If she belonged to me, I’d give her everything
I’d never cheat or lie
I treat her with respect, not just a sex object
I ain’t that kind of guy
–lyrics from Rod Stewart’s “Crazy About Her”
When I shared stories last weekend about three of the women in my life who faced verbal or sexual assault, a memory from my own past sprung up into my mind. It’s not any form of assault I directly suffered, if that’s what you are wondering. Rather, it’s a moment that got me to thinking about just how a sexually-driven alpha-male attitude toward women of all types could be spread. And I had thought about including it in that previous post, but I still had trepidation about doing so, and besides, that post was long enough. (Warning: Though I will try to use some sanitized terms, some of the subject matter may be sensitive to some readers, so click on the jump with caution.)
Before I get into this story, a thought and an admission. The thought first: By now, you know that there’s a certain thin-orange-skinned presidential candidate who has been propagating the thought of enjoying — and getting away with — putting the moves on women, especially women of the younger, attractive variety. His admissions of actually and/or desiring to grab women by the… yeah, down there has garnered protest from a wide swath of the populace. But I couldn’t help but think just how this attitude toward women, and his narcissistic, alpha-male mindset in general, could have entered his mind. Could it have been instilled into him by his father, a businessman who wasn’t pure as the driven snow in his own right? Could it have been another relative or family friend who drove this mindset into him during his childhood? Could it have been from his schoolmates in his teenage years? Could it have been a combination of all of these and/or more?
Whatever the case, it’s for certain that his misogynistic thoughts weren’t a part of him when he left his mother’s womb. Just as parents and adults pass down good manners and such, children also absorb from them bad thoughts and beliefs, consciously or subconsciously. And when they grow older, they pass along this mindset to their own offspring and other youth — again, consciously or subconsciously — in their words and actions.
It’s that consciously passing down of sexually charged beliefs against women that leads me to the admission: You’ve probably seen me refer to my immediate post-high school life peripherally, as in “a trip to a certain city on the West Coast.” Well, the reason I was “on the West Coast” is germane to the story I’m about to tell you. And this will be the only time I plan to bring it up either on this blog, on social media, or in general conversation. So, here goes…
Growing up, it was clear that I never had enough smarts to be college material. So, during my senior year of high school, and with very little alternatives available to me, I signed up to join the United States Marine Corps. Yeah, I received a recruiting card in the mail, filled it out (at my mother’s urging), sent it in, and I went into basic training several months after graduation. Now, before you go thanking me for my service to the country, please refrain from doing so. You see, I never succeeded in completing basic training. It’s not that I didn’t try my darndest, but it was clear from the first moments that I was in way over my head. Yeah, it was the worst four months of my life.
One moment during Marine basic training that I had almost completely forgotten about surfaced while writing my earlier post: During a field training segment (part of the second of three basic training phases), our company was assembled, seated at attention, and awaiting a lecture. That’s when an upper-level sergeant who helped run the remote field on which we were training (he had a lot of chevrons on his sleeve, I want to recall) acquainted himself to us. By this point, I could tell this military environment was clearly full of alpha males and nobody, drill instructors or otherwise, was above using a blue term or two (or several). But this particular sergeant went a rather pornographic route: He told a clearly fictitious story of… well, of a brothel in the Far East where men were barred from entry if their… well, if their male plumbing didn’t exceed a certain length. He then got to a point where a supposed Marine approached the brothel and demanded entry because… well, because he was a United States Marine and he was man enough, no matter how well-endowed his plumbing was at that moment.
Only a handful of my fellow recruits gave an approving shout upon the conclusion of this sergeant’s story. I imagine it was either due to just being too tired to speak their approval (it was very early in the morning) or that they felt a little bit disgusted by his tall tale. I was of the latter. I was still an evergreen kid of 18, and while I heard my stepfather use a lot of blue words when he was frustrated with life, he never ever ventured into pornographic tall tales. The impression Dad left me was of respect toward women. The impression this sergeant left me was that, holy cow, there are people in the United States Armed Forces with dirty minds. I guess it was just as well that we never came across that sergeant after that, or so I want to recall. I’m not sure if it was because he wasn’t entirely supposed to be there and only going above and beyond his duties to have us meet him in his own way, or if the highers-up were displeased by his clearly uncalled for storytelling. I hoped it was the latter, but I imagine it was only the former.
Now, please don’t presume that I am painting the entire United States Armed Forces in a misogynistic color. Far from it, in fact, for I want to close with another story from my time in Marine basic training: During the last of the three stages of training, the senior drill instructor started a “brag board.” What was it, you ask? Well, the senior placed a Glamour Shots photo of his wife on a storage closet door in a prominent part of our platoon bay, and he encouraged the recruits under his watch to add their own photos of their own significant others alongside. One by one, the wall started filling up with pictures of various women in… uh, uh, not scantily clad outfits but casual outfits, dresses, jeans, etc. There was no nudity or pornography whatsoever.
Since I was single (and still am), I didn’t have any photos of any significant other to add to the brag board. Well, I did have a couple of photos of my sisters that my mom sent me, but I wasn’t one to either share them or let anyone leer over them. There was something, though, about that brag board that left me with this impression: Despite an environment where men can act all so macho and manly, none of my fellow recruits referred to each others’ women as if they were porn stars. The just complimented each other for the strong, confident, and, yes, attractive women they proud to call their significant other. To put it a better way, I’ll refer to the Rod Stewart lyric at the top of this post: They treated them with respect, not as if they were some sort of sex object. No hint of “locker room talk” whatsoever when it came to the brag board.
So, while the misogynists of the world will go on and on about how they can get away with fondling women where they should never be fondled, know that they are in the relative minority — even in the most macho corners of the world. As I was getting at in my earlier post, any sort of abuse on women is not right at all, or #NotOkay to reuse the appropriate hashtag. Don’t treat them as some sort of sexual favor you can have your way with either. Treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. That’s important in any environment.