Dr. Warren Farrell’s notion of men as the disposable sex could begin at any one of the myriad points he describes in his book, The Myth of Male Power, but an intellectual double-take easily sweeps the mind when we add the medical perspective that even the sperm themselves within men’s testicles must be protected from the body’s immune system because they are considered not-self (other), that is, foreign and therefore an “enemy” to the host body.
Deadly hostility further greets the sperm when they are ejaculated for conception into a hopeful recipient. The vagina secretes acids hostile to the alkaline nature of the sperm, and over a quarter of the 200 to 350 million sperm originally ejaculated will die there. Additionally, the female immune system sends out white blood cells which attack these intruders from a foreign body, killing off additional millions of them. For protection against the acid, the sperm swim in dense bundles where those on the outside of the bundles effectively sacrifice themselves so their “brethren” may continue on. Not until they reach the cervix do the sperm receive any kind of welcoming assistance for their mission of creation. There, strands of a fluid protein are secreted by the cervix which creates tiny channels that make it easy for the sperm to swim in. Yet many sperm don’t find these strands and more die in the acidic environment.
Once through the uterus, the sperm reach another fateful moment as they divide into two groups to search the fallopian tubes where only one of which houses the waiting egg. In the tubes the sperm again engage resistive structures in the form of cilia which line the sides of the tubes. These little hair-like strands sway constantly and generate a downward current the sperm must swim mightily against.
All along the sperms’ quest enzyme inhibitors surrounding the sperm have been eroding away, but at this point, struggling against the cilia and their current, the last of the inhibitors are removed and the digestive enzyme of the sperms’ heads is exposed. This enzyme will begin its work, should it make it to the egg, of dissolving through the two nutritive layers that surround the egg and nourished it on its journey through the ovaries.
By the time the surviving sperm reach the egg, only about 50 of the original 200 to 350 million will live to compete in the final contest of fertilization, and only one will achieve that goal. In its final consummating moment, only wonder is left to us as we contemplate what it means to the sperm to finally lose its morphic integrity. First its motive tail is severed from its head as enzymatic action on the wall of the egg dissolves the tail from the sperm’s head. Then a hole seems to open in the head of the sperm, and in a final orgasmic explosion, the sperm virtually ejaculates its genetic cargo into the vast domain of the egg. The egg completes this annihilation of the sperm’s remains by absorbing its empty and lifeless husk into its protoplasmic surround.
Contrast this to the experience of the egg through-out its life: Except for the moment in which it is penetrated by the sperm, the structural integrity of its outer membrane is never violated. At the micro-level of gender developmental experience, we can see women enjoying a morphic continuity unavailable to men. Again following the old Hermetic adage “As above, so below” can such discontinuity be found at the macro-levels of male developmental processes?
Discontinuity in Male Development
As a matter of fact, discontinuity in development is a primary characteristic of male life. After its expression micro-biologically in the generation of a male child, psychologically the development of males suffers further discontinuity. Whether male or female, there is always that intrinsic differentiation from every biological organism’s original Ground, Mother, that portends great drama and trauma in the course of development. But the male child must add an additional and equivalent differentiation–that he is of different gender from that Ground. He and the Mother-Ground are fundamentally different, and where the female child may have a possible prolonging of the separation process from her Mother-Ground through semblances of similarity, the male child’s difference is irrefutable and final.
And it gets worse. This difference becomes amplified and aggravated sociologically. Most cultures expect boys and girls to handle different functions through the assignment of social roles for each sex, and certainly different self-images accrue to these roles and functions. A boy is “told” by society that he must leave his mama’s apron strings, to quit hiding (seeking protection for his natural and appropriate vulnerability) behind a skirt. “Come out and learn to handle the world on your own as men do!” is the injunction he receives from the world around him. This would be fine if there were any men to show him how to do this. But father is at work. He’s rarely around, or at least barely around enough, to model, demonstrate, or teach the youth just how and what a man is supposed to do and be.
This rude interruption of the necessary cultivation of the human child is tough for the male because he is left on his own to determine what he’s supposed to be and become. The problem of the absent father is well documented, and its implications reach right into the problem of early male disposability in gang activity. Not only have the socio-economic-political forces of our time damaged marriages in the ghettos and barrios of our inner cities where fathers end up leaving, but social programs to rescue mothers and families reward men for doing so. Furthermore, we also have the problem of pre-school and elementary educators being almost exclusively female. In his various books on the crisis of men in our society, Dr. Warren Farrell documents the systemic discrimination against men in elementary education due to fears of male sexuality. This exists in spite of innumerable statistical studies demonstrating the greater extent of female abuse of children, hidden from us, however, by our prejudices against men.
Where stereotypical attitudes towards women’s greater compassion and emotional sensitivity would lead us to believe boys would benefit from such feminine influence, research actually demonstrates school teachers’ impatience with boys’ behaviors in the classroom. Boys’ highly kinetic nature is often assessed as hyper, resulting boys getting drugged into submission to girls’ ways of learning and behaving.
Discontinuity in development continues, then, as boys lose society’s affection for childhood innocence in another unambiguous injunction society enacts in the process of shaping boys: “Don’t be a Momma’s Boy!” Instead of encouragements that would provide something positive around which they might begin molding a model of male identity, boys are told what not to be. At least along that biological fork in the road at week six the instructions of the gene code were quite positive, clear and unambiguous, barring any undue interference (any of which result in what is called in embryology a “default” to the female). Society’s absence of clarity and lack of support leave a critical gap in a man’s emotional development and constitutes a wounding-through- neglect by his society. Add to this the additional messages that for a man to talk about his wounds is effeminate and you have very few men who become conscious of their condition.
What further aggravates this latter point is the expectation of men to serve as soldiers for their country. Appropriately described as the “protector” function, generations of men have been positively and purposefully conditioned by military training to thoroughly embody these values. Psychiatrists Joel Osler Brende and Randolph Parson describe the identity shaping influence of military training in their book Vietnam Veterans: the Road to Recovery;
“The green recruit entering military service in the 1960’s painfully discovered when he first entered boot camp that he was stripped of all of the symbolic visible markings of his own identity. His clothes, hairstyle, address, property, education, and social status (unless he was an officer) vanished within a week. If he sought personal recognition, he found his only symbol of identity to be his rank and if he resisted an order, he could lose that. Thus, he was not only an impressionable 18-year-old soldier looking for a cause and a sense of identity but, bereft of any other identity, he was now receptive to the ‘indoctrination’ process providing him with a new cause and a new identity. Consequently the duly trained soldier left basic training for Vietnam fully ‘programmed’ to kill the Vietcong and stop Communism under an illusion of certainty that he was part of a just cause.”
The psychological effects of this process are essential to the effective fulfillment of the military’s function of protecting society. However, the toll it takes on the individuals (women now as well as men) involved is not the only cost. How it shapes the citizenry of a society and the values they continue to pursue following their military training and service, which in turn shape the society, can be equally devastating. Drawing from Brende and Parson again where they quote a Vietnam veteran:
“For the fist time in my life I was really good at what I did. I believed that I was fighting for my country and I would do it again. In fact, I feel like my purpose will not be completed until I go back there and fight to win or die trying.”
And let’s take it one step further to see another aspect of the loss of personal identity and its implications for a nation founded on the integrity of the individual to make positive and personally responsible political choices. Again Brende and Parson:
“Thus, the painful process of giving up the trappings of civilian status was made easier as each man developed a more intense sense of belonging to the military, that is, believing in a common ideology, learning loyalty to one another, and sharing a common purpose. In fact, being in close proximity without race or class distinctions often broke down social barriers. It created a feeling of exhilaration and liberation as close personal bonds emerged. This unique identification with comrades became fraught with new meaning. “I” became “we,” the nucleus for an identity that was prepared to fight and die together, as one unit.”
Let’s take a moment of comic relief to see this in the light of typical military humor: “After enlisting in the 82nd Airborne Division, I eagerly asked my recruiter what I could expect from jump school. ‘It’s three weeks long,’ he said. ‘What else?’ I asked. ‘The first week they separate the men from the boys,’ he said. ‘The second week, they separate the men from the fools.’ ‘And the third week?’ I asked. ‘The third week, the fools jump.’”
Anonymous quote taken from the net.
Anything relegated to the unconscious will eventually out, and usually in a terribly distorted form. Wounded as they are then, and left untreated, is it really any mystery why some men become toxic, infected and infectious in their behavior: Why men act-out mother projections onto their wives, why they seem boyish, or why they carry the opprobrium of having such fragile egos, or even why in some men the pain of the wound progresses into the darknesses of resentment, anger, perversion and violence?
Make no mistake, these comments are not meant to justify men’s limitations and crimes against women politically, economically and physically, but to trace their causes to their actual sources and to reverse the extremities of the feminist backlash against male “oppression,” which only recreates sexism in reverse.