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On the Sexual Misconduct of Men Toward Women: Part 2

Robin Alexander

Posted on November 28, 2017 18:07

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In all of these cases, I see an inability to respect women as fully human.

In his 2014 article, "Why Do Men Sexually Assault Women, Psychology Today," Noam Shpancer, Ph.D. discusses various contributing factors. While women are objectified as bodies that exist to satisfy male desire, men are also objectified in the marketplace as such: "America treats its workers as it does the products they make: like things to use up, throw away and replace." I think Shpancer is on to something, even if he's not quite there. After all, women work in the same throw away marketplace. And of course, not all men who commit these acts hate their bosses or have lost their jobs. Shpancer's theory leaves out the extremely successful men who are making the headlines. What then is the common thread?

I contend that a similar motivation is at work across the board regardless of finances: from sexual assault to sexual harassment, to sexual remarks, to a pat on the butt or a whistle as you walk down the street, to serial cheaters, to the garden variety player. It's a matter of degree, of course, but the motivating principle is the same. In all of these cases, I see an inability to respect women as fully human; instead there is a compulsion to view women in sexual terms, either as desirable or as undesirable, it matters not. This obsession comes from the male, not the female. Why is that?

Maybe it's because as children, little boys are mostly ruled by a mother or mother figure at home and at school. Maybe it's because adolescent rejection can be particularly unkind to teenage boys overflowing with hormones. The truth is that throughout our lives, women exert a huge amount of sexual power over men. (Our power is further enhanced by the ability to create life; and even though the man is pretty darn important here, he just doesn't get the glory). And so, we've been taught not to exercise any power. Or we've been punished for exercising it. Or our power has been demeaned and downgraded. Or we've been forced to accept specific roles that are then controlled. In fact, for centuries most societies have been arranged — legally, religiously and culturally — to ensure that women have as little power as possible. And in most cases, we've bought into those cultural norms ourselves.

On the other side, as Shpancer points out, cultural norms propagate the idea that "real men" should be strong, dominant and in control. These cultural norms are not the cause of sexual misconduct (although they may support it); they are a symptom of the general lack of empowerment men feel in regard to women. That's why sexual misconduct cuts across every demographic. The construction worker's whistle is not meant to flatter or to honor; it's meant to degrade — maybe even frighten — and make the man feel powerful as a male, if only for a moment. It's a kind of cultural over-compensation.

Robin Alexander

Posted on November 28, 2017 18:07

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