Disregard females; acquire currency

In a comment on Hugo Schwyzer’s blog the commenter Xena males the argument is made that alpha males in ape troops  perform a useful role in maintaining the “longevity of the troop”, that is preventing other males in the troop causing problems.

Apes do this kind of stuff too. The little upstart adolescent wants something, food or whatever, that the alpha is protecting for good reason, namely the longevity of the troop. So they dance. Little guy takes the goods, alpha beats his chest, throws leaves around, whatever. If the little guy doesn’t respect the alpha’s authority, some alpha primates–I’m thinking baboons specifically, but other species do this, I just can’t remember without googling which others–will mount and assfuck the offender. I shit thee not. The runt does what he does to establish limits and see what he can get away with. The alpha does what he does to prevent WORSE acts of violence, etc. that would destroy the entire troop, but also to enhance his own status and probably to get off too.

Let’s assume that males also perform a useful role in protecting the troop from outside threats as well, so you have this judicial and protectective form of masculinity that seems quite familiar. In the  Masculinities, pluralities and protest post I made the argument that some forms of masculinity are at odds with attaining power in capitalist societies, such as protest masculinities, but also quoted Adam Smith’s description of the way that young men seek “honour and distinction” by becoming soldiers, and his argument that this is a poor trade for young men in an economic sense. Obviously I’m arguing that this honour and distinction is the same as judicial and protective form of masculinity.

I also made a comment in that comment thread,

You can argue that women are limited to around 400 eggs in their life time and this compares to however many million sperm, meaning that supply/demand economics puts greater value on eggs. However no woman has 400 children in her life time. Egg production is not the limiting factor, pregnancy or child rearing are. The ‘value’ of either sex in these biological terms is basically how much energy they put into raising children. It’s a labour-based theory of value. If women solely bear and rear children then the value of their contribution is much greater than men. Any labour that men do increases the value of their contribution. Men can also contribute value that they’ve gained from society, and since human societies have a variety of ways of bestowing value this becomes a fairly complicated exchange.

Property is one way that society can bestow value, honour and distinction another. In an ape troop, or in small communal human societies, individuals are limited to the latter. The introduction of private property to a society allows men to gain power that is no longer reliant on promoting communal interests. So does this mean that it is against the interest of society? Smith says of individuals investing capital, “By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it .” It’s not hard to see how such a different conception of value leads to a much more productive society. Rather than men fighting for power amongst themselves, with young rebels pushing the boundaries of the dominant men in society, this effort is put into productive labour, gathering capital and employing that capital in further productive labour. Yet the old archetypes remain, and as I said in my previous post on bodybuilding and heavily muscular male body ideals, “Western masculinity has been increasingly associated with this ideal as other traditional masculinities has been challenged.”

Buddha and Herakles

Buddhism originated from the teachings of Gautama Buddha, a prince from Nepal 2, 500 years ago. He believed in meditation and spiritual uplifting and emphasized right conduct. Right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration is some of the teachings of Buddha that has helped me to stay focused and be disciplined in my sport, bodybuilding.

- Wong Hong, Malaysian bodybuilder

After Gautama Buddha died his teachings rapidly spread across what is now India and Pakistan, particularly under the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (304-234 BCE) who converted to Buddhism and followed its teachings in public life, including free university education and veterinary hospitals. His neighbours to the west was the Greco-Bactrian empire, which was the easternmost extent of Greek power in Asia that remained after the conquests of Alexander the Great between the lives of Buddha and Ashoka. In  Mauryan and Greco-Bactrian empires the Greek and Buddhist culture mixed in some interesting ways. Ashoka had many Buddhist edicts written on stone tablets spread around his empire, two existing ones being written in ancient Greek, and one written in Gandharan suggesting that edicts had been sent all the way to Athens. In the sixth century ACE the Gandhara culture produced the two large statues of Buddha carved into the walls of the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

These statues show the apparent influence of Greek art on Buddhist imagery. Buddha had not been depicted as a person shortly after his death and it’s not hard to see the robed statues of Buddha drawing some Greek influence. North western Indian art has an interesting history of Greek influence, that may have spread into other Buddhist culture. The Greek influence is obvious in the depiction of Vajrapani, which appears to be based on Herakles carrying a lion cloak, however it may have also influenced the Japanese guardians of Buddha, the Nio.

The first two images are of Herakles, first a Roman bronze, then a Greco-Bactrian coin. In both of these Herakles is carrying his lion cloak. The third image is of Buddha with Vajrapani, his protector, who seems to be Herakles. The last image is of a Nio outside a Buddhist temple. The Nio are the Japanese equivalent of Vajrapani. Thanks to Wikipedia.

It’s also obvious that the Greek gods are heavily muscled where most Buddhist gods appear normal. The bodies of Greek gods are considered an ideal within Western culture. The effect of this has been called the Adonis complex by researcher Harrison Pope, who wrote a book of the same name. This was based on his research on men, such as a study on the ideal male body in the US, France and Austria.

Only slight demographic and physical differences were found among the three groups of men. Modest differences were found between the men’s measured fat and the fat of the images chosen. However, measures of muscularity produced large and highly significant differences. In all three countries, men chose an ideal body that was a mean of about 28 lb (13 kg) more muscular than themselves and estimated that women preferred a male body about 30 lb (14 kg) more muscular than themselves. In a pilot study, however, the authors found that actual women preferred an ordinary male body without added muscle.

-Pope et al. (2000)

Which led to research into comparisons with Eastern men showing that they had more realistic ideals.

The contrast between East and West was even clearer when we examined the difference between the men’s estimate of the muscularity of an “average man” in their culture and their estimate of “women’s preferred man” for muscularity. In the three Western countries, this difference ranged from 2.11 kg/m2 (Austria) to 2.46 kg/m2 (United States), but it was only 0.6 kg/m2 in Taiwan. When we translated these findings into conventional terms, we found that American men think that American women prefer a male body with about 20 lb more muscle than an average American man, whereas Taiwanese men estimate only a 5-lb difference on the same comparison.

-Yang, Grey and Pope (2005)

This paper threw up a few possible causes including western traditions of masculinity. Interestingly this paper also found that Taiwanese women’s magazines had fewer images of undressed men than US women’s magazines. A result of this is perhaps higher levels of muscle dysmorphia and anabolic steroid use in the West. When asked about Asian bodybuilders, Wong Hong says,

If you are talking about Asian bodybuilders not American Asians, then there are only a handful of them. If I am not mistaken, there is a new Japanese pro in the IFBB.

So it seems that the heavily muscled masculine ideal is a particularly Western phenomenon, and that even the cultural influence of ancient Greece and modern America hasn’t greatly changed Eastern masculinity. At the same time Western masculinity has been increasingly associated with this ideal as other traditional masculinities has been challenged.

References

Chi-Fu Jeffrey Yang, Peter Gray, Ph.D., and Harrison G. Pope Jr., M.D., M.P.H. (2005) Male Body Image in Taiwan Versus the West: Yanggang Zhiqi Meets the Adonis Complex, Am J Psychiatry 162:263-269

Harrison G. Pope, Jr., M.D., Amanda J. Gruber, M.D., Barbara Mangweth, Ph.D., Benjamin Bureau, Ph.D., Christine deCol, M.D., Roland Jouvent, M.D., and James I. Hudson, M.D., S.M.(2000) Body Image Perception Among Men in Three Countries, Am J Psychiatry 157:1297-1301

Male is the new men

A new group studying men has been formed, but to differentiate themselves from the existing men’s studies they have called themselves male studies. The group seems to come at things from a few different angles. Funding comes from the On Step Institute, a mental health group that, judging by their web site, seems to specialise in male health and education. The first conference, on the 7th of April, included the “equity feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers as well as Lionel Tiger, an anthropologist who has written books on things like the decline of males in modern society and edited a book on female hierarchies. The panelists for the conference came from typical academic backgrounds, but two of them have written a series of books on misandry. The site gives the description of the conference as:

It will encompass a broad range of topics relevant to the study of boys and men in contemporary society ranging from their roles in the family and workforce, as well as their physical and emotional health, to the growing problem of misandry—the hatred of males, an unacknowledged but underlying socio-cultural, economic, political and legal phenomenon endangering the well-being of both genders.

Tiger says they come from the position that “the notion that male and female organisms really are different.” This is clearly a contrast to the notion of gender being a social construct. I think there’s a valid critique of feminist positions on gender. The idea that gender is something inflicted on us by society depending on our anatomy seems to be quite common, and the term ‘gender essentialism’ is always pejorative. This works fine with the notion of people having a definite sex that gender sits on top of, and this way of looking at gender can free people from the restriction of social expectations of their sex. However differences between how male and female sexes as groups do regularly show up in studies, so there is arguably a case for determining how male and female people think and behave so that differences between the two can be reconciled. This links in with the On Step Institute, which says of its founders, “Dr. Robinson’s work with women in the highly competitive arena of Wall Street has helped her to define the ways in which female and male competition differ. Since 1984, she and Dr. Stephens have been working together in the area of unlearning destructive competitive strategies and developing ways of achieving harmony, or concinnity.”

The reaction to the group and the conference seems to be divided along feminist and men’s rights group lines. The Sexist and Tiger Beatdown both are fairly scathing, where we get this description of the conference from Men’s News Daily which gives it an A+. I think a lot of the heat has been generated by preconceptions fueled by comments such as Tiger stating that feminism is “a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon,” and the focus on misandry. The anti-feminist position of many men’s rights groups reads this as vindication and the feminists read it as playing to the men’s rights groups anti-feminism.

The basic difference between men’s studies and male studies appears to be that the former is based on feminist theory where the latter attempting to create something entirely separate. This seems to come from underlying philosohpical differences (the greater emphasis on natural causes for behaviour) as well as antagonism (the misandry of feminism). Miles Groth, the host of the conference, gives his take on the conferences in an article in the above mentioned Men’s News Daily. However as feminism is both about women and for women, in contrast to what Groth says male studies seems to be both about men and for men, perhaps in a way that men’s studies isn’t really for men. This obviously raises problems with the objectivity of the research that is conducted and the way that it is discussed though.

I think it will be interesting to see where it goes. There are some internal tensions within the group, some seem to be concerned about men, such as Christina Hoff Sommers, while others like Groth are interested in objective study male humans. If the Men’s News Daily report is to be believed the men’s studies Dean Rocco Capraro was largely marginalised during the conference. It’s relationship with feminism and existing men’s studies academics will then be fairly hostile, which will fun to watch from the sidelines whatever the result.

Masculinities, pluralities and protest

I believe the construct of U.S. masculinity is unsustainable and violent. It demands capitalist consumption and ownership for validation, holds with it entitlement to its own existence and ultimately asserts its own necessity with increased violence when threatened. Capitalism necessitates the overvaluing of one over the other. It creates a class from which capital is created and stolen and a class where this stolen capital is accumulated. In this way US masculinity is a gendered mirror of capitalist dominance.

So says Davi Zielinski Koszka in a post titled Masculinities? An essential question for freedom (reproductive and otherwise).

This is a curious post because the title suggests that the author understands that there are lots of different forms of masculinity but the quote above suggests that the US has one form masculinity alone. I may be mistaking the meaning of masculinity though, perhaps Davi means that US masculinities have a similar hierarchy that exists in capitalist economies.

In any case capitalist and masculine ideals quite often diverge. In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith points out that:

What a common soldier may lose is obvious enough. Without regarding the danger, however, young volunteers never enlist so readily as at the beginning of a new war; and though they have scarce any chance of preferment, they figure to themselves, in their youthful fancies, a thousand occasions of acquiring honour and distinction that never occur. These romantic hopes make the whole price of their blood. Their pay is less than that of common labourers and in actual service their fatigues are much greater.

So within a classic treatise on capitalism there’s the idea that youths have romantic ideals that go against rational, capitalist motivation. I think it’s reasonable to say that Smith’s “honour and distinction” are the ideals of a certain kind of masculinity. So what are the different kinds of masculinity?

One of the problems with masculinity, especially with feminism, is that it has a dominant role in society and that it gets equated with the domination of society by men. I think this is where Davi is coming from when comparing masculinity to capitalism, as capitalists have a dominant role in a capitalist society, masculine people have a dominant role in a masculine society. However the kind of masculinity that Davi is talking about is I guess hegemonic masculinity. Talking within that theoretical framework we can talk about other kinds of masculinity that aren’t built around maintaining hierarchies. This has the complication of protest masculinities, that perform a kind of hypermasculinity, which you can expect to maintain a hierarchy of masculinity, while coming from a position social weakness. This is contrasted with the observation that many men who sit atop the social pyramid being far less recognisably masculine.

When it comes to masculinity and society, particularly the hierarchy of society that many feminists try to fight against, it’s important to recognise that masculine ideals are often in protest to this hierarchy. At the same time this protest masculinity is manipulated to serve the aims of the powerful. This confusion between a masculinity serving both a domineering and subservient role in society trips up many people when talking about the role of men when it comes to social change. Moreover it is difficult for men to approach a movement for social change without exhibiting these traits. So the take home message is that the performance of some kinds of masculinity can reinforce gender roles and social positions while opposing the overarching social hierarchy.

Principled uncertainty

“Talk about false rape is dangerous…”

I think the poster DanceDreaming is right in saying that, but being dangerous doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t talked about. Some of DDs following arguments show a need to talk about false rape accusations, because by not talking about them they are easy to marginalise. The marginalisation of false rape in feminism is necessary to allow people to speak freely about their experiences. However when an individual is being accused of rape they deserve the accusation to be treated critically; the reasoning for marginalising false rape accusations no longer applies where someone stands to lose a great deal from such an accusation.

I haven’t had any accusations of rape leveled against me in the legal sphere, but I have in the social sphere. In that case we didn’t have sex, and had never had sex, so it is quite easy for me to say that it was a false accusation. We had kissed before after she had gotten me very drunk pouring vodkas. Another time she had propositioned me for sex which I declined. This time I was around at her place and we got into bed after talking much of the night, I moved over to her and felt her up, and she resisted. I grumbled, rolled over and went to sleep. She left for an early class before I woke up, but later in the day she called a mutual friend saying I had raped her. He asked me whether this was true, and I obviously denied it. She was already on the outer with most of our mutual friends for her strangely manipulative behaviour, and she was largely ostracised afterwards. However she made contact through them a couple of years later, wanting to meet me. I did so reluctantly and it was clear that she just wanted to get laid, taking me out to a movie, getting some beers and so on. The next day she asked why I hadn’t even tried to kiss her, and then asked tangentially about the false rape accusation, before demurring, “Oh I wouldn’t want to embarrass you!”

The argument that DanceDreaming uses to marginalise false rape is flawed because it is based on an ignorance of how common false rape accusation are. DD says, “I know false rapes do happen. But I think they are rare.” I don’t know how common false rapes are but I don’t think that shutting discussion of them based on a presumption of their rarity is a good idea. The ignorance of their frequency would have to be a good reason to talk about them, right?

What not to do

Just a short post on the level of fail found here: http://www.blackshirts.info/

It’s off the dial!

No, not Conan O’Brien

Conan the Barbarian.

Yes, I’m going write a serious post about Conan the Barbarian.

Robert Ervin Howard shot himself dead in 1936. In his thirty years of life he had written over a hundred short stories for pulp fiction magazines in the boxing, historical fiction, fantasy and western genres. He is remembered mainly for stories based around Conan, which formed the genesis of sword-and-sorcery fantasy. Like JRR Tolkien, he fused action, legend and history to create a modern fantasy form. However Tolkien created a world that was like a great mountain to be climbed, an ascent made by his protagonists into heroism. Howard’s world was more like a sea, with the protagonists conquering one wave, only to be thrown to the foot of another.

Fundamental to Howard’s writing was his attitude towards civilisation. The rhythmic rise and fall of civilisations in his fantasy world flowed from the oil booms he saw growing up in Texas. The booms drew out the worst in people, and he viewed the rise of civilisation as leading to the degeneration of its people and its inevitable decline. Conan the Barbarian is a foil to the civilisations he travels through. Where civilisations are in crisis, Conan is unperturbed. He is a typical noble savage character, despite being obviously White.

Conan is appealing first for his hyper-masculinity; his body ripples with great muscles, he is fast and strong and dangerous, his senses are keener than any civilised man’s senses can be, he is shamelessly ambitious and blunt in his desires. The last part is what gives him some enduring appeal, because Conan is kind of existential character. He is true to himself and honest in his dealings with others. However he isn’t a good person. In the Rogues in the House (1934) Conan is described by a corrupt nobleman as, “… the most honest man of the three of us, because he steals and murders openly.” In Red Nails (1936) he and a love interest slash side kick Valeria are asked to help exterminate the last members of a tribe, to which he replies, “We’re both penniless vagabonds, I’d as soon kill Xotalancas as anybody.” Yet Conan doesn’t suffer existential angst to any great degree, he accepts his own death and that others wish to kill him with equanimity since he often wishes to kill them too. He revels in his freedom from what “one should” do without any anxiety since his desires are so primal. After killing the rest of the Xotalancas he says, “Well, this cleans up the feud. It’s been a hell of a night! Where did these people keep their food? I’m hungry.”

Conan is a masculine ideal. It’s an unobtainable ideal, of course, but he is built from typically masculine traits such as strength, power, ambition, honesty and courage. He is a particular type of masculine ideal though: the outsider. He’s a barbarian in civilised lands, or at least foreign lands. His outsider status seems to be what allows him to steal and murder openly, he is not attached to the societies he comes across and perceives them only in terms of what he can get out of them. He carries some code of honour of his own though, he is confused at the thought of fighting Valeria since she is a woman, and believes in the diety Crom. Yet mostly he is a self-defined individualist, and an incredibly successful one at that. Perhaps the greatest appeal of Conan is the triumph of the individual over society.

Hunting with the Bow and Arrow by Saxton Pope (1875-1926) describes hunting bears, cougars, deer and other American game with bows. This was done partly to collect museum pieces and also as an anthropological study of the effectiveness of bows as hunting weapons. The first chapter deals the subject of another anthropological study, the last Yani Indian. Pope learned to hunt from Ishi, the last surviving member of his stone age hunter-gatherer tribe. His description in some ways matches that of Conan, “His apparent age was about forty years, yet he undoubtedly was nearer sixty. Because of his simple life he was in physical prime, mentally alert, and strong in body.” Ishi is of course an outsider in western society, yet he knows it by its effect on his people. The Yani not only had their land taken, but they were massacred, and the few remaining elderly relatives eventually die, leaving him alone. He ends up walking into civilisation starved and terrified. He is coaxed into eating and drinking by an anthropologist and ends up being given a job as a janitor.

The contrast with Conan is obvious. The true “noble savage” is bewildered and terrified in the face of civilisation, and the civilised are brutally superior when it comes to violence. Digging deeper, Ishi is quickly assimilated into civilisation; studied by scientists, cared for by doctors and given a job. He also remains bound to his people who he believes exist within a spirit world. Unlike Conan he doesn’t break free of social bonds by becoming an outsider, instead he is placed near the bottom of society. Conan only manages to rise from the depths of society by his own superhuman abilities, abilities that don’t exist in reality. True outsiders are shunted to the bottom, while the insiders rise to the top. The outsider fantasy might be appealing to our sense of individualism, our sense of self or base selfishness, but it’s an escape from a reality that rewards conformity.

Yet Ishi is a good person, unlike Conan. He spends most of his life caring for the few members of his tribe left on the small amount of land left. While terrified of White people on contact, once he trusts them he is kind, teaching them of his dead people and their culture. He remains proud of his culture and his philosophy of life, so he is also a kind of existential character, true to himself and others, he’s just a much nicer person to be true to.

Playing games

One of the frequently given pieces of the advice given to men struggling romantically is to be themselves. On the face of it this seems like excellent advice, people generally want to be accepted for who they are, and don’t want to lie to others. As Shakespeare said through Polonius’ lips in Hamlet, “to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” But wait a minute, Shakespeare was being ironic. Polonius’ preceding advice, to his son Laertes travelling to Paris, is to definitely not be true to himself, since Polonius is telling him to be reserved and laconic while Laertes is a pompous loudmouthed braggart. Here’s a big meaty slice of Early Modern English if you’re interested:

Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There- my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar:
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous, chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee!

The same irony is going to be painfully obvious to anyone who is struggling romantically, if they are being themselves and getting nowhere. So does this mean men should lie, not be true to themselves and thus false to others?

I thought I had an epiphany for a little while. I was going to compare dating to the kind of play that occurs in BDSM. Surely if you can have rape play or torture play or castration play, you can have dating play. It seems utterly trivial in comparison. People could just have a “dating kink” that they act out with like-minded kinksters. Except, except, except… dating isn’t play. It’s a game. It’s The Game. Play is co-operative and expressive, while a game is competitive, driven by the outcome. The kind of play that occurs in BDSM occurs after a partner has been chosen, while dating is the selective process by which partners are chosen.

However I’m not going to give up on a good idea just because it happens to be wrong. Maybe it should become right instead. I said in my previous post that the subject of a social theory can respond to that theory, so people should be able to respond to this. The ones that read it at least. The problem with dating from a typical male point of view, such as The Game, is that it is single-mindedly, overwhelmingly, hyperventilatingly focused on sex. Dating then becomes a process of sexual selection of males, and social Darwinist explanations of behaviour reduce both men and women into simple antagonistic constructs. Now I’m a devout atheist and an ardent evolutionist, but social Darwinism rarely ends well. While sexual selection may be a reasonable model of human reproductive behaviour, the goals of men in having romantic relationships with women go beyond sex.

When people say ” go beyond sex”, normally they mean that men want sex, of course, but also like hanging out, going to movies or square dancing with their partner. Their sexual partner. But I wonder if those non-sexual activities can be seen as goals in themselves. Getting back to the idea of play, I wonder whether men can see going to a movie with a girl in a romantic context as an end itself, without seeing it as just another stepping stone towards Ultimate Vaginal Conquest XXXVII. Now BDSM is of course negotiated and consented to, so should there be a similar mechanism for dating to be negotiated? Could how far the date goes be agreed to before the date begins, but not only that, what each person wants from the date? I think it’s possible, but I guess a lot of people will think it takes the romance out of dating. Which is a similar argument that can be made towards BDSM, it seems a bit contrived to agree to be tied up and tortured, or consent to being raped. Yet many people get what they want from such contrived agreements, and I don’t see why they couldn’t from dating agreements.

Double standards

The Madonna-Whore Complex is a Freudian concept in which a man seeks out a mother figure romantically, and is subsequently unable to view his partner sexually. He develops a dichotomous view of women, where they fulfill either an intimate role or a sexual role, but never the two together. The term has been used by feminists to describe a double standard that applies to women, but rather than by individual men, it is by a male-dominated society. Women are placed into one category or the other, and are castigated for transgressing the boundaries of that category. Cyndi Lauper even wrote a song about it called, unsurprisingly, Madonna Whore. The chorus goes like this:

Every woman’s a Madonna, every woman’s a whore
You can try to reduce me but I’m so much more
I don’t want to be your mother, won’t be shoved in a drawer
Cause every woman’s a Madonna, every woman’s a whore, that’s right

Now an interesting characteristic of social theories is that the subject of analysis is able to respond to the analysis, as Cyndi Lauper showed. However at the same time that Lauper calls herself a whore in a defiantly feminist song there are anti-prostitution feminist groups. And as women have apparently become more overtly sexual the concept of raunch culture emerged, which criticised women for turning themselves into the sexual objects that men had been turning women into through history. This argument hinges on women actually objectifying themselves, turning themselves into a one half of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy. I think most women are like Lauper, they aren’t objectifying themselves by being overtly sexual, but rather trying to be something more than how they have been perceived.

While feminists usually see the Madonna-Whore double standard as something that applies particularly to women, restricting their sexual behaviour in ways that men’s behaviour isn’t, there is a similar dichotomy that applies to men. This is the Nice Guy-Bad Boy dichotomy, where men who are caring and empathetic aren’t seen as sexual, while overtly sexual men are seen as predatory and emotionally distant. The Nice Guy-Bad Boy dichotomy reflects the differences between how men and women are seen in society, a whore is often seen as used and degraded where a bad boy is seen as aggressive and creepy.

The obvious question to ask is, how do men respond to this analysis? I think men still tend to fit themselves into one or the other side of the dichotomy. This shouldn’t be all that surprising since the concept hasn’t been challenged to the extent that the Madonna-Whore concept has, as part of an organised civil rights movement. It’s common to see the “nice guys finish last” sentiment used in resignation, such as in the seduction community. While this can come with the ideal of creating a person who is more than the person they were, it often falls into the trap of the insincere, creepy and even predatory bad boy role.

A less obvious question to ask is, what if a man wants a mother figure? Or if a woman wants a father figure? Clearly Cyndi Lauper doesn’t want to be a mother figure, despite saying she is a Madonna. Yet the desire to have a nurturing relationship with a sexual partner that, at least in times of vulnerability, mimics that of parent and child seems quite widespread. It’s fascinating in this context that lovers often revert to a babytalk when talking to each other as way of building intimacy. In BDSM these desires are dealt with through daddy/mommy play, where power dynamic between parents and their children are recreated between adults through role play. The sexual nature of the play is of course very interesting because it breaks the barrier that creates the Madonna-Whore Complex. But is this a good thing? Or is it depraved? Or is that just another double standard given the babytalking that many couples do?

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