Re: This Blog Will Henceforth Be Solely Devoted To Discussion of Husbands In The Delivery Room

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I think someone also needs to explain why even British putdowns ("a big girls' blouse), like so many British-isms (e.g.,"head boy"), make them sound fey. Is there any such thing as a British top?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:00 AM
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As a data point supporting the position that the proper answer to 6b is "a fair amount" I would like to put forth the existence of not-particularly-adventurous Americans now in their forties who eat sushi regularly, who would have been grossed out by the idea of raw fish back in the eighties when sushi was less conventional (outside of big coastal cities).

(I will point out the weakness in my argument, that I don't actually know any such people for certain. But I do have the impression that they exist and aren't all that uncommon.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:12 AM
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Well, I was grossed out by eating fish of all sorts until a few years ago, when I made an effort to like it, and am now a happy frequent eater of sushi. Luckily, for all you know, I don't really exist.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:14 AM
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I hope someone googling for "B-ll- W-r-ng" will find this post and learn all about Alameida! Especially her family members, or, say, her in-laws. They need to know that she's been outclassed.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:16 AM
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I'm trying to come up with a joke along the lines of "If I said you were a great big wet pussy, would you hold it against me?" but so far no luck.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:17 AM
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On 7, opinion is not divided about making moral judgement on people's desires if you choose the right case of desires to frame the question around. That's one of the things Belle brings up in passing in her latest entry. Does anyone think that a 25-year old man who feels sexual desire for a 5-year old is someone we shouldn't judge? That you should just say, "oh well, we don't control our emotions, the heart (or dick) wants what it wants". The "division" of opinion in that case doesn't exist.

Flip the example to "large breasts" or "slender legs" or "big asses". Here again, I think very few people are going to want to make moral judgement on a man who finds large breasts or what have you a sexual turnon; no one is going to micromanage particular stimuli. Maybe the only thing were a lot of us would get into the judgement game is if the breast-desiring man went to a partner of many years and said, "If you don't get implants, I can't desire you any longer." Because then we'd question, "Well, why did you desire this person in the first place?" The point is in general most of us think that you're entitled to be attracted to particular visions of beauty in your sexual partners at the outset of a relationship, but that long-term commitments form, claiming a significant alteration in the structure of your desire may be morally problematic--possibly because many of us suspect it's disingenuous. (e.g., the man who says after 10 years of marriage that whoops, he's just realized that he's actually turned on by big titties and tan skin is just an asshole who wants an alibi for moving to his trophy wife and dumping his current partner as used goods.)

In one case, almost everyone makes judgement; in another case, very few do.

So when you suggest "we're divided about making moral claims about desire", I think that's misleading. It suggests a general conceptual debate about a disagreement that is really about a specific conceptual issue. Namely, where ought the case of men who claim non-desire in the wake of witnessing a birth to fall on that spectrum of judging desire? Probably none of us would have the same level of judgement that we do to a pedophiliac desire (e.g., that we would want that desire to be legally prohibited). But many of us might feel that it's possible to second-guess that as being either a lie covering something else (in which case morally reprehensible) or of a weakness or failure in the governance of desire. As Belle observes, in a long-term relationship, sex morally has to become something more than just mad-monkey fucking, more than just spontaneous arousal: a failure to grasp that is a failure to understand what a long-term relationship is, what love and support means. That's a failure to achieve the companionate form of relationship or marriage, which many people regard as morally preferential to other kinds of romantic or sexual relationships. Even if you don't--if you think open relationships, companionate monogamy, wild promiscuity are all fine if consenting adults are fine with them, it's morally wrong to willingly enter into a companionate form and not live up to its basic premises. It's a failure of contract, if nothing else.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:20 AM
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I was thinking how much cooler that post would have been if Alameida had written it. Alameida, author of the Quixote.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:22 AM
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By the way, I'm surprised dsquared hasn't pointed out that the correct Briticism in this case is not, "suck it up," but "pull your socks up." Does that trip your feyometer, SCMT?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:24 AM
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I was thinking more along the lines of "stiff ... upper lip".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:25 AM
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That's an interesting ellipsis.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:28 AM
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Does anyone think that a 25-year old man who feels sexual desire for a 5-year old is someone we shouldn't judge? That you should just say, "oh well, we don't control our emotions, the heart (or dick) wants what it wants".

Well, yeah, pretty much. I would say that an adult who wants to have sex with children almost certainly has other psychological issues, but it's not something I'm particularly inclined to judge him for, as long as he doesn't act on the desires. (I think I've said this on the blog in the past, so I'm not just talking shit to keep from conceding the point.) I would just note that I'm making a distinction between what we disapprove of and discourage, and whether we judge someone for having a particular desire. I'm all for the former, but not the latter.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:30 AM
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I think that this debate would benefit from being brought into dialogue with Updike's Rabbit, Run, where the protagonist wants to have sex with his wife so badly immediately after delivery that he tries to get her drunk and do her up the ass. Perhaps if Rabbit had been allowed into the delivery room and suitably "grossed out," that whole incident wouldn't have occurred, he wouldn't have left her alone and drunk with the baby after being sexually rebuffed, and their baby wouldn't have died.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:31 AM
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ogged,

That is a great summary. Absolutely great, and I'm being sincere (for once).

Timothy,

I have to take issue with the 'sometimes it is okay to morally judge someone else's feelings.' I still hold that the feelings themselves are private and not worthy of judgement. Actions are very much worthy of judgement. I hope you can agree that the person who feels, for example, murderous rage yet does nothing except calms down should not be condemned. That way lies thought control.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:33 AM
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I'm pretty sure that I judged almost all Angstrom's desires and a good many of his behaviors as revealing certain defects of character.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:33 AM
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It has been put to me that Rabbit isn't actually doing her up the ass but rubbing his cock against her ass for stimulation purposes. I haven't reread the text to see if this reading hodls up. Anyway, what slol said.

Tripp, I disagree about judging feelings. The thing is that feelings don't stay private (and if they did, no one else would be in a position to judge them)--the person who (in the old example) is annoyed about having to attend the funeral instead of watching the football game is going to send out the wrong vibes. And given the way he feels, he's not likely to be able to control the vibes he sends out; but I don't want to say, "Well, he can't help it, it's just his feelings which are morally unjudgeable."


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:41 AM
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Matt,

Yes, because she won't let him get any further.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:56 AM
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I'm not sure the specific physical activity really matters, so much as it matters that he's picked it up from sleeping with a prostitute. Right?

To elaborate a little, here: I'm pretty sure we're meant to find Rabbit inherently defective, even repulsive; and yet to acknowledge that he is nevertheless one of the Lord's elect. That is the (original) Protestant way, on which Updike has always had quite a lot to say.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:04 AM
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Lacking telepathy, I cannot of course judge someone's feelings merely when they actually have those feelings. Which is true for everyone, including the state: none of us can judge a feeling which is unexpressed or uncommunicated. Don't worry about thought control until you have the ability to read thoughts, in this respect. I don't judge feelings, Ogged doesn't judge feelings, nobody does, if they are private, experienced only by the feeler. This is a red herring.

So what we're talking about is necessarily action, of one of two kinds. First, the speech act of communicating feelings. Which is one of the two things which I would suggest all of us would judge morally in some cases, and none of us would judge morally in many other cases, and might judge morally or not in many borderline cases. Go back to the pedophile. If he's got the feelings, never acts on them, never communicates them, they're strictly private, of course I wouldn't judge him. I don't know he has the feelings. If he says, however, "I want to molest little boys", that's an action. Maybe if it's just a private communication to me as a counselor, or I'm his confessor, ok: I might want to try and maintain my cool just so I can be effective in helping this person to restrain his action to that private communication. It won't help professionally if I leap up and say, "You fuckbag!" If he's a close friend, maybe then too I want to keep sympathetic--again, in part out of the hope of keeping that person's actions constrained to confessing to me. But what if the pedophile says to a little boy, "I'd like to fuck you, but it's wrong so I won't." That's still an action, it's a damaging action, and I will morally judge it. Not as bad as physical molestation, but it's wrong to do it.

And of course thus much more the wrong thing to do if the molester actually carries through with physical action. In either case, when I judge the action, that judgement necessarily carries through to the feelings, because the feelings are a causal root of the action. I find it truly bizarre to have a moral ideology which insists on an impermeable firewall between what we do in the world and what we think, as if our actions spontaneously generate and have no source or origin. That's a kind of premodern legal and social idea, a pre-individuality construct: it upends a good deal of the the foundation of modernity.

It's not that we should go ferreting out feelings, or try to make them manifest in the world mildly so we can prevent them from resulting in drastic action. People DO have feelings that they may occasionally voice and not act further on, where the mere expression of the feeling is just expression, and nothing worse. It kind of depends on whom I'm talking to, how I'm talking to, why I'm talking to. It's nothing for me to say, "Wow, I love your breasts" to my wife; it's another kind of action altogether to dial someone randomly at 3am and say the same thing. It's one thing to feel full of rage and do nothing, another thing to say, "I'd like to KILL YOU" and do nothing more, and another thing still to actually kill someone while feeling rage. But the middle thing is not, in many cases, a morally neutral or contentless act.

Bringing this back to male sexual desire and childbirth, Ogged's right in saying that the person almost all of us think is an asshole is the guy who wrote the article, because he is arguing that there is a class of social problem that requires a social response, and that among the general responses he advocates is that women be preemptively aware of the dangers of witnessing childbirth to male sexual desire. Ok. This is a bad ACT, this argument, we seem to agree. (Even if it is a result of the psychologist's empathetic feelings for his patients, yes?) How about the men? Well, if they just can't get it up, don't say anything about it, are just feeling that privately, miserably, I don't know that I'll calll them out as "big pussies", but I also think that the connection between action and feeling for them is a bit troubled, because the feeling of desire and the action of sex do have some volitional or strategic connection. (E.g., you can have the act of sex under many variant conditions of the feeling or non-feeling of desire.) If they say to their wives, "I just don't want to fuck you anymore after seeing a baby come out of there", then that's ALSO an action. It's not just a feeling. And yes, I'll morally judge it.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:05 AM
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In either case, when I judge the action, that judgement necessarily carries through to the feelings, because the feelings are a causal root of the action.

Yeah, I think this is a big fat part of our failure to communicate here. The article partakes of a culture of therapy, in which it is considered always most healthy to articulate and deal with your feelings on as explicit a plane as possible. The therapy culture demands that you admit what you feel in exchange for a pledge not to judge your feelings.

Whereas to some degree or other, many of us from other cultures believe it's a normal state of affairs to sit on a heap of impermissible feelings, assuming that everyone else does the same, that in effect repression is the way to live a healthy life. I will not only not throw myself into traffic, I will not mention that I want to throw myself into traffic. I don't want to cause a fuss.

This is called being British. Or Protestant. Or probably any number of other cultural configurations that have survived pretty well, thanks, throughout world history. But they are all at war with the modern culture of therapy, in which we are not only asked, but required, to make our inmost feelings explicit in exchange for having them go unjudged.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:18 AM
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Timothy is right about this one. Even the patient in the original article understood this and, in effect, asked permission to say what they did to the psycologist.



Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:18 AM
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Slolernr is right too. There is nothing wrong with repression.

Freud uses elaborate plumbing-based metaphors to explain where repressed desires go, but the brain isn't plumbing.


Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:25 AM
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So what we're talking about is necessarily action, of one of two kinds.

TB, I disagree with this. Not all effects resulting from feelings are actions--they're not all choices we make. The guy who's fidgeting at the funeral may not be making a wrong action, at least it's not obvious that fidgeting is an action. And if someone has racist feelings that he usually suppresses, but his willy melts when he learns that his partner has some African-American ancestry (I'm not saying this is equivalent to any case we're discussing), that's not an action either. But it's morally suboptimal, and I wouldn't refrain from moral judgments.

Agreed with the rest of your post, but I want to take a harder line on feelings.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:27 AM
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Part of the problem is that we're necessarily abstracting away all the important but unacknowledged factors that go into any judgment we make about someone's speech act. If you tell your wife you don't want to sleep with her because of what you saw, you might be a dick. But if you come back two days later and say, "That's silly, and I'm sorry about that," we think you less a dick and might even allow that you have an unusually frank marriage that seems to work for the both of you. We might even wonder if your initial comment was the yield of an openness of communication that generally makes your marriage stronger and better than most of the other marriages around you.

Or we might just take a shot at your wife, now that she's feel vulnerable.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:27 AM
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when I judge the action, that judgement necessarily carries through to the feelings

I'm not understanding the "necessarily" there. In some cases, yes, but in most cases, I think I'd say no. If you call a random woman at 3am to tell her you like her breasts, I don't condemn the fact that you like her breasts, but that you fail to understand the many ways in which making that call is inappropriate and harmful. Similarly, if someone says to a shrink, "I want to have sex with little boys," that act, absent carrying through with the molestation, is laudable, and the person, as far as I'm concerned, is a good person.

But surely you're right that making our emotions and desires known is an action, and, as an action, subject to condemnation. To take the delivery room example, I'd happily agree that if, instead of telling their shrink, the men had told their wives about the diminution of their sexual desire, that would have been insensitive and reprehensible. But that, again, isn't about condemning their feelings, but their expression.

And it does matter what we say about feelings as such, because people still judge themselves, and often do themselves a lot of damage. I just don't see why we can't make a distinction between "having these feelings is a sign that there might be something amiss, and you should try to figure things out and get right in the head" and "you're a bad person for having these feelings." It seems to me exactly the same as, "having that wart is a sign that there's an infection on your body, and you should have a doctor look at it" and "you're a bad person for having a wart."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:34 AM
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Timothy,

Lacking telepathy, I cannot of course judge someone's feelings merely when they actually have those feelings.

You are wrong about this and in the specific case where it matters most. Do you see what you are missing? It seems to be a huge blindspot.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:40 AM
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I thought by now you would have fixed the typo in the first two words of the post, ogged. Which, I know, will in a minute never have been there.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:40 AM
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"I thought by now who would have fixed the typo"?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:42 AM
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There is nothing wrong with repression.

Freud was full of crap but so is this statement. My God. Do you condone homophobia, for example?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:43 AM
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Thanks, slol.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:45 AM
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19:

Slolerner,

Besides some vague platitudes about a "culture of therapy" do you actually know anything about therapy - what it does and how it works? Or did you learn everything from Hollywood movie cliches?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:54 AM
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by the way, just to clear up one matter; I would not be able to beat Jude Law in the confines of a kickboxing ring, as discussed. However, in a dark alley or pub car park, I think I might have more of a chance, not least because I would not be trying to guard my looks.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:03 PM
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Besides some vague platitudes about a "culture of therapy" do you actually know anything about therapy - what it does and how it works?

Tripp, I'm not condemning the culture, merely describing it. Yes, I speak from personal experience of therapy. I regard it as a legitimate existing culture -- possessing norms, a comfortable home to its natives, perhaps even hospitable to visitors. It works the way all cultures work -- by affording its inhabitants a set of rules for dealing with their wants and needs and how to interact with the natural and social environment.

I also regard therapy culture as mutually incompatible with certain other cultures. Which it is intended to be; otherwise it wouldn't work. And, to fire off another platitude which is completely heartfelt, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Which is why I used the phrase "failure to communicate." We're talking about two mutually incompatible systems of naming and judging desires.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:05 PM
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I'm finding it hard to believe that this article has occasioned this much commentary.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:06 PM
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RE 28

In studying the virulence and tenacity of anti-gay feelings, psychologists are finding clues to the deeper sources of homophobia. The new findings confirm the theory that some men use hostility and violence to homosexuals to reassure themselves about their own sexuality. But the greatest portion of anti-homosexual bias, psychologists now say, arises from a combination of fear and self-righteousness in which homosexuals are perceived as contemptible threats to the moral universe.

People who hate gay people aren't generally secretly gay. They just tend to have contemptable religion- based moral beliefs.


Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:18 PM
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Joe O:

There is nothing wrong with repression.

Do you now want to change this to "There can be problems with repression in some cases of homophobia." Or do you want to stick to your absolute? If you do I'll bring up the cases of some teen suicides.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:25 PM
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apostropher,

I'm finding it hard to believe that this article has occasioned this much commentary.

Are you kidding? This has male/female, ownership of feelings and moral condemnation. Pretty much everything polite people never talk about.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:27 PM
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Pretty much everything polite people never talk about.

Except money. Or anyway, we haven't yet unearthed that aspect of the unmentionables implied here.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:29 PM
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slolernr,

Ummm, okay, lets say that people in therapy have joined some sort of culture, or sub-culture. So what? What is the point in making that identification?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:29 PM
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38: I was trying to establish a neutral way of labeling two different and incommensurable systems for putting a social value on the expression of feelings. I lit on the word "cultures."

Clearly, I failed inasmuch as you read this as a judgmental, rather than a neutral, way of labeling these two systems.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:37 PM
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You should repress inappropriate thoughts and feelings. Being gay isn't inappropriate, but it won't automatically destroy you if you are gay and pretend that you are not for a few years.

High school is a bitch. It is no time for telling people your true thoughts and feelings. Just get through it and pick a gay friendly college.


Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 12:42 PM
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Something to consider here is that our attitude toward these dudes is probably going to impact actual feelings and behaviors among a wider range of people. I'd be willing to stipulate that some fathers are just so freaked out by witnessing childbirth that they can no longer feel desire for their wives and that no amount of disapproval or name-calling will shake them from that. As far as that goes, it does seem a bit odd and pointless to condemn them.

But there have to be many, many, many more men who will wind up vaguely or transiently grossed out by the childbirth experience (it sounds, you know, kind of gross) as part of a whole mix of complicated feelings at a major life-transition sort of moment. If our response to men in the first category leads men in the second category to decide that those feelings are something they ought to indulge, expect others to indulge, etc. then there are going to be consequences to that. Conversely, if our response to men in the first category leads men in the second category to decide that those feelings are basically irational, churlish, and un-conducive to generating a happy family life for themselves, their wives, and their newborn kid, there are going to be different -- better -- consequences.

[and, yes, this argument bears certain formal similarity to Eugene Volokh's "gay conversion" posts and I'm not happy about that at all]


Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 1:57 PM
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6b: I think this is where a public culture saying 'suck it up, it's just some gross childbirth' can be very useful; perhaps less so on the forty-somethings, but people are flexible in other things (like learning to eat different foods at late ages -- my parents). A private culture may be a different matter; to take a cheap example, we generally believe in a modicum of tact and prudence when in an office environment, but it's perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that anger at home or in therapy.

7: This is tricky. I'm inclined to say yes, moral worth or blame does accrue legitimately to feelings, even if it results in no action. The blameworthiness may not, apply, however to the individual. For example, suppose I have a suicidal desire. I struggle with this desire, but am firmly committed to not acting upon it. I would still say that the desire is bad; that it would be better, all things considered, if I did not have this desire, and that I should seek treatment or whatever.

I don't think I'm inclined to say, well, as long as I don't act on it, my feeling, while distasteful, is my feeling and should be accepted and publicly applauded; something is wrong with feeling suicidal, and so I should work to change that.

Therapy, to borrow ac's term, is a different culture; for it to work, feelings have to be accepted. Even so, I'm not sure a therapist would want suicidal feelings to be accepted, so much as freely discussed and understood, so that then they can be changed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:04 PM
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If our response to men in the first category leads men in the second category to decide that those feelings are something they ought to indulge, expect others to indulge, etc. then there are going to be consequences to that.

I think that's correct. The vast majority of guys do not develop post-traumatic stress disorder due to watching their wife give birth; if it's normalized, then it becomes a convenient excuse for everyone else.

(It does bear similarities, but not overwhelming ones, I think.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:11 PM
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Man, I should have kept up with this thread a little more closely -- I was hoping to a total Updike-based thread hijacking, but I didn't have the endurance to see it through. The window has probably closed now, on my dick.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:26 PM
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hoping FOR!


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:28 PM
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Regarding 19 and the culture of therapy, I think it's true that in therapy the *person* should be unconditionally accepted by the therapist, but it's not at all true that in therapy (at least good therapy) that *feelings* are exempt from judgment or necessarily validated. Therapy is all about trying to educate people out of having feelings (which lead to actions) that are harmful to the self or others. I haven't been in that much therapy, but my therapists have certainly judged my feelings as irrational or counter-productive; they've criticized my behavior; exposed my hypocrisies, etc. Therapy that just bathes the patient in unconditional acceptance and doesn't try to challenge him or her is not uncommon, but it's bad therapy.

This is relevant to the article, in that the shrink was writing from the perspective of a bad therapist. He basically identified with the men and validated their feelings, rather than trying to discern their feeling's origins, encouraging them to pull their socks up, and helping them find strategies for doing so.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:37 PM
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But Tia and Cala, I (and Tripp, I think) aren't talking about unconditional acceptance, but absence of moral condemnation. That was the point of the "wart" analogy upthread. You can say that things are unhealthy and that we should get rid of them without passing moral judgement.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:40 PM
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If our response to men in the first category leads men in the second category to decide that those feelings are something they ought to indulge, expect others to indulge, etc. then there are going to be consequences to that.

What is this, the domino theory of male wimpiness?

On the other hand, we can either ignore the men in the first category or better yet tell them to stuff it. There won't be any consequences from that, eh? That's just good old Protestantism.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:44 PM
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Are Tripp and I the only ones in this thread who grew up in the Midwest?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:46 PM
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Tia,

We were talking about moral judgement, not therapeutic judgment. Calling feelings evil or bad or a person a wimp or an effing baby because of a certain feeling is a moral judgement.

And how do you know what the shrink did with the men?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:54 PM
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But I think in this case, ogged, the absence of moral condemnation is pretty close to unconditional acceptance. I'd have to think this through more, but while not condemning a feeling isn't the same as praising it, not condemning it seems pretty close to accepting it, especially given the cultural context.

A domino theory is not quite a fair characterization, but it's close enough. We've seen it with other things; lots of talk about accepting depression and now close to 90% of kids on my campus are seeking therapy over the four years they're here. Many walk in and demand Prozac.

Now, in the case of depression, the benefits of reducing the social pressure to suppress negative emotions far outweigh the negatives of any kid who feels a bit stressed demanding medication and getting it.

I'm not sure this is the case with the birth trauma; there's a woman giving birth here, and I think 'suck it up' is a far better message here rather than it becoming acceptable to skip out on the birth because you might be a bit squeamish (and hey, it's a recognized syndrome! i might not be able to get it up!)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 2:59 PM
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ogged,

I know, I know. For years and years I heard women complain that men never open up and share their feelings. Seriously. This was a complaint.

Now some guys open up and share their feelings and they are told to shut up you pussie.

I'm starting to think what the women meant was men should open up and tell the women what they want to hear.

This is the way I feel:

Shrink: Tell me, are you bothered by 'indecent' thoughts?

Me: To tell the truth I rather like them.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:00 PM
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Ogged,

I wasn't really responding to you, but to 19 and what I saw as its misconstrual of the aims of therapy, and then tying it in back into the article.

I probably agree that a feeling, insofar as it can be teased out from behavior, doesn't in itself merit moral condemnation of the person, if the person is responding appropriately to his feelings. However, I think certain kinds of feelings tend to be strongly correlated with personality types and behaviors, and maybe what got people to "asshole" from the NYT article was an inference from experience with men who would like to remove themselves from the biological realities of their lover's bodies.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:03 PM
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Are Tripp and I the only ones in this thread who grew up in the Midwest?

No.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:06 PM
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Cala,

You want to know what a better message is? A better message is what they said to me 18 years ago:

"Husband, you are welcome in the birthing room but if you think you might faint you should talk that over with us. There are some things you can do and we can help. If you really don't think you can make it you should talk that over with your wife."

Personally I think the rest of the world should bugger off. Who died and left you in change of male behavior? So now you get to decide for all men what they can and cannot express?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:06 PM
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53 to 47

to 50: Tripp, I meant that *in the article* he is taking on the persona of "bad therapist." I don't know what he did in therapy.

As to the first portion of your comment, I'm not sure what it is in mine you're responding to. I was trying to argue with 19.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:07 PM
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I'm almost sure Tripp isn't telling Cala personally to bugger off.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:07 PM
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Tia, would 19 fly for you if I had said

a pledge not to judge you for having your feelings

?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:09 PM
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to 58

yes


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:14 PM
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59: Let the record be so amended, then. I don't think it substantially changes the point I was trying to make.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:17 PM
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I think I have the deed entitling to me to control expression of feelings FOR THE WHOLE WORLD OF MEN around here somewhere. I may have left it in my French textbook, though.

Jesus.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:27 PM
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re 52

I don't think women complain about that anymore.


Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 3:52 PM
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Dear Lord. I made this point over at the other thread but I think it needs to be made here too:

Guys, this isn't primarily about the *men*. Some things aren't.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 4:17 PM
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Not sure which number in the summary you're disputing, dd, and therefore, I can't hear you.


lalalalala


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 4:18 PM
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I just had an absurd mental image of ogged doing a flip turn with his fingers in his ears, 'lalala' coming out in underwater speech bubbles.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 4:24 PM
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Repression's the wrong word for it, and I don't want to blanket endorse this, but I think one of the *nice* things about American masculinity in the last half of the 20th Century (and hopefully in the 21st) is that idea of "taking it like a man" (all sorts of permutations permitted and inevitable). E.g., of a kind of male stoicism, toughness in the face of circumstance, ability to strategically repress feelings, doing one's duty, etc. There's a package of ideas, which in the wrong hands and the wrong circumstances are really bad shit and cause a heap of trouble, but in the right hands, lead to Robert Duvall and Clint Eastwood in certain films of theirs. Toughness plus tenderness, love plus iron. I don't have any problem saying, "That's what I think most men should aspire to, in their own way." And I think loving someone for years, making a baby with them, and then saying, "My dick doesn't get hard since I saw that head come out of there" makes you less of a man. And I think you can control or manipulate that response, and if you love that woman and you made a baby with her, then get the fuck out there and GET HARD, soldier. If you have that feeling in the first place.

But I also think that the idea that we are helpless before our feelings, and that our feelings come from some mysterious place that we have no control over, and the best we can hope for is not to do the bad things that we feel, is a problematic one. And that being a limp dicked abstainer from sex post childbirth, even if the reasons are unspoken, is a form of action or doing in a long-term relationship that was previously sexually active, if even the feeling goes otherwise uncommunicated.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 5:31 PM
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the idea that we are helpless before our feelings, and that our feelings come from some mysterious place that we have no control over

I don't think I've said that, and wouldn't endorse it. Like I said with the warts, trying to work on and change and get rid of certain feelings and emotions can be good and healthy; I'm just not keen to pass moral judgement on people for their feelings, because the kind of work required to change them isn't done in an afternoon, and we really don't know where people are in this respect, or the direction in which they're headed (well, sometimes, when we know someone very well, we have a better sense of these, and then maybe we can feel more comfortable passing judgement).

I'm really not sure what I think about your proposed ideal of manhood. It's something we all struggle with, maybe more at Unfogged than elsewhere. Part of me is very sympathetic to it, part of me thinks "more of a man" is the same thing as "less fully human." It may well be that extreme sensitivity and receptivity to one's own feelings and environment is a luxury, and one which is properly set aside in the face of other commitments, whether those commitments are explicit, as in marriage or parenthood, or even less so, as in being a coworker or neighbor or friend.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 5:47 PM
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It's something we all struggle with, maybe more at Unfogged than elsewhere. Part of me is very sympathetic to it, part of me thinks "more of a man" is the same thing as "less fully human." It may well be that extreme sensitivity and receptivity to one's own feelings and environment is a luxury, and one which is properly set aside in the face of other commitments, whether those commitments are explicit, as in marriage or parenthood, or even less so, as in being a coworker or neighbor or friend.

I'm about to leave for the night (yay!) so I can't get into this in any depth, but (while I recognize this isn't obvious, and it may not be even true), are emotional sensitivity and self-knowledge necessarily incompatible with the sort of manly stoicism Tim is talking about (and which I value highly)?

Think about one of the issues that's repeatedly come up in this conversation -- whether this is really about childbirth, or whether the men involved have something else going on. The kind of emotional self-knowledge you value (which I also value) would have been helpful to a man with concerns about childbirth, who was nonetheless trying to suck it up and abide by his commitments.

I hope, and also think, that being emotionally tough in the sense that dsquared wouldn't feel the need to call you a big girl's blouse, isn't incompatible with being in touch with, and able to express, your emotions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 5:58 PM
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I think I'm even more suspicious than ogged of "take it like a man" nostrums. I suspect I think of people as being much more mechanical than TimB does. "Taking it" imposes costs, and means that you won't have the energy for other projects, which you will then give short shrift.

I look back at times when there were more men "taking it like a man" and believe there was substantially more really, really, bad private family acts (e.g., wife beating), and I wonder if the two are connected. I look at people my parents age and note that many of the male parents I knew hewed to the "take it like a man" philosophy, and their rigidity made them slightly hysterical in the face of kids they could not control appropriately. It's all well and good in an Eastwood film for Clint to impart wisdom, the kid to fail to heed it, fail, and learn. In real life, the kid fails, promises to heed it, and doesn't. And doesn't again and again. And sooner or later, Clint becomes Dirty Harry.

Thinking about it, in many of the families that I knew growing up, the wives and mothers really were the glue. More than a few put up with a type of casual disrespect I now find shocking, and yet managed to do the important things nonetheless. To almost all, even those I really don't like, I'd attribute strength. I'd be perfectly happy with myself and any prospective sons if we all learned to "take it like a woman."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 6:32 PM
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I'd like to address this query:

Is there any such thing as a British top?

But fear I'd be lowering the tone.


Posted by: ac | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 6:40 PM
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I think there's a mode of masculinity that is in fact beautifully romantic and sentimental that involves stoicisim, "holding it in", an economy of emotions, a notion of controlling one's feelings for the good of yourself and the world around you, which I would not deny has had its destructive effects but I would also say is beautiful and desirable, as lyrical and sought-after as a great sunset, a good drink or perfect summer day; that is a sensual experience of the social and personal world. Of course all men are just people most of the time: weak as people are weak, strong as people are strong. But there's a kind of manhood that I think we can flit in and out of that I am perfectly content with romantically celebrating, and part of what it involves is a holding in, an economical approach to emotion, a belief in being the person who holds it together when things fall apart, and yeah, knowing when love is more important than your dick. I don't pretend that all men or most men or me can do it all or most of the time, but it's a pretty decent personal target to shoot for.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 6:54 PM
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And it should go without saying that there's a golden mean between repressing all feelings and giving voice to every feeling; I prefer to think of it not as manfulness, but as an emotional prudence.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 7:04 PM
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Now I'm really confused by what you're saying. What, for example, is the real world connection between an approach to life that exhibits an economy of emotions and being the person who holds it together when things fall apart? In my experience, zilch. Sometimes the people you'd think will hold it together hold it together, sometimes people you never would have suspected do it. (And, as Tim points out, often it's the women doing it.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 7:10 PM
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Romanticism means never having to say you're sorry.

Meaning, a romantic conception of personhood is capacious enough to contain contradictions.

But holding it together in this sense is about holding the self together, not holding the "it" of family and community together.

But I'm pretty serious about the love is more important than your dick part of it.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 7:30 PM
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I have no doubt that you think love is more important the my dick.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 7:32 PM
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Speaking of romanticism, I can't help thinking, in a romanticized world-we-have-lost sort of way that I'm almost embarrassed to admit to, of the "female world of love and ritual" (as historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg put it) that we seem to have, well, lost.

When I gave birth (natural childbirth, btw, which, contra a comment in an earlier thread, is not at all "stupid"), my husband was my main source of emotional support. He was not my "coach": I was, and remain, vehemently opposed to the notion that someoneo who has never known a menstrual cramp could possibly serve as a childbirth "coach." But he was my emotional support, and it was very important to me to have him there. Nevertheless, both before and after the birth (not during, because there's neither time nor space to indulge in idle speculation when you're in the process of giving birth) I did have moments of (now culturally heretical/suspect) doubts, where I wondered, Is this the best way to do this thing? Might it not be preferable to be surrounded by females (again, in that romanticized world-we-have-lost female-world-of-love-and-ritual sort of way) well-versed in the experience of childbirth, who could lend support from the perspective of those who have actually given birth?

I dunno. Don't know where I'm going with this. But it seems that everything has shrunk down to the

"couple," or, somewhat ickily, to the "loving couple." And given that that's where we're at, then dammit yes, the male of that couple had damn well better come up with it. But it seems to me that this focus on coupledom represents, from the perspective of the woman giving birth, a kind of impoverishment or attentuation of possible networks of support. And I'm surprised, given all the commentary that that one NYC piece has spawned (and yes, that shrink is a wanker, though I'm somewhat less inclined to dismiss his patients as such), that almost nobody has raised this changing social *context* of childbirth as a relevant area of discussion/concern.


Posted by: mcm | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 8:23 PM
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I too have a romantic attachment to the kind of ideal of masculinity that Timothy Burke describes (though I rather doubt that I embody it). I think that the concerns people have about it have to do with the ease with which an emphasis on manly stoicism can, in practice, morph into a worldview that extols "manly" emotions e.g., anger over "womanly" ones e.g., sadness, anxiety, etc. with predictably disastrous results. I am, as a general rule, all for repression, though.

One thing that is interesting about this whole debate is the many different conceptions of masculinity that it rubs up against. There's the conception that Burke and I favor that romanticizes "sucking it up" as a kind of quiet heroism. Then there's the conception currently being promoted by conservatives such as Richard Lowry, according to which being a man requires near total segregation from the world of women, a stance which rules out not only being in the delivery room, but also contributing in any meaningful way to childcare. (This is the conception of masculinity behind that weird phase pre-adolescent boys go through where trying to do things like kiss girls seems oddly effeminate.) And then there is the kind of leftist anti-feminism that I associate with someone like Norman Mailer, according to which being a man requires a kind of thorough-going commitment to hedonism, one equally threatened by social conservatism and feminist attempts to moralize sexual desire.

I don't think anyone in this debate took the Lowry position, certainly not in this forum. I do think, though, that at one point people were expressing views similar to the Mailer position. My guess is that that's what some of us were reacting to.


Posted by: pjs | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 8:44 PM
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I feel like we didn't talk enough about the whole Angelina Jolie/Scarlett Johansson thing.


Posted by: belle waring | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 9:36 PM
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You have my permission to expound in great detail.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 9:38 PM
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I don't know if there are any two English words that fill me with more dread than "romantic" and "sentimental". Those people I know who feel a need to defend the Old South, for example, are invariably romantic and sentimental in nature. Of all the stupid things I've done in relationships, a good half were occasioned by my florid sense of romance. Of all the emotional commitments that I've kept too long, to the detriment of all involved, most were sustained by my fidelity to sentiment. (See, also Bertie Wooster on Madeline Bassett.)

I am, on the other hand, a pretty big fan of "suck it up," in most instances. But I'm a fan because it's usually an efficient solution, and occasionally the only one. (This might relate to ogged's query about self-knowledge or whatever as a luxury.) Nor does it strike me as a particularly masculine solution. A lot of the women I referenced above were really good at setting aside their sentiments and doing what needed to be done at the time.

To the extent a few friends telling you to "suck it up" actually works, it's probably the right thing to do. But for real problems (and only the people involved know the scope of the problem), it's often horrible, horrible advice. I can think of any number of people who've made hashes of their everything around them by ignoring deep problems by simply sucking it up on a daily basis. Sooner or later, they can't suck it up by themselves anymore, so (for example) they "stiffen their resolve" with a drink or two, and then two or three drinks, and so forth. Ignoring your problem, rather than sorting it, would not be my advice. (This isn't to say that many, if not most, of us confuse sorting out a problem with endlessly picking at something trivial as a form of mental masterbation.)

None of this much bears on the childbirth thing - I think we all rightly assume that seeing childbirth is a pretty small trauma, and you really should be able to get over it.

Finally, while love may be more important than one's dick in the general case, I think the metrics get more complicated when dealing with Wofson's infinitely elastic penis.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 9:53 PM
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When I think of Robert Duvall exemplifying old-fashioned American masculinity, I think of The Great Santini.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:39 PM
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Would it be possible to talk enough about the Jolie/ Johansson coupling?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:52 PM
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And I: The Prophet.

Why has Mr. Duvall never been cast alongside Christopher Walken in a buddy type movie? The possibilities are endless.

I think I will write that movie now.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 10:53 PM
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In said movie, Christopher Walken will observe his wife giving birth, afterwards losing his desire to make love to his wife. Robert Duvall will tell Christopher Walken "suck it up." Christopher Walken will maintain that his desires are neither moral nor immoral. Then they will start a blog.

Then they will insert chocolate manhole covers; cue the monkeys, in their cages.

A glowing monkey steams and stamps

And then the lighting of the lamps.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:17 PM
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Let us go then, you and me

to the section that begins with C;

your beloved etherized upon the table.

We shall stay in certain half-deserted rooms:

antiseptic perfumes

and sexless nights your ding-dong shall fortell:

Blogs that follow in a tedious argument

that never shall relent

To lead you to an overwhelming duty ...

Oh do not ask "why should he"

Now wake up and get a woody.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:27 PM
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come now, someone praise me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 08-31-05 11:32 PM
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If the men in the article had admitted their hang-up to one who'd never report it to the world, then this debate would not have generated so many comments, but since no Times article has ever been dissected at such length, if what I read is true, they've condemned themselves to infamy.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 1:14 AM
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Certainly, eb. It's like when I killed that hobo and buried him an umarked grave - no one condemned me simply because no one ever found out.

text - nicely done. I especially liked "antiseptic perfumes."


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 7:50 AM
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Nicely done, T. Ext Eliot. How'd your deposition go?

And I think pjs has a hold of something important in 77. Not here so much, but at Belle's blog, there have been comments bitching about how first feminists want men to get in touch with their feelings, now we want men to repress them - there's no way to win.

There's a current American conception of masculinity that holds (to the extent that I can articulate it clearly) that the classically masculine virtues -- bravery, stoicism -- are inextricably linked with a repression of all emotion. It also requires an absolute distancing from anything feminine, with emotional knowledge or expression being seen as feminine. (I'm sure I'm caricaturing this to some extent, and I'm certainly not saying that anyone here buys into this, or any recognizable version of it, unquestioningly.)

If you look historically or cross-culturally, this is not an inevitable connection, it's a 20th/21st century American connection. Civil War soldiers wrote letters to other men that expressed affection in terms that would sound out of place coming from anyone but a teenage girl to us today; Nelson died asking his first mate to kiss him. Today in Samoa, a culture with strong gender separation and rigid gender roles, including lots of violence and all sorts of bravery and stoicism (Margaret Mead? Full of shit.) straight men, including teenage boys, are physically affectionate with each other and openly express emotional attachments to each other, and aren't particularly worried by femininity as contaminating, in the way American teenagers are. (When I say "femininity as contaminating", the kind of thing I'm thinking about is: how cold do you think an American teenage boy would have to get before he borrowed a fluffy pink sweater to wear in public, if that was all that was available. Pretty cold, right?)

I'm not demanding a total re-evaluation of modern American masculinity, just saying that its connection between emotional strength and emotional repression is modern and contingent. Other times and other cultures have allowed men to be both emotional and strong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 7:59 AM
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I think of "being a man" in the Burkian sense not as an economy of demonstrated emotions, but as courage to face what you need to. But it seems to me that if men are stepping up to the plate and fulfilling their obligations, concerns that they do it "stoically" or "with economy" are just aesthetic. Of course, sometimes a certain stoicism becomes part of the obligation if you need to make sure you don't become the center of attention.

It's all well and good to ponder the virtues of repression as a corrective to a pendulum we feel has perhaps swung too far in the other direction, but it's also important to remember the culture we were originally correcting, as SCMT points out.

A female friend of mine has been taking like a man for a long time now, and a lot of people who like her find being in her presence mildly intolerable, because it's so obvious there's so much she's repressing, but doing it so poorly that when with her you never stop feeling the presence of grief and rage; they're just expressed as obsessive self-monitoring.

I guess if you flit in and out of it when appropriate, that's okay, but then that set of behaviors isn't a fixed ideal of manhood, it's just a temporal response to circumstances, just like sobbing hysterically would be.

Finally, why, if stoicism and fulfillment of obligations are virtues, why are they specifically manly? I mean, other than a historical association? I understand using "taking it like a man" as a figure of speech, since it draws on a cultural heritage we all understand, but as rigid as this may sound, I don't know how asking men literally, rather than figuratively, to fulfill the obligations of manhood, rather than personhood, doesn't wind up oppressive. I guess I'm not a feminist of difference.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 8:15 AM
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By characterizing bravery and stoicism as 'classically masculine' I meant to reference the historical connection only.

I guess I'm not a feminist of difference.

Me neither.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 8:28 AM
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Re: 66

Timothy,

But I also think that the idea that we are helpless before our feelings,

Is that what you think I've been saying? I hope not. We all need to 'deal' with our feelings, and I greatly support Cala's idea of "emotional prudence."

I still argue that repression is not the best way to 'deal' with feelings. We are not helpless before our feelings, but many times the best way to 'deal' with a negative feeling is to feel it.

For example when Bush's parents went golfing the day after their seven year old daughter died that seems very stoic and protestant to me but not very admirable. What did this teach their young son "W?"


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 8:38 AM
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Yeah, LB, I was composing my comment while you were posting yours. After I read yours, I thought how well taken your point about how culture-bound the notion of masculinity as inexpressive was.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 8:39 AM
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why are they specifically manly They aren't.

Civil War soldiers wrote letters to other men that expressed affection in terms that would sound out of place coming from anyone but a teenage girl to us today

See, this also creeps me out. My recollection is that there was, in the early 20th century at least, a general understanding that the world was a jungle, and that home was man's only respite. A man's wife was the only person with whom he could be soft; the jungle demanded a clear show of masculity to everyone else. This strikes me as entirely consistent with my adolescent conception of the world, and every bit as happy. As the only outlet for male "softness", women get too valuable. Lots of jealousy, lots of codes defining proper behavior and ensuring that the home is properly maintained.

If I were a woman, and I were forced to choose between my adolescent self and someone who wept gently into his cornflakes every morning over the horror of newly mown grass, I'd shoot myself. If I survived, I choose the latter.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 8:47 AM
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If I survived, I choose the latter.

Well, me too, but the point is that there's no reason anyone should have to. It's absolutely possible to be neither emotionally shut-down nor wimpy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 8:50 AM
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A lot of this depends on how we conceive emotional openness, and non-wimpiness. I suspect that if you're in the Special Forces, tasked with covert assassinations, your buddies aren't going to be very keen to hear you talk about the moral weight of your mission. And, in fact, it wouldn't be very helpful to be too much in touch with those feelings, while you're trying to accomplish the mission. One reason it seems possible to us to be both open and tough is that we don't have to be very tough very often, because we live unbelievably pampered lives, historically speaking.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 9:11 AM
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One reason it seems possible to us to be both open and tough is that we don't have to be very tough very often, because we live unbelievably pampered lives, historically speaking.

I resoundingly disagree. In much, much tougher times (as referenced above: Civil War; Napoleonic War; hell, Homeric Greece) men were much more emotionally open. There really isn't a necessary connection between emotional expression and 'softness'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 9:17 AM
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I think the term repression is part of the problem here. For some people it means a kind of emotional amnesia, that the person who is repressing is denying themselves knowledge of or understanding of their own emotions, that they are suppressing feelings even within their own consciousness.

In other contexts, it seems to me that it's about what you communicate to others around you about what you're feeling.

I'm perfectly content with saying that the first sense of repression is a very bad thing and inasmuch as it has a contingent, historical association with ideals of manhood in contemporary American life, it is a good thing that we reject it, leave it behind, and so on. I would completely agree that this is a destructive form of repression that has all sorts of bad personal and social consequences. It seems to me that this was the kind of masculinity that a entire cultural industry sprung up around repudiating from the 1950s onward.

But I do find the second kind of ideal of repression at least aesthetically pleasing: an idea that one controls what is communicated to others about one's feelings. Not that you completely conceal or disguise feelings, but that there is a masculine economy of emotional expression: less is more, revelation is more meaningful and powerful when it's guarded carefully, intimacy is more potent and transformative when it is highly discriminate, and so on. It would be entirely proper to suggest that this might be good (or bad) in a way that's more gender-neutral, that women also aspire (or reject) such an attitude towards emotional expression. It just seems to me that this is an enormously appealing ideal of masculinity, that kind of restraint in how and when one communicates emotion.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 9:18 AM
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Ok, that's very helpful, Tim. I completely agree with you.

LB, I'm thinkin'...


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 9:22 AM
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I would say that this is a gender-neutral ideal (and in fact fairly close to what is currently socially expected as a healthy way for women to behave). If I can try to summarize it, the ideal is that one can understand and have a measure of control over one's emotions and the expression thereof without supressing or ceasing to feel them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 9:23 AM
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It's one thing not to discuss your emotions with all and sundy, but if you never discuss them at all, or write them down, do you even properly understand them?


Posted by: ac | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 10:12 AM
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*sundry


Posted by: ac | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 10:14 AM
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I think that there's a scene in Beau Geste where a French Foreign Legionnaire is encouraged to be stoical about some terrible scene or other with the words "Courage, mon ami. Women go through much worse when they give birth".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 10:24 AM
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re: 99,

I think the two senses of repression are related. Excessive expression can lead to an inability to control your feelings, whereas insufficient opportunity for expression is one of the things that encourages you to attempt not to feel them.

I totally agree, that for men and women, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways and times to express emotion, and a measure of control over how you express them and a cognitive capacity to distance yourself from them and evaluate them are virtues. Gender-neutral ones in fact.


I also see the appeal of preserving expression of some things for an intimate setting to increase the value of intimacy; I'm not someone who finds the notion of strong taboo against public nudity antiquated or oppressive.

I certainly find the aesthetic of a strong, self-possessed man, especially (if he's a romantic partner) one who has certain emotions he only reveals to me. On the other hand, where does an effusive gay man come into the picture? Can men be "motherly"--warmly gesture you into the house, offer you cookies, cluck that you're too thin, etc.? Are they restrained in how they express their emotions? Are they thus aesthetically unappealing? I really worry about how our expressions of our personal aesthetic could work their way into an oppressive norm, especially when they're reinforced by (and reinforcing) societal demands, in the same way that if I hear men talking about how hot they find really thin women, they may be just expressing their aesthetic, but it still is a drop in the bucket of reinforcement of unrealistic body norms.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 10:28 AM
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" (as referenced above: Civil War; Napoleonic War; hell, Homeric Greece)"

The last reference reminds of Achilles in Vietnam particularly the section on Grief at the Death of a Special Comrade

(I keep reading that list with "Hell" as one of the possible settings)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 11:58 AM
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Tia,

I think there is a huge amount of conditioning that boys receive about keeping their emotions hidden. It is very much the cultural norm. Boys who have been beaten finally take pride in the fact that "I didn't cry. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction."

I certainly find the aesthetic of a strong, self-possessed man, especially (if he's a romantic partner) one who has certain emotions he only reveals to me.

You must mean "nice" emotions, right? Sadly I know of some couples where the husband saves his rage for his wife.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 09- 1-05 12:47 PM
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