Battered men: Inferiority in Males

Sten Eirik. Journal of Gender Studies. Volume 7, Issue 1. March 1998.

With her feminist perspective, Fast (1993) is a strong voice among contemporary critics of Freudianism. While acknowledging the acuity of Freud’s observations, she makes his phallocentric theory a target of her opposition, proposing a revision referred to as the differentiation paradigm. “I argue that both Freud’s own observations and those made subsequently … require a fundamentally different theoretical model than the one Freud developed” (Fast, 1993, p. 173).

Fast (1993) points out that Freud’s view of gender development in women met with strong opposition from the very outset. “Among its earliest critics were Horney (1926), Jacobson (1968), Thompson (1943), and Zilboorg (1944).” Is it a coincidence, then, that she makes no reference to one of Freud’s closest and most articulate critics, Alfred Adler? Like many of her colleagues, Fast develops her own theory in reaction to Freud, who is viewed as a product of mechanistic, determinist dogma of the male-centred, 19th-century physical sciences. From this perspective, the task of feminists is to deconstruct a historical bias within our society and its self-discourse. In order to correct the asymmetry of a “phallocentric” psychology, the feminist seeks to expose the self-perpetuating schemata of privilege and entitlement which have created two separate realities: one for men and one for women.

The Schema = Experience Assumption

A frequent assumption with this approach to gender is that the prescribed role is synonymous with the individual’s experience. Accordingly, prescribed power would mean experienced power. To be born and raised as a male is to inherit an experience of privilege and dominance; to be born and raised as a female is to inherit the experience of insignificance or of outright oppression. In this view, the patriarchal ideology and its discriminatory bias is assumed to reside inherently in the gendering of each child. The experience of becoming a male is presumed to be equivalent to the ideological superiority ascribed to males under patriarchy. In these pages, I will seek to show that such an assumption has clouded and confounded the proper understanding of modern gender issues.

Given this assumption of equivalence between what is prescribed by a social order and what is subjectively experienced within that social order, it is not surprising that feminists fail to recognise their male allies. The politics of healthcare, in particular, is rife with the patriarchal ideology of the professional psychiatric establishment. Freud’s phallocentrism, therefore, offers a necessary target for revisionists. It is remarkable, nonetheless, that psychodynamic feminists continue to target Freud rather than benefit from the seminal work of his colleague, who questioned patriarchy from within the very bastion of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and who, as we shall see, questioned patriarchy as eloquently and as lucidly as any feminist writing today. Alfred Adler’s theory of masculine protest antedates feminist theory by several decades and pioneers most of the essential insights later attributed to feminism. Has Adler been forgotten or ignored or simply disregarded? Which is it? This conspiracy of silence may, indeed, appear almost as a metaphor of the larger conceptual blind spot in many feminist inquiries. It would seem that women against patriarchy, due to their schema = experience assumption, fail to recognise men against patriarchy. For such a recognition to take place, the equivalence assumption would have to be abandoned in favour of a new conceptualisation of patriarchy. In the new perspective, women and men respond, as a gendered group and as individuals, to the external pressures of patriarchal stereotypes. Prescriptive pressures for the male gender are not assumed to be desirable or ego-syntonic when experienced by the male in our society. It is hypothesized that other motives may account for much of male compliance within patriarchy.

After reviewing the evidence for Adler’s contribution to feminism, I will link the heuristic disregard for Adler’s feminism to a general disregard for the individual experience of men within patriarchy, specifically pertaining to feelings of inferiority and shame. In this context, Adler’s concept of inferiority feelings will be reconsidered in the light of instincts and self-creativity.

Feminism and Masculine Protest

In 1910, Freud’s position was that “whatever is of the libido has a masculine character, and whatever is repression is of a feminine character” (Ansbacher, in Adler, 1978, p. 162). To this, Adler (1978) responded that

certain character traits … are considered “masculine,” others “feminine” … We cannot speak of natural facts. Rather, we note these phenomena in persons who are already tied to a certain frame, whose life plan, whose guiding line, is already narrowed down by one-sided power decisions. These power relationships have compellingly assigned to such persons the place on which they will have to seek their development. (p. 10) Boys show indeed more aptitude than girls for subjects that prepare for male occupations. But this speaks only apparently for their greater aptitude. If one looks more closely at the situation of girls, it turns out that the story of the lesser ability of women is a fable, a lie, which only looks like a truth. (p. 7)

Adler rejected Freud’s biological gender theory by claiming that “even apparently innate traits … are subject much more than is realised to the trend of the times” (Adler, 1978, p. 85). Critical of Freud’s phallocentric interpretations, Adler declared that “the commonly held superstition of women’s inferiority, the almost complete exclusion of women from highest achievements in science and art-due partly to inadequate preparation, partly to masculine development of artistic forms of expression-generally result in embitterment and early discouragement … No wonder that the dissatisfaction with the feminine role frequently leads to an imitation of men” (Adler, 1978, p. 88).

From a social constructionist perspective, Geis (1993) explores the mechanism of self-fulfilling circularity and how it perpetuates gender discrimination. “Stereotypical beliefs about men and women cause biased perceptions and discriminatory treatment of them … and the resulting sex differences in behaviour and achievement then seemingly confirm that the initial [inferential] expectations were true … The forces that keep this self-perpetuating system going are social and mental processes called consistency biases and other cognitive foibles” (Geis, 1993, p. 11). Geis’ persuasive analysis of the self-fulfilling prophecy is an example of solid scholarship. But what makes it new or original? She uses a more precise, analytical vocabulary to describe what Adler observed in 1927, when he pointed out that

from childhood a girl encounters a myth that is very likely to shake her belief in her own value, her self-confidence, and to undermine her hope of ever performing competently. When she is reinforced in this by seeing that women are assigned only subordinated roles, it is understandable that she will lose courage, will no longer want to take a real hold, and will eventually pull back from the tasks of life. (Adler, 1978, p. 13) Thus she lacks external and internal preparation [italics added]. Under such circumstances the proof of woman’s inability will of course seem correct. But it is an error. (Adler, 1978, p. 12)

The lack of “external” preparation is, of course, more currently referred to as insufficient opportunities for practice (Lott & Maluso, 1993, pp. 102-103); the lack of “internal” preparation will result from her self-concept based on perceivers’ beliefs and treatment of her, which prompts her to confirm their expectations for behavior, as detailed by Geis (1993). Consistency biases are activated because “gender functions as a complex cue for the perceptions, expectations, and overt reactions of others” (Lott & Maluso, 1993, p. 107). These unacknowledged gender stereotypes “enhance perceptions, interpretations, and memories that are consistent with stereotypical attributes and obscure, diffuse or cause us to disregard or forget information that is inconsistent with them” (Geis, 1993, p. 12). This formulation is little more than a social psychological application of Adler’s theory on the aperceptive biases of the life style and the purposive use of memory.

On the meaning of masculine protest, Ansbacher (Adler, 1978, p. 149) comments that “we live in a male-dominated culture that has created more favorable conditions and stereotypes for the male than for the female. Thus members of either sex may prefer to be ‘like a man’ rather than ‘like a woman’.” To clarify Adler’s concept, Ansbacher (Adler, 1978, p. 143) explains that “ ‘masculine’ has little to do with the physiological sex characteristics of the male. Rather it refers to the preferred status of the male over the female in the general culture, and how the individual reacts to this.” Nothing could come closer to Geis’ (1993) modern constructionist differentiation of sex from gender: “’sex’ is biological-being male or female-but gender is a social construction” (p. 10). “The culture,” claims Ansbacher (Adler, 1978) “has created entire syndromes of positive and negative traits for ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, respectively” (p. 143). The information contained in these “syndromes of traits” is what Beall (1993) would refer to as gender schemata. “This information includes traits that supposedly describe women and men” (Beall, 1993, p. 135). “Because of intelligence and competence stereotypes, attributions for success and failure … depend on whether the actor is a woman or a man” (Geis, 1993, p. 15). “This judgment strongly influences women,” argued Adler (1978, p. 84). “They usually accept it and appear to submit to the role assigned to them by men.” Again, Adler is describing Geis’ (1993) concept of expectancy confirmation.

Neurotic Gender Schemata: The Symptom as a Norm

It is difficult to resist the conclusion that Adler was very cognisant of the socio-cognitive process by which power and status work against women. It is, therefore, all the more interesting to note that “not only girls, but boys as well, may suffer from a `masculine protest’; all children who overvalue the importance of being masculine . . . are dubious whether they are strong enough to achieve it” (Adler, 1956, p. 442). It is reasonable enough to assume that women may be “dubious whether they are strong enough to achieve [masculinity].” But how could this apply to men? Males are masculine, are they not? Why, then, should males doubt their capacity to be what, in fact, they are? The problem becomes apparent in Adler’s reference to an overvaluation of “the importance of being masculine.” Such an overvaluation would be natural to no one. Overvaluations are most often associated with obsessive or delusional ideas. “In the psychological life of the neurotic,” notes Adler (1978, pp. 44-45).

we find the inclination to stylize experiences and persons … to a very pronounced degree … [The neurotic] has a sharply schematizing, strongly abstracting mode of apperception. Thus, he groups inner [italics added] as well as outer events according to a strictly antithetical schema, … like the debit and credit sides in bookkeeping, and admits no degrees in between. … Among these pairs [of opposites] I have regularly found: (1) above-below and (2) masculine-feminine.

Here, Adler is describing the roots of sex typing in the neurotic individual. Analogously, “Bem (1985) has argued that gender has primacy over other social categories because … this dichotomy” is ubiquitous in our society (Lott & Maluso, 1993, p. 118). “Gender is a basic dimension that is used to ‘divide’ the universe, … second only to … what is part of the self and what is not” (Cross & Markus, 1993, p. 58). It would appear that a dichotomy which is symptomatic of neurosis recurs as a norm of our society. The question is: When symptoms become norms, are they still neurotic? Horney (1937) would certainly say so. Thus, we may understand gender schemata as apperceptive schemata prescribed for everyone, or as a private fiction turned societal norm. Adler sums it up when he concludes that “the valuation of masculine and feminine in neurosis is only a crystallization of the valuation that has also existed all along in our culture and that began at the start of civilization” (1978, p. 149).

Patriarchy as a Safeguard

It may require considerable effort to conceive of patriarchal stereotypes as defensive rather than predatory. A standard approach is to see in them a male strategy for maintaining privileged “access to social resources” (Lott & Maluso, 1993, p. 117). Perhaps we need to distinguish socio-economic effect from psychodynamic motive. To say that patriarchal stereotypes are predatory is to describe their impact on the disadvantaged gender in our society. While this is readily documented, it does little to illuminate the psychodynamics of the male, beyond casting him as a cunning and self-serving culprit. It may be more useful to differentiate the predatory effect from the defensive motive in patriarchal schemata. To support this, I will briefly examine the putative roots of patriarchy as well as the experiential phenomenology of males within patriarchy today.

“Is it really necessary,” asks Reynaud (1981, p. 9), “to know how [patriarchal] power came about in order to convince ourselves that it is unjustifiable? … What is the point of inventing an ‘origin’?” Reynaud analyses patriarchy from a constructionist perspective, but pays no attention to psychodynamics. Why, indeed, should he inquire about origins? His analysis, like that of many a feminist, disregards a crucial dimension in male compliance with patriarchy: the threat of inferiority.

It has been hypothesized by several anthropologists and historians, most notably Bachofen (in Fromm, 1951, p. 205), that

in the beginning of human history, sexual relations were promiscuous; … only the mother’s parenthood was unquestionable, to her alone could consanguinity be traced, and she was the authority and lawgiver … In a longdrawn-out historical process men defeated women, subdued them, and succeeded in making themselves the rulers in a social hierarchy. The patriarchal system thus established is characterized by monogamy …, by the authority of the father … , and by the dominant role of men. (Fromm, 1951, p. 205)

Bachofen (Fromm, 1951, p. 207) saw in matriarchal culture “a passive acceptance of all natural phenomena,” whereas patriarchal society was characterised by “man’s effort to change natural phenomena.” Why should males wish to change that which was so readily accepted by females? Historical and archaeological evidence is ambiguous, but we may look at today’s society and ask: Why do females wish to change that which is so readily accepted by males? The answer, of course, is a truism. Would it, therefore, be reasonable to suppose that, as today’s women feel that society keeps them inferior, so our male ancestors may have shared an experience that nature kept them inferior? [Man] still considers hierarchy necessary, and he usually sees its absence-anarchy-as a synonym for chaos” (Reynaud, 1981, p. 98). By substituting matriarchy for Reynaud’s “anarchy,” we can begin to guess at the looming inferiority motive of the primeval makers of patriarchy.

Myth and the Gender Schema

Historically, then, it is conceivable that the male striving for dominance over women was a defense against a perceived inferiority assigned to him by nature. How may we link such an hypothesis to a unified view of masculine inferiority today?

In a forthcoming paper Eirik; under editorial reveiw, I have outlined an integrative historical theory of mind. In this view, Freud’s drive theory and Adler’s self-creative holism are seen to complement each other in the historical emergence of the human self. In an age before the beginnings of recorded history, our ancestors based their survival on unencumbered embodiment of instinct. Operating from a hierarchical satisfaction of needs, these proto-humans knew no inhibition unless they perceived significant threat or danger as a consequence. For all the perils and adversities of pre-historical reality, for all the frustration or, conflict of instinctual drives these proto-humans, he had no cognitive basis to feel inferior. His sometime inferiority was a situational fact, but it was not experienced as such. Adler’s notion of subjective inferiority is, in fact, one of the distinguishing consequences of instinct inhibition. As human societies evolved more complex patterns of self-control and taboo, the individual’s instinct became less and less serviceable for solving the tasks of life. This, I believe, is an additional dimension of Adler’s observation of inferiority feelings. It is not merely an inferiority of self in comparison with others. A deeper sense of inferiority arises from a subliminal awareness of our inhibited instinct. The sense of inferiority expresses our subliminal comparison of the inhibited self with the instinctual self. As will be understood from this perspective, the feeling of inferiority is a condition of modern life. It is dictated not only by the pressures of environment but, more deeply, by our incapacity to meet those pressures using our full instinctual endowtment.

As the human psyche modelled itself on while also authoring-a social contract, the self was alienated from instinct by assumptions of shame, censure and purpose. Historically, this has necessitated a process of dissociation, analogous to the individual’s response observed in dissociative identity pathology. This species-wide, phylogenetic dissociative process can be understood as our creation of the unconscious. Hence, the unconscious is not merely a biological holding tank nor a cosmic principle. It is our creation. The unconscious was created by historical human to facilitate our emergence from pre-historic instinct reality. It is a historical product of Adler’s self-creative individual. With this perspective of human growth, a primary task is to overcome instinct inferiority. Only when our instinctual self has been subsumed in a significant created self, do we have the existential assurance of an identity.

As mentioned, self-creativity replaces instinct determinism. However, in order to muster a functional substitute, it must provide dynamic unity and linkage with our instinctual past. It mediates between what we can no longer know and what we are only beginning to know. Therefore, it draws on instinctual nature as much as it does on rational constructs of purpose, and so it must remain partly veiled in the unconscious where our past is buried. With this purposive style in mind, we can understand dreams, fantasy and symbol as a covert dialogue of the inhibited self with the instinctual self. I will argue that the schemata and stereotypes of gender are intrapsychic productions belonging to this same dialogue.

If male compliance with patriarchy is to be understood as a struggle against inferiority feelings, what makes this inferiority so persistent and intractable? Patriarchal stereotypes are not merely the cunning tool of the tyrant gender. Rather, these stereotypes are the actual conduit for unconscious ancestral ideation. Like the myth, they cannot be understood at face value. Like the myth, they are a product of fears and foibles elevated to a status of universality. They cannot be understood merely as social constructions, as suggested by Lott and Maluso (1993), but form a part of the intrapsychic inheritance of inferiority.

Inferiority and the Male Schema

When we look beyond the schema = experience assumption, a new conceptualisation begins to emerge. Picture, if you will, a male of the species perched halfway up the patriarchal totem pole, clinging for dear life. Measuring the distance he has to climb, he peers up toward the patriarchal icon looming at the top. His glance drops down towards the bottom of the totem pole, knowing that if he loosens his grip, his hold will be precarious and he will have a long way to fall. This conjures up a cartoonish image of the sort that might grace the cover of one of our satirical periodical publications. In actual fact, however, this has been found to be a frequent theme in the unconscious ideation of males. Vedfelt (1985), with a Jungian approach, found a robust correlation between this type of dream and male patients who were struggling with insecurities about their gender. Bly (1990) refers to Marie-Louise von Franz’s “flying boys” as grandiose ascenders. “Von Franz concluded … that they choose ascent as a revolt against maternal earthiness and female conservatism. They fly upward … out of fear of the magnets that she says some women hide in the ground in the hope of luring light-headed men down to the ground of marriages, jobs, and long-range commitment” (Bly, 1990, pp. 58-59). Despite the poetic license of this metaphor, it clearly conveys fear as a motive in male ascendancy. How different are these grandiose ascenders from their ancestral rebels in the “earthy” land of matriarchy?

Ansbacher (Adler, 1978, p. 145) contrasts the female’s “dissatisfaction with one’s assigned sexual role” and the male’s “fear that one may not live up to one’s sexual or gender role.” In other words, patriarchal schemata inform the female that she is a loser, whereas the male learns that he will be a loser if he fails at patriarchy. Not only may he lose privilege or friends; he will no longer have that which makes him a man. Because of the overvalued antithesis of male/female and its differential status, “any stepping out of the [masculine] role appears as [feminine] … because spatially and psychologically it is not possible otherwise” (Adler, 1978, p. 15). “Every affectionate impulse is accompanied by a … sense of shame and the impression that thereby one would become weaker or lose in value … The children are continuously trained to see in love a kind of unmanliness” (Adler, 1978, p. 106). “Social norms restrict men’s entitlements to experience a range of vulnerable emotions” (Wallace & Nosko, 1993). Ironically, gender theory has reinforced these gender schemata. “Freud’s altogether male-centered conception of boys’ gender development did not allow for his clinical observations of feminine themes in men” (Fast, 1993, p. 177). Hence, the male child learns to

ask himself and observe whether his bearing is always manly … [i.e.] something purely egotistical, something that satisfies self-love, the pre-eminence over others, … the inclination to harden oneself against “feminine” impulses, etc. It is a continuous struggle for personal superiority, because it is considered manly to be superior. (Adler, 1978, p. 11)

When Adler observes (1978, p. 11) that many children are driven to flaunt their consciousness of masculinity, I am reminded of a male friend who described one of his favourite teenage pastimes. He and his buddy would go out for a walk when the sidewalk was sure to be crowded. Here, they would engage in “shouldering.” The object of this exercise was to walk quite demonstratively in the path of oncoming males so as to obstruct them with a shoulder. When done with conviction, so the theory went, the other male would yield and step to one side. If he was fool enough to persist on his path, he was due for a tackle. Hence, each successful “shouldering” allowed my friend to climb one notch on the patriarchal totem pole of virility. With an odd twinge in the pit of my stomach, I told my friend that I remember always being that other guy, the boy who got tackled if he did not move over. Although this is a minor example of all the real and imagined virility rituals, it illustrates the pressure of overvalued masculinity on the male child. To yield to the “shoulderer” is to feel inferior; to defend one’s right of way is to act defensively. This example, then, may suggest something about the discrepancy between contemporary male schemata and how they are experienced by someone such as myself.

The female is assigned a role far inferior to her natural abilities. The male, on the other hand, is assigned a role in relation to which he is bound to feel inferior. While the female experiences inferiority through her constricted role, the male experiences inferiority in trying to fill the shoes of a gargantuan stereotype. In which gender, then, may we more accurately speak of inferiority feelings? This question may have no answer, and why should it matter? What is important is the re-configuration of gender perspectives so that the predatory impact of patriarchal schemata does not blind us to their compensatory motive. Moreover, the assumption that prescribed power confers an experiencing power is simply not tenable.

So far, I have traced the experience of inferiority in males to a distant matriarchal past. Such an assumption must remain a matter of conjecture. I have also outlined a historical approach to understanding stereotypes as stemming from our disavowed instinctual self, in relation to which we may feel inferior. Using this latter perspective, I will now turn to the contemporary experience of masculinity. While it has been stated by Geis (1993, p. 10) that “’sex’ is biological … but gender is a social construction,” I will now suggest that some of the male defensiveness expressed in patriarchal gender schemata is directly linked to conscious or unconscious ideation about our sexual biology.

Gender Schema from Sex Schema

Given the polymorphous diversity of sexual styles in our society, I feel some hesitation in making any assumptions of commonality. Sexuality is, above all, idiosyncratic and unique. Nonetheless, much of our sexual ideation is rooted in the male’s so-called penetration of the female. More significantly, the sexual dysfunctions all pertain to this schema. Penetration is a word which connotes force or even aggressiveness. This hyperbole may, in itself, bear testimony to an overvaluation of “masculine” traits. No such aggressiveness is actually required to engage in sexual coitus. What is needed, of course, is a proper arousal and physiological response in male and female. What are the implications of male and female dysfunction, respectively? When the female fails to achieve adequate lubrication of the vagina, a fully erect male can usually gain entrance and initiate sexual coitus, which will generally stimulate some vaginal lubrication; if needed, a substitute lubricant may be used. In any event, the genital participation of male and female is intact-consensually or otherwise. Without a proper arousal response in the male, however, there is no erection. Without the male erection, primary sexual coitus becomes impossible. Simulated alternatives using a dildo or oral stimulation fail to provide genital participation of both male and female. While this is certainly no requirement for sexual satisfaction, it is of some significance to the sexual self-concept of males.

Much as men and women may use their creativity to augment and compensate the primary sex schema of male and female, these behavioural enhancements cannot alter the cognitions of sexual biology. While the male erection need not signify the aggressiveness of “penetration,” it is the sine qua non of heterosexual coitus. On the other hand, the male erection is ephemeral, whereas the female genitalia are functional for intercourse even in a state of non-arousal. More specifically, this means that a woman will or may or might enjoy a non-stop succession of male lovers, while each of her males would be inoperative after his ejaculation, requiring an age-appropriate rest period before he could muster another erection. Even in monogamy, the male is often left with a sense that his female partner, no matter how forgiving, would have no objections to continuing intercourse far beyond the time limit of his sexual reach. When she suggests, lovingly, that they simply take a rest and come back to it, this is nevertheless in deference to his dispositional limitation. This dispositional attribution is not erroneous. It is, quite simply, the sex schema of males.

I am suggesting that male sex schemata are not irrelevant to male gender schemata. They form a physiological substrate from which the gender schema is elaborated. The vulnerability to inferiority or shortcomings in his sexual performance pushes the male towards an antithetical success/failure mode of apperception. This fear of inferiority is, in turn, denied and disavowed by means of the superiority of his gender schema. “Psychologists [are] more careful [than they used to be],” argues Karen (1992), “to [not] assume … women’s greater susceptibility [to shame]. Men … may be more ashamed of shame than women, especially given the performance pressures … typically placed on them and the expectation that they will rise above fear, pain and self-doubt.” Wallace and Nosko (1993) speak of “defensive scripts that are designed to help the individual avoid or escape shame. Included in these scripts are rage, contempt, striving for perfection and power, blaming, withdrawal, and denial.” This may or may not bear a direct relationship to the alleged motives of our male ancestors, who decreed monogamy in order to establish consanguinity with their offspring. What if this hypothesis is nothing but a fantasy? What if this motive for patriarchy is a mere wish in the patriarchal imagination of Bachofen and others? Such a fact would simply reaffirm the existential concerns of the male, whose stereotypes are drawn from his precarious sex schema and, perhaps, from his sense of inferiority to the instinctual self.

The Subject-Object Reversal

“There are concealed relationships that merely take on the guise of sexuality-that is, the masculine protest” (Adler, 1978, p. 145). From a phenomenological viewpoint, the male is prone to experience his sex schema in terms of a pressure to perform. The female’s failure to respond sexually can be camouflaged, concealed; his erectile response cannot be. This leaves him sexually conspicuous, like a high-wire act subject to appraisal, judgment, measurement. In that sense, he may experience himself as the object of female observation. Herein, I believe, lies the root of a very significant tendency in patriarchal gender schemata. In order to compensate for the unenviable transparency of his physiological sex schema, the male is saved by his gender schema which reverses the relationship by objectifying the female. Wallace and Nosko (1993) note that “shame inevitably produces `humiliated fury’ [with] retaliating impulses … to `turn the tables’ on the other. [These impulses change] the interpersonal field in a way that attributes power to the self rather than to the shame-inducing [female].”

In our society, the allurative, exhibitionistic schema of the female and the voyeuristic schema of the male are not dispositional. These are the two halves of the subject/object reversal, by which the female is made conspicuous and objectified through male rituals of appraisal, grading, scoring, and control. Most overtly, this subject/object reversal is epitomised in pornography where, typically, we see “the bodies of women … mastered, bound, silenced, beaten, and even murdered, … symbols for natural feeling and the power of nature, which the pornographic mind hates and fears” (Griffin, 1981, p. 2). The logic of this is simple. Only in this state of enforced submission can the male regard the female as non-threatening to his masculinity. The male presentation in pornography is often cool, aloof and superior, but it is a camouflage, a wishful projection. Rather, the soul of pornography is a seething rage against women, stemming from a vigorous denial of male self-consciousness in sex. Hence, pornography is a very pure form of the masculine protest.

In the sexual paraphilias, too, this subject/object reversal can be found. But Money (1986) observes that, in our society, “women are supposed [italics added] to lure men. Therefore, in so far as luring … is a paraphilia of women, it is usually not recognised as such” (p. 81). It may be more to the point to say that patriarchal gender schemata have put females on intimate display, thereby releasing the male from sexual selfconsciousness. In a clinical context, the same reversal is seen to underlie the assaultive response of male batterers (Wallace & Nosko, 1993).

Patriarchy’s Hall of Mirrors

“Man [embodies] the very power that oppresses him: he is in the ridiculous position of being both guarantor and victim of the system” (Reynaud, 1981, p. 114). Further evidence that the male schema does not equal an inherent male experience is implicit in Geis’ (1993) model of self-fulfilling cognitive-behavioural loops. Adopting one’s own gender schema is not a rational process of prerogative. Rather, individuals are nailed to the cross of their schema by expectations from others and by their own confirmatory behaviour. This circular prophecy applies to the boy as much as to the girl, to the grown man as much as to the grown woman. “One’s expectation that a man will be unemotional may lead to a confirmation of this expectation, because people will treat the man in an unemotional way” (Beall, 1993, p. 137). Male and female perceivers treat the male in accordance with their own internalised schema for masculine traits. The male unconsciously strives to confirm the others’ expectations and, in doing so, seems to show that inferential schemata contain a grain of dispositional truth. This reinforces the perceivers’ expectations and, furthermore, “when [males] confirm others’ false expectancies, they [may] change their beliefs about themselves to be consistent with their behaviour” (Geis, 1993, p. 21).

Why is the process of reconstructing patriarchal gender schemata so slow and so fraught with resistance at every turn? Will a better understanding of the nature of these resistances help us achieve gender reconstruction more effectively? To answer these questions, a good starting point is to note, with Lott and Maluso (1993, p. 102), that “positive consequences … are considered … to be the primary mediators of both response performance and maintenance … Cognitions derived from previous outcomes (i.e. outcome expectancies) [are] among the important antecedents of human motivation and action.” As with the female, outcome expectancies are a deterrent to change in males. Among negative expectancies from gender schema change, two are of singular importance. Psychodynamically, dominance and status do provide a significant created self, albeit at the expense of women. The created self guards against male feelings of inferiority. Secondly, in terms of behaviour, men will be marginalised by other men and, most confusingly, by many women.

Patriarchy has been diagnosed as the source of much abuse and inequality. Therefore, gender schemata must change. These are the conscious conclusions of many women and of many men. But, as Geis (1993, p. 11) points out, “for most educated people, conscious and unconscious gender beliefs do not match.” Unconsciously, many or most women continue to live by the patriarchal gender schema. Hence, the message ultimately received by men may be ambiguous, self-contradictory, almost a double-bind. Males who succeed in breaking their patriarchal ideation and behaviour may find themselves marginalised-”approved” on a conscious level, but rendered insignificant or invisible in the subliminal games of gender.

“The stimulus function of gender [can be observed in] men’s distancing responses to women” (Lott & Maluso, 1993, p. 108). These behaviours include exclusion, avoidance or distancing, and constitute the overt component of sexism. Such distancing behaviours discourage women from crossing over into the male schema; but they are also a woman’s way of discouraging the male from disconfirming her patriarchal stereotype. Gender schemata are, of course, particularly salient during childhood when boys and girls are scrambling to learn where they fit in. As a young boy, I remember feeling quite frequently excluded or ignored in favour of boys whose behaviour was louder, bossier, more assaultive, or simply more self-assured.

Why do young girls grow into women who continue to comply with patriarchal schemata so readily? The importance of outcome expectancies has already been described. Another factor is power. The female can enhance her assigned role at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole if she utilises the patriarchal definition of her gender in order to gain her own niche of power. “One can exercise power also with ‘feminine’ means-for example, through obedience and submission” (Adler, 1978, p. 10). Geis (1993, p. 23) points out that “women use `weak tactics’-wheedling, manipulation, supplication, or helplessness.” Moreover, Money (1986, p. 81) points to the fact that, in our culture, “women are supposed to lure men.” It is plain to see that solicitation and allure are implicit in the meaning of much female fashion and habitus. When sexual solicitation becomes detached from a personal contact and is generalised as a means of commanding attention or status, it lacks empathy and precludes responsiveness. It is a means of exploiting the crowd of strangers in order to maintain an exaggerated sense of superiority. It has been, until recently, the woman’s strongest suit in her struggle against male domination and privilege.

Co-operation Between the Sexes

Adler espoused a vision of co-operation between the sexes which has not been achieved in our society, nor even in the research on gender. According to Beall (1993, p. 129), “cultures provide people with a set of lenses through which they can observe and understand their environment.” In our society, a salient part of the culture is expressed in gender schemata. Feminist investigators have been adjusting and re-focusing those lenses in order to gain a clear view of what goes on between men and women. As we noted at the outset, feminism has often failed to recognise its male allies. A deeper, more empathic co-operation of females with males may be required in order to fine-tune the lenses and shed more light on the significance of male inferiority.

It is, after all, an established fact (e.g. Wallace & Nosko, 1993) that male batterers are defending against massive feelings of impotence and “of the core self as inadequate and … unlovable.” What is so implausible, then, about viewing the more figurative assault of patriarchy as a superiority complex for male insecurities? To call the male gender, on this account, a species of overanxious wimps is not a likely cure. Nor would there be any benefit in perpetuating women’s role as long-suffering nurturers of the tragic male. But if “feminists share an openly articulated commitment to social change [italics added] to eliminate [gender-typed barriers]” (Lott & Maluso, 1993, p. 106), it will not suffice to study the oppression of women in endless detail. Psychodynamically, major gains in knowledge will result from a closer study of the oppression of men by lofty, unforgiving self-ideals. Male inferiority may stem from comparison with the unconscious instinctual self or from schema-based sexual performance anxiety or from a combination of both. Whatever the case may be, males need abundant and intelligent support in re-inventing their created self to release themselves from instinct inferiority fixations by means of non-patriarchal gender schemata. How would we recognise a schema that is non-patriarchal? In such a schema, the male will no longer need to “split off his own shame by acting in such a way that it is induced in the other [male or female]” (Wallace & Nosko, 1993). This would signal a fuller co-operation between the sexes, a conclusion devoutly to be wished by the feminist and, before her, by many a marginalised male within patriarchy.