The Sheep Are Still Scared

Courtesy Matthew Yglesias comes a discussion that makes me think: Eh? Do I have wax in my ears? Write louder, sonny boy! – ’cause all I’m gettin’ is burble blah masculine/feminine blah burble doo. Somewhere in there, the statement “women are attracted to masculine men, men are attracted to feminine women” is supposed to be uncontroversial, have a clear, agreed-upon meaning, and not be a tautology.

Any two of those three rhetorical criteria I can handle, but all three at once? Even operating under a gentlepersons’s understanding of the debate (we’re all speaking in broad generalities, it’s inaccurate and impolite to make assumptions about individuals based on such broad generalities, no normative judgments are implied) that’s a lot to juggle. I haven’t seen the word “obvious” this abused since I studied Bessel functions. So, I’m inclined to sacrifice “clear” – when you’ve thrown out all the stuff that’s a bullshit cultural construct, masculinity is like porn, you know it when you see it.

Will has promised to draw up a list of masculine and feminine traits. If I’m still short on Feminist Rhetoric Credits when he does so, I suppose I’ll have a whack, but blathering on about the difference between masculinity and femininity is like trying to draw a line between porn and erotica. It’s fun ’cause you get to think about things that turn you on, but it’s not exactly vital to free society. Indeed, in all the best free societies such discussions are irrelevant, particularly once you leave the therapist’s or matchmaker’s office.

But speaking of what turns us on (for Will Wilkinson values of “us”):

I find that I have been, quite perversely, made to feel guilty by blank slate ideology for having preferences for women who are, in many ways, traditionally feminine, and for preferring certain traditional gender roles. Indeed, I feel like I have been, in some ways, ideologically estranged from components of my masculinity by my tentative attitude toward my own preferences.

Will all readers who consider their sexual and romantic preferences to be an essential component of their (masculinity|femininity|othernity) please raise their hands? ‘Cause I can’t relate. This is an honest question, not a rhetorical point: Why conceptualize sexual preference as a component of gender, when it’s just as easy to think of gender as a component of sexual preference?

Contrariwise, this is an utterly dishonest question: why is sexual desire a component of masculinity, while critical thoughts and feelings of ambivalence about sex are obstacles to the full experience of manhood?


  1. qurie wrote:

    Ha! Off-topic, but
    “I haven’t seen the word “obvious” this abused since I studied Bessel functions.” that made me laugh.

  2. yami wrote:

    Math professors are certainly the canonical abusers of the word obvious!

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