Thursday, 16 June 2011

Primitive Shame

Masculine shame is not new. It is not something spawned by the feminist revolution. It is something that has been there since the spark of civilisation. In fact, I would contend that masculine shame and repression is an INSTRINSIC aspect of civilisation itself.

The last forty years of sexual liberation have opened up the shame that is at the core of male behaviour. I am not saying anything controversial here. (In fact, from where I am standing, I am never saying anything controversial on this blog. It's all pretty pedestrian). But my point is, the shame is now exposed. It comes from the Catholic idea of original sin, the idea that the most fundamental aspect of our life as biological entities, our sexualities, is bad, evil or destructive.

I think this notion of sin probably comes from very intelligible origins. It probably comes from a primal fear of the forces within us, the drives that seem beyond the control of the consciousness of the self. It comes from the fear that something so basic and so powerful, is not tamed by our sense of will, and is therefore a kind of enemy or monster within.

Judging from society's treatment of sexuality even now, this primitive terror still exists. And given that we now know that men can have up to ten times the testosterone of women, it seems reasonable that men would develop a very particular kind of shame around their sexualities. (Notice that I have not asserted that men have MORE shame than women around their sexualities. I do not think that. I think the shame for women is different, and very much worth examining, as feminism demands. I also recognise that it is a form of abuse largely enforced by men in a patriarchal context. All I am saying is that male shame is of a unique kind).

Perhaps it is time to accept the nature and the power of male sexuality, rather than to keep pushing it to the shadows of the human psyche. Our sexual urges are as powerful as any creative and chaotic force. Each sexual act is a kind of big bang manifesting itself in the human form. We intuitively understand the fact that the energy that gives life is also the energy that takes it away. That the energy that loves is the energy which usurps the innocence of others.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not the energy itself that is evil. It is the cultural baggage around it, which has evolved from a time when that very energy was not understood. Our fear of masculinity comes from the same primal place as that which caused us to conclude that thunder and lightening was the anger of the gods. It is a long outmoded mythology, especially in a post-enlightenment context. But even the femisinist milieu seems to harbour this primitive fear as much as the culture which predates it.

The fear and shame that has existed around masculinity comes from a time when libido itself was not understood. We had to invent myths like those of Adam and Eve to make sense of the drives we, rather frustratingly, couldn't seem to control. But the fact that this shame still exists in a modern cultural context is not only abusive to men, it is also a convenient way of avoiding any responsibility for our sexualities.

Men need to own their sexualities. Regardless of what the modern mind believes about itself, none of us really owns our sexuality. Perhaps women are starting to now. And perhaps this terrifies us as men. But if we start to take full responsibility for our sexualities, we have nothing to fear from female sexual liberation. However, in order to do so, we have do away with archaic beliefs about male libido. We have to rise above shame AS A SOCIETY, not just as men.

The trouble is that by doing so, I believe that we will be compelled to examine the nature of our repressive civilisation as a whole. The liberation of women, is the liberation of women from the behaviours of MEN. The liberation of men, however, is liberation from the foundational ideas of a society.

It is liberation from ourselves. Are we really ready to go there?

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