Psychic Disturbance Sexual Aggression
I recently devoted a post to the appalling sexual aggression of mobs of men harassing and assaulting women in Tahrir Square in Cairo as symptomatic of a world-wide reality that the majority of women face everyday, a form of Psychic Disturbance that induces fear and anxiety. I ‘get’ that it is difficult for men to mentally ‘trade places’ with women and identify with what it feels like to be constantly aware of the presence of predatory males intent on asserting their ‘right’ to sexually intimidate women. It is especially difficult for men to ‘get it’ when their bullying behaviours are justified by mis-guided social and religious authorities asserting that male dominance is the natural way of things. It just happens that when the Egyptian mob attacks took place I had recently read a few books on the problem on male sexual, physical, emotional, and even intellectual aggression towards women, what seems to motivate it and what causes it to ‘go viral’ spreading from place to place in a heartbeat. One of the most interesting ‘takes’ on this psychic disturbance in the form of sexual aggression is a new book, The Moral Molecule by Dr. Paul Zak. Zak argues that human culture has become distorted in the direction of increasing levels of aggressiveness largely as a result of male-constructed social and economic models designed to ensure their control over both human reproduction and economic resources. The concentration of economic and military power in the hands of men has been only marginally affected by the entry of more women into paid employment, the professions and the military. In fact, the situation seems to be worsening in a sort of un-named backlash against women that takes the form of everything from rampant cyber-porn addiction to sexual trafficking of women and children on an unprecedented scale whilst at the same time punishing and killing women for alleged and largely unproved ‘adulterous’ behaviour in which the man is cast as the victim rather than the aggressor. No matter what the alleged provocation, there is no excuse for male sexual aggression. Not ever. But in a world that positively rewards aggressive behaviour of all kinds in males, sexual aggression becomes inevitable and even employed as a weapon of war as in Sudan, Somalia, Kosovo, Congo, Nigeria, Chad, Rwanda, etc.
Psychic Disturbance Sexual Aggression
The creation of a social structure that grants privileged positions to males and makes women subject to male prerogatives has left a legacy of imbalance in the human division of labour that remains despite the entry into the formal workplace in greater numbers of women. The hierarchal structure of most workplaces and the assumptions that underlie male privilege have left females to do the ‘care giving’ in society in general. Since the work of ‘caring for’ never ends, it means that half of the human race carries the greater burden in maintaining the healthy social relations of the species. What allows women to perform this evolutionarily essential task is partly socialisation and partly the result of a peptide known as oxytocin – the compassion molecule – now dubbed The Moral Molecule by Dr. Zak. He has a somewhat unusual background with a Ph.D. in economics (U of Pennsylvania) but has completed post-doctoral work in neuro-imaging (Harvard) as well. Zak has combined these two areas of expertise in what he calls the new discipline of Neuro-economics.
The Oxytocin Effect
Is it possible that by encouraging behaviours that encourage the release the oxytocin we could change the violent status quo and re-make the global economic system to be self-sustaining and non-destructive? Dr. Zak’s basic thesis is that testosterone has ruled the planet for most of the past 5 to 7 thousand years with dire consequences for everything and everyone on it. Thousands of years of physical aggression of all varieties has created a male-centred cultured in which aggressive traits like extreme risk taking, competition, hierarchical social organization, and selfishness has been repeated in economic systems resulting in exaggeration of the male contribution to human evolution. In fact, it is the nurturant behaviours such as sharing, empathy, co-operation, and reciprocity that has contributed more to human survival. Longer term thinking, taking potential consequences into account, more equitable distribution of resources like food and water, close observation of subtle physical cues to determine motivation and levels of threat, and a host of other characteristics identified as largely female, contribute far more to group survival than the short-term gratification thinking that is characteristic of males.
Epidemic of Sexual Aggression
Given the ubiquitous levels of physical and sexual aggression of human males toward females (the recent male mob attacks on women demonstrators in Egypt, for example), the disastrous destruction of eco-systems, the suicidal exploitation of scarce resources and the concentration of obscene levels HERE. of non-productive wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of the population, it is obvious that humans face the strong possibility of self-extinction. This should have resulted in a ‘market correction’ in the direction of sustaining the eco-system of the planet, greater sharing of the function of ‘care giving’, greater internation co-operation in avoiding financial melt-downs, etc. Instead of which we have steroid-induced male aggression on an unprecedented scale in schools, athletics, the military, gangs, and other male-only preserves and the open denigration by such groups of all things female – except of course female sex organs. The implication of Dr.Zak’s thesis is that the headlong rush to self-annihilation can be reversed either directly through oxytocin ‘therapy’ or by using the same model by which testosterone became over-dominant: an emphasis on males allowing the natural oxytocin levels in their systems to find expression in co-operative efforts to reorganize the way we ‘do economic life’, a higher level of care-giving for males of all ages, and a recognition of the constructive effects on human happiness and well being of ‘female’ relational styles.
Helen Fisher author of Why We Love put it extremely succinctly in her blurb on The Moral Molecule on Amazon.com: ”Empathy, cooperation, trusting, heroism, stinginess, skepticism, anger, tough mindedness: Paul Zak unpacks these and other deeply human feelings with his pioneering research into brain chemistry and his keen journalist eye–exposing the dignity (and treachery) within our common human nature. You will never think about lobsters, gossip, ‘butt slapping’ footballers, middle management, or the recent housing bubble fiasco the same way again.” I would agree with that assessment and highly recommend The Moral Molecule for serious attention.
Books cited in the post can be found HERE. in the Psychic Disturbances Category.