Monday, November 12, 2012

Male Violence is not Maleness

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.

1 comment:

  1. I believe you have hit it on the head Tony when you mention the word "entitled". It has been a strong belief of mine that in today's world we are raising children to have a "disposable" attitude towards everything hence a sense of "entitlement" in one's attitude towards everything in life.
    Children today male and female in my experience are given what ever they want without having to do an hr's work for it or having saved for the item. And once there is no longer interest in the "thing" it is discarded like it was never worth anything.
    I think this has a lot to do with what you are talking about, people are so busy chasing the next best thing and quick fixes in child rearing that they miss the most fundamental lessons that can be taught which is patience, respect for other people and their belongings as well as your own, tolerance, to work hard, and to cherish. (make a child earn what they want and they will cherish it longer!)
    I can't tell you how many people I know including within my own family who have children who are disrespectful not only to their own parents but to other's in their wider community, and there are never any consequence for the child's actions. In fact what I have noticed is that parents often over compensate for bad behaviour hence there is no lesson learnt and that sense of entitlement becomes evident. It's almost like parents are scared to show authority in a controlled, consistent, and firm way, and don't want their kids to fear consequences from them. My own parents were consistent in their expectations of us we were controllable, we showed respect where ever we went and still do today. Because of how we were raised we learnt boundaries, it was not easy in fact I remember thinking that they were unfair however today I appreciate their consistency it has taught me to appreciate and cherish the things I have in my life both materialistic and in relationships.
    So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if we as parents stopped trying to compensate our children with everything under the sun and taught strong boundaries and behaviour expectations from the start we might stop this sense of entitlement people seem to have today, hence we might have a better balance. Just my thought's I know I've kinda gone off track.. heehee..