Meditations on Masculinity & Intellectual Castration

“Feminist women are the now the sole arbiters of what is and is not appropriate sexual behavior”.

Well-behaved, uncontroversial celebrities do not, as a rule, make for good headlines. Stretching all the way back to the Greek tragedies, the mob feeds on the darker human emotions: murder, mayhem, chaos, rape, assault. News shows are filled with intrigues of revenge and killing, handgun violence, and the latest gripping drama-celebrity and powerful men who sexually assault women.

Naomi Klein, whom I agree and disagree with on a wide variety of topics, pointed out in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism that these profoundly human issues are at the core of how control is inverted in a democratic society. We skip, as it were, from one crisis to the next — never finding solutions, forever mired in controversy and debate.

There can, that is to say, be no theater unless bad things happen, unless there are terrible problems, insoluble knots; without them, there would be nothing for the characters to do.* David Mendelsohn

And so, like Penelope waiting for Ulysses, the public now plays the role of forlorn wife — waiting for reason to return from being lost, awash in a sea of idiocy.

When I read this in the comments section of the NY Times coverage of the “Aziz Ansari affair”, my espresso soured in my stomach. Amidst a growing social crisis about sexuality, feminism, consent, rape, assault and the rest…it is not lost on me that I am in fact, part of this crisis. And to be honest, it makes me want to move to a cave in Greenland and never be seen again.

That my stomach turned is not ironic, because, in his Poetics, Aristotle refers to a plot as dêsis, which is roughly translated as a “binding up”. From the myriad and competing ideologies and public shaming; an ugly and worrisome knot, like a ball of yarn, eventually unravels and the release of tension is for all to see. (the lysis, or “undoing”)

Make no bones about it — culture is being undone on a grand scale and taking each and every one of us on a ride with it.

Most men would agree that women are empowered, strong people who are equal in every way to men — and I’d agree. I’m personally thrilled that women will now pay 1/2 the check. And yet, reading the news about Ansari (whom I have always found to be a creepy guy) some women claim that (Ansari) and all men for that matter ought to be mind-readers. Unfortunately, some women are incapable of communicating a two lettered word when having sexual interactions with men — and men are to blame that too.

On a personal note — as a bachelor for the vast majority of my life, I’ve never married for a reason, there is some truth in this. Unless you are complete dolt whose prefrontal cortex has been overridden by some wild remnant of neanderthal DNA — you do know when a woman is not down to get down. Men push that limit too often for various reasons, most of them insipid-instead of simply acknowledging what is going in with their partner — and inside themselves. For myself, the minute I feel funky, I’m all about talking about what is feeling funky. Problem solved. Sometimes a peck on the cheek is the perfect exit.

So here is my prediction.

Birth rates will soon plummet and social alienation will go through the roof. We will all withdraw from sex entirely to reset the rules and reform sexuality to empower women. That’s fine. Evidently, men’s attempts to initiate sex are either too aggressive, porn-ish, or plain old childish — so we are going to have to learn new ways, to follow women’s cues, or become celibates — which frankly — is exactly what I am planning to do. All of this — from accusations that have been due for ages to feminist societal upheaval to my own personal life feels a bit too Victorian.

What is considered empowerment cannot simultaneously be anti-male and pro intellectual castration. The downfall of patriarchy may very well have arrived, but it cannot succeed by the deliberate humiliation and shaming of men.

Perhaps no one else sees this yet, but we are creating a culture of intellectual castration and shame for men in this country. If men are not capable of a deeper emotional and spiritual connection that is required to be intimate with a woman— if we are all clue-less neanderthals-which is what I’m getting from the news every day — then it is time to accept it. By continuing to be relentless and insistent in any way that men are in fact not all the same is both humiliating, painful and ultimately self-emasculating because no one is listening.

The list of “powerful” and indicted men is getting larger by the day. So, first of all, who said that these were impressive men? Who has ever listened to Louis CK and not thought that he is at least a little fucked up? Who has ever thought Roman Polanski, or Woody Allen’s behavior was “normal”? When I am asked to opine — I recall my own upbringing. I am reminded of my Marine father’s strict insistence on manners and terse, but sage advice on sexual realpolitik. He covered everything from openly gay friends to military conscription in one fell’d swoop, “What happens in someone else’s bedroom is none of my business.” I’ll only add that what is going through someone else’s mind when then behave like a bonobo is also — none of my business.

That doesn’t mean I condone the sometimes absolute shit behaviour of men. In fact, I wrote about it nearly three years ago in somewhat graphic detail when my partner at the time got followed around her office by a pack of nerds who couldn’t control their libido.

Basic human dignity is at the core of the raging dilemma about sexism. That much should not be too complicated. That a woman’s right to dignity eludes so many men should come as no surprise. There is a universal and equal deficiency of dignity. We have forfeited so much of it already to the golden calf of patriarchy and it’s natural tentacle-like outgrowths-corporatism, consumerism and consumption. I will submit something altogether different to the reader.

All of us — male and female, (I’ll happily oblige to include everyone in between as well) wish to engage the world with meaning, to create dignity for ourselves — and that is not an easy thing to do in a culture saturated in sexism, racism, sensationalism and rampant stupidity.

Most of us, unless we are part of the 0000000.1 percent, are going to struggle. Male/female, gay/straight/ Christian/Muslim are all inadequately generic labels that no longer work and do not bring us together. Besides the fact that selfish individualism is the law of the land for the time being — one might consider that the divisiveness that plagues the globe is not in the best interest of humanity. Sexism, which is as old as Neanderthal droppings, is a blight on humanity, not just men.

If you haven’t checked your Instagram feed lately — everyone wants desperately to be authentic. We want to be ourselves — but that desire does not automatically imbue our lives with dignity. Dignity is the respect afforded to ourselves internally and externally by society. Most of us secretly wish to live by idiosyncratically. Plenty of us wish to counter the status quo. (f*ck good schools, silly rules, shitty jobs, and pointless technology). These very things render us generic. According to Mark Zuckerberg, we have all been thrilled (literally) to go along with it. You might have noticed him apologizing for the societal numbness Facebook has managed to spread.

That is exactly why am I concerned that the “revelation” that men have been harassing and abusing women for ages will result in an intellectual dragnet, the eventual intellectual castration of the so-called male perspective or experience. I’m not talking about the advent of a pseudo-Freudian dystopia either. One apologist for men already did this.

The problem, according to one writer is not societal decay at large or a lack of human dignity in general, evidently, the penis is to blame.

The thing about penises is that once you start thinking of them, they are everywhere. Penises are in our faces all day long. Skyscrapers, missiles, anything remotely jaunty or pointy, or sometimes puny depicted in art, or looming large in the mind of a politician. Penises pop up in graffiti both of the juvenile and professional variety. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans paint them everywhere. Hindus worship rock hard, stone lingam in their temples. Yes, even the stoic oak upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was nailed, was a big, hard phallus to someone with a dirty mind and a weird sense of the symbolic.

Let’s first agree that the king is officially dead and that we have arrived at the proverbial “end of the penis”.

Here’s a suggestion. Since the penis is the problem, all heterosexual men should immediately volunteer to have their penises removed to atone for nearly ten millennia of men abusing, raping, using, objectifying, hitting-on, looking at, staring at, touching without permission, or having sex without consent. Gay men will be spared because they only do these things to other men — and that doesn’t count.

Yes, I know brothers. It is not you who harasses, intimidates, cajoles, jokes, and makes an ass of himself. You don’t do that. You don’t talk trash with your crew at the bar or after the game. I know — you feel plain old banged up because you are going to get your dick chopped off because power-broker Johnny Wallstreet or Brogrammer Bob can’t keep it in his pants while partying on his 150ft yacht or while he takes a spin in his Telsa down Santana Row.

Never mind how or why any woman in her right mind would entertain these types of men — god only knows what else goes on at elite orgies in The Hamptons, Hollywood or Silicon Valley. I can tell something that doesn’t happen — career advancement. But that’s off limits. Don’t you dare bring that up because then you won’t actually be calling for dignity, personal responsibility and safety — you’d be advocating rape.

I realize that some men, the average dudes who actually work for a living, who have sisters and mothers and cousins and wives and daughters whom we wouldn’t in a million years tolerate being disrespected or god forbid harmed - — brother, we walk that razor’s edge between father-figure, older brother, therapist, best-friend, support-system, special forces wanna-be, sensitive poet-guy and professional tantric masseuse. We must adapt.

{I cannot help but feel that this is a joke here that no one is laughing at. Sort of like watching Tig Notaro give a monologue on defecating.}

Anyone with one working brain cell and some time to read a few books knows that historical patriarchy has shaped the world. I learned that in boarding school while I was perfecting my masturbatory techniques; the verbal kind. I also learned really fast that you looked like an idiot when you went about demonstrating your interest in a girl beyond a simple “Hi, my name is..” Some of us — yes a vast majority in fact, were simply raised not to be assholes. This elusive art was once called “manners”.

Yes friends, from Cavemen to Vikings to Catholics to Puritans to Paul Ryan — yes men can be beastly, brutish assholes. I don’t mention President(s) because evidently at a certain level of power you become immune to such criticism. A whole bunch of extraordinary things happened while men were being brutish assholes over the last 6000 years, but that’s irrelevant too.

And so what…? It appears that absolutely no one has considered that this is an extraordinarily nuanced issue and not a #hashtag.

First of all, questioning or denying patriarchy, never mind the prevalence of “rape culture” or “identity politics” will get you executed. You are not allowed to speak of it — that would be mansplaining. Even if you have never conceived of treating a woman poorly — you should still not speak of it. Perhaps because you were raised in an environment where that was the norm and because of it, you decided long ago — quietly, I will never treat anyone that way. But that doesn’t count. You don’t count. You will go down squiggling like a runt pig.

As my friend Ira Israel writes, in his new book How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening,

…”the myth of romance is moribund; passion may be comorbid with a level of dysfunctionality that has become insufferable. Hereafter, all roads must lead to authenticity and authentic communications. So no, Woody Allen, you may no longer wink at pretty, young girls”.

Reformation of the sexes is at hand gentlemen ! This means, keep those eyes looking straight ahead, hands on your lap, and johnny in his jar. Join the happy neoliberal parade as we goes from “He to She to They to We”.

Viva la sexual socialisme!

Consider Mr. Israel’s cheerful epitaph …”romance is moribund, and passion is comorbid with dysfunctionality”…If that language doesn’t make your balls shrink to the size of hazelnuts — nothing will. Now we have male psychologists posing as “moral police.” Following his reasoning, should an old man at church wink at my daughter or pinch her cheek, I should either upbraid him publically by writing an editorial, have him arrested or perhaps hung in the town square — preferably upside down. Perhaps we ought to have a group of bonneted women stone him to death. Thank you Mrs. Atwood.

Think that bit is bad?

Here’s advice from a gay man, Donovan Trott, for the “hetero-norms.”

—“Now it might sound like a lot of work to constantly check in with your partner to see if they are enjoying sex and that’s because you’re a straight man, and by definition, a selfish ass. You’re literally the only people on the planet (minus a few lucky lesbians) who have never had, and will never have, a penis in your mouth. Look, if it’s any consolation, your partner will have a much more enjoyable experience if you are a more aware lover, which in turn will make you better at sex. So, see? It’s not all bad.

Thanks for adding to the now incessant infantilization of straight men Don.

The notion that men may have been good only long ago is gibberish. I see good men every day. That we have built things and lives and raised families is not comorbid with codependence. We have loved greatly and wonderfully — and that should not be questioned — even it is flawed — because that is inevitable and human. Have we loved inappropriately? Did we love too much? Was that love freeing or imprisoning? Was I ever jealous, have I ever felt a pang of anger for a woman who thwarted me? Why yes I have done all of these things. There are novels about the very universal experience of unrequited love. I suggest Anna Karenina for starters.

When shall we start burning them?

That we have fought wars and have died in them makes no difference. We have gone out for soup at 3 am and held your hair while you puked from too many peppermint schnapps is sentimental. We also looked out for you the whole evening when you were too drunk to see straight and every predator on that yacht began to hover — but that too is unnecessary.

So hee with difficult labour hard,
Moved on, with difficulty and labour hee.
- Milton’s Paradise Lost

Without taking one ounce away from empowerment for women — whom in my view have always and will always control the sexual realpolitik — this is the end of sex as we know it. As far as most men are concerned — we already run a massive financial risk in marriage, now we run a criminal risk in engaging in any behaviour that MIGHT be perceived as unwanted. I’d much rather enjoy a cigar and read Don Quixote than bother with either at this juncture. It appears that are revisiting a weird Victorian age — so I think we can say that the feminists and conservatives have won the culture wars. No wonder there is a burgeoning need for psychotherapists.

Next time you need someone to walk you to your car or get you off that boat — go alone, but grab a tire iron while you are at it. I will be home with a hot water bottle pressed against my precious, castrated male ego sipping a small glass of rye with bitter lemon and soda watching Oprah take over the world.

I believe the cocktail is called, “The Weary Gentleman”.


Thank you for reading.