We’re Too Scared To Stop Them.

22
2003

LIZ GORDON deserves our thanks. Not only for her most recent posting on the shocking findings of the Christchurch Girls High School sexual harassment survey, but also for her contribution to the collation of its results. By her own frank admission, this was not a painless process. Clearly, what these young women reported does not make for easy reading.

Whenever the results of surveys like this one from CGHS are made public, shocked parents and teachers demand action. Entirely appropriately, the finger of responsibility is pointed at “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture”. Males are the problem – which can only mean that males must also be the solution. Men must be persuaded to change their behaviour. Parents must raise better sons. The male friends, acquaintances and workmates of toxic males and rapists must intervene whenever the ugly face of misogyny surfaces. The offenders must be told: “It’s not okay”.

But many men, when they hear this call for intervention, quietly shake their heads in despair. Why? Because unless they have the fighting skills of a Jack Reacher, most of them wouldn’t dream of criticising and/or reproving the sort of man who mistreats women. In the presence of violent and predatory misogynists, the ordinary man’s instinct for self-preservation will keep his head down and his mouth shut. “Maledom’s” dirty little secret is that most men are extremely wary of other men – especially those who hate women.

Misogyny is a marker no less pungent than the result of a dog’s cocked leg. It signals a male’s readiness to use verbal and/or physical violence to secure compliance with his wishes. More than that, it tells those males around him – most of whom are neither comfortable with, nor proficient in, the use of violence – that they are in the presence of someone highly experienced in the infliction of pain and suffering. In short, these sort of men frighten other men. No, that’s not true. They terrify them.

What’s more, their terror is entirely justified. On God’s green earth there is nothing – absolutely nothing – more dangerous than a group of human males possessed of a common purpose to do harm. Packs of young males are particularly dangerous. Their aggressive urges are not as well-controlled as those of older males, making them much more prone to recklessness. Young men forget that actions have consequences. Ask any non-violent man to tell you the five words he fears the most, and if his reply is anything other than: “What are you looking at?” – he’s lying.

When I was a student in Dunedin – many years ago now – I dabbled in amateur dramatics. I still remember fondly one of the stalwarts of the local theatre scene: a gentle bon-vivant of a man, getting on in years, but with an encyclopaedic knowledge of plays and playwrights, who gave generously of his time and knowledge to a younger generation of aspiring actors. One night, on his way home from the theatre, he was set upon by a group of young males who beat him senseless and left him bleeding in the street. He made a physical recovery, of sorts, but psychologically he was broken. Terrified to venture out, he immured himself behind drawn curtains and locked doors. Within a few months he was dead. His suspected assailants were never brought to trial.

Men’s entirely reasonable fear of violent men is compounded by the deeply entrenched cultural belief that any man who cannot, or will not, defend himself is weak and worthless. When challenged, a man is expected to confront his challenger. Usually, such confrontations involve not much more than a lot of shouting and a little bit of pushing and shoving. Nine times out of ten, the combatants are separated before any real damage is done. “Honour” is satisfied.

In the case of violent men, however, the dynamics are radically different. Violent men recognise instantly those who, being intelligent cowards, will not risk a physical confrontation. They know they can bully and humiliate such men with impunity – wreaking havoc upon their confidence and self-esteem. Significantly, these tormentors often call their victims “bitches”: confirming both their habitual conflation of weakness with womanhood, and how very deeply they despise both.

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That there is something profoundly anthropoidal about all this is a very difficult idea to shake-off. Thoughts of dominant male chimpanzees overawing their less aggressive male competitors for access to fertile females only serve to reinforce the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy which the experience of “backing down” and “caving in” evokes in human males. No matter how many times women tell their male friends that “clever”, “kind” and “funny” rank well ahead of “violent” and “intimidating”, the weak and inoffensive male never quite believes them. The admiration/fear of male physical prowess is hard-wired into the mutant Y chromosome of the human male.

There is a reason why the six-foot-plus street-fighter, Jack Reacher, is one of the most popular heroes in contemporary popular fiction. The same reason, one suspects, that the unvanquishable knight, Sir Lancelot, was admired by the young men of centuries past.

In the male imagination, standing up to the bullies, the foul-mouthed abusers of young women on their way home from school, the vicious gang-rapists of their female friends and sisters, is what they should do. And would do, if, in the all-too-real and bloody world of fist and boot, telling misogynists that “It’s not okay” to abuse women would get them anything other than a damn good kicking – or worse.

Women are not the only victims of male violence. Men hurt and terrorise other men with equal relish.

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. I wouldn’t jump in and save some poor defenceless girl that I didn’t know there’s just no reward in it anymore. To save someone now adays requires a phd in gender pronounes, combat twitter and the art of fighting without fighting, hatespeech amendments all coalescing into Karen’s brother.

  2. While you have described an unfortunately common part of society (yes I had the occasional school bully pick on me almost 50 years ago) I believe that a major reason that the current (for want of a better word) rape culture & treating women as sex objects is because us men have not articulated our disgust at those who act that way.

  3. “Males are the problem – which can only mean that males must also be the solution.”

    It would be interesting to see how this line of reasoning would fare if it were used against people from ethnicities that are overrepresented in criminal statistics in New Zealand. My guess is that accusations of racism would swiftly follow (and rightly so).

    • Pretty much every alpha male that would intervene in matters of sexual assault under new proposed legislation would get blocked on Twitter 100% of the time.

    • “My guess is that accusations of racism would swiftly follow (and rightly so)”.. Really?? Are you just taking the piss here? How is it that a gender specific problem can be conflated into racial one? Only if one really wants to do that for personal, and unhealthy reasons… Can you explain to me why it’s so important to drag racism into this debate? Or are we simply to assume you have issues that maybe we really don’t want to know about? Talk about self serving drivel why don’t you…

      • A isn’t completely wrong in the fact that race is often bought up as a reason not to vote.

        In 2020 there was two choices. Help corona take over or genocide corona. Helping the virus win would consign New Zealanders to 3 more years of austerity and economic theory as prescribed by either Labour or National and the last 3% of the environment destroyed even faster than it has endured already plus lots more. So basically New Zealanders have no choice in who or how the last buys of the environment is destroyed.

        The only choice is to vote against the unemployed preffesors of economics community and in our NZ system that means cast your vote for Jacinda; she doesn’t even do the economics and that was enough to destroy the unemployed economics profession so I do believe that before we can solve the infrastructure question we must first sovle the pronouns question mainly by aiding and supporting trans rights activists the best we can, take over if necessary because giving Labour more votes doesn’t change anything, much and the changes that the changes that the unemployed professors of humanity just get crazier and crazier like there counterparts the unemployed proffesors of economics.

        But in our radically deformed democracy votes have a secondary role.

        So anyway Jacinda is in power and how do we influence racism? The same way we influence Jacinda, Jacinda’s policies have been defective in so many ways but in some ways its the best we will see for a long time. Climate change is the most important thing, our survival depends on it. It’s not going to solve the gender pronoun debate but it’s better than anything else been proposed and that didn’t get there by magic it got there by handwork. We’ve had National strikes to try and get the support of business and the national party and the Greens picked up some swats that they’d previously lost and so on maori party ect. On the other side of the debate we have Act cannibalising National and so a moderate climate change proposal is being enacted.

        And now we have an even better proposal to fight for against Climate Change – Fortress Aotearoa.

        And if we want human existence to continue we will fight hard to settle this pronoun debate with careful proposals that are feasible which must be done and can be done to forward humanities existence.

        On ytans inclusion to woman’s sports you can’t have a pre op dude who takes a magic pill that satisfy everyone’s questions and be like he’s a woman now and can compete against woman who’ve struggled for years to get to the highest positions in sport only for a guy to over take them in 6 months. That’s not keeping in the traditions of Olympic sports of fairness. They have to transition first and then struggle to the top.

        That’s pretty much the same dilemma experienced by people at the top struggling with this gender pronoun debate that science just can’t adopt its medical procedures fast enough and should take the lead on the gender pronoun debate just like how the Law Society should take the lead on criminalising rape to a higher standard.

        This all depends on us, The Woke in the true sense of equality. Like would you give Bashar Al Assade a secound chance to repair his democracy?

        That all depends on us fighting for every issue we believe.

        What we call the left is left by kiwi standards so Jacinda some regard as centrist or neoliberal, her policy are a just passed but the most important thing is they are far to radical for the right.

        So if wing policy is not easily accepted by the right wing those are the ones the left should be championing. And what is the right universally and bitterly opposed to well its climate change.

    • “And rightly so”.

      What an extraordinary position to adopt. That the human-beings at the centre of a serious and escalating social crisis should not be expected to play a central role in its solution.

      I’m fascinated to know who should be given that central role, A, perhaps you could let us know?

      • As to who would have a central role in other matters …

        Property owners could be expected to concur with CGT to ensure fairer taxation of income, a return to estate taxation to reduce inequality, those of the old 1/4 acre home regime to accept planning changes (sales still being by consent in any such regime) or the “democratic’ settler majority to allowing the incorporation indigenous rights into state polity, rather than seeing a threat to their wealth and power in the colony.

        • We can’t just have simple policy like that any more. This generation is different. When I entered the work force in 1995 I did what the fuck I was told. This knew bunch is soft, they didn’t grow up with the same struggles as I and it was supposed to be like that. The next generation after me is supposed to get a better deal. So we have to explain stuff to them to get better results and that means exploring the possible consequences of proposed legislation or amendments so that we are not scaring a new generations with our own skeletons in the closet.

  4. I would add that violent men attack other men with much less hesitation than a women, as if a noble sport to be mastered. The alpha male will attack a challenging other male to unhold his position as tough guy. Not so with females as not seen as a real challenge (of course there are exceptions). It’s bullying. Alcohol is a major driver of violent men. Take that away or get them to stop drinking can de-escalate a situation. Another big male can step in often without force as the bully can see he has met his match, or worse and not worth a potential “lose”. Stepping into stop a fight is a big risk and takes courage but often an aggressor will back down if challenged. A well written article with no easy answers.

    • If we are going to compare human behavior to animals (and I’m still deciding if that’s a healthy comparison or not in this instance), we should be clear that alpha males don’t go around attacking others for the sake of it, sub dominant insecure pack members do.

      Very few of the human so called alpha males in society are violent.

      • Ladies take note.

        Applicable to City dwelling men globally.

        Alpha Kings = Large Multi Story Penthouse

        Beta Lieutenants = Generic 2-3 Bed unit

        Delta Workers = Rents a room in a Generic 2-3 Bed Unit

        Gamma Peasants = Basement Apartment

        Omega Rejects = Live with Parents

    • Alcohol has been around for a few thousand years and humans for about 200 thousand. Are you honestly claiming that alcohol is responsible for 200,000 years of violence against woman? Jordan Peterson tried this argument with his fucken crab hypothesis and I fucked up his argument the same way.

      The one thing that distinguished the bully from the Alpha Male is empathy. The Alpha Male will see a sick puppy and fix it and no one will get in his way and will question whether his master actually cares for the sick puppy. It would seem that the master shown the error of his ways allows our Alpha Male to cure the puppies illness and nurse the puppy back to full health on the masters dime, then knocks the master unconscious allowing our puppy to escape.

      This example should show you that you don’t need brute strength or legislation to succeed in New Zealand’s little democratic experiment you can also use empathy because empathy will take you along way because if you can’t do something on your own, your empathy might connect you with someone who can help you survive and succeed in this country because if you can’t do something on your own then your empathy might connect you with people who will help you reach your goal.

    • When Israel experiences spikes in its death tolls do you look upon isreals counter terror operations affectionately like how we would remember Genghis Kahn or Sun Tsu?

  5. A wee while back one of our local meth dealers was having a row with his partner when I got home. It was looking potentially violent, with a certain amount of shouting, chase & evasion. I took my time putting my motorcycle away, making sure my presence was known, to act as a witness & to make sure things didn’t get serious. When the woman took off down the street, I had a chat to the guy to de-escalate the situation & to get him to go back inside to calm down. Sort of worked. Checked on the woman afterwards to see if she had a safe place to go. Police got called & turned up a bit later. A few weeks later the Police arrested the dealers & the woman was able move out of town & out of that lifestyle, to be supported by whanau.

    If you do try to intervene, it is important to firstly keep yourself safe and make sure you understand the situation before wading in. The least you can do is just call the Police.

    • Yes, good approach Richard. In my experience you just intervene as usefully as you can and steer clear in some other situations. One of the best union supporters on one job I worked at had an anger problem at home, thankfully punching walls rather his partner. Other members had talked to me about this. So as head delegate, and us being veterans of various battles, I took this huge guy aside and suggested what he might do. And he actually did an anger management course and started to turn that part of his life around–while roundly criticising some of the other attendees there at the behest of the Courts.

      As a male I am not keen on too many men, apart from a small group of trusted friends and comrades, often because of banter which masks various underlying pathologies, and societal role playing. I am not scared of other males apart from obviously out of control ones! Some middle class people do characterise working class males as brutes but stereotyping can work both ways.

    • There is a way of intervening in these situations that does not come across as male aggression against male. A good and experienced police officer can give the message that he is there to calm things down rather than take somebody on. He can do that by body language and facial expression without saying a word.
      A few years ago I stepped into a gang fight in the street in a suburb of Tauranga where a guy was being kicked mercilessly, lying on the ground semi-conscious and bleeding profusely from the mouth and ears. When I stepped astride the victim his assailants moved away. No one attacked me. Not because I was an intimidating presence. On the contrary, anything but intimidating. I stood there for twenty minutes, until emergency services arrived.
      There are no guarantees that you can safely intervene in violent situations, but with the right attitude it can be done. You need to have a quantum of faith though.
      As I have argued elsewhere, I think the source of the problem is that in the neo-liberal order we are taught as a general principle that it is wrong to try and control the behavior of others. This is one of the cardinal tenets of neo-liberalism and it spills over into areas where it has no place. If we are going to address the problem of male violence we have to move away from that principle and acknowledge that it is right to try to change or control types of behavior which are harmful to the self or others. We just have to be thoughtful about how we go about it.

  6. Chris Trotter: “No matter how many times women tell their male friends that “clever”, “kind” and “funny” rank well ahead of “violent” and “intimidating”, the weak and inoffensive male never quite believes them. The admiration/fear of male physical prowess is hard-wired into the mutant Y chromosome of the human male.”

    Yes, women (in the main) will always rank gentleness morally above violence, and will always want gentlemen as “friendsies” because so thoughtful and generous — while walking off into the sunset to procreate with the dominant male. Do you actually think females are immune to your primate analogy?

  7. It all comes down to the way we treat animals. The huntin’ shootin’ alpha Kiwi male is raised from childhood to kill and butcher feathered and fury animals and the entire animal industrial complex normalises the most extreme violence ever perpetuated by one species towards another.
    No society can call itself truly civilised while the slaughterhouse exists.

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