Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Do Men Become Feminists?

How does a man become a feminist? What would lead a normally constituted American male to throw in with an ideology that appears to be unfriendly to men?

The answer is: gratitude.

True enough, very few men openly identify themselves as feminists. Still, many men happily mouth the basic tenets of the feminist credo. They may not understand what they are saying, but they support the cause because they feel grateful for what feminism has done for them.

Take Hugo Schwyzer. He has been married four times. He has had countless casual sexual encounters and no small number of relationships. Manifestly, he feels grateful and perhaps endebted to feminism for having provided him with so much free love.

So, he defends the feminist party line.

In debating Neely Steinberg Schwyzer does not dispute that feminism, especially sex-positive feminism, has helped create the hookup culture.

Yet, Schwyzer thinks it’s a good thing, for him, for his fourth wife, and for everyone who wants to learn from experience. Being anything but a gentleman Schwyzer lets on that his fourth wife can match him hookup for hookup.

Unless she has completely sold out her self-respect for the feminist cause, I suspect that she is not very happy to read all about it.

Steinberg explains what feminism has done for men: “Instead of embracing the emotional and biological differences between men and women, or at least considering them, sex-positive feminists buried their heads in the sand, unintentionally creating, in the meantime, a veritable sexual playground for men, often times at the expense of women, many of whom just wanted relationships that were both sexually and emotionally satisfying. Women were told they could have their cake and eat it too, but the dessert in many ways has been a better payoff for men.”

How does feminism create male adherents to its cause? It provides them with an endless supply of young women.

Of course, this assumes that men want nothing more from women than free sex. If men are looking for marriage and family, the hookup culture detracts from this goal. It teaches men to respect women less. It teaches women to respect themselves less.

It should not surprise anyone that fewer and fewer Americans are getting married today.

According to Steinberg feminist fairy godmothers tell young women that they should get in touch with their sexuality by getting drunk and spreading their legs. Dutifully they comply.

They don’t really like it. They do not really want it. In truth, they are sacrificing themselves for the feminist cause.

How did feminism convince women to sacrifice their self-respect and their reputations? Steinberg explains: “The Samantha Jones (of Sex and the City fame) lifestyle was, in my opinion, a false bill of goods, sold to impressionable young women as glamorous, exciting, and liberating, while ignoring any sort of biological mechanisms that induce women to emotionally attach with their mates. I was told, by the 10% of women who are capable of effectively and consistently compartmentalizing their emotions when it comes to no-strings attached sex, that emotions were overrated, anathema even, and could easily be separated from sexual acts with another human being, to unapologetically unleash my inner slut (there’s that word again). It was our right (rite?) as women, our responsibility as sexual creatures, to show the world we can fuck like men do, have instantaneous orgasms, and feel faaaabulous while doing it in our 4-inch Manolo Blahniks. Countless women bought into this lie, only to realize years later that it doesn’t, in fact, feel so great most of the time, and that actually, there’s nothing all that empowering and liberating about spreading your legs with wild abandon.”

As it happens, Steinberg is far more cogent and thoughtful than Schwyzer. In truth, Schwyzer doesn’t seem to be thinking at all.

He wants young women to see their hookups as learning experiences. It’s amusing to see an ideological zealot defending the value of experience. What would Schwyzer say if experience taught people that feminism is exploiting young women to advance its ideological agenda?

He writes: “Experience really is the best teacher, even if not every student learns the lesson the first (or 101st) time. Women in particular need reassurance that their worth is not linked to their number of sexual partners. They need to hear that pursuing pleasure for its own sake when they’re young will not make it more difficult to form enduring monogamous relationships (if they want them) when they’re older. These are lessons I’ve learned, lessons I’ve seen the men and women in my life learn and embrace.”

In truth, as Steinberg replies, the only thing you can learn from having lots of casual sex is how to have lots of casual sex.

Worse still, Schwyzer completely ignores the fact that hookups are potentially dangerous to women. He does not seem to understand that women incur far greater real risks from casual sex than do men. This does not even count the emotional toll.

As for all the things that Schwyzer thinks that women need to hear, why do they need to hear it? Perhaps because, as Steinberg says, it’s a big lie. Too many hookups will undermine a woman’s confidence, and will damage her reputation.

Schwyzer says that the hookups will in no way make her less marriageable. Recent statistics tell a different story.

What did Steinberg learn from her own unfortunate serious of hookups?

Steinberg says: “All I learned from drunken, fleeting hook-ups over the course of a decade was how much I was being viewed as a sexual object by men, as a vagina who happens to think and feel, rather than a thinking, feeling human being who also happens to have a vagina.”

She adds that she learned about relationships and about intimacy from actual relationships, not from casual sex.

In her words: “If it weren’t for some of the wrong turns (and their attendant lessons) in my life, I wouldn’t have found the wonderful man who I am dating today and be able to appreciate him. But I think I owe that more to the few actual relationships I’ve had with the wrong men and less to vacuous sexual encounters that taught me nothing about intimacy or pleasure.”

In its early days feminism was denouncing men for treating men as sex objects. At the time, four decades ago, men were thoroughly engaged in dating and courtship. Treating women as sex objects was far more rare than it is today.

Nowadays,  important feminists have encouraged women to act like sex objects, the better to make a sacrifice for the feminist cause.

[Over at Hooking Up Smart Susan Walsh has just offered her own excellent comments on the Schwyzer/Steinberg debate. Walsh has written widely and brilliantly about her topics, so I recommend her post. I also recommend that you check out the links to other of her posts.]


Neely Steinberg said...

Thanks for your thoughtful commentary, Stuart!

Best regards,

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Neely. You wrote a great piece so it was very easy to write about it.

The Deuce said...

It’s amusing to see an ideological zealot defending the value of experience.

Indeed. He's being extremely obfuscatory in presenting himself as the champion of "experience." For one, it’s not like only sluts have experience. *Everyone* has experience. It’s an unavoidable consequence of being a conscious, living being and, well, experiencing life. It's not like sluts have experience and non-sluts don't. They just have different experiences.

Sluts have the experience of being sluts, and as a result they lack the experience of what life would have been like had they not made those choices. What Hugo actually wants us to believe is that the slut experience is superior to the non-slut experience, but he doesn’t say why. Instead, he tells us of the importance of feeding sluts a steady stream of BS so that they won’t feel bad about their experience.

Furthermore, he doesn't even genuinely want women to learn from their experience with casual sex. He absolutely doesn't want them to learn, as Neely did, that casual sex is empty and depressing, and that it makes men respect them less. He actually just wants them to think what he thinks, and he wants them to learn to think that by experiencing his nonstop, reality-defying propaganda, not from the actual consequences of their behavior.

And finally, he absolutely doesn't want anyone to learn from anyone *else's* experiences, which is what the wise do. He doesn’t want people thinking “Hugo’s own experience resulted three disastrous marriages. His life has been a trainwreck. I don’t want that for myself, so I think I’ll avoid doing what he did.”

Nick said...

Your posts on this subject always make feel good for not being the asshole who treats women poorly but gets to sleep with them. I just don't know how to be mean to them.

I've had girls tell me I'd make a great boyfriend also tell me, "You just need to be more of an asshole." I don't know if they don't know better or if they don't want to be treated well, or both.

It's demoralizing when guys like me, who understand being a man means respecting women, are consistently rejected or ignored. I've almost given up trying.

Caroline said...

So women having sex with men teaches them to "respect women less"? Men can screw with impunity but women are devalued by having sex? And its up to women to "teach" men how to respect them (or not) by either abstaining from or having sex with men? Do you really think men are that dull-witted and hypocritical? Do you think they are not intelligent enough to deal with a woman as a fully fledged human being with sexual needs and instead believe that their magical penises can either grant or rob women of respect? It's that old-fashioned and sexist viewpoint that hurts both women and men. You also assume that Hugo's wife should be somehow ashamed that he brought up her hookups unless she "has completely sold out her self-respect." Again, you obviously believe that women are not deserving of respect if they engage in casual sex but your condemnation does not seem to apply to men. You lay the burden of shame on women for thier sexual behavious and let men skate free. How convenient.

Nick said...

I forgot to add that in the end I attract high quality women, so it's really not bad. It's one of the many arenas where faith is helpful.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I am intrigued by Caroline's comments, so I'll respond in some detail. If she is offended by something I said,that's fine. If she's offended by human nature that's not so fine.

And yes, I meant it when I said that women who hook up induce men to disrespect women. It's not about having sex; it's about hookups. That was the point of the piece.

And while I do note that men are more than happy to avail themselves of all the free love out there most of them would like to be involved in relationships, to marry and to settle down.

And yes, there is a double standard. I would recommend Neely's article, linked in my post, where she explains the difficulties that befall women when they pretend that they are just like men.

Neither Neely nor I are saying that women should not do as they please. We are saying that actions have consequences and that the consequences of sex for men and women are not the same. They are not even close to being the same.

Why this should be controversial is beyond me.

The double standard is not a social construct but reflects reality.

As it happens, and as Neely points out, encouraging women to hook up does not help men to deal with them as full human beings.

Full human beings are more than their genitalia. If men or women act as though sex is the be-all and end-all of relationships they are going to get hurt. Though, as Neely says, women are going to get hurt more than men.

Again, it's not really a matter of personal opinion. It is true in all cultures that I know about that women who hook up a lot lose respect. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.

Some women have indeed had a very interesting sexual history. In near all cases they would prefer that the information be kept private and intimate. Even when they say that they do not care the better part of discretion suggests that a man would do well to shut up about it. I do not think that any man has a right to advertise his wife's sexual history or the sexual history of any other woman, for that matter.

Like it or not a woman whose sexual exploits are public knowledge usually has more difficulty finding a husband. Why should this be so? One important reason is that she will provoke very strong disapproval from the man's mother.

Even if men are OK with a woman's sexual history, their mothers almost certainly are not.

Anyway, thanks Caroline for the comments, and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

The Deuce said...


So women having sex with men teaches them to "respect women less"?

No on two counts. First, having sex in and of itself doesn't cause men to respect women less (faithful wives and mothers get plenty of respect, for instance). Having cheap casual sex specifically does. Second, it doesn't "teach" men to respect women less, any more than being physically attractive "teaches" men to be attracted to you. Men naturally respect sluts less without being taught. It takes tons of indoctrination and rationalization to teach them to do otherwise, and even then it won't work on most of them, and won't completely work on any of them.

Men can screw with impunity but women are devalued by having sex?

Only if women let men get away with it. There's no double standard here. The reality is that women hold men to different standards than men hold women. Men tend to be more upset (on average) by the idea of settling down with a woman who's had a lot of casual sex than vice-versa. If you don't like this, then resist it by refusing to sexually reward or commit to a man who's had a lot of casual sex. Otherwise, stop whining and expecting men everywhere to collectively adjust their innate preferences to suit your lifestyle. You have no right to be perceived how you wish to be perceived by men.

And its up to women to "teach" men how to respect them (or not) by either abstaining from or having sex with men?

Again, men don't have to be "taught" to do what comes to them innately. Rather, if women want to be respected and valued as good potential marriage material, then it behooves them to be what men find respectable and valuable in a potential wife.

Again, you obviously believe that women are not deserving of respect if they engage in casual sex but your condemnation does not seem to apply to men. You lay the burden of shame on women for thier sexual behavious and let men skate free.

There's no question of "letting" men skate free. Nobody is talking about putting sluts of either sex in prison or anything. Stuart is simply pointing out the objective reality that women are likely to lose more, as a result of being slutty, than men are, and that all the sex positive feminist denialism in the world is powerless to change that underlying reality.

Of course, there are consequences to that behavior for men too, and for any children they produce, and for the ruined lives they leave behind. Hugo's multiple failed marriages are proof of that. Objectively, his life is a train wreck as a result of his actions. If all men acted like him, society would come to a screeching halt amidst the broken families, crime, and chaos. And men do indeed suffer from social opprobrium for engaging in casual sex. There's a reason we have words like "cad" in our vocabulary. Hardly anybody, male or female, actually *likes* men who act that way.

Respect, specifically, is a different matter. Men and women alike tend to have more respect for male players than for female sluts, even if they don't particularly *like* either one. There's a very good reason for that, and again, no double standard. The fact is, what everyone respects is strength, ability, and hard work. It's trivially easy for any woman who is not hideous to have sex with willing attractive men, simply by throwing herself at them. Men, on the other hand, have to do quite a bit of work, and be quite skilled, to get attractive women into bed. Hence, if a woman is a slut, all that tells you about her is that she has poor impulse control and an inability to say no, and likely lacks the typical female tendency to bond. When a man is a successful player, it indicates that he has a high degree of skill and perseverance among other things, which garners grudging respect, even if he's a scumbag in every other sense.

Cappy said...

To get laid.