By R.S. McCain
“Each time a woman is catcalled, publicly humiliated, and forced to ignore it, the psychology of female objectification becomes evermore seared into the brains of all actors and bystanders involved. We’re already conditioned to look at a woman and see the raw sum of her physical components before we consider her brain. The more we reinforce this subconscious thought process, the more ingrained it becomes in our psychology.”
— Lily Calcagnini, Harvard Crimson, Oct. 6, 2015
“In contrast to young women, whose empowerment can be seen as a process of resistance to male dominated heterosexuality, young, able-bodied, heterosexual men can access power through the language, structures and identities of hegemonic masculinity.”
— Janet Holland, Caroline Ramazanoglu, Sue Sharpe and Rachel Thomson, The Male in the Head: Young People, Heterosexuality and Power (1998)
“The discourses which particularly oppress all of us, lesbians, women, and homosexual men, are those discourses which take for granted that what founds society, any society, is heterosexuality. . . . These discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak in their terms.”
— Monique Wittig, “The Straight Mind,” 1978
The “discourses of heterosexuality” described by French lesbian feminist Monique Wittig are probably not the catcalls described by Lily Calcagnini, but the underlying idea is the same: Male sexual attraction to women is inherently oppressive. The “empowerment” of women requires “resistance to male dominated heterosexuality,” as Professor Holland and her colleagues explained in a book based on feminist gender theory, which regards heterosexuality and male domination as synonymous, two ways of saying the same thing. Heterosexuality reduces a woman to “the raw sum of her physical components,” as Ms. Calcagnini phrases it, and any man who would impose this condition upon her can do so only through the “power . . . of hegemonic masculinity.”
When a college sophomore asserts that we are psychologically “conditioned” to take for granted the “objectification” of women, she thereby invokes a feminist theoretical understanding of sexual behavior that extends far beyond the subject of catcalling. Consider first that Ms. Calcagnini wrote this column in the Harvard Crimson, whose readers are enrolled at arguably the world’s most prestigious institution of higher education. Next consider the sort of behavior she describes:
To the candid man who approached me, rubbing your crotch and murmuring that you could make love to me all day and night, Baby: I could probably call the cops on you at any hour, Buddy.
To the two sirs who, from the safety of your car, hurled cries of Chica, Beautiful Lady, Sexy, Mami, Honey, and Pretty One out of your windows: You made me want to cry.
As you pounded the center of your steering wheel with the palm of your hand, commanding the attention of additional passers-by with each honk of your horn, you encouraged others to join in your objectification game. Powerless, I waited for your traffic light to change, so you would speed away towards the next corner and the next girl.
Are we to believe that these lecherous brutes are Harvard students, so that by writing about their uncouth behavior in the Crimson, Ms. Calcagnini thinks she is addressing the perpetrators directly? Of course not. There might be men at Harvard who occasionally get a bit rowdy, but they are not honking their horns while yelling chica at girls.
In 2015, no man smart enough to go college would ever dare express sexual interest in a female classmate for fear of being accused of “harassment.” Feminists have made university life in the 21st-century a Danger Zone for heterosexual males, who are at risk of expulsion if they even attempt to become intimate with a woman on campus.
She does not need any evidence in order to accuse him of sexual assault. Once accused, a male student will discover he has no due-process rightsin the Title IX hearings where accused males are automatically presumed guilty. These accusations may be made long after an alleged incident. A male student may find himself accused of sexually assaulting an ex-girlfriend whom he continued dating (and having consensual sex with) for many months after whatever incident she may claim was non-consensual whenever a desire for post-breakup revenge strikes her. In other words, your freshman-year girlfriend could wait until your senior year to accuse you of having raped her three years earlier, and thereby quite possibly prevent you from graduating. This is “equality” in 2015.
Feminism’s anti-male/anti-heterosexual ideology promotes a sexual paranoia I call “Fear and Loathing of the Penis,” and this in turn has helped incentivize false accusations of rape. At Harvard in 2014, there were 33 reports of sexual assault, of which six were “determined to be ‘unfounded,’ i.e. ‘false or baseless.’” This climate of anti-male fanaticism has led to the enactment of so-called “affirmative consent” policies, with the practical result that is never safe to assume that any sexual activity on campus is legal, as Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner has explained. At an elite school like Harvard, where tuition is $45,278 a year, a male student would be a fool to take the risk of becoming sexually involved with a female classmate, since Harvard women evidently are willing to make “false or baseless” rape accusations.
Analyzing the Harvard sexual assault data, Reason magazine’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown determined that a “worst-case-scenario assumption means that about one in 114 female undergraduates reported rapes at Harvard last year” — a far cry from the 1-in-5 rate of campus sexual assault claimed by radical feminists (a claim promoted by President Obama, among others). If more than 99% of Harvard women are not at risk of rape, however, this doesn’t prevent Ms. Calcagnini from indicting all male heterosexuals as complicit in harassment:
Catcalls are arresting because they decontextualize the language of physical attraction that might be meaningful when exchanged between lovers. I’m flattered to know that someone who cares deeply about me also finds me beautiful, but this is only because I know that they appreciate my personhood more than my biological ability to have sex.
Using the same language, a catcall is vapid. It reduces my worth to that of my appearance. In the public context of the street, coming from the mouth of a stranger, a catcall exploits the verbiage of intimacy and makes me feel both objectified and powerless to rebuke my objectification.
Moreover, there is implicit sexual intent in a catcall by nature of the fact that it is spoken aloud. Since anyone can enjoyably objectify me without my knowing, I must take a man’s brazen expression of arousal to mean that he’s hoping for some favor in return. Hoping that he’s singled out a woman whose self-esteem is low. Hoping that I’ll forget I’m en route to Spanish and will instead fulfill his sexual fantasies in an alley. Hoping that, to quote the gallant young man who followed me around Harvard Square yesterday, I will “suck his d–k.” . . .
Perpetrators of this kind of objectification may not realize how many women they undermine when they insult one. Their comments dismantle the significant, but clearly still inadequate, social progress that feminists have made for all women.
Who was that young man who followed Ms. Calcagnini around Harvard Square, soliciting her to perform oral sex? You could safely wager $100 that he is not a Harvard student, that he does not read the Crimson, and thus is not confronted with her accusation that his crude behavior is dismantling “social progress,” about which he almost certainly does not give a damn. No, this denunciation of catcalling is a signifying gesture which affords Ms. Calcagnini the opportunity to inform Harvard men that “objectification” — a feminist term for normal male appreciation of female beauty — is unacceptable. She describes how men “enjoyably objectify me without my knowing” (i.e., she is aware that men derive pleasure from looking at her), but is offended by any vocal expression of male sexual interest, because this “reduces my worth to that of my appearance.” Rather than this type of interest, she desires instead “someone who cares deeply about me,” and who therefore will “appreciate my personhood more than my biological ability to have sex.”
Did anyone besides me notice that Ms. Calcagnini uses gender-neutral language (“someone who cares deeply about me . . . they appreciate my personhood”) to describe the sort of attention she welcomes whereas, by contrast, it is “a man’s brazen expression of arousal” and “his sexual fantasies” that she makes clear are undermining “social progress that feminists have made”? While there is no specific reason to suspect that Ms. Calcagnini is a lesbian — other than the fact that she attends Harvard and calls herself a feminist — why else would she use the pages of theCrimson to excoriate heterosexual males this way?
Permit me to confess that my wife’s “biological ability to have sex” was so high on the list of qualities that attracted my attention, I could scarcely comprehend her “personhood” otherwise. If I may be allowed to “decontextualize the language of physical attraction” here, exactly how does Ms. Calcagnini suppose a heterosexual man experiences “arousal”? What aspect of her “personhood” does any woman expect a normal man to “appreciate” more than her “biological ability to have sex”? Is this not the sine qua non of heterosexuality?
Civilized men do not yell crude comments from car windows at women on the street, but if we assume that readers of the Harvard Crimson are civilized, what is the point of lecturing them about this? Quite clearly, Ms. Calcagnini’s column had some ulterior purpose, perhaps to guilt-trip any heterosexual male reader who might “enjoyably objectify” her — i.e., look at her and like what he sees — because she is disgusted by the thought that he is aware of her “biological ability to have sex.”
Have I been “conditioned to look at a woman and see the raw sum of her physical components”? If so, who “conditioned” me this way and how, and at such an early age that in kindergarten I developed a crush on Priscilla Yates, a slightly plump brunette with a gap between her front teeth and freckles on her nose? Early and often did I “objectify” girls — Janet Howton, Joanna Richardson and Carol Purdy, to name three objects of my elementary school crushes — before I had even a remote understanding of how “the raw sum of her physical components” related to the “biological ability to have sex.” The idea that male admiration for female beauty is “conditioned” is as ridiculous as the assertion that this entirely natural “objectification” precludes men from being able also to “consider her brain” or appreciate her “personhood.” Are men at Harvard so stupid that they cannot likewise differentiate these concepts? Why does Ms. Calcagnini presume she can accuse the Crimson‘s highly educated male readers of stupidity without anyone answering her insulting imputation? Is it because she knows that no man at Harvard would risk the feminist outrage if he dared publish an answer?
SCANDAL: Man Likes Good-Looking Women;
Expelled by Harvard for ‘Objectification’
‘These Discourses of Heterosexuality Oppress Us!’
Normal male behavior is now a human rights violation. The man who expresses a preference for beautiful women could “dismantle the . . . social progress that feminists have made for all women.”
Used to be, you could get locked up in a lunatic asylum for spewing that kind of deranged gibberish. Now they send you to Harvard.