Has this fascinating post up.
Covers (among other things) body-image, arm candy, “homoerotic dating” and titty-fucking.
(If you have ever wondered what combination of topics will immediately get my attention...)
Actually it gave me a lot to think about, and is exactly the sort of exchange into the middle of which only a fool would lightly wander (and Mom driftglass didn’t either nature or nurture any idiots.)
However there was this one, paragraph --
“There are men who think they need arm candy in order to impress other men. They are actually engaging in homoerotic dating, pleasing other men rather than themselves.”
-- which I think cries out for an, um, let's call it an "amplifying rebuttal".
Because while that may be the case sometimes, I would argue there is a different male dynamic at play the rest of the time. And when I thought about the best way to explain it, a fascinating story by and about a man named Griffin Hansbury (via "This American Life") came immediately to mind.
Hansbury -- who used to be a woman – goes on at length about his experience with seeing the world with male eyes for the first time.
(I can’t trace the quotes, so this is from memory. However here’s a link to a somewhat similar interview with Hansbury in case you are interested in background .)
One of the things that surprised him was that people weren't nice to him anymore.
No one extended the little courtesies. Other men shoved him off the sidewalk. Where once there had been an edgycool lesbian for whom crowds parted, now there was another pale, little guy.
And this world is not kind to pale, little guys.
Yes, absolutely there are real, tangible advantages still deeply wired into gender and race, but when he reformatted his gender, Griffin discovered one of the terrible secrets of being male: that almost from the beginning you are thrust into competition with every other male, every minute of every day, until they plant you.
Its waaaay down there in the circuitry, and it colors the whole world.
To see this conduct on full, frantic display look no further than the overtly reptilian behavior of our own American Authoritarian Party: a Party specifically constructed to cater to the psychodramas of Panicky White Men.
Built on the bones on the Confederacy -- which was premised entirely on making an ideology of unearned, God-given superiority so central to the sense of identity of hateful, pig-ignorant white men that they’d willingly (Eagerly!) commit mass-murder to defend it -- the modern GOP is made for men who feel lost and frightened unless they can reach out and touch their place in the Great Caucasian Jebus Hierarchy with both hands.
It is a Party of men who shit themselves in terror unless they have a Big White Daddy in uniform to salute and obey, and an ample supply of Scary Others to hate and blame for their miseries.
To be clear, the existence and prevalence of such creature in the world does not mean that men don’t have deep friendships among themselves, or that we are somehow incapable of overcoming our instinctive doggishness. Quite the opposite; good upbringing – being raised a gentleman – good friends, good examples, and having your universe rocked and re-written by strong, smart women have powerful, civilizing and lasting effects.
But for men, the domains of school, work, and dating (Ah! A theme emerges.) are always churning with rivals (with whom we struggle not to feel almost obligated to contend) and Evil Alphas, who can disappear our livelihoods and status on a whim.
This is one reason I appreciate Mamet. Quite apart from the sheer quality of the writing, Mamet drills right through the nerve-sheathing and shows us – up-close and sweaty-desperate – a distillation of the male soul ensnared in the brutal, never-ending 14th round of a heavyweight title-match where the stakes are the food on your table and the woman in your bed.
It works as drama
because it gets at something ugly and terribly real incessantly chewing away in the male heart.
Deep in the boiling mud of evolution’s fever swamp, the pressure to slug your way up the hierarchy is always present, and it comes down to the character of each man as to whether he recognizes this primal urge as a chronic, vestigial irritant to be gallantly managed, or a bellowing compulsion to be blindly obeyed regardless of the devastation it wreaks.
The men you have known, BG, might well have been “engaging in homoerotic dating”.
But the status seekers and hierarchy free-climbers I have known fought a hundred invisible (and often entirely imaginary) battles every day to establish and maintain dominance and position, whether it was a question of who steps aside on the sidewalk, who sinks the eight ball, who sucks up better, who gets the office, or who leaves with the cute brunette.
And whether it is showing Gaia who's the fucking boss with your monster SUV, barnacling yourself in bling, pluming yourself in $1,000 silk neckware, or cutting yourself a big slice of arm-candy, it comes to the same thing.
These are all tools of that trade.
These are the swords and shields and signifiers of these miserable fuckers' forever war with every other male on the planet.