On Male Entitlement to Women or “Whose Fault is Patriarchy?”

Men as a class believe that they deserve access to women.

When women reject men, they get angry. They think are being denied some*thing* that they believe they are owed.

Given this context, I’d like to evaluate something I’ve heard said, which is:

If women withdrew their energy from men, the patriarchy would collapse.

I don’t believe this to be true, and I’d like to evaluate it in the context of male entitlement to women.

To begin with, the statement presumes that women are free to choose to leave men.

Are they?

In many cases, there are economic considerations to think of when freeing women from men. Many women are currently financially unable, due to children, or disability, or life circumstances, to leave the men in their lives.

Furthermore, women are conditioned to reject one another in favor of male attention, and to pursue male attention as a primary life goal. Those very few women who find themselves able to become female-centric are rare, because the conditioning we receive to hate other women is so pervasive and insidious (see The Exceptional Woman ). At least in my case, I am not the perfect radical feminist, and am not always certain that I place women first in my life in every circumstance, though I *try* to. Undoing this conditioning and pursuing sisterhood can be a lifelong process.

Additionally, compulsory heterosexuality coupled with Societal Stockholm Syndrome make it very difficult for women who are in love (or “in love”) with men in their lives to leave them.

(And of course, perhaps there are a very small number of truly pro-feminist unicorns men who do not stomp on women’s liberation, but I am not getting into exceptionalism here.)

Now none of this means that all women are unable to withdraw their energy from all men. It simply illustrates the various difficulties women might encounter when attempting to do so.

But even if women are able to withdraw their energy from men, that will not change men’s behavior, or their sense of entitlement to women.

If there are not enough women willing to give men energy, men will take women’s energy for themselves.*

We see this in porn and prostitution already. In the ForeverAlone subreddit, for example, a man who has been “unsuccessful” at wooing women to be his f’khole and maid thinks it is funny to suggest that he should just buy a wife, aka trafficked woman. He feels he deserves a woman so much that if she won’t consent on her own, he’ll simply purchase that consent for himself. Either way, he’s getting his.

This happens all the time, and everywhere. Men laugh about their entitlement to women.

We can easily see this entitlement illustrated by a New York Times story that came out yesterday.

In the article, we read that Williston, North Dakota is a recently booming oil town where there are at least 1.6 men for every woman.

Men do not like this ratio, because it means there are not enough f’hole maids women for their liking. They feel entitled to a certain type of object (that is, women), so they get very angry when they don’t get the toy they want to play with and take care of them.

Notice how resident Jon Kenworthy discusses the lack-of-women situation in Williston. His response illustrates his entitlement to women, and describes them as if they are dehumanized objects to be “imported”.

“It’s bad, dude,” said Jon Kenworthy, 22, who moved to Williston from Indiana in early December. “I was talking to my buddy here. I told him I was going to import from Indiana because there’s nothing here.”

What do men do when their entitlement to women is not met?

Men in Williston harass women in the grocery store and at the bars. They frequent prostituted women, and strip clubs. They attempt to carry women off in the middle of the afternoon. Men in Williston take their entitlement to women, and force themselves upon them. Either way, they’re getting theirs.

This is why women in Williston are afraid to leave their homes.

If women as a group withdraw our energy from men, then men will forcibly take us. Boundaries they find inconvenient will be violated by force.

We are, in a very real sense, their hostages.

This is why slutwalk marches don’t work. As I said in another blog post,

“By publicly dressing up in panties and duct tape, these women seem to me to be placating the men, saying, “I’ll consent, so you don’t need to rape me! See, sex is on the table, so no need to go forcing anyone.”

How disgusting that we live in a world where a popular protest against male sexual violence “works” by placating men with the offer of sex. How repulsive and infuriating that this is what men demand of women.

Now. All that having been said.

Please don’t think this post means that we shouldn’t focus on women, and withdraw our energy from men. We can and should do whatever we can to manage under patriarchy.

The point of my post is to state clearly that men are responsible for upholding patriarchy.

The point of my post is to state clearly that women are not responsible for upholding patriarchy.

*The short story Wives by Lisa Tuttle illustrates this.
** Thanks to Winnie for discussing these issues with me.

About smash
Women's liberationist.

45 Responses to On Male Entitlement to Women or “Whose Fault is Patriarchy?”

  1. liza says:

    I am so guilty of saying if women withdraw energy from men Patriarchy will collapse. I said it in 1976…but still. I think you have a very good point. Furthermore, what exactly is the “energy” that we should withdraw? Another fuzzy 1970’s concept, I guess.

    I do think it is vital that we keep thinking about women, talking about women, organizing women, and deconstructing patriarchal logic, loudly when we can.

    cheers. Liza

    • smash says:

      Hey liza, thanks for stopping by!

      I so agree that we must put our focus on women as much as possible.

      I suppose by “withdrawing our energy” the idea is that we don’t partner with men, raise them, or buy from them?

      I was specifically thinking in this post about withdrawing our sexual and domestic labor from them.

      • lizacowan says:

        Yes…and I think the way I mean it was that we should do all of that but also to work very hard amongst ourselves to think differently…to remember that patriarchal logic is only one paradigm, and a very bad one at that.

        I wrote about it here, in 1978. http://seesaw.typepad.com/dykeaquarterly/2012/08/dyke-a-quarterly-no-6-separatist-symposium-1978-part-one.html

        “When I say Lesbian Separatism I am talking about the analysis and observation that there is a profound difference between male and female, and the understanding that women have the need and right to be together without males and to define the world in our terms. Men “rule” the world, but Mother Nature is a Lesbian. Men try to control Mother Nature and they try to control women. Lesbian Separatism is an analysis which shows women that it is possible to withdraw support from men, and a belief that withdrawal of women’s support will dissolve the patriarchy.”

        • smash says:

          “women have the need and right to be together without males and to define the world in our terms”

          I so agree with this, and that is why women-only space is *vital*. It’s so sad when I see some liberal feminists state that they think excluding males is “othering”. sigh

          Apparently they’ve never experienced the joy of women-only space. I hope all women get the opportunity at some point in their lives.

    • T says:

      withdrawing our energy from men means not tending to them anymore. Not cooking their dinner, waiting on them, doing their laundry, fighting other women for men, etc. Especially: no more sex ON DEMAND. Consensual sex fine, ON DEMAND, no.

  2. I still agree with the statement. Men need women much more than women need men. A female separatist movement (or a men’s separatist movement, which would have the same effect) would be much more favorable to women than to men.

  3. Thank you for looking at this.

    “They feel entitled to a certain type of object (that is, women), so they get very angry when they don’t get the toy they want to play with and take care of them.”

    This is happening on a much greater scale in China and India, in areas where sex-selecive abortion and female infanticide have skewed the ratio of men to women.

  4. Just found this: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/16/sex_ratios_and_the_single_girl/

    “We don’t often hear about skewed sex ratios in the U.S., and tend to associate lopsided populations with countries like China and India, where a preference for sons has led to widespread sex-selective abortions and the abandonment, neglect and murder of female daughters. But as Eligon notes, jobs are scarce, and male-heavy labor migration is a growing phenomenon right here at home…”

    • smash says:

      Great article phona.

      “Rates of sexual violence spike in places where women are scarce. And all too often, a culture of entitlement — to sex, to women’s bodies — can fester.”

      These articles have been quite honest lately about male entitlement. It’s interesting to see in mainstream media.

  5. Hecuba says:

    Indeed phonaesthetica and this article published today in The Age states countries wherein the sex ratio is deliberately skewed so that there are far more males than females, result is increased male sexual violence against women and girls.

    Men want two things simultaneously – to deny female babies the right of life and to have pseudo male sex right to females of any age, any time anywhere.

    Men do need women far more than women need but patriarchal reversal constantly claims women need a man because a woman cannot supposedly exist without compulsory presence of male/males 24/7.

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-the-world-is-more-dangerous-with-fewer-girls-20130116-2ctp1.html

  6. “Men want two things simultaneously – to deny female babies the right of life and to have pseudo male sex right to females of any age, any time anywhere.”

    Wow — I never heard it put that way. Terrifying and succinct!

  7. Reblogged this on phonaesthetica and commented:
    Male entitlement + skewed male/female ratio + women conditioned to hate other women + pornstitution culture = nothing that can be cured by SlutWalk.

  8. goodrumo says:

    Have you folks had a chance to read Dr Valerie Hudson’s ‘Sex and World Peace’? http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/24/what_sex_means_for_world_peace Your blog post here has my brain ticking over again, aligning with what Dr Hudson (and co contributors) have to say. Excellent essay here, thankyou, I have re-blogged it, have assumed that would be ok. Am following you too, learning a lot.

  9. mbraaheidner says:

    Great post Smash! My only comment is that, at least when I have said that “women need to take back their energy from men”, I wasn’t necessarily talking about physically leave the men.When I speak about female energy that is invested in men, I speak about “forced dependence” emotional and mental. Women have been taught that their identity is about their relationships or how they take care of men; therefore, most women don’t have their own identity. The point being that women need to examine this dependence and this false identity and take steps towards liberating themselves from it (emotionally and mentally etc… ) so that they can become “whole or authentic self identified women”. This doesn’t mean they have to leave their men; however, when women do this it will rock the boat and their lives will become painful/ uncomfortable at first because it will be very hard going against the norm, and then ultimately for the better because she can then move towards living a more authentic life with or without men. In other words if women identify where they have their energy invested in men, in patriarchy etc….Where their dependence lies, then they can take steps towards taking that energy back into themselves and use it towards self empowerment. The goal is liberation so that women are empowered enough to choose to be with men instead of it being a conditioned need.

  10. Sam Berg says:

    Excellent commentary, thank you. In 2003 the antiwar project The Lysystrata Project propelled a manarchist friend to muse that women’s sex strikes might be a workable solution, upon which I reminded him that men have never needed women’s permission to obtain the sex they wanted.

    It has been a number of years since I last saw someone suggest that China’s femicidal tendencies will result in women getting more power as they get more rare. See me trying to wring something positive out of men’s doggedly intentional annihilation of my sisters?

  11. FeistyAmazon says:

    Not unless women can fight back and organize like the Ancient Amazons did, or a modern day version: the pink saronged carrying a stick and trained in it’s use Gulabi women. Women organized and a force to be reckoned with…and there have always been those of us who can perfectly LIVE without a man, and have for years, us Dykes. So it’s a very heterosexually written article. Sometimes it amazes me in a women only environment like a 12 step meeting(hetero female) when women admit how much they have hated other women and how amazing it is for them to come to a women’s meeting, when women were always seen as competition and not worthy of friendship or whatever else, and how they ‘hated’ or disliked or mistrusted other women.

    It is an absolutely foreign concept to me. I grew up loving my grandmother, having friends in an all girls school where we all pretty much got along. Tensions in school for me socially did not begin UNTIL I ended up in mixed schools..the girls were very catty and cliquish, the boys cruel, and I just didnt’ ‘fit in’ until college did I get good friends and allies again. And coming out such pride in our Lesbian and women only environments, collectives, parties, camping, rituals and all kinds of other woman bonding activities! I always knew men were dangerous to women, ever since I dated my first one, and he told me things that really scared me…which is why I was glad to finally be dating women and came out…..violence and sexual violence with men is so commonplace, that it is a serious hazard for any female to date one…I wonder how gay men do it, or if that same kind of violence is as commonplace, or fear…..or if they treat each other better being biological equals…..without all the heavy overlay and fear induction training through hetero society and religion where women are always ‘one down’. And yes, the training where men feel they have access to ALL women, even those deemed inaccessible, including us Dykes which they hit on and sexually assault just like anybody else, or go after married women, or women not their own, or underaged females, there’s no stopping them if they are determined: unless WE are ORGANIZED as the civilizing element, and there are real consequences to detrimental actions.

    I’d much rather have a society with ‘too many women’ and not enough men, than the reverse! Frankly I’d rather live in an Amazon society with no men, or very few!
    -MasterAmazon

  12. ehungerford says:

    Hi Smash! I want to say something about lesbian invisibility. The suggestion that “withdrawing energy” from men is revolutionary per se always makes me wonder what the speaker thinks of the lesbian lifestyle, or if she thinks of us at all.

    Of course most lesbians are not consciously withdrawing their energy from men for an explicitly political purpose, but most lesbians are both sexually and economically independent from men– at least in the normative heterosexual ways that women become dependent on men. So what about lesbians? Are we liberated? Are we happier? Are we are safer? I don’t think so.

    If simply withdrawing energy from men was so *politically* transformative, it seems to me that lesbian subculture would appear more directly threatening from a patriarchal perspective and more politically effective from a feminist perspective (and if anyone wants to argue pol lez with me, please don’t– *withdrawal* of energy is the issue and any woman can do that, I’m just using lesbians as an example of women who are much LESS invested in male material or emotional support than heterosexual women are).

  13. tix8770 says:

    Hi smash & thanks for the interesting conversation. You mentioned Lisa Tuttle’s short story “Wives” as an example of how involvement with men is compulsory…I think sometimes that it is the encapsulation of feminism, the finest feminist short story ever written. I read it in Feminist Philosophy & Science Fiction, edited by Judith A. Little, a great book for a lot of reasons. In “Wives”, an all-male group of astonauts arrive at a planet & find aliens who can, if one squints, and zips them up into woman-suits, be trained to be “wives” for them. It’s written from the point of view of one of the aliens and there is a very familiar chilled feeling after only the first page, that old “yes, that’s how it feels” realization. Thanks for bringing it up.

    • smash says:

      Thanks tix for your comment! It may just be the best feminist short story every written, and I referenced it for exactly your point. Men in prison “feminize” other men, and it’s likely that men in outer space would feminize and make wives of aliens. They demand access and domination, and the story illustrates exactly that

  14. Pingback: Male Entitlement And Sexual Harassment In the Workplace | WorkplaceRantings.com

  15. padawanrfboy says:

    Hi Smash, Just a quick question and so off topic, but I couldn’t see a way to message you. It is Eddie from “radical feminism will save the world” on Facebook. I will be making a donation to radfem2013, I have gotten permission, it is all good, but I would like to make it in a few people’s names, wondering if I could put you down as one. Not like it gets recorded anywhere, but just for me to honour some people I respect and have learned from. Would that be okay? Eddie

  16. M.K. Hajdin says:

    This is why that Greek play Lysistrata was such a crock of shit.

  17. smash says:

    It’s too bad, because if we could just say no and have them leave us alone, then that would be a lovely way to escape.

  18. Rididill says:

    I think the idea is that if all women do it collectively, not necessarily all at once but over time, then patriarchy will collapse. Lesbian subcultures are not that politically threatening because of their small size and marginal nature. Well I actually disagree that they aren’t politically threatening, look at all the fuss that’s being kicked up over women only spaces and that applies to lesbian only spaces in the queer community too I believe. But they are small in scale so understandably too small to be in the category of ‘credible threat’ for patriarchy. Same for whether lesbians are more liberated. I’d argue in some ways yes, in other ways no, and in other ways more oppressed. But until critical mass is reached then it won’t make a whole lot of difference.

    @mbraaheidner – agree with what you are saying about energy. I would also add something like lowering expectations. Part of what’s so energy-sucking about it all is that women expect men to treat them like equals, and when they don’t it’s so heartbreaking that someone they love could see them that way that it’s infinitely more painful. And so they will delude themselves about the reality of it until it gets so bad that it’s undeniable, or they are exposed to feminist thinking. This never happens with most women, it seems, though I could be wrong…

    As for whether it suggests women are responsible for patriarchy, I don’t think so. If any suggestion that the situation could be otherwise if women did something differently means that women are responsible for patriarchy, then what does that mean for feminist activism? If we succeed, that means we were responsible for patriarchy? In my mind, it’s just a certain strategy for collective action. That involves just getting the fuck away from them, rather than staying entirely in their grasp while trying to persuade them. We don’t have much leverage in that persuasion if we are still advantaging them by providing them with their sexual, emotional, and bodily needs.

    That is not to say it’s possible for all women to withdraw energy but if those who are privileged enough to be able to do it and start trying to build ways for other women to do it then it could be possible. I don’t doubt, though, that the reaction of men could be extremely dangerous once they realized what was going on. but I do think that it might be a better point from which to state our case than the current situation.

  19. gemw says:

    I’ve been a lesbian pretty much my whole life. I’ve never dated or done anything sexual with a man. So my entire life I have rejected any man that has approached me, tried to ask me on a date, or wanted to have sex with me. Sure there have been men that have simply got over it and moved on but I definitely have experienced and seen a lot of the anger and rage that SOME men have when getting rejected along with their feelings that they are entitled to me regardless of my sexual orientation and my long term relationship with my girlfriend. Over the years with the men I have said no to, many have harassed me, sent angry texts/calls, threatened me, and a couple have stalked me. It was quite creepy to see a 35 year old man act out like a pissed off teenager because a woman continues to not be interested in going on a date with him after asking multiple times. A couple of men felt so offended by being rejected and felt so entitled that for years they would continue to contact me and attempt to locate me. Over those years they had dated and had relationships with other women but refused to give up on that one woman that rejected them years ago.

    • michy44 says:

      That is actually very interesting to see a lesbian’s point of view and to see that lesbian women do have do endure some of the same things that straight women do. I feel that women have that special intuition and instinct that they stick close to and listen to. When it comes to dating, if a man seems to get easily angered, has an aggressive personality, unusually clingy, blows up her phone, impatient, or refuses to take no for an answer, women feel unsafe and uncomfortable and choose to stay away from them. I think that when these types of men make women feel uncomfortable and unsafe, they don’t even realize that they are making her feel that way. Women also have to live with the reality of the possibility of being raped. On the subject of dating, men’s fears are usually rejection and embarrassment but women have that fear in the back of their mind of date rape. If a man anally rapes another man, that man would most likely feel extremely violated, fearful, embarrassed, and like his manhood was damaged or taken. Women feel very similar feelings when it comes to rape.

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