Salvo 06.05.2023 5 minutes

Exiting the Sex Wars

young man and woman shouting at each other

Can we heal our divide in a rageful time? 

The backlash to mass feminism is not surprising. Decades of cultural programming have assured us that men and women are interchangeable human units, and that any deviation from this norm results from stigma and oppression. But then the Internet threw a spanner in the works.

Despite (and maybe also partly because of) the transgender madness, it is becoming harder every day to convince ourselves that we’re fungible souls who simply landed in different categories of flesh puppet. Burly men parading in women’s fetish attire demanding civil rights in a baritone with a fist on the table—all this is just the crowning achievement of a much older lie. The reality is peeking through: men and women are different.

For anyone interested—and let’s be honest, few things are more interesting—the Internet lays bare the most flagrant dysfunctions of the opposite sex. After feminism went mainstream in the 2000s and permeated mass media with more or less legitimate critiques of men’s collective crimes, the last five years have seen the popularization of a backlash, with its own more or less accurate denunciations of female nature—the mainstreaming of the manosphere and its gradations toward nihilism, the red pill, and black pill, or incel, subcultures.

If you build an entire social ethos around one-dimensional tropes like the girlboss on the one hand, and dehumanizing caricatures of “toxic masculinity” on the other, you are going to end up with a funhouse mirror image of your own invented ogres. People will start to claim the overblown versions of themselves you have created, rather than go to war against their own natures, which is the only other option you have left open to them. Thou calledst me toxic before thou hadst a cause—but since I am toxic, beware my masculinity.

Technology ratchets this process up to breakneck speed. Every day, new outrage clips of women misbehaving, stupidly and promiscuously, reports of men hurt by acrimonious divorce and custody battles, suicide rates, and skewed dating app statistics dominate the Internet. This onslaught of video evidence comes packaged with sage advice from the ostensible winners.

The men who advertise their prowess at gaming the system believe they have “outsmarted it.” They know how to get independently wealthy by setting up cam girl studios in second-world countries, and why to get a prophylactic vasectomy early in life. On the other side of the mirror, a radical feminism that would make Andrea Dworkin blush is brewing, and it is happy to use the Lamborghini-owning, harem-running homunculi as evidence that their overblown patriarchy really is out there—as if they didn’t help create it. All this is an ever-escalating spiral, with evident roots in reality but expanding toward hell.

The potential solutions to our sex troubles are not easy. Many wish we could simply RETVRN to a simpler time, opting out of modernity altogether. But will we really ever agree to exclude women and girls from education, employment, and civic participation? Should we? Some would applaud this as a strategy, and to them it may look good on paper. Men having total dominion over their daughters, wives, and sisters: sounds like a one-fell-swoop solution to our sex-based malaise. But the steps to get there in practice are a bit murkier.

One dream of the future is that women, realizing the trap the sexual revolution has placed them in when it comes to their marriage prospects, would, in a bout of collective hyper-agency, impose a sort of secular Sharia on themselves. In a more classic edition of the fantasy, women will be won in armed conquest as spoils of the incel revolution. Or else societal collapse will make the revolution superfluous: in the post-downfall wasteland, Minecraft conquistadors will win women over with their sheer capacity to brave the elements, open jars, and read maps, all of which skills will have suddenly quintupled in importance.

Overall, though, the total disenfranchisement of women is a minority aspiration. When pushed, even its proponents usually concede that this genie, for cultural, economic, and “the vast majority of people simply don’t want to” reasons, will probably not be coaxed back into the bottle. The current situation, despite the aggregate issues with it, offers clear benefits to a wide swath of individual women and men.

Back Together

Personally, I’d be happy to give away my flimsy excuse for a voice if it meant the return of competence, responsibility, and agency in men who have “checked out.” I suspect that it’s just not that simple. Our current arrangement is a social technology, with all its virtues and faults, that mirrors our physical technology. Under the violent grip of nature, the capacity for force was the only language that conferred credible power. Men mediated both our relationship with the elements and with the equally-aggressive competitors from other tribes. In the days of industrialization, a sliver of elite men created every product or service that keeps hunger, cold, disease, and the elements at bay. For a while, other men subordinated themselves naturally to competent leaders and got a paycheck in return.

But those subordinate positions in business were increasingly open to women, too. And as they entered the workforce, they diluted and obfuscated the hierarchies men constructed for productive ends. The nature of the work also changed: for most office work, it didn’t really matter who exactly was doing it. Women, it turns out, are pretty well suited to paper pushing. Most workplaces, now with feminized norms and tattered male hierarchies, lost their role as a place where men could attain special status in relation to other men and their families.

Women also gained more independence and a new biopolitical status with the emergence of the pill—as the armored uterus sex partner. Disenchantment with religion and the old, weakened social technologies, aka tradition, also set in. The illusion of sameness led to a fun few decades of exploration…for some. But then masculinity, tied either to a capacity for violence, special competence, or both, reached the end of its tether. The Left’s solution is to let it die and have us all assimilated to the gray goo of modernity. The Right is still doing its homework in this department. It’s not an easy assignment to hold on to reality in unreal times.

My reality is that I’m a happily married woman, growing my family in a slightly more traditional and peaceful arrangement than many of my peers. I’ve benefited considerably from understanding sex differences and organizing my own life and marriage around that knowledge. I’ve also been watching these developments, with more than your average openness toward men’s rights and the issues they face. But I’m increasingly convinced we’re cultivating an unbridgeable divide.

The societal safetyism that has neutered men comes with costs. Restraining male violence has been core to the recipe for civilization, but technology and our recent reprieve from nature have taken away more than duels and fist fights. They have taken both a clear path to a good life and responsibility away from men, replacing it with palliatives from simulated war games to ideological sedation.

The fact that we’re looking to snuff out every possibility of abuse or power also has costs, because eliminating male-typical spaces and male-typical patterns of communication also eliminates ways in which men are uniquely productive—for the benefit of everyone—and can attain status in male hierarchies. The fact that women are an equal part of the social order has clear benefits, but it also has costs to their potential families, children, and the social structure. Female-typical interaction patterns, oriented around consensus, avoiding direct confrontation, and cultivating covert conflicts, come with large costs that are yet to be accounted for in any of the institutions that have now defaulted to them.

Looking at all this requires a commitment to the truth and to each other that we have yet to see on either the Left or Right. The truce will have to happen, because the sex wars are accelerating us toward an evolutionary cliff. The fruitful will inherit the earth—but it is in our hands to find a way to be together long enough to be fruitful.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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