Category Archives: sexuality

Some thoughts on the myth that ‘men are visual’


For this post we’ll go fXXXurther where I left off in my post about John Piper and nudity a while ago. There was one subject that we had to address there: the myth that ‘men are visual’.

Why do I speak of a ‘myth’ here? I in no way inted to use the word ‘myth’ pejorative, since I do think myths can be something very positive. I use it here as an explaining narrative that is believed in a certain culture. Think of Greg Boyds use of the word in his book title ‘the myth of a Christian nation. A myth doesn’t even just explain, it also forms identity.

What is meant with visual here? It is used for being aroused most by the things that we see. If we let go of the subject of sex here we see that different personality types do react more to different senses and different ways of data-input. Some people are better in learning stuff when they hear it, others when they read it, or when they experience it, etc… This differs from person to person, and has nothing at all to do with sex or gender.

So some people are visual. Their eyes are their main way of getting information and impulses through so that it connects. Visual people will get more from paintings and video’s (or written texts) more than spoken words or music or so. But it’s always a matter of degree, all people that are not visually handicapped are ‘visual’. But some are more auditive, or even tactile, or…

If we look at it this way, the question arises why all men would be mainly ‘visual’ when it comes to sex as our myth says, compared to women who seem to be not visual at all?

The first thing I can say is that I don’t believe that this is true. I am not that visual sexually myself, touch and closeness are much more important to me. And I’ve heard and read women who described being visual in a way that went far beyond anything I understand. I don’t get physically aroused that easily just from seeing a person of the other sex that is more or less attractive at all…

Recently I read a blogpost from an American ex-fundamentalist girl that now lives in Europe that often writes very interesting stuff. I quote it here not to expose here in any way, but as an example of a woman that clearly is ‘visual’ while I am a man that isn’t at all, if this is ‘being visual’. (I do disagree with her on something important, but we’ll get to that later)

When I see a man, dressed and all, I do not look at his impressive jaw or deep grey eyes or strong hands.

I look at your muscles, and your hips, and your nose (guess why). And if I can’t see them cause you’re wearing some fancy t-shirt, let me assure you: I can perfectly well imagine you naked. And even worse: I do it. all. the. time.

When I look at a man, I don’t stare at his eyes because they reflect some promise of love and tenderness. I look at your chest and imagine what it would look like in dim light. I wonder if you have a “V” and then I wonder if it would look good on you (it doesn’t on everyone).

(..)

I have all the imagination I need to picture you naked, even when you’re fully dressed. You cannot escape it, no matter how you behave or what you wear or say or do. I do not care about your positive character qualities. Not one – tiny – little – bit.

I’ll go back to this quote later, but let’s for now just say that it should be evident from my own experience, from what she describes, and from the people I met in my life some people (men and women) are visual when it comes to sex, and some are less visual (also men and women).

So our ‘men are visual (and women not)’ myth fails blatantly as a myth that tries to explain something, and to form identity. But on the other hand, our society is indeed oriented towards the exploitation of the male gaze and the female sexiness. A lot of money can be made of that in the advertisement industry if people can abuse sexy female to sell about just anything unrelated to female humans.
We just have to always remember, like I said before, this is in no way a question of ‘hard-wiring’ but of ‘programming’. The visual stimuli that arouse a person sexually aren’t even fixed. We Westerners seem to be obsessed with female breasts, but in some cultures men are used to seeing naked breasts without ever connecting those with sex. In other cultures even the sight of a bare ankle or arm might be very sexy and considered quite inappropriate. So what we’re talking about here is just a cultural thing, and a form of conditioning that is formed when we grow up.

So I a way it’s only ‘just’ a learned thing, in another way it is a programmation that might be hard or in some cases impossible to get rid of in this lifetime, especially if all you ever see is affirmations of it. But in no way it is a question of being ‘hard-wired’

We are no robots, remember?

So, some men and women are more visual than others when it comes to sex, but men are conditioned to be visual (because that can be abused commercially easily, although there will be other reasons too), and in some environments women are said that they are not at all visual. Which is a lie, some women are as visual as the most visual men, while others aren’t. this is quite damaging to women who are visual sexually. It’s part of a bigger ‘men want sex, women want love, so women just give sex to feel loved’ myth that is equally damaging and dehumanising to both sexes. I’m a man, but if I have to choose between a world without sex and a world without (romantic) love, I’ll choose to let go of sex, not love. Not in a million years

Another thing that should be noted is the logical fallacy of taking one step too far in the quoted blogpost, which seems to be very common. Like I said, being visual means that we get aroused though things we see. That’s all it means. It does not mean that there has to be a second step of reducing the person you see and find attractive to a sex object that you can use in your fantasy. Those things DO NOT have to follow from each other. Nakedness is just nakedness btw, we focus way too much on connecting nudity with sex. And no it’s not because I see a (clothed or naked) woman that I find visually arousing that I automatically have to make the step to fantasize about having sex with her.

Being visual (easily visually stimulated) and having sexual fantasies about strangers easily are not at all the same thing!

But we do probably have to come back to the conditioning problem here. If you’re used to making that step, it has formed a conditioned reflex, and it might be hard to unlearn it or imagine that people would not make that step. As hard as it is for me to imagine that anyone would be so perverted to automatically make that step… It must be very tiring if people really have a reflex every time the see an attractive person that’s their type to have fantasies about having sex with that person. I’m glad I’m not in that situation at all…

Ah, neuroplasticity

It’s also generally quite hard to communicate about these things because everybody has only their own experience (and the acummulated input of a lifetime) as a point of reference, and most people easily assume everybody (or everybody of their own sex/gender) is like them. What I’ve learned is that this way of thinking will always cause painful misunderstanding…

The other problem with the quoted blogpost, and with other expressions of the pseudo-feminist idea that women should master stereotypical but problematic macho maledom is that what is emulated here is an aberration of maleness, not at all how men should be, and actually not healthy for anyone, male, female or otherwise; It’s something we should unlearn because it only leads to dehumanisation of the gender one is attracted to.

(And to very bad TV shows like sex and the city and idiotic pop songs.)

One last thing is that it seems to me that the American ‘purity culture’ (that I still don’t understand at all) seems to be really fixated on this stuff. It’s every man’s battle to be visual and see women and want to have sex with them and watch porn all the time. This whole obsession might be more a form of projected belief that aligns all men including those who don’t have the problem into believing this stuff and becoming it.

(And it’s equally damaging to girls in other ways)

Isn’t that the opposite of what we need?

Shalom

Bram

See also

meditating on sexy models
Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Man as an automatic leader and/or utterly untrustworthy animal?
On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…
A purity culture I don’t know…
Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?
Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary
On cross-gender friendships and Christians…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
christians and cross-gender friendships
sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit

 

On nudity in game of thrones, and some American bloke again…


Yes, I know I had planned to not interact that much any more to whatever the American Christian blogosphere gets riled up about, but I’m going to break that rule for one time now, even though this post is probably a bad idea.  I do know the John Piper bloke is big in certain circles, but he does not concern me much personally. I have written about him in the context of sexism in North American evangelicalism earlier, but overall he’s not someone that has much impact on me nor does interest me that much generally, but I want to react to one of his recent writings.

(To not have too much controversy I will probably add one post with pictures of Antwerp before I go back to the occult. Oh and I did recieve a book called ‘a farewell to Mars’ that looks interesting even without featuring any Martians… Why can’t I just blog about more regular things?)

Some people in some facebook groups were reacting against one of his recent writings (a transcript of some king of talk more specifically) about nudity and the popular series ‘Game of thrones’.  Now I neither read the GoT books nor watched the series, and I don’t really intend to. This has several reasons, the first of which being that I have a reading and watching list that’s full enough already with much more interesting stuff. The second reason seems to be (if I understand people who like it well) that the background philosophy seems to be something like ‘there is no good and evil, only power, and those who are too weak to get it’. Yes, I actually I do quote professor Quirrel here from the first Harry Potter book. And I do note that Harry Potter rejects that way of thinking without even considering it. There’s enough of that stuff in world politics, and it’s not what I turn to fantasy for. The third reason why I’m not really interested would be that I hear that there’s a lot of sexual violence in it. I don’t enjoy stories with too much sexual violence AT ALL.

Since Piper most probably hasn’t seen any GoT himself, and I did read his article 12 questions to ask before you watch game of thrones, I do feel sort of qualified to comment on some things in the article (though not on GoT).

I must tolkienpipesay that he makes some interesting points here and there, and actually goes back and forth from saying stuff I agree with to things that make me think ‘Dude, what did you put in your pipe, is it an old Toby from the Shire or rather a fine Moroccan hashish? Some of his questions are interesting, some seem a bit besides the point, and others come with an explanation that I just disagree with or find completely irrelevant:

Am I Recrucifying Christ?
Does It Express or Advance My Holiness?
When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?
Is It Not Satisfying to Think on What Is Honorable?
Am I Longing to See God?
Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?
Would I Be Glad If My Daughter Played This Role?
Am I Assuming Nudity Can Be Faked?
Am I Compromising the Beauty of Sex?
Am I Assuming Nudity Is Necessary for Good Art?
Am I Craving Acceptance?
Am I Free from Doubt?

Actually apart from the article and GoT a lot of these questions are worth meditating on in genera. But what I want to react to is his general reaction to nudity. I do believe as a Christian that pornography is wrong for several reasons. I can argue from the words of Jesus that adultery in your head is sill a sin, and I would add even whether the other person exists or not. (Which is probably quite extreme a teaching for some in this world, but I stand by it. Yes I can be pretty ‘conservative’ indeed…)
Also, the porn industry is quite exploitive towards women and human beings in general. All of which are made in Gods image. Not only is reducing people to sex objects with a camera dehumanising, making people of the other sex watch it and reduce themselves to such things is equally dehumanising.

The thing is that John Piper seems to assume that all nudity automatically works pornographic:

Jesus said everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:28–29). Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires, and often with their bodies. If Jesus told us to guard our hearts by gouging out our eyes to prevent lust, how much more would he say: “Don’t watch it!”

I’ve seen this approach more, both from certain Christians of a more fundamentalist ilk and certain Muslims, but I don’t believe in it. I do not believe at all that men automatically have to sin when they see a naked female body, and can’t do anything about it, although I can’t rule out that some men are probably indeed conditioned that way. (I say conditioned, so I do not at all mean hardwired here, but programmed: In some culture women walk around with naked breasts all the time without anyone seeing it as sexual at all, while in other cultures seeing just the unscarfed loose hair is considered too sexy for a man to handle and keep his self-control…)

I’m sorry, no matter what some mega-selling books claim to be ‘every man’s battle’, I’m not free from flaws and sinful thoughts in the area of sexuality, but no, I do not just automatically want to have sex with a women when I see her without clothes in a movie. I don’t picture me and her having sex just because she’s unclad or scantily clad. Yikes. What an idea… Just as I do not want to have sex with a woman I see in real life just because I notice how attractive she is. (Actually clothes don’t have to make that much of a difference here anyway. The ‘lustful lecher’ type will be doing the same when they see people they find sexy even when fully clothed.)

Yes, sex scenes in movies are arousing and sometimes IT IS better to look away, I won’t argue with that. Completely agree. Watching people having sex or faking to have sex is maybe generally not always the best idea. (Although it is not so far-stretched to just want your OWN partner in such a moment, not the people pictured, I’d say.)
Assuming that people will automatically sin when they see a nude person of the sex they’re attracted to shows probably just too much faith in ‘total depravity’ for me. Moreover, if I were from a tribe that walks around naked with even caring about one breast more or less it would be one more case of telling Mr. Beaver of Narnia that animals will never be able to talk. Even to me this article already feels a bit like it.

And here we come to the problem that porn often lies in the eyes (and mind, and hormones) of the beholder, so this is a difficult discussion… I can’t argue with other peoples POV, but I would be very glad if they do not project their own experiences on the rest of the world either…

It’s probably true that nudity in GoT is used a lot for sex scenes or otherwise voyeuristic purposes, but apart from this, there is no reason at all to always see nudity as sexual. It’s in fact quite dehumanising (speaking as a heterosexual male here, substitute whatever gender applicable if your situation is different if you find this hard to read otherwise) to directly reduce the nude female body to something solely sexual. Censoring breastfeeding for example has very perverse ideas behind it for me, breasts are meant for breastfeeding and sexualising it is quite sick in my opinion.

100_1594Maybe it’s because I am the grandson of the late semi-famous painter Willie Cools, known for his abstract female nudes (that are not and have never been sexually arousing to me at all, no matter what other thing one could say about them) but I think it’s totally overblown to say ‘nudity = pornography, always’ I have seen a lot of classical paintings and sculptures with female nude in my life, and again, most of them are not that sexually arousing as far as I’m concerned.

Maybe it’s not that weird to not equate all nudity (or all female nudity, our society does seem quite asymmetrical here) with porn. I’d rather just think our culture’s attitude towards nudity is unhealthy. There is a lot of evidence that the first Christians practised nude baptism for all believers without anything like this discussion at all…

I thus assume we better reframe one of Pipers questions here, and not ask “Do I Care About the Souls of the Nudes?” but whether we are able to see the image of God in every person we might dehumanise. This might be the case with sexy models as I’ve written about earlier, and for said nudes here, but it applies far outside the category of ‘sexually tempting’ to any person we deem less than human, because they are in our eyes, too poor, too ugly, too different, whatever…

We need to have the eyes of Christ, who was a friend of prostitutes without looking down on them nor looking at them for their sexiness. We should indeed not look at people with lust and reduce them to sex objects in our head, but it’s much more healthy to be able to see some nudity every now and then when we stumble upon it without going completely crazy about it than assume that every time we see a female body we need to think about having sex with them and ‘can’t help it because we’re wired that way’. Such an approach will never be helpful at all.

Another thing that does concern me about the article is that the issue of sexual violence is not addressed. I hope it’s because Piper doesn’t know enough about GoT -I can’t imagine him watching/reading it at all-, and not because for some reason nudity seems much more of a problem than sexual violence (in which case the term ‘rape culture’ would be more than appropriate).

Also, one last thing is that I am more than a bit confused by the ‘violence can be faked and nudity not, so watching violence is OK and nudity isn’t’. Come on, what kind of an argument is that? Does that mean that pornographic manga or computer-generated realistic images of nudes are okay then? I disagree on both accounts: nudity isn’t automatically evil, nor is violence ‘not a problem’ when it is faked.

Some people will not be able to see nudity, whether real or not (or in certain cultures bare ankles or loose hair) without falling into ‘lust’. Just a a lot of people get very unhealthy and sinful kicks out of watching violence (even if fake). Killing humans (made in the imago of God, or representing humanity which is made in the image of God) is one of the most severe sins one can do, and portraying it should always done with a lot of consideration, whether it is fake or real isn’t even the issue. Just as with sexy manga the sinful reaction is present will be completely the same…

what do you people think?

Bram

Man as an automatic leader and/or utterly untrustworthy animal?


cavemanWhen I read certain Christian publications, especially from American sources, I get the weird notion (tell me if I’m making straw man arguments here, I’d be glad to hear that all of this is a criticism of something that does not exist) that man, as opposed to woman, is both ‘hardwired’ to be

A.) The natural leader, who should lead in the family and in society!
and
B.) An utterly weak creature, who cannot control himself, even the sight of a strange woman in bikini will make him stumble.

Maybe this sounds logical to some people, but I do fail see any logic in it myself, and I find both options completely incompatible with each other, and also forms of quite unhealthily exaggerating and generalizing. If man is such a weak creature as B says, don not in a million years let him lead, please! Or let him and the woman lead together. But sorry, to me this makes no sense at all.

Old-fashioned patriarchy in the highly praised classical cultures may not have been the best system to live in if you were a woman, a slave or a child (a Roman ‘Pater familias’ sometimes even had the right to kill all of those whenever he wanted!), at least there was some kind of internal logic, although based on false facts: The old Greek (and some of the Church fathers influenced by them) believed that man only was a rational being, who could exercise self-control and virtues, and for that reason man was seen as superior to woman, who was seen as irrational, weak, lustful and dangerous. So it was the man who was seen as strong and virtuous, and therefore the man was the leader.

(Note also that the Christian religion was looked down upon by Romans exactly because it was considered, as Celsus said, “a religion of women, children and slaves”! Never heard any of the ‘masculinity in the church’ preacher ever talk about that though… )

Now compare this to the supposed logic of modern fundamentalist neo-patriarcy: The woman is seen as almost asexual in a way (the man is always initiating, the woman follows) and having no sexual desire of herself sometimes except in bad cases, but just dangerous by being what she is. In talk about relationships it seems to be always the boy who wants to go to far and too fast and the girl that needs to be the one who slows down.
Okay, some women can be dangerous seductresses, but apart from that it’s mostly even ignored or denied that women have a sex drive and are actually a lot like men. And anyway, according to this idea, above all it is the man who is weak, without self-control, and ultimately powerless against temptation, even unwilled temptation from a woman who dresses too short, so no woman should show some skin to not tempt this poor weak creature. Nor would the Greek or Romans recognise this as a man of any sorts…

What a weak wimp of a creature this man is, and how pitiful such a weak-willed being is. I wouldn’t let such a being even babysit my pet mouse if the poor thing would still be alive. And yet it still is this man who is supposed to always be the leader according to those who hold such views, apparently.

One would ask why, if we men as ‘visual beings’ are not even in the possibility of seeing a ‘sexy’ woman without having lustful thoughts or even controlling our deeds. (Note that here we go into very dangerous territory, this way of thought could lead to rape apologies and other abominations) Should he even be allowed to walk out alone on the street, with billboards using half-naked female bodies to sell random product not related to female humans at all on every corner? Maybe men should be protected and kept at home, and kept away from all women, and all women who would enter a place where men are should cover up.

We’re just to weak people, sorry. Lock us up, it’s not the women’s fault, they just are what the are. But men are just weak, keep them away from civilized humanity, and please, don’t give them any power at all.

(A side note, I never understood how people stressing an ‘every human is completely evil and cannot be trusted’ form of the theology of ‘total depravity’ can believe in strong hierarchical structures where fallen human beings are given quite a lot of power and responsibility and no-one should question them. The more depraved man is supposed to be, the more we need a system in which no man has too much power. No man (and I use it in a gender-inclusive sense here) can be trusted if we really are completely depraved! Balancing, dividing and delegating power should be a first concern for anyone who takes total depravity serious!)

Now, as we all know, luckily both thought systems A and B are quite wrong on some points:

To start, men nor women are completely weak creatures who have no chance of ever exercising self-control. And yes, I do believe men can have more self-control than post-Freudian-synchretizing Christian fundamentalists make them out to be. Although this might be not the easiest thing in a world where men are indeed conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to react to images of women’s bodies with sexual interest. We will indeed become very visually and dominated by what’s called ‘the male gaze’, and those things might not be originally ‘hard-wired’ in our brains, but our habits and conditionings do have form us and even alter our brain!

Ah, neuroplasticity is such a great thing, isn’t it? We aren’t hard-wired as some believe at all, but our wiring system forms when we grow up, and could develop in a lot of different ways. And even if we’re adults we can make new patterns and brain connections (Yes, it’s better to learn to play music as a kid, but sometimes there are examples of people who get an instrument later in their lives and learn to play music and make amazing stuff, like blues singer T-model Ford) and re-wiring is possible, but not easy, and in some cases it will always be a weaker spot and a temptation. I once read somewhere that people might need half of the time they spent in a bad habit or a relationship to really get over it…

This also means that a man who’s ‘trained in virtue’, or for example a Kung Fu master, who has been working on self-control, is a wholly different being than us postmodern Western wimps who believe the lies that we cannot say no to temptation and only know a world in which people just ‘follow their instincts’, (Even that expression is nonsense, most of the time we have a lot of incompatible instincts telling us to do completely opposite things, and it’s still our reason or something else that chooses between them, not our instincts themselves that lead us!)

And indeed, feeling attraction in itself might be unavoidable sometimes, but we can choose how it develops and what we do. If all patterns we have made are to just ‘go with the flow’ it might seem irresistible, but that’s because we’re trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy that might even have been written onto the hardware our internal system. Which makes it not that easy to fight, but still that doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility…;

Also, as a Christian, it’s nonsense to say that we are to love everybody, be good to everyone, and then make an exception for those whom we find attractive in the wrong situation. Aren’t we supposed to be mature enough anyway to cope with such things without running away from such a thing? No, they are human beings made in Gods image just like us, and we have to learn to see that, and respect them just like every other person. Attraction should not trump anything, au contraire, love, and respect, and friendship should trump whatever wrong intentions we might have when we feel misplaced attraction.

After all, attraction without love should not be acted upon because it dehumanizes. And if we are led by love and respect, we will see more interesting things in a person than that misplaced attraction alone.

So, man is not a creature to give absolute responsibility, but neither is he the untrustworthy animal some make him out to be. And a man in Christ, and even a virtuous man in any tradition who has formed the right habits, is not going to be led by the first impulse or instinct that comes up, and can do some quite impressive things sometimes. But it’s the same with a woman.

(And if you noticed that I didn’t say much about  A, I find the ‘every man is a leader’ idea so ridiculous that I didn’t even put much energy in it; and that  even apart from the ‘every woman is a follower’ bit that’s equally stupid. Let’s just note that the idea of a leader becomes quite devalued when 50% of the population is said to be one. Especially when there’ a lot of women leaders too… And a lot of men who should never in their lives be ‘leaders’ of anything at all)

And in the end it depends on our personality, our character and our calling whether we are to be a leader or not. Some men and women are good leaders, some are not, and will have other callings. Which is not something lower at all. The body needs both the eyes and the kidneys, and the nostrils and the pancreas…

Let’s all take up the responsibility we’ve been given, and do it together, and not be fooled by fundamentalism of pop-Freudianism that paralyses us and says we can’t do it, nor by any false ideology that says we shouldn’t be working together in this. Together is how it goes, as brothers and sisters! And whatever we do, let’s do it in love for the other, respecting the full humanity of each other. (Even the ones we don’t agree with that have despicable ideas!)

And let us not forget as Christians what the fruits of the Spirit are:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

Are those not one of the basic characteristics of both men and women that profess to follow Christ? (Among other things as loving neigbors and enemies, and caring for the least, and not wanting to be leaders but servants?)

(And let us not mock nor belittle nor disbelieve in them, blaspheming the Spirit is a serious thing!)

Peace

Bram

On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?


I read this excellent bvenus_de_milo1logpost by Sarah Schwartz, and American Christian blogger, in which she apologises for the damaging way men are often viewed in her (sub)culture. A quite horrible view of men, that’s preached not just by women, but by men too. The way she expresses it goes probably a lot further than what I know from local Christian circles, but I do recognise it nonetheless. What’s more troubling is that I recognise it not mainly from Christian circles but much more strongly from other places, and it’s something I’ve always been sensitive towards because I found it quite painful.

I posted the post above on my facebook-wall with a quote from her and a short introduction:

Quite sexist to reduce men to this, not? I hope she exaggerates, but I do recognise some of it…
“You are nothing but a slave to your desires. You are a sex hungry, uncontrollable, animal-like creature with no capacity for empathy or self-control. It is laughable to think that you could possibly prize relationships over sex, people over sex, vows over sex. You are sub-human, and no one expects anything different from you.”

The first person on facebook who reacted, Simon, has no connection at all to American Christian fundamentalism at all, but did surely recognise it as a very real problem, even on facebook:

Too bad the capitalist consumerist greedy types never cease trying to rewire our brains… For example: as a male I am constantly bombarded with sex ads on facebook (to a point where it’s disgusting me), even after I ‘told’ facebook I’m in a relationship. It’s a never ending onslaught and I think it’s degrading for men as well as for women. We are more than sex hungry creatures who can’t control ourselves. We are more. People are more. Even most animals are more. But ‘they’ don’t want us to be more. They want to control us, divide us, make us manageable to be able to make lots of profit doing the least amount of effort possible.

And yes, it’s true, if Sarah’s quote above is the description of how men are seen in American Christian fundamentalism and likewise-minded circles, it does not differ much at all of how the media and the advertisement industry in our Western system of consumer capitalism is constantly abusing us, just for profit.
The only big and very substantial difference here is that fundamentalism wants to stop this, to keep men down and to draws walls around them and puts us in boxes imprisoned by guilt, and that consumer capitalism abuses it, that it wants to make money out of it, reducing both men and women to less than humans for the sake of Mammon, which is very, very, very, low.

What’s very painful is that I’ve met enough men (and women) who just go along the lines and follow the flow, who let themselves dehumanise, and act like it could not be differently. As if we are indeed hard-wired for this as modern ideologies as fundamentalism and pop-Freudianism claim, and that we can’t function otherwise. We buy into the lie, and buy the crap the want to sell us, and let it destroy potential relationships and friendships and trust and intimacy, and…
And I refuse to believe the lie, and I refuse to accept that the lie is being spread, that people are indoctrinated and re-wired to fit the “man=animal, woman=prey” stuff. I refuse this as a Christian, as a humanist, as a human being, as the human being that I am, as a friend of both men and women, as a lover, and as a father of 2 little girls.

Problem here, if we speak about ‘wiring’, is neuro-plasticity which results in the possibility of strong conditioning by making connections in our brains. Like Pavlov’s dogs we can be conditioned in a lot of ways, and also reprogrammed later in other ways. If I compare men to Pavlov’s dogs here it’s not to reduce them to animals, but because that’s how it works biologically for both Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris.
On the other hand, conditioning can be changed if we change our habits. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. We are not hardwired, and we can be rewired. We should work on this re-wiring if it hinders us from being human! This leads us to the old-fashioned idea of virtue, in which we follow a certain path of life that forms us.

I might need to clarify the word ‘misandry’ in the title for some of my readers, a words that means something as hatefullness towards man. It is a parallel to the word misogyny, which is actually the more visible part of the same problem here.
I don’t have a better word, but I am aware that it might a word that is rarely used (my spellchecker doesn’t know it) and that when it’s used, it is sometimes employed by people who come from a ‘war of the sexes’ worldview who say feminism should be fought in every possible way and want to turn the relationship between misogyny and misandry in a zero-sum game. I completely reject this line of thought, and want to be clear that I believe that sexism always has 2 sides, and that every system with heavy sexism against female human beings has another way of dehumanising male human beings, no matter how much power and privilege they have. Disconnect both sexes from each other and everybody gets dehumanised.
(I do think about Ursula Le Guins short stories about the planet Seggri here, with men having all the privilege, but women having all the rest, see my post on the sex-life of aliens and sexism on Earth) We need to treat both sexes (and all people who don’t fall into 2 binary genders) equally as humans. There is no other way. A zero-sum game approach to either women’s rights or men’s rights, or emmancipation of any minority group will always and invariably lead to some kind of ‘animal farm revolution’ which ends up with the same amount of oppression but differently distributed.

Women are human beings!
Men are human beings!
Everyone else who doesn’t fit in those 2 gender is a human being too.
And as a Christian I believe all human beings are made in Gods image.

There should be nothing radical about this !!!
It is more logical than our ABC or 2X2=3.

peace

Bram

More posts on similar subjects:
Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?
I don’t understand ‘complementarianism’
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…
A purity culture I don’t know…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…
Meditating on sexy models

On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…


I like to read science-fiction stories sometimes, and I do like different examples of the genre for different reasons. I sometimes just like good stories, and I also like good use of our human fantasy like speculative descriptions of other worlds, complete with completely other plants and animals, or about people or non-human aliens with totally different traditions. And there is something very interesting too about stories about worlds that are very different from our world, where the people take things for granted that are literally totally alien for us. It’s a good way of expanding my world-view and it also helps me to question the world I live in, and the given things we all seem to take for granted sometimes.

We humans are generally nor less cruel, irrational nor less weird than aliens. We might for example think that we’re so great as modern people with our science and technology and human rights and stuff, but all the while human rights are more theory than real life for a lot of people here on Terra, and our science and technology have only helped us to further the destruction of the planet in a way that can in the end only lead to disaster, while we have in our societies a lot of things that are only logical if you’re born into them and have had them imprinted when you grew up.

This summer I’ve been reading read200px-TheBirthdayOfTheWorlding and rereading some works of Ursula Le Guin, including the  ‘the birthday of the world’, a collection of short stories. She’s a writer I do appreciate a lot with her fiction but who also can frustrate me a lot. The stories I’m reading can be classified  as anthropological science fiction, as much of her work. The alien species featured are humanoids quite like us, but still do differ a lot from us humans in the way their societies are ordered, as in their biology sometimes. To make clear what that means I will describe the aliens from the first 2 stories (I leave out the weird 4-person marriage system on O and the even more splintered segregation of all persons on Eleven-Soro in the next one, both societies of humans biologically like us):

The people from Gethen, a planet also featured in her well-known book the left hand of darkness are humans like us in everything, except for the small detail that they are not gendered, except for the few days in the month when they are fertile or ‘in kemmer’, and then they can take either sex, mostly depending on the pheromones of other persons in kemmer that are present. So it’s perfectly possible for the Gethenians to be a mother to one child and a father to another one. They do not have any concept of male/female duality nor do they have marriage like we have. The story of a sexual coming-of-age on Gethen, written in first-person from the POV of a Gethenian, is very weird to read, and not just because the sexually explicit which are a bit awkward to read, parts but just because they are  describing things that are perverse and actually, completely alien to us as if they were the most normal thing on eh, Earth… On Earth the everyone with everyone sex in the kemmerhouse, in which everyone can be of another gender next week just is strange…

The people on Seggri, a planet whose name probably is derived from the English word ‘segregation’ in Ursula’s mind, are on the other extreme: they are humans in a more or less late medieval society, but they have an enormous gender imbalance: only one in sixteen or of of them is male, and both sexes live in very different ways completely segregated from each other, with the males in castles having all the privilege, and the women living in a more normal society. The only encounter between the sexes is to have sex, and the women do pay the males for that, and they pay them even more afterwards if a child is conceived. Marriage does exist between women sometimes, even more than two, but it is not seen as something men are capable of. The story is made up of reports, fragments and short stories that show the evolution of gender relations over a longer time, and also when influence of aliens with less alien gender relations becomes more.

In the last fragment of the Seggri-section we see a young man, a man who has been to college even, like traditionally only a woman did on his world,  after the revolutionary moment when men could go outside of their castles and live in the normal world. He desires a thing unthinkable to anyone who has ever lived on the planet, a thing for which there is no word in his language: a marriage relationship with a woman as equals, or in his own language, t0 be ‘a wife’ and have a family. Something unthinkable for men, who are seen as only good for sex, not for any other kind of meaningful relationships with women. Even a man speaking with a woman is considered not done. (In the end he does break all logic and rules and everything people on Seggri have ever known, and indeed has an equal romantic relationship with a woman, even though it doesn’t last and he does move to the planet Hain afterwards.)

Like you can imagine these kind of stories are not the easiest to read. Trying to follow the thoughts of an alien whose ideas on sex and relationships are so different from our, for whom completely other things would be taboo and perverse as for any human, especially for a Christian who believes in lifelong monogamous marriage relationships. It can be quite a challenge to just take this stuff in…

Another thing, which is also one of my frustrations with Le Guin, is that her stories can be so hard and merciless for the people in certain of her societies. She invents new types of sexism and other forms of injustice and oppression that are really bad for the people living in it. The Gethenians don’t have any chance of sexism (except that they seem a bit discriminating towards the ‘perverts’, those who are always ‘in kemmer’, and thus are constantly male or female. The male alien observer in ‘the left hand of darkness’ does share in those prejudices) but I really wouldn’t want to be a man in Seggri who is only good for competing games and having sex with women, and does not have any chance to partake in ‘normal’ (female) society.

But alas, those aliens are not the only people who have weird forms of sexism that are completely illogical from any outsider… Some forms of patriachy and other gender-imbalanced system do sound as weird and unhealthy as those aliens to me, like this story about patriarchy among an Asian tribe from Lana Hope . The idea of sexual segregation alone in which friendship between men and women are taboo (as exists in some Muslim countries) is quite alien to me, as the bot who always tended to friend girls easier than boys.

I must say, my own society can be quite weird too, and other of our Western countries can be even weirder. The person that I am as a man would not be able to exist in American fundamentalism as described by this guest-poster on the ex-fundamentalist blog  broken daughters for example, just as I couldn’t live on Seggri.

If there’s anything I take away from stories like this is that we as homo sapiens are not better than Le Guins aliens, or that Western people are not better than anyone else. And that the simple idea of love for everyone apart from gender, and the idea of committed loving relationships  (as I know them and live it) which we commonly call marriage it in which a family is formed  can be quite alien, even for people in this world.

Let us be a witness of love and respect, in all aspects including our relationships whether they’re sexual or not,  to all people, even the aliens if they ever visit us…

peace

Bram

Why racism against white people is still racism…


Edit: I see that this post is still read regularly, and I’ve been thinking and discussing this subject since writing this and come to the conclusion that the use of the word ‘white’ by Americans is still a complete  mystery to me. So I want to make clear before you read this that I use the expression ‘white people’ just for the plain meaning of “light-skinned specimens of Homo sapiens” (as we native Europeans are), and the word ‘race’ for a group of humans with the same biological characteristics  like skin color, eye form, etc…’ I actually have no concept for the ‘race as a social construct’ idea the way some Americans use it, coming from a continent of native white people myself, where white people have been killing, hating, oppressing, enslaving, and so on for the last thousand years for differences like culture, language, tradition, religion, place of birth or clan-ancestry, and where ‘whiteness’ is not the defining and most relevant issue unlike in our former colonies where it is very important.

North-America has (very simplified) the situation in which 3 groups of white colonists/former slave masters, conquered natives and former slaves are each ‘racially’ very distinct from each other, just as the Mexican immigrants, so the connection of those groups with ‘race’ and using the color as name of the group is relevant over there, but not always in other contexts, like on the native continent of white people where a lot of groups exist that are racially the same and have a lot of other differences that matter much more.

Also, I do not believe (from all the racists and racism I’ve seen here in Belgium) in the relevance any meaningful concept of specifically ‘white privilege’ over here, as Americans use the term. There is no real ‘we-group’ of ‘white people’ against the rest here for most people, the ‘we’-group is much smaller and more specific, and ‘race’ in itself (in any meaningful definition of that word) is not the defining factor. People of other colors can be much more ‘in’ the we-group (example: an adopted black person with Flemish name) than white people that are very unlike us(example: East-European poor immigrant not knowing the language and cultural customs)
We just sometimes have a dicriminating system based ‘native privilege': This is our country, our language, our culture: the more ‘like us’ you are, the more privilege you get, the more you are different and behave different, the more you will be ‘out’. (In a way, many things called racism over here are more some sort of pseudo-racism which is equally bad: discrimination on being culturally different. I would like to reserve the word ‘racism’ itself for discriminating people because of racial (biologically) difference, discrimination of muslims (who can be of all races) for example is a big problem and injustuce, but not real racism. Using the term too sloppily might make it problematic to confront real racism where it exists and still is a life-destroying problem!)

I’ll blog more about this later.

(Okay, This is where the original post begins:)

 
…and you become a monster, so the monster will not break you…

(U2, channeling an idea that might come from Nietzsche)

(Note: I am not American nor a real Academic, and I do refuse to take the views of American or other academics, feminist or otherwise, normative for all of the planet. I will listen to you, but if my experience or what I’ve seen completely disagrees with your theory don’t push your worldview onto me please. I also don’t even give one single atom of Hydrogen about political correctness and using the right shibboleths for any side as you will see… Also, this was inspired by several different conversations happening lately, and was not written to attack any person or text specifically. )

Let’s start with saying racistit flat-out loudly: I’m tired of people who decry sexism and racism and then go bashing white males all the time. No matter what excuse you use, it still is sexist and racist and self-defeating anything you want to accomplish to this outsider of your liberationist tradition!

Yes, I know some of you will say now that racism and sexism come from privilege and that you cannot discriminate against the privileged and bla-bla-bla. But sorry, that won’t convince me, and all those redefinitions will bring us is only a semantic quicksand and more misunderstanding, and maybe even more discrimination.

Firstly, the whole idea of tying ‘racism’ completely to the idea of privilege is a semantic shift that has only happened in certain academic circles, and not one I had ever heard of before entering the blogosphere or discussing about such subject with a certain type of academics. For other people the word ‘racism’ just means negative prejudices based on race (skin color and similar traits) or the hatred and discrimination built on it. And all this bashing of ‘white people’ does definitely fall under the ‘classical’ definition of racism.

Secondly, the idea that racism cannot exist against whites sounds quite dangerous to me actually. It only reminds me of an attempted ‘animal farm revolution’. And completely outside of reality as far as I can say too. Living in a European city with a lot of different people from very different backgrounds I’ve seen racism coming from a lot of sides towards a lot of sides. Including racism (and sexism) against native white Belgians, especially white women even. And most problems here were not really just ‘privilege’, but some are more symptoms a very serious cultural clash. When I lived in a street full of immigrants, my (then) fiancée was afraid to go outside after 8 because a certain kind of men made her uncomfortable because they behaved like just because she was walking outside as a non-veiled white women, which was less than nothing in their eyes, or more some public property they could prey on with their eyes and words (luckily in her case nothing more, but not every woman has been that lucky). I’ve never seen a more severe case of what feminists call ‘rape culture’ in my life actually.

(And to go on in the politically incorrect direction: the thing is, from all nationalities or cultures present only representatives from a few were problematic in this way. Certain cultures and subcultures seem to tend more to xenofobia or woman-unfriendliness while other don’t seem to have such tendencies at all… Some people from elsewhere really seem to be completely denigrating towards Western non-veiled women. Also, a lot of muslim and African cultures are mostly hostile to anything not heterosexual in a way beyond what we Westerners -even ‘homophobic’ ones- can imagine. I once had a boy from an African country tell me how they lynched gays with burning tyres in his homeland as if it was the most logical thing ever. He couldn’t even understand I was surprised by that!)

Something else: The whole way ‘whites’ are described here is quite deterministic to me, and I do not see how it does anything else than keep the gap between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’ wide open. Maybe I don’t get what you want to say because I’m not part of certain academic circles and because I don’t read the right books, or am not American, I don’t know, but this repeated use in a blaming way of ‘whites’ only gives me the idea that whatever happens they will always be the fault for some people, most of which are white themselves by the way, but don’t have all of the other point of privilege that matter to their views on privilege (more on that later).

But anyway, ‘reverse’ racism is just as big a problem as racism. I’ve seen this with certain non-Belgians who were quite hateful against the native Belgian (and sometimes against all of Western civilization ) We’ve never had much slaves over here by the way (only genocidal kings with private African colonies in which they unleashed hell for the local people to get themselves and a few mega-industrials richer), so the biggest racism problem here is not really between ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ (dumb terms, there’s nothing white about me) but between Belgians and certain newcomers from mostly certain muslim countries, who are mostly brownish-skinned indeed, but the problem is not one of skin or appearance, but a serious clash of cultures from both sides.

I don’t think there’s much difference whether it is Belgians looking down on the brownish guys, or the brownish guys looking down on us white Western infidels, or the brownish guys on the black Africans, or… Racism is evil in every instance…

Yes, racism between non-Belgians is not that uncommon either I am afraid, it’s not only white people who are racist, and there can be really strong racism with no white people involved, even in a white European country. I once, while in a working-class job had a North-African co-worker who was as deeply racist against black Africans as a few of his not-so-friendly co-workers were against his people.

(Yes, it’s probably classist and again not very politically correct, but some specimens among those generally not very educated working class people I worked with were quite shocking to me because they were unashamedly racist, sexist and hating on anything homosexual in a way I thought did not exist in our enlightened modern society! It was only later when I heard certain stories from elsewhere -remember the tyres?- that I realised it could be even worse.)

So don’t tell me racism can only come from white people, and never be directed towards white people. That’s just plain nonsense to me, and if you dismiss what I’ve seen and experienced for an academic theory you should not expect me to listen…

Now to get to my point I wanted to bring across: Racism, as all form of hate and discrimination, tends to work according to the principle of the never-ending vicious circle of violence. It always comes back in a new way from the other side. Hate begets hate, violence begets violence, prejudices and racism beget prejudices and racism. That’s how it works. And the hate on the oppressed side is just as destructive as what comes from the oppressor. And even long before the stage of hate and violence the same principle is clear: misunderstanding breeds misunderstanding, prejudices breed more prejudices, etc… This will also work between 2 groups of ‘equal status’ btw. Never forget that racism can be fully operative without any real privilege-imbalance going on between the 2 groups that are racist towards each other.

And no, I have no problem in confronting privilege and opening peoples eyes for it. But please cease the racist-sounding lingo against the privileged. It will only make a lot of people who need the message close their ears. Look for others word or you will create confusion with anyone except for those who know the right lingo and subscribe to the latest academic theories… I must honestly again say that to me all of this calling out of privilege which in the end comes down to bashing white males to me sounds only like a weird attempt at an ‘animal farm revolution’ that does only make the distance and problems bigger and does not in any way bring reconciliation and not at all stop the spiral of racism actually.

The only revolution I can care for as a follower as Jesus is one that tries to free both the oppressor and the oppressed from the system that distorts the image of God in either of them.

Discrimination is a problem, cultural clashes and prejudices are a problem,and privilege is a problem, and these things are sins that should be fought against, made visible and repented of, but this way of framing it is going nowhere, sorry…

One more remark about the whole privilege thing: privilege is never absolute, and it actually can be completely contextual. As for myself, in one situation I have been completely privileged as a native Dutch-speaking male, in another I have been completely the lowest person in rank just for being an introvert, or not been taken seriously in any way just because I’m a religious person (I live in a secular country where being an evangelical gives you the opposite of privilege). Or because I’m a non-academic who does not use the right shibboleths…

Last remark: there are much more ways of institutional discrimination (also very depending on the context) than the usual suspects of sex and race: Introvertpobia (or extravertnormativity) for example can also be institutionalised in certain sectors for example (I’ve experienced that, and might even have been fired for such reasons once), and hippie profiling can also be a strong form of unjust institutional xenophobia. There’s a lot more going on than the few highlighted problems that are battled extensively, and a lot of people who need to be lifted out of the darkness and given a place on the table, and a voice on deciding what we’re going to do. And sometimes we will have to listen and try to understand things that go beyond what we can understand….

(Last politically incorrect parenthesis: don’t ask me what to do with a man in the street who hates all Westerners, sees all non-veiled women as lowly sex objects and wants gays to be executed, but God loves him and even wants us to love him, and if we don’t listen to him first, he will never ever attempt to listen to us. I actually refuse to believe that anyone is beyond redemption, and even he carries the cracked image of God. Which doesn’t mean I would let my wife ever talk to him…)

To close let us pray:

Let us be like Jesus
who loved the least
and went for the most lost ones first
He, who had the privilege
of being God Himself incarnate
and became a lowly baby…
Let us ask for His Spirit
to open our eyes,
and for the upside-down Kingdom
of the Father
to shatter all of this evil
that divides us and destroys us…
Let us love
let us fight hate
let us bring down barriers
and invisible walls

what do you think?

Bram

Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…


true love waits
and that’s okay
but you seem to spend your time waiting
ain’t that extremely frustrating?

(the irresistible 21st century virgin boy)

Last week I had a serious flu and I was quite sick, and not able to do much at all, not even reading or thinking, so I was lying on my bed listening to old CD’s with demo songs that I recorded years ago, when I still used the nick/artist name ‘the irresistible 21st century virgin boy’*. One of the old CD’s contained a song I kissed waiting goodbye that I thought was lost forever, one of my earlier attempts to do something with beats and guitars together in a real song. But it also  vocalised  some critique to a book I mentioned in a recent post (‘I kissed dating goodbye’ by Joshua Harris), and I suppose more broadly to the rhetoric of the people of ‘true love waits’ , who then haTLW2d a Flemish division here in Belgium that sent me a lot of news letters because I once had carelessly signed one of their pledge cards on some christian event. (It seems they’re out of the running now though , can’t find anything of them anymore lately…)

The song itself was dismissed later because I hated how I hadn’t been able to find a really fitting melody on the sometimes quite random chord progressions. Re-listening there’s something in it that I like, and some things that I hate (that really bad word flow of the ‘don’t concentrate’ part for example.) But is was a good try, even if it got forgotten without ever been played again…

[please listen to the song 'I kissed waiting goodbye' here https://soundcloud.com/bram-cools/i-kissed-waiting-goodbye (lyrics are there also) and tell me; does it suck completely, or is there still something interesting about it?]

The title ‘I kissed waiting goodbye’ does not mean that I (with my weird artist name) had any problem with the idea of sex as belonging into a marriage relationship (I still believe in that, even though I don’t think a state marriage has much to do necessarily with the definition of marriage) but the whole imported ‘purity culture’ had some exaggerations that I found quite weird. And the local people that preached it were quite peculiar specimens too btw… The emphasis on waiting and not doing stuff was what was getting on my nerves…

Like I said earlier in my recent post a purity culture I don’t know, some of the critiques to ‘evangelical purity culture’ I’ve seen lately are describing something I don’t recognise at all, but I did have my concerns with what I did see. If I would have encountered weirdos like the 2 creeps in Sarah Moons latest blogpost my concerns would’ve been a lot bigger. And it might be that I didn’t even register some of the things that didn’t make sense to me, I think that’s how I never picked up those gender roles in Harris’ book if they are there. my brain didn’t even notice them because they made no sense to me, and they got thrown with the ‘this is too American’** garbage bin.

(Remember that an ‘American writer’ for me is as distant and exotic as an Italian cardinal, and Indian Sadhu  or an African Touareg songwriter…)

The whole movement always was a bit too obsessed with sex for my taste. (an obsession with having no sex all the time is just a weird form of sex-obsession.) It seemed like all they wanted to talk about was how to not have sex, and that was not what I was looking for, I was looking for how to actually grow in my relationship in all kinds of areas. All that talk about what not to do is not good for building a relationship. what people need is positive advice about to grow in love, and not just sexually!!!! there’s much more to a relationship than that, and focussing a relationship on that will make it unbalanced, be it a relationship focussed solely on sex or one focussed solely on avoiding sex …

One of the things I probably dismissed as otherworldy nonsense was the idea of ‘never being alone with someone of the other sex’, including the one you’re not yet married to but having a relationship with. As someone who had been always single with a lot of female friends some of which I saw alone regularly such things just didn’t make sense and didn’t get registered in my brain. It was not something that could convince me anymore than the idea that Belgium does not exist… (It would never haver worked with me and my wife either)

Another point that I found troubling was that I did not see how filling people with a ‘no sex’ message and conditioning them all the time to not touch and not be intimate would ever be reversed on a wedding night. I was too realistic to believe such a thing, whatever promises of ‘great sex lives for those who wait’ were gives. I just didn’t see that happen with such an obsessive attitude. And I later read a lot of articles that affirmed, sometimes from people who were completely blocked down sexually, so it wasn’t a false concern… I know it did work for other people, but I who was already blocked on sex and completely turned off by a world around me that seemed to sell sex on every corner but no love was more traumatised about sex on that moment. And in need of simple honest not overly sexual intimacy. It would actually take years of very slowly growing in intimacy before I would even be ready for sex and by that time I’d be ready to get married too.

By the way, there is something really problematic about all the weirdness this kind of movements does attach to the Christian ideas about sex and marriage. There is something dangerous about a good idea or a truth being hijacked by people who exaggerate in preaching it, and lump it together with nonsense and worse… It might work as a really good vaccination to ever believe it again. Those preached to who are first convinced but later see that the ballast is nonsense will most likely throw away the child with the bathwater… (an example of that here)
See also Ken Ham and his weird form of young earth creationism as litmus test for Christianity…

But let’s close with what I think is important about true love: it loves! And loving is not about not doing things, but about doing things. Apophatic theology (saying things about God by saying what He is not) can be an interesting way to communicate truth about God, but not doing certain things is not the essence of any form of love, and if it is you’re distracted from the real thing…

peace

Bram

* There was something sarcastic in that name, mainly the ‘irrestistible’ part… I’ve been single and eh, extremely celibate until I was 22 or so.

** Nothing racist about that. Other cultures always have things that are found to be nonsense and irrelevant by outsiders. But I do think I can indeed say that ‘too American’ is a valid reason for a lot of Europeans to  dismiss something…