Man and woman are of the same essence. Although much ado is made of how their natures oppose one another, such is not at all the case. They are complementary expressions of an indivisible reality. We must bear in mind that every human life (save for the original man and woman) springs forth from the womb of woman. And each of those lives is instigated by the seed of a man. Thus, the germ of the feminine is contained within that which is masculine; likewise, the germ of the masculine is contained within the feminine.
Try as though we might, it’s impossible to accurately discuss the nature of man in a vacuum that excludes the consideration of the nature of woman. However, in most of the religious guidance handed down to us, such attempts are exactly what we find. Although I have great respect for the wisdom of the ancients, I think they were a bit disingenuous in their writings. Despite the clear indication that they had their hands around the throat of the issue(s), they seemed unwilling to finish the job. Why is that? Perhaps, it’s because the majority of these writers were males; and their writings had to serve a patriarchal regime so that they might gain acceptance. Or instead, maybe it was in their very nature to avoid the obvious.
At this point, we must be careful to not lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish here. In the preceding chapter, we examined that which might have given rise to the characterization of woman as bitch. Now, it’s time to delve into the bitch that lives in man.
If avarice is the powerful negative motivator that influences much of the outward character of woman, what is the analogous motivator in man? FEAR. As it turns out, fear is the dirtiest of four-letter words in the vocabulary of the male psyche. It is man’s fear that ever threatens to undermine not only his forward progress, but also his static well-being.
Man’s sense of fear (and foreboding) lies so deeply within him that he is more easily taught to fear his God than he can be taught to love his God. Genesis 22:10-12 NASB provides us a clear insight into this dynamic:
10. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
12. He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
And to drive the point home, in Exodus 20:19-20 NASB, we read:
19. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
20. Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”
With God being the Unknowable Unknown, and man’s relative ease at giving himself over to sin (i.e., doing that which lacks both discipline and integrity), fear and foreboding would seem to be the sensible path. However, humankind has gained over 3000 years’ experience since the above words were written. In that intervening period, history has offered us countless examples of the harm that results from failure to rise in correct address to the requirements of the moment. By now, we should have learned.
Oh, the pain…
In the 1960s’ TV series Lost In Space, the character Dr. Zachary Smith (brilliantly portrayed by actor Jonathan Harris) served as the personification of fear itself. A villain because of the extremely self-serving objectives of his actions, the most compelling aspect of his character was his cowardice:
Bill [Mumy] also said of Harris’ portrayal, “He truly, truly singlehandedly created the character of Dr. Zachary Smith that we know — this man, we love-to-hate, coward who would cower behind the little boy, ‘Oh, the pain! Save me, William!’ That’s all him!”
Fear that results as a response to an imminent threat is necessary for survival. Part of the so-called fight-or-flight apparatus, it’s hard-wired into the human limbic system — and for good reason. However, fear that arises from no immediate threat, but rather arises as foreboding resulting from one’s incorrect actions, is even more destructive than the incorrect actions themselves. It is this type of fear (whether rational or otherwise) that usually leads to a wholesale breakdown in one’s sense of integrity. Even worse is the foreboding that has no basis in one’s actions, nor experience — fear of the unknown.
A very long list…
When one peruses a list of fears/phobias, it’s amazing the number of fears that seem to be completely irrational. One finds almost laughable entries:
- Fear of buttons. (Koumpounophobia)
- Fear of books. (Bibliophobia)
- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. (Arachibutyrophobia)
- Fear of hearing good news. (Euphobia)
- Fear of opening one’s eyes. (Optophobia)
- Fear of gaiety. (Cherophobia)
- Fear of learning. (Sophophobia)
- Fear of clowns (not restricted to evil clowns). (Coulrophobia)
Then, there are those which seem to have at least some rational basis:
- Fear of bad breath. (Halitophobia)
- Fear of blood. (Hemophobia, haemophobia)
- Fear of bees. (Melissophobia)
- Fear of prostitutes or venereal disease. (Cypridophobia or Cypriphobia or Cyprianophobia or Cyprinophobia)
- Fear of menstruation. (Menophobia)
- Fear of meteors. (Meteorophobia)
- Fear of losing an erection. (Medomalacuphobia)
However, there are those fears that although quite rational, are particularly unfortunate:
- Fear of anything new. (Neophobia)
- Fear of marriage, commitment. (Gamophobia)
- Fear of seeing, thinking about or having an erect penis. (Ithyphallophobia)
- Fear of sex. (Genophobia)
- Fear of beautiful women. (Venustraphobia, Caligynephobia)
- Fear of nudity. (Gymnophobia)
There are literally hundreds of named fears, each of which has a specific target or trigger. From A-to-Z, man has found a way to be afraid of everything from washing/bathing (Ablutophobia) to the great mole rat (Zemmiphobia). Most disturbing is the high number of fears that are associated with women.
Dogs of War
One would think the threat of death to be the greatest fear to loom in a man’s mind. However, thousands of years of graphically documented clashes between armies large and small would seem to suggest otherwise. When men’s ire is raised, they will happily enlist themselves to the challenge of destroying those who are the source of insult or threat, in spite of the potential for their own destruction.
In his treatise, The Art of War, Sun Tzu begins with:
1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.
2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
3. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
4. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
5. The MORAL LAW causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger…
A mere few verses later, Sun Tzu informs us that “[a]ll warfare is based on deception.”
The question arises as to how it might be possible that individuals might be deceived in such a fashion as makes them willing to risk death for the sake of a larger aim (i.e., the goals of the State) that is beyond their immediate grasp? Interestingly, the methods of achieving discipline within an army involve a three-fold strategy that includes: i.) self-denial, ii.) threat of death, and lastly, iii.) threat of shame or dishonor. Shame and dishonor represent the conclusion by one’s fellows that one is inadequate. For men, death itself is preferable to living in a perpetual state of shame. Better to die fighting amongst one’s fellows than to allow self-serving cowardice to overtake one.
If we dig a little deeper into the issue, to acts of violence that are carried out at the individual level, we find man’s tendency toward feelings of inadequacy to be a root cause. In fact, the first act of violence presented in the Bible speaks directly to how one’s feelings of inadequacy give rise to anger.
In Genesis 4:1-8 NASB, we find the story of Cain and Abel:
1. Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.”
2. Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground.
4. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;
5. but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
6. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?”
7. “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
8. Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
In the above excerpt, it’s clear that violence in man arises from weakness, and from his dissatisfaction with himself. Fears of inadequacy, and the anger (often in the form of jealousy) that arises in response to those fears, have proven to be the greatest impediments to mankind’s development.
Looking a bit deeper still, one sees in man’s fear of inadequacy vestiges of a veiled attempt by the patriarchy to deny the responsibilities of the male’s role in his de facto complementary relationship with woman. It is this denial that underpins the various oppressive (and often violent) regimes that have targeted women.
A bit closer to home
In a website devoted to issues of relationships and parenting, writer Jayson Gaddis offered what he considers to be the deepest fears men develop as a result of social conditioning. He lists the following:
- Being perceived as gay (or totally bereft of manhood).
- Being perceived as too feminine (or weak, easily dominated).
- Fear that one’s penis is inadequate.
I would disagree with the order of the above list, with respect to the ranking of the importance of the fears upon the male psyche. While attempting to avoid all of the psychosexual babble of multiple generations of psychologists (Freud, Jung, etc.), none of whom seem to feel confident enough to just come right out with the truth, I’ll simply state here that most boys/men would like to have a bigger penis. A more learned source offers a more conservative (less than fifty percent) estimate:
Wylie and Eardley note that studies of penis size are remarkably consistent. The average erect penis is about 5.5 to 6.2 inches long and 4.7 to 5.1 inches in circumference at midshaft.
A truly diminutive dangler — a micropenis — is less than 2.75 inches long when erect, Wylie and Eardley calculate.
Few men suffer this condition. Yet forty-five percent of men want a bigger penis, the researchers find. No wonder the Internet is rife with offers of “miraculous” penis-lengthening schemes.
So common (yet sensitive) an issue is this, one that’s deeply ingrained in the male psyche, that it was even the topic of a quite humorous episode of the satirical comedy TV series South Park:
At South Park Elementary, Cartman rants at length over the publicly posted results of the students’ annual school physicals, which document how much each student has grown in height, mistakenly understanding them to be a list of all the boys’ penis sizes. Believing the results to be inaccurate because he is at the bottom of the list, he measures all of his male schoolmates’ penises and posts his own findings in the hall. He is then called to Principal Victoria’s office, who explains what the first list actually documented. To make matters worse, Cartman has found that his penis really is the smallest of all the boys in the school.
Despite all the power that attends phallic presentations, it turns out that a man’s psychological relationship to his own penis is a very sensitive matter.
Meat on the table
To this very day, I remember the sense of horror that I felt upon seeing women’s reactions when news of the Lorena and John Bobbitt incident broke. Almost with no exception, the immediate reaction of the women in the office in which I worked can best be described as a morbid sense of jubilation — and vindication. With John Bobbitt having been portrayed as a most abusive husband, Lorena’s act of revenge caused women everywhere to view her as somewhat a heroine — because she actually did that which so many women only talk about.
On the night of June 23, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt severed her husband John’s penis from his body, took it and drove around for a short while in her car. At some point in her journey, before she realized the severity (no pun intended) of her actions and phoned the police, she rolled down the window of her car and threw John’s penis into a field. Although she claimed he had raped her that night, in a subsequent trial, there was found to be no evidence to support her claim. However, she was found to be Not Guilty of any crime, owing to temporary insanity that resulted from past abuse:
During the trial, the couple revealed details of their volatile relationship and the events leading up to the assault.
Lorena stated that her husband sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their marriage. She said that her husband flaunted his infidelities, and had forced her to have an abortion. Her defense attorneys, which included well known defense lawyer, Blair D. Howard, maintained that John’s constant abuse caused Lorena to eventually “snap” as she was suffering from clinical depression and a possible bout of post-traumatic stress disorder due to the abuse. John Bobbitt denied the allegations of abuse; however, when he was cross-examined by Howard, his statements often conflicted with known facts, severely weakening the prosecution’s case.
Lorena testified that her husband had raped her and physically battered her on multiple occasions prior to the evening of the severing of his penis, that they lacked financial stability, and that her husband stole and spent her earnings. Both the prosecution and defense sides conceded that John Wayne Bobbitt had demonstrated a history of abuse toward Lorena, that this abuse created a context for the assault.
This case might have actually served as the death knell to men’s relative sense of privilege to treat the women in their lives in an abusive manner. At least in modern-day America, domestic violence continues to increase in visibility and importance as one of the major social ills to be overcome. It’s not surprising that, given the patriarchal nature of the society, it took the mutilation of a man’s genitals by a woman who was subsequently found not guilty of any crime to bring about this new awareness.
By the time of the trial for a crime, one has had the opportunity to develop a comprehensive picture of the circumstances that might have led to his or her errant actions. However, statements taken in the moments directly following an incident often give a clearer picture of one’s immediate motivations. At the time of Lorena Bobbitt’s arrest, her utterances were particularly damning of John:
Lorena Bobbitt was taken into custody. When Lorena was arrested the night of June 23, she told the police, “He always have orgasm [sic], and he doesn’t wait for me to have orgasm. He’s selfish.” This conversation with Detective Peter Wentz was tape-recorded and the transcript was read later in the trial by Mary Grace O’Brian, the one prosecuting Lorena.
Given the widespread (and relatively institutional) misconception that ejaculation and orgasm are analogous processes in the male, I suspect that many women share in the frustration voiced by Lorena Bobbitt at the time of her arrest.
The Known Unknown
It’s not immediately clear when and where man’s deep and abiding fear of engaging woman began. Also, it’s not clear whether that fear is now passed down to us as a hard-wired response, or instead, as a result of social conditioning. Psychologist Robert Leahy, Ph.D., makes quite a case for many of our fears becoming hard-wired through an evolutionary process:
Now this may not seem like news to you, but most psychologists have believed that fears are learned. Some might be learned — but many fears are built in and they protect us. Kids didn’t have a fear of heights because they had fallen. No — they didn’t fall because they had a fear of heights to begin with.
Let’s take a closer look at fear of heights. A classic study, done many years ago, involved the following. Psychologists had a young infant on a table. Between two tables was a transparent plexiglass platform. Now, the baby could easily crawl across this plexiglass — but almost all the kids refused. That’s because the plexiglass gave the impression that they could fall. They had a natural fear of heights.
They also tried to get kittens to cross. They were afraid and they huddled on one side. Then they tried baby ducks. Guess what? The ducks walked across. Not a quack of protest. Why? Because ducks can fly. What’s to be afraid of?
Man’s fear of the unknown is well documented. In some instances, fear is a rational response, and in others, not so much. The chaotic nature of the world around us provides countless possibilities for concern. Curiously enough, even our modern term for “a state of disorder,” chaos, is derived from the name of an ancient Greek goddess. In the ancient Greek cosmogonies, the feminine Khaos is difficult to fathom:
KHAOS (or Chaos) was the first of the Protogenoi (primeval gods) to emerge at the creation of the universe. She was followed in quick succession by Gaia (Earth), Tartaros (the Underworld) and Eros (Love the life-bringer).
Khaos was the lower atmosphere which surrounded the earth — invisible air and gloomy mist. Her name khaos literally means the gap, the space between heaven and earth. Khaos was the mother or grandmother of the other substances of air: Nyx (Night), Erebos (Darkness), Aither (Light) and Hemera (Day), as well as the various emotion-affecting Daimones which drifted through it. She was also a goddess of fate like her daughter Nyx and grand-daughters the Moirai.
Later authors defined Khaos as the chaotic mix of elements that existed in the primeval universe, confusing it with the primeval Mud of the Orphic cosmogonies, but this was not the original meaning.
The above conception of the cosmos, first expressed in the writings of Hesiod (circa 650 BC) and the pre-Socratic philosophers, is consistent with the views of the traditions of other lands with respect to the attribution of a feminine character to those forces that defy apprehension, despite their availability.
Bringing the issue a bit closer to earth, although women are “a part of us” (so to speak), they are unpredictable — and thus, unknowable.
Man’s relationship with woman lies at the crossroads of two of man’s deepest fears: i.) man’s sense of inadequacy, as it is projected upon his penis; and ii.) the unpredictability of the woman’s response to intimate encounters with the man. We will delve more deeply into this dynamic in later chapters.
For the moment, let us close this chapter with a suggestion of what might be man’s most inexpressible (though quite complex) fear. Contrary to the belief of many (particularly women), men aren’t so afraid of the rejection of their advances, by women. Men are most afraid of having their vague fears about their own inadequacy validated, through their being accepted and welcomed by women and then being summarily dismissed afterward. It’s one thing to be rejected by someone who doesn’t know you; it’s another thing altogether to be discarded by someone who does. This complex fear is at the root of many of the lies that men tell women. It is also what drives much of men’s violence against women.
There is none who is more dangerous than the one who fears you.
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