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Masculine roles, in Europe and elsewhere

Reading this post by Dr. Helen stirred up a number of things I probably shouldn't be trying to deal with before coffee, but here we go anyway.

Christina Hoff Sommers and others have noted the changes in American schools and culture that -intentionally or otherwise- tend to feminize boys or at least deny them outlets for innate active/aggressive behavior. I think this confuses young men and women and correlates with the increased popularity of BDSM (pace Paglia, who notes that this has always enjoyed an upswing in times of confused gender roles) as well as the popularity of "gangsta" role models as an extension of pimp culture. In Europe, where the military is not as available to young men as a channel for aggression, one sees soccer hooliganism*, which in its extreme forms takes on a political aspect far out of the mainstream of European socialism. See, for example, Real Madrid's Ultras Sur for an example that conflates historical Falangism with neo-Nazi skinhead tropes; Celtic's Green Brigade and Hapoel Tel-Aviv's Ultras Hapoel for examples of Communist/anarchist imagery.

This ties in to posts I've made before arguing that the present American educational "system" -more correctly, the patchwork quilt of local school districts across these United States- with its default to college prep is bad for the country, since it presents young men not inclined to joining the clerisy with no clear options except for the military, which many young men are neither physically or temperamentally suited for. The result is hooliganism and other antisocial behavior. The question is, how do we pry the schools loose from the death grip of the teachers, administrators, and lawyers who have gotten us into this mess? Home-schooling isn't for everyone, and the Falangist part of my politics argues that there should be a minimum amount of socialization and cultural education going on in the schools - just not the socialist, equalitarian, esteem-based castrating crap we have now.

*For an interesting take on "the English disease", see John King's review of Hooligan Wars in The New Statesman.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
edwarddain
Aug. 10th, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
Eh, not sure about "leads to BDSM" - Paglia is really beating a different drum there I think and confuses BDSM with Gender - I might be more comfortable with a more selective or nuanced explanation of BDSM, but it is a behavior and sexual style that has been around, well, forever it seems.
wombat_socho
Aug. 10th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
Which was Paglia's point. I don't pretend to be a scholar of BDSM and would happily defer to you on this point, but don't we first see descriptions of this behavior in the decadent period of the Roman Empire? Does BDSM not tend to become more popular in periods of social ferment such as the Regency period in England and the Silver/Edwardian Age of the late 1890s? I'm not trying to argue that it only happened in those times and places, just that it was more common/noticeable then, and that we're going through a similar period here in the US.

I understood Paglia also to be saying that BDSM relies on specified roles - there may be switches between who is top and who is bottom, but it's never unclear who is which at any given time. Again, this is something I only know about secondhand, and if I'm wrong I want to know.
edwarddain
Aug. 10th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
The issue is that "we" are just now starting to figure out how arbitrary some of the lines and boxes we've drawn around things we want to call sexual are. As an aside, I might say that during times of social ferment people are more likely to focus on defining groups and are also looking for scapegoats for the unrest. Sexual minorities have traditionally made an excellent candidate because they tend to be a small portion of the population and sexuality is one of the more highly regulated social dynamics.

And I'll just say that Paglia is wrong on the point that mention. It is often very unclear as to who is who because the explicit role often has very little to do with the tacit role - or who actually has the "power" at any particular time. If a man is paying a Dominatrix to beat him, who has the power/is in charge? If someone is 'topping from the bottom' who is really running things? If submission is a gift, who really has the control? The modern BDSM Scene has a huge investment in making things look as safe as possible to outsiders, and that means that it must generally be as definable and as predictable and as normative to vanilla sexuality as possible.
wombat_socho
Aug. 11th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
I see what you mean - I think. Which means that the point I was trying to make in the OP goes rather wide of the mark, but at least I'm learning something here.

It is often very unclear as to who is who because the explicit role often has very little to do with the tacit role - or who actually has the "power" at any particular time. If a man is paying a Dominatrix to beat him, who has the power/is in charge? If someone is 'topping from the bottom' who is really running things? If submission is a gift, who really has the control?
I think the fault here may be more in my interpretation of what she wrote, but these are all damn good questions that I don't have enough background/knowledge to even guess at what the answers might be, all the more so because I'm not used to thinking of sex in terms of power dynamics.

Edited at 2008-08-11 12:16 am (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )