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Weinstein and Trump.

13 October 2017

This kind of thing persists because people protect it. Specifically, because we men protect it. Because, at a deep and important level, many, perhaps most, men admire men like Harvey Weinstein. He had wealth, an eye for film-making, power. He worked hard and rose to the top of an industry. And yes, he was constantly surrounded by (seemingly) fawning beautiful women.

Very, very few men don’t envy and admire that. Most of the men loudly condemning Weinstein today admire that. Most, three weeks ago, would’ve traded places with Harvey in an instant. Not that the average happily married man would necessarily give up what he has now to trade (though many would), but if given the opportunity to go back and take that path? Yeah. The average young man, unattached, starting out? Yeah.

The same is true looking at Trump: a serial sexual abuser, an accused rapist, a disgusting and stupid man, who nevertheless has the thrall of a third of the country. Because he has wealth, power, and spent his life surrounded by beautiful young women. Nothing more. He has no moral center. No ideas. No competence. But he is admired.

Men have basic, base instincts with regard to sex, violence, and power which we almost all share. It’s at a hormonal level. One of the most enlightening things I’ve ever read about it was a first-hand account of a trans-man taking testosterone for the first time. Similarly, the brilliant trans-man comic, Ian Harvie, shares about the experience in his special. Men with normal hormone levels think about sex regularly. We are incapable of sequestering sexual (and other) thoughts to so-called “appropriate” times.

What we are capable of is learning, preferably in late adolescence, to isolate those impulses and thoughts to the background when they are inappropriate. To refuse to act on them. To create a barrier between those thoughts and the resulting actions that we might pursue if we were barbarians.

Being a socially adept male within a community means spending the time to look at ourselves, and the effort to change how we behave. Often this process is very painful for us. Routinely, it involves being physically dominated by other men when we act out. Express too much interest in a woman with a boyfriend? As an adolescent (even later), that will often result in a beating. It is incredibly difficult for us to learn these lessons in a non-violent way.

But it is long past time that we men started having the conversation about how to be men in a constructive way that honors the fundamental nature of manhood without allowing it to be enveloped with victimization. There is nothing wrong, inherently, with male sexual aggression. Many women are highly interested in that*. What is wrong is when male sexual aggression is expressed outside the context of an explicitly consenting interaction.

There is also nothing wrong, inherently, with the male penchant for violence and physical domination. It needs to be put into a proper context. We need a military. We need police. And we need sports. I have channeled that need, the need for physical mastery, into endurance athletics. It’s not violent, how I manifest it. But make no mistake, it’s fueled by a need to express myself as a man. It’s about dominating a challenge.

In order to participate in civilization, men need to teach men not just how not to behave (and we need to start doing that immediately), but also how to channel our base aggression, testosterone, violence, and sexual impulses into productive, positive environments and expressions. This consists of several simple concepts:

  1. The principle challenge in being a good man is in self-mastery.
  2. Conquest is appealing: conquer yourself first, then the world.
  3. Sex drive and aggression are only good things if you use them productively.
  4. Other people are humans. Don’t victimize them.
  5. Stop enabling and covering for men who don’t respect 1-4.

This may seem like an inexpressibly simple list. But they are incredibly difficult, especially for young men, to grasp. Going beyond “I want” to “I am” is a stunningly difficult upheaval in the paradigm we boys are just naturally born with.

Teaching boys to be men, fundamentally, means teaching boys to reframe what feel like external struggles into internal struggles. And internal struggles are astonishingly hard. Confronting them requires the willingness to take ownership of our failures, our wrongdoing, and our outcomes. No externalizing blame. No excuses.

But, when we do that, we find we become what we have always wanted to just take: content, successful, desirable, and accomplished.


*But the ones who aren’t have the right not to be – and all of them get to choose the situations in which they are or aren’t.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Aimee permalink
    13 October 2017 08:52

    Couple thoughts. First, I’m not at all sure that exogenous testosterone acts exactly like endogenous testosterone, and trans-men are probably taking very high doses. Natural testosterone levels vary extremely widely, and higher natural levels (WNL) are not correlated with higher levels of violence or crime, I don’t think. Too early to google. But steroid use is. I’m unconvinced by the comparison to trans men. But the fact that most violent crime and most rape in particular is committed by men is probably at least partially due to men’s hormonal profiles. Compared to women, I mean.

    Second – your assertion that most men would choose a life wherein they could have sex with multiple beautiful women at the expense of any emotional connections with women, that most men would actually prefer a life void of love makes me want to shoot itself in the head. And I don’t believe it.

    Gotta take the kids to school.

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