Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The social function of misogyny, and the origins of rape

The demonisation of male sexuality is one of the root functions of this society. In order to maintain social order, it is believed that male sexuality must repressed. In every imperial conquest, it is first the men who are attacked and reduced. For if you persecute the men, they themselves will take care of the women. This is the function of misogyny. It's really just another form of class or privilege, a way of maintaining status through persecution.

Male sexual repression could be said to be the origins of colonialism, patriarchy, subjugation of women, social pathology, war and decadence. The human being's relationship to sexuality, and in particular masculine sexuality, is a relationship of fear, demonisation and repression. The origins of this are the internal relationships we form with sexuality in human development. The sexual imperative rarely lends itself to being reasoned with. The mind cannot control sexuality. Perhaps the mind is able to play tricks of rationality with the sexual urge, but ultimately it cannot control it. Sexuality then, usurps our received ideas about our own agency. Our agency, as it is articulated to us through our culture, is the rational, reasonable choice making part of us. The part of us that acts for a reason, that weighs options and through the power of choice impacts itself on the environment. From this we generate an idea of ourselves, an idealised idea of our true selves as having power through this kind of agency.

Sexuality throws a spanner in the works there. Very often a primal need, a hunger, will take precedence over the rational choice. Sexuality then, creates a battle within us. Good versus evil. The detached, analytical part of our mind, against the primal, instinctual primitive part of our minds.

This conflict is the basis of civilisation. The need to conquer the primitive. The need to subvert the major threat to our sense of ourselves as powerful agents – sex. Humanity's inability to integrate its primal, experiential and sexual intelligence, with its rational and choice-making analytical intelligence, forms the basis of religious morality, creation myths, heroic narratives, and social pathology in general.

Perhaps all those characters in mythology, the fates, the fickle tricksters and volatile gods, the devils and demons, are really just representations of sexuality. In order to salvage our idea of agency, and therefore social responsibility, we must make an 'other' out of our sexuality. In order to retain moral codes, codes of responsibility that make sense to our analytical minds, and which themselves support our idea of ourselves as having power and agency in the world, we must learn to see the sexual drive as evil, as something in need of being brought under rational control.

The problem is then, that our idea of ourselves as rational agents is completely unrealistic. And perhaps this is the origins of the anti-religious backlash. Religion requires of us something that we know we can never give. What is a biological imperative is rendered selfish and evil. Therefore, we are essentially selfish and evil. All of us are sinful.

Notice the social function of this idea of sin. In order for society to remain integrated, we must all of us subscribe to an idea of our moral agency that places power and responsibility in each social participant. Anything which threatens that notion, must be dismissed or demonised. Social relationships are formed on a mutual understanding, a belief in oneself and the other, as having control and agency. A belief in the rational mind's ability to control unknowns. Without this, we have no workable concept of social responsibility, and therefore our ideas of freedom and advancement, our ideas of ourselves as being something greater than animals, has to be chucked.

All sexuality manifests as a positive drive. But in our culture, the burden of sexuality has fallen on men. It is required of men that they must initiate sexuality. As a result, men tend to take the blame for this unruly, unfathomable imperative. Men have in them a beast, a primal wolf, a pathological imperative that at all times threatens to disrupt social equilibrium. Men first demonise themselves, or at least that part of themselves that poses a threat to the idea of rational power they believe separates them from others. And they demonise anything else that initiates the dynamics of that demonic urge.

The realpolitik of imperial power is control of resources. But the cultural narrative that supports this dynamic is always one of conquering the primitive. The white man's crusade against the backward and irrational. The triumph of reason over chaos. The triumph of the mind over primitive sexuality.

In this context is it any wonder that misogyny forms a persistent line in human cultural history? If a man's idea of himself is so dependent on the control of his sexuality, over his ability to transcend it and bring it under the discipline of the rational mind, then a woman's erotic power is going to be seen as something to be either eliminated or neutralised.

Rape has its origins in this need. If a man cannot triumph over his sexuality (and he never can), then he must demonise whatever brings out the demon in him. The vulnerability, desire, emotional susceptibility of male sexuality threatens the very fabric of society – the idea of the rational mind's power over primitive circumstance, internal or external. Civilisation as a concept is predicated on it.

Therefore every woman is a threat to the ideals of masculinity upon which our society must rest. In India, women will persecute other women who they deem sexually irresponsible. Such is the entrenchment of misogyny. Women learn to police each other through shame, to blame victims instead of perpetrators, because the foundations of social coherence rest on the belief that a woman is a threat to male agency. And women are invested in this idea as much as men.

Seen within this context, rape is inevitable. Rape is political, in that the political narrative of social domination rests on a conquest of sexuality. But it is also a psychological inevitability. A man's relationship to sexuality is to demonise it, and crush it. The very thing that gives him the most pleasure, therefore must somehow be eliminated.

Rape is the extreme case. All other forms of misogyny provide the same function – to neutralise and eliminate the sexual power and privilege that women have, in the interests of salvaging the rational mind's self-image as a powerful player in the environment.

Too often, misogyny is seen as a fundamental fact of society. The basis of the social evil. But it goes deeper. The psycho-biological relationship between what are considered rational powers and irrational powers, is really at the root of it. You could see it as the reptilian mind battling the frontal cortex. Or the devil battling God.

In any case, demonising sexuality provides a social function, on an ideological and practical level. In fact, all forms of moral mapping, are there to serve a sense of human empowerment necessary to live functionally in a social relationship. Anything which threatens that must either be crushed or neutralised.

A woman's power over man, is to be able to subvert his rational agency. Men have this power over women, but for whatever reason it doesn't seem to be so stark. Perhaps because a woman's imperatives are at least slightly different from men. Rational considerations will always form the basis of her sexuality, whereas masculine sexuality is simply sexuality stripped of all of that.

(Perhaps this is itself a cultural myth. Perhaps women are no more in power over their sexuality than men are.)

What passes for feminism these days tends to just be the commercialisation of female sexuality that sells that unabashed sexual power. In a culture of misogyny, necessary and functional misogyny, then female sexual empowerment is a seductive money spinner. However, the fact is, these ideals of sexual empowerment tend to further entrench pathological concepts about rationality and sexuality. They are predicated on the female's ability to supposedly usurp the male mind. In that sense, the whole Rihanna, Beyoncee, Madonna, MTV power-bitch ideal is a part of the very social pathology that serves only to deepen misogyny, rather than eliminate it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment