Archive for ‘psychology’

January 29, 2013

sexual politics – class 4b

Perhaps, in the final analysis,
it is possible to argue that women tend to transcend the usual class stratifications in patriarchy,
but for whatever the class of her birth and education, the female has fewer permanent class association than does the male.
Economic dependency renders her affiliations with any class a tangential, vicarious, and temporary matter.

(even the marxist couldn’t get it right !)

long back, Aristotle had already observed that the only slave to whom a commoner might lay claim was his woman !

and the service of an unpaid domestic still provides working-class males with a “cushion” against the buffets of the class system which incidentally provides them with some of the psychic luxuries of the leisure class.
Thrown upon their own resources, few women rise above working class in personal prestige and economic power,
and women as a group do not enjoy many of the interests and benefits any class may offer its male members.
Women have therefore less of an investment in the class system.

but it is important to understand that as with any group whose existence is parasitic to its rulers, women are a dependency class who live on surplus
and their marginal life frequently renders them conservative,
for like all persons in their situation (slaves are a classic example here) they identify their own survival with the prosperity of those who feed them.
the hope of seeking liberating radical solutions of their own seems too remote for the majority to dare contemplate and remains so until consciousness on the subject is raised.

As race the world over, (and caste specifically in India) is emerging as one of the final variables in sexual politics, it is pertinent, especially in a discussion of modern literature, to devote a few words to it as well.
Traditionally, the white male has been accustomed to concede the female of his own race, in her capacity as “his woman” a higher status than that ascribed to the black male.

similarly the upper caste male has been accustomed to concede the female of his own race, in her capacity as “his woman” a higher status than that ascribed to the lower caste male.
Yet as white racist ideology is exposed and begins to erode, racism’s older protective attitudes toward (white) women also begin to give way. ( same as in the Indian caste system)
And the priorities of maintaining male supremacy might outweigh even those of white ( or caste )supremacy;
perhaps sexism may be more endemic in our own society than racism.
For example, one notes in authors whom we would now term overtly racist, such as D. H. Lawrence – whose contempt for what he so often designates as inferior breeds is unabashed – instances where the lower-caste male is brought on to master or humiliate the white man’s own insubordinate mate. ( you can find such examples even say in books of Arundhati Roy’s God of litte things, where she too makes the upper caste women sleep with the lower caste male as a denouement of the the very upper caste to which her family belonged to and she doesnt want to ….. )
Needless to say, the female of the non-white races ( or lower castes) does not figure in such tales save as an exemplum of “true” womanhood’s servility,
worthy of imitation by other less carefully instructed females !

January 27, 2013

sexual politics – class 4a

It is generally accepted that Western (eastern as well) patriarchy has been much softened by the concepts of courtly and romantic love.
While this is certainly true, such influence has also been vastly overestimated.
In comparison with the candour of “machismo” or oriental behaviour, one realises how much of a concession traditional chivalrous behaviour represents – a sporting kind of reparation to allow the subordinate female certain means of saving face !

While a palliative to the injustice of woman’s social position, chivalry is also a technique for disguising it.
One must acknowledge that the chivalrous stance is a game the master group plays in elevating its subject to pedestal level.
Historians of courtly love stress the fact that the raptures of the poets had no effect upon the legal or economic standing of women, and very little upon their social status.
As the sociologist Hugo Beigel has observed, both the courtly and the romantic versions of love are “grants” which the male concedes out of his total powers.
Both have had the effect of obscuring the patriarchal character of Western (and Eastern, as well) culture(s) and their general tendency to attribute impossible virtues to women, have ended by confining them in a narrow and often remarkably conscribing sphere of behaviour.
It was a Victorian habit, for example, to insist the female assume the function of serving as the male’s conscience and living the life of goodness he found tedious but felt someone ought to do anyway !

The concept of romantic love affords a means of emotional manipulation which the male is free to exploit, since love is the only circumstance in which the female is (ideologically) pardoned for sexual activity.
And convictions of romantic love are convenient to both parties since this is often the only condition in which the female can overcome the far more powerful conditioning she has received toward sexual inhibition. Romantic love also obscures the realities of female status and the burden of economic dependency.
As to “chivalry,” such gallant gesture as still resides in the middle classes has degenerated to a tired ritualism, which scarcely serves to mask the status situation of the present.

Within patriarchy one must often deal with contradictions which ale simply a matter of class style.
David Riesman has noted that as the working class has been assimilated into the middle class, so have its sexual mores and attitudes.
The fairly blatant male chauvinism which was once a province of the lower class or immigrant male has been absorbed and taken on a certain glamour through a number of contemporary figures, who have made it, and a certain number of other working-class male attitudes, part of a new, and at the moment, fashionable life style.
So influential is this working class ideal of brute virility (or more accurately, a literary and therefore middle-class version of it) become in our time that it may replace more discreet and “gentlemanly” attitudes of the past.

please see any of our box office hit movies like Dabaang etc

One of the chief effects of class within patriarchy is to set one woman against another,
in the past creating a lively antagonism between whore and matron,
and in the present between career woman and housewife.
One envies the other her “security” and prestige, while the envied yearns beyond the confines of respectability for what she takes to be the other’s freedom, adventure, and contact with the great world.

Through the multiple advantages of the double standard, the male participates in both worlds, empowered by his superior social and economic resources to play the estranged women against each other as rivals. One might also recognise subsidiary status categories among women: not only is virtue class, but beauty and age as well.

January 26, 2013

sexual politics – sociological 3b

and this is important
the chief contribution of the family in patriarchy is the socialisation of the young (largely through the example and admonition of their parents) into patriarchal ideology’s prescribed attitudes toward the categories of role, temperament, and status.

all are to be blamed, the father the mother the grandmother the grandfather the caste the system, the family system …. !
however modern or enlightened the present day parents’ grasp of cultural values is , it only goes to make a slight differences of definition in the attitudes

over a period of time,the general effect of uniformity is achieved, through various pressures and circumstances
and these are further reinforced through peers, schools, media, and other learning sources, formal and informal.
while we may niggle over the balance of authority between the personalities of various households, one must remember that the entire culture supports masculine authority in all areas of life and – outside of the home – permits the female none at all.

to insure that its crucial functions of reproduction and socialisation of the young take place only within its confines, the patriarchal family insists upon legitimacy.
Bronislaw Malinowski describes this as “the principle of legitimacy” formulating it as an insistence that “no child should be brought into the world without a man – and one man at that – assuming the role of sociological father.”
by this apparently consistent and universal prohibition (whose penalties vary by class and in accord with the expected operations of the double standard) patriarchy decrees that the status of both child and mother is primarily or ultimately dependent upon the male !
and since it is not only his social status, but even his economic power upon which his dependents generally rely, the position of the masculine figure within the family – as without – is materially, as well as ideologically, extremely strong.


although there is no biological reason why the two central functions of the family (socialisation and reproduction) need be inseparable from or even take place within it, revolutionary or utopian efforts to remove these functions from the family have been so frustrated, so beset by difficulties, that most experiments so far have involved a gradual return to tradition.
This is strong evidence of how basic a form patriarchy is within all societies, and of how pervasive its effects upon family members.
It is perhaps also an admonition that change undertaken without a thorough understanding of the sociopolitical institution to be changed is hardly productive.
And yet radical social change cannot take place without having an effect upon patriarchy.
And not simply because it is the political form which subordinates such a large percentage of the population (women and youth) but because it serves as a citadel of property and traditional interests.
Marriages are financial alliances, and each household operates as an economic entity much like a corporation.
“the family is the keystone of the stratification system, the social mechanism by which it is maintained.”

January 26, 2013

sexual politics – class 4

It is in the area of class that the caste-like status of the female within patriarchy is most liable to confusion,
for sexual status often operates in a superficially confusing way within the variable of class.
In a society where status is dependent upon the economic, social, and educational circumstances of class, it is possible for certain females to appear to stand higher than some males.
yet not when one looks more closely at the subject.
this is perhaps easier to see by means of analogy:
a low caste doctor or lawyer has higher social status than a poor upper caste farmer or labourer.
but the caste system which subsumes class, persuades the latter citizen that he belongs to a higher order of life, just as it oppresses the low caste professional in spirit, whatever his material success may be.
In much the same manner, a truck driver or butcher has always his “manhood” to fall back upon.
should this final vanity be offended, he may contemplate more violent methods.


the literature of the past thirty years provides a staggering number of incidents in which the caste of virility triumphs over the social status of wealthy or even educated women.
In literary contexts one has to deal here with wish-fulfilment. Incidents from life (bullying, obscene, or hostile remarks) are probably another sort of psychological gesture of ascendancy.
both convey more hope than reality, for class divisions are generally quite impervious to the hostility of individuals.
and yet while the existence of class division is not seriously threatened by such expressions of enmity, the existence of sexual hierarchy has been re-affirmed and mobilised to “punish” the female quite effectively.

the function of class or ethnic mores in patriarchy is largely a matter of how overtly displayed or how loudly enunciated the general ethic of masculine supremacy allows itself to become.
here one is confronted by what appears to be a paradox:
while in the lower social strata, the male is more likely to claim authority on the strength of his sex rank alone, he is actually obliged more often to share power with the women of his class who are economically productive;
whereas in the middle and upper classes, there is less tendency to assert a blunt patriarchal dominance, as men who enjoy such status have more power in any case.

January 25, 2013

sexual politics – sociological 3a

Traditionally, patriarchy granted the father nearly total ownership over wife or wives and children, including the powers of physical abuse and often even those of murder and sale.
Classically, as head of the family the father is both begetter and owner in a system in which kinship is property.
Yet in strict patriarchy, kinship is acknowledged only through association with the male line.
Agnation excludes the descendants of the female line from property right and often even from recognition.
The first formulation of the patriarchal family was made by Sir Henry Maine, a nineteenth-century historian of ancient jurisprudence.
Maine argues that the patriarchal basis of kinship is put in terms of dominion rather than blood; wives, though outsiders, are assimilated into the line, while sisters sons are excluded.
Basing his definition of the family upon the patria potestes of Rome, Maine defined it as follows: “The eldest male parent is absolutely supreme in his household. His dominion extends to life and death and is as unqualified over his children and their houses as over his slaves.”
In the archaic patriarchal family “the group consists of animate and inanimate property, of wife, children, slaves, land and goods, all held together by subjection to the despotic authority of the eldest male.”


McLennon’s rebuttal to Maine argued that the Roman patria potestes was an extreme form of patriarchy and by no means, as Maine had imagined, universal.
Evidence of matrilineal societies (preliterate societies in Africa and elsewhere) refute Maine’s assumption of the universality of agnation.
Certainly Maine’s central argument, as to the primeval or state of nature character of patriarchy is but a rather naive rationalisation of an institution Maine tended to exalt.
The assumption of patriarchy’s primeval character is contradicted by much evidence which points to the conclusion that full patriarchal authority, particularly that of the patria potestes is a late development and the total erosion of female status was likely to be gradual as has been its recovery.

In contemporary patriarchies the male’s de jure priority has recently been modified through the granting of divorce protection, citizenship, and property to women.
Their chattel status continues in their loss of name, their obligation to adopt the husband’s domicile, and the general legal assumption that marriage involves an exchange of the female’s domestic service and (sexual) consortium in return for financial support.

January 25, 2013

sexual politics – sociological 3

Patriarchy’s chief institution is the family.
It is both a mirror of and a connection with the larger society; a patriarchal unit within a patriarchal whole.
Mediating between the individual and the social structure, the family effects control and conformity where political and other authorities are insufficient.
As the fundamental instrument and the foundation unit of patriarchal society the family and its roles are prototypical.
Serving as an agent of the larger society, the family not only encourages its own members to adjust and conform, but acts as a unit in the government of the patriarchal state which rules its citizens through its family heads.
Even in patriarchal societies where they are granted legal citizenship, women tend to be ruled through the family alone and have little or no formal relation to the state.

As co-operation between the family and the larger society is essential, else both would fall apart, the fate of three patriarchal institutions, the family, society, and the state are interrelated.
In most forms of patriarchy this has generally led to the granting of religious support in statements such as the Catholic precept that “the father is head of the family,” or Judaism’s delegation of quasi-priestly authority to the male parent.
Secular governments today also confirm this, as in census practices of designating the male as head of household, taxation, passports etc.
Female heads of household tend to be regarded as undesirable; the phenomenon is a trait of poverty or misfortune.

The Confucian prescription that the relationship between ruler and subject is parallel to that of father and children points to the essentially feudal character of the patriarchal family (and conversely, the familial character of feudalism) even in modern democracies.

January 24, 2013

sexual politics – biological 2f

Because of our social circumstances, male and female are really two cultures and their life experiences are utterly different and this is crucial.
Implicit in all the gender identity development which takes place through childhood is the sum total of the parents’, the peers’, and the culture’s notions of what is appropriate to each gender by way of temperament, character, interests, status, worth, gesture, and expression.
Every moment of the child’s life is a clue to how he or she must think and behave to attain or satisfy the demands which gender places upon one.
In adolescence, the merciless task of conformity grows to crisis proportions, generally cooling and settling in maturity.
What does seem decisive in assuring the maintenance of the temperamental differences between the sexes is the conditioning of early childhood.

Conditioning runs in a circle of self-perpetuation and self-fulfilling prophecy.
To take a simple example: expectations the culture cherishes about his gender identity encourage the young male to develop aggressive impulses, and the female to thwart her own or turn them inward.
The result is that the male tends to have aggression reinforced in his behaviour, often with significant anti-social possibilities.
Thereupon the culture consents to believe the possession of the male indicator, the testes, penis, and scrotum, in itself characterises the aggressive impulse, and even vulgarly celebrates it in such encomiums as “that guy has balls.”
The same process of reinforcement is evident in producing the chief “feminine” virtue of passivity.
In contemporary terminology, the basic division of temperamental trait is marshalled along the line of “aggression is male” and “passivity is female.”
All other temperamental traits are somehow – often with the most dexterous ingenuity – aligned to correspond.
If aggressiveness is the trait of the master class, docility must be the corresponding trait of a subject group.
The usual hope of such line of reasoning is that “nature,” by some impossible outside chance, might still be depended upon to rationalise the patriarchal system.
An important consideration to be remembered here is that in patriarchy, the function of norm is unthinkingly delegated to the male – were it not, one might as plausibly speak of “feminine” behavior as active, and “masculine” behavior as hyperactive or hyper-aggressive.

Should one regard sex in humans as a drive, it is still necessary to point out that the enormous area of our lives, both in early “socialisation” and in adult experience, labelled “sexual behaviour,” is almost entirely the product of learning. So much is this the case that even the act of coitus itself is the product of a long series of learned responses – responses to the patterns and attitudes, even as to the object of sexual choice, which are set up for us by our social environment.


The arbitrary character of patriarchal ascriptions of temperament and role has little effect upon their power over us.
Nor do the mutually exclusive, contradictory, and polar qualities of the categories “masculine” and “feminine” imposed upon human personality give rise to sufficiently serious question among us.
Under their aegis each personality becomes little more, and often less than half, of its human potential.
Politically, the fact that each group exhibits a circumscribed but complementary personality and range of activity is of secondary importance to the fact that each represents a status or power division.
In the matter of conformity patriarchy is a governing ideology without peer; it is probable that no other system has ever exercised such a complete control over its subjects.
even though over the years, irrespective of emancipation of various categories of caste colour and creed may have taken place , the discrimination against women remains !

January 24, 2013

sexual politics – biological 2e

In cases of genital malformation and consequent erroneous gender assignment at birth,

Studies done in California under Stoller’s direction offer proof that gender identity (I am a girl, I am a boy) is the primary identity any human being holds -
the first as well as the most permanent and far-reaching.
Stoller later makes emphatic the distinction that sex is biological, gender psychological, and therefore cultural:
“Gender is a term that has psychological or cultural rather than biological connotations.

If the proper terms for sex are “male” and “female,”
the corresponding terms for gender are “masculine” and “feminine”;
these latter may be quite independent of (biological) sex.
Indeed, so arbitrary is gender, that it may even be contrary to physiology: “. . .
although the external genitalia (penis, testes, scrotum) contribute to the sense of maleness, no one of them is essential for it, not even all of them together.

It is now believed that the human foetus is originally physically female until the operation of androgen at a certain stage of gestation causes those with y chromosomes to develop into males.
Psycho-sexually (e.g., in terms of masculine and feminine, and in contradistinction to male and female) there is no differentiation between the sexes at birth.
Psycho-sexual personality is therefore postnatal and learned.

… the condition existing at birth and for several months thereafter is one of psycho-sexual undifferentiation.
Just as in the embryo, morphologic sexual differentiation passes from a plastic stage to one of fixed immutability,
so also does psycho-sexual differentiation become fixed and immutable -
so much so,
that mankind has traditionally assumed that so strong and fixed a feeling as personal sexual identity must stem from something innate, instinctive, and not subject to postnatal experience and learning.
wrong !
the error of this traditional assumption is that the power and permanence of something learned has been underestimated.
The experiments of animal ethologists on imprinting have now corrected this misconception.


John Money who is quoted above, believes that “the acquisition of a native language is a human counter-part to imprinting,” and gender first established “with the establishment of a native language.”
This would place the time of establishment at about eighteen months.
Jerome Kagin’s studies in how children of pre-speech age are handled and touched, tickled and spoken to in terms of their sexual identity (“Is it a boy or a girl?” “Hello, little fellow,” “Isn’t she pretty,” etc.) put the most considerable emphasis on purely tactile learning which would have much to do with the child’s sense of self, even before speech is attained.

January 23, 2013

sexual politics – biological 2d


Robert Jesse Stoller (December 15, 1924 – September 6, 1991), was a Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA Medical School and a researcher at the UCLA Gender Identity Clinic.

Stoller is known for his theories concerning the development of gender identity and the dynamics of sexual excitement.
In Sex and Gender (1968), Stoller articulates a challenge to Freud’s belief in biological bisexuality.
Drawing on his extensive research with transsexuals and new advances in the science of sex, Stoller advances his belief in “Primary Femininity,” the initial orientation of both biological tissue and psychological identification toward feminine development.
This early, non-conflictual phase contributes to a feminine core gender identity in both boys and girls unless a masculine force is present to interrupt the symbiotic relationship with the mother.

Stoller identifies three components in the formation of core gender identity, an innate and immutable sense of maleness or femaleness usually consolidated by the second year of life:

  • Biological and hormonal influences;
  • Sex assignment at birth and
  • Environmental and psychological influences with effects similar to imprinting.

Stoller asserts that threats to core gender identity are like threats to sense of self and result in the defenses known as the perversions.

In his most notable contribution, Perversion (1975), Stoller attempts to illuminate the dynamics of sexual perversion which he fights valiantly to normalize.
Stoller suggests that perversion inevitably entails an expression of unconscious aggression in the form of revenge against a person who, in early years, made some form of threat to the child’s core gender identity, either in the form of overt trauma or through the frustrations of the Oedipal conflict.

In his book ‘Sexual Excitement’ , Stoller finds the same perverse dynamics at work in all sexual excitement on a continuum from overt aggression to subtle fantasy.
In focusing on the unconscious fantasy, and not the behavior, Stoller provides a way of analyzing the mental dynamics of sexuality, what he terms “erotics,” while simultaneously de-emphasizing the pathology of any particular form of behavior.
Stoller does not consider homosexuality as a monolithic behavior but rather as a range of sexual styles as diverse as heterosexuality.

Less well known is Stoller’s contribution toward making psychoanalysis a legitimate research tool through the publication of the analyst’s data – verbatim notes and transcripts of interviews. Stoller melds the work of the ethnographer and the analyst as a means of producing scientifically valid psychological data.

January 22, 2013

sexual politics – biological 2b

It is often assumed that patriarchy is endemic in human social life, explicable or even inevitable on the grounds of human physiology.
Such a theory grants patriarchy logical as well as historical origin.
Yet if as some anthropologists believe, patriarchy is not of primeval origin, but was preceded by some other social form we shall call pre-patriarchal, then the argument of physical strength as a theory of patriarchal origins would hardly constitute a sufficient explanation – unless the male’s superior physical strength was released in accompaniment with some change in orientation through new values or new knowledge.

Conjecture about origins is always frustrated by lack of certain evidence.
Speculation about prehistory, which of necessity is what this must be, remains nothing but speculation.
but, were one to indulge in it,

one might argue the likelihood of a hypothetical period preceding patriarchy.

What would be crucial to such a premise would be a state of mind in which the primary principle would be regarded as fertility or vitalist processes.
In a primitive condition, before it developed civilisation or any but the crudest technic, humanity would perhaps find the most impressive evidence of creative force in the visible birth of children, something of a miraculous event and linked analogically with the growth of the earth’s vegetation.

It is possible that the circumstance which might drastically redirect such attitudes would be the discovery of paternity.

There is some evidence that fertility cults in ancient society at some point took a turn toward patriarchy, displacing and downgrading female function in procreation and attributing the power of life to the phallus alone.
Patriarchal religion could consolidate this position by the creation of a male God or gods, demoting, discrediting, or eliminating goddesses and constructing a theology whose basic postulates are male supremacist, and one of whose central functions is to uphold and validate the patriarchal structure.

( the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost !)


( the Alphabet vs the Goddesses – by Leonard Shlain, will give an interesting analysis of this for some one who interested in reading more on this)

Wonder, silence, gratitude

one who is going upstream ......

SS 24 - random thoughts

one who is going upstream ......

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