We’re going to get through this. This is a time of reckoning. As unpleasant as it is, I welcome it. The creepy-crawlies of sexual harassment, the monsters of sexual violence, the gargoyles of abuse of male power are creeping out of the dark shadow of patriarchy. And that is good. Now we are all compelled to come out of denial, which is the first step toward transformation and hope for the future. First, we must face the shock of realizing that an avalanche of men in power—men whom we trusted and admired, men who even supported the equality of women, men whom we considered role models and father figures—turned out in large number to be sexual predators. They come from many different fields: actors, comedians, journalists, Olympic team doctors, politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, and, to our dismay, even the ones we considered the “good guys.”
Why are there so many men who commit sexual assault, and why is the problem so pervasive? The answer is that the problem is systemic. It’s structural. Sexual predators are not just “a few bad apples;” sexual predators are the consequence of the patriarchal structure of our society. Patriarchy goes deeper than politics. It sits underneath racism, feeding it from within, it justifies and breeds socio/economic disparity, and it even pervades the fabric of religion, sucking the spirituality out of it and making it aggressively imperialistic. Insidiously, patriarchy reaches into our core and conditions the two components of our essential nature: our inner male and inner female. It mutates these two fundamental aspects of ourselves from being collaborative and loving with each other, making them adversarial and antagonistic. Through this process of conditioned distortion, the patriarchal structure infiltrates our psyche and becomes internalized. For a full explanation of the inner masculine and inner feminine see my recent post Why Your Inner Male and Inner Female Have Nothing to Do with Your Gender.
At its core, patriarchy is based on the principle that the masculine must have dominion and control over the feminine. But when the masculine disconnects and tries to subjugate the feminine, it becomes toxic and destructive, predatory and violent. It becomes the opposite of the true masculine, which is giving, protective, supportive of the feminine and honoring of her wisdom and nourishment.
When we internalize the values of patriarchy, we can no longer distinguish what is abusive, because abuse becomes accepted and normalized. Even when we register the discomfort of the emotional distress of being abused, we often turn these emotions against ourselves instead of directing them toward the perpetrator. That is because we feel impotent to change the abuse matrix that is part of the fabric of a society that considers abusive behavior to be “the way things are.” Therefore, to disclose abuse in our society is a subversively dangerous act because it can bring serious trouble and shame upon the abused and their families rather than to the abuser. In my counseling practice, I have helped hundreds of clients to process not only the pain of being sexually molested as children, but also the pain of having told their mothers about the abuse, only to be dismissed, not believed and sometimes even criticized. Why? Because these mothers had internalized patriarchal beliefs and values themselves. They had given their own power and their obedience to an abusive man and could not afford to (or didn’t want to) deal with the consequences of confronting the perpetrator, who was often a powerful man in their family or social circle. Because of the comfort provided by their denial and dependency, they ended up sacrificing their daughter.
In a patriarchal society, not only do men have power over women, but even more fundamentally, masculine values overpower, control and subjugate feminine values. This is why overworking and productivity are considered more valuable than resting and nurturing, becoming a CEO is the mark of success, rather than becoming a mother, and profit comes at all costs, especially over care of the environment. When the masculine cuts off from and dominates the feminine, the entire structure of society becomes dangerously off-kilter, violent, predatory, and self-destructive. Women suffer the most, but men also suffer because they are profoundly disconnected from their true nature.
The question is: what are the pervasive conditions that breed men who become sexual predators? I have often asked myself why these powerful men don’t just use their wealth and status to just go to a bar or party and find women perfectly willing to have a liaison with them free of charge and free of violence. Why do they have to steal sex? Sure, when a man sexually harasses a woman, he gets off on the power he exerts over her, not just on the sexual act per se. But I want us to explore the issue on a deeper level.
When a man is indoctrinated from childhood in overt or subtle ways, by society, his family, or his peers, to think that women are less important and that everything that is of the feminine is inferior, less valued, to be disparaged and even to be ashamed of, there are many consequences. The first is that he is taught to repress his emotions. Especially the ones that make him cry or show any kind of vulnerability. No tenderness, no sensitivity, no hurt allowed. The only permissible emotion is anger because it makes the boy look tough and aggressive, which is the kind of masculine power that patriarchy champions. All other emotions are channeled into rage.
Next, if the boy shows any artistic inclinations instead of physical prowess that could get him into sports, he is belittled. If he shows compassion for the marginalized, he is ridiculed. If he shows any weakness or self-doubt, he is shamed. Expressing affection through touch becomes embarrassing and an opening to scorn. In other words, if he does not conform to the patriarchal roles of society, he becomes an outcast. In order to avoid being ostracized by the patriarchal world of his peers, the boy gradually disconnects from his soul, represses his feminine nature, and leaves behind his true healthy masculine nature.
This boy grows into a man who is incapable of true intimacy with himself, with his inner world, and with others. He becomes a man who will talk about everything that pertains to the external world of facts, actions and intellectual ruminations, but neglects to share his true feelings and the experiences of the heart. He will be seen as a “manly man” and, if he plays the role correctly, a successful and powerful man, but a man who, on a deep level, is alienated from himself and from others because he has repressed his feminine nature.
You cannot be disconnected from your feminine nature without feeling like you are walking around with an empty hole inside of you, a hole that no external success or social recognition can ever fill. You need and crave the connection with the feminine that you have repressed, with the sacred archetypal presence of the Mother that can nourish you and fulfill you and make you feel loved from the inside out.
This connection has been severed in patriarchal men. The more severe their disconnection is, the greater their propensity to become sexual predators. They seek connection with the Sacred Feminine in a rageful, predatory way because that is the only way their internal patriarchal structure will permit them to relate to her. They try to satisfy their craving for the feminine by penetrating the womb of a woman, but only on the condition that the woman is rendered powerless, shamed and humiliated, in other words, under their control.
What we repress in ourselves is what we fear the most. These predatory men who wield power in the world are terrified of the loving force of the feminine, yet they desperately need her, so they rape her to possess her. That is why they would rather sexually predate on women under their power than have a consensual, sexual relationship with an equal partner. This is all coming to an end. The feminine in each of us is claiming her space in our psyche and in our society on an equal basis with the masculine. This reclaiming of the feminine in harmony with the masculine is stirring the crucible of our lives, bringing to the surface the muck, the corruption, and the abuse to be seen and transmuted forever. We, as women, have the great power to say no, this will no longer be tolerated. We must demand the change. We will no longer participate in the demeaning and abuse of the feminine. We, as mothers, will raise our children, boys and girls, free to express both their healthy genuine feminine and masculine nature in love and harmony with each other. Yes, there will be backlash, there will be back and forth and it will take time, but without a shadow of a doubt, this is the beginning of the end of the patriarchal hold on our world. We are at the cusp of a great transformation into an egalitarian society where the masculine and feminine collaborate equally to create a better, more loving world.
Cover image by Jad Limcaco