A Male Perspective on the Potentials & Pitfalls of the #MeToo Movement.

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The #MeToo movement is the most important cultural shift happening today, with truly historic changes taking place within both institutions and individuals.

While I’m gladdened that predators and abusers are being unmasked and toppled, my heart has ached as friend after friend posted their own #MeToo story on social media.

The sheer volume of women I personally know who have been wounded by the sexual misconduct of men is staggering. The dark side of male sexuality is out in the open, and my heart aches.

Jodie Foster has called for a bigger, more complicated dialogue and to hear from the other side, as have others, including Elephant Journal’s Crystal Jackson.

Long before the #MeToo movement, Diane Musho Hamilton and Ken Wilber called for an evolution in the way we approach sexual harassment. It is in this climate, where male confessions are both dangerous and called for and #MeToo is morphing into #TimesUp, that I come with a story.

As #MeToo shifted from quid pro quo harassment, rape, and groping to include sexual manipulation, coercion, touching, and unwanted attention, it became a personal reckoning. I am not famous, wealthy, or in a position of power, but at least one woman might have thought of me when she posted #MeToo.

The most grievous sins I committed were long before becoming an adult. But even if I consider only actions since my 18th birthday, I still see a young man who thought and acted with little regard for the feelings or desires of women, and who was selfish, coercive, thoughtless, and manipulative.

For this I am sorry. I am profoundly sorry. And I have been sorry for decades. This sorrow and regret has shaped my personal development, relationships, and choices in ways that are not possible to fully describe here. If I could travel in time to change only one aspect of my past, it would be to erase my misconduct.

I am also not the same person who was overly aggressive toward women, who got in their faces, touched them in ways they didn’t want, and manipulated their emotions, intentionally and otherwise. I was selfish and self-centered, unaware of how threatening and frightening I could seem, or how my size and strength could intimidate.

Many good men didn’t start off as good. They learned goodness through maturing, and a long process of error correction.

Diane Musho Hamilton, a Zen Buddhist teacher and Integral thinker, and Ken Wilber, a Buddhist and the father of Integral Theory, recorded a conversation in 2006 called “Evolving our Approach to Sexual Harassment.”

They make a compelling case that our approach to sexual harassment needs to evolve, to take into account biology, the sexual dynamic between the genders, and the ways both genders wield their power. For those unfamiliar with integral theory, it is a theory of everything, uniting and integrating divergent areas of inquiry along developmental lines. While it is not explicitly Buddhist, it is a Buddhist type of undertaking. To learn more, you can read this short introduction.

I’d like to use a few of their points as a way to frame my story.

Diane Musho Hamilton: men’s sexuality is what it is, but biology is not destiny.

I am a masculine man. Physically, that means hairy, muscular, bearded, deep voice. I am also confident, assertive, and, at times, aggressive. I am most comfortable focusing on one thing and happiest when completely free and unencumbered. And I enjoy the role of seducer.

Wilber once described how women who receive testosterone therapy report two phenomena: they stop crying, and they start wanting or thinking about sex all the time. This offers a tiny glimpse into male sexuality.

Men’s sexuality is what it is. At times the male body is disinclined toward sentiment and simply inclined to f*ck. And part of that inclination is biochemical.

Men and women are built differently. This difference is what makes possible the spark of sexual polarity. That spark is life itself.

As we complexify our #MeToo conversations, we must consider biology. This does not mean, “Boys will be boys, so just deal with it.” Biology is not destiny, after all. However, according to Wilber, biology accounts for about 25 percent or less of why men are as we are. As Hamilton points out, the beauty of consciousness is that we can choose to work with our hardwiring rather than pretend we are at its mercy. But we cannot ignore its role.

Ken Wilber: the traditional roles that bind and hurt women also bind and hurt men.

As a boy, I learned that if I didn’t approach and start talking to a girl, we wouldn’t have a conversation. If I didn’t ask her out, there would be no date. If I did not make the first move to kiss her, we’d never kiss.

I got turned down a lot. And on occasion I was accepted. From an early age, I learned that the good stuff happens at the edge, pushing against boundaries.

So I pushed boundaries and still do today. I pushed too fast and hard, and I learned to be more gentle, but there’s a lot of anxiety and fear around approaching a woman, even more anxiety to ask her out, and then there’s the potential humiliation of rejection. Guys have accepted this without complaint since…well, always. Call it our initial contribution to the continuation of the human race.

But now, as Hamilton points out, men carry the added stress of thinking they might be doing something wrong.

The #MeToo movement has emboldened women to speak out against unwanted sexual attention and to express their offense. And certainly some behavior, such as catcalling, stalking/following, and repeatedly asking for dates after being rejected is objectively offensive, as well obnoxious, scary, and harassing.

And then there is other behavior for which there is a time and a place. As we move forward with #MeToo, especially when delving into the area of unwanted sexual attention, we must be very careful not to denigrate appropriate, healthy, and playful expressions of male sexuality. And I think it’s equally unwise to promise a world in which women will never receive sexual attention that they do not eagerly invite. .

Diane Musho Hamilton: women are attracted to men with power.

And so are men. Most of us are attracted to people with power.

From my teenage years, I felt called to the Christian ministry, and after divinity school I became a hospice chaplain. A hospice volunteer, a married woman 15 years older than me, began visiting my office to talk about her survival and recovery from a terminal disease. Perhaps the clerical collar I wore lent me the air of a priest, for our conversations took on the tone of pastoral counseling. After several weeks of talking, she began offering me neck massages. These massages were followed by hugs, which she initiated.

I was a novice minister in my 20s, inexperienced, and unprepared for such a situation. My mistake was not establishing a clear boundary when she first offered a massage. Instead, I drew the line when she kissed me, which was, of course, far too late.

I was not a man with power, in my self-image, but I was for her. I recall the intoxicating combination of arousal, confusion, and fear of that moment, the thrill of the new and forbidden, and not knowing what it all meant, nor understanding how to say no without giving offense. So I let her kiss me, then assiduously avoided her thereafter.

As our conversation and understanding around #MeToo evolves—and it will and must evolve—we should consider also this attraction to men with power and position. Wilber also points out that where there is a longing to be close to power, there is the potential to be injured. To ignore this dynamic paints an incomplete picture.

Ken Wilber: we need more men with world-centric ethics.

After the hospice, I taught at several universities in Japan. Each year, a few of my students developed crushes on me. I know this because some wrote me love letters.

Some of my male colleagues took advantage of their adoring students. There were no consequences for male professors sleeping with female students at that time in Japan, so it wasn’t rules or legislation that prevented me from doing the same. The relationship between teacher and student is one of trust and unequal power. Sex between individuals in an unequal power dynamic can compromise trust, even when it is consensual sex between adults.

The world needs more trustworthy men in power, not fewer.

As our #MeToo conversations evolve, men’s interpersonal intelligence, empathy, and ethics must evolve in step.

The #MeToo movement cannot conclude merely with stronger legislation, stricter workplace rules, and longer prison sentences for rapists. We need to teach boys how to take a third-person perspective. By doing so, they will become men who can internalize external rules, and then act in the best interests of all people. In other words, we need more men with a world-centric level of ethical development.

As we denounce and call to account the abusive and predatory behavior of men, let us, at the same time, take care that we don’t denigrate the healthy expressions of male sexuality. Let us value the differences in our bodies and spirits that make the spark of sexual polarity possible, and let us encourage boys to develop empathy and emotional intelligence. Empathy is taught in Norwegian public schools; why not everywhere else?

And for men, such as me, who have understood the extent of our sin, who have sought to correct our ways, and are willing to step forward, we do not need or deserve admiration or praise. Your compassion and forgiveness, however, would be most welcome. I have been the problem. I would also like to be part of the solution.

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Author: Todd Schuett
Image: Unsplash/Miranda Wipperfurth
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton

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Todd Schuett 

Todd Schuett can be found in Sandefjord, Norway, where he parents teenagers and struggles to find language that succinctly captures whatever idea is rattling around in his head at the moment. When he’s not globetrotting, he can be found in front of his computer, lamenting his ex-patriotism, and praying for sunshine. He is the creator and editor of his website, a clumsy yogi, and holds a graduate degree in religious studies from the University of Chicago. Catch up with Todd on Facebook.

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Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 3:09pm

Thank you for reading, Leah, and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 3:08pm

Thank you for your thoughts, Cheryl, as well as a bit of your experience. This topic is highly nuanced, for experiences differ depending on what year and under what flag you were born. Thank you for reading.

Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 3:02pm

Comments like yours encourage me to write more often. Thank you, Colleen.

Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:59pm

Thank you for your words, Lynn, and thank you for reading. Hopefully we'll continue talking and come to a mutually agreed understanding of proper male behaviour ;-)

Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:57pm

Thank you for your thoughts, Daniel. And thank you for reading. No doubt there have been tragic mistakes; Garrison Keillor comes to mind. Undoubtedly some men have been wrongly accused, and that should not happen, but I truly want to believe these are extraordinary situations. I suspect the rules of conduct are in the process of being rewritten Right Now, which is why we should continue talking instead of going silent in anger. My personal belief is that if we (society) don't make a particular behavior illegal, then a person shouldn't lose their job for doing it. MeToo evolving into TimesUp is still maturing, and we are likely to see some more regrettable injustices committed in the name of justice. Doesn't make it right, and I have faith this will correct itself. But while a few men suffer the injustice of wrongful accusations, it pales in comparison to what women have endured, at the hands of fathers, husbands, brothers and male "friends" and strangers for thousands of years.

Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:37pm

Both ethics and empathy are taught from an early age in the Norwegian public school system. The greater the sphere of caring and concern for each individual, the more ethical we'll be as a society. Thank you for reading, Marilyn

Todd C. Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:35pm

Thank you for reading, Kizzy

Todd C Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:31pm

Thank you for reading, Beth

Todd C Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:31pm

Thank you for reading, Brenda

Todd C Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:29pm

You are right, John, about polarized thinking. Ideas seem to develop a bit like the swing of a pendulum, and the extremes always seem to get the most attention. Conversations like this cannot be one-sided, with only one gender participating. Thank you for reading.

Todd C Schuett Feb 6, 2018 2:26pm

Thank you for commenting, Peggy, and thank you for reading. I wrote the story because it scared me, and because I felt that the conversation was incomplete. Comments like yours encourage me to write more about this

Linda Lewis Feb 6, 2018 1:35pm

So many women and only a few men I know have been assaulted at one time or another. But not every woman, myself included, has joined the Me Too movement. So the objectifying of women, and considering them second class citizens has been going on more than you can imagine. Why then have not I and a few of my friends who could, why have we not joined this particular movement? Because if we have worked on ourselves, we no longer want to be assoicated with victimization, we no longer want to consider ourselves victims and have a victim mentality. The title of the No More Movement rings more true. It's interesting that wherever in Canada where I live, wherever the number of women to men is equal in the work force, sexual misconduct is almost zero. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was brilliant in making his Cabinet reflect this. On the other side, and what I believe you are trying to get at, is that twitter justice is not justice. Even though we are in an accelerated time, an accusation is not a conviction. People need to remember that, especially in the case of nameless accusers. Investigation is still necessary, and investigators will know the names of women and men who accuse, but investigators don't need to identify these accusers if they need protection. The legal process takes time, and it is painful for the accsed, if they are innocent. But consider the shock and years of pain undergone by women and men who have been hurt and violated. More often than not, they have suffered in silence trying to deal with the pain--until now.

Leah Jewall Feb 6, 2018 3:54am

Very good article, well-written and insightful.

Colleen O'Rourke Feb 5, 2018 8:57pm

Well said, and thank you for saying it. The conversation must evolve beyond victim/perpatrator, and in a direction where everyone is valued, respected, and appreciated for their unique contributions. It is our differences that create the tensions that make sexuality so wonderfully powerful. (Here again is that topic of power...) It is regretful that men don't hear an appreciation for their energy more often, and that as women we know it mostly to be terrifying and exploitive rather than empowering to our own creative release. We all have so much to learn....I hope your voice continues to contribute to the discovery of this new world.

Lynn Joels Feb 5, 2018 8:38pm

So refreshing....a great article and beautiful insight. Thank you for sharing the 'man's perspective' on a issue where I, as a woman, was beginning to think men were going to get black listed for whatever their behaviour...:-)

Daniel McCullar Feb 5, 2018 6:04pm

The fact is I’ve seen several men being accused of sexual misconduct because a woman decided later that the attention they fostered and invited and later regret it. I’ve seen men accused of sexual misconduct under the me to banner falsely and automatically labeled guilty without anything more than an accusation. I have seen men who have been accused of sexual misconduct of some type, honest good men Who are not prone to disrespect, being unethical and immoral by nature who are still struggling to understand how their actions were sexual misconduct. Simply put opinion does not make something misconduct. Just because somebody decides “I don’t like the way you looked at me I don’t like the way you put your hand on my shoulder even if it was innocent,” that does not make it misconduct because one person says so. And I’ve seen far too many men insulted, degraded and disregarded because they have been the recipient of misconduct of some type by women! If we can’t See things rightly and truly, if we can’t settle on a clear and fair definition and if we can’t find a way to not judge before we find out if somebody’s honestly guilty and see that man or woman anybody can be guilty and anybody can be a victim then this is no different than any other movement that instead of being righteous willing up causing more harm than good.

Marilyn Regan Feb 5, 2018 5:17pm

That is a wonderful article....very circumspect. Teaching men, when they're boys, to treat a girl/woman as a person first will go a long way to healing old wounds and preventing new ones. Women will, in turn, be able to trust and talk to men as fellow human beings. Thanks!

Kizzy Bramley Feb 5, 2018 5:02pm

Very well said thank you

Beth Cohen Jacobson Feb 5, 2018 4:35pm

Extremely powerful. Thank you.

Cheryl Rose Patterson Feb 5, 2018 4:21pm

Thank you for writing. As a child of the 70’s when I came of age, it was expected that women could be open and aggressive in their sexual expression. I had no qualms about letting a man know my interest and played the seduction game. I suppose I was lucky to never have an experience of being assaulted. There is an edge that men and sometimes women push at in their sexual expression. It is not unusual to see young teens dressed in ways a prostitute might have decades ago. Not to slut shame their choices, but culture exposes sex all the time through media. That some women were abused doesn’t make all men abusers. A conversation about current mores and future choices is needed. Otherwise a backlash can also occur.

Brenda Murphy Feb 5, 2018 4:01pm

This conversation is so important, thank you for being a part of it.

John Hardman Feb 5, 2018 3:56pm

Well said and I really appreciate your advice on not denigrating and demonizing males. Ironically, I was kicked out of a men’s group recently for suggesting similar sentiments and mentioning that men are as much the victims as they are perpetrators. “Hurt people, hurt people” is the common denominator of sexual assault and emotional assault always accompanies and neither gender is immune. Your correlation of sex and power is vital because socially and economically we still encourage greed over empathy and the change, other than in a few Scandinavian states, is slow and minimal. Expecting behavior to change when the reward system behind it does not is magical thinking and likely to end in failure. Polarized thinking is not a viable solution. We must work together in developing social and economic structures that no longer reward hyper aggression and greed. We all, regardless of gender have a stake in this and telling men to simply “shut up and passively listen” is counter productive to a viable future solution.

Peggy Markel Feb 5, 2018 3:47pm

“World-centric level of ethical development.” That is a powerful statement of what we need to evolve. Thank you Todd for this sensitive and intelligently written article. The best one yet.

Todd C Schuett Feb 1, 2018 10:17pm

Thank you Galina, and thank you for reading. I remember your very honest story on bittersweet motherhood. I look forward to your next

Galina Singer Feb 1, 2018 9:32pm

Thank you for writing this. Your perspective is well expressed and important. This should be a dialogue, as the future of our species does depend on women and men finding common language and ground, as well as understanding and compassion.