If Men Could Talk Endnotes
1. I’m alluding here in one short paragraph to a set of complex relationships between several important variables. First, there’s our emotional hardware, i.e., our biology, which, as we’ve seen, provides for a fascinating sociobiological explanation of sex differences. Second, there’s the human software, consisting of (1) external sociocultural influence, (2) internal psychological development and (3) the interaction between those two. And of course, these three elements also interact with the sociobiological hardware. While in reality none of these, software or hardware, can be separated from each other, for purposes of discussion we have no choice but to suspend belief in that fact. As a psychologist, in my discussion of men’s development by necessity already brief and anecdotal in this book, I can only address (2) and (3) above. These developmental aspects will be further discussed in Chapter 4.
2. In my mind, the interpersonal space of the Internet is also reminiscent of D.W. Winnicott’s concept of transitional phenomena.
3. This analysis is admittedly incomplete, perhaps even simplistic. One of Freud’s lesser known yet more important theoretical observations was that human behavior is “overdetermined.” This means that it often takes more causes than what is minimally requires to bring about any particular behavior. Unfortunately, in order to write about the contribution of one factor to any given behavioral patter, one has to suspend this principle and to examine one cause at a time.
4. It should not be ignored that many of the creators of androgynous male images have been gay or bisexual, which raises a question about the connection between masculine insecurity and homosexuality in general. For example, in relation to men’s struggle to accept their own femininity, one might say that (1) gay or bisexual men represent a more balanced, even ideal integration of masculine and feminine identifications, or that (2) their sexual orientation is indicative of their failure to integrate their feminine identification in a “healthier,” nonsexual manner, which is the view of the classical psychoanalysis.
I believe that both of these are false. While the relationship between gender identification and sexual orientation is outside the scope of this book, I’d like to make two points relevant to male homosexuality. First, in my experience, the seven male challenges discussed in this book are just as relevant to gay as to straight men. Second, a historical review of societies’ attitudes towards homosexuality is consistent with my view of the conflict of masculine insecurity. As pointed out by psychiatrist Robert Liebert, from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and up to the present time, social systems have shown a fundamental ambivalence in relation to male homosexuality. That is, alternation from condemnation and persecution to tolerance and (usually limited) acceptance, thy have always found a way of both forbidding and permitting gay sexual lifestyle.
One interpretation of this duality is that while male homophobia, which is consistent with men’s fear of their own femininity, is the psychological force behind the condemnation of homosexuality, men’s need for expression of male femininity is the psychological reason for sanctioning it. Needless to say, both of these psychological motivations are, in most men, unconscious.
5. Unlike boys, however, in developing their gender identity girls do not need to transition from identifying with their mother to identifying with their father. This developmental difference, which was first discussed by Freud, has important implications for both genders. I’ve touched on those related to men, but unfortunately, the implications for women (which in turn have important consequences for men) are outside the scope of this book.
6. I hope this does not sound presumptuous. I only wish to suggest that I am trying to look at it from a woman’s point of view, not that I actually know, or could know, what a woman would feel in this patient’s position. This brings to mind a conversation at a dinner party I attended back in the eighties. At that somewhat formal event, the conversation meandered to the topic of feminism. At once point I said that from a strategic standpoint it wasn’t wise for the feminist movement to claim that there was no psychological differences between the sexes. As soon as I spoke, a woman at the other side of the table stood up and cried, “Who are you to speak for feminism? What are your feminist credentials? Show me your vagina!” The guests at the table were so shocked by the comment that as if by unspoken agreement everyone simply ignored it, and the conversation quickly changed dto a more neutral topic.
Possibly, this incident was nothing but another blip in the history of the battle between the sexes, in this case, between a know-it-all man and a resentful woman. But to me it was also about the perils of political correctness in the feminist age. And while we now might very well be in a postfeminist age, political correctness is still with us. In terms of feminism it seems to take one of two diametrically opposed viewpoints: either there are no psychological differences between men and women and therefore they must be treated exactly alike in all possible respects, or, women are so different from men that they must, one way or another, separate themselves from them.
In my mind, these extreme viewpoints are primarily the result of psychological processes which then take the form of political ideologies. The first psychological process involves the assumption that differences between people means inequality and, therefore, must be denied. This fear of “the other” is at the core of racism and other paranoid scapegoating of people different from oneself. The second psychological process relies on the opposite assumption, which is that similarities between people means loss of a separate identity, a prospect which must be guarded against by means of an angry separation.
In a democratic political system such as ours, these psychological processes become politicized, and the resultant political agendas further reinforce these very psychological processes. For both psychological and political reasons the subject of sex differences can hardly be neutral. Obviously, I do feel that the constructs of psychological masculinity and femininity are based on real gender-related traits, a notion which is supported by common sense, clinical experience, and a great deal of empirical research. At the same time, I believe that differences do not imply inequality. To the contrary, as in all group situations, when handled with care the recognition, acceptance, and elaboration of differences between group members can only lead to mutual respect and, paradoxically, to more crosspollination. In fact, as I’ve tried to show in this chapter, the very premise of this book is based on that paradox.
7. As I hope this case demonstrates, the concept of the masculine-feminine split does not inherently imply that ambitious, career-oriented women are destined to end up with female-identified, “wimpy’” men, or with no men at all. In reality, however, some male-identified women are at risk for ending up in a relationship with a female-identified man. I call it a risk, because it’s quite feasible that done the road one or both partners in such a relationship may need to express their other, repressed or denied gender identification, at which point, unless the psychological arrangement between the parties is flexible enough, the relationship will not survive
This, by the way, is true for many relationships which are based on complementarity rather than similarity among partners. In marital therapy, one often sees couples who were initially attracted to each other (at least in part) because the other person was difference from him/herself on an important dimension, but who now resent each other for that very difference.
For example, if I tend to be a controlled, organized, and thoughtful individual who plans everything in life, I might be attracted to a partner who is spontaneous, exuberant, and impulsive, so that I can experience these qualities through her. The problem is that if I am unable to experience these qualities on my own (with or without someone else’s help, but essentially on my own), it means that I am resisting them inside of me. Everybody who was once a child has these qualities inside. This means that these qualities are threatening to my personality organization and that, therefore, what is presently charming about my spouses spontaneity will soon enough become irritating beyond belief, and in the worst-case scenario, intolerable.
In other words, while initially complementary, opposites, when they are not internally integrated, are likely to become polarizing. So in terms of the male-identified woman, the critical question is not whether she is “too aggressive,” but whether or not she is also in touch with her own vulnerability, receptivity, sensitivity, etc. To the extent that she is, we can now see, she is not at all destined to share her life with a weakling of a man. Nor is she at any particular risk of ending up alone.
In a footnote to this footnote I should add that by now, I’ve used the term “male-identified woman” in a manner which begins to sound not only like a two-dimensional label, but also like some kind of curse. In terms of the former, I do not deny that the concept of the masculine-feminine split oversimplifies the complexity of intimate relationships. As for the latter, my feeling is that if you adopt the emotional strategy of androgynous integration, being a so-called male-identified woman is a blessing in disguise. In that scenario, your male identification is a conscious ally as opposed to an unconscious saboteur.
8. As far as giving children feedback, should parents altogether avoid praising their children? Well, to say “You are such a smart girl” appears innocent enough and in certain respect gives the child a message of strength which she can internalize. On the other hand, it can also imply that being smart is a condition for approval and love and therefore have the opposite impact. Ultimately, it all depends of how it’s said, and where it comes from, emotionally speaking, on the part of the parent. But in any case it’s wise to remember that good performance is in itself rewarding and therefore self-reinforcing, often rendering additional accolades unnecessary.
9. There is an important and common parallel to this father-son dynamic in the relationships between mothers and daughters., which is to say that for a parent, a same-sex child offered more of an “opportunity” for identification and projection of narcissistic vulnerabilities than an opposite-sex child.
10. Scientifically speaking, there appear to be several types of aggress, and from a research perspective it’s important to define what is exactly mean by the term. For lack of space and inclination I will not do that here. I believe that the way in which I use the word will become self-evident when I describe my work with patients in this chapter. Nonetheless, one distinction I would lim ego draw is between male violence and male aggression. While the two are related, the aggression I’m referring to in this book is psychological or interpersonal in nature, not physical.
11. In this spirit, it’s important to take a closer look at Wrangham and Peterson’s theory. In reviewing the research on apes, these authors present a picture of male violence with a remarkably meaningful pattern, which is both shocking and familiar. In all three cases, the underlying premise is that of males using force in order to increase their chances of reproduction. The orangutan male does it by raping (most female orangutans are raped regularly) and the chimpanzee does it by battering (all female chimpanzees get battered). As for the gorilla, this otherwise gentle and peaceful ape is the gorilla is that after the male kills the female’s infant (from another male), the female may voluntarily join the killer and have her next baby with him. She may even spend the rest of her like with him. This, despite her strong and very affectionate bond with her infant.
The logic of gorilla infanticide, according to Wrangham and Peterson, is the same as that of the rape and battery exercised by their orangutan and chimpanzee cousins. The common theme is the female’s vulnerability and the male desire to control and dominate her so that h can get his way with her, ultimately, without resistance. In the case of the chimpanzee battering, for example, the male seems to attack the female initially for the purpose of consortship. Apparently, after several such attacks the female ends up following him to the edge of the community’s range, where the two may travel together peacefully with no further signs of her having been coerced. In the case of chimpanzees infanticide, it seems that the very act makes the killer attractive to the mother of the killed baby, presumably because he can offer her protection from other male baby killers.
In terms of the comparison to humans, Wrangham and Peterson make one critical, if frightening, point. They explain that ape violence is not just some kind of innate impulse gone out of control. Rather, it’s been reinforced evolutionarily because it works, and it works not only because of female vulnerability but because apes are in fact intelligent. That is, unlike other species, their use of violence is guided by a cognitive understanding of how it will get them what they want in their relationships. What’s frightening, of course, is that we are even more intelligent and therefore can put our aggressive endowment into even greater use, which we have clearly done by progressively producing ever more destructive killing technologies.
12. Amazingly, even this purely psychological hypothesis seems to have an equivalent in the world of apes from which I’ve tried to separate. Apparently, the orangutans who rape belong to a special class of males who are physically small are therefore not followed voluntarily by females. It’s scary and scientifically probably misguided to directly connect this to human rape. Yet one cannot help but speculate that if they could talk, these small male orangutans would tell a variation of the story told by aggressive men to their therapists. Of course the fact that they don’t have language, let alone therapists, is not incidental. Indeed, the capacity to think and talk about one’s story in words changes the story itself, not only at the time of the telling, but even beforehand, as its events and elements are conceived and developed in the person’s life. I will return to discuss these orangutans in relation to men a bit later, but for a more comprehensive discussion of the similarities and differences between orangutan and human rape, see Wrangham and Peterson.
13. The reason for Apollo’s punishment, incidentally, suggests a psychological motive peculiarly consistent with our theory of masculine insecurity: Cupid shot his arrows because Apollo had challenged his manhood. “‘O silly youngster,’ [Apollo had said to Cupid, ‘What are you doing with such weapons? Those are for grown-ups!'” How fitting, then, that Apollo’s punishment was a rejection of his own manhood, and by nothing less than a woman!
14. Strangely enough, this quintessential human syndrome can take us right back to our apish history. As I discussed earlier, in the realm of the orangutans, practically all female apes get raped. But not all makes rape. As mentioned above, those who rape are adult orangutans with adolescent-size bodies who are not popular with females, presumably because they are less likely to provide protection. Can we say that these apes are psychologically motivated for conquest because of this inadequacy-based rejection? Well, we can say what we want, but really, who knows.
Even more intriguing is the fact that these small orangutans do have an advantage over normal-size males. They are much faster, so much so that, unlike normal-size males, they can actually catch up with a fleeing female. So in terms of their drive for reproductive power, they can actually catch up with a fleeing female. So in terms of their drive for reproductive power, they apparently compensate for their inadequacy, turning a liability into an asset, which is not all that different from what the type of Don Juan I’m discussing here does. Except that his technique is decidedly human, relying more on brain and emotion than on brawn and motion.
15. It’s tempting to say that this is not true if you are paranoid. However, the truth is that not only, as the saying goes, can even paranoid people have real enemies, but that paranoid people always have real enemies. This is because the paranoid individual is so fearful of an attack that he attacks first, thus creating an enemy which curiously justifies and reinforces his paranoia.
16. In general terms the concept of the repetition compulsion is responsible for one of the most important tools of the psychoanalytic therapist. Many patients feel understandably frustrated when the therapist seems to focus on the patient-therapist interaction rather than on what they see as the more important relationships or problems outside that brought them to therapy in the first place. But because in some way we repeat our patterns, including our destructive patterns, in all relationship, and because they become particularly evident when the other person is relatively neutral, how the patient relates to the therapist can can be an invaluable source of direct data for the therapist and patient to work on.
17. This description is based on the concepts of the True and False Selves, developed by one of my favorite psychoanalytic giants, D.W. Winnicott.
18. In some situations, this notion of not being a backseat driver in someone else’s life is just not practical and therefore must be modified. For example, if someone is about to do irreversible damage to himself or to others, suicide and homicide being the most extreme examples, you must intervene and take complete control of the situation, even if it ultimately only reinforces self-destructive conditions, specific therapeutic procedures, such as “Intervention” with substance abusers, can break the self-destructive cycle well before the individual hits bottom.
19. This case may raise questions relevant to the psychology of date rape. My intention here is only to explore the role of emotional absence in male sexual expression. I do not have particular expertise on the subject of date rape but instinctively I can’t imagine justifying it by using the concept of emotional absence. While the psychology of men obviously plays a role in date rapes, it is equally obvious that most men do not rape, on dates or otherwise.
20. There are important distinctions to be made here, for example between something that really turns you on and a fetish, or between a desire for sexual domination versus rape, or between having sex in the woods and exposing yourself in the street. This kind of discussion is outside the scope of this book, but personally, my tentative belief is that the definition of pathology in such areas is ultimately a sociocultural rather than a scientific matter.
21. This distinction, I believe, is somewhat theoretical. In reality, I think, most people have a bisexual potential and are somewhere along the continuum between pure heterosexuality and pure homosexuality. In other words, I’m not sure at what point along the continuum one because truly gay and what are the various factors involved.
22. This case shows some of the perils and limitations of applying psychoanalytic theory to working with individuals. Not only can we not understand a dream without a great deal of knowledge about the dreamer, we can also not generalize from the experience of one patient to another. Also, we must be careful when generalizing from a group of patients to people in general. That last point has constituted an important and legitimate critique of psychoanalysis from its early days, and to a considerable extent ca also be directed at this book.
23. This formulation, as exemplified perhaps in my own dream above, tells you something about the sexual dynamics between a male patient and a female therapist. Obviously such dynamics are different from the male-to-male dynamics described in my work with my male patients. Nonetheless, as we saw earlier in Self-Involvement: From Peanuts to Penis, there are also important similarities.