Monday, January 4, 2016

Men Behaving Appallingly

There is a belief in the minds of too many men that it is somehow appropriate for males to force themselves sexually on women. It is borne from a sense of entitlement that men feel they have of women: that somehow she does not have the right to resist and that her vagina is his right.

We have had a disgusting reminder of this aspect of the minds of men in the recent episode (for those not living in Australia or asleep) where a minister of the government recently sexually harassed a staff member while they were both on a business trip to Hong Kong. There have been at least two brilliant expose’s of this event from Kate Galloway
and Jennifer Wilson, for those interested in reading the women’s view.

However, I am a bloke and I want to give my blokey point of view on this. One of the most shameful of the various dimensions to this saga is that at least one of the above mentioned female correspondents received a large number of abusive and extremely violent responses because she criticized the behavior of this minister, Jamie Briggs. The sense of entitlement over the bodies of women in the minds of some men is so strong that they think it essential to defend those who have been caught. You don’t need to be a shrink to realize that what they are doing is guiltily defending their own predilections in a phenomenon that psychologists call projection.

Not only has this abuse occurred on an industrial scale but yesterday one of the most senior members of the current government, Peter Dutton (I refuse to call him ‘The Honourable’) sent a text of support to Jamie Briggs telling him that a certain newspaper reporter, who had publicly chastised him, was a ‘..mad f*&^@ng witch’. So, there’s a wonderful role model for our citizens about how to treat women who 'bell the cat' from someone who should be calling for the head of Jamie Briggs and distancing himself as a matter of moral and ethical course.

Curiously enough, Dutton was part of a committee that sacked Briggs from the ministry when the event was publicized. So, in public Dutton is appalled by the sexual harassment of Briggs but in private he is supporting his gender buddy. Duplicity knows no bounds it seems and the message is clear that sexual harassment is just fine. The reason Dutton’s message was revealed was because he sent it to the newspaper reporter by mistake (his incompetence knows no bounds either). He then apologized publicly. Of course, if he had not made this mistake then he would have got away with revealing what he really thinks.

And, of course, there has been the usual round of victim blaming and excuses. He was drunk was the first and she shouldn’t have been there was a second. So, it is fine to sexually harass someone if you are drunk. ‘Your honour, the alcohol made me do it’. And worse, that she was somehow responsible for his behavior. It’s the old, ‘she asked for it’ routine. This is the Western equivalent of women wearing a a burka and chador so that they won’t cause men to become aroused. ‘She made my penis get out of control, your honour’. There was also the usual barrage of misinformation that one sees in these sorts of cases that attempted to obfuscate and blur the true story and focus on the victim not the perpetrator. The truth is lost in the fog of misdirection.

Let’s remember that this staff person is an employee of a government minister who is in an extremely powerful position. Briggs knew this and would have known too that his victim would have been more likely to succumb to his advances because of his power. Clearly he suffers from the delusions reinforced by too many movies and TV series about the ‘rights of men’. His victim knew it too and has been extremely brave to have reported the incident, which, incidentally, she attempted to deal with, in the first instance, without publicity by talking to a senior staff immediately.

The mechanisms behind this almost exclusively male belief about their rights to the bodies (and minds presumably) of women are not hard to find. The fact that he is a naughty boy for behaving badly and she is a slut for letting him are powerful messages reinforced by families, in the first instance, and by society in general. I travel a lot and I am astounded at how pervasive misogyny is among ‘normal’ men in every country and town that I have visited.

I’m a bloke. I understand impulses and sexual desire. As a psychologist I am aware of the biological drivers for these impulses and desires. I also understand being drunk. Been there and done that in spades. So, trust me my fellow men, when I say that there are many men out there who can control their impulses, who can challenge this belief about entitlement, and their potential power. And that latter issue is the raw meaning behind all this. The need for power.

So, what’s so different about those who know where the boundaries are, who know what is right and what is wrong? Its not all about education because perpetrators come from both the educated and uneducated. Its not about race.

It has to do with self-awareness, respect for fellow travelers on this planet, about self-confidence and a healthy belief in self, and knowing how to use power well rather for self-interest. It is about being civilized and raising ourselves up from the primal swamp where impulse and narcissistic behavior was a matter of survival.

Blokes, we are better than that. It’s time for all of us, including our leaders, to stand up and be counted. It is time to really take a stand against this scourge. We need to behave well and recognize when we have not done our best and be accountable. We need to support and listen to women who tell us about how they want to be treated rather than abuse and attempt to disempower them. Guys, we don’t need to be bullies to have fulfilling relationships. In fact the former will prevent the latter.

Repeat after me blokes. ‘ One: I need unambiguous permission to make sexual advances to a woman and if she makes it clear that advances are not welcome then I need to back off. And this means I need to raise my emotional intelligence beyond the age of three years of age and really listen to what women are telling me so that I can read them appropriately. Two: I should never make sexual advances towards women (or men for that matter) who are my staff. Three: I should not be getting drunk with my staff if I am their manager. Four: No means no. Five: I need to make it clear in words they understand to any male know that their behavior is or was inappropriate if they have been guilty of sexual harassment (or bullying).’


  1. Thank you for writing this. I'm currently trying to process my thoughts on misogyny perpetrated by members of my family and your article and the others you mentioned have helped remind me that I'm much more in step with current harm-minimisation and equality cultural norms than they are.

  2. Thanks Dave. I think that it is definitely possible for children to eschew the values of their family and end up being 'out of step'.

  3. Well yes.. this is the usual line of attack at situations like this, although I am going to respond to the question James Hillman asked throughout his life work calling on a "return to” the understanding of the archetypal gods that stand behind this Whole World.. without this deeper mythic understanding of this root foundation of all life, we will remain truly psychologically in the dark.. beginning with Jung's statement that "the gods have become our diseases".. Hillman also quoting the poet Wisden Auden at the start of his Library of Congress talk on Jung's "Red Book," "We are lived by powers we pretend to understand".. Or as Neitzsche said, "The world is deep, deeper than day can comprehend"..

    And so Hillman like many others became annoyed by monotheistic rhetorical politically correct attacks on individuals or Whole groups of others, that is, without asking the deeper question, "Where is the god behind the 'dis-ease?" or for that matter also within all of our strongly held opinions in a world dominated by the laws of Hera, goddess of marriage etc.. & of the god Apollo, who is not at all happy with the irrational ecstatic or orgiastic god Dionysus, as bringer of disruption & Chaos, & who is equally Divine.. thus in or attempted politically correct modern form of monotheism, referring to the politics of "outrage".. we are repeating the old mistake & denying the existence of many of the other gods who are each equally "Divine".. IS REALITY MORE COMPLICATED THAN WE SECRETLY WOULD LIKE TO ADMIT!!

    And here are some of my favourite quotes on all this.. beginning with a quote on the call for the Psyche's Return to Greece".. a return to the mythic understanding, which was truly deeply psychological, as opposed to the modern world's denatured politically correct psychology.. psychology of course being the study of the Soul, must ask the deeper question, "What is the Soul seeking?" And for this we need myth, we need to return to the poetic basis of Mind.. which is our true Soul's home..

    Psyche’s Return
    to Greece
    Socrates: Beloved Pan & all you other
    Gods who haunt this place, give me beauty
    in the inward Soul, & let the outward
    & inward man-woman be at One.

    Plato, Phaedrus, 279B

    A Jungian Essay
    on Bipolar Disorder
    It is not a matter of indifference
    whether one calls something a
    'mania' or a 'god'. To serve a mania
    is detestable & undignified, but
    to serve a god is full of meaning..

    Carl Jung

    Dionysus in
    Jung’s Writings
    Dionysus is the abyss of impassioned dissolution..

    The Church has the doctrine of the Devil - often personified as the goat-god Pan, of an evil principle, whom we like to imagine, complete with cloven hoofs, horns, & tail, half man, half beast, a chthonic deity apparently escaped from the rout of Dionysus, the sole surviving champion of the sinful joys of Paganism.

    F.M Cornford,
    'From Religion to

    Maybe we all need to study all the plays of Shakespeare which revealed the complexities behind the full spectrum of the human condition.. back to things that really move us..

    1. Of course, this is based on an assumption(s) with which not everyone would agree. I'm a Darwinist and the idea of archetypes is useful as metaphors for describing human behaviour-I love Jung. But to argue that it is more, nested in our DNA is a stretch. Having said that I love your thoughts about how stories, Shakespeare even, help describe the human condition but they don't explain it.