There is nothing which churns the stomach more than hearing men talk about the way they have been able to dominate or control another person. Recently in an anger program I was facilitating a young man told me that he felt empowered by knowing that others are fearful of him. What concerned me most is that he was not concerned about how others felt towards him but he believed he was getting what he needed out of the relationship because those around him were compliant to his wishes. I told him that it saddened me that he didn’t care about the impact of his behaviour on others. Another client told me that he will not tolerate people holding a view of him which he didn’t believe was true. He would beat them to a pulp, this was a veiled threat towards me if I challenged any of his views about maleness or any view that may be different to his.
Over the past twenty years I have worked with some of the most violent men our society produces. I am interested by the notion that being tough is a true indicator of character and somehow makes one happier and provides a sense of safety for those we love the most. For some men that is not important. For some the safety comes in their sense of power and the exertion of control over others. These men fortunately are not the majority but it is scary when one considers how often I meet them, far too often.
The true sense of “maleness” is determined by our humanity and particularly our love for our partner/s and children. Anything else is a myth. It takes more courage to build a respectful and equal relationship than it does one which is violent and abusive. It takes true conviction to walk away from a fight than it does to stand face to face abusing the other and resolving nothing but creating further pain and mistrust. How dumb are men that they think this form of conflict is helpful. There are very few men who will agree with the men mentioned above that violent behaviour builds a better relationship. What it does breed is discontent and unhappiness.
We may not like the idea, but inside of us often sits a little boy who at some point has been treated badly. This little boy is desperately looking for love, connection, tenderness, respect. Unfortunately, because men are who we are, he hasn’t been shown how to gather together all of these wonderful qualities. Yet there is something inside that innately tells him that these are important and good qualities and certainly different from what he experienced as a child. There is the desire to experience what these qualities offer. Of course he is unable to articulate what he wants, he doesn’t talk about his feelings, so is unable to describe them in any meaningful way. So instead he demands that they be provided by others. Sex should be on demand. He should always be respected and when he feels disrespected he becomes violent. Sex is the only time that he feels connected and loved.
As men become further separated from the very goal they desire they become increasingly violent and abusive. They often don’t understand that their behaviour is prohibiting them from attaining what they need. Failure to take responsibility for behaviour is another distancing practice. It is unfortunate that all of the strategies men employ to get what they want are reinforced by the version of “maleness” we have presented to us while we are growing up. By the time we reach adulthood we have been sold on the idea that we are entitled to have all those things we desire and that we can have them regardless of our behaviour because we are simply, “entitled”.
Yes, we are entitled to be loved and cared for and feel close to others, but what we want is not a “given”. It is something we have to work towards. Most importantly we have to understand our own emotions and feel safe – independent of others. Where ever violence abounds there is insecurity, fear, betrayal, a lack of trust.
As long as we continue to act in violent ways we will never have what we so desperately want.