I was at a wonderful dinner party last night—great conversation, great friends, great food. Five supremely attractive, successful, powerful, self-motivated women and me. It’s a different story altogether why I often find myself included in what might otherwise be women-only events and spaces, but I am grateful for it.
As you might expect, the conversation turned to love, relationships, dating (for the single women in the group) and just how hard it is to find a normal, well-adjusted man who is comfortable in his skin in America.
Obviously, we generalise, and this group represents a rather rarefied demographic, but its hard to fault the generalisations.
“Why are men so scared of powerful women?”
Even the married women felt this. That men seem to be intimidated by a woman who knows what she wants, who expects to get what she wants, is smart, sexy, successful. You won’t be surprised that I couldn’t live without that kind of woman—powerful, self-assured, strong. It’s easy for me, but I see it in my own circles, amongst male friends, family…regardless of what they say, and they all seem to be getting better at saying the “right things”, but their behaviour is often misogynist in style. Actions are truth, words are not.
What are men so afraid of? Why is a strong and powerful woman scary? Why on earth? Some scholars are suggesting that violence against women, denial of women equal professional opportunity, are both manifestations of this fear.
My own best guess was that men are largely irrelevant socially. Men serve a biological-reproductive function, but very few men are as engaged in parenting or the nesting of the home. Perhaps men feel that they cannot be the nurturers—either because they feel social pressure to not behave that way, or because they feel denied by not being the one who fulfils the biological mothering roles of child-bearing and breast-feeding.
Without these existential roles, men are left only the bread-winner role. If that is the case, a man’s self-worth may be affected should he not be able to make more money or be more career successful than the women around him. Make sense? That might explain it, but it doesn’t solve it.
I was asked what I thought about it and said that “men are irrelevant.” They wanted me to explain. First of all, women are more attractive. They all agreed. So, my ability to provide visual pleasure to my SO is less than it would be were my body wholly female. Admittedly, some women lust after the male body. I am fortunate in having found a woman attracted to my middle state.
Biologically, however, I am no longer necessary. In fact, in some ways, never was. Apart from one specific woman wanting to have my genes mingle with hers to create a life with me, my biological meaning is quite small. Not so a woman, as female reproductive biology dominates her life, whether the cycle, the menopause, pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding, these beautiful states or conditions are constant reminders to all of us how much a woman’s physicial existence is tied to her biological purpose. Men do not have the gift or the burden. On some level a man must realise how unimportant he is in the entire process.
Male strength, physical prowess, speed, hand-eye co-ordination, hunger and ability to kill, speed to violence may have been important or conferred advantage when people lived as hunter gatherers, surrounded by a hostile natural environment. In those times, the likelihood of survival of your genes and your offspring were enhanced by the strength and physical prowess of the male partner. When women chose their mate, this was certainly a part of it, and as sexual attraction was formulated between the sexes, the physically strong male and the wide-hipped female were visual indicators of the health of choice in partner.
Already in the shift from a hunter-gatherer society, where there was something much closer to equality of the sexes, to one based on agriculture, we saw the emergence of the patriarchal system. In the shift to the agricultural model, a man needed to protect his lineage, the certainty that the child was his, with control over the woman. The woman does not suffer any doubt, as the child born from her loins is clearly hers. The man does and could not know for certain that a child born was truly his—only trusting in the virtue of his wife, or the completeness of his surveillance and control. Women’s “virtue” was a male-created construct designed to enlist women in the policing of their own bodies.
But while knowing that a child is yours might serve a man’s need to feel that the energy he is investing in his offspring is well invested, a woman doesn’t care. As long as the man or people around her support her and her child, then she can be satisfied. The biological father matters little.
The topic of conversation also turned to Jeffery Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, whose horrific crimes with procurement of underage girls for a who’s who of international male elite continue to shock. One of the women present knew both of them well, having worked with Jeffery Epstein for several years. Her own experience of him was very different than what has been portrayed and she described his behaviour as always gentlemanly. But as she said, “I was too old and had visible breasts,” which were not things that appealed to him.
She said that she never directly experienced anything untoward from Epstein, but she did say that the flow of pretty, underage girls to his apartment was very real. And while she could not confirm the goings on, the physical presence of men like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and other powerful figures she was able to confirm and having seen them with him often. She said it would not surprise her if Ghislaine Maxwell also ends up dead, as the people she can finger are just too numerous and too powerful.
These powerful, rich, men can have anything, can bend the world to their will, and what they choose to do is to prey on underage women. Is that what power does? Power corrupts—but more than that, it gives a sense of impunity. And that brings me back to the American male, who surely feels his place in the world is one of impunity, just as the nation thrashes about with wilful narcissism on the international stage, so too the “little boy” narcissist of American manhood.
As we increasingly talk about toxic masculinity in society, and as women discover that they have rights, and do have power, men are deeply threatened by this. Many of them turn to violent means of expression. Politics aside, whether you liked President Trump or not, one thing he clearly expressed in his persona is the white American male’s id. Male fear. His locker-room talk about women, his consumption of and mistreatment of sex workers, his unbelievable narcissism (he is the proverbial baby throwing his toys out of the pram), are all manifestations of this phenomenon. Donald Trump just happened to be an example of it. American society, however, expresses these same traits in so many different ways.
American media plays to the lowest common denominator. Sensationalist daytime shows like Jerry Springer hype and dramatize infantile behaviour. Shoes are pitched to the childish level of academic attainment that puts America at the very bottom of OECD countries. The whole idea of Making America Great Again is based in a glamourised version of the past. We forget about the social dislocation, racial injustice, homophobia, inequality, and nastiness of society in earlier times, because we love happy endings, love nostalgia, and want to believe that in the old days, things were better, even if they weren’t.
Psychologist David Gilmore, in his book Manhood in the Making, makes an interesting distinction between the male infant and the female infant. After the first year of life, where an infant is deeply and totally connected to the mother for all aspects of its existent, from nourishment to comfort to safety, there comes a time where the infant begins to grow self-awareness and understanding of the self as distinct from the mother. Gilmore suggests that a male child experiences this separation more acutely than the female child. While the self-awareness of sex seems far-fetched at this stage of life, over a lifetime of personal growth, his point holds. The male child is pursuing something different than the female child, because his closest bond is not him, whereas the female child has in her mother a role model of the feminine that leads to her own motherhood. Her purpose is founded on that first most important relationship. Fatherhood, the ultimate purpose of a biological male, is defined as apart from that. That he must break from the female ideal, his mother, is to experience separation and an acute sense of loss.
I buy that idea. And if you imagine that how a growing boy and man deals with that sense of loss, and finds a path towards fatherhood, the presence of personal and social role models is very important to help him on his journey. But in an infantilised society, one where we want everything now, where instant gratification is the norm, and one where we don’t deal with difficult issues, or we try to paper over everything with a false optimism, Disneyfied fairy tale, where we are all Peter Pans, how on earth could a man ever develop the tools to become a whole and good man? And now that masculinity is a minefield at least in some social discourse, many men must be terrified, and think to themselves why bother, why not just stay a baby. It is much easier. And because American society is so geared towards that mindset, and the smug sense of power that America has as a nation and its place in the world, being a more evolved man in American society just doesn’t seem necessary.
Just consider for a second these facts. According to the UN, an estimated 1 in 3 women in the world has been subject to sexual violence. This does not include sexual harassment, which is likely to be 100%. Most sexual violence perpetrated against women is done at the hands of their current or former partners. 25% of adolescent girls have experienced sexual violence from a partner. 60% of women report street-based harassment. And this just blows my mind, but globally, over 80% of female parliamentarians report sexual harassment in the workplace during their terms! How can this not make you sick to your stomach? How can this not make any man not feel shame? Obviously, a great many men feel no shame in this regard, clearly act with impunity, and feel a sense of ownership and entitlement towards the female half of the species, that allows for this kind of behaviour.
All the men that do these things had mothers. How can someone who had a mother not recognise that all of these women are real or potential mothers too? How can any of these behaviours ever be self-justified in the minds of the perpetrators?
These stats are of course only that which is reported. Society clearly has a problem with male rage. I can clearly envisage a society where men no longer exist. Apart from our sperm, we are no longer biologically necessary, and socially, men are exactly the opposite of necessary. Men and masculinity are root causes of what is wrong with society. Sperm can be farmed. The necessary quantity of men required to maintain genetic diversity is a tiny fraction of what the global male population is. I cannot see my way out of this conundrum. I can’t help but think that all of society would be better off without men. How can you conclude otherwise?
What is a man to do? I may be non-binary, but most people relate to me as male. The hostess of the dinner last night asked me why of all the men in her life, how come I am the only one who gets it? As one of the only people in the world who knows personally and intimately how I identify, she was able to answer her question…I just looked at her and said, “you know the answer to that without asking,” and the other women present were gracious enough not to press for clarification. Being non-binary has made it possible for me to navigate this morass with a sense of personal freedom that must be denied a cis male—either by society or by himself.
In practice what has that freedom given me? It has allowed me to express my femininity without fear and with pride. It has allowed me to be comfortable with my emotions. It has allowed me to not feel the need to compete with anyone. I don’t need to compete for attention, or to get my point across. I can listen, and I can submit. It also means that I have a much easier time in seeing the world from someone else’s shoes, getting into their heads and their emotions and feeling what they feel. My SO, a cis woman, has a very hard time of apologizing. I have no problem admitting and accepting I am wrong and tune in to her when she complains or points something out. I feel the needs of the people around me and am very quick to accept when I put my foot in it and will apologize publicly and privately.
I made a speech a while ago and in that speech I suggested that a group of sales leaders could be doing more compared to some of their peers in other parts of the company. I didn’t intend it to mean that they weren’t working hard enough, or that they were at all slacking, but that is what they heard, and they were very angry with me. What I had wanted them to do was to challenge their own assumptions about how much of the available business they were capturing. To not take for granted that they were market leaders as their growth had stalled while other regions were in a similar position but growing aggressively. It was mindset. I had a perfect rational logic, but I said it badly, and clumsily, and had a mess to clean up. When I became aware of how this particular team reacted to my words, I apologised to their boss, and spoke with him at length. I then personally called every single one of his direct reports, and every single one of their direct reports, and personally apologized to each of them in turn. 80 people over three days. In the following months this division went from perennial last place in the growth stakes to first. One of the sales leaders told me afterwards, “the message needed to be heard.” What I know is that if I hadn’t reached out to all of the people affected by my original speech, the message would have been lost in emotional resistance. By kneeling before these employees and asking for forgiveness, they ended up listening, hearing, internalizing. I don’t tell this story to toot my horn, but to ask if there isn’t a metaphor here for how to find a path forward.
I am active to the right of the slash in the D/s world. My exorcism of male angst surely comes in part from when I am literally on my knees before a Domme or being whipped by her. I say surely because I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that the /s feelings that D/s taps into, submission itself, is the source of the power that I wield. I am flexible, understanding, listening, and emotional because of it. I accept its importance to me because I am not afraid of it, and I believe that lack of fear comes from being non-binary. Everyone will have their own reason…But if you are a man in the world and wondering how to cope, or just trying to grow up so that you can fulfil your true value and purpose, start by getting in touch with the feelings of the people around you. And if you are a woman, please encourage men to be expressive, emotional, vulnerable, and help them to break free from the tyranny of the binary—which is quite literally killing us. And if you are trans or non-binary, recognise the beauty and freedom that gives your mind even as you suffer the horrible burden of dysphoria.