Thursday, June 26, 2014

One Zero Seven: Dry Spells

There's a term I ran across the other day--- incel. It means involuntary celibate, someone who's unable to have sex even though he (and it's always a he) hasn't chosen to give it up. It doesn't refer to anyone with a medical issue; it's strictly about social failure.

The word does intrigue me. It's associated with the MRA movement, or at least with the more unhappy factions within the MRA world. MRA types who describe themselves as incel are marking themselves as sexual failures, after all, and is that something you'd want to do? They also talk about incel rage, about apocalyptic fantasies where males who've been excluded from sex lash out at their oppressors. That's a sort of Frantz Fanon image, isn't it? The wretched of the earth rising up against the colonial oppressor? A purifying violence restoring a sense of meaning?

Involuntary celibacy... How does that differ from the occasional dry spells that everyone goes through in his romantic life? I've yet to see a time limit set out at any of the blogs where the concept on involuntary celibacy is discussed. Must it be a lifetime thing, or is there a line at, say, a year?

I'll take it as a given that everyone, or at least everyone male, has felt a certain amount of bitterness in times of romantic and sexual drought. And it's worth bearing in mind that there is a very fine line between asking What am I doing wrong? and asking What's wrong with me? Those are two very different things. One is about tactics, the other is about one's value as a person. The second question is the scary one, and likely to evoke bitterness and self-disgust and anger.

The gender warriors, needless to say, despise the word incel. They haven't much use for the men who use it, either. There's something unpleasant there, just as a note. The gender warriors respond to anyone complaining of being incel by mocking them as being exactly the things the incel types fear they are to begin with--- by feeding their fears and self-loathing.

I think the gender warriors do miss some things, though. One of the usual responses to laments about involuntary celibacy is to dismissively tell the incel types to go home and masturbate. But the incel plaints aren't in the end about getting off.  The Solitary Vice is useless for solving what the incel types are really complaining about. It's not about the physical part of sex--- or at least not at the core. The pain is about something social, about not having a sense of belonging, a sense of being good enough, a sense of being able to do what everyone else seems to be doing, a sense of having value to another person.

Sex is never just about sex. It's always about other things as well. Social validation is one, of course. We hear over and over that one isn't supposed to look to external validation for a sense of worth, but we are social animals. We look to our place in the tribe, to what we see of ourselves in others' eyes. The pain in involuntary celibacy isn't about failure to have orgasms. It's about failure to have social value.  I know that during dry spells in my life, what I've missed most isn't so much the sex itself but the symbols of sex: going out, being out with someone, being in public with a lover, being part of the social and public rituals of romance and sex.  One envies flirtations and seductions far more than the merely physical.  The moment that makes things worthwhile isn't intromission. It's the moment when the girl first undresses for you--- the moment where you know you've been chosen, the moment when you realize that you have at least a night's worth of value to someone attractive.  The moment that says you're good enough for this is the moment that's the victory.

We're social animals,  and whatever we need physically, we need abstract things at least as much. I can understand the incel types' pain as being about that. Yes--- I'm as likely as many of the gender warriors to mock some of their plaints and manifestos. I'm not an MRA sort, but I'm very much a snob about some things--- especially manifestos.  But I understand about the pain of not being seen to have value, of not having access to the symbols of being valued. I could live without physical sex, but I could never live without the rituals and symbols of sex and romance.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

One Zero Six: Corporeality

Being a gentleman of a certain age means being aware (and sometimes being all-too-aware) of time and decay. It means being someone who does hear the phrase bare, ruin'd choirs in his head like the calls of the Wild Hunt growing closer and closer.  There's no way around that. You're aware of time and age and decay.

Bare, ruin'd choirs---  I've seen annotations and explanations that say it really only means losing one's hair,  Shakespeare's own fear of his own encroaching baldness. But we all know what it means, don't we? The image of abandoned buildings in a wintery landscape, the image of silenced voices. It's often taken to be about impotence, of course,  about the failures time imposes. I can understand those things. Though I think that there's something more here.

Baldness and impotence are taken as the two key male fears once you reach a certain age. I won't try to pinpoint the number. It's a moving target after all. The best one could do is say that it's a number higher than the age where the arbitrary social rules no longer allow you to dance at clubs. Those two things, though, aren't the worst fears that age brings.

There are deeper fears, and ones that will paralyze you more than the fear of impotence or of going bald. After all, the Blue Pill exists, and current fashion allows men to shave their heads.  The body's decay leads to things that far more terrifying.

I'm not talking just about the unsightliness that age brings. Flesh itself is a failure, and all the inner ills the body is heir to. Decay isn't just about looks or less frequent erections. Everything inside the body decays as well, and none of those things can be discussed or seen or acknowledged.  The risks of that are too great, the social penalties too devastating. There are things that one could never risk having happen around a sexual partner, things too humiliating and degrading ever to be forgotten.

It's always a risk,  revealing the body, trusting the body. And the risk of having the body fail in ways that evoke disgust is just too great. Flesh is and always has been a failure, something that makes any kind of sex a risk for seeing revulsion or disgust in a lover's eyes.

One has to just accept it. The body itself cannot be trusted, and being embodied, being inside flesh, is a clear avenue to being mocked or treated with derision. Flesh is a failure. We need to know this.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

One Zero Five: Semaphore

I do have to think about the concept of misogyny, about what it means, and about how the definition has become so unfocused, so overly broad, as to render the word almost meaningless. Like "narcissist" or "entitled", it's become a generalized term of abuse and condemnation without any clear standards. "Misogyny" is one more word, one more concept, that the gender wars have rendered too broad to be of any real use except as a way to condemn and dismiss out of hand.

I want to sit down and write about the whole idea of "misogyny" and about what it means, or at least about what it means to me. I suppose I might wait a bit, or at least until the #YesAllWomen furor has died down a bit.

What I will think about, though, is signals between men and women--- how both sides seem to be losing the ability to read signals from the other, or maybe losing the will to accept what signaling involves.

Whenever I read articles or commentariat rants about the "nice guy" issue, one thing that always comes up is women's anger that a male is being "nice" to them but has ulterior motives, motives that are seemingly always regarded as despicable or sinister. I've never quite understood that.  It may be that my own grasp of "nice" is outmoded. But it's always been my view that "nice" is a signal that one is interested in a girl. This isn't base-level politeness or mere ordinary daily social pleasantry. "Nice" has always meant something else to me--- paying particular attention to a given person, going out of one's way to do small favors or offer kindnesses. It's more than ordinary politeness, and it's based on things that one male isn't likely to do for another.  Being "nice" to a girl, paying particular attention to a girl, is a courtship signal. It's a way of signaling that you're willing to do out-of-the-ordinary things for one particular person.  It's a way of signaling romantic interest, of signaling that you find this girl to be somehow special. I've always argued that "nice" is something more than ordinary politeness. If you weren't interested in this girl, you wouldn't be rude or impolite, but you wouldn't go beyond mere ordinary courtesy in how you treat her.

You signal a girl that you're interested in her on a romantic or sexual level. You do that by showing her individualized attention. She's no longer treated as simply someone in the background, someone to whom you distantly say "thank you" or "pardon me". She may or may not offer up a favorable response to your signal, she may or may not be interested in returning the signal, but there really shouldn't be any question that "nice" is a courtship signal. I've no idea how it became taken for granted that "nice" implies some sinister ulterior motive. It's part of courtship, part of the mating dance, and it is obvious enough. Why is "nice" somehow sinister? Why is it somehow disreputable or despicable to be sexually or romantically interested in someone and signal that interest by showing individual attention?

Again, now, there's no guarantee of a favorable response. Let's take that as a given. But if the male needs to accept that, the girl needs to admit that what's happening is a signal about someone's interest in her. It should be simple enough to tell.  One basic question the girl should ask herself is whether the attentions being paid her are something one (straight) male would do for another. If the answer is no, then the girl shouldn't pretend to be surprised or shocked: there's a mating ritual in play. Say yes, say no--- that's your choice if you're the recipient. But don't pretend to be surprised.  Recognize, too, and accept that if you say no, you may have to simply walk away from the male in question. Unrequited desire and unrequited love are perfectly ordinary and commonplace, but they're still painful and awkward. If there's nothing in the signal to interest you, then say no and make a clean and immediate break. Don't--- don't ---keep someone around just to benefit from the signals, just for the favors.

I'm never sure what signals the gender warriors find acceptable between males and females. To straightforwardly, directly announce sexual or romantic interest is regarded as aggression. To offer up individualized attention as a way of announcing interest, to try to make it especially pleasant--- "nice" ---to be around you is seen as having evil ulterior motives. It may well be that the gender warriors don't think males should demonstrate any interest at all. After all, they already regard seduction--- persuasion ---as evil.

There are signals out there.  It's exhausting and depressing to think that we're losing the ability to read others' courtship and mating signals...or, worse, refusing to admit that signals exist and admit what they mean.