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Misogyny isn’t caused by male horniness

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:55 EDT
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A million people have sent me this off-putting article by David Wong at Cracked trying to explain misogyny. The women have found it unnerving, and the men have loved it, for reasons they should be ashamed of that I will explain in just a moment. I didn’t want to write about it, because having done this for many years, I’m less inclined to be critical of someone who means well, even if they’re doing it all wrong, but this seems to be the only way to get people to stop sending me this article. Apparently, it struck a chord. 

The piece starts off on a good foot, explaining that men are taught from the cradle that they’re entitled to women’s affection, and he even touches on how women who aren’t considered beautiful are often not considered at all. He’s 100% right on this. This is the underpinning of the Nice Guy® complaint. They say that “women” overlook the “nice” guys because they’re not as attractive or whatever, but if you scratch them, you’ll find that they exclude a huge percentage of women from the category “women” for not fitting their beauty standards. Thus, the whine only makes sense if you assume that men are entitled to beauty, but women should settle for “nice”, and give up on physical attraction.

The rest of the piece is based on the iffy theory that only men really know what it’s like to feel horny. This is why liberal dudes were licking it up, since it was a purportedly anti-sexist piece, but it still had a soothing message that men still somehow are more than women, because they are more alive, you know. They have more desire. They really like sex, in a way that you women can never understand. 

Do you guys know how offensive this is? Imagine if you said that men naturally understood music better, or had a better ability to taste food, or just really enjoyed the sun on their skin more than women could ever understand. This article, while well-meaning, couldn’t get past the notion that women are dull, because we don’t have those all-important sex drives to create sharpness and ambition. Some quotes:

It’s because, in males more so than females, the sex drive is completely detached from the rest of the personality.

By the way, he later says the sex drive actually creates the male personality, so he contradicts himself.

When that happens, when we get that boner at the funeral, we get mad at the girl showing the cleavage. Because we, ourselves, our own rational personality that knows right from wrong and appropriate from inappropriate, knows this is a bad place to get a boner. So it comes off like cleavage girl is conspiring with our penis to screw us over.

I appreciate that he agrees men shouldn’t hold women responsible for this, but still embedded in this is the idea that men and only men have these remarkable will to live, to screw, to really enjoy life that comes out even in in the face of death. Women certainly aren’t interesting enough to have inappropriate urges, you know. 

We’re starving, and all women are various types of food. Only instead of food, it’s sex. And we’re trying to conduct our everyday business around the fact that we’re trying to renew our driver’s license with a talking pair of boobs. So, from about age 13 on, around 90 percent of our energy and discipline is devoted to overcoming this, to behave like civilized human beings and not like stray dogs in a meat market. One where instead of eating the meat, they want to hump it…….

Do you see what I’m getting at? Go look outside. See those cars driving by? Every car being driven by a man was designed and built and bought and sold with you in mind. The only reason why small, fuel-efficient or electric cars don’t dominate the roads is because we want to look cool in our cars, to impress you.

Go look at a city skyline. All those skyscrapers? We built those to impress you, too. All those sports you see on TV? All of those guys learned to play purely because in school, playing sports gets you laid. All the music you hear on the radio? All of those guys learned to sing and play guitar because as a teenager, they figured out that absolutely nothing gets women out of their pants faster. It’s the same reason all of the actors got into acting.

All those wars we fight? Sure, at the upper levels, in the halls of political power, they have some complicated reasons for wanting some piece of land or access to some resource. But on the ground? Well, let me ask you this — historically, when an army takes over a city, what happens to the women there?

It’s all about you. All of it. All of civilization.

I don’t realize if Wong gets this, but he basically just argued that since women are just so asexual, we’re also basically unartistic, unambitious, and even though he decried treating women like decorative objects, I don’t really see how we fit into this. We don’t have any desire to impress men and get sex, so we’re never going to build and invent, right? 

I have a counter-theory. I don’t believe that men build civilization to impress lazy women who keep saying no to sex, because we don’t understand what it’s really like to want it. I believe men built most things because women were shut out of political power, job opportunities, and education for most of history, and instead forced into servitude towards men in the home. I believe my theory has a lot of evidence for it, in the form of all of history. Plus, this theory doesn’t do much to explain all the gay men who have been creators throughout history, of which there have been many. You know, it’s not like Michelangelo was rumored to be doing the Sistine Chapel to catch a lady’s eye. His theory doesn’t really explain how it is that women, once given the opportunity to be creators, take it. 

Wong means well, but he’s letting men off the hook. By making misogyny about men’s supposedly overpowering sex drive, he makes it seem primal and nearly unavoidable. After all, if nature dictates that men want it and women don’t, then there’s not much you can do about it. 

But I think misogyny is rooted in something else, something Wong does hint at before scrambling away to make more jokes about how women can’t know what it’s like to really feel sexual desire. It’s hard to talk about, because it cuts right to the bone in something humans don’t like to talk about, but it’s about the will to dominate. I think men become misogynists not because their intense horniness short circuits their brain. It’s because they feel entitled to have women in a submissive position to them. They want to live in a world where women are considered automatically dumber, where women are expected to clean up after them, wipe their brows, and kiss their asses, all with a smile on our faces and without asking much more in return but an occasional bit of jewelry and a door-opening, which is just as much about the man feeling more powerful as it is about being nice to the woman. They want to control women sexually, not because they’re more horny, but because sexual control is just one more form of control. Misogynists especially dislike women having reproductive control, because if a woman can’t control her pregnancies, she’s going to be more dependent on a man, and they believe that makes it easier for them. If women are dependent, you don’t need to be nice to your wife to get her to stay. She doesn’t have a choice, and that’s how they like it. They believe in their hearts that women are inferior, and fear that if they’re disproved in this contention, their entire sense of self will crumble, because that sense of self is all built on being a “man”. They get angry and mock other men they believe are trying to hard to be pleasing to women—genuinely pleasing, not faux “build skyscrapers” pleasing—but men who take care of their looks to be sexually attractive (they get dismissed as “metrosexual”) or men who treat women with respect. Those men are seen as undermining the united front to artificially lower women’s standards. It’s not an accident that the biggest misogynists are the first to flip their shit at the idea of swapping out big greasy burgers for some broccoli on occasion.

I see why the “men are hornier” gambit has appeal, even to men who should know better. For one thing, it allows you to feel superior to women and cling to that just a little bit, while wearing a false humility (gosh, we men are so hard to control!). Also, there’s a rough sort of sense to it. Our sexual market is such that men are expected to do most of the pursuing and women are supposed to be more reticient, and this can feel for men who find it frustrating to be rejected like women just want it less. But it’s actually just a result of the system. Men only hit on women they find attractive, so they get a skewed perception of how that works. Just because a man hits you up doesn’t make him hot, you know. If women hit on men more, maybe men would notice that they don’t actually want to fuck every woman they meet, because they mentally just exclude women they don’t find attractive from the category “women”. 

More importantly, men get to feel hornier because they’re socially supported in this. The whole of society is geared toward titillating men and discouraging female sexual desire. It’s inherent to the Nice Guy® complaint, where men are entitled to feel physical attraction, but a woman who wants more than “nice” is shallow. It’s evident in the way men and women dress, with women always mindful to wear stuff that makes them sexually attractive, whereas men have the opposite problem, and have to avoid being too sexualized lest they seem feminine. Naked women are draped over every inch of public space, and the internet is full of visually interesting porn for men, but our society barely can imagine what it would be like to try to attract a female eye. (Though “True Blood” is really making up ground rapidly on this front.) Men seem hornier in no small part because their sexuality is celebrated and codified. It’s easy for men to know right away how to be sexual, whereas women are still largely expected to figure it out for themselves—and even that’s a recent invention, because pre-feminism, women were mostly just expected to do what men wanted. To a large extent, that’s still true, but we’re at least getting a few glimmers of liberty for women, but in many ways, the past few generations of women are real pioneers in trying to figure out what sex means when we’re actually allowed to want it, even a little.

But even with the small amount of freedom we have, it’s worth noting that a 30-year-old woman who admitted obliquely to having had non-procreative sex in Congress created a month long, nationwide scandal. Until that kind of pressure disappears completely, we can’t even begin to measure what the “natural”, unadulterated female sexuality would look like, and how it would compare to the celebrated and constantly titillated male sexuality. 

Either way, stop blaming sex for misogyny. If all men wanted was women to fuck them more, the English language wouldn’t even have the word “slut” in it. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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