Fear of flaccidity

Asian guy pulling warm pant. with copy space

On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking about his genitalia, declared: “I checked. I’m fully intact.”

Tillerson was responding to Senator Bob. Corker’s criticizing President Trump’s public undercutting of his Tillerson on the issue of North Korea: “You cannot publicly castrate your own Secretary of State …”

For a man who feels emasculated by competition from women, what better way could there be to marginalize them than natural parenting?

It’s not an accident that the state of men’s genitalia has become a political issue. Trump’s favorite epithet, “little,” was first used in conjunction with Marco Rubio and most recently in regard to North Korea’s dictator. It’s also behind the derogatory claim that Trump has little hands. The charge of emasculation is Trump’s most vicious insult because it is his deepest fear. And it’s also the fear of his most ardent supporters.

In some ways, the events of the past two years seem inexplicable. Voters (though not a majority) ignored the successes of President Obama and elected his polar opposite. Where Obama is devoted to diversity and overcoming prejudice, Trump is a racist; where Obama is notably uxorious and supportive of equality for women; Trump is a thrice married sexual predator; where Obama is brilliant, Trump is a moron (as Tillerson noted); where Obama is urbane, Trump is a pig. Most importantly, where Obama was secure in his masculinity, Trump lives in desperate fear of flaccidity.

That fear lead to the irrational hatred of Hilary Clinton and the dread of a female president animating both Trump and his most ardent supporters. Instead they turned to toxic masculinity.

What is toxic masculinity?

According to Wikipedia:

Toxic masculinity is a cultural perspective held by individuals which emphasizes the ideology and importance of men maintaining a dominant, aggressive, unemotional and sexually aggressive attitude, both collectively and as individuals …

Men in the grip of toxic masculinity feel emasculated by women, by black people, by gay people and by the fanciful threat of immigrants stealing their jobs. Such fearful men preserve their sense of masculinity by flaunting misogyny, racism and homophobia. It is critical to their self esteem to put women, black people and gay people back “in their place.”

What does this have to do with natural childbirth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting and the other topics that I typically write about? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Misogyny and “pussy grabbing” are overt reflections of men’s fear of being emasculated by women’s increasing power; a far more subtle manifestation is the phenomenon of natural parenting.

In a society where women can no longer be forced to stay immured and unthreatening in the home, natural parenting is the perfect stealth method for manipulating women into believing they must stay home, in retreat from the public arena. While ostensibly promoting the wellbeing of infants and small children, natural parenting is really about weighing down mothering with so much work and so much moralizing that a “good mother” can’t possibly do anything but mother.

Grantly Dick-Read was painfully honest that he created the philosophy of natural childbirth as a way to keep women at home; only there could they find true happiness by fulfilling their biologic destiny, and then they would stop agitating for political, legal and economic equality, thereby assuaging men’s fears of impotence and emasculation

La Leche League and the lactivist movement were founded for similar reasons. Their message that breastfeeding is obligatory because Nature intended for women to breastfeed is a reflection of their belief that staying home is obligatory because God intended for women to stay home and assuage men’s fears of impotence and emasculation.

Attachment parenting purports to reflect the science of attachment, but is the exact opposite of what we know about infant attachment. The reality is that attachment parenting reflects the Bill and Martha Sears fundamentalist Christian beliefs about traditional gender roles where women are subservient to men, thereby assuaging their fears of impotence and emasculation.

Natural parenting is predicated on the notion of the man as breadwinner and the woman as nurturer. It both assumes and requires that women ought to be judged by the function of their reproductive organs instead of their intelligence, talents and character.

Natural parenting strips women of political and economic power and insists that they can be “empowered” by refusing pain relief in childbirth or breastfeeding their babies. If you were a misogynist who felt emasculated by competition from women in business, science and politics, what better way could there be to marginalize women once again than to divert them into competing over who has the better vagina and breasts?

White men are accustomed to privilege. When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression … or worse, it feels like impotence and emasculation. Fear of flaccidity leads inevitably to misogyny, but that misogyny does not have to be overt. Convincing women to retire from the arena to obsess about their reproductive organs and their children’s well being looks different from whining about diversity in tech or bewailing a “witch hunt” over sexual predation, but it’s just as effective in reducing men’s fears.

  • Zornorph

    Not sure that blaming men for this is the way to go. Yes, Grantly Dick-Read might have come up with natural parenting but LLL were women. Plus, it was women who took the idea and ran with it. Men might come up with all sorts of stupid ideas, but these ideas are nearly all driven by women now. So call that toxic femininity.

    • J.B.

      Internalized misogyny is definitely a thing (*cough* Miyam Biyalik)

    • Claire Secrist

      Not sure you’ve been paying any attention if you haven’t noticed the systematic attempts to shove women back in the home, by stripping them of rights and autonomy while simultaneously convincing them it’s good for them. Getting persnickety that she’s “blaming men” – not a good look when that’s exactly the population who dominate the cultural attitudes toward everything. I’m not sure how you’re even a follower of Dr Amy’s writing if you haven’t noticed how many people whole heartedly support making women feel like it’s natural for them to do absolutely everything related to childcare.

      • Zornorph

        I’ve been following this blog for 4 years. But at this stage, it’s not men driving all this crazy lactivism and attachment parenting woo foolishness. It’s women.

  • mabelcruet

    Everything about him just screams insecurity. What other president has boasted about the size of his penis? What other president put his girlfriend nude in a magazine spread handcuffed to a briefcase? What other president has a backlog of multiple radio interviews boasting about his sexual exploits? Even the length of his ties screams ‘Look at my willy!’ His handshake, his swagger, shoving other presidents bodily out of the way. In any man such behaviour is pathetic and embarrassing, but in a man with the power that he currently has, its terrifying and frightening to think out what he could do. And you know he’ll do it without thought or planning, it’ll be simply out of spite if he feels challenged or got at, he doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to deal with people. He is in need of some serious psychoanalysis and counselling.

    • Zornorph

      Well, to be fair to President Trump, his wife took those pictures before they were a couple.

      • Claire Secrist

        How the hell did you pick that one point out of that list of horrors, as the reason we should be fair to the sexual assault aficionado in the White House?

    • Charybdis

      Well, there was Kennedy, but there wasn’t a 24-hour news cycle, social media or people with handheld cameras/recorders on them at all times. There was also a greater divide between the press and the President then too. A private party stayed private and no one was live tweeting from the party or posting to Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook constantly.

      Plenty of people didn’t like Kennedy because he was Catholic, had ties to the Mafia and surrounded himself with his family. His AG was his brother, for crying out loud. He was rich and promiscuous , he was connected (thanks to his father) and he was surrounded by family members as official and unofficial advisors.

      **Disclaimer: Not saying Trump is a “modern Kennedy” at all. Just pointing out that there are some similarities between them and the modern news cycle and social media have completely changed how the public gets news and information.

    • Claire Secrist

      LBJ bragged about his dick, sorry to say.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    Hell, GW Bush was far more secure in his masculinity. I disagreed with him about almost every political issue, but he’s a hell of a lot more trustworthy with girls and women.

    • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

      It is so weird how much better W looks in light of current events. Not that he was good mind you, and the clusterfuck in Iraq should never be forgotten, but at least he wasn’t a dick-joke made flesh.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Yup. I always kind of felt about W that while I disliked many of his political stances, I genuinely wouldn’t mind having the guy as a next-door neighbor.

    • Russell Jones

      What a difference a decade makes. I vividly remember viewing the Shrub administration as a complete, total and unmitigated disaster at the time. Now it looks like the good ol’ days.

      • Allie

        I swear the Trump presidency was a conspiracy spearheaded by Barbara to ensure her son did not go down as the worst president in history. And wow, did it work! He does look good in comparison.

  • The strongest predictor of support for Trump is bigotry. If you are racist, sexist, and/or homophobic, you almost certainly voted for Trump. If you’re not, you almost certainly didn’t.

  • Russell Jones

    2016 – the year a 5/10, dumb-as-dog-shit businessman told a national television audience that his junk is adequately sized, thank you very much, and got elected POTUS against arguably the best qualified candidate ever to seek the office.

    At this point I doubt there’s any possibility of a comeback. Every empire contains within itself the seed of its own destruction, and America’s death seed is thriving in a big way. In 5-10 generations, the rest of the world will be carving up the U.S. and parceling it out among themselves, much like the Europeans did with the Ottoman Empire in the 18th-20th Centuries.

  • Mel

    Looking at men in my extended family who have fallen hook, line and sinker for Trump’s phobic dogma, the main characteristic I see in common is these men refuse to admit that their personal choices have consequences.

    It’s easier to blame affirmative action on why their career or job path has stalled rather than admit that mouthing off to their bosses and about their bosses to their coworkers has cost them professionally. (This gets more ironic when the person who got the job is another white male – and they still blame affirmative action….seriously?)

    It’s easier to blame immigrants for taking their jobs than admit that passing up career training that was time-consuming but low or no-cost earlier in their career has stalled out their career path. (Memorable conversations where some of these guys were explaining how stupid the rest of the cousins the same age were for going to college or getting vocational training while they were making money at an entry-level, no training job. We don’t hear that any more….)

    The real irony is that there are plenty of men who are in the exact same jobs making the same pay who are happy. Those men chose their path in life. I ran into a former student who was working as a maintenance man at the hospital where Spawn was in the NICU. He’s in the middle of the working class and happy as a clam. He wanted a job with fairly high autonomy, involved working with his hands and didn’t bring any emotional or mental baggage home with him – and he found a third shift maintenance job he’s held for years.

  • namaste

    I honestly don’t get the notion of childbirth as “Empowerment.” It’s a baasic biological process, and a pretty much involuntary one at that. How is it any more empowering than filling the lungs with air, or contracting the heart muscle to pump blood? Don’t get me wrong, when both of those things don’t happen, as when childbirth goes wrong, it sucks very much indeed. I just don’t get how a biological,process that is largely outside of our control could possibly be construed as empowering.

  • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

    What gets me is how many women, many of whom call themselves feminists, fall hook, line, and sinker for this crap.

    • Sarah

      The context, I suppose. We as a species, across many cultures, have spent a lot of time marginalising women and stigmatising us for the functions of the female body. So people react against that by saying actually it’s wonderful. I can quite see why women might want to do that, but then equally these are things a lot of us find very burdensome and dangerous.

      The same is true of eg menstruation. Taboos and shame about that fuck over and endanger women and girls, so they need to be challenged. Equally, I’m menstruating at the moment and while it doesn’t make me ritually impure or deserve shunning, it’s also still a painful fucking nuisance.

      We do need to challenge the idea that things womens bodies do make us lesser. But not by pretending they can’t also be painful, dangerous and difficult for the women involved.

      • MaineJen

        I found myself explaining menstruation to my 7 year old son the other day (it’s funny where conversations will lead you sometimes…), and his takeaway was “Wow mom, I’m kind of glad that I’m not a girl!”

      • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

        Or by pretending those biological functions are what define us and that using technology to minimize the impact of those biological functions on our lives is somehow unnatural or a betrayal of femininity.

      • Cat

        I found out about menstruation when I was eight, from a lady who came into our school to tell us about it. The thing that has always stuck with me is that she snapped at me and made me feel ashamed because I flinched away when she passed round a clean sanitary towel for us all to examine. I get that she was probably used to getting sniggering reactions, but I was a very “young” eight and a stranger had just told me that I was going to bleed out of a hole that I didn’t even know I had, for a large part of the rest of my life. It’s hardly surprising that I was distressed and wasn’t ready to celebrate the whole thing just yet. So yeah – women’s bodily functions shouldn’t be taboo or a source of shame, but, equally, it’s ok to find them annoying, painful and even scary sometimes. Incidentally, I think the mindset that it’s silly and babyish to get upset about periods was probably a big factor in my putting up with abnormal period pain for years without getting help (luckily, there wasn’t a serious underlying cause in my case, but not everyone is so lucky).

    • Wasnomofear

      I did. My first women’s studies class was on the history of midwifery, and I just ate it up, and took off on my own from there. It wouldn’t even be fair to blame that class, because it was on the past, not the present, but I didn’t differentiate between the two. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about modern medicine versus midwives. Fortunately, my daughter and I came out of it okay, and I found this site when pregnant with my second, and took my happy self to the hospital for that baby 🙂

      • The Kids Aren’t AltRight

        I am so glad everything worked out well for you and your children!

        I do worry that a lot of mainstream feminism gets mixed up with naturalness BS, which is a disservice for women, because feminism is so important! I hope that a balanced, rational approach to reaching gender-equality wins out.