• U.S.

Men Are They Really That Bad?

27 minute read
Lance Morrow

After God cast Lucifer and his followers into darkness, all the fallen angels came straggling together on the plains of hell — to recriminate, to console themselves and to discuss their new identities as devils.

It may be time for men to hold a convention for the same purpose.

Let all men be summoned to a gathering of the masculine tribes, like a jamboree of the Indian nations in Montana long ago — a Pandaemonium of the patriarchy, a sweat lodge of the Granphalloon, Le Tout Guyim: as if the entire male audience of the Super Bowl had been vacuumed through 100 million television tubes (thuuuuppp!) and reassembled in one vast bass- and baritone- and tenor-buzzing hive.

In would gather young and old, warriors and elders, turbulent adolescents, the sleek and paunchy middle-aged, the venerable and wheezing. Lawyers and truckers, body builders, Senators from Oregon, good husbands and wife beaters, Spur Posse mouth breathers, waiters, neurosurgeons, garbagemen and nerds, Tailhookers beastly and Kennedys innumerable, Bly drummers, sweet guys and feel-copping clerics, politicians, pillars of rectitude, forced-entry brutes, girlymen, stockbrokers, philosophers, sales reps, homeless ruins, ex-wife- drained alimoners, gangsta rappers, J. Crew preppies and gunrack bubbas, family-values Bobs and Herbs, whirlpooling cretins, introverts, Fundamentalists, jocks, spazzes, fatboys and hunks and delicate blossoms, biologists, astronauts, alkies, Buddhist meditators, joggers, homeboys, bankers, skinheads, you few loathsome Lecters and Dahmerites, you libertarians, deer hunters, anchormen, bureaucrats, convicts, bleeding hearts, bikers, femsymps and harassers, Rotarians and punks. Welcome, overmortgaged yuppie. Welcome, beery lout in the gimme hat (MY BEST FRIEND RAN OFF WITH MY WIFE — AND I MISS HIM). Welcome, chunky Limbaugh ranter. Welcome, Mr. Justice Thomas.

It is time to talk. We must make an examination of conscience. They are saying terrible things about us.

Are they true? Masculinity is in disrepute. Men have become the Germans of gender. Are we really as awful as they say we are?

Uproar, cheers, gestures of fists upraised and twirling, chorus of “Har! Har! Har!,” here and there a wagonmaster’s drawn-out John Wayne “Yo-o-o-o-o- o!”

(Gavel bangs.) Gentlemen: We meet at a moment when the prestige of maleness is in decline.

Outbreak of mock sobbing, men sawing at imaginary violins.

In a sidelong and subliminal way, men have become the Evil Empire, or, anyway, the ancien regime. We are “They,” “Them,” “the Enemy.” The “manly” virtues (bravery, strength, discipline and, egad, machismo itself) remain admirable only by being quietly reassigned to women — to Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton, say.


Other manly traits, of the noxious-slob variety (emotional inaccessibility, sexual aggression, a lack of fastidiousness about lifting the seat) are ascribed to fraternity boys, the Senate Judiciary Committee and (guilt by association) males in general. People come in two models: Women (good, nice) and Men (the heavier, hairier life form).

Perhaps I exaggerate. Anyway, we know the overt man bashing of recent years has now refined itself into a certain atmospheric snideness — has settled down to a vague male aversion, as if masculinity were a bad smell in the room. Man bashing is dispensed, so to speak, in aerosol spray (Man-Disss), which covers the male’s nasty essence in a fine mist of shame.

All men have a dirty secret — bosses harassing, fathers incesting, priests abusing, ex-Governors of Arkansas tomcatting. We have reached the point where the best a man can say for himself is that he is harmless.

What is the larger significance? Allan Carlson, president of the Rockford Institute, a conservative think tank in Illinois, offers this analysis: “We are at the tail end of the deconstruction of patriarchy, which has been going on since the turn of the century. The last acceptable villain is the prototypical white male.”

A surly silence in the hall.

But they’re going to miss us, boys. “I think matriarchies are always a sign of social disintegration,” Carlson continues, selling wolf tickets in Oprah country. “In history there are no examples of sustained, vigorous matriarchal % societies.” Dire conclusion: “I think we’re a society in decay and destruction.”

Men-devils nodding: Whud I tell you?

Consider a text by Joyce Carol Oates, her latest novel, called Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang. Oates, a gifted writer with an instinct for the violent and gothic, has invented the story of teenage girls banded together as secret female warriors in the ’50s in upstate New York. The narrator, called Maddy-Monkey, describes the ’50s: “It was a time of violence against girls and women, but we didn’t have the language to talk about it then.” Her heroine, Legs Sadovsky, tells the gang, “It’s all of them: men. It’s a state of undeclared war, them hating us, men hating us no matter our age or who the hell we are . . .” Every male who makes an appearance in Oates’ 328 pages of female-empowerment myth is a slimy, sweating, smelly brute, a rapist, a feeler, a hitter, a fascist. Here is a casual sample, describing a couple of apparently harmless guys on the street: “The two of them beefy big-bodied men with smallish heads, fleshy faces and restless eyes.”

That’s the tone exactly: Men-are-animals-I-don’t-care-if-they’re-not-doing -anything-at-the-moment- they’re-thinking-about-it-and-they-will-when-they-have- the-chance. What is expressed here is an aversion that is both aesthetic and intimate, a horripilation of the sexual reflex that is perfectly captured by the word creep. Maddy Monkey knows that women now, in 1994, certainly have the language to talk about it. They are doing so. The war is not exactly undeclared.

But turn the picture inside out: If Legs Sadovsky (a charismatic gender- driven fanatic) were a man, he would say in the ’90s: “It’s all of them: women. Them hating us, no matter our age or who the hell we are . . .”

Before proceeding, a word about the media.

The cold war is over. The war between the sexes has some potential to take its place, to fill the need for portentous conflict with seemingly enormous issues and irreconcilable differences, as between cobra and mongoose, earthling and alien. Men and women at one another’s throats, or waving knives at one another’s private parts, admirably fuse the dimensions of the intimate and the world-historical. Journalists and essayists have to make a living; men and women leading peaceful, productive lives with one another have to be dragged somehow into the combat. Accordingly: “You hear what she said about you? . . . You hear what he just did? Ain’t he awful? Damn, she’s awful! Let’s you and her fight!”

Thus one interpretation of current gender sliming is that it is the work of the usual American overstimulation and culture-by-spin-and-tablo id — the commercialization of the id. Life on the ground continues, more or less as usual, while the sky is lit up with bright video games of rhetoric.

Maybe what we see is also just a swing of the pendulum — the man’s turn to be “it.” Or maybe the theme of garbage that has become American society’s cultural motif has finally caught up with men and engulfed what they used to think of as their dignity. In a country where childhood and children go into Dumpsters, where women’s bodies (and men’s and children’s too) are treated like garbage in the $8 billion-a-year pornography industry, and where popular culture itself, sluicing through the ever efficient, stainless-steel First Amendment, is a Mississippi’s inundation of septic personal garbage and out- of-control behavior (somehow most of the themes come together in the case of Michael Jackson and his family), perhaps it is simply men’s turn to be treated like garbage as well.

The war has now escalated to a new stage of attack and counterattack at higher and higher frequencies. Men feel insulted. Women detect fresh assaults. The men-are-awful period has been going on for a while. There are signs now that the oh-yeah-well-women-are-pretty-disgusting- too stage is upon us. For men and women, this is mostly a lose-lose combat. But it is entertaining for the crowds in the Colosseum.

Woman-dissing: We now see some retaliatory rounds targeted at female ruthlessness at the office — in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire (ruthless careerist mom keeps admirable father from his children); in Michael Crichton’s novel Disclosure (ruthless careerist executive sexually harasses male subordinate and tries to destroy his career); in Ron Howard’s new movie, The Paper (ruthless big-city tabloid editor played by Glenn Close).

But let us stick to exploring the proposition that it is the men who are swine. As Samuel Butler advised in the 19th century, “Wise men never say what they think of women.”

Any honest male admits, in the privacy of his heart, that he considers men to be pretty awful sometimes. He has known guys who were so rotten that . . . Well, women don’t know the half of it. If he were a woman, he knows, he would be disgusted by men’s preoccupation with sex, which makes them alternately clumsy and dangerous; by their selfishness and egotism, by their % bullying and insecurity, above all by their potential for violence. On the issue of rape, the man-trying-to-think-like-a-woman would go ballistic.

A few men take this breast beating too far. Some writers in the appease-the- sisters branch of men’s-movement literature hold that masculinity is a destructive atavism and an encumbrance that a small planet could do without. John Stoltenberg, a radical feminist who wrote a book called The End of Manhood, divides men into misogynists and recovering misogynists. “Manhood,” he writes, “is the paradigm of injustice . . . Refusing to believe in manhood is the hot big bang of human freedom.” Soft-core pamphleteering. Here we see the descendants of the ancient priests of Cybele, who as part of their initiation would castrate themselves and sling their testicles into the earth mother’s pine tree.

A man who is still intact would repeat what James Joyce once said to his publisher when they were arguing about a manuscript change: I appreciate that there are two sides to this issue. But I cannot be on both sides at the same time.

In a culture of spin, attitudes churned up by mere hype may take on an enduring and powerful life of their own — in the economy, in the culture, in government and law, in people’s lives. That is why the attitudes of one sex toward the other need to be looked at.

The market economy has found that man bashing sells. Entrepreneurs have descended. Hallmark Cards’ fast-selling line, Shoebox Greetings, traffics in whimsical male-dissing. Another company marketed a card that said, “Hear you’re looking for a man who’s your intellectual equal . . . Does the expression Fat Chance mean anything to you?” Mild enough, but still: Would the company have sold a card that said, “Hear you’re looking for a black who is your intellectual equal . . . Fat Chance”? The booksellers’ shelves are heavy with volumes of the Women-Who-Love-Men-Who-Hate-Women-Who-Are-Too-Good- for-the-Lousy -Jerks-Who-Snore-Anyway variety. Simon & Schuster published No Good Men, 100 pages of cartoons about what slobs and fools men are. No Good Women could not find a publisher.

An established genre of movies routinely assumes the awfulness of men, and portrays them in a way that would be judged bigoted and stereotyped if applied to blacks, Jews, Orientals or, for that matter, women. In this genre, the good guys are women and children. The bad guys are adult white men — almost inevitably brutal, stupid, violent, seething with rage against women.

Tobias Wolff’s subtle, vivid memoir, This Boy’s Life, was converted into a one-track movie centered on the loutish, vicious behavior of Wolff’s stepfather, played by Robert De Niro. Fried Green Tomatoes, released in 1991, was a masterpiece of artfully soft-edged propaganda, a regular Birth of a Nation of antimale bias: almost all the male characters were brutes or fools or slobs except for a mute, guardian black giant, who was a sort of eunuch figure, and a sainted brother who died an awful death when young and innocent, and a little boy who has his arm severed by a passing train. In a climactic scene, one horrible man, a whip-mean, pockmarked little sheriff, literally eats another horrible man, the abusive husband, whom the ladies have barbecued and served up in their restaurant as an ingenious method of disposing of the corpse. Interesting fantasy: Render the heroic women crypto-sapphic, mutilate the men, or cook them, and reduce one to unwitting cannibal. Let the one good male in the bunch be a sort of big black watchdog, faithful and sexually neutered, probably the great grandson of Big Sam in Gone With the Wind. White women loved the movie.

And so on. From the gay and/or transvestite side come works that teach the superfluity of heterosexual maleness, indeed the gaucherie of it. These dramas, too, add to the atmosphere of contempt. They are fantasies of disassembled masculinity — movies, for example, like M. Butterfly or The Crying Game.

The assumption is that men are fair game. Any man insulting is retributive: a payback for the years, the centuries, of male domination and oppression. And for the continuing Awfulness of Men.

In a similar way, of course, the bourgeoisie deserved every bashing it took under Soviet communism: After the revolution, the Zhivago family had to retreat to a corner of their Moscow mansion and submit to the insults of the proletariat who moved in to abuse the former masters and break up the furniture for firewood.

A man who objects to man bashing must be antiwoman, a part of what is called the “War Against Women” — a war that is of course atrocious because women are . . . helpless? The War Against Men, on the other hand, is what men have coming to them, and high time. When women read about male bashing, the words give me a break ticker-tape across their foreheads.

For most of history, men simply assumed their own importance, indeed their primacy. With masculinity under sustained assault, men have been slow to respond, to state their case, to articulate the rationale for something they regarded as self-evidently good — their manhood. This is the way that monarchs, bewildered and unshaven, are led out into the palace courtyard and shot, thinking to themselves, “Oh, dear!” and “Maybe the people have a point.”

Men should think more about their situation and their behavior. Women should as well. Both men and women have been oppressed by the other sex, in different ways. And both have been getting away with murder.

In her elegant, feminist cri de coeur, A Room of One’s Own, written in 1928, Virginia Woolf wondered why men, who have so much power in the world, always seem to be so angry. She did not get it that in addition to men’s natural male-beastly competitiveness, they get irritated about being such a disposable class of human beings in the world. If women are the victims, why is it the men who wind up dead? Not so long before Woolf wrote, for example, World War I destroyed an entire generation of European men on the battlefield — 8.5 million of them. Woolf and her sisters did not fight in that war. Similarly, the names of more than 58,000 men are on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington — and those of eight women.

Feminism’s stated goal of real equality between the sexes will begin to be credible when females are required to register for the draft at 18, as males are, when 50% of combat units must be women — in short, when women are paying 50% of the real price, not only in war but also in society’s other sacrificial exercises.

Why — aside from the fact that they are jerks — do men get angry? Does it have something to do with the fact that they die seven years earlier than women do, with rates of heart disease, ulcers, suicide, alcoholism and other stress diseases considerably higher than those of women? Are they angry because something in their conditioned or instinctive social roles as men revs them up in order to expose them to the worst dangers, like dying in war, like being killed in the line of duty as policemen and fire fighters, or otherwise doing the dirty, dangerous work; 93% of people killed on the job are men. The more dangerous the job, the greater the percentage of men who are doing it. Federal, state and local governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars protecting women workers from sexual harassment, while millions of men are still left substantially unprotected from premature death by industrial hazard.

Actually, the real reason men get angry is not the danger or premature death. It is mostly because they feel unappreciated. Men are fairly simple creatures.

Warren Farrell has made men’s case admirably in a book called The Myth of Male Power. Farrell for some years was the country’s leading male feminist advocate. But he came gradually to the conviction that the feminist take on men left out an important part of the story: the real powerlessness of most men. In any case: “Feminism suggested that God might be a ‘she,’ but not that the devil might also be a ‘she.’ Feminism articulated the shadow side of men and the light side of women. It neglected the shadow side of women and the light side of men.”

The quarrel lies not with feminism per se, but with feminism incompletely or dishonestly or opportunistically pursued. Women must do their share, not just take the share they find attractive. Equality must be equality in all things, not just in the professional opportunities that white middle- and upper- middle-class women wish to exploit. Equality is a matter of real responsibility and risk, of accepting the liabilities as well as claiming the assets.

Women now control the vast majority of consumer dollars in America — especially the discretionary dollars. If that is not power, and privilege, what is? An extraplanetary visitor, scouting a report for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy perhaps, might look at the evidence of their lives (the myriad labor-saving devices, the opulent food and shelter, the sheer abundance of choices that most of the rest of the world desperately envies) and come to the conclusion that white middle- and upper-middle-class American women — from whose ranks the majority of militant feminists arise, the ones who call themselves “womyn” to keep the hated syllable “men” out of their identity — are the most privileged people in the history of the planet. The alien would be stoned to death for saying it, however.

When will women take full responsibility, fifty-fifty with men, for initiating sexual contacts, thereby assuming the occasionally painful risks of rejection? That risk of rejection makes men, who usually must take the active part, not only look foolish many times, but also appear to be sexual harassers, when in fact they may be merely inept. A successful approach to a woman is called romance and courtship. An unsuccessful approach is called sexual harassment and may be a crime.

! Feminist politics goes against the animal behaviorist’s insight that females organize their lives around the getting of resources (food, shelter, nice things) while males organize themselves around the getting of females.

The collision produces a dishonest configuration. Women elaborately manipulate and exploit men’s natural sexual attraction to the female body, and then deny the manipulation and prosecute men for the attraction — if the attraction draws in the wrong man. Women cannot for long combine fiery indignation and continuing passivity (attempting to have the best of both those worlds).

At the end of Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, Nora walks out of her domestic prison and slams the door. When men try to behave decently and pay the bills and be good fathers, and then are informed for their trouble that they are not only unimportant in the scheme of things but also vicious and piggish, they may become sufficiently disillusioned to slam the door themselves — pre- emptively. They are warned off. A man begins to think that marriage is a very foolish choice, an overrated idea.

Let us proceed to the three mysteries (two violent, one benign) that lie at the heart of the matter: Rape, Judicial Bobbitt-Lopping, and the Antioch Rules.

More than any other factor, male violence against women animates the anger against men. That violence (murder, rape, battering) is in everyone’s mind — an ambient viciousness that bewilders and angers and frightens men — though never as much as it terrifies women.

Seventeen years ago, the feminist polemicist Marilyn French wrote The Women’s Room, in which she stated, “All men are rapists.” Then with that inflammatory metaphorical extension that is typical of women’s-movement rhetoric, she went on: “They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.” The raping, in other words, is literal, figurative, pervasive. If we stick to the literal for a moment, it would be more logical to say, “All men are car thieves.” Far more men are car thieves than are rapists. But it is women’s vulnerability to rape that cries out. Rape is the ur-crime that unites women. Fine. But the charge that “all men are rapists” is a slander and an outrage. It is also not true — all men are not even potential rapists. All- men-are-rapists is a moral stupidity as well, since it annuls the distinction between a decent man, who does not rape, and a barbarian, who does. If there is no difference between the two men, then there is no meaning | to civilization.

A borderless outrage at rape, wife battering, child abuse by men and other enormities produces a kind of capillary effect: a seepage of disgust that merges the proposition “All men are rapists” with “All men are jerks” and makes the two offenses somehow coequal. Andrea Dworkin has simplified the discussion by asserting that every act of sex between a man and a woman, no matter what, is rape. (Some feminists edge nervously away from Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, who are the Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan of feminism, extremists who are convenient targets for antifeminists.)

A kind of Cultural Revolution zealotry has led some rape-crisis hysterics on college campuses to post photographs of male students, selected entirely at random, and labeled POTENTIAL RAPIST. Some women who have not been raped refer to themselves as “potential survivors” — a trope that takes American victim-wailing up to a higher octave. Asked by the Washington Post to define the “two kinds of people in the world,” one contestant wrote, “Women and rapists.” (What would the Washington Post have thought of a contestant who divided the world between “men and whores”?)

The psychology produces a technique of gender slur that might be called Worst Case Synecdoche: All men are assumed to be as bad as the very worst among them. The rapist is Everyman.

Men-are-monsters feminism is not quite proposing to send all men to the gas chambers, but it is a morally feckless and unhappy business to indulge oneself in this direction. It savors a little of the century’s worst, most destructive political habit — condemning an entire category of individuals, such as intellectuals in Cambodia.

What explains male violence toward women? The fact men can get away with it so often? Some residual infantile anger at Mother? The inherent viciousness of men? Or, more plausibly, their sense of powerlessness? Whatever the deeper cause, violence against women has become a habit (though most men do not indulge) and has taken on a dark life of its own.

That part of the male brain that is not fastidious about the U.S. Constitution and its phrase about “cruel and unusual punishment” produces this (typically male, violent) solution: a perfect retribution for the rapist, a condign mutilation. Let one-third of his instrument of crime be removed surgically. If he rapes again, let one-third of what remains be removed. This is a sort of pre-emptive judicial Bobbitt-lopping. Let the justice system and its surgeons play Zeno’s Paradox on the rapist’s johnson and see how many offenses he is equipped for. (Zeno’s Paradox, of course, states that a traveler going from, say, New York to San Francisco must first travel half the distance between the two cities, and then must go half the distance between that point and the destination, then half the distance again, so that, by this logic, he will never arrive where he wanted to go. One-half, one-third, any fraction will do. At a guess, rape would drop by 90% if such a punishment were enforced.

The approach would not pass muster as law, of course, but it should be installed in the male psyche as attitude: American men should build a culture of profound intolerance for violence against women, an almost (no condescension intended) knightly solicitude for the sake of women’s safety (we know, we know, they can take care of themselves) and men’s honor. Every rape and every battering of women is, among other things, a dishonor to men, and men should see it as such.

Aside from dramatic mutilations, the problem probably must be solved by rebuilding in the young, both men and women, a structure of self-discipline and self-possession that collapsed years ago, during the youths of the baby boomers who are now the parents of college students.

The many deconstructions that occurred in the ’60s have profound reverberations now. The baby boomers a quarter of a century ago assaulted the Fathers (Lyndon Johnson and the rest) and in doing so turned upside down the American idea of male power — that is, the idea of the legitimacy of male power. Vietnam was the funeral of the myth of admirable and legitimate male power.

When the Antioch rules went into effect last year, they provoked a week or two of whooping and snorting among columnists. Sexual Stalinism! How ridiculous for Antioch College, that flawless little jewel of the correctness culture, to mandate that the boy must ask permission before touching the girl, and then before advancing to a further stage of intimacy (the buttons, say, and all that lies beyond).

But the rules are an intelligent idea — a necessary first step in the rebuilding of a sexual self-discipline that was hit by a nuclear device a generation ago, during the ’60s. The smoking ruins of the ’90s (the epidemic of date rape, for example) are the legacy of the “sexual revolution” 30 years ago.

During the derided ’50s, any American past the age of 13 was not automatically thought to be “sexually active.” A version of what have now become the Antioch rules was at that time a part of the adolescent’s mental software. In the Pleistocene before the Pill and legal abortion (an era that most young feminists have been taught to consider barbaric), both boys and girls felt a terror that a mistake would lead to pregnancy, hence to unwanted, premature marriage or to an abortion nightmare. That terror enforced a certain discipline and formality. Everyone knew — as human beings understood from the dawn of time until the ’60s — that sex was powerful and that it had implications beyond the moment. The Antioch rules, which repeat that lesson, should be adopted on campuses throughout the country.

The only fault of the Antioch rules is they do not give first priority to the subject of alcohol. If a considerable amount of the current anger at men, especially on campus, arises from the high incidence of date rape, it is clear that an overwhelming proportion of date rapes occur when the couple have been drinking. Collegiate date rape could probably be reduced by 80% if alcohol could be removed from the picture. Camille Paglia, an intellectual gunslinger who frequently infuriates feminists, proposes common sense for young women on the subject of date rape: Don’t get drunk; don’t accompany boys to their rooms; realize that sexual freedom entails sexual risks; and take some responsibility for your behavior. Paglia blames male-bashing on what she calls the sincere but misguided path of current feminism. “I made all these errors about men when I was 12 or 14. I was confrontational with men, but I moved on. Feminism is stuck at that adolescent stage of resentment and blaming men.” She believes, correctly, “white bourgeois yuppie women” — one of her phrases for feminists — are out of touch with the real world.

We must take into consideration the Virginia Woolf Effect.

In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf wrote, “Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.” Because women would adoringly (or pseudo adoringly) mirror men to themselves at twice their real stature and worth (thinks Woolf), the men, thus encouraged, felt wonderful and set forth to build empires. The inclination of American women today is not to mirror men at all, but to judge them at their true size at best — and sometimes to evaluate them at half-size or quarter-size. Perhaps women have always done that, but they kept their real opinions to themselves, or discussed them only with other women. Now women speak with aggressive, retaliatory candor.

The result is that men feel devastatingly diminished. They feel bashed. They feel unappreciated. Wuzza, wuzza.

But the Virginia Woolf Effect has a twin. Men were similarly encouraged to overvalue and romanticize women. Women now profess to find that sort of idealization stultifying and ultimately imprisoning. Would so much be lost if each sex mirrored the other at twice the real size and stature?

Perhaps American men and women should face the fact that they are hopelessly at odds. Or anyway that they are a little sick of one another for the moment. Time to give gender a rest. Time to stop staring at life through the single monomaniacal lens of gender politics. Put on the other lenses.

Or if that is not possible, let us split off into two separate republics: one for men, one for women. Their relations with each other would be formal and guarded, their contacts limited and chaperoned. Reproduction and child rearing would be conducted in a safe zone established on neutral territory. Only there would marriage be permitted: the privilege of mating and forming a family would have to be earned on both sides. Homosexuals would have their own separate republic. Bisexuals could apply for tourist visas from time to time.

These rules would, of course, reinstate a form of Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, an elaborate gender diplomacy and de facto sexual apartheid.

But this is utopian dreaming. If we were to leave off argument and think kindly for a moment, on the premise that men and women will go on mixing with one another in the current mindless and anarchic way, we might spin the thought that good can come of each sex thinking the best of the other, and might see the converse truth: that only bad can come of each one thinking the worst. Tolerance and decency are creative, civilizing traits. A rising standard of expectation — a mutual hope, a sympathetic mingling of desires — will lift all boats. Quite a long time ago — remember? — we used to fall in love.

Rising uproar from outside the hall, women’s voices shouting “Take back the night!” “Viva Lorena!” and “We know you’re in there, rapists!”

That’s it for now, boys. I was about to get sentimental. Time to break it up.

Remember Zeno’s Paradox.

Go, and sin no more.

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