~ I recently received this comment on my Psychology Today blog. I decided to write a reply to the writer of the comment, whose name I shall withhold. The commenter sent the following:
“You should do an article on abortion.
The number one leading cause of death in America.
Almost 60 million performed since 1973..
The focus of the article would be female sexual behavior. Specifically, why many women have sex with men when they have absolutely no desire to bear his child.”
The comment appears to be a thinly veiled repudiation of women’s sexuality. I suppose a similar question could be, “Why do many men have sex with women when they have absolutely no desire to assist in the creation of a child?”
In various blog posts, I discuss female sexuality and the vicissitudes of sexual expression and responsibility. Perhaps the discussion of such topics is perturbing for some; the mere mention that women’s sexual needs often equal men’s needs may raise fears that men will lose something or something is at risk.
A general opinion endures that sexualizing women is OK, but the sexuality of women is fraught with negative value assessments. Sexism, which has been linked to “authoritarianism and a leaning towards social dominance” (Pappas), is evident to varying degrees in all cultures.
Perspective is necessary; both men and women can have sexual disorders or use sex impulsively to address low self-esteem, the need to be wanted, fear of rejection, and competitive impulses. However, violence, exploitation, oppression, and devaluation affect women in most cultures, including the United States of America.
According to a World Health Organization report on women:
- About 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence.
- Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate male partner.
- Men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms, including attitudes accepting of violence, and a sense of entitlement with regard to women.
Female Genital Mutilation
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or another injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has no health benefits for girls and women.
- More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, where FGM is concentrated.
- FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
- Approximately 12 million girls aged 15-19 years and at least 777,000 girls under 15 years give birth each year in developing regions.
- One cause of unintended pregnancy is sexual violence, which is widespread, with more than a third of girls in some countries reporting that their first sexual encounter was coerced.
How do any oppressive views and concomitant behavior take hold? Where vulnerability is perceived, opportunities for oppression and exploitation are ripe. Somehow the world rationalizes and overlooks; maltreatment of women and girls persists. Protection and respect of all individuals are supplanted by dominance and entitlement.
One argument is that men are naturally dominant, which enables them to offer protection to women. Protection ought not be confused and is not synonymous with control, oppression or exploitation.
People with personality disorders identified as “Cluster B,” (Antisocial, Borderline, and Narcissistic) are often among those who align with ideological and dogmatic thinking and engage in behaviors aimed at oppressing others. These individuals may defend against their envy or fear of loss of power or status through domination, privilege, threat, and physical prowess. They may be among those who are vulnerable to recruitment by hate and extremist groups. One study explores the relationship between sexism and the dark-triad personality traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism: “[Their] findings demonstrated that sexist ideology substantially predicted dark-triad scores” (Gluck).
Individuals who rationalize their oppressive ideological views seek and are sought after by the like-minded. Malevolent organizations seize on opportunities, and feelings of alienation and the need to belong are variables that these groups can exploit in their efforts to recruit members. Men who align with the oppression of women and who are psychologically vulnerable may be ripe for finding community within a group that asserts that membership provides power and status.
A “men’s movement” began in the 1980s in opposition to the outpouring of support and recognition that gender disparity exists between men and women. This movement “resulted from a tension between men who were still expected to be ‘at the helm’ in a culture that now expected them to be reflective about their masculinity” (Yaeger). The movement sought to identify and reinstitute a singular, unifying essence of masculinity, one which saw power at its core.
Equality and fairness are rights of all individuals. Sexism and misogyny are specific kinds of prejudice that harm the dignity of women and cannot be relegated to a discussion about gender fairness.
Men and women are sexual creatures, and nothing is taken from men or women through the support of equality. To the person who commented on my blog, I say, “Thank you,” as it allowed for an opportunity to clarify, challenge, widen the debate and continue the dialogue toward a path forward.