Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Guest Post: What Do Men Get from Promotimg the Image of Man-as-Beast?

Recent comments that trade on the notion that men are not remotely trustworthy when it comes to sex touches on an issue that continues to amaze and disturb me. Why do men want to promote the stereotype that they are wholly selfish, contantly rutting, testosterone machines who have no sense of morally binding constraints, to say nothing of human empathy, compassion, or love? I think I understand why some women feel this way (which doesn't mean I find it justified), but I'd think men would be defending themselves against this perverse image, not supporting it. So what do men have to gain? Why do they invest in this stereotype?

It always seems to go like this, I make some claim about how men seem to be motivated by something other than their dicks, and some man inevitably chuckles knowingly, and condescendingly reassures me that I'm wrong, naïve, and being misled by ingeniously manipulative men. How can I now dispute this? He's a man, after all. He must know. But this supposition is a load of crap. All any given man has direct knowledge of is his own motivations, urges, and preoccupations (if he even has this). To generalize from that to all men is hasty indeed. They can't know how all men feel any more than I can know how all women feel. Spaz and I, for example, are very similar in some ways, but very different in others, and I would never assume that we are both, deep down, motivated by the same desires. And that's just two of us. I have no idea what "all women want."

So WHY do men want to promote this image of themselves as slavering animals only barely controlled by a civilizing society? Why are there so many spam/urban legend e-mails that trade on women's fears of being raped? You know, the sterilization-drug one, the parking lot flyer one? Even the legitimate warnings about the date-rape drug seem to want to make women constantly afraid that the second they let down their guard they will be attacked. (By the way, I always get sent these e-mails by a man, never by a woman.) No doubt, there are some real louses out there, and even some monsters, but if this were the make up of the majority of men, society would not function at all.

I'm sure that there are important differences between men and women's concerns about pregnancy, and for obvious reasons. That is not the essence of my concern. My question is specifically, what do men gain from promoting the image of man-as-beast? It seems to have something to do with keeping women in self-doubt and fear, maybe not deliberately, but the effect is there. So what's that about?

Written by *I*