| Arts & Lettres | Poésie | Démocratie, laïcité, droits | Politique | Féminisme, rapports hommes-femmes | Femmes du monde | Polytechnique 6 décembre 1989 | Prostitution & pornographie | Syndrome d'aliénation parentale (SAP) | Voile islamique | Violences | Sociétés | Santé & Sciences | Textes anglais
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Does Porn Make the Man ?
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The following is an excerpt from Getting Off : Pornography and the End of Masculinity, by Robert Jensen.
King of the Hill
The object of the children’s game King of the Hill is to be the one who remains on top of the hill (or, if not an actual hill, a large pile of anything or the center of any designated area). To do that, one has to repel those who challenge the king’s supremacy. The king has to push away all the other kids who charge the hill. That can be done in a friendly spirit with an understanding that a minimal amount of force will be used by all, or it can be violent and vicious, with both the king and the challengers allowed to use any means necessary. Games that start with such a friendly understanding can often turn violent and vicious. This scenario is also used in some video games, in which a player tries to control a specific area for a predetermined amount of time.
In my experience, both male and female children can, and did, play King of the Hill, but it was overwhelmingly a game of male children. It’s one of the games that train male children to be men. No matter who is playing, it is a game of masculinity. King of the Hill reveals one essential characteristic of the dominant conception of masculinity : No one is ever safe, and everyone loses something.
Most obviously, this King-of-the-Hill masculinity is dangerous for women. It leads men to seek to control "their" women and define their own pleasure in that control, which leads to epidemic levels of rape and battery. But this view of masculinity is toxic for men as well.
One thing is immediately obvious about King-of-the-Hill masculinity : Not everyone can win. In fact, by definition in this conception of masculinity, there’s only one real man at any given moment. In a system based on hierarchy, by definition there can be only one person at the top of the hierarchy. There’s only one King of the Hill.
In this conception of masculinity, men are in constant struggle with each other for dominance. Every other man must in some way be subordinated to the king, but even the king can’t feel too comfortable — he has to be nervous about who is coming up that hill to get him. This isn’t just a game, of course. A friend who once worked on Wall Street, one of the preeminent sites of masculine competition in the business world, described coming to work as like "walking into a knife fight when all the good spots along the wall were taken." Every day you faced the possibility of getting killed — figuratively, in business terms — and there was no spot you could stand where your back was covered. This is masculinity lived as endless competition and threat. Whatever the benefits of it, whatever power it gives one over others, it’s also exhausting and, in the end, unfulfilling.
No one man created this system. Perhaps no man, if given a real choice, would choose it. But we live our lives in that system, and it deforms men, narrowing our emotional range and depth, and limiting our capacity to experience the rich connections with others — not just with women and children, but with other men — which require vulnerability but make life meaningful. The Man Who Would Be King is the Man Who Is Broken and Alone.
That toxic masculinity hurts men doesn’t mean it’s equally dangerous for men and women. As feminists have long pointed out, there’s a big difference between women dealing with the constant threat of being raped, beaten, and killed by the men in their lives, and men not being able to cry. But we can see that the short-term material gains that men get in patriarchy — the name for this system of male dominance — are not adequate compensation for what we men give up in the long haul, which is to surrender part of our humanity to the project of dominance.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that in this world all men have it easy. Other systems of dominance and oppression — white supremacy, heterosexism, predatory corporate capitalism — mean that non-white men, gay men, poor and working-class men suffer in various ways. A feminist analysis doesn’t preclude us from understanding those problems but in fact helps us see them more clearly.
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