|Plato deeply regretting the stupidity of his adolescence|
And so was definitely the case with a dozen or so male undergraduate dentistry students at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who had a "private" Facebook account called Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. On this Facebook account, the soi-disant "Gentlemen" posted crude sexual remarks and a joke about chloroforming a bikini-wearing woman and asked which women students the other members would like to, er, bed--bed being the quite the euphemism.
Someone brought the "private" Facebook account to the attention of the female students, to Dalhousie University and to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is currently notorious for having harboured a star who beat the living daylights out of women unfortunate enough to have gone home with him. Result: official hysteria and grown men weeping. In other news, Taliban.
A dear friend of mine brought my attention to the story by posting about it on Facebook, saying that such stories made her struggle not to fear or hate men as a group. And I feel awful for her, for I used to feel the exact same way and it made it very difficult for me to get along with men as a group. I also feel awful for the dental student dummies at Dalhousie who kept the Facebook page because their earthly punishment is likely to be disproportionate to their crime--if it was a crime, not just stupid, imprudent and uncharitable behaviour.* But to be honest, I feel worst for the victims and survivors of the latest Islamist massacre, the one in Pakistan.
I do not know how old the dentistry students are--they were in fourth year, apparently--but presumably they are in their twenties. By their unpleasant remarks and imprudence, I assume that they are (or were) in an extended adolescence, too. And because they are medical students, I assume they are unmarried, and because they are twenty-something unmarried males, I assume they think about sex 1140 time a day.
This is a conservative estimate, given that there are only 1140 minutes in the day.
"How did you cope?" I once asked B.A., who used to be a twenty-something unmarried male.
"You get used to it," said B.A,, and added that men can shove distracting sexual thoughts into the background of their minds to get on with other stuff. Talking about such thoughts with other men, let alone publishing, he said just now, is a very bad idea.
From the wreckage of my Classical Civ degree, I recall Plato repeating something an old man (Cephalus?) had said to Socrates about old age having liberated him from the "mad master" of sexual desire. But it took me a long time to realize that what the old man was talking about was an almost universal male condition because men rarely talk to women about it. Nice guys do not want to frighten and disgust women, prudent guys do not want to get into trouble with women, and resentful guys do not want women to know they think we have that much power over them.
But we don't have that much power over them. We are even more helpless over their adolescent sex drives than they are. And therefore it is really unfair when young men rebel against the Mad Master by talking smack about women. If he hadn't gone to work, leaving me in my bathrobe to a day of ease, art and writing Christmas cards, I would ask B.A. if he used to talk smack about women. But to tell you the truth it is very hard for me to imagine B.A. and his college pals-- now scholars, professionals, family men--talking smack about women. Regarding the clever haikus he sends to and receives from certain pals I prefer not to speculate. (She shuts her eyes in holy horror.)
I remember my brother expressing his disgust with the way the boys at his high school talked about women, and I recall other men expressing their disgust with the way boys at their high schools talked about women, and imprudent uni men of Edinburgh have let slip to me how other uni men of Edinburgh talk about women, and I find it all interesting data. They are deeply uncomfortable with the power sexual attraction has in their life, but I am not deeply uncomfortable with the much weaker power sexual attraction has in my life. As long as it doesn't come to my ears that one or more has been sharing bizarre sexual fantasies about little me, it's no skin off my nose. Sucks to be them.
But it really sucks to a member of the Dalhouse Dental Studies Class of 2015 right now. Adolescent men have a tendency to tell crude jokes (aka Locker Room Talk) to deal with their discomfort with the Mad Master, but they don't have to PUBLISH them. How incredibly stupid and unkind to the women named. It's not that the women's marital prospects were destroyed--the old reason men weren't supposed to bandy women's names about--;it's that the men's crude thoughts about them were forced upon their attention and their sunny, optimistic view of their colleagues as almost-women has been ruined.
It's very hard for women to believe that men think and say a lot of garbage they don't really believe and will forget about in hours. But actually men do think and say a lot of garbage they don't really believe and will forget about in hours. Unless, of course, they put the garbage on Facebook for the CBC to find and publish. They still don't believe it, probably, but now they won't forget it.
If women could see what random men are something thinking when they look at us, we (and they) would probably all die from horror--trains and buses full of corpses--so it's a good thing we can't. It used to annoy me to think that ex-boyfriends et alia were probably inventing horrible sex fantasies about me, but I swiftly realized that there was nothing I could do about it if they were, and now the idea makes me laugh. Okay, I'm sorry they committed (or commit) sin with my image attached, but that's between them and God. I'm just laughing because it's good to be free from a sexual Master that Mad.
But I am sad for my friend who is sad and tempted to hate and fear men as a group because a dozen of them are crude-joke sharing idiots. That is giving their idiocy way more power than it deserves. And even if all men between 17 and 25 talked smack about women, the answer would be simple: don't take seriously anything men between the ages of 17 and 25 say about or to women and pity them for their mental sexual slavery--at a distance, if need be.
In place of fear and hatred for All Men, I suggest compassion combined with a firm assertion that, as uncomfortable as adolescent male sexuality can be for men, they must not blame it on women or punish women for it. And why? Because fear and hatred for All Men is itself another Mad Master and it can seriously blight a woman's life.
Update: Canada's (heck, Nova Scotia's) Frank magazine weighs in using (ALERT!) bad language. But still no clue as to how old these guys were.
*Update 2: I read a suggestion that these men were older than 25. My compassion for them is in inverse proportion to their actual age. The "should have known better" factor for locker room garbage really kicks in after age 25.