The Triad of Men’s Violence: Violence Against Oneself

Aggression is the building of a precarious structure of internalized violence. The continual conscious and unconscious blocking and denial of passivity and all the emotions and feelings men associate with passivity—fear, pain, sadness, embarrassment—is a denial of part of what we are. The constant psychological and behavioral vigilance against passivity and its derivatives is a perpetual act of violence against oneself. The denial and blocking of a whole range of human emotions and capacities are compounded by the blocking of avenues of discharge. The discharge of fear, hurt, and sadness, for example (through crying or trembling), is necessary because these painful emotions linger on even if they are not consciously felt. Men become pressure cookers. The failure to find safe avenues of emotional expression and discharge means that a whole range of emotions are transformed into anger and hostility. Part of the anger is directed at oneself in the form of guilt, self-hate, and various physiological and psychological symptoms. Part is directed at other men. Part of it is directed at women. By the end of this process, our distance from ourselves is so great that the very symbol of maleness is turned into an object, a thing. Men’s preoccupation with genital power and pleasure combines with a desensitization of the penis. As best he can, writes Emmanuel Reynaud, a man gives it “the coldness and the hardness of metal.” It becomes his tool, his weapon, his thing. “What he loses in enjoyment he hopes to compensate for in power; but if he gains an undeniable power symbol, what pleasure can he really feel with a weapon between his legs?”(Emmanuel Reynaud, Holy Virility, translated by Ros Schwartz (London: Pluto Press, 1983), 41-42.)”

Kaufman, Michael. 1987. “The Construction of Masculinity and the Triad of Men’s Violence.” Pp. 1-17 in Beyond Patriarchy: Essays by Men on Pleasure, Power, and Change, edited by M. Kaufman. New York: Oxford University Press. [Page 13. From the sub-section Violence Against Oneself,  within the larger section THE TRIAD OF MEN’S VIOLENCE.]


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