just perceptions in a difficult time.
Some men are (understandably, but regrettably) confused now because we grew up in a hyper-sexual world predicated on male sexual desire, and we are being bombarded with incontrovertible evidence that this world was anything but innocent. We, men, are and feel implicated in it.
Let’s be clear, women have been describing what‘s currently in headlines for years, and we didn’t listen. We didn’t want to. That world was very fun for us, and we didn’t want the party to stop.
Imagine existing in a world that accepts and caters to the deepest impulse raging through your body. That’s what it was to be male growing up in North America in the 90s and 2000s.
Imagine, the jokes, movies, the socially acceptable professional / unprofessional dynamics in so many ways all reflected and encouraged precisely what you most badly wanted to do. Both nature and nurture said the same thing: go for it.
Would anybody turn this off voluntarily?
This is about power—the reason good men (not Nice Guys, actual good men) may be uncomfortable today or even worried about women publicly describing how men have assaulted them is, for the first time, the world is making a demand on men, and we’re actually being expected to obey it.
That the demand is an ultra small demand—don’t be greasy let alone actually rape women—doesn’t change the fact that it’s a demand. It’s not the substance of the demand causing discomfort really, it’s that there’s any demand at all. (This is an explanation, not a justification for the discomfort.)
Male impunity is gone in the present and the past, and there’s a backlog of behavior being held accountable that was never supposed to be held to account.
In short, for the first time, men are not in total control. Ceding power is perceived by some men, MRA types or alt-right fuckers, as weakness. The connection they make between social power and sexual prowess is explicit in their use of the term “cuck” (from cuckold, as in a male whose wife has sex with another man) as a general pejorative. Males who don’t dominate are weak, to this type. Trite, brain dead alpha macho shit flourishes here. Of course progressive types can be misogynists who assault women too, which only shows that this transcends politics: it’s a male problem.
But every normal person across the political spectrum agrees that sex crimes against women (or men) are wrong, so I want to look at the culture of my youth, which at the time I (like everyone) enjoyed but now seems incredibly unhealthy and toxic.
In one of countless examples I can name, my friends and I lamented what we perceived as a crackdown on fun, when the summer camp I went to ended a staff rec tradition of the “Sex Olympics”, where among other things, female staff (16+) competed to see who could best deep throat popsicles. That this ever existed seems as ridiculous now as cancelling it did then.
But of course the Sex Olympics seemed like a reasonable thing to do in 2001. That was for staff. As campers we were brought up in this culture, and if 13-year-olds could inhabit a milieu that was near in spirit to hardcore porn, why shouldn’t people 16 and up? I called this the pussification of society. Casual misogyny abounded here. At the time, it was life and life as a young man then was fun.
I wonder about people who read my facebook posts supporting the female accusers, who saw me drunk as hell on a dance floor grinding with a random or telling or laughing at obscene ribald jokes, and think me a hypocrite. Well, I doubt anybody has an unblemished record, and this isn’t really about me. Every guy should be frantically searching their memory for bad shit they might have done, otherwise they’re inexperienced or part of the problem. I leave it to them.
Women have described what’s in the headlines for years, but it’s reached the point where it’s simply impossible to deny. Thankfully, women are finally being believed and the public is getting a feel for the scale of the problem.
So, how to move forward?
Civilization is, in essence, order imposed on the lizard brain. Civilization is the collective act of using human intelligence to lift us above the conditions of feral animals, and choosing how life should be then enforcing it. At its root, art is ordering chaos. Laws do the same. Art and laws are civilization.
But, that we have the capacity for rational thought obscures the fact that rationale is not what primarily motivates us. The lizard brain has a much larger say than we want to believe. That’s why progressives can prove to be just as sick fucks as anybody else. Not having principles and setting them aside amount to the same.
The facts are as follows: human beings survived because of evolution, and evolution implanted in us the innate desire to want to fuck. It’s why we think of sex every seven seconds. Among other things, this sex drive led to the survival of our species (good!) and terrible consequences for women (terrible!).
I’ll say something my leftist friends have given me shit for: males and women are hard-wired differently. To be crystal clear, I believe nothing is more important than an individual’s right to be / do whatever they want, and I hate narrow or even broad gender stereotypes. The idea of telling anyone how to live, or of being told, repulses me. But can it be coincidental that over the course of history, the physically dominant gender has dominated?
I took a course in evolutionary psychology (EP) where the class text was written by a female feminist named Anne Campbell. This was by design, as leftists are suspicious of EP because they fear (sometimes correctly) hard-wiring is invoked in an attempt to justify male superiority, or the naturalistic fallacy, that something is desirable and maybe even inevitable for being natural. No.
EP just posits that something can be said to fit into “human nature” if it is found to exist across time and across the planet. In other words, to qualify, an underlying behavior must occur basically always and everywhere. Can anyone name an era and place where women held real power? Sure, Google may turn up an isolated indigenous matriarchal society, but what does it say that you need to Google it? In the enlightened West women couldn’t originally vote. Same with celebrated Ancient Greece. The leading military figures and robber barons, the people with real power, have all been men.
The notion that women are people does not come naturally to men, who categorize them in two groups, women to be and not to be fucked. Hot or not. People need to unlearn a lot of messed up ideas they inherited, and ones pre-programmed in their brain.
It’s not for me to condemn male behavior—every person only knows what they’ve done in their life and that’s their responsibility. Of course women are the victims of patriarchy, but there isn’t one social institution that fosters any real sense of philosophy for its own sake. How to be friends with people, how to feel and be, how to love. Men suffer from this too, even the ones who behave badly and impose suffering on others.
Chivalry is essentially rituals around men ceding power to women—holding the door open, pulling out their chair, taking off a coat to warm them when it’s cold. Subconsciously, the idea boils down to: I’m physically more powerful than you, but I will use my power for you, rather than against you. Men must continue doing this, but writ large rather than in small isolated and ceremonial acts, and in ways that don’t directly benefit men. If chivalry is just a way to fuck a girl, it’s not really chivalrous.
The point is to give up power because it’s the right thing to do. I doubt this will happen. Even as more guilty men fall, I doubt things will fundamentally change. I hope I’m wrong.
The beast is in so many social institutions and reflected back at us because it’s in us in the first place. Men. The cycle moves in both directions. It’s in our lizard brain, so it’s in our movies and conversation, the office, the streets, the home. Everywhere. Men haven’t been asked to reckon with this, to amend our behavior.
Well of course we were asked, but we denied there was a problem. We denied we were the problem. Denying it was wrong then, but it’s impossible now. No guy can claim innocence ever again.
Every guy is hopefully having a private reckoning, assessing how they behaved in the old world by the new standards. Assuming your conduct was just gross or shameful and not illegal, there were excuses, even if bad ones.
But what you do now moving forward in the post-innocence era is up to you.