Why Do Men Fear
the Power of Women,
How Do They Fuel Men's
Warlike Tendencies, and
What Can Be Done to Help?
by Jonathan J. Dickau ©'98 - all rights reserved
The history of women's persecution by men is a long and ignominious story. The legacy of male domination, and the horrific abominations it inspired, is well known to most modern women, but the reasons why men have felt the need to keep women down is a complete mystery to many of these same people. I recently attended a showing of a documentary film called The Burning Times, which described the persecution of those suspected to be witches, and other atrocities inflicted during the Inquisition. This event was much like the Holocaust of the Jews, to the females of that time, but it lasted for 300 years. In the discussion which followed the movie, one of the ladies in attendance raised the question "Why should men fear the power of women anyway?," and suggested that it was a silly thing for men to consider women a threat.
At that point, I was almost dumbfounded by her naiveté, because my personal experience makes this question a no-brainer. I spoke up loudly, telling the whole roomful of people that as a single man in his forties, who has never been married, I have become (or have been) intensely fearful of women, and the power they have over me. The other single men, in the room at the time, also voiced their assent, but the one married men there kept his mouth shut. Had I been in a relationship, at that time, I would probably have kept my mouth shut too, since no man wants to ruin a good thing. Admittedly, very few men would want to reveal their fear of women, even to themselves, as this would be a sign of weakness, or vulnerability, and a man's ego needs something to be proud of.
Unfortunately, this fact alone has had deadly consequences. You see, fear can act as a powerful motivator, even when it's existence is denied (maybe especially then). People tend to lash out at what they fear, whether it is a genuine threat, something out of their control, or merely something that is beyond their ability to understand. For most men, women are too changeable to predict, too unpredictable to control, and too different (or perhaps too complicated) to comprehend. Add to this the fact that most men need female companions, in order to be at their best (because their self-esteem is connected to their sexuality), and there are all the ingredients for some real trouble. When a man's basic instincts drive him to bond with a woman, and this possibility is denied (whether through circumstances, beliefs or rejection), frustration results, and this can literally drive a man insane.
A man's body is driven by the hormone testosterone, which prompts us to either make love, or make war, and it is not possible to just ignore these drives, although it is possible to control them, and even to reduce the amount of testosterone circulating in the body. Women who have lost the sex urge (after menopause, or as a result of other trauma), can be administered doses of testosterone equal to about one fifth of the average level for a man, and they become quite easily aroused and almost driven to pursue sexual intimacy. There are some times of the month that many women's systems produce that much testosterone on their own, but men walk around with several times this level from puberty until the day we die. Men are, in effect, intensified by our hormones, and we naturally have more drive, more tension, and more pressure to achieve something.
This tends to make us more aggressive, both sexually and in other ways, and it also tends to make rejection of our sexual needs (by our intended partner) far more difficult for men to deal with. When we feel frustrated, this tends to make men become even more aggressive, and often more violent. Ironically, the pressure that men feel when we have not had sex recently also tends to make us appear desperate, which makes many women uncomfortable, and this also increases the likelihood of rejection. I do not mean to suggest that women should feel compelled to gratify men who make them uncomfortable, but I do believe that women's extraordinary sensitivity, and their natural response to frustrated males (to avoid them), tends to reinforce and intensify men's fear of being rejected. The fear of rejection can lead to depression, or to violence, and this is a big part of the problem.
Of course, external factors contribute to the problem too, and this makes the situation even more complicated. You see, in times of prosperity, or in the presence of nature's abundance, women's traits make them more valuable, and the natural order tends to favor a matriarchal society. On the other hand, when life is a struggle (whether because of natural forces or outside incursions), and an intense effort is required just to survive, the strength and drive of men becomes a valuable commodity indeed. In addition, limited resources can only provide for the needs of so many people, and this can make women bearing children a distinct liability for the community. Whether the shortage is caused by drought or flood, cold weather or heat, famine caused by natural disasters makes each extra mouth a problem, and this makes pregnant women a threat to others.
Men, of course, are unable to bear children, and childbirth is therefore a great mystery to all men. It's also a process that is quite out of our control, and anything uncon- trollable tends to make men nervous. Unfortunately, this dynamic is antagonistic to women, by nature, because women don't want to be controlled, and they rightfully view their bodies as their own possession and responsibility. On the other hand, the father of a child should have some rights, as well as responsibilities, regarding the fate of that infant. Until recently, however, there was no definitive way of determining the identity of the father, if the woman had shared the company of more than one man before her pregnancy. It was seldom possible to resolve matters amicably, when there was a dispute over who was the baby's father, and this has been a cause of much hatred and bloodshed. It has also caused a lot of concealment and deceit to enter the picture.
This is one of the primary fears that men have about women, and though most men certainly know how to lie, women are so much more subtle, in general, and (given the inclination) they tend to be better at it than men, while seeing through most male ruses. This tends to give women a distinct natural advantage, an edge over men. It may also cause some women to misjudge the natural up-tightness of inexperienced, or highly desirous, men who wish to interact with them. The problem with this, as I see it, is that this also leaves many of these same women vulnerable to those who are especially clever liars. Men who are smooth talkers, and good at convincing others, can appear far more real to a woman than someone who is genuinely interested in their well being, and I have seen the trail of tears such men have left behind. This has also left some women scarred, and hateful of men, because their hurt feelings, and belief in their own sound judgment, have left them believing that all men must be that way.
This situation drives sensitive men crazy, because the evidence seems to indicate that they must learn to be deceitful, in order to make it with women, and men of integrity are usually reluctant to do that. Nor does playing at being someone you're not really work, in the long run, and it is therefore not a very prudent strategy for cultivating sincere love. On the other hand, if the lady he has befriended is prone to fabrication, or would suspect him of lying anyway, it's a good thing for a man to be somewhat savvy about such matters. The end result has made things rather complicated, in the modern western world, however, because sincere men who have been labeled as liars tend to lash out at women somewhat, out of fear of being misjudged by abused women or misused by cunning women, and they have a difficult time making sense of these things.
The problem is that these matters don't really make good sense! The thing about concealment and deceit is that they obscure the true sense of things, making the available evidence incongruent, and making what is real appear to be untrue. This creates discontinuities in the common reality of the people who are involved, and exacerbates the other misunderstandings which are present in their relationship (whether as family, friends, or lovers). The only good thing I can say about lying is that it is not ultimately real, or rather, that it isn't all there is to reality. Admittedly, some lies are actually a comfort to us, while we can believe in them, but this doesn't mean that fabrication is a good thing. The problem with lying is that it always creates separation between people. Different echelons form among the friends of those who misrepresent the truth, since people want to confide in someone, but also want their secrets to be concealed, when they let their true feelings be known to a close friend.
The keeping of secrets seems to be something many women are good at, and this too makes men afraid. Gossip about their foibles serves to emasculate men, in the eyes of those who have heard the secrets about them, and tends to foster mistrust by negatively prejudicing the opinions of others. Whether the rumors are true seems to have little bearing on the consequences, to those men who depend upon the community in which they live for their well-being, and therefore women's gossip can be a terrible threat indeed. No wonder many men fear the power of women so strongly, and want to assert their own rights with them. The problem is that since men are, by nature, more aggressive, they often try to dominate women, rather than attempting to strike a balance, and this doesn't often work the way men intend it to. The ability of women to cleverly elude domination, while appearing to be under a man's control, gives men yet one more reason to feel insecure, regardless of how committed their relationship with a woman appears to be.
The only answer to bridging the rift between the sexes is letting the truth be known, so that others can benefit from what we each already know. Men and women have both kept many secrets about themselves from each other, and this has to change. Men have to learn more of what being a woman is all about, and women need to be more knowledgeable about what the challenges really are for a man. Women are afraid of men too, and many of the strategies they have evolved for interaction are born of their fear. Instead of fear, between women and men, or blind trust in each other, we must learn to cultivate a greater love for one another, and a truer understanding of the differences between us. Men are born with a handicap, despite our larger and stronger bodies, and women need to learn compassion for men, if any of us is going to survive. Women also have unique challenges, which most men know nothing about, and men need to realize that women too need compassion. Only when the love we feel is greater than the fear will the problem be solved.
©'98 Jonathan J. Dickau - all rights reserved
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This page was posted on
January 5, 1999