Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I like girls

Ever since I first became a heterosexual, I have always liked girls. I don't mean in the normal American way, where you pretty much hate them. How did "liking girls" turn into this pitched hostility toward them? If you don't "like girls" -- if you don't like them by virtue of your sexuality -- then you are free to actually like them. Which makes me gay, in a way, except for the sex part.

Somehow or another the sexual ideas I got about women led me to liking them comprehensively, not just in the restricted sense -- although when you are in different phases of your life this latter sense can take on a kind of primacy. Once your testosterone drops off a cliff, you can wisely observe that there is more to life than sex.

I'm very interested in parlaying the natural tendency of most boys to "like girls" into actually liking them. A lot of the reason I feel I can "get away" with being feminist comes down to the idea that, yes, I like girls. If you like girls, you care about them on some level. Well, that's true -- maybe it shouldn't be a big deal, but it's true. The "feminism" simply comes in as an acknowledgment of social injustice that women face.

There are many mornings I get up before dawn and hear radio broadcasts about missing women in Philadelphia and Camden, or unidentified bodies discovered in parks and parking lots which once belonged to women. I think it was only last summer or fall that there was somebody called the Kensington strangler; before that, of course, the Center City rapist. I know these were men who "liked girls" in the only sense that makes sense for most of us; now I hope we can agree on the inadequacy of its meaning.

18 comments:

Katie said...

I like your reframing of what it could mean to men in general to "like girls." I like what it means to you, certainly. It would be cool if male heterosexuals were suddenly like "Women are awesome! We are so into them! It's fucked up when bad things happen to them and we are not going to stand for people we like getting treated badly in society!" That would be cool. I hope that little mental segue can work.

My personal theory, although I'm sure someone somewhere has written this up more formally, is that it is "liking" women that is at the root of misogyny. Personally I speculate that misogyny stems from male resentment at women for the desire they feel for them. In every other way, men as a group have dominance and control over all institutions and material resources. (Individual men may not, of course, but we are talking big picture here.)

The one thing (heterosexual) men need that they do not posses is female sexuality. Hence the obsession of every male-dominated institution from the government to religion to the family: CONTROL WOMEN'S SEXUALITY.

I speculate that the root of misogyny is hatred of the power that women have over something that men need, the one thing that they are not able to fully control try as they may.

So yeah, I think it would be great if we could translate "desiring women" into "caring about women." Instead we have "desiring women" being translated into "resenting and controlling women."

Jack Crow said...

I'm wary of any theory which posits as its core a vague resentment originating in a biologically compulsive "need" for sex.

My wife and I enjoy each other, emotionally and sexually, but I cannot recall ever needing her to submit her sex to me.

Seems to me the subjugation of women is makes more sense if we understand it economically, following the new divisions of labor arising out of castes and cultivation of grasses.

JRB said...

Katie & Jack:

It makes sense to me that men would resent women for having control over something they want, especially since men are used to being in control and getting what they want.

But the question in that case becomes: What's the best way of getting what you want? The irony for me is that society's method creates more obstacles to what might happen between men and women, since it is imposed, creating distrust. On the other hand, if men would only stop trying to assert control, it would be very interesting to see how women might choose to assert their own.

Ethan said...

JR, in reference to your last comment, you read Pervocracy, right? Just in case you don't, that's a frequent topic of Holly's, most directly and recently here.

Jack Crow said...

JR,

As an observation, I think it works circumstantially.

I just think, as theory, it's full of holes, assertions and presumptions without fact.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Any discussion about men's attitudes toward women, which ignores the behavior of overselfish women who enjoy manipulating men... pointless.

The framework is NOT 100% sexist man, 100% innocent woman.

Never has been.

Never will be.

And anyone who tells me that I spend my time denigrating the XX genotype, simply because I am an XY genotype, is going to get ignored.

And that person likely will say, "well you're ignoring me because you don't like the truth I'm telling."

Come back to me when you can point at specific acts I've done which denigrated women in substantive ways.

JRB said...

Ethan:

No, but thanks!

Quin said...

Karl,

While I can't comment on any specific acts of yours, you're awfully quick to deny denigrating women when nobody has yet accused you of doing so, and the fact that your reaction to this piece (which is simply a pleasant variation on the basic theme of "girls are human beings too") instantly veers into such negative territory sure doesn't bode well.

Ethan-- that Pervocracy post is outstanding. (And yours wasn't too shabby too, JR!)

Anonymous said...

I'm with Karl.

The title of this blog post, i.e., "I like girls" is silly and idiotic to begin with.

Why would anyone in their right mind claim to like "girls" or "females" in general? What an absurd, sweeping statement.. but perhaps not surprising given the narrative that is prevalent in Western societies of women as poor, innocent victims and men as oppressors.

I like individuals, depending on their individual traits. Some of these individuals are females, some are male. But the females who are good people are not so because of any particular female characteristic, or because of their female "nature," which is something feminists and the left are always arguing doesn't exist in any case.

Don't you feminists believe gender is almost entirely a social construct and that females are supposed to be completely interchangeable with males, such that they have the same strengths and roles and are exactly the same, except for "superficial" biological/body differences? So the notion that one should "like girls" is itself incoherent with your professed feminist beliefs/ideology.

I've know girls and women and females who are vile, vicious, selfish and abusive, just as I've known some men who have those traits.

So no, no one in their right mind should "like girls". You should like individuals.

JRB said...

Karl & Anonymous:

I don't mean to lump you two together except to say that, as far as I am concerned, I think it would be very interesting to talk about some of your concerns, whether or not that happens in the context of this thread.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Katie's thesis above, there is probably some truth to it.. although I would distinguish male resentment resulting from not being able to get sex with "misogyny," which is a term that is carelessly thrown around by feminists.

I would also argue male resentment from not getting sex is perfectly understandable and rational. Of course, if one is a male blessed with certain set of biological and social capital, i.e., blessed with the good genes and the right nurturing and family to create a good looking, healthy, intelligent, alpha male, you wouldn't understand that source of male resentment. But not many men are blessed with the traits that females will reward with sex. Females have, and always have had sexual power, because males are the pursuers of sex, and females, for the most part, aren't. Whatever feminists might say, this has a biological and evolutionary basis and is fundamental. It is not a social construct. Females select mates across or higher on the dominance hierarchy, i.e, males with higher status, whether that status is biological (stronger, good looking, healthy, etc) or materially. This leaves a lot of men who will be rejected by females, and one should not underestimate the destabilizing force of seething male resentment resulting from being rejected for sexual selection by females. The older conservative and religious social rules attempted to correct for this by evening things out and giving males elevated status and power. The loss of that status and power as a result of feminism is a return to a Darwinian, law-of-the-jungle pattern to human sexuality, and is sowing the seeds of chaos and of destabilizing forces of male resentment.

Sex is a primal force, and is capable of tearing a society apart. It has to controlled for the benefit of human society to some extent.. and channeled to productive, life-and-love-affirming purposes such as marriage and reproduction. It is not clear to me at all that rampant female promiscuity, or male promiscuity for that matter, is particularly beneficial to the health of a society. Almost every human society that has ever existed regulates sexual behavior to some extent and it all can't be blamed on the cliche of "male patriarchy" or some of the other hobby-horses of feminists and liberals.

The verdict is still out whether the forces of feminism, hedonism, individualistic liberalism, and modernity are particularly stable. Given the fact that feminism has proven to be demographically barren, the signs seem to be pointing to the other way. What use is feminism when a society can't even reproduce itself? There are also all sorts of repurcussions to having a demographically barren and aging society.. that doesn't have that spark of youth, and where women delay childbirth. Biologically, human beings and women are designed to have children much earlier than they do in modern, feminist Western societies. But women who have children when they're younger have much healthier, vital children than they do when they're older. Again, this is just biology. One should also not underestimate the great bond between a mother and a child, and to think males are interchangeable with females and therefore should be expected to provide the same kind of necessary, nurturing, mother-child bond is also to be deeply delusional, as is thinking it is ok for women to ship off children to day care and have other people raise children for her while she is at work. Even today science cannot truly measure all the biological processes (release of hormones, etc) that take place during the crucial years of mother/child bonding. To think you can just decide to change the reproductive and parental patterns that have made human beings so biologically successful and brought us to this point and that helped create this prosperous, technologically-advanced society you all take for granted and that it won't have grave consequences is not to be thinking carefully.

Anonymous said...

The default female nature, like the default male nature, is pleasure seeking and selfish. Given the choices women now have, and where female promiscuity is celebrated by feminists as "female empowerment," why would females choose to get married and raise children?

The conservative/religious social rules and conducts that evolved over time that feminists and leftist rationalists deride as "oppressive" or "sexist" had a certain inherent wisdom to them. History is itself a learning process, and it is incredibly arrogant to think you know better than the biological patterns and gender roles that have proven to be so successful. The problem with rationalists and leftists has always been that they think they know better than tradition and history. But there are all sorts of invisible forces, moral foundations, traditions, social controls and rules that have evolved over time and through repeated, tragic patterns of behavior by human societies, and that are beyond the ability of human beings to rationally assess and recognize, let alone to calculate the repercussions and side-effects from dismantling.

You tamper with these primal forces at your risk. This notion that it's ok for humans to indulge in all their appetites, sexual or otherwise, and that there should be no rules.. is frankly silly, and reveals a deep naivette about human nature and human society. It also reveals a deep arrogance.. such that there is only way to be human, that all the various cultures and societies that prospered thousands of years ago were all invalid because they weren't sufficiently "progressive". Modernity, individualistic liberalism, and feminism have existed in but a blink of human history, and have already sowed seeds of chaos and destabilizing forces that point to collapse. I would be very careful about claiming that there is only "correct" way of structuring human society, i.e., the Western, feminist, liberal capitalistic world order.

Katie said...

I just wanted to add a few things about my own comment.

First, I know it is total speculation and I don't have any research to put behind it. I don't usually bother voicing my private little theories about why the world is the way it is. Just sharing something I think about, not intending to make statements I think are actually defensible.

I don't think what I said is an idea that is popular in feminism. My view is more essentialist than most feminism, which generally advocates a more social constructivist theory of gender.

Generally I agree with the constructivist outlook on everything except things that relate to biology, and sexuality is one of those things. And that's something I could actually point to (quite a lot) of research about.

I actually haven't seen a lot articulated about how sexual dynamics between males and females as a group impact other political and material realities for both. Usually I see an analysis of how material and political dynamics effect sexual dynamics, if sexual dynamics are discussed in a serious way at all.

What caught my eye about JRB's original post is it spoke to my interest in how sexuality might impact politics, something I see so little written about.

JRB said...

Very interesting discussion. I'm attracted to the broad flow of ideas here, as opposed to the customary back-and-forths between specific individuals.

George Jones said...

I just read Michael Kimmel's Guyland, and (to back up Katie's first post) many men quoted therein do express resentment at being excluded from sex, particularly with attractive young women, sex which the culture seems to tell them they not only need in order to confirm their masculinity, but is also their due as men. And it seems like a very short leap from there to anger at women as gatekeepers to sex (which sentiment I hear all the time from guys I know), and then to victim-blaming, eg, she was wearing a short skirt therefore wanted/deserved it. And from there to descriptions of men as slavering animals who are biologically programmed for rape and can't control themselves at the sight of a bare shoulder, and from there to mandated burqas "for women's safety" etc.

I remember this resentment being all over Houellebecq's novels too, but he has a slightly different take. In fact, if I can find the quote...

“[I]n societies like ours sex truly represents a second system of differentiation, completely independent of money; and as a system of differentiation it functions just as mercilessly. The effect of these two systems are, furthermore, strictly equivalent. Just like unrestrained economic liberalism, and for similar reasons, sexual liberalism produces phenomena of absolute pauperization. Some men make love every day; others five or six times in their lives, or never. Some make love with dozens of women; others with none. It’s what’s known as ‘the law of the market’.”

http://www.houellebecq.info/revuefile/44_postmod.pdf

and

http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p41724_index.html

(ps Platform was the best Michel Houellebecq novel, imho)

George Jones said...

Just to clarify: the sentiment I usually hear is thankfully more whiney than angry, and manifests along the lines of, Women can have sex whenever and with whoever they want, because guys are always ready to have sex with anything that moves. Meanwhile guys can't just pick up anyone, they have to work hard and are often shot down, women have all the power, etc.

Sometimes I think everyone might benefit from a year of self-enforced celibacy.

dipshithater said...

Oh my goodness aren't you just the perfect little person: gay, straight, male, female. You and Ethan should burn your bras together.

God.

Such fucking arrogant preening, and such a fucking reductive view of women to go with it.

Can't believe the quaint notion that men are used to getting what they want passed uncontested.

Identity politics blow, full stop.

Justin said...

I think that just for once I'd like to see discussions about topics like this not devolve into human nature/this is the way it has always been reductions. Our cultures messages about male female relations are so fucked up, that we should be comfortable simply talking about how things occur in this context without claiming that this is some natural way of existing. I think every male or woman, no matter how good their genes or social status, knows what it is like not to get what or who you want in the sack. Not always getting what you want does not naturally lead to resentment, anger, and frustration to the levels that we see in the United States. There are entire philosophies and people who stay true to them that counsel on how to deal with not 'winning' every single time you play the game. Mix in other themes in our culture such as the glorification of violence as a solution to all our problems, and a history of patriarchy, and I think you start to get at things. Nothing to do with human nature, imo.