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 …”

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]For a man who feels emasculated by competition from women, what better way could there be to marginalize them than natural parenting?[/pullquote]

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.