The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Male Hubris

In discussing  images of sexuality in film, a very familiar comment arose about the white male tendency to present females of other groups as welcoming the domination, and the white male urge to impregnate the other.  My comment was that this is (relatively) universal, but that, in our time, white males have just been more successful.  The following comment was posted:

no , what i'm referring to goes deeper than just impregnating or conquering sexually the women of other tribes.

it includes turning those women into female "gunga dins" where said female would kill her own people ,or give her own life to save her white man.

for example , there was an old charleston heston , brian keith movie called "the mountain men" , i think .

heston's character "turns" an indian woman to the point where she kills the "bad indian" who was leading the other indians in trying to stop the white settlers from encroaching upon their tribal lands.

the "bad indian" had finally gotten the best of mountain man heston in hand to hand combat and was about to finish him off when "BAM"-- a rifle shot rings out and dead falls the bad indian --shot dead by someone who had literally been his own wife--and of course after that , the "uprising " was just as dead as the bad indian ---resulting in another territory made safe for the trappers ,wagon trains , ranchers and farmers waiting impatiently to pour in and grab the "land that is there for the taking"--there for the taking minus a few minor "inconveniences"--like the people already living there.

in flicks like that one , it's not just impregnation --its an image of indoctrination and complete sell out that movies like these presented .

I don't think that this is something different--just an elaboration of the same theme.  It is a quirk of human psychology that we can't do "wrong" to someone without thinking of ourselves as "better" than them.  That male urge to dominate and control and impregnate is wedded to the belief in superiority.  My guess is that every dominant culture, be it Ghengis Khan, Chaka Zulu, or Cortez, considered themselves "better than" and therefore fantasized that raping and controlling the women of the other tribe was doing them a favor--and that they would recognize the favor done.  The problem with slavery wasn't just the institution, it was the mythologies put in place to justify it.  Those mythologies outlived the institution they were designed to protect. 
Each "side" in a war considers themselves justified: how else could they live with the slaughter?  But breeding another group out of existence is a kind of "slow war" and our brains come up with the same solution: our penises are sacred, our sperm a sacrament, we're doing the women a favor by improving the gene pool.  And if this is true, of course,  they will respond with loyalty and love.  However...
Don't for a moment think that this is purely male fantasy.  Any time a conquerer dominates another people, SOME OF the women of that conquered people will respond favorably and with genuine sexual heat.  Biologically, it makes perfect sense--their children will carry the protective coloration, and improve their chance for survival.  Your men were defeated, so let's get some new blood in there!  And if a soldier or representative of the conquerer is, as an individual, a decent, kind man, WOW!  The response can be off the charts.  Note the "War bride" phenomenon after any military engagement.  Note the deep resentment Japanese men had toward American soldiers as their women went gah-gah for them post WW2.  I've seen similar comments about the women of virtually every conquered people, regardless of the conquerer.  This stuff is hard-wired into us.
Frankly, I think that some of the stress between Black men and women boils down to this, as well.  On a subconscious level, I think a piece of the Black female psyche looks at Black men and says:  "assholes. If you guys had had your shit together, we wouldn't be IN this mess!" And there's some truth to that, too.   It wasn't Europe's responsibility to be nice and peaceful and fair.  It was the rest of the world's responsibility to kill every European who landed on their soil.  And that didn't happen, did it?  And unless one accepts a thesis like "Guns, Germs, and Steel", in all likelihood the only answers you can come up with for why one group dominated another is either Non-white superiority (the designated group was too spiritual and peaceful to master war in such a manner.  Yeah, right)..  Or white superiority (just plain smarter and better.)  Both are pretty poisonous.
We're dealing with basic, basic human stuff.  It's my understanding that more marriages break up over money than infidelity.  Why?  Someone else shtupping your sweetie, absent V.D. or pregnancy, is a pair-bond insult, an ego interrupt.  But when the money runs out, that is frigging REAL.  Your children starve.  There is no where to live.  And every guy reading this knows (perhaps intimately) someone whose "good" relationship fell apart when he fell on hard times financially.  I've lost count of the number of times that a relationship died when the man lost his job, the woman worked, and she became attracted to the men ranked higher than her at her employment.  It is an utter cliche, and the "balancing" cliche is the man who loses attraction for an obese wife and starts flirting with the secretary.
All of this stuff is being talked about not to point fingers at black or white, or men or women, but to cut through the b.s. so that we can organize our resources to satisfy our most basic needs.  Only when our basic needs are satisfied do we have the chance to evolve to the position where these basic, dualistic principles hold less sway. 

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