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.
James Bond is our hero: he overcomes obstacles through quick thinking, applied technology, and physical prowess, while he turns other people to his use with social engineering (or a quick tussle on the beach). Everyone and everything is an object to Bond. People can be run through an algorithm of allegiances, desires, fears, likely behaviors, weaknesses, and so on, allowing Bond to use or deal with them accordingly. Even those to whom he is emotionally connected are objects, and he’s not above manipulating them – Miss Moneypenny as the prime example – for his immediate purposes, or even just for fun.
Now, what if we lifted that description of James Bond and applied it to a woman? How would it read?
We have female action heroes in the entertainment world. Look at Charlie’s Angels, either the series or the 2000 and 2003 movies. The Angels were quick-witted and athletic; they knew how to toss sharp dialogue or a sharp kick. But it wasn’t known as “jiggle TV” for nothing; the agents had weekly appearances in revealing outfits or in fetishized roles (maids, beauty pageant contestants, etc.), and it was frequently their physical qualities which achieved their social engineering goals, rather than any insight or smooth operation by the women themselves. Rather than seeing Charlie and Bosley as objects, they dote on and lionize the two. Commenters have compared the women’s relationship to the two men as prostitute-pimp in nature.
What do we call a competent, successful woman who doesn’t make herself sexually available? Cold, or variations thereby: ice queen, frigid, and so forth. She doesn’t become a warm, whole person until she finds a man who can crack her thighs apart.
Women are not allowed any sort of control except through her sexual availability to others. The problem is that sexual availability has become conflated with control, and men and women alike are being indoctrinated into the cult of the available woman. This is the lie of the sex-positive movement, or fun-feminism. Fun-feminism states that a man hasn’t taken your agency if you give it to him first. Sort of like how you don’t have to worry about anyone breaking into your home if you put up a “Burglars Welcome” sign on your yard and never lock your door.
So now we have a contrast: the importance of control by men, and the removal of control from women. Even when there’s no social excuse whatsoever, we continue to swallow that pill a hundred times a day. What will happen when you decide, for a single day, to not swallow that pill? How would the world change?
I’d love to hear some ideas on how a day like that would go. How would you show men that their dismissal of others is unacceptable? How would you show that you don’t expect or desire signs of availability from women?