Disempowerment Gives Women Weird Power Over Men

Women overpowering men

Women overpowering men

A lot of men think that women wield power over them.

In a lopsided way which leaves guys defenseless, and that cannot be returned in kind.

Weirdly, the feared feminine potency emerges from sexism.

Reducing women to objects

Historically, men have had greater control of media, art, and literature. And there, they have portrayed women — and not men — as the focus of desire.

Now, if women had had that same control they surely would have made men the focus. (Given that most humans are straight.)

But in the process, women and their body parts have become largely fetishized and objectified.

But men-as-sexy are mostly absent. (That’s changing a bit.)

Here’s the downside:

To the extent that women are reduced to their parts, they morph into de-brained sex-things that can’t be taken seriously — and they’re less likely to enjoy power, status and good pay. Women may even be used and abused, or imprisoned in sex trafficking.

Put it all together and women are too often disempowered and underdeveloped.

Objects that weaken men’s knees

Yet these sex objects turn out to have a lot of power in one way: They dominate men’s minds and bodies by turning heads, weakening knees, overtaking thoughts, and disabling brains.

While women remain relatively unaffected by the mere appearance of a man.

Disempowered sexuality emerges as powerful

And, this male lust goes largely unrequited.

After all, women’s sexual interest is dampened by a world that sees female desire as dangerous. When women are constantly pressured to suppress their sexuality or face shaming, desire diminishes.

Angels kick ass

Angels kick ass

In an odd twist, this disempowered sexuality turns powerful in one way: a repressed woman is less helplessly driven by lust.

Some men take revenge

And plenty of guys resent it.

In revenge, some men hate women (I’ve written about this before: Men Who Hate Pretty Women).

Some seek to use and abuse women, like pickup artists, misogynist trolls, and MRAs who claim that men’s desire for women motivates everything they do.

But that just separates men and women even more.

Come together, right now

Despite the anger, most women and most men have not purposefully worked to create the situation.

And neither men nor women benefit from the situation, either. We unconsciously internalize the culture, and then turn around and re-create what we have learned.

The way through the problem is via greater equality and respect: less objectification, less sexual repression and less anger.

Not men-hating women.

And not women-hating men.

Reposted by the Good Men Project.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 18, 2015, in feminism, men, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. I completely agree with your response , no wonder mental health problems are so rife in our ” society ” with all this malignant social engineering. Many men actually believe that women are intrinsically hostile towards men & hate them. More mental health problems + more prescription drugs consumed = bigger profits for Big Pharma. You may find this article interesting , this relates to ” objectifying ” women http://edumckaytion.com/blog/men-notice-women-anymore/

  2. Thanks Hostess for sending me the link to this post. People need to remember that the ” media ” is controlled by those that do NOT have our best interests at it’s heart , the ” media ” is playing the classic , subtly played , Divide & Rule game. This is why men are always portrayed as stupid , sex crazed , worthless pieces of excreta , I think the more emotional female brain is more prone to this programming , despite being married & definitely not in the ” marketplace ” , I’ve noticed that most , ( especially young ) women seem to give off either a cold ” STAY WELL AWAY !! ” or even quite hostile aura. As men go I’m very intuitive & have sensed this for quite a while. ” Society ” in the West is a cold , unfriendly place nowadays..mainly due to this subterfuge. I live in the UK BTW.

    • You’re welcome.

      Something to keep in mind in terms of a feeling of coldness is that while women know that not all men rape, women are constantly worried about it and on guard about it. And that might be what you’re sensing. The feeling is fear and not hatred. And it is something that women are more likely to feel around men that they don’t know.

      I remember when I was a little kid I would want to go and pet a bird, But the bird would always run away for me. And it made me feel bad. And these days probably most people wouldn’t hurt the bird. But because some people will, the bird has developed an instinct to fly away.

      I don’t know if that is helpful to you. But it helps me to understand various animals that are afraid of me — even when they shouldn’t be. So I don’t take it personally.

      But if women didn’t have to fear from some men, then men wouldn’t face this problem. And it’s not necessary for women to face violence from men. The more gender-equal a society is, the less violent men are toward women.

      In some societies, Like the Indians of the East Coast of the Americas before contact with Europeans, raping and battering were virtually unknown. In those cultures Women were greatly valued and the sexes were pretty much equal (Women had more power in some ways: property passed through mothers, lineage was traced through mothers, clan heads were mothers, a double penalty was extracted for killing a woman (because then she couldn’t bear children), Women controlled Staples like corn beans and squash, and older women had first say in choosing a chief. On the other hand, the chiefs were usually men.)

      By contrast, Vietnam is a highly patriarchal society. In 2000 a study of small villages was done there and the researchers found that battering range from 50% to 100% of women.

      In the US, violence against women has decreased with the advent of feminism. Partly because men’s attitudes are changing and partly because there are more resources like hotlines and shelters and mandatory arrest. There has been a declined since the early 1970s. Even since the early 1990s the rate of rape is down 75%, Battery is down 65% and incest is down around 40%.

      So if you don’t want women to fear you, which can come across as anger. (and women who have experienced violence could be very angry too, and sometimes anger is used to cover fear) then work for a more gender-equal society, And for less violence against women.

  3. I sometimes think of a hypothetical scenario of how it would be a learning lesson for men and women if they stepped in each other’s shoes for one day. As a man I realize there are things that frustrate me as a man, but I also understand how I’m glad I don’t have to deal with being judged or valued mainly on my body and looks. Or deal with catcalling or sexual harassment and some of the worries and fears women have to deal with. But women don’t understand, they might try to sympathize, but it;s another thing to actually know how it feels, which a woman can’t really unless she was a man or had such feelings surging through. It makes me think of those movies like tootsie where a man get’s a glimpse of what its like living as a woman. But that’s not the same though. Because most men know or can tell a transvestite or transexual to a real woman, so straight men aren’t catcalling usually to he/shes.

    I’m talking about how if magically for one day, a man was a woman and got to feel and experience what it was like to have that understanding. And like wise, women, if not be a man for a day, had testosterone injected or something they became visual and high sex drive, sex, visual driven surge toward men’s bodies like your average straight man has of women. And women with the urge to then have to make the move and talk and initiate conversation with men, and it iwas reverse and men not approaching or talking to women. And if men were selective, and men had to be courted, charmed, dinners paid for, and one wrong move, one stupid thing said and all that for nothing and turned down.

    Or women put in a friend zone constantly though they want to bang this male friend so bad, and he’s so hot and to be so strongly tempted by his body and other men;s bodies. But being shy or some anxiety, have a tough time having the courage talking to guys. Having to pick carefully certain places to talk to men, like fitness clubs or gyms are off limits as that would make a woman look like a creep to a man of course. But yet as a result not getting laid or a date even though really wanting to, and how helpless and humiliating it feels to have such a long dryspell, like months, half a year, maybe longer with no sex. Yet, such so horny and getting by, by flicking their bean to a lot of porn and use of vibrators.,

    But how inferior it feels to let this take a hold and men’s bodies having this power over you, because you they don’t desire you like you desire them and have a hard time getting attraction or talking to them.If your;re confused, I wrote this in reverse on purpose for the role reversal aspect if women could feel what was like to have the visual desire men have, but men were like women with less visual lust and things in revese and then women would understand how humiliating if can feel for some men, of this power women can hold and how powerless a man can feel or how inferiour a man can feel of his body and sexuality as a result.

    To give an example. A man can be a top attorney, an architect, a respected neorosurgeon, etc, handsome, funny, etc, yet this pride and good feeling that he has for such merits. While he would have that and still have that. A man even with such pedigree could feel eventually feel like a prize that he is and should be if he’s struggling to get laid or dates. Epecially if it’s for like a year or so, it can make any man no matter accomplisments to feel not so good. True, there are girls that he probably wouldn’t have to do much for. But you have to feel attracted to and find the girl attractive to want to date or have sex with her and luckily guys have varying tastes too. But,a man with pedigree and nice looking shouldn’t have a problem attracting girls he finds attractive, but it might not be as easy as some would think. Even good looking guys have to play the numbers game, thouhg that usually plays out better than average or ugly looking guys. Though not always if the good looking guy has a boring personality over the average but funny, confident, charming guy.

  4. Emily Quintanilla

    This is all very true. For The example in regards to women Being this sex symbol and gravitating men- it is true that women hold that “power” but I also believe that the more a “yes” answer is given to men the more it defeats the purpose of even declining it as your partner will desire it more. I feel like It just becomes a twisted cycle women get mad because we feel like we have to make a decision and feel sometime a obligated to say yes and men can get mad for not having sex and getting a “no” answer.

  5. Great post, as I think a lot of the pressure & stress is because of our unconscious biases we get from society… and the answer as you point out, greater equality and respect is simple and true (just very hard to realize and actualize). Cheers ~

  6. I find this very interesting, I feel that both men and women should have equal power in the relationship. I’ve seen men try to boss the women what to do like whether the women is going out with friends but her boyfriend doesn’t like the girls that she hangs out with so she is not allowed to hang out with that particular friend so the women feels like she should do the same and put her foot down and say her boyfriend is not allowed to hang out with his friend that his girlfriend does not like. Either way in a relationship both men and women should be equal and trust each other. As for me I feel that men automatically want to take control of the women but there is some women who don’t take crap from men and think they are in charge and they just bump heads.

  7. To be fair, women having power over men is more complicated than “patriarchy”.

    Just take a look at dogs, male dogs cant control what they do when females are fertile, and yes, we are humans but!, men sexuality is very different from women sexuality. How?, guys are fertile always, right?, but women no, they are fertile for a few days in a month, but not just that, they are fertile for how much, tree decades?.

    So nature needs to compensate that making men “weak” to women, imagine, your last period(and like studies show women have higher libidos while being fertile) you start to find a men to have sex. but the guys says that they are doing something more important, like playing video games, and like men can say NO to women, as you say in this article, your chance to have a child is lost. That’s no something nature want to happen.

    But not just that, studies show that (pretty)women increase testosterone levels in men(that’s not patriarchy), and men under the effect of higher levels of testosterone do more dangerous activities. Im a guy and can agree with that, having a women around you awaken something inside me, and thats testosterone levels increasing, not patriarchy.

    Maybe patriarchy is guilty of men hating women for having power over us when we talk about sex/reproduction, but you cant negate that women need to have that kind of power over men.

    Dont forget that men are stronger than women, so if men can hunt and meat is necesary for us, women need to find a way to eat meat without being hunters 😉

    PD:sorry for grammar but im not English speaker.

    • Female dogs can’t control what they do, either.

      That’s because they’re animals and run by instincts.

      Humans live on a much more symbolic level. In fact, most of our world is symbolic — meaning is not innately attached to the thing, We create meaning by our intention toward in response to.

      And women are both sexualized and repressed here in ways they are not in other cultures.

      And so you find different sorts of patterns in different cultures. You find nothing like what I’m describing in tribal societies. American Indians were pretty much the exact opposite of what I describe, when Europeans first arrived here.

      And women don’t have a need to have that kind of power over men. Look around, and hardly any women even dress that way. And the ones that do are almost always doing it for self-esteem reasons, Not to get power over men. How much power is it anyway? You turn ahead or weaken a guys knees. Big deal!

      And patriarchy is not inevitable. I’m writing some pieces that will be posted soon. Here’s a sneak preview — these are just semi-organized notes:

      Most people think that the world was always patriarchal.


      When Europeans first landed on America’s shores they were shocked to see the amount of power and status that women held among the American Indians of the eastern seaboard.

      Iroquois women, for example, controlled important food staples, a girl baby’s birth was more celebrated since motherhood increased the tribe’s size and power. Hence, a woman’s murder required a double penalty. Lineage was traced through women, clans were headed by women, and property passed from mother to child. Women had their own tribal councils and the great spirit was believed to speak through its head. And, clan mothers were key in selecting chieftains. Rape and battering were virtually unknown.

      Other egalitarian cultures include the Arapesh, the !Kung, and Tahitians (before European contact). http://www.amazon.com/Gender-Knot-Unraveling-Patriarchal-Legacy/dp/1566395194

      And around 7000 years ago women’s graves were central and richly decorated in some parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. There, goddess imagery held a central place.

      In fact, the earliest God appears to have been the Goddess.

      Not surprising really.
      Early people didn’t seem to realize that men played a role in procreation. So women were the source of life. Logically, a goddess must’ve been the original source of life.

      • >How much power is it anyway? You turn ahead or weaken a guys knees. Big deal!

        Are women free of vanity? Really?

      • Of course it appeals to vanity. But vanity and power are two different things.

      • Yes, they are different. My point was that some women may utilize their “weird power” to feed their vanity.

      • No doubt about it.

        But my point is that men complain about all this power women have, but they wouldn’t need to complain if our society didn’t objectify and sexually repress women.

        Also, only a very small minority women really experience the vanity-feed, anyway, Since 80% of young women have poor body image. And the 20% that think they look hot end yo aging and then they don’t feel so great for very long.

  8. This whole crazy patriarchal dance you’re describing — men have power; ascribe certain power to women; get upset that women use that power to deny men something men want; argue that women have all the power; men fight to take power back — all this can happen in men’s minds without women participating at all. It’s the Sexy Lamp Problem brought to life!

    [Kelly Sue DeConnick: “I actually think the Bechdel Test is a little advanced for us sometimes. I have one called the Sexy Lamp Test, which is, if you can remove a female character from your plot and replace her with a sexy lamp and your story still works, you’re a hack.”
    Source: http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/06/20/kelly-sue-deconnick-talks-captain-marvel-pretty-deadly-and-the-sexy-lamp-test%5D

  9. Very true. I am always told (by men) I have the power. I never understood why I was hurt so many times when I ‘had’ the power. Great post!

  10. What is so baffling about this is that the majority of men are the net net loser in this system that men have created.

    Usually men will do all kinds of crazy and nutty things for sex (including paying $1,000s of dollars). But, here is something that can easily be done for the benefit of the majority of men (and women).

    Maybe we men are fearful of unbridled female sexuality? Maybe in such an environment, the majority of men would be net net losers? Ideally, one would think sex would become more available to more men. But…..maybe not. I really don’t know..

  11. Reblogged this on When Women Inspire and commented:
    What an interesting take on the roles that men and women have been put into, at least in Western society. Very thought provoking. Thank you to BroadBlogs for this post. Reblog.

  12. So agree…somewhere along the way the dynamic between the sexes and how they see and relate to each other got mucked up.. but that doesn’t mean we can’t change that. Even the most ancient texts become outdated at some point… no reason to keep living the way whoever was in charge decided way back when just because it used to be so. Great post.

    • Yes. And the only way we can get through it is to 1) realize that it is happening and 2) change our behavior. Otherwise we all keep going on auto pilot, re-creating the situation we have internalized.

  13. Women have a lot of power over men because they control sex, ie. they are the ones that say either yes or no (except in situations of rape). Men want sex and will do what women want in order to have sex.

    A lot of women might not understand that they ‘actually’ have this power over men. But if they effectively use their sexual power, they can effectively control and dominate their relationships with men.

    • Yes. But that goes back to the disempowerment issue. Women say yes and no because they are expected to be the gatekeepers. Traditionally, they have been expected to say no unless they were married. Now it isn’t quite that extreme but they are expected to say no unless there are very specific circumstances. So women have to constantly suppress their sexual desire. And that leads to repression. And that sexual repressing makes it easier to say no. It makes them less interested, as I said, which leaves men feeling like they don’t have any power – they have to beg. But women were disempowered in the first place, told that they can’t have sex except circumstances or they will be very punished.so there’s this apartment for you. Plus losing touch with their sexuality is disempowering.

      • “How do you figure it’s biological? You don’t find this sort of thing in all cultures. You find it in patriarchal cultures.”

        You know I really cannot agree with you here. I have a report/study ( i will find it. it is on my MyPassport backup drive I think from my old PC from 2 years ago) that showed the four most sexually satisfied countries as being: Spain, Italy, France, Brasil. The report indicated that around 75% of men AND women reported being satisfied with their sex lives.

        These are all patriarchal societies. But, they report a very high level of sexual satisfaction for BOTH sexes.

        What I am inclined to believe is in these countries, sexually is not viewed as a commodity or transnational in nature (though prostitution is legal in all!). It is viewed as an essential aspect of being a human being….

        I think men and women in these nations do not have extremely narrow views of sexual attraction. Women and men have lots of sexual confidence in these countries. It is probably born out of not having a lack of opportunity to engage in healthy and fulfilling sex.

        Further, the sexes tend to be more open to having sex with a much wider array of men and women. Not just the “hotties”……Unlike here in the US. It has more to do with these other factors and less to do with patriarchy.

        It is very surprising that non of the Scandinavian nations made the top 10. The US was 17th with a percentage just above 53%.

      • In non-patriarchal cultures women are easily, and easily multiply, orgasmic. In patriarchal cultures you don’t find that. And all modern cultures are patriarchal, and carry baggage from that legacy.

        You also have to be careful about what it means to be sexually satisfied. Women with sexual dysfunction often say they are sexually satisfied simply because they aren’t having sex and they’re satisfied with that. So I need to know more about what “Sexually satisfied” means to the women who are answering the question.

        Also, this: 2006 Sexual dysfunction among women in Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, France 32%

  14. Wow, this is so interesting to me. My partner often says that I hold the power in the relationship because I have something he wants (needs?), and he can’t have it without my permission. I am annoyed by this, as I didn’t ask for this power, and think that it is he who has the power issues. You’re right of course – this is just part of the warped social construct that has been set up around us.

    • Yes, it’s a very disempowering sort of power.

    • Sara,

      Are you also annoyed by the fact that he sees you, in large part, as a something he wants (sex)? Are you tacitly saying you do in fact hold this power over him?

      Yes, we do have a very warped social construct.

      As a guy, I really think this power or sexual privilege woman hold over men is: 1) real, and 2) as the author noted largely a construct by men. Not women.

      Lastly, most men do have issues of power/status. Again, largely part of a warped social construct. But, maybe also biological?

      • How do you figure it’s biological? You don’t find this sort of thing in all cultures. You find it in patriarchal cultures.

      • Yes, I am annoyed – and I am annoyed that I have this unwanted power foisted upon me. You are spot on too – I have often thought that it is his own issues with power that makes him resent it so…it’s a very sticky social web that we’re stuck in.

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