Pretty in Pain: Beauty and the Art of Female Destruction


"Why the most beautiful women always go out with the greatest assholes"

The Myth of Female Masochism and Its Role in the Oppression of Women
Created on 10/05/98
Edited on 3/22/00 (contents)
Edited on 4/25/04 (presentation)

0 Preface

As the keywords suggest, this paper deals with "how the combined effect of gender-roles, sexual assault, and myths serves to subdue women and encourages them to display behaviour falsely perceived as masochistic." At first, the objective was simply to find a clearer definition for the term "masochism". Then, I discovered that this was a fool's game, as mostly any woman that had adopted the traditional gender-role would also display behaviours that would be perceived as "masochistic" in nature by many, even experts. So, noting this lack of precision so in contrast to all science, I asked myself, A quoi bon?
The obvious answer would be, by associating a group of people with an attribute that has derogatory connotations, one can ridicule that group, play down their humanity, play down their achievements, even justify putting them "back in their place" when seen fit. Who would benefit from declaring women sub-human?

10/06/98 - Words (don't come easy)

On a side-note, the reason why I have used the not-so-pretty term asshole in the title is that it is the only commonly used "alternative" to terms like bastard or son of a bitch, which demean the person's mother, as if being shamed through the fault of "such a lowly creature as a woman" is even more offensive for a man than to be humiliated by "one of his own" (isn't it interesting we never hear son of a pimp, or son of a call-boy?).
Interestingly, there seems to be no female form of wanker; draw your own conclusions.

03/22/00 - Note "Ausgang"

Added Colette Dowling's Cinderella Complex and Perls' Gestalttherapie. I found the Cinderella Complex to be most revealing; I think it to be of interest to all women with even slightly traditional upbringing.

1 Alleged masochism

"Masochism is striving for appreciation from a certain person, the only person in a position to give such appreciation."1

"A 'masochist' does not enjoy the pain as such, but what she 'buys' with it."2

"Masochism is mostly just adaption to unsatisfying and limiting circumstances."3

1.1 "Means to an end" that look like "masochism"

1.1.1 "Masochism" as bait
As a general rule, most people long to break even in a relationship; the "rating" they'd give their partner is mostly identical with that which they give to themselves. This means that ones options are limited by ones assets, such as appearance, charme, intellect, or money. By adding to one's assets, one can "score" higher and bond with a person normally out of reach.
In an overall misogynistic society where most men are scared and confused by the higher potential for emotion usually ascribed to women (->Freud, ->vagina dentata, ->perception of mother) and the complicated set of conventions and rituals that have replaced the earlier mating rituals based solely on physical attributes and that seem to illustrate the hidden agenda of female power by which women allow only those men to mate who have both the intelligence and the discipline required to learn those conventions, in a world were the individual feels more and more powerless, confused and replaceable, unable to grasp "the big picture", it becomes obvious that for a sex that is trained from early childhood to be aggressive and assertive, the option of relieving the frustration (thus turning it into anger, ->behaviorism, ->Skinner) by using that same aggression against a sex that is brought up to be unassertive and generally submissive is enticing; particularly so if a myth is created that that the latter is by very nature not only submissive, but masochistic, enjoying the pain given to her by men.
It becomes clear that subscribing to that point of view, thereby giving the male the option to vent his fears and frustrations with no guilt (but perchance even gratitude), would be viewed as an "additional asset" as per above by many:
In 1935, studies showed that women displaying "masochistic" behaviour were more attractive to men15: "Some of us have learned that we can survive and succeed at a higher level if we express our paranoia in a way that makes us attractive to the people we want to be attractive to."21, p. 28-29, see 29,30; let's hope we've evolved a little from then.
If, by this definition, a woman can bond with a man otherwise "above her class", it is not surprising that Benjamin's axiom (s/a) would be applicable. (This would not only make for "valid" appreciation (from one in a "higher position"), but would even be in line with Esther Vilar's mating theorems4 and the romantic notion of the "knight protector" described therein, with the male excelling in all attributes, giving him security and her the certainty that she "scored best" (with an eye on the offspring to be expected and its protection; a man with a "killer-instinct" would excel in these ("If he treats me like that, imagine how he'd treat anybody who threatened me or our kids!" (...or anything that's his, one might be tempted to add with an eye on the Christian bible))); consequently, many women might even find it "suspicious" if they were treated well, making them wonder "why her partner has to do this", if she is "dating below her", making him afraid of being left if he does not please her.) His appreciation would serve her vanity; her dependency -- real or not -- his.
Generally, of course, if not abused, placing oneself in the power of another person is a fantastic gesture of trust; it can probably be expected to add to the sexual tension/the thrill of the woman placing herself at the mercy of the physically stronger man in heterosex; where the thrill for the man might be the dominance and control (an ideal he might fail most of the time in the "real world") and the trust; while the woman might feel something not completely unlike an angst-flash (a very intense experience as such, and not at all a guilt-laden one, considering women are traditionally brought up to tolerate "bad feelings" and be generally passive and enduring) and -- hopefully -- the validation of the trust she displays.
Interestingly, this "dating above her" can be an additional source of guilt for the woman, conjuring up thoughts like "He is too good for me" and "I must be really ungrateful if I get this wonderful guy and still get annoyed or moody sometimes."
It might be worth noticing that women are generally trained33 to have a low self-image5. This misperception of themselves would of course affect who they aim for in a partnership.
Alarmingly, Elizabeth Waites has discovered that "Men who like women to be passive, submissive and complying with the traditional female role have a deep-rooted desire to cheapen women, which they deny."6
1.1.2 Suffering to get sympathy, "Oral fixation"
Those suffering, especially women (who are not expected to be "in control of the situation" at all times) are usually afforded sympathy; a special form of this is the guilty affection a repentant male might spare her later7.
It is also interesting to note that some female "masochists" feel that the only bit of control they have in life is that to "trigger off a beating", thus controlling at least the time of the abuse7.
1.1.3 Suffering to alleviate feelings of guilt
Generally, enduring pain is usually also associated with self-sacrifice (Christ), unassertiveness (women) and purification (Catholicism), where a lot of women seem to have need for the latter, their conditioning sending them on a guilt-trip whenever they think of themselves first or are otherwise assertive. Also, the guilt felt for under-achievement33 caused by unassertiveness and lack of self-esteem may also be alleviated through punishment/suffering. Interestingly, since assertiveness and aggression as modes of female expression are (negatively) sanctioned by society, the only way for a woman to achieve her ends seems to be slander and manipulation, thus lending her an aura of "falsehood", furthering female guilt and male angst-driven misogyny alike.
These male fears, in turn, along with male aggression (general or misogynist in nature) can be relieved through the female's offering her throat, and potential abuse of her. This is a way for the male to reassure himself (and her!) of his control (which actual rape just takes one step further: "What other way is there to make sure the subject is controlled by your will rather than her own than to make them suffer?" George Orwell, 1984, 1948; interestingly, a source oft cited in the same context, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World also is relevant inasmuch it demonstrates the results of separatist conditioning; the hurt to prove control behaviour is also commented on by Andrea Dworkin (Letters from a War Zone, p. 22): "The fact is that the process of killing -- both rape and battery are steps in that process -- is the prime sexual act for men in reality and/or in imagination."); it is also a way for the female to "prove her love" ("You're so wonderful and important to me otherwise that I'm ready to take this little inconvenience to make you happy (if only you stay with me).") (compare "1.1.1 Masochism as bait")
1.1.4 Inability to leave (economic reasons, self-esteem, ...)
We must not, however, forget in this context, that a lot of women also endure abusive situations because of a lack of self-esteem29,30,31 or for financial reasons7. The first might manifest in a variety of ways, from her being convinced she is unable to make it alone29 to her not being able to leave because it would mean acknowledging that someone thought of her so lowly that he did "all that" to her7. Another manifestation of low self-esteem might be the fear of him leaving her if she allows his frustration to accumulate, countered by her eagerness to provide relief.
It would also be interesting to compare these findings with the documentation on manifestations of the Stockholm Syndrome*8.
1.1.5 Female masochism as manifestation of conditioned coping strategy
It seems also worthy of note that female conditioning also seems to further the concept of reacting to a world getting more complicated by the hour by trying to submit control and decision to someone more capable33 (while men seem eager to accept it to experience at least some control) outside of a sexual context.
(We will later explore how this conditioning to be passive is achieved through upbringing, convention, education, media (particularly pornography (as opposed to erotica)) and others.))
1.1.6 Auto-aggression
Since women are not supposed to voice pain "in an assertive way", ignoring them will effectively shut them up, leave them to deal with the pain on their own. With some, this amounts to trying to blot out the emotional pain with physical pain, to turn the frustration into anger, even if the option for action is restricted to auto-aggression; a mild form of the self-destruct that would end the pain, once and for all. Also, this kind of behaviour can constitute a "cry for help", a manifestation of the wish for the compassion and attention that victims are sometimes afforded. Furthermore, this demonstration clearly shows that the woman complies with the ruling paradigm even in stressful situations, in a hope for positive sanctions like "acceptance"/"approval" from those "in charge"; an attempt to shape the distress in an acceptable way, to "shape paranoia so it looks attractive to others".

2 "True Masochism"

2.1 Masochism as a different level of stimulation

True Masochoism, the enjoying of pain and the striving for it even if other options are available, is relatively rare (according to Reik). Some women have described this as "just longing for a higher degree of stimulation", in much the same way as some people prefer a spicier, "hotter" dish to a delicate one.
Also, "Unease, physical stress or actual pain can add to sexual pleasure in some women; these feelings primarily affect tension, speed up breathing and intensify many of the physiological changes connected with arousal."9 (This is referred to as angst-flash throughout this document.)

2.2 Exploring one's limits

A more romantic approach would be to say that submission is a way for the female to explore her limits, to be taken to them (again perpetuating the (passive) female role), trusting her partner "not to stop where she would, thinking she couldn't take any more":
"To break mental and physical barriers causes a feeling of bliss."9

2.3 Masochism as a guilt-relief/Pain as absolution

Actual pain can also serve as "punishment" to alleviate the guilt felt for being aroused or sexually active; it might be viewed as providing "absolution". (This however would in most cases fall in the low self-esteem category as it denotes an inability to deal with feelings of guilt and their causes in a mature way.)

2.4 Masochism as result of childhood abuse

It is worthy of note that both "sadists" and "masochists" have reported that they were abused in their childhoods. In this case, the masochistic experience seems to serve the purpose of what is known as "re-anchoring" in NLP; the assigning of a new context to an experience; in this case; assigning a context of love and control to the pain ("He hurts me, but it doesn't mean he doesn't love me." "No suddenly means something. That is so empowering to a child who had 'no' ripped from her."). It is a repetition of the fact, the 2nd chance, the opportunity to set things right.

2.5 Masochism as result of mental traumata

This is a variation of the auto-aggression theme discussed in 1.1.6 -- the intensity of the physical pain is used to blot out some sort of emotional suffering, if only momentarily.

3 Fantasies

3.1 "Masochistic" rape fantasies

In which we shall demonstrate that allegedly masochistic rape fantasies in women sometimes feature pain as a means to an end, but rarely as the end itself, and almost never actual rape as a positive and lustful image7:

  • be so attractive it drives a guy out of control (where in Real Life, there crime is very rarely about attractiveness)
  • guilt-free sex; you had no option, and you weren't the active part, you get "sex without being sexual" (i.e., "dirty"); you stay safe within the cliché of passiveness, of being receptive part, being the victim, and therefore, being beautiful.
    Ti-Grace Atkinson has noted that as women develop more self-esteem, their fantasies tend be less based around the traditional passiveness demanded of them10. Molly Haskell on the other hand has discovered that "particularly those women who have self-esteem, who are independent and sexually active have fantasies in which rape plays a part; [...] dreams of passiveness, being taken, being at somebody's mercy to compensate for the independence that takes a lot of strength, but which none of these women would ever give up. [...] It would take a miracle for the transition from the ornament, the accessory to an independent person, from the romantic adorer of the vision of the knight-protector to a critical assessor of masculinity to happen without any confusion or emotional conflict."11, but this should come as no surprise as Haskell already provides an explanation for this seeming contradiction.
  • don't have to worry about the other party's pleasure
  • get the thrill of being totally in someone else's hand, of no holding back (without any real danger since it's only a fantasy)

3.2 Society-created fantasies vs. personal fantasies

On a sidenote, it is worth exploring whether masochistic fantasies happen on a symbolic level; just like fantasy role-players enjoy the concept of a knight, it doesn't mean they enjoy the details. They might enjoy playing out the fights to the last detail, but few actually get down to the nitty gritty of detailing how after slaying the yeti, the hero has to walk home through the biting cold in his rags, limping, covered in blood, sweat and worse. Many masochistic phantasies are subject to the same restriction -- the idea sounds great just as long as the details are neglected. This is usually a fairly good indicator of the idea having come from outside conditioning; if the need comes from within the person, they usually tend to be comfortable with the details, and thus perchance the implementation as well.

4 How misogynistic conditioning works

4.1 Double-standards in terms

"The first words must have [been] tools that not only identify the rules of the game, but automatically reinforce them through repetition. The importance of the word was not that it let the individual communicate his ideas, but that it allowed the culture to maintain its structure. It guaranteed the continuation of them game. [...] I'd say us humans will have to invent ourselves a new game -- but not a game of monkeys anymore."21, p. 285-287.

Traditionally male/female traits are termed differently; where a man is dominant, not rude, a woman is dependent, not caring or relationship-oriented.12 Positive terming for female strengths would result in a higher self-esteem (->NLP, Sapir-Whorf).

4.2 Women only have themselves to blame

According to Georgina Wine, conditioning also accounts for different supposed reasons for success/failure: men as well as women ascribe a man's success to his brilliance and his failure to unfortunate circumstances, while they ascribe a woman's failure to her inadequacy and her success to fortunate circumstances.
This supports the dogma of male superiority.

Actually blaming somebody else would of course also count as assertive or aggressive.

4.3 The "Pathology of the Female"

4.3.1 Women in the media*
"I used to think I wasn't very pretty, so I acted like I wasn't. When men would ask me out, I used to think that they thought I would be an easy lay because I was desperate for attention, because I didn't think I was good-looking. I mean, if I wasn't pretty, that must be the only reason a man would ask me out. [...] I always used to compare myself to the models in the magazines, and they were all so pretty that I felt drab in comparison. I never stopped to think that in real life I was still better looking than most women. [...] By the time I realized it, it was too late. I was twenty-nine. [That's too old] when you're competing with the twenty-two-year-olds."21, p. 90-91.

The above quote is a very good example of how clichés rule many a woman's life; with men only being out to "get some" and women reluctant to "give any" (usually fearing being dubbed a slut for claiming the same sexual options men have); with beauty being the be-all and end-all in female existence*32, making time a crucial factor, forcing her to submit to the oft limiting concept of marriage before she "expires".

"I often think of beauty as just an indicator of how many good angles you have, the chance of the angle somebody looks at you from being a good one. Mostly everybody has gorgeous angles, and nasty ones. [...] The interesting bit is the definition of beauty as such. The baby scheme, big eyes, small nose, all that. Perfect skin. To achieve that ideal by cosmetic surgery, one takes away. [...] Few corrective measures actually build something [...]; beauty, as we perceive it, is a result of cutting away things, of leaving a face empty. Modern day beauty is also a result of capitalism. Beauty, Dietrich Bonnhoefer says, is in everything you regard with love. [...] Since we don't all love the same things, you need to find something we all respond to on a level of non-reflexion if you need positive identification for a product, however: The dreaded baby scheme. This has nothing to do with personal taste or intellect. [...] I guess even iguanas have some sort of protect-your-children mechanism that endears fetal shapes to them. This is not what makes us human.
There have been tests where the participants were shown a number of pictures, and then a picture created from the average data of all the other pictures. All testees without fail, no matter what racial or cultural background they came from, identified the "average" face as the most attractive one. Remember Wilde's note that nothing was as difficult to marry as a large nose? Now there is scientific proof.
We are attracted to that which is not special, does not provoke, does not scare or threaten us, does not alienate us. Beauty is a measure of absence of offensive features, any features. Those features that give you bad angles. Is this how we want to be?

I grew up on reruns of all these silly movies. American, mostly. All the female leads were the same, beautiful and helpless and broken. With some, it even stuck in real life. You might be thinking of Marilyn Monroe, but there were many more. When Hitchcock was asked how he chose his actresses, he said, "by vulnerability". The only way for a woman to get into the news was by getting killed -- or raped -- or by being famous and addicted to something or other. Beauty and (self-) destruction were linked up in my mind at an early age.

What I also grew up on was comic books. What role-models do Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse have to offer to us? All the women were minor parts, either shallow, busy being Freud's castrating woman, or getting victimized. Daisy is a classic example for this.

"Clichés of conquering and domination are imprinted upon us by the media before we make our own sexual experiences; they influence our fantasies, and how we rate and experience sexuality."13

The way we see ("ideal") women portrayed and the reasons for women to get on the media must needs have an influence on our lives and our expectations. "Only in a culture that elects beauty to be the most important attribute of a woman, the murder of a young beautiful woman is more regrettable and tragic than that of any other woman. The hyping of murders of beautiful women makes beauty as such seem destructive."5

What happens to a child who is taught that beauty means squirming in the dirt,5 wounded, defeated, dead? Will she not think that to be beautiful, she will have to be vulnerable, weak and broken? Will it not convince her that being assertive would immediately make all her "physical assets" NULL and void? And will it not make sexual assault look like some warped "tribute to a woman's beauty", a natural and inevitable effect of her attractiveness?

The psychological pressure women are subjected to is caused by the belief that our attractiveness to men, that their sexual desire is directly related to our ability to play victim. [...] The greatest attraction of a woman is based on her ability to be a prize that is won."5

This makes one conclusion almost inescapable: a woman who has not broken her conditioning would, were she to share the male obsession with physical beauty (and that would necessarily be part of a complete conditioning), almost certainly display "masochistic" behaviour to achieve "complete" beauty (the tragic, weak and neurotic kind from the movies); it would in all probability also draw her towards a person who has adopted the opposite cliché gender-role, machismo. The decision to submit to both the traditional gender-role and the traditional male with its implied suffering through the loss of freedom and autonomy might be perceived as a proof of "female weakness" and/or "masochism" and would serve the man by enabling him to belittle the woman, and would be supported by the woman because of a lack of self-esteem suggesting she could not cope alone and/or the idea that she could survive at a higher level if she made herself "attractive" that way. (And then of course, there might still be a lot of genetic programming left in the contemporary human being; a woman's choosing men with a "killer-instinct" (who would excel at protecting her and her children -- in the oldern days) would just be another variation of survival/procreation of the fittest. This of course would be bad news, indicating that social gender-roles are partially based on genetic programming: it might mean that -- if no longer adequate -- these behaviours are natural up to a point... Karen Horney however postulates that female "masochism" is an example for society-created neuroses, but not a necessary result of the female biology.15)
This situation, where "men are real men and women are real women" is reflected upon in the saying that "the biggest assholes always get the most beautiful women" --- where the latter might even rejoice in the concept of passiveness implied in the phrase.

On a side-note, of course a "real woman" has to dress like one30, and again, the pret-a-porter she wears is the fashion of the potential, the inviting victim; it is little but an elaborate wrapping pointing out how easy it is to violate her.

"Smooth skin, slender wrists, weak unmuscular thighs and calves are the ideals she grows up with. [...] Her clothes restrain motion; thin silky fabrics emphasize her vulnerability. Her blouse can be torn apart in a single motion. Her nylons run at the slightest touch. Her skirt allows for easy access; it takes but a gesture to expose her. Her shoes have heels that break and straps that tear. There is not a chance of running away. She is at the mercy of the most casual passer-by."5 Pornography*23

Almost all displays of sexual acts are created to suit men's tastes. What role-model does that leave for women? Many choose to become how others expect them to be, unable to even name how they see themselves. Failing however to create their own, female fantasies, they but repeat the unhealthy paradigms created by a misogynist society. "The male ideology of assault (the mass psychology of the conquerer) is ever-present, and of course it creates its anti-thesis, the female readiness to be victimized (the mass psychology of the conquered). Taken to extremes, we get the female psycho-sexuality of the rape fantasy. [...] This does not only touch how we view ourselves and our sexuality, but also brings up the question how our attractiveness to men will be affected if we let go of the pornographic images.5

"[I think most women are offended by pornography (as opposed to erotica) because we intuitively know that we and] our bodies are being stripped, exposed, and contorted for the purpose of ridicule to bolster that "masculine esteem" which gets its kick and sense of power from viewing females as anonymous, panting playthings, adult toys, dehumanized objects to be used, abused, broken and discarded." 5, p. 394
Insert studies on how men are affected by watching porn Prostitution
"Institutionalized prostitution does not only bother me because it does not prevent rape, but also because it establishes a man's financial right to a woman's body and thus cements the idea that sex is a service performed by women that no civilized man should be denied."5

This strengthens the myth of the male sex-drive that "can't be denied" and plays down male responsibility in rape. Prostitution also, like pornography, furthers the concept of the nameless, faceless sub-human sex-toy.

4.3.2 Science
Scientists endlessly repeat unfounded Freudian theses about how women are essentially "masochistic, narcissistic31, passive"14 by nature (failing to note that this is only true for the conditioned woman!), often basing their ideas on such scientifically sound facts as that "Menstruation, defloration, rape, birth, the nature of heterosexual encounters and the lack of muscles seem to indicate that the female was built to submit, to endure physical pain."15
<insert stuff from favourite textbooks here sometime>
4.3.3 Reasons
Establishing the "pathology of the female" in spite of her social, emotional and intellectual superiority (where the former would be largely a result of conditioning, the second stem from gender roles and hormones, and the latter from coordinated use of both hemispheres of the brain via the corpus callosum) and the almost manic focus on male activity (in media, gender roles, ...) seems to be the only way of keeping up the illusion of the "Superiority of the Penis" (which makes a nice contrast to Caplan's discovery of "Penis compassion"16 where she points out that many young girls find the male organ silly or ugly) and to keep the threat to male dominance at bay; making women look sick, perverted and pathologic does not only aid men in feeling superior and detached, it also frees them from the moralic implications of demeaning them (since women "want to suffer") respectively of denying them equality (since they are "unworthy")7.
If we establish that care, generosity and selflessness in women are the result of a pathologically masochistic basic disposition, we free ourselves from the need of acknowledging and appreciating the conditioned woman, just as we deny the "assertive" woman with a healthy self-image our appreciation and instead (negatively) sanction her on the grounds of her being "unfeminine". (Colette Dowling33 shows that the fear of being regarded unfemine (and the fear of never finding a partner because of this) is enough to keep a lot of tradionally raised heterosexual women in the confines of their gender-roles.)
Brownmiller tries to explain that oppression of women up to the point of "sexual assault is the result of a co-existence of hatred and desire in men. Women are punished and forced into submission because men feel threatened by them -- both sexually and mentally -- and at the same time dependent on them who are, if compared to the 'ideal' (i.e. to men), by male standards, sadly inadequate and despicable."11
4.3.4 Assertiveness/Low Self-Esteem
Since assertiveness and aggression are not tolerated in women, "female influence has to be of a manipulative nature; an image ('camouflage') of being weak and helpless actually aids in this"7. This behaviour is then dubbed "falsehood" and used as further proof of female inferiority and unworthiness. It is also used to make women feel guilty even when only using indirect means of effecting something, adding to the feeling of helplessness.
The fact that women are trained to have low self-esteem*24 also holds problems for the women's movement; a lot of women think of themselves as nothing but a fraud as far as their professional lives are concerned, so they are reluctant to help their "sisters" as it might "weaken their own positions even more" -- or might make men even more irate for losing their jobs to those new-coming women (where it is interesting to note that many women just think of themselves as incompetent, not of women per se) -- Perls' 34 sub-ego in over-drive: I can't. I tried really hard, but I... just can't!
Furthermore, Colette Dowling33 shows that traditionally raised women tend to accept jobs below their qualifications not only because they do not believe in themselves, but because they view it as but a temporary "waiting room" until "her prince," "the stallion on the white horse", shows up to rescue her from the cruel and confusing world she believes she does not have the resourcs to deal with on a long-term basis, putting her in a golden cage where she will just have to forsake her indepence to never have to prove herself again: He will rescue her from responsibility, from the necessity of maturing, allowing her to remain the little girl for evermore.
Since women have been trained not to voice anger (or in any other way display "unfeminine" aggression), it seems obvious that when eventually enough anger has built up for "the dam to burst", this must appear to the casual observer as "blind rage"; as "blowing things out of proportion". This furthers the image of women being hysterical, another "proof of their inferiority", of how they need not be taken seriously.
Even in professional counseling, abiding by these stereotypes is often encouraged: "In therapy, men are encouraged to react; women are encouraged to resign."7.

4.4 The Masculinist View, restrictive gender roles, and homosexuals

"I call it the Noah Ark Syndrome. The perception lingers that human beings should go two by two. Someone who is not married -- either by choice or by chance -- is somehow regarded as abnormal."27
Interestingly, most "masculinists" base their arguments around the traditional heterosexual husband-wife-kids family; insisting that it is necessary for the kid to grow up in a normal environment so it can later function in society. While it might be argued that "normal" is a but a proof of quantity, not of quality, and that "to function properly" is just an euphemism for "perpetuate the status quo", I think the real point would be that yes, both a male and a female parent are necessary exactly as long as the parents in question are victims of gender stereotyping; if certain traits "only occur in men" or "only occur in women", it might take a man/woman to teach them; likewise, if only certain behaviours are acceptable for a certain gender, a role-model might be helpful that would demonstrate what is acceptable for the kid to display, and what sort of expression she is denied. The real or alleged concern that several Men's Movements demonstrate and base their demand on that the traditional gender roles and family types should be enforced seems grossly inappropriate in the light of the rising number of divorces. If the welfare of the kids is really the issue, then discussing whether divorces are lamentable or not is beside the point; the well-being of the children should be the major concern instead. Allowing equal expression for both genders might be a step towards this. Furthermore, it would also put homosexual couples in a position where they could function as parents without being faced with resentments from society.

4.5 Rape

4.5.1 "Misunderstandings"

The main reason for the constant uncertainty concerning the difference between sexual assault and a consensual act is the traditional idea that it is compliant with the male role to approach the female in an aggressive way, and that it's the traditional role of the woman to "squirm" and finally "submit".5

"Compare victims' reports of rape with women's reports of sex. They look a lot alike....[T]he major distinction between intercourse (normal) and rape (abnormal) is that the normal happens so often that one cannot get anyone to see anything wrong with it."19

Many of the women analyzed by [Otto Rank] wanted to be dominated, wanted to lose.18 It almost looked as if they staged the primitive old rituals all over again; the conquering of the woman by brute male force. They enjoyed losing even in abstract situations7; possibly to be "conquered" as their role demanded, maybe to be bettered, to be sure the one she submits to is better at the arbitrary thing than herself, perchance not pose a threat to her lover.
Unfortunately, the social construct of "women wanting to be conquered to finally submit" and "men having to be strong, assertive and conquering" (which is part of what some feminists of either gender call a rape culture*25) provide an ideal foundation for popular myths about women and rape:

4.5.2 Myths about rape

Certain myths (see here for some facts) reflect many men's views, and male power is exercised through the fact that "they" have successfully convinced women of this ideology.5 These myths* 26 provide further "proof" of the "unworthiness of the female". "All women want to be raped."
Men cling to the idea that "women want to be raped" because sexual assault is a deed done in the name of masculinity, making the idea of "women enjoying it because of and in the name of femininity" seem a comfortable excuse. The dichotomy of male thinking knows but one who is active, and one the act is committed on.5 The fact that many women have rape fantasies is used to support that notion despite of the fact that they also are created by a misogynist society and serve, from the woman's point of view, a totally different purpose: they are a way to make one's needs and the social requirement of un-assertiveness meet in the safety of a sandbox. "You cannot thread a moving needle."
Where the point is not tell women to fight back, but to play down the violation ex post; it is implied that the assault was only possible through the participation of the woman5, which in turn happened because "She wanted it."
The victim is blamed for the assault in a way nobody ever gets blamed for getting robbed (while the woman is not supposed to blame anybody (but herself)). The often-heard cliché that claims that the woman "provoked" her assailant implies that male sexuality is such a strong driving force that it can turn any man into an unthinking, irresponsible animal at the drop of a hat (the myth of the sex-drive that can't be denied is also used as an excuse for perpetuating prostitution). This often results in victims trying to figure out "what they did or wore to provoke this" (distorting the fact that even if one runs around naked, "no" still means "no"), which is part of a terrible dilemma; the choice between being to blame for what happened, or there being no reason for it at all, meaning that it might happen again any time. Constant anxiety results.
While some people might argue that women are indeed provoking men by adopting "the fashion of the victims", the question remains if all the children who get abused also "wanted it", and of just how slinkily the 90-year-old victim dressed... and again -- No Means No. "If you get raped, why not relax and enjoy?"
This is not only implying that "resistance is futile" in all cases, it also plays down the assault, implying that any woman can enjoy any sex with any man (or men) at any time, that deep down, "she wants it", the sex, the humiliation, as paraded in the misogynistic propaganda of pornography*.

4.5.3 Causes and Implications

"Rape is an act of aggression in which the victim is denied her self-determination. It is an act of violence which, if not actually followed by beatings or murder, nevertheless always carries with it the threat of death. [..] Finally, rape is a form of mass terrorism, for the victims of rape are chosen indiscriminately, but the propagandists for male supremacy broadcast that it is women who cause rape by being unchaste or in the wrong place at the wrong time -- in essence, by behaving as though they were free."28

A world without rapists would be a world where women could act freely, without fear of men. The fact that some men do rape is enough of a threat to keep women constantly subdued5. All men benefit from the domination and control of all women.

Also, the many cases of sexual harassment do not only reflect on the male ideology of rape, but also on a paralysis of the "female will"; a result of intentional, destructive and effective conditioning of women*25:

Female sexuality is normally expected to manifest as passive beauty;
"Wait, one day thy prince shall come."
"But what if it's the Big Bad Wolf knocking at the door?"
"Even then the thing to do is to submit; the wolf is bigger and stronger than thou art. No point in fighting back. But don't worry, little girl, there be friendly hunters in these woods."5
("But mommy, I'm a Lesbian!")

We are trained to cry, to charme, to plead and to look for male protection, but we never learnt to fight and win*25.

"In an assault situation, the woman has chosen neither combat-style nor battle-ground. She is totally unprepared. She cannot win; the most she can expect is to escape from defeat. The methods used against women are violence or the threat of the use thereof. The demonstration of violence is primarily a male behaviour. Women, on the other hand, are discouraged from using physical force from earliest childhood. She is not up to the confrontation, the fight. Being female has forced her into the role of the victim."5
"Ninety-five percent of women's experiences are about being a victim. Or about being an underdog, or having to survive... women didn't go to Vietnam and blow up things. They are not Rambo."20

According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1991, an estimated 155,000 women were raped each year between 1973 and 1987.

5 Corollary

5.1 The Present

While it is true that some women display behaviour that appears masochistic, and while some women might actually enjoy humiliation and violence, it seems to be a mistake of amazing proportions to confuse this status quo with what should be, or with what is natural. Any genuine masochistic tendencies seem to be the result of prior violations or a general lack of self-esteem, mostly due to society-created role-stereotyping.

5.2 Thoughts for the Future

  • When men are oppressed, it's [termed] "tragedy".
    When women are oppressed, it's [called] "tradition".
    --Bernadette Mosala
  • Society does everything it can to destroy women, then they call us weak and inferior for being broken. Many of us actively partake in this destruction believing the myth that "Being broken is being beautiful".
  • We are led to believe things could never be better, that we could never do better, that the status quo will prevail. But if we do give up hope, we will indeed cement the status quo.
  • To achieve anything, we have to go a long way; we're interested in the result, not in the sweat and tears (or pain) it takes.
    Us accepting the pain of struggling towards the goal of a less misogynystic society cannot be described as "masochistic".

1 Jessica Benjamin, Master and Slave: The Fantasy of Erotic Domination, in Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell & Sharon Thompson Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983, p. 286.
2 Theodor Reik, Aus Leiden Freuden. Masochismus und Gesellschaft, Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe, 1972.
3 Clara Thompson, On Women, New York: New American Library, 1964, p. 133.
4 Esther Vilar, The Manipulated Man, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1972.
5 Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women & Rape, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.
6 Elizabeth A. Waites, Fixing Women: Devaluation, Idealization, and the Female Fetish, in Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 30 (1982), p. 435-459.
7 Paula J. Caplan, The Myth Of Women's Masochism, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1985.
8 http://www.infocom.com/~genesis/resource/lesson12.family.html: The Stockholm Syndrome
9 Pat Califia, Sapphisterie -- Das Buch der lesbischen Sexualität, Berlin: Sub-Rosa Frauenverlag, 1981, p. 267.
10 Ti-Grace Atkinson, Why I'm Against S/M Liberation, in Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis,Robin Ruth Linden, Darlene R. Pagano, Diana E. H. Russell, and Susan Leigh Star (Eds.), East Palo Alto, CA: Frog in the Well, 1982, 90-92.
11 Susan Brownmiller, Gegen unseren Willen: Vergewaltigung und Männerherrschaft, Foreword by Karin Howard, Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1978.
12 Jeri Dawn Wine, Barbara Moses, and Marti Diane Smye, Female Superiority in Sex Difference Competence Comparisons: A Review of the Literature, in C. Stark-Adamec, Sex Differences: Origins, Influences, and Implications for Women, Montreal: Eden Press Women's Publications, 1980, p. 176-186.
13 Linda Phelps, Female Sexual Alienation, in Jo Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective - 2nd ed., Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield, 1979, p. 18-26.
14 Helene Deutsch, Psychologie der Frau, Bern: Huber, 1948-1954.
15 K. Horney, Feminine Psychology, New York 1967.
16 Paula J. Caplan, Between Women: Lowering the Barriers, Toronto: Personal Library Publishers, 1981.
17 Jean Baker Miller, Toward a New Psychology of Women, Boston: Beacon, 1976, p. 110.
18 Gunther Stuhlmann (editor), Tagebücher der Anais Nin, Reinbek 1976, II, p. 15.
19 Catherine MacKinnon, quoted in Christina Hoff Sommers, Hard-Line Feminists Guilty of Ms.-Representation, Wall Street Journal, November 7, 1991.
20 Jodie Foster in The New York Times Magazine, January 6, 1991, p. 19.
21 David Gerrold, When H.A.R.L.I.E. was One, Revision 2.0, New York: Bantam, 1988.
23 http://www.igc.apc.org/nemesis/ACLU/Porn/HillSilverOrd1.html: Steven Hill and Nina Silver, Civil right anti-pornography legislation: Address harm to women, Always Causing Legal Unrest site, 1992.
24 http://pubweb.ucdavis.edu/Documents/RPEP/etiquet.htm: North American Etiquette, from In Defense of Ourselves.
25 http://pubweb.ucdavis.edu/Documents/RPEP/rculture.htm: Defining a Rape Culture.
26 http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/3925/myths.html: John Hamlin, List of Rape Myths, in Sociology of Rape, University of Minnesota Duluth.
27 Patricia Ireland (president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Glamour, February 1997.
28 Susan Griffin, Rape: The all-american crime, in Ramparts (Vol. 10), 9/1971.
29 http://personalitydisorders.cmhc.com/disorders/sx13.htm: DSM IV (summarized), Dependent personality disorder symptons, in Personality disorders, on Mental Health Net.
30 http://personalitydisorders.cmhc.com/disorders/sx17.htm: DSM IV (summarized), Histrionic personality disorder symptons, in Personality disorders, on Mental Health Net.
31 http://personalitydisorders.cmhc.com/disorders/sx36.htm: DSM IV (summarized), Narcissistic personality disorder symptons, in Personality disorders, on Mental Health Net.
32 http://www.igc.org/nemesis/ACLU/Nikki/BeautyClarke1.html: De Clarke, What is beauty, anyway?, on 'Nemesis'.
33 Colette Dowling, The Cinderella Complex -- Women's Hidden Fear of Independence, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981
34 Frederik S. Perls, Gestalttherapie in Aktion, Stuttgart, 1974