Manliness and Morality

"Manliness and Morality: The Transgressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn," Weekly Standard, 6 June 2011.


What with Arnold and DSK, male transgression is once again in the news. Let’s not equate the two cases—one is forgivable, the other, if the accusations are true, is not. Together with these male transgressions is the reaction to them, still more interesting. The reaction shows the power of morality to produce disgust and disgrace at the sight of these male weaknesses. Even though morality can’t prevent such excesses, it won’t let go of us. Just when we think we are too advanced, too sophisticated, too New York to care, we all have to stop and gasp and exclaim to one another.

Look at the old-fashioned, home truths that are vindicated in these spectacles, some obvious, some less so.

(1) Men are more adventurous and aggressive than women. This is true for good as well as ill. Men are much more violent, but also more given to innovation and invention. Most science and all common sense says this, but our society now wants desperately to be gender-neutral, and it has great difficulty in admitting this obvious difference between the sexes. Many think that admitting such differences will hurt the chances of women to gain for themselves formerly male occupations that require initiative and drive. It certainly seems strange that being capable of rape can make a person better qualified for greatness, but it’s probably true. Yet it’s not surely true; some women do have these manly qualities and do succeed.

(2) Women are more vulnerable than men. They are not rapists but victims of rape. Being mothers, they are closer to their children, and usually suffer more from divorce. Because women are weaker and closer to children than men, the equality of the sexes cannot rest on their being the same. Nor can women be independent, or “autonomous,” certainly not as much as modern women want to be. As vulnerable, they depend on law and morality for protection. The enforcement of law and morality is done mainly by men or by women with the strength of men. Martial arts! But it’s better usually to call the police. Women need men to save them from men.

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