No Room in the Warrior Society

. . . for a boy who won’t fight. I thought I read it in The Nurture Assumption, Judith Rich Harris, but I can’t find it. It may have been in one of some shorter papers I’ve read by her, or one of Steven Pinker’s books, I’ll keep looking, but it was in one of those very popular science books, so the idea is out there. If it was in anything I’ve read, then it wasn’t one of those author’s own papers originally . . . I’ll have to find it to cite it, won’t I? Anyhow, I think the story was in support of the Nurture Assumption’s main idea, that parents do not create child culture, and she describes how in some straight-up forest warrior society, that warrior training occurs in boyhood and timid, won’t fight sorts of boys are abused and goaded into fighting. Those that never do, in this group, according to these anthropologists – Mead? The Yanomamo? – those that never return the blows, are killed as the logical end of the process of fighting them to make them fight. I believe it was the author’s punch line I’m paraphrasing in my opening. No room for weak links, we might need you some day.

Not that I think it would have helped, but I wish I’d had a man around to tell me that fifty-some years ago. Between that and a little info on inherent family conflicts, maybe I would have had a chance not to believe everything Momma tol’ me.

I’ve been a good boy, tried hard and mostly succeeded, but by women’s standards, abused women’s standards. In the boys’ culture of game theory, in the warrior society where I’m supposed to be a man, I am useless. I mean, I passed the tests, the boys’ tests, when I was little, I was a fearless little Irish terror for a while there, but that ended at the beginning of puberty, apparently. The fights I got into after I was twelve or so, I never had any interest in, and I talked the fellow down when I could and avoided him if it seemed like the encounter was destined to imprint the warrior life on my pretty young face. I absolutely let fear rule my life, I switched high schools once and wound up giving up school entirely after that. There were other reasons, but that was absolutely one of them. I just realized something.

I never fantasized winning the fights I avoided.

I mean, I fantasize fight situations, I’m a man, I run little simulations, I tell myself that if some badass walked in my door to do me in, that I would have a chance, a plan – but I don’t think I have ever had a daydream where I won a fight against these bullies from my life. Realism may be a factor, I really had zero chance, size, experience, and everything else would have been a hundred to one sort of a thing. My only chance would have been to surprise them with a knife or something, and even then, size and experience. Plus, these dudes guaranteed had switchblades of their own – and experience. But to never fantasize a thing like that? My gonads aren’t working, right? I lived in terror, changed my life – but I wouldn’t want the fight even if I knew I could win it. It’s not like I’ve been going around getting into fights I think I can win either! Are we there yet?

No room for me in this world, is what I’m saying. No room for a man who won’t be a man. Maybe I was nine or ten when I stopped fighting, it was one my childhood experiments, I guess I thought I’d try to unload on someone.

There was this Zeta (I better look that up too) juvenile male, the one everybody seemed to unload on, it seemed that everyone beat this kid, I don’t know why, but he was my age, nine, ten, and he looked like The Battler already, anything that was going to flatten out or break on Rodney’s face already was, you know? This is certainly an unfair characterization; it’s a childhood memory and I know I’m using Rodney now for my own ends. I’m sorry, Rod, if you’re still out there. All I really remember is his wide forehead and hard, sharp nose – he kept his chin tucked, I guess. I’m not happy with my impulse in this story, all I can say is, I’m happy it only happened once.

I decided I would unload on this kid, that I would give beating someone up a try, see if I liked it or something. I don’t think I thought “unload” at the time, that’s how I see it now, having taken from schooling from the Master of Stress, Dr. Robert Sapolsky. I found him after school or something, cornered him and started throwing punches at him, hurting my hands on him and then I just had this WTF am I doing moment right in the middle of it and I stopped, apologized, told him I had no idea why I was doing it and I think I promised him he’d have no more to worry about from me. I think I also realized at that moment that he was five times tougher than me, and to this day I count myself very lucky he didn’t turn the fight around and give me the stomping I deserved.

It looks like deep wisdom to me now, Rodney, you schooled me, let he who is without sin, kind of thing. You were a huge influence on my mind and my life – is it Brown, Rodney Brown? White guy, Mount Pleasant Elementary, around 1970? I was a fledgling bully for a second there, and my first victim was an experienced one, a goddam expert. Maybe I’m giving too much credit, but the last guy in the world who had any obligation to be modelling peace for anybody accepted my apology and that was the end of it, which, in hindsight was Mandela-esque. I don’t know how life’s been or if you’re still out there, but you sure did right by me, even if I’m romanticizing your agency in the matter. You probably had fighting back thoroughly beaten out of you, no doubt what made you so attractive as a victim, right?

You hear that? Me, thanking Rodney and the Academy for my pacifism?

Truth to tell, I lost track a little there, memories intruding; I was supposed to be complaining about my low-T, not bragging, but that’s it, isn’t it? I’m talking about the downsides of my own attitudes. I have a low testosterone attitude, and proud as I may be of it, society doesn’t reward that sort of thing – just abused terrified women like to encourage that sort of thing, for obvious, understandable sorts of reasons, that don’t help me in my situation at all. So here I am today, with a fuzzy, half-formed consciousness of the origin of my passivity, and I know it exists for someone else’s survival strategy and is almost certainly detrimental to my own, meaning my morality is the morality provided for me by abused and fearful women, it’s all based on the idea that men are beasts or something and all their desires should be denied, me and mine expressly included – what are my options?

I’ve said it before: I looked at something I oughtn’t to have. Having questioned punishing, and so force and dominance, all of that, I don’t really think I have the option of just changing my mind, I mean it’s not a change of mind, it’s a learning thing. I am not going to just start trying to dominate anyone (sorry – it’s coming up soon, I mean I can’t start exercising any traditional male power in my family now, having never done so before. I found myself with no place in my female household, and standing up and demanding one wasn’t going to get me one the same way just complaining and asking didn’t), bring the people around me around to my way of thinking, like some young man who simply believes in himself, simply believes he deserves to and should dominate anyone. Even if I need some control to mitigate my own stress, even so, my having some share of dominance may be a biological need for me, I have seen the downside of that sort of attitude in the world, and it is no longer available to me. It always comes back to Bluebeard for me, you’ll never get any killin’ done if you go around thinking all the time – this is a piece of social sort of advice that I simply cannot take. I assume Sapolsky has come to the same conclusion, he seems to be a genuine fellow, despite of, or because of his revelation that he and all his famous professor author peers are alpha types.

In practical terms, it means the MRAs and the howl at the moon sorts of men’s retreats are exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for, save your invitations to the brotherhood. More importantly in my personal life, because those guys are not going to be part of it, it means I didn’t and can’t sit my girls down and tell them how it is going to be, I cannot make anything happen, despite that it seems to mean that the right thing isn’t happening, despite that all our lives are destroyed because an adult has supported a child’s decision rather than making an adult one themselves. I know I’m talking about both of my kids’ parents, I know it was an immature sort of decision of mine to abstain from my male power, a shirking of the responsibility for that power . . . should I have been normal? Should I have dominated my girls, which is normal, to make sure something like this could never happen to me, that I would get voted off the island and my kids would somehow have been used to do it? You know what it means, right?

Maybe my kid would have been domesticated, maybe when her teen conflict came up, she’d have toed the line and submitted, stayed home and in school – and maybe not. How much of the choice I didn’t make is right and proper and works for our goals, and how many of those folks’ kids simply move out into poverty? In those terms, I can’t and couldn’t make a different decision either. I had given up the option to act like a man and put my foot down about anything at the start of the child-rearing experience. That wasn’t going to be a solution at this late juncture, in fact, the girls all seemed to think that’s what I was doing already, or that I was getting ready to, and so any manly thing I might attempt would only prove their case; I did raise my voice a few times and it was over, they feared things were going to get worse and they had me leave, “to get better and then come back.” They’ve made it clear that they feel my attempts to communicate with them as manipulative and aggressive, so for me to prove I’m not trying to hurt them, I am left only the option of never speaking to them again – and I am very committed to proving it to them, so there we are. I love you girls, and to prove it, I’m going to do what you say and take half our money and leave forever.

(To my mind, that is sort of the fatal, mountain to climb to forgive sort of a sin, that they cut off communication with me. It was clear to me immediately that both there was nothing to “get better and go back” to, I’d given away my spot and my voice was forbidden, and that “getting better” from this, being abandoned by the family during a breakdown, wasn’t the most likely outcome. I begged them on this basis, to deaf ears. I know, they were scared, and if I have to tell you that knowing it was their fear, my wife’s fear that was the matter helped me not a fucking bit, then welcome to the second level of the conversation. You may defer to her fears if you wish, they have nearly killed me, and the outcome is not yet assured.)

I’m not looking for sympathy and I’m not trying to recruit anyone to my side of my divorce fight, I’m only laying it out to demonstrate what happens to a man who won’t play the dominance game, a man who recuses himself of authority, a boy who doesn’t fight. OK, there is something under my skin. We’re invisible too, boys who don’t fight. Life sucks for us because we are like Pit Bulls, it’s not what we do, it’s what we can do – I recused myself from the rewards that a strong man receives, but recusing one’s self from the liabilities, that doesn’t seem to be in my power. My soon to be ex-wife never seems to have understood or believed me that that is what I am, despite that I am the only man she ever heard of who wouldn’t so much as “pat a kid on the bum,” as they say.

All men must be treated as armed and dangerous, we must all be muzzled, apparently, and a life of good behaviour doesn’t change that. I gave it up for nothing, a liberal principle, and my daughters are as fearful of men as they were evolved to be, as though I had beaten them spare. There is a whole lot more to it, mostly just more reasons why they couldn’t have felt otherwise and maybe more of me saying I couldn’t have thought otherwise, a lot of reasons why I need to find a new way forward. Men are indeed dangerous and I worry that by responding to my ouster with passivity and obedience, I am teaching my girls a lesson that will get them hurt the next time they attempt it with some more regular fellow. It was an experiment, my life. It was looking like a spectacular success until suddenly it was over.

I hope the results can help someone someday, because the cost of this experiment was the quality of life for all of us.

 

 

 

Jeff

September 15th., 2017

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Familiarity Breeds Blindness – When We Can’t See the Concepts for the Words

It’s a sad thing when words lose their power, when we have lived with them for so long that we’re no longer impressed by the things they signify. I think it was when I was reading “Midnight’s Children,” (set in India) when I was shocked, first by the expression ‘sister-sleeper’ and then in “White Tiger” when it was the stronger ‘sisterfucker’ and I realized that our version, ‘motherfucker’ had lost its punch, that I was no longer feeling the image it evokes. I started saying and writing what I think of as the Indian version in order to take advantage of its freshness and power. (Interestingly, my Canadian Microsoft Word is also accustomed to the mother version, but is flagging the sister version for a spell check.)

Show a man a photoshopped picture of himself in coitus with his own mother and he’ll react – but the word for him in that image just means somewhere between ‘dude’ and ‘swine’ these days, at least for some of us. ‘Sisterfucker’ isn’t a more disturbing concept, it was just unfamiliar to me, so my mind looked at it a little closer, and the image was a nasty surprise. I must have quit paying attention to what ‘motherfucker’ means. Now, in case anybody’s concerned that I’m switching gears, don’t worry. Here it comes.

I re-posted one of my older child-rearing, anti-punishment blogs on another site and it started a few conversations with a few people, a man or two and some ladies, some mothers. The conversation came around to my controversial stance that ‘corporal punishment’ is a misleading phrase, that in fact (‘fact’ to me at least), without a willingness to get physical there can be no punishments. Hold on –

early on while writing my blogs and my book on the subject, I looked up ‘punishment’ to get a somewhat official definition. The dictionary ones were pretty straightforward, but the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy went on for many pages. What I came up with, in the shortest form, is that punishment is the imposition of an aversive in order to lessen an unwanted behaviour. ‘Aversive’ means an unwanted stimulus, a term I usually change to ‘unpleasantness,’ and ‘imposition’ means to put something on someone without any condition as to whether they want it or not. So a punishment is something you don’t want and is put on you without your consent, in order to change an unwanted behaviour of yours.

That, just in case ‘punishment’ is a word that we don’t examine anymore, just in case we’ve forgotten the meaning or never really heard it in the first place –

So I spent a few comments trying to convince some people that all punishments depend on force, that their children weren’t likely to have been taking their non-corporal timeouts and such from a place of willing agreement, that their kids probably had learned, either the hard way or by inference, that the non-corporal punishment wasn’t going to be optional, that if they didn’t take it, it would wind up being forced upon them, that the punishment would escalate.

I’m trying not to generalize about gender here, but interestingly, among these very few people in the discussion, the most vocal man made no bones about it. Damned straight, was his attitude, a good smack will put them right. Kids don’t understand talking; that is what they understand.

The ladies, though, they didn’t believe in hitting or corporal punishment, and while they did believe in punishment, they insisted they didn’t back it up with force. Trying to make my point, I asked repeatedly if their punishments were optional, if there was any way the punishment wasn’t going to happen, or if it was going to happen by hook or by crook. One of the ladies assured me that it wasn’t optional, that if the child simply walked away from his or her timeout, that she would simply bring the child back to it, as many times as it took. I didn’t argue that ‘bringing the child back’ was a physical act, and I didn’t ask how forcefully it might have to be done if the child was stubborn about it, although these are certainly important parts of the puzzle for me. I just asked again, if it’s not optional, then the parent is going to make it happen by whatever means necessary, right?

One answer struck me as pretty schizoid, but maybe it’s just this language thing, maybe the words in the response had been said so often that the meaning had been lost: in an answer that said ‘punishments are not all backed up physically’ someone said something like ‘of course you have to follow through.’ Now that last phrase is familiar indeed, ubiquitous even – we all know it. But unexamined it must be, because otherwise how can someone say ‘of course you have to follow through’ and feel it is somehow a contradiction to ‘I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen?’ So that’s what’s happening, I think, when I try to make this point, it’s the same as my opening example, like we hear the deadly, incest accusation of ‘motherfucker’ all day long, and it’s all in fun, harmless, like a friendly ‘cabron’ between pals, but when I say that all punishments are backed up with force . . .

well it’s like I said ‘sisterfucker’ loudly during a moment of quiet at a church barbeque. Shock and horror. The deer-in-headlights blank stares of the good peoples’ moral indignation.

So I’m the bad guy. All right, I’ll play that role, I’ll crash your barbeque – what time again? Oh right, I remember. It’s always happening.

A Conflicted Society – Rape, Part #3 – Yes Means Yes

I’m examining a few aspects of rape in this series. I know that rape is to a great extent a violent crime and not so much a sexual one, and I do try to deconstruct the roots of violence generally elsewhere, particularly in a series titled “It All Starts . . .” but I am focussing on the sexual elements of rape in these posts, because it seems to be the sexual aspects that make rape so much less prosecutable than other violent crimes.

Here’s the first posts:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/12/09/a-conflicted-society-rape-1/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2015/01/17/a-conflicted-society-part-4-rape-part-2/

I think this, from Part #2 needs some development:

“My advice: let’s make our lives more conscious, let’s drag sex out into the light. Maybe we lose some of the excitement, some of the mystery, but maybe we also lose some of the rape.”

That sounded good to me – I mean I love the sound of my own voice. If no-one else reads me, I will – but it needs a little more detail to be of any use, so here goes. No means no, of course it does, but if it can also mean ‘yes,’ then that could be part of the problem. Yes, I’m going there. This series is getting progressively less PC. I’m sorry, but if you have reason to feel that the politically correct voices on this subject have it all under control and that this problem is close to being solved, you’d better share it with me. Otherwise, I’m just going to push on. (Good Lord that sounded bad! No evil pun intended, really. Those things keep cropping up, and I’m sorry.)

I don’t think I’ve ever pursued a girl in order to bed her, I don’t think I ever tried to talk a girl into bed, sold myself to a girl – that always seemed humiliating to me. I guess I was lucky, I looked good enough as a young man that there were partners often enough without me having to work for it. I think I’ve had sex with maybe ten girls and women, I mean, I had some lonely years too, when I was no fun and the girls seemed to sense it. If my confidence was abysmal then, I suppose it was never high enough to pursue a girl and risk the rejection. The girlfriends and liaisons I had when young always came about through mutual attraction, naturally – well, I guess a few of the girls pursued and bedded me. (Life sucks – and then you die!) Those relationships didn’t last long; I couldn’t hide my indifference, I guess. But I’m a freak and that’s not the game as we all know it, is it?

The game is, or has been, boys chase and girls choose.

Right?

And Good Girls Don’t, right, so a girl isn’t supposed to say ‘yes’ right away . . . Good girls don’t. That idea is still out there, and it’s part of the problem. The boy is supposed to work for it. I hate to tell you, folks, and it’s a good thing I have no reputation to lose, but unfortunately, that situation, – the State of the Union, if you will – means that sometimes ‘no’ means ‘yes.’ If we can’t see how that is a part of this complex problem, then God help us. Why the male players in the game like this arrangement, I can’t say with any certainty, I personally don’t like it, but maybe it is a natural thing, the aggressiveness of testosterone, the thrill of conquest, or maybe it’s a less natural, more modern, psychological power game, and probably also things I have no idea about. As for women, well, same sort of thing I suppose, a natural priority women place on their desirability, or perhaps some less natural function . . . of course, also, any number of things I don’t understand. I’ll swallow my ego and try to face the possibility that such things exist.

Of course, those possible factors, natural and possibly unnatural power dynamics, for both genders exist on a continuum the far right end of which means rape and the rape culture. If being an object of desire has a positive feeling, if it’s an ego boost (which, I know, ladies, it is if the fellow is attractive enough, not so much if he’s not), and if the uptick in our self-esteem produces a feeling of well-being, perhaps this leads to sexual and/or emotional arousal. Or maybe just the presence of another person’s desire creates some arousal, maybe a pheromone thing. Honestly, that’s my theory, really basic:

Sex is sexy, desire is sexy, simple like that. Another person’s desire is a turn on. Referring back to Part #2 again: this is probably why rape is possible without injury. Carried to an extreme, if another person’s desire can create our arousal, then perhaps there are times when another person’s extreme desire, a desire so strong it will not be denied, can produce a strong response, the sort that makes reporting a rape and believing the victim, uh . . . problematic. Come on – if this stuff was simple, we’d have solved it already. Right?

Oh, I’ve lost track. All of the preceding two paragraphs belong in Part #2. Where was I?

Oh, yes. No means No. I’ll just skip to the end.

The thing is, in the culture of Good Girls Don’t, when a girl knows she’s supposed make the boys work for it or risk being labelled, reviled and ostracized as a ‘slut,’ there really isn’t always the ‘yes’ option for a Good Girl, is there? Fine to say ‘no’ means ‘no,’ but that’s a bit of a setup when there can be no ‘yes.’ I mean, when ‘yes’ is not an available option in the real world, we have left ‘no’ to mean both ‘no’ and also ‘yes.’ That is a foundational element of the rape culture. So here’s my idea.

First, as a child of the sixties, I can’t believe I have to say this, I thought we’d had the sexual revolution already, but the more things change, the more they stay the same: sex is not evil. Rape is, because it’s violent, but unforced sex is natural and normal. This is clearly true, and people should remember it when they’re dealing with their own and other peoples’ sex lives, in their real lives. This is what we should teach our children, and slut-shaming should be a thing of the past.

So, ladies, here’s the thing: say ‘yes’ when you want to have sex. Break out of that bind, reject the idea that good girls don’t. Clearly, good girls do, everybody does. Learn to say yes. I’m not saying fuck every guy who asks. I’m just saying say ‘yes’ to the guys you do have sex with. That would clear things up immensely, and could make some progress for us all in the fight against rape and the rape culture. Now a word for the boys.

When you’re trying to bed some girl, maybe it’s a pick-up scenario, maybe it’s a love story, whatever. If the girls says ‘no,’ let it be no. I mean of course, when it’s really ‘no,’ it means ‘no,’ all the anti-rape folks will tell you that, ‘no’ means ‘no,’ damned straight, but the other times. When it’s the game, when she just feels she must make you work for it . . . hold her to it. Just walk away. It could really mean ‘no’ of course, so leave her alone, but, and here’s the thing: if she’s bluffing, call it, call that bluff and walk away. We have an opportunity to help these ladies break out of the Good Girls Don’t bind, to set our ladies free. We can help bring them out of the game that supports the rape culture and into a more honest life.

We can let them know that if they want it, they must say so. Of course, it’s normal and natural to say yes. Our ladies need to know that, and they need to do that.

It’s good for us, too, fellas. I think we’d all want to know when we’re wanted, wouldn’t we? Are we beasts? Are we happy to leave every sexual encounter not knowing if the girl really wanted us? Well, we can usually know their bodies wanted us, I suppose – but wouldn’t it be nice to know that they wanted us consciously? That they knew that they wanted us?

If that seems like a stretch, at least we possibly agree that shining a light on our sex lives in this way could go a long way in making a net increase in the honesty in all our lives, and so, again, create a dwindling habitat for the scourge of rape.