A man spends much of his time neurotically negotiating the brutal facts of a woman's power over him. There are a range of ways that he can respond and he can either act submissively or he can act with aggression. The question I have to ask is – can there be a middle ground? Can men confront the power of women without resorting to misogyny?
Firstly, let's go over a few things I am taking for granted here and I have no intention of quibbling about. Number one, women have a terrific power in their sexuality. 'The face that launched a thousand ships' refers to the power that women have over men, and it is a power that can drive them to their own destruction. Men have this power over women, but the power is less obvious, and I don't know of any woman who would go into battle for a man, never mind deploy a fleet. But I could be wrong.
The nature of this power is that it forces men to act negatively. They are not acting out of a positive desire, but they are acting in response. Masculine physical aggression often masks the sad truth of men's enslavement to their sexuality. And men, I observe, spend a lot of their time either subconsciously or consciously compensating for this sense of enslavement within themselves.
Whether it is lyric poetry, engineering or computer games, men spend a lot of time either trying to break free from, or avoid the power that women have over them. However they struggle though, it merely reaffirms the power dynamic. Physical aggression in whatever context is almost always a compensation for a loss of emotional power.
And this brings me to my second assumption. Much of what we consider masculinity, or masculine bravado, or 'male culture' is reactive. Male power is based on negotiating ways of compensating for the power that they relinquish to the feminine. This explains male obsessiveness. Whether it is war, sport, flirting with the muses, cars or boats, or debating the intricacies of HiFi technology, men are usually trying to release erotic energy that is otherwise enslaved by their power-based relationships with women.
If we want to talk patriarchy, then maybe we can consider these two points. Men must compensate for their loss of power to a woman, a mother or a sexual partner, through their material strengths, through their physical or material prowess.
And I don't say this negatively. It is, to a great extent, a natural process. Male erotic power is intensely creative and part of its creative flow is the need to express independence and self-mastery.
Women remind men that they express their sexuality in fashion and beauty, not for the sake of men, but for their own sakes. As it should be. Now more than ever, women are free to simply celebrate themselves and celebrate their powers.
I haven't been paying attention too much to all this talk about Miley Cyrus. But it is just another version of the 'Material Girl' phenomenon that Madonna pioneered. Women celebrating themselves and exploring the raw nerves of their erotic power. And by erotic, I mean more than sexuality. For women in contemporary pop-culture, eroticism appears to be more than connecting with a man, or with a partner. It is about empowerment. That level of power must be intoxicating. Most men, unless you are Marlon Brando, will never know what that kind of power feels like.
Having said that, the internal dynamics for men are similar. Part of me wants to say that they are more complex and harder to master. I have never been a woman though so I can't say so with complete positivity. All I will say is that men's relationships to their erotic power and their sexuality is a grossly overlooked struggle in much of human culture.
The reason I say it is complex, is because it is a paradox of enslavement and power, an internal battle between the sense of being overwhelmed by our sexualities and the need to express that sexuality in powerful ways. It causes us to act, it can be drawn on to power our behaviours and, as Homer said, launch whole fleets into war.
But most men don't feel in control of their sexuality in the first place. From puberty onwards, men battle with the sense that their sexual drives are short-circuiting their better natures, that their very sense of themselves as individuals with power over their environment is threatened by urges from within.
And this is true. Men's worst fears about their sexuality are true. As soon as we face up to that, the easier it will be to explain masculine culture, masculine power, male sexual aggression.
Men must now be allowed to parse out the various complexities of their sexualities. Erotic power is more than just physical relationships. It is more than just needing a woman, or needing to fuck. Eroticism is the will to power, the desire for any human being to assert their will over seemingly overwhelming odds. It's time that men, and masculine culture, started to see women not as threats to that power, but as examples of it. Rather than interpret female sexual celebration as an assertion of power over them, men must take their lead, and understand it for what it really is – a celebration of erotic power.
But we can only do that when we start to see the erotic as something larger than just sexuality. It seems, from an outsider's point of view, that feminism has done this for women. It has shown them that their erotic power, among other things, can be expressed regardless of men. And a powerful way to express that is use the language of the body to assert that independence. By owning their own sexualities, women are able to make their bodies a kind of erotic masterpiece, and the audience is not made up of men.
It's easy to feel threatened by this as men, though. But that's because we are looking at it from the wrong angle. Because our culture has not allowed us explore our own sexualities in the same way, we necessarily see any form of sexual empowerment as a threat. Because we don't have that kind of power over our erotic drives. Some of us do, but most of us don't and we spend most of our time dealing with the neurosis that comes along with that. This is true whether you admit it or not.
What's the solution? What am I getting at?
We need to develop this idea that masculine power, the erotic power of the male gender, is more than sexuality. Much of our culture can be seen as an example of this already. The whole of Manhattan is testament to masculine needs. But it is done unconsciously, and as an unconscious attempt to grapple with a sense of dismpowerment (I'm making it a word).
I would even go so far as to say that the whole of patriarchal culture, for want of a better word, has its roots in this need to compensate. But when we understand that our sexualities are just one part of a larger erotic dimension that includes creativity, sensuality and even spirituality, then we will start to free ourselves from a sexual neurosis that dominates masculine culture.
By exploring our sexuality as part of a larger erotic adventure, one that is performed for its own sake regardless of women, and regardless of sex itself, then we will start to free male sexuality from aggressiveness and its domineering compulsions.