Aussie blogger, Sam de Brito, got me thinking today with his post on the 15th century tome, Malleus Maleifcarum by Heinrich Kramer. The book is basically a manual on how to determine which women are witches and how to torture and kill said witches. Today the book might seem amusing. From a historical context however its rather chilling when you stop to think of all the women who were put to death because they were suspected of witchcraft. It's even more chilling when you stop to consider what was once considered to be witchcraft.
It also gets one thinking of the historical lack of accountability many men have when it comes to sex. Men who cheated on their wives weren't to blame for cheating... It was the women with whom they cheated with. They were accused of "bewitching" these men causing them to take leave of their senses.
To some extent this mentality exists today (although, thankfully, not on the same openly hostile level it did in the 15th century) in the double standards that continue to exist between genders. Men who are attracted to younger girls are lured in by their youthful innocence. The girls are often referred to as "Lolitas" and the assumption being that they led the man astray. Older women who are attracted to younger men however are referred to as "Cougars." The term Cougar implies a predatory nature. Its as if to say the boys are lured into relationships or dalliances with older women against their will. In neither scenario is the male being held accountable for his actions. In both situations the male is portrayed as falling prey to the allure of females.
What is somewhat amusing about all of this is the huge contradiction it creates (and this is something de Brito also mentions in his post)-- Men are supposed to be strong, willful, virile... masters of our own destinies if you will. But we see a nice set of legs though and all bets are off?!
Now I'm not going to try to deny the inherent biology here. Most of us straight blokes do have a weak spot for the shielas. It's a common theme running through history going all the way back to Adam falling prey to Eve's wiles as she talked him into eating an apple from the one tree that God told him not to eat from. We see an attractive lass and common sense gets thrown out the window. For lack of a better word for this phenomenon, I believe I'll defer to the owl in Bambi -- we get "twitterpated" (and today some men get "twitterpated" in gentleman's clubs by girls named Bambi, go figure)
My issue comes not from the phenomenon or the biology behind it or even that it happens... The issue is that we still use this as an excuse, an out for a general lack of accountability. And that lack of accountability has contributed to the perpetuation of many outdated mysoginistic ideas that still bubble under the surface today.
The trouble is that there do exist the men who perpetuate the stereotype and in perpetuating the stereotype they perpetuate the lack of accountability that goes with it. We men lack self-control when it comes to the opposite sex so we need society to better police our behaviour and keep us out of situations that would cause us to lose that self control and commit crimes against women and children. Give me a break! It has come to the point where men are avoiding careers in education for fear of being viewed as predatory. Why else would a man want to be a teacher than to be around teenaged girls and/or young children? (incidentally this is another theme/issue that de Brito has tackled in his blog-- as have I.)
The reality of course is that we need one another-- men and women. We give one another balance. To tip the scales too far in either direction does our society as a whole a huge disservice. It has to start somewhere and I can't think of any better place than personal accountability. It does take "two to tango." And when it comes to crimes of passion, infidelity, and what not-- it is possible for both parties to be both equally guilty and equally innocent? It's not always a predator/prey scenario. If a man cheats on his wife, isn't it possible that he's just as guilty for "straying" as his mistress is for "leading him astray" or to turn it back to the 15th century nomenclature, for "bewitching him?"