Rape Culture, Trump and the death of positive masculinity

By   /   March 14, 2017  /   2 Comments

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Congratulations to all the young women and men who protested against rape culture at Parliament yesterday. Their commitment to challenging the cultural status quo should be applauded and supported, they give genuine faith to the possibility of real and fundamental change…

Congratulations to all the young women and men who protested against rape culture at Parliament yesterday. Their commitment to challenging the cultural status quo should be applauded and supported, they give genuine faith to the possibility of real and fundamental change…

Hundreds of Wellington students gathered outside Parliament this afternoon to take a stand against rape culture in their schools.

“Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence stop the rape,” the gathered crowd chanted as they waved signs in the air declaring “my little dress does not mean yes” and “consent is not a joke”.

The fired-up protesters were prompted to take action following comments posted online by Wellington College students joking about taking advantage of drunk or unconscious women.

The comments that sparked the protest may outwardly look like mild examples of the false swagger and bravado young men are infamous for, Ian Thorpe makes this point over at stuff

Teenage boys think about sex an awful lot. They also talk about it with each other, but usually in a pretty superficial way.

Unsurprisingly, they usually don’t know what they are talking about and tend to be sensitive about their lack of knowledge and experience.

Combine this with the poor impulse control and judgement that is generally displayed by all teenagers – boys especially – and all the ingredients for boys to say and do some pretty reprehensible things are there.

…but regardless of that, the righteous fury, passion, energy and number of protestors speaks clearly and forcefully to an invisible civil war that is being waged upon women in our society and culture.

It is clear to anyone and everyone that something terribly wrong has happened to men and our sense of collective masculinity.

Which brings me to Trump and 4Chan.

I believe that this article right here by Dale Beran is the most insightful view of how emotionally stunted toxic masculinity has deformed men into enjoying a women hating culture war which has been fuelled by broken and lonely boys who with no sense of positive masculinity…

It’s difficult to recall what started Gamergate because, like much of 4chan-style content, it never made sense on the surface. The mind tends to discard such things as nonsense. Nonetheless, there was a beginning. In 2014, a jilted lover claimed his ex-girlfriend had been unfaithful to him. He tried to prove to the internet that he was wronged in an embarrassing and incoherent blog post. The target of his post, his ex, happened to be a female game developer.

Soon 4chan and other like minded-men who felt wronged by women took up the rallying cry. The effort somehow moved from lurid interest in a particular woman’s sex life to a critique of video games. Gamergaters believed that “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors) were adding unwanted elements into their video games, namely things which promoted gender equality.

Strangely enough, they believed this was happening not because video game creators and the video game press were interested in making and reviewing games that dealt with these issues, but because there was a grand conspiracy perpetrated by a few activists to change video games.

While this whirling connective tissue of nonsense doesn’t seem to make much sense at first glance (and indeed, much of the game-making community and the press in general struggled to understand it), it makes perfect sense if we look at this New York Times story about how more than 16% percent of men in the nation are unemployed.

Again, here we can understand this group as people who have failed at the real world and have checked out of it and into the fantasy worlds of internet forums and video games. These are men without jobs, without prospects, and by extension (so they declaimed) without girlfriends. Their only recourse, the only place they feel effective, is the safe, perfectly cultivated worlds of the games they enter. By consequence of their defeat, the distant, abstract concept of women in the flesh makes them feel humiliated and rejected. Yet, in the one space they feel they can escape the realities of this, the world of the video game, here (to them, it seems) women want to assert their presence and power.

If this sounds hard to believe, take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities.

Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness literally embodied (to them) by women.

…these young 4Channers helped promote Trump and Trump’s rise in of itself speaks to the political promotion of toxic masculinity

Understanding the bizarre strands that bond the Alt-Right with this damaged sexual culture are difficult to appreciate if you haven’t seen the mutation of Breitbart media over Obama’s past two terms.

I think the weird hyper-hetrosexual Putin fetishisation that has seduced so many of the Alt-Right is part of this wider backlash towards women fed by this sudden confrontation of privilege via social media.

The Right in America, in an attempt to undermine Obama, always built Putin up as some sort of Ninja Chess player who constantly outplayed Obama. Putin worship in America bonded with the Right as a way to belittle Obama’s foreign policy. Mix those trends in with toxic masculinity insecurity and Putin’s macho man brutality towards the Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans and Gender Fluid communities and this aggressive hyper-heterosexuality has spread like cyber chlamydia throughout right wing social media.

Take the ultimate Alt-Right insult ‘cuck’. Cuckoldry is the sexualisation of everything toxic masculinity hates. The idea of a male allowing his female partner to enjoy her self sexually with any other sexual partner she choses while playing with those taboo gender constructs of power is blasphemy to the Alt-Right. For the vast oceans of men morbidly fractured and damaged by toxic masculinity, the mere idea of giving power away to their partner in such a way is a sin to all and everything they understand.

To me, the need to dominate women and abuse them is a symptom of a failed masculinity in a failed capitalism in a failed culture, Bern picks up this thread

In a previous essay about contemporary counter-culture, I mentioned Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Hearts of Men, a feminist critique that discusses how gender roles bind and control men. Ehrenreich writes about how, in post-war hyper-capitalist 1950s America (the baseline America to which both Trump and Hillary harken back) a new role was invented for men. A man’s wage and his Playboy “bachelor pad” linked his earning potential to his role as a ladies man. This replaced a previous, more conservative ideology in which your earning potential meant you were able to support a wife and children. These two schemes, Ehrenreich maintained, are still the dominant ideas that control men’s behavior in the U.S.

As she pointed out, only “hipsters” managed to break and destroy this schema — the first and most famous ones being the wife-leaving beats, whose sexual adventures both gay and straight were totally disconnected from their earning potential and all societal expectations. They were dead broke (“Dharma”) bums, who much to the frustration of the pro-capitalist Hefner-style playboys, got laid all the time despite being stone broke and sometimes gay to boot. In other words, their enjoyment of life and sex was decoupled from the ideological demands of capitalism.

Recall the central themes of Gamergate: women represent Anon’s “beta” failure in capitalism. Anons have achieved neither of these ideological ideals; they are not playboys with bachelor pads or wage earners with families. If the U.S. were in fact what it pretended to be, that is to say, the best way to become either the playboy or the family man, Anon would not exist. But it is this gap between ideological expectation and cruel reality which created him. Instead, Anon resides in the very opposite of bachelor pads: his mother’s basement. We learned from the New Yorker profile of the alt-right leader Mike Cernovich, that he broadcasts from his girlfriend’s parent’s house, letting his male viewers believe the pool in the background of his webcasts is his, not theirs.

Video games were Anons’ way to retreat from this painful reminder of his failure, a failure which was literally embodied by women — whose physical attainment is the end goal of both ideologies. Gamergate was a pained cry, that here too, even unto their escapist fantasies, empowered women, like the mythological furies, were hounding them.

We can see now why several weeks ago 4chan went to “war” with artists and their “safe spaces”, trying to shut down music and arts venues across the country. What’s striking is how close the populations of 4chan and those who wanted to shut down the “safe spaces” are. The artists themselves are young people on the fringes of the economy who are also immersed in romantic fantasy. The main difference is that the artists have learned different ways to cope with the same problem. Instead of residing in their mother’s basements, they created ways to live together cheaply in warehouse spaces.

By contrasting 4chan with their self-proclaimed enemy, their counter-culture counterparts, we can see that, though demographically they are so similar, the real difference is introduced here — at the thorny of issue of the girlfriend. 4chan’s self-described “beta” males are trapped in this ideology, hating their counterparts whose key difference is a willingness, like the beatniks of old, to slough off the “gender binary” and live how they please.

But rather than take this as reason to be ever more contemptuous of Anons and their misogyny, the left should regard Anon/the deplorables as a failure on its part, a terrific mangling of the left’s own arguments that has resulted in alienating the very group of people who could be the most helped by their ideas, if not the most convinced.

To the deplorables, whose central complaint is one of masculine frailty, pride, and failure — to deny their identities as men is to deny their complaint. They are a group who define themselves by their powerlessness, by being trapped into defeat. But if they are to accept the left’s viewpoint, they must accept that the problem at core of their being is all in their heads. That is to say, the left’s viewpoint of sexual-difference-as-illusion is exactly what they don’t want to hear — that they have cornered themselves into their mother’s basements.

The left does more than simply declare their opposing viewpoint wrong, the radical idea of sex/gender-as-illusion denies their viewpoint an existence. To the left, a complaint stemming from being a man is null space, lying outside the realm of what it will acknowledge as true.

The irony here, of course, is the radical idea of sexual-difference-as-illusion is meant to solve the deplorables’ problem. It was created to liberate those who are oppressed by the concept of sexual difference by dispelling it as a cloud of pure ideas. But to these powerless men, it’s as if the left were addressing their issue by saying in an Orwellian manner, “There’s no such thing as your problem! Problem solved!”  

Here the notion of sexual-difference-as-illusion is not performing the work it was built to do, rather the opposite. Ironically, it works to convince alienated men that sex/gender has marked them as a unique sort of outsider/failures, who cannot be accepted even into the multicultural coalitions that define themselves by their capacity for acceptance. In this way, 4chan’s virulent hatred of gender-bending “safe spaces”, though not justified, makes at least a perverse sort of sense, one tangled in wounded masculine pride.

On a surface level as men we must pause constantly in our interaction with others. Flippant writing off of concerns where our power pushes others over, even when that power is invisible to us, can be interpreted as sexist, abusive and supportive of rape culture. Some men will call that over sensitivity and the other persons problem, but I think such sensitivity is a symptom of just how widespread rape culture has become and how sick of it those who suffer under it righteously are.

On a deeper level as men we must constantly check our own level of privilege (even when we don’t feel or believe we have any privilege) and those of our peer group and be prepared to vocally vote down such behaviour when it is privately on display.

Rape culture stops when we as men rebuild our sense of wounded masculinity in a 21st Century that demands inclusivity and equity. For those finding that a difficult idea to agree to, remind yourself of this…

…but let’s also acknowledge that violence by women towards men also occurs and is grossly under represented in the narrative as well…

Male victims of domestic violence are being failed by the system

According to a 2010 study by Parity, a men’s issues campaigning group, more than 40 per cent of victims of domestic violence are male. Yet startlingly, as BBC London reported last week, there are no refuges in London (and only 18 nationally) that serve men. That is despite a nearly 80 per cent increase in reports from male victims between 2012 and 2016.

…and we know such stats occur here in NZ…

Study findings on domestic violent present ‘challenging picture’

The findings of an in-depth domestic violence study, which showed violent conduct almost evenly split between the genders, are potentially cause for concern, a senior police officer says.

South Canterbury Family Violence Co-ordinator Senior Constable Steve Wills was reacting to the findings of an analysis forming part of the world-renowned Dunedin Study, which has focused closely on the lives of more than 1000 people born in Dunedin in the year ending March 1973.

“It presents a challenging picture. If the findings were a true reflection of our community, we should be concerned,” he said.

Wills said recent ‘mainstream’ studies on the subject had shown about 80 per cent of the perpetrators of domestic violence were men.

However, in their paper “A couples analysis of partner abuse with implications for abuse-prevention policy”, authors Terrie Moffitt, Richard Robins and Avshalom Caspi found a more even split between the genders when it came to violence in the home.

They found that 40 per cent of male couple members in the study had perpetrated at least one of a list of 13 physically abusive acts, ranging from slapping and kicking to forcing sex and use of a weapon, while 50 per cent of women had.

The data did not fit the male-dominance model, which attributes aggression mostly to men, the researchers concluded.

…this duality of men as perpetrators and receivers of violence is a double whammy for males…

The way we construct masculinity excludes weakness and assumes men will be physically dominant over one another and over women. It’s what sociologist Paul Kivel calls the “act-like-a-man box,” in which men are expected to be violent and in control, particularly in control of women, while supressing their emotions and sucking it up whenever life doesn’t go their way. When a man steps outside of this box, he is often ridiculed as weak or as not being a “real” man.

This toxic view of masculinity often leads men to become perpetrators of domestic violence, but when they’re victims, it can prevent them from coming forward. The stigma, and the fear of not being believed, can be so strong that men simply don’t report the abuse.

…painting men out as the all encompassing problem when it comes to domestic violence and rape culture seems to miss the deeper themes and threads of power and failure and pride and sense of identity that all come together to create this current crisis of masculinity.

I think we need a lot more healing and a lot less shouting.

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  1. cagey says:

    Could this even be seen in the light of “…sorry to be a man”? How many men who were threatened by this misquoted phrase vented their spleen in front of their sons and other young men. Learn the difference between a joke and a not funny dig.Take a leaf from David’s book, guys – it’s up to you to put down this stuff before it goes into actions.

    I think – re: gamersgate – there are bugger all actual gamers over the age if 20 who gave a crap about those dicks opinions (probably because they were busy gaming), that it was mainly just a bunch of nasty bastards who read Breitbart and had bugger all to do with gaming (young Milo is a sad sad self denying gay, his opinion is also not important in the greater gaming world – or the world in general).

  2. Strypey says:

    Thanks Bomber for writing this balanced and thoughtful piece. Thanks also to Cagey for sharing your thoughts, I agree that we men need to be aware that we model manhood in everything we do and say, and that this inevitably influences other men’s ideas about masculinity, particularly younger men’s. I also agree that “Gamergate” has very little to do with the gamer community as a whole. My theory is that is has more to do with a subset of gamers who see the internet as an extension of their fantasy-fulfilling gaming activities, rather than seeing it as the rest of us do, as an extension of the public square, or the workplace, in which normal social norms apply.

    Before this comment thread devolves into a bunch of name-calling (“misogynist!”, “misandrist!”), I’d like to nip that in the bud by challenging everyone to make their comment a “yes, and” rather than a “no, but”. What I mean is, let’s actively look for things in each others’ comments that we can agree with, especially where they relate to personal experiences and feelings, and put the focus on those. Then, when we do need to disagree with each other about facts and priorities, those parts of our comments can sit within a shared understanding that both inter-personal violence (“domestic” or otherwise) and institutional violence are shared human problems, and we all want to support each other in doing something about them.