I’ve found myself very struck by a comment on my Allen Frantzen #femfog post that throws up something which is, in my opinion, a real problem that men and women need to negotiate together.
The commenter makes the interesting point that:
These “red pill” men aren’t appearing out of thin air. They gravitate there because for the most part no where on the political-left tries to, or allows, this discussion. There are all these men who are frustrated that they aren’t able to get or are not satisfied, with their sexual/romantic relationships. Its not a bad thing for them to want to find out how to change that. As long as the only place that discussions occur is the redpill/pua/mra then these places will only grow.
Of course there are some things I don’t agree with in the longer comment. For example I don’t think this is a leftist agenda, or that there aren’t either left or liberal outlets for this (for example, famous feminist site and meninist bogeyman Jezebel.com, though not perfect, is consistently sex-positive, and in a way that avoids gender roles or gives a map for the “right” way to behave in a sexual situation).
But I do think the central point in this paragraph is a sound (and alarming) one. The Red Pill/PUA/MRA websites are attracting millions of followers. And if that’s the only available dialogue or discussion forum for men who want to have sex with women, then I think that’s pretty bad news.
I’ve lived my whole life as a woman, so I don’t have a strong frame of reference for what it feels like to be a man who is afraid of hurting women and ashamed of his sexuality. But we women do know what it feels like to be made to be ashamed of your sexuality in a different way; to be expected to be chaste and passive. To be afraid to want without being called a slut. It’s not the same, but if we can try to understand one another, and negotiate this problem collectively, that’s got to be better.
I’m put in mind of a conversation I once had with a close male friend. We were talking about sex and expectations, and he brought up that it made it uncomfortable when his (long-term and much beloved) girlfriend said she was, in theory, up for it, but wanted him to “convince [her]”. He didn’t want to get freaky with someone who needed to be “convinced”. I think this is something of the same problem that the commenter, (who gave the name Karl, but whose email address wasn’t valid), was describing. Fear of falling into that sexually aggressive male role. But here’s the thing – it cuts both ways. Why do women want that? Because women are brought up to believe that any active sexuality – any desiring – on their part is slutty. If someone seduces you, that’s OK because you’re still acceptably passive. Of course, two consenting people can enjoy a fantasy like this, and that doesn’t make it bad or wrong, but it’s rooted in something long-standing and problematic.
This isn’t to say that this isn’t a real problem for men – it is to say that men and women are both holding different ends of the same problem. And like I said in my original post, we’re better together. “The Patriarchy” isn’t a bunch of men in suits planning to do horrible things to women. “The Patriarchy” isn’t anyone – it’s a descriptive term about the uncomfortable and unequal pattern our lives have in modern society. It’s a pattern that gives men certain freedoms that it doesn’t give to women, but it also constrains men. If you want a great example of the crippling expectations of masculinity, you can just turn to Breaking Bad.
Frantzen’s post – and many of the comments I have received on it, including a particularly bizarre one that informed me that because of me and my feminism the men would “leave the village” and women would have to “fend for themselves” in the fem-fogged-up future I had (apparently) demanded – makes matters unhelpfully adversarial. Men vs women. Men vs feminism.
There are plenty of men who are kind and respectful to women, who treat them like humans and equals, and who have loving and fulfilling relationships with them. It’s a PUA myth that the ‘nice guy’ loses. But it’s a convincing victim narrative – once upon a time I believed in the ‘Nice Guy’. It allows us to believe in our own specialness, our own exceptional nature.
Karl’s comment is a perfect example of what good work feminism could do for everyone. In a gender-equal society, anyone could express what they wanted (or didn’t want) to anyone safely – without fear of harm, or causing harm. But it’s a big dream, but it’s one of the dreams of feminism. Imagine a world, heterosexual men, where any woman who wanted to have sex with you could just come out and say so, without fear or shame. Where anyone could safely express what they did or did not want. Where sexual openness, mutual respect and consent were day-to-day occurrences. If that sounds good, maybe the femfog isn’t really blocking your vision, after all.
I tried to reach out to the commenter via email to suggest a discussion post, but the address bounced.
You can read the full comment here: