By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
We hear a lot about “toxic masculinity,” and other man problems in the West. “Mansplaining,” and “manspreading.” A new piece at the New York Times argues that the problem is basically men in general. The sexual harassment scandals in the US “have forced men to confront what they hate to think about most: the nature of men in general. This time the accusations aren’t against some freak geography teacher, some frat running amok in a Southern college town. They’re against men of all different varieties, in different industries, with different sensibilities, bound together, solely, by the grotesquerie of their sexuality.” The author claims “For most of history, we’ve taken for granted the implicit brutality of male sexuality…Acknowledging the brutality of male libido is not, of course, some kind of excuse.”
This goes on and on…”How can healthy sexuality ever occur in conditions in which men and women are not equal? How are we supposed to create an equal world when male mechanisms of desire are inherently brutal?…f you want to be a civilized man, you have to consider what you are.”
Basically the conclusion seems to be that the existence of men is a problem. They are inherently brutal, supposedly. Masculinity itself must be eradicated. This is peak westernism. It’s peak post-humanism. And basically this is where the West has arrived at. Men are told they talk to much. They sit the wrong way. Just existing is a problem. But it’s a problem primarily for western men. Leave the West and, voila, you can leave behind the problem.
Very few people have even wanted to address rape culture outside the US or toxic masculinity. Hamid Dabashi writes “Sexual violence is a global and transcultural malady and needs the global attention it now receives. Among the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, no doubt Muslim men (like all other men) have their share of despicable sexual violence that needs to be exposed and addressed.” Sylvie Kauffmann and Mona Eltahawy have sought to explore the topic as well. The NYT has also reported on accusations against Tariq Ramadan. Kamal Daoud sparked a controversy for claiming the Middle East suffered in “Sexual misery.” He had written after the Cologne sex assaults, “This Other (the immigrant) comes from a vast, appalling, painful universe – an Arab-Muslim world full of sexual misery, with its sick relationship towards woman, the human body, desire. Merely taking him in is not a cure.” From one mansplainer to another, Adam Shatz stepped in to explain that in fact there is no sexual misery in the Middle East or in other Muslim countries. It’s not clear if Shatz had ever visited those countries, and being a man, how he knew what women experience in places like Saudi Arabia.
Daniel Haqiqatjou had another manly response. He notes that 1 in 4 women is a victim of sexual assault while in college in the West. “Sex is a complex commodity, commercialized — in places like New York, London, Paris, or Amsterdam — by way of liberalism’s hypersexualized culture, the voyeuristic pressures of social media, and the pornographic images of women (or their body parts) in the advertising-saturated West.” He goes on, “In some Western lands, the war on women has the air of a theatrical farce…profiting from the Western woman’s need to ‘be sexy.’ Of course, that very need only arises due to women being deliberately socialized to obsess over every detail of their bodies such that millions of females.” And he continues, “Orgasms are required as soon as puberty is within reach and a warm body is available. To be a virgin past an arbitrary age is to be an outcast. These pressures combined with the barrage of sexualized images and content in media and environment make for a dangerous mix.” He concludes that non-Western people “are discovering, with anxiety and fear, that sex in the Western world is sick, and that its venereal disease has long infected the rest of the world.”
Where does this leave us? We can’t talk about “mansplaining” and “manspreading” or “toxic masculinity outside the West because it is assumed to be some kind of racist attack on the global south. This creates an interesting irony. The west, where men are most aware of being “too manly” and want to be as “metrosexy” as possible, is the only place where they are continually critiqued for the very thing they are trying to run from. Everywhere else in the world men can just be men. Chauvinism, misogyny, toxic all-male environments are fine.