Archive for May, 2010

Men Without Women, Part 2: Jersey

Last time, I detailed why men need women. Which is perhaps putting it too nicely for the menz, since that sounds like it’s short for “men need women around”, which puts men at the center and women around them, which I think I called out as a generally disastrous situation. So I guess it would be better to say that I detailed why women should be at the center, and maybe men could hang around at the edges if they behave well enough, hoping for a useful spot in the household. Important distinction to make: Men need women, but women don’t need men. Unless they want to reproduce. And, given recent scientific breakthroughs, even that won’t be a guaranteed job for men for long.

So let’s engage in a flight of fancy for a moment. Let’s say that Artemis (or Athena, or, I dunno, Emma Goldman) came swooping down and led the world’s women into a new Amazonian utopia. Things are great for everyone, except in New Jersey, a place Dan Brown, Joss Whedon, and other noted demonologists have pinpointed as a swirling pain-hole. (It doesn’t matter if it’s in Hawaii. Jersey just seems more appropriate.) The men are relegated here. The women are kinder than they have any excuse to be: we men will be educated, fed, clothed, and otherwise provided for by shipments, broadcasts, and the like; further, the women will not interfere at all in our lives – so long as we don’t stray over the wall.

Now, I kinda like this scenario, except then I remember what side of the wall I’d be on. The wrong side. With the men.
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Men Without Women, Part 1: Spiritual Framework

I recently read a comments thread on another blog. I spent last night frantically searching for it, but no luck yet. I’ll update if I find it. Anyway, the discussion had a brief diversionary track which caught my attention. The topic was separatism, and one commenter in particular considered what men would do for sex with no women around. The obvious answer was to have sex with each other, which became the general consensus.

On the immediate surface, I agree with that conclusion. However, that part of the discussion really stuck with me, and I’ve considered it for a week or so now. A conversation with my wife a couple of nights back really cemented a lot of ideas which had been unformed until that point, and I have some thoughts to bang out on the matter.
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Lloyd Constantine on Eliot Spitzer

Mark Scott of WBFO, the NPR affiliate based at the State University of New York at Buffalo, interviewed Lloyd Constantine last week about Constantine’s new book, Journal of the Plague Year. Constantine is a longtime friend and adviser of Eliot Spitzer. In 2007, Spitzer resigned as governor of New York after just over a year in office when the New York Times broke a story of his involvement with a prostitution service in New York City. Spitzer had taken office as a cleanup candidate after an eight-year stint as attorney general, where he pursued white-collar crime with a vengeance – and where he had busted prostitution rings in the past.

The interview is found here. The interesting part starts at about 5:27, where interviewer Scott brings up Spitzer’s frantic call to Constantine on the eve of his political demise. Constantine describes the call and his response:

“I told him immediately that he didn’t have to resign. It was almost instantaneous with me. When he told me what he had been involved with, I had in my mind a complete answer for why he had behaved so erratically in the last couple of years. And so I – my immediate conclusion, I mean within a second, was, ‘Okay. I get it now. Now I understand why you were performing so badly, so erratically, why you were losing your temper, you know, making all these misjudgments, and now that this is out, you have to fight to keep your job. You have to fight to keep your job because now that you’re free of all this stuff, you can still possibly go on to be the great governor that you were destined to be.'”

Constantine goes on to describe how Spitzer’s family – wife, sister, daughters, parents – joined him in his pleas for the embattled governor not to resign.

The idea that Spitzer had thrown away a great destiny over a little nothing like involvement in a prostitution ring is Constantine’s refrain in the interview. He frames it in terms of personal responsibility, reciting a list of governors who have resigned and stating that he doesn’t agree with “that position: this is a personal decision, you know, ‘I no longer want to do this’. I think that once you have run for office, been elected, taken all that money from your supporters, you have a responsibility to serve until you have been removed by constitutional means or you have been thrown out of office by the voters.”

Convenient manslation: Bro got caught with a prostitute? Whatever! He’s a good guy! Why should he have to face a penalty? Puny concepts of rule of law, ethics, and public responsibility are nothing in the face of a great man who’s destined for great things. Look, even his wife doesn’t care that he spent more than a middle-class salary’s worth on prostitutes during his tenure in public office. What a wuss to resign over something like this! A real man would have stuck it out, stayed the course, shown that he was above that noise.

This is the American man, packaged neatly and accessibly. And he nearly made me vomit in my lap on my drive home this morning.

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Melancholy Man – or Pensive Puppy

I’m pretty down lately, thinking about men. Coming to grips with just how wrong we got it in the past ten thousand years or so, with how far off track we are as humans, and whose fault it is that we’re here…

(I mean, this “pretty down” is on top of being horrified, enraged, embittered, and of course the frustration of feeling unable to do anything in the face of a world usurped by those who take what they want and turn everyone into fun-fems or MRA zombies. This is minor shit in the grand scheme. I’m just being self-indulgent here. :P )

I envision the world from a radical feminist separatist’s point of view, and I’m ambivalent. I see a world like the Mosuo – the Na – of western China. It’s matrilineal, with the household and family centering around women, and men generally belonging to their mother’s home. (Or at least, that’s how it is for now. We’ll see how things change as the consumerist world continues to consume them.) It’s worth learning more about them. There’s been a lot of anthropological interest in “the only remaining matrilineal society in all of China”.

When I look at the Na, I’m melancholy. On the one hand, I see the closest thing to a stable, nonviolent, family-oriented society that can exist and still be primarily agricultural. They don’t have a word for “rape”, for cryin’ out loud. But on the other hand, I see a society which can be so peaceful and stable precisely because men don’t have a role in the day-to-day running of the household.
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That’s Just the Way the World Works

Masculinity in the modern day is about control. Hell, it’s pretty much been about control since the dawn of agriculture. Agriculture marked the first wholesale efforts of humans to adjust the world to their own desires, rather than live with the hand we were dealt. Agriculture caused social stratification in every direction – you could support a larger population with the same amount of work, which meant that there was room for a caste which didn’t engage in field labor, which set up class distinctions; the value of the aged population diminished as tribal structures gave way to urbanization; and, most importantly for our purposes today (and certainly for humanity as a whole), pregnancy and infant care meant men could relegate women to household management while men farmed, ranched, or otherwise earned income.

But we’re talking about the modern day, the so-called post-agricultural Western world, where men don’t have the convenient excuse of sex-separated work roles to keep their positions of privilege. Instead, men must rely on social inertia, generations of conditioning, and the power of loud, angry voices.

In this modern world, masculinity is about control. There are only three possible types of control in the world: control of the self, control of the environment, and control of other people. It’s an unfortunate fact that the latter two are rolled into one idea in modern masculinity. And our perception of the value inherent in these forms of control is unbalanced. Self-control is important (or it was until frat boy culture came to the fore), but we revere most the man who can control everyone and everything around him.
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On Kristof’s “On the Ground” May 1

Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for the New York Times who writes on issues of human rights. He also has a blog at, On the Ground. His post on May 1, “Human Trafficking, There and Here”, struck me. The article spoke entirely about trafficked girls and their pimps, noting that underage girls are often prosecuted for prostitution while their pimps go uninvestigated. Then I read this among the closing lines and snorted (emphasis mine):

And the way to end this kind of exploitation is to arrest the pimps and throw them in prison, not to go after the girls as criminals. There’s also some evidence that going after johns will help.

Once again, a man looks at the situation and decides that the supply side is the bigger problem. Kristof, all I have to say is that when people didn’t buy New Coke, they stopped making it.

Perhaps more interestingly, the entry prompted commenter Charles Duwel to say something notable. An excerpt:

We know trading sex for money is not a crime since in California you can have all of the sex for money you want and [sic] as long as you show some intent to share it with the public (the porn business), but if you have sex for money in private (prostitution) you are still a criminal.

[…] What would you do if your boss started asking for sexual favors, taking kickbacks out of your pay and beating you up? You would do what any sensible person would do – call the cops, NLRB, OSHA, the news media or buy yourself a little recorder, get the evidence, get a lawyer and retire on the results of the law suit. This is because the law protects most employees. Why does it single out people who trade sex for money and deny them the protections they are entitled to by the U.S. Constitution?

His comment vacillates enough that I’m not really sure where he stands on porn and prostitution – he calls traffickers “people who actually are criminals”, at least – but it was unusual to hear a male commenter state the circumstances so baldly. Put nicely, men use women for sex and give no consideration in return, even when the law is watching. Duwel didn’t mention legal prostitution in nearby Nevada, where abuses are also a given for every woman in the industry, legally or illegally, but the authorities keep out of matters there as well (and when they get “involved”, it’s rarely good for the women).


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The Bystander Effect


I recently ran across Shared Hope International’s National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking for 2009. The introduction outlines a list of obstacles to overcoming the child sex trafficking industry in America. The last point in the list is the most important and most pressing, in my opinion: insufficient priority on combating demand. As the report states:

Buyers are not being recognized as a critical component in the sex trafficking of children, yet demand is the primary driver of the commercial sex industry within which children are being exploited for commercial sex activities and performance.

Simply put, if there were no johns, there would be no prostitutes.

So why are there johns? Why can a man openly say that he’s hired a prostitute without fearing recrimination from the other men around him?

We can stop it at any time. Men do not have to let other men get away with this. Starting today, we can make men who use commercial sex services unwelcome among our number. Each of us can hold every one of us accountable.

If you’ve never spoken up and told other men that what they’ve said or done isn’t cool, then I’ve got a secret for you. You’ve been chained by the bystander effect. I’m about to pop that chain off.
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