A Primer on Male Autonomy
Author’s note: The following is a continuation of Why Men Can’t Say No. I strongly suggest reading it before attempting to digest this one. The last essay promised I would deliver possible solutions in a subsequent triad of essays. This is the beginning. Please note that the path to get there is not given in the fantasy ridden “Three easy steps to..” model. Neither is it so arcane that the average man cannot grasp it with some effort.
In my last writing, “Why Men Can’t Say No: A Historical Perspective,” I went to some length to describe three significant historical events that cemented the current cultural gynocentrism; the sacrificial mindset that now dominates the human male psyche, serving as the conscious and unconscious motivator of behavior and behavioral codes, particularly in regard to women.
To put it more succinctly, even brutally, we have become the unconscious physical and political service class for the human race. While ideologues moan and gnash teeth about a nonexistent patriarchy, an equally fictional rape culture and the fatuous notion of male-only domestic violence, society continues to produce men who will willingly labor at the most deadly professions, shielding women from such hardship. These are labors that diminish quality of life and lifespan itself, in order to service their immediate families and the culture at large. Underneath that veneer, of course, we find the mandates of reproductive biology in full swing.
All of this occurs in a social milieu dominated by the wholesale denigration of the attributes which predispose men to take on this role. In other words, we tell men what they must do to be men, which is sacrifice. Then we shame and derogate them for being male, for valuing the characteristics men must have in order to fulfill the demands we place on them.
Men, by and large, walk through this lifelong gauntlet without a scintilla of awareness. In fact, their psyches have been so completely molded by the gynocentric narrative that most actually believe that rewarding their selflessness with shame is a badge of masculine honor. Man up = take this pile of feces, eat it and don’t forget to say thank you.
Those that stray, even in the most trivial and innocuous of ways, are relegated to obsequious groveling for redemption because the cultural norm demands it. Note that scientist Matt Taylor likely feared for his job security after the public assassination of his character from feminist ideologues who turned the shirt he wore, a gift designed by his girlfriend, into an affront to all women and an act of hostility toward women who might otherwise be interested in STEM professions.
It is easy to target these malicious ideologues as the source of the problem. However, would Taylor have felt it necessary to break down in tearful, self-degrading mea culpas for the cameras had their not been pressure to do so by his superiors? Would it have gone down this way had it not been in keeping with the social appetite for coerced penitence from men?
I submit that if you missed the public self-flagellation of Martha Stewart, Leona Helmsley and Sharon Osbourne, there is a good reason for it. The reason being, of course, that it never happened.
Gender fascists find easy success in their efforts to destroy men at will because we are all Matt Taylor. We are all Larry Summers, Tim Hunt, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Brian Banks. We are a society that rewards incompetent, ill-intentioned, even evil women and with equal mindlessness turns on the best and brightest of men with pitchforks and torches. All it takes in our minds is the imagery of a defenseless waif and a masculine villain. It is an archetypal duo as old as Odin. Those ideologues are just a mirror of our own mentality, not a deviation. They are us, whether we want to admit it or not, and not wanting to is laying waste to men.
The way out of this is not simple. There is no way to make sweeping, cultural change to the results of 3,000,000 years of psychobiology that pits men against each other in order to line up for the disposable use of the most sexually viable female. The great unconscious mass of men will always be lemmings.
There is, however a way for most men to effect personal change that steers them out of the path of self-devaluation, if they are conscious enough to desire it. Equally, if not more important, the same efforts can cast out a chorus of demons born in the mythologies and abuses of the family of origin and played out in the resultant imagoes from one relationship to the next. This includes our relationships with other men, with institutions, and, critically, with ourselves.
The goal is self-ownership and self-authorship outside of dysfunctional narratives, including gynocentrism.
Stage One: Nascent Cognition
This first step of three in what I propose to be a method of reversing unhealthy trends in your mind and your psychobiology are written exercises. The first one will be to address a particular event.
Note that I am not talking about trying to enhance awareness, no matter how acute, of the state of gender politics or of the men’s issues so frequently addressed in my writing. It is much more personal, more intimate than that. In fact, wavering off the personal and into the global is an act of sabotage that will undermine your efforts.
Let me start with an example, taken directly from the comments of another piece I wrote on An Ear for Men. This comes from Carl Timothy Smith, who gave me permission to use this in another writing.
Just writing the story of my marriage and divorce on the AVFM message board and then reading it about 50 times helped me. I was so wrapped up in trying to make things work it wasn’t until I could read my story as a third party that I realized I should have never tolerated the treatment I was getting. It was like putting down a burden followed by the best feeling of freedom I’ve ever known.”
I urge you to closely examine the wealth of information in every line of Carl’s comment. Some of it is easy to overlook. First, saying things aloud and sharing them with someone else has a tendency to make them real. It is not that those stories, or their life-wracking consequences, are confabulations. It is more accurate to say that speaking or writing them has a way of stripping elements of denial that so often plague our perception. Bargaining for a different reality, a typically normal and healthy part of grief within reason, fades with the open telling of truth. The more real it gets, the less you bargain and the less you remain mired in the pain.
Carl also shared his experience on an open forum. Having his experience heard also made it more real, with the same benefits. It is not that sharing on a forum was his only option — but it was a good one. The same can be accomplished with a trusted friend or family member, as long as they can indeed be dependable as a listener instead of an advisor or source of shame.
Note that Carl said his benefit came from reading what he had shared with others. He did not mention a word about other people’s reactions or advice or even sympathy. Sympathy is not the goal. Support is not the goal. Support is a common positive side-effect, but it is not the destination. It is not the healing force.
Carl’s writing and repetitive reading, “…followed by the best feeling of freedom I’ve ever known,” was entirely self-created. The more he read his story, the more detached and objective he became. Detachment and objectivity are the byproducts of emotions losing their power; the power to prevent healing; the power to harm the person in which they dwell by walling them off from their freedom and peace of mind.
Carl put himself in a position to see himself clearly. Not as a victim. Not as a perpetrator. Not an emotionally crushed, crippled version of himself. Just Carl in all his humanity, recognizing his role in what happened to him with accountability and integrity.
I have not spoken to him except to get his permission to use his comment, but I would bet everything I have that he is now far less vulnerable to being led by the wrong narrative into another relationship like that one. I will wager that Carl is not the same person he was when he wrote the account of his marriage and divorce.
How ironic this is in a feelings-centered world, particularly that of feelings-centered psychotherapy that forever has the client digging through and experiencing emotional angst, turmoil and grief in the pursuit of alleged catharsis.
There is even a larger lesson here. Imagine, if you will, applying the same principle to your entire life. Imagine the story of you, in all its bloody and often painful detail, losing its power to keep you from being objective and rational. Imagine the time when you can look at any event in your life dispassionately, with the power to learn about it in ways that your emotional reactions will not allow.
Here is an example of what I mean, using a hypothetical man. By hypothetical I mean a composite of many men I have spoken with in the past. His name is Joe. Joe was raised by a single, severely disturbed and personality disordered mother. One of her many needy, selfish acts was to have Joe sleep with her until after he was well into puberty. By age 7 even Joe began to feel uncomfortable with the arrangement. He felt the need to individuate, to sleep on his own, but his mother would not allow it. Even at that young age he became aware that her insistence that he sleep with her was not for his sake, but for hers. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do about it at the time but comply.
Ultimately this had a negative impact on Joe’s relationships with all women. He felt at once smothered, and bound to yield to their desires, even unhealthy ones. That led to shame and perpetual confusion. It (and other things she did) also led to resentment toward his mother that bordered on hatred.
The abuse he experienced at the hands of his mother became an emotional anchor around his neck. It disrupted his attempts at healthy bonding with women. Any need they had was perceived by him as exploitive. Any time he denied those needs (which was rare) he was filled with shame.
Traditional psychotherapists worked with Joe, trying to get him “in touch” with his anger; trying to help him find cathartic release that would help him move on. They were completely misguided. Joe hated his mother and he knew it. The last thing he needed was to immerse himself in more of what he had felt his entire life.
What he needed was detachment from the abuse, from his story. Like Carl, he needed to find the birds-eye view of those events and to maintain that view until he could see things objectively. Once that happened he was able to put some very important jigsaw pieces together in his life. The impact on his life, and his relationships with women was profound. While the aftereffects of his mother’s acts of emotional incest lingered, they also lessened. He came to recognize that while he was powerless at the time it happened, he was no longer a young boy at the mercy of his mother’s unhealthy whims.
He was free to rewrite his own version of who he was without the unhealthy maternal bond, and without the debilitating resentment toward his mother coloring the narrative. Most importantly, he would be free to attract women who were not the reincarnation of his sick mother.
A better place for men to start never existed.