Why Do Men Objectify Women? (Part I)

Objectification

BECAUSE THEY’RE PIGS!

I could leave it here, effortlessly accepting this dismissive (even if sometimes deserved) verdict by the extremes of Feminism; a movement whose once rightful outrage has been co-opted by a brittle ideology thundered by a new tribe of shrill Amazons who seem bent on nothing less than the extermination of the male gender.

Or,

I could heed the words of Tim Kreider who said that:

“One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfaction of judgment, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is that it spares us from the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.”

I choose to understand, no matter how hard, messy, and time-consuming.

Which reminds me…if you’re impatiently looking around this article to figure out how many minutes this post will take to read, or furtively looking at the tyrant clock (there, at the bottom-right of your screen) let me save you precious time, politely escort you out the door, and point you towards the many ‘How-to’s’ and ‘Listicles’ out there; the ones that keep promising – in 1-2-3 easy steps – to make you instantly wiser, happier, sexier, brawnier, or brainier.

I don’t do ‘instant’ anything, be it coffee, oatmeal, sex, or wisdom.

To understand (from Old English understandan: “to stand in the midst of”), we must listen. But prior, we must have the boldness and humility to unburden ourselves from our presuppositions and prejudices.

We also need time: ‘Heart-full’ time.

Ready?

I’m standing by an open fire, somewhere deep in a jungle, in the midst of a group of young men we call ‘Millennials’, between the ages of 20-35.

I ask them: Why Do Men Objectify Women?”

Sit by my side now, and listen carefully to what they have to say. These are, by the way, the voices of real individuals whom I’ve listened to in cyberspace. Only their names are made-up:

JOE: “Men bond around it.”

NICK: “I’m avoiding something…an avoidance of rejection. Intimacy takes work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an “easy” road out of the potential of rejections.”

TYRONE: “It keeps me safe from [the] treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability.”

MIKE: “Because I feel a hole in me and I want to fill that hole.”

ALEX: “It happens almost always when I have stuff to feel, deep down, that I simply don’t want to feel. If I am feeling some sort of unrest, I will seek to get something from ‘Her’: to ‘suck her beauty’ in some way, and that will somehow feed me/nourish me.”

CHARLIE: “I’m stuck in the belief that the feminine essence is outside of myself. I’m alienated from the larger truth of my Completeness as a human being.”

ETHAN: “When I used porn semi-frequently, I was doing so whenever I was disconnected from myself. Because I feel disconnected, less present, less in my heart, and less in my body.”

ADAM: “To avoid the terror of annihilation…of being reabsorbed back into the feminine.

HENRY: “For guys who have very little ability to self-reflect, or limited self-awareness, [we] live seeing the entire world as object.”

ARTURO: “The women I typically objectify are the hardest ones for me to understand completely. The thing I notice, is how easily such a mysterious woman can [match] the ideal partner that I subconsciously created as a child.

Silence…crickets…frogs…

Now look deeply into their eyes, and dare to call them ‘Pigs’.

They are disoriented, that’s all, which is something I touched on in an earlier blog post.

In summary:

1. Men objectify women to bond with other men.

2. They do it to avoid rejection, intimacy, and vulnerability.

3. To fill psychic holes.

4. As a way to reject, or deny, their innermost feelings.

5. It often occurs when they are disconnected from their sensuous selves.

6. Or because they’re afraid of being absorbed by – and are out of touch with – the feminine.

7. Because they lack self-awareness.

8. And because the objectified female reflects an imprinted, mysterious archetype in their beings.

How true, what Sam Keen said:

“The greatest underdeveloped nation in the world lies within the psyches of men.”

Grab your machete, strap on your headlamp, and follow me. We’ll attempt to slash our way through the jungle thicket of these young men’s muddle and darkest yearnings.

For the record, let me state that my last name is not followed by acronyms, such as MD., PhD, PsyaD, PsyD. Like most of you, I’m simply an ordinary human being – confused, contradictory, conflicted, flawed, failed, sometimes, I’ve been told, lovable – who just happens to have the time, curiosity, and inclination to grapple with what I consider some of the most fundamental questions that define us as human beings.

“If during the next million generations there is but one human being who will not cease to inquire into the nature of his fate, even while it strips and bludgeons him, some day we shall read the riddle of the universe.” – Rebecca West

I’m striving to read the riddle.

I’m also doing this for a friend, called Theo. He’s troubled, and has asked me to help him grapple with his own love and existential tumult.

One last thing before we head-in: I take issue with the insistence of defining Masculinity solely in terms of how men should relate to women. Not only is it condescending, but doesn’t advance anyone’s cause. It’s as narrow-minded as men defining Femininity on the shallow ground of physical attractiveness or sexual allure.

So…

Male Bonding

JOE: Men bond around it.” 

Our human genus led a nomadic, hunter-gatherer existence during ninety-nine percent of the time we’ve been on Earth. Such life, I imagine, offered men the needed space to let-off steam, prove their worth and mettle, and refine their cooperation and communication skills. Plenty of Bromance in the Wild.

All that has changed.

Spaces for men to bond with each other (I’ll simplify here for the sake of time) seem now limited to either (a) huddling around a screen to vicariously live out their fantasies through sports, or through reality shows in which tough guys get to do the ‘wild’ things men yearn, but most can no longer do themselves, (b) crowding around a beer keg, or (c) joining a gang, or the armed forces. Not particularly conducive to sincere, expressive, and meaningful conversations, nor to establish deep connections between men. What ends up happening is that they become emotional stutterers, as Sam Keen wrote in Fire in the Belly, using sexual or [violent] language to express their desire for communion.

“Friendship among men is the most modest and rugged of the modes of love,” Keen added. “Many American men, afraid of close friendships with other men, will become overdependent on women to fulfill their need for intimacy. But every single relationship that is expected to fulfill every need will become claustrophobic, cloying, and swampy.”

I don’t yet have a clear solution for more meaningful ways for men to bond, other than calling for more communal life and less individualism – more male drum circles, fire pits, wilderness retreats, and, most critically, to call for the return of our Wise Old Men, who can teach Joe how to truly bond with his mates, not by objectifying women, but by ‘subjectifying’ himself.

Rejection

NICK: “I’m avoiding something…an avoidance of rejection. Intimacy takes work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an ‘easy’ road out of the potential of rejections.” 

I came of age during a time when, at parties, boys stood pressed against one wall of the dance floor, while girls sat – primly on the opposite side – yawning and checking their nails, completely ignoring our jitters. There were no ‘loose girls’ crossing that seemingly endless floor to ask any of us out to dance (or grind). Most often, we struck-out. Boy, it hurt. I was stung by every painful and embarrassing rejection, but now realize how fortunate I was. Because, if I really wanted to get the girl, I had to keep crossing that scary floor, keep getting rejected, gaining more and more courage with every attempt, perfecting my courtship skills until I finally got it right. Which I did.

Here’s the thing Nick: The ‘easy road’ is really a path to degradation – the degradation of your nobility as a man. Yes, intimacy takes work (of the good kind, mind you), and courage, and commitment, but consider their opposites: sloth, cowardice, and indecisiveness = not attractive.

I’ve written about this before, so won’t dwell.

Vulnerability

TYRONE: “It keeps me safe from [the] treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability.”

From both Nick’s and Tyrone’s ‘easy vs treacherous road’ comments, it appears to me we’ve done a grave disservice to Millennials by insisting on paving for them a safe and frictionless road to the land of plenty and perpetual happiness; a road on which we protectively run by their sides (with sunscreen, trophies, and water of course) drip-feeding them constant recognition and reaffirmation of their personality and worth.

Memorize this, Tyrone.

“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” – Martha Graham

And what of ‘Vulnerability’?

To be invulnerable requires that we create a ‘safe’ distance between ourselves and the world, so it can’t touch us. But wouldn’t this so-called, safe distance, just exacerbate the disconnect Ethan blames for his occasional forays into pornography?

I agree with Todd May, philosophy professor at Clemson University, who suspects that most of us want to feel caught up in the world. “We want to feel gripped by what we do and those we care about. The price of this involvement is our vulnerability. We must stand prepared to feel the loss of what we care about, because that is part of what it means to care. Caring requires desiring for the sake of others, which in an uncertain world entails that that desiring can be frustrated.”

No pain, no gain, I guess is what he’s saying, and, what Zat Rana means by:

“The risk of vulnerability is balanced by the reward of ecstasy.”

Filling Holes

MIKE: “Because I feel a hole in me and I want to fill that hole.” 

We all have them Mike, to one degree or another. I should know; my psyche looks like a block of Swiss Cheese. In fact, I’ve discovered that even those whose last names trail acronyms like tin cans dragged by a newlywed car, are as pockmarked as the Moon. So chill, you’re not alone. But rather than allowing this recognition to cause you despair, you should learn to accept it as the gift of humility and understanding.

A good man does not have empathy, Keen argued. He is emphatic. “Since he has given up the illusion that he is self-contained, he naturally flows out to others. The result of coming to know yourself – to know the wounds of shame and guilt, the disappointments of love, the unfulfilled dreams – is that you recognize the same in others.

The question Mike, is whether you recognize the holes in your psyche.

Have you taken the time to confront your shadows?

“Emotions that have not been properly avowed have a pernicious habit of wreaking havoc across our personalities.” – Alan de Botton, creator of the Book of Life

Botton goes on to say that emotions that remain disavowed and uninterpreted, manifest themselves as powerful, directionless anxiety. “Under their sway, we may feel a compulsive need to remain busy, fear spending any time on our own, or cling to activities that ensure we don’t meet what scares us head on.”

And if you do recognize the holes within you, what are you filling them with: Pornography? Easy-sex? Opioids? Alcohol? Compulsive eating or exercise? Video games? Objectification of women?

These are not of the same material, or essence, that was first dug out, causing the holes in the first place.

Mike, if one of your holes was perhaps caused by your absent father, who maybe never told you what kind of problems he wrestled with as a young man, what he felt, what it meant to him to be a man, leaving it up to you to figure it all out by yourself, that hole, my friend, cannot be filled with any material other than ‘father-stuff’. What do I mean? That you either return to your Father’s Castle to wrestle that guidance from him, or seek a surrogate – a Mentor, Hero, Author, Philosopher – any Man you admire and respect, and spend soulful time with him, scraping the right stuff off his experience and wisdom to fill that hole.

I agree that a big part of the problem today, as Robert Bly suggested, is that we have stripped the poetry away from our suffering, and replaced it with clinical names like anxiety, depression, stress, burnout. Casting our suffering in such sterilized, cold light might make pharmaceutical companies rich, but it leaves us numb and helpless, which might explain why they do it.

I much rather consider my suffering as a great battlefield, full of the material and symbols of mythology, and be like St. George – noble, valiant, fierce – as I too, battle my Demons and Dragons. That – not Prozac or Xanax – lights a fire in my belly, or under my butt, if you prefer.

Avoidance or Denial

ALEX: “[Objectification] happens almost always when I have stuff to feel, deep down, that I simply don’t want to feel. If I am feeling some sort of unrest, I will seek to get something from ‘Her’: to ‘suck her beauty’ in some way, and that will somehow feed me/nourish me.

I’ll repeat Keen’s earlier words (here paraphrased): “Men who are afraid of close friendships with other men will predictably become overdependent on women to fulfill their need for intimacy. But, every single relationship that is expected to fulfill every need, will become claustrophobic, cloying, and swampy.”

Anthropophagy and Vampirism are not sexy either.

Here’s the rub Alex. Your unrest will still be there the morning after you’ve devoured Her beautiful flesh and sucked her blood. The Dragon will keep flaming deep inside you, until you clothe yourself in armor, trade your joystick for a sword, mount your steed, and, either tame it, or vanquish it.

Repressing, or denying our grief, not only is fruitless, but blunts our capacity to experience joy. We might look tough on the outside, but remain empty within.


Let’s rest and camp here. We’ll continue slashing our way through the thicket in two weeks’ time, when we’ll enter even deeper into the jungle.

Your comments, especially your perspectives, would enrich this conversation, so drop me a line below. 

Provocative conversations are also taking place on the topics of Monogamy, and on why many young men have called it quits on relationships. Check-out the blogs below and weigh-in.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s