Manliness?

November 06, 2003


Edit - the du Toit link works now. I wrote the below from my memory of reading his rant earlier this week. After re-reading du Toit I see that I should have written the below a little differently. Du Toit is very good at pushing buttons, he got mine. I just have to decide if it is worth writing a paragraph or three in response to every sentance in his rant, if I summarize him, or if I let him go as an unrepentant patriarch who prefers ideology to evidence.

Via Meryl Yourish I learn that Michelle of A Small Victory has been arguing with Mr. and Mrs. Kim Du Toit about gender roles. (the Du Toit's like the old-style terms of address and formal gender roles.) The Du Toit's web server is down at the moment, but the whole thing started when Kim Du Toit posted a rant about gender roles in which he blamed violence against women on a society where "political correctness" deprived men of the chance to experience "real" manhood.

I started this post three times, and deleted it each time. My problem is that I have too much to talk about.

Do I go after the Du Toit's simple hunter-gatherer model of social interaction where men hunt, women nurture, and neither must ever cross into the other's realm? That would be tedious to do at length, and it would boil down to: yes dear, but once we invented agriculture we changed our roles. And besides not only are gender traits are overlapping bell curves, any particular behavior you want to describe is found among men, women, "real" men and the various types of "fake" men you use as negative referent groups.

Do I go after the whole conservative bugaboo about political correctness? I have yet to see a rant about political correctness that did not boil down to someone who was resentful because an authority figure either was risk-averse or was trying to enforce politeness. No, I take that back. Some of the cases of "political correctness" involve an administrator who tried to use regulatory power to prevent people from taking advantage of interpersonal power imbalances.

Do I give a history of some of the negative referent groups that the Du Toit talks about, demolishing their entire casual argument that political correctness led to the "pussification" of men and that this then led to metrosexuals engaging in rampant date-rape while singing rap music? Here is a hint, dandies, bullies, and macho men all pre-date the 1960s experiment in consciousness raising, often by several centuries. Once you lose the causal argument, the du Toits' argument turns into a simple rant in favor of rural over urban cultural styles.

Do I go off on gender roles, lambasting du Toit for his intentionally provocative use of the word "pussification" to emphasize the idea that women are inherently weak, non-confrontational, and subordinate, and that any woman who does not fit that description is somehow "un-natural". It is easy to go after people who take culturally defined sets of values and behaviors, assert that they are universal, and then invoke "nature" to support their position. Unfortunately, it is also hard to change their minds.

Do I jump on one of the commentators on Michelle's site who tried to take the old Albion college rules for sexual encounters and argue that this completely opposite the way an encounter should run. If you don't remember, Albion posted rules of behaviors that required that the horny party (they may even have simply said man, ignoring sub-dom and same-sex interactions) ask verbally and receive verbal consent before each increase in intimacy. This can lead to a very cool scene in a mild D/S kind of way. "May I touch you ... here?" "yes" "And here?" "yes" "and where should I touch you next?" "HERE". It, like most of the so-called political correctness, is just a ham-handed way to regulate manners. Sex is like dancing, one partner leads and the other partner follows. A lead is just strong enough to convey a desire: just as when dancing you pull her hand towards you and up to indicate a spin, during an intimate encounter the outward pressure of two fingers between her thighs is enough to signal that you want to place your hand between them. If, at any point (exception, safe-word play) you use a level of force, intimidation, or strength that you would not use on a public dance floor, you have just stepped into the very slippery very dangerous world of using power imbalances to exert sexual favors.

Du Toit has a point, people should not be afraid to indicate their desires, and people should respect the desires of others. He wraps that point in a batch of real man braggadocio, straps guns to its back, sends it out hunting, and feeds it red meat when it returns, but the core point is still there. Take responsibility for your actions; respect the desires of others. At that level, stripped of all the bullshit, Du Toit is pointing out that adults should act like, well, adults. That good underlying point gives the rest of the bullshit some heft, it is the rock in the snowball.

What amuses me is the link between du Toit on manliness and Jones on the environment: both focus on looking in the long term, thinking about consequences, and taking responsibility for our actions. But this common core is wrapped in some very different baggage.

Posted by Red Ted at November 6, 2003 09:41 AM | TrackBack