Yiannopoulos, Trump and toxic masculinity

Hand with clenched fist - tattooed hate

In the past day Milo Yiannopoulos has had a speaking invitation to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) withdrawn, had a book contract cancelled and resigned from Breitbart, the media outlet that boosted him to fame.

Why now when Yiannopoulos has long been a racist, misogynist bully and provocateur? It happened because Yiannopoulos was found to have praised pederasty.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Conservatives embraced Yiannopoulos’ toxic masculinity. They dropped him not because he went too far, but because his views on pederasty threatened their masculinity.


Conservatives were willing to tolerate racism, sexism and brutality but drew the line at child sexual abuse.

Not exactly.

Conservatives embraced Yiannopoulos’ toxic masculinity, just as they embrace the toxic masculinity of Trump. They dropped him not because he went too far, but because his views on pederasty threatened their masculinity.

According to Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post ascribes Yiannopoulos’ embrace by conservatives as a result of his ability to generate liberal rage:

Yiannopoulos carved a profile for himself in the Republican Party not because he’s particularly conservative — he eschewed that term as recently as this weekend on Bill Maher’s show — nor because he offers a cogent political point of view or new ideas. He earned his speaking slot at CPAC because he pisses people off — liberal people. And that was apparently good enough.”

Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast offers his perspective on why conservatives fell for Yiannopoulos:

The invitation to speak at CPAC tells you all you need to know about the state of American conservatism and why it was so easily co-opted by Trumpism… Once arguably too wonky and prudish, today’s conservatism, judging by CPAC’s invited speakers, is increasingly crude, vulgar, and lowbrow.

Both are right: conservatives love to provoke liberal rage and conservatives are increasingly crude, vulgar and lowbrow. Both are the result of a toxic masculinity that has capture the Republican party.

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…

I would argue that toxic masculinity is a reaction to fear of emasculation and that fear of emasculation is the driving principle behind the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency.

Trump’s political base is comprised in large part of white, under-educated, under-employed men. They are little different than their fathers and grandfathers, but whereas their fathers and grandfathers were admired as high wage earning providers, superior to others — indeed supreme — on the basis of race and gender, they feel like poor, unskilled failures. It’s hardly surprising that they feel emasculated by their loss of status and income.

Both Trump and Yiannopoulos respond to this fear of emasculation with a vow to return to toxic masculinity. That’s why Yiannopoulos was embraced for his racism, misogyny and bullying. That’s why it doesn’t matter that Trump is a pathological liar, incompetent and a narcissist. When Trump claims he is going to make American great again what his supporters hear (and what he means) is that he is going to make toxic masculinity supreme again.

Instead of hurting him with supporters, a tape of Trump boasting about “grabbing her by the pussy” didn’t dent his popularity and may have even increased it. Unbridled sexual aggression is an important part of toxic masculinity. Trump supporters feel emasculated by gender equality, by the gains of women within the workplace, by the fact that many women are no longer dependent on and forced to accept the abuse of male partners. “Grab her by the pussy” calms their fears about their own masculinity.

Unbridled sexual aggression by men against women is fine, but unbridled sexual aggression against male children by older men is most definitely not. These are people who are deeply uncomfortable about homosexuality and the unjustified fear of predation that goes with it. Heterosexuals are far more likely to be predators than homosexuals but the truth is irrelevant to those who suffer from fears about their own masculinity.

They ground their teeth and tolerated Yiannopoulos’ homosexuality and flamboyance because he was so much more threatening to liberals than to conservatives. But they cannot possibly tolerate his embrace of pederasty because it confirms their deepest fears.

Yiannopoulos didn’t go too far with his comments on pederasty, he went off script entirely.

Which brings us back to Trump, a sexual predator of women who has shown no predilection for abusing men. Liberals, journalists, just about anyone with any affinity for the truth has been gob-smacked by Trump’s utter incompetence and the fact that his supporters simply don’t care.

That’s because in every possible way — projecting a cartoon version of dominance, not backing down but doubling down when caught in a lie, devising drastic punishments for vulnerable immigrants, tolerating racism and anti-Semitism, supporting unrestricted gun rights and promoting violence and spewing threats — he’s dishing up the toxic masculinity that reassures his followers.

They trust him because he believes what they believe:

Trump can make dominant, aggressive, predatory masculinity great again.