It’s time to stop using regressive evolutionary theory to justify men’s sexual objectification of women
Even ‘good men’ continue to defend men’s right to access female bodies, using debunked evolutionary theory.
A backlash against the #MeToo Campaign is running parallel with the campaign itself. Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked and fierce proponent of free speech, describes women’s free speech to name men’s predatory sexual conduct as a collective “witch hunt.” O’Neill tells us “sexual harassment hysteria is innately hostile to and even destructive of the idea of natural justice.” Men are being accused “of things only the most prudish and immature of minds could consider crimes or misdemeanors.” This is, he argues, “a Kafkaesque hell” and “a cult of ‘believe the women.’” O’Neill concludes:
“The sexual-harassment-in-politics scandal, built on flimsy accusations, swirling rumours, and an illiberal willingness to believe everyone who points a lone accusatory finger and says ‘PREDATOR,’ is becoming not simply strange and irritating but dangerous.”
Reducing women’s collective consciousness-raising to hysteria is a crude analysis that falls upon old, deeply embedded cultural myths: He attributes women’s collective speech to the myth of the lonely wrathful woman’s desire for summary justice because of some alleged inconsequential sleight by an unsuspecting, innocent man. He also calls upon the culturally embedded myth that women’s testimony is untrustworthy and not to be believed. He whips up fear of the #MeToo Campaign by suggesting similarity with the irrationality of the witch hunts of the 17th century, obfuscating that women themselves are calling for reasoned justice.
O’Neill’s analysis erases history rather than learning from its lessons. The many genuine gains made by women over the centuries have been achieved through the dogged, persistent, and brave speaking out against patriarchs whose vested interests are mobilized by belittling what women say. Despite women’s social gains, in 21st century Western liberal democracies, there remains a deep, festering, gender malaise — a dark shadow to women’s emancipation. Women speaking out exposes the undeclared deeply held belief of the Good Guy — the family man with cultural status — who nonetheless believes he has a right to women’s bodies. Women’s speech about men’s sexualized behaviour touches upon this inconvenient truth.
Heterosexual men’s pornography consumption demonstrates the historical persistence of the idea women are positioned as an available sex class for men.
I recently interviewed a medical doctor about his use of pornography. Let’s call the interviewee Richard. Richard told me he finds the sight of multiple women’s naked bodies visually compelling. Internet pornography, he assured me, is the perfect modern-day solution to Civilized Man’s moral dilemma. It allows him to cede his evolutionary heritage whilst enabling him to live according to society’s rules. In Richard’s belief, the bespectacled microbiologist peering down his microscope all day is no less biologically determined by testosterone and the Y chromosome than Primitive Man rapaciously roaming the savannahs of Europe. “This is why pornography is so neat,” he declared. “It allows Civilized Man to exercise control of his base impulses by channeling them into harmless fantasy.”