Archive for September 8th, 2010

Bits on Men

I like men. In fact, I love men, collectively as a gender and individually. A father, three brothers and two sons were born male, and great, and many of my best friends are men. I have up-close-and-personal loved some amazing men. Men contribute to the world in ways appropriate to half the human population, and the art, lit, music, science, discovery and more that have issued from men over the centuries form the basis of what we like to think of as civilization. (For some thoughts on why there’s an imbalance of input from women, take a read through A Room of One’s Own, or any bit of history of our species.)

I adore men’s bodies, can be enraptured by their minds, find conversation with members of that opposite sex entertaining, compelling and often instructive. The smell of them is seductive, the sight can be alluring and their touch can bring sparkle to a day and spark a fire in a dark night that sets me to glowing.

Yes, men are wonderful …

but … and here’s the caveat we all knew was coming …

… there appears to be a marked tendency to jettison wonderful when women aren’t looking … or when women have no power to slap them upside the head on a regular basis.

Whether it be a mother, wife, an Empress or a best friend, having a woman’s perspective perched on one shoulder seems to greatly temper temptations touted by that other-shoulder-devil, the male … what? … ego? imperative?

Although an extreme example, a common practice in Afghanistan makes a point:

It’s after midnight. I’m at a wedding party in a remote village in northern Afghanistan.

There is no sign of the bride or groom, or any women, only men. Some of them are armed, some of them are taking drugs.

Almost everyone’s attention is focused on a 15-year-old boy. He’s dancing for the crowd in a long and shiny woman’s dress, his face covered by a red scarf.

He is wearing fake breasts and bells around his ankles. Someone offers him some US dollars and he grabs them with his teeth.

This is an ancient tradition. People call it bachabaze which literally means “playing with boys”.

The most disturbing thing is what happens after the parties. Often the boys are taken to hotels and sexually abused.

The men behind the practice are often wealthy and powerful. Some of them keep several bachas (boys) and use them as status symbols – a display of their riches. The boys, who can be as young as 12, are usually orphans or from very poor families.

It’s no question that women in Afghanistan have no power. Men in that country don’t have the worry of a wife or mother or female casual observer pointing out that they’re jerks. No, they can debauch with gay abandon. And they do.

“Bachabaze” is slavery, prostitution, evil … and, apparently, an acceptable hobby.

“Some people like dog fighting, some practice cockfighting. Everyone has their hobby, for me, it’s bachabaze,” …

EveryONE, of course, meaning every man.

Yep, all fun and games.

Will even the gentlest male go feral without the taming influence of woman? Does removing women from an equation assure a downward spiral toward decadence?

It would seem so when one considers the consequences of war and the proclivities of male-dominated institutions … the catholic church comes to mind. (See this report on mass rape now happening in the DRC and just about any old news source for info on sex abuse in the church.)

Historically speaking, some might cite Sparta as an example of male rule pulling off something special, but contrary modern perceptions it wasn’t a lack of female power that allowed the rise of that society.

“During the times of the ancient Greeks, women were generally considered inferior to men and afforded very few rights and privileges. In these male dominated societies, a woman’s only function was to bear children and attend to the needs of her husband. However, the Spartans thought very highly of their women and granted them more freedoms than anywhere else in Greece. This is because unlike the women in other cities, Spartan women played an active role in the life of the polis. The role of Spartan women was not merely to produce male warriors, but to uphold Spartan ideals and ensure that the men maintained the standards which Spartan society was built upon.”

While the Greeks were doing the Greek thing and letting Arisotle set the patriarchal tone, down in Egypt things were far different, which may be why anal sex is not referred to as “the Egyptian thing” …

Egypt left no philosophical record, but Herodotus left a record of his shock at the contrast between the roles of Egyptian women and the women of Athens. He observed that they attended market and were employed in trade. In ancient Egypt a middle-class woman might sit on a local tribunal, engage in real estate transactions, and inherit or bequeath property. Women also secured loans, and witnessed legal documents.

Yes, I love men, but I do worry about them. Left to their own devices, they seem to lack sense, and stick them in an environment where no women have any say over anything that goes on and things can deteriorate rapidly.

The thing is, it seems that men are actually happier when not left to those devices. They live longer, are more productive and off themselves half as often.

So, although men may rail at the thought of a world … or a house … in which women have equal power, it’s a partnership of the sexes that can make life on this planet livable.

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