Sexual Psychology - Part Two: Puberty to Forty
Sexual Psychology - Part Three: Forty to Closing Time
|"The child is father of the man." -- William Wordsworth|
Sexual behavior is only one small aspect of the total human being, yet we often totally lose sight of that fact when we focus on an activity which consumes, at most, 1/2% of an adult's time and characterize and make judgements about the rest of his life based on that ridiculously small fraction. I'm sure that if the readers think about it they will realize that the reason they came to this page was not to understand the specific mechanics and motivations of male sexual behavior, but more the entire context of mating, marriage, and commitment and how male sexuality influences these. It becomes a chicken and egg cycle to determine which is actually cause and which is effect.
The differential conditioning of males and females into the social roles of "man" and "woman" begins at birth. Lest anyone make the mistake of treating the newborn as simply a fragile and precious new life, they are dressed differently. Male babies are, from that moment, touched less, smiled at less, receive less positive attention, and must cry longer or more intensely before being picked up and comforted. This differential treatment of infant males versus infant females is just as characteristic of female adults as it is of adult males.
"As soon as you're born, they make you feel small,by giving you NO time, instead of it all." -- John Lennon, "Working Class Hero"
Part 1 - Working Class Heroes - prologue
The very first thing that male babies learn is that they must work harder and more persistently than females in order to get their basic needs met. This is in fact a kindness to the male babies because these conditions will not change throughout their lifetime and they might as well start getting used to it. Males will consistently be judged more critcally and punished more harshly and, conversely, rewarded less frequently and lavishly than females for the same behaviors. Males learn, before any other skill, to recognize the conditions they must meet in order to survive physically and emotionally, and that the attributes required to meet those conditions usually include aggression, persistence, and performance.
Shame is entirely different from guilt, although most people confuse the two and use them synonomously. Guilt is a relatively benign emotion experienced by healthy human beings as a response to doing something which is against their own value system. It is essentially synonomous with remorse. People feel guilty when they make mistakes. Normal responses to guilt are the making of amends and the change of future behavior to avoid repeating the mistake. The ability to avoid guilt is entirely under the control of the individual through choices of behavior. We feel guilty about what we DO, not about what we ARE.
Shame on the other hand is a deep sense of wrongness; of being "broken" in a way that is unfixable. There is nothing we can DO to reduce the sense of shame except to remodel ourselves to remove the defect. The incredible power of shame to motivate people to do this, as well as how deeply associated with shame normal sexuality is, can be seen in the not uncommon willingness to have one's own genitals cut off in order to conform to some social "ideal". (1) It is difficult to imagine a culture where it would be considered shameful to have a left hand, so at some point in their life everyone would have their left hands chopped off, yet the practice of cutting off some or all of the genitals of one gender or the other is more common in human culture than its absence. Usually it is masked under some polite term such as "circumcision" which allows it to be double-thought into believing that it is a requirement of some faceless entity called "society" instead of the grisly practice that it is.
The next condition that young males are trained that they must fulfill in order to survive both physically and emotionally is competition. Conformity is not enough. It is not sufficient to simply "measure up" against a set of standards and meet the minimum requirements, that will simply allow the young male to avoid the more extreme forms of punishment. In order to secure the rewards of having basic physical and emotional needs met, the young man must learn to successfully compete against other males, and now, at the dawn of the 3rd millenium, against females.
As industrialization forced men from the land which had provided sustenance for them and their families for several hundred thousand years, the needs of a captive work force required to operate and maintain complex machinery changed significantly. Public school systems developed as a mechanism for developing skills which older members of the family could not teach because they generally did not possess. It was necessary to provide both a base set of skills, minimum requirements if you will, commonly called the "3Rs" (Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmatic), as well as a means of measuring the differential abilities of individuals to master the increasingly complex conceptual skills required by the developing technology. Thus individuals were ranked in relation to each other and many, if not most, teachers graded "on the curve". I have even seen teachers throw out exams on which the majority of the class scored above 90% and come back with a more difficult test to spread out the curve a bit. The forced ranking system which requires that for every individual who excels one must fail guarantees that the only person able to be truly unthreatened by the success of another is one so securely at the top that they consider themselves unreachable. Thus success breeds both arrogance and condescention.
|Click Pic for "The Suffragettes versus The Marketplace"|
They hate you if you're clever, and they despise a fool,
'til you're so fuckin' crazy you can't follow their rules."
-- John Lennon, "Working Class Hero"
The insanity of having to send a child to school, confine them to a fixed location, and provide inducements in the form of the shame of "failure" or rewarding those who "excel" with the best grades to motivate them to learn, should be immediately apparent to anyone who has spent any time with a child who has not yet experienced school. From age 3 up a child's favorite word is "why". Even younger children are so enthusiastic about exploring and learning about their world that a house must be "child-proofed" to prevent those explorations from leading them into dangerous situations. However a child's natural curiosity does not always, in fact seldom, lead them to develop exactly those skills required by an urbanized industrialized society. It is a remarkable bit of PR that the process by which a child's natural tendency to want to learn is suppressed while replacing it with conformity/competition training is called "education" from the Latin e ducare "to lead (or draw) out".
|Click Pic for "Ritalin and Abusive Schools"|
The disparity between the real and claimed intent of the process called education is nowhere better illustrated than in that sub-system of the process euphemistically called "physical" education. There is a fascinating bit of irony in the stereotype of the "dumb jock". Have anyone tell you that he was a physical education major and I'll bet that your estimate of his IQ will immediately drop 50 points. We somehow expect that someone who excels physically cannot be more than mediocre mentally, while the stereotype of the nerdy intellectual shows that we believe the converse is also true: the excellent student cannot excel physically. The common shorthand for phys-ed, "gym class", shows the truth of the situation. In a country where obsesity is rampant, heart disease a leading cause of death, and millions are spent on "health" clubs, physical education in our public schools is little more than an audition system for the organized sports program. Those students most in need of learning about maintaining their physical health are the ones least likely to benefit from participation and, in fact, are so often humilitated by their poor performance that they are the ones most likely to seek to be excused from participation. The vast majority of "physical education" classes offered have nothing to do with exercise physiology or nutrition, nor do they include a physical assessment of the needs of the student, but rather are one more opportunity to be ranked against others. They are little besides competition training and opportunities for failure.
The bomb of puberty
We hear the term "biological clock" often these days. Women are commonly understood to have "biological clocks" that govern their ability to bear children and reproduce. As time runs out, people understand the sense of urgency that a woman feels to achieve the lifestyle arrangements necessary to support child bearing and rearing. Despite the many changes regarding marriage and child rearing in our culture in the past 40 years, the 2 parent family is still considered the ideal so, as the sand runs out of a woman's biological hourglass, she is expected to have an increasing interest in getting married to someone who can help her provide the type of environment in which to raise children.
What is less commonly understood is that men have biological clocks as well, which appear to run in the reverse direction from women's. The male's biological clock is like one of those alarm clocks which starts out softly and gets progressively louder. Young men have a clock that begins to go off about the time they sprout pubic hair and within a year or two is is resounding within them like a combination of Big Ben, Westminster Abby, and Notre Dame all combined. When puberty hits, young men are overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to get about the business of reproduction. Whether this is dismissed as "raging hormones" or given the respect it deserves, it will be one of the ruling influences of their lives for the next 30 years or so but it will peak within the next 5 years.
Someone once remarked that Mother Nature had a cruel sense of humor when she made men reach their sexual peak at 17 - 19 while women didn't reach theirs until 40, at which time men are "running on fumes". Aside from the fact that this probably isn't true, it ignores the complex biological and cultural influences which govern sexual expression and reproduction.
By the time a young male hits puberty he is about 2/3 crazy from having to continually perform and compete to gain approval and acceptance, but generally has mastered the art of conformity to expectations in order to gain the love he craves. He has been thoroughly indoctrinated in his expected role of protector and provider, and knows without question that the only permissable source of intimacy and emotional closeness for him is a from a woman with whom he is involved in a sexual relationship for which he will have to pay by protecting and providing. He has adjusted to some degree to the idea that all past actions and accomplishments expire at midnight, so the relevant question is not "what have you done?" but "what have you done for me today?" He has learned that his "sexuality" (whatever that is? All he knows is that is it somehow related to this incredibly useful tool for peeing.) is something terribly shameful and needs to be hidden, but that isn't all that difficult. Overall it sucks, but it's the only game in town and besides he was never given a choice of whether he wanted to play or not, only whether he wanted to play it well or poorly.
All of a sudden he is sitting there in excruciating pain as his formerly useful but otherwise unexceptional penis has suddenly begun to swell up without warning and this new addition of hair that has sprouted around it has wrapped itself tightly around the end like so much dental floss and is threatening to slice into it like a cheese slicer. Fortunately it is not all pain, because this tool formerly valued mostly for its utility has now become the source of the most delicious sensations.
And he is painfully aware of the cruelty of mother nature's sense of humor because he cannot escape the fact that, while he cannot seem to keep his mind off them and his incredible desire to be close to them for reasons he still does not understand, they seem to be far more interested in the type of car some older male drives, or the performance of some semi-human anthropoid in those pointless competions called sports, than they are in whether he continues to breathe or not. The only solaces he has is that he has been trained in the art of performance for approval, so some of the means to gain their treasured attention are accessible to him, and the fact that every male he knows is in the same boat even though they mostly lie about it.
As Warren Farrell puts it, she is a genetic celebrity while he is a genetic groupie. From this moment forward he will have to purchase every bit of the affection, approval, and love that he so desperately needs with his performance, his financial and status success, and his conformity to her expectations and ability to meet her material needs. It's a dirty job, but his only alternative is emotionally starving to death.
It will be many years before he realizes that he is simply responding to a biological impulse that drives every living thing, and he will have to endure much nonsense and mind-fucking about what is wrong with its expression and with him for wanting to express it. He will spend great amounts of money and time seeking its gratification, make a fool of himself many times over, love it, hate it, wish it would go away, be terrified when it is gone for even a moment, and generally experience both the best and worst moments of his life from it.
Sexual Psychology - Part Two: Puberty to Forty
Sexual Psychology - Part Three: Forty to Closing Time