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Nature Vs. Culture

Essay by   •  March 18, 2011  •  2,853 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,353 Views

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The history of global conflict can be explained by examining the beginnings of interaction among men and what has caused them to behave in this way. The arguments of nature and nurture are typical argumentative factors that may determine whether or not violence and the tendency to engage in war is an inherent trait of men. Although the argument that nature is responsible for determining man's conduct, the cultural values of men is a better and more realistic means of explaining the conflicts of man.

David Barash argues on the side of nature in the article entitled, "Evolution, Males, and Violence". Barash makes a strong argument because, as he explains, men are responsible for the majority of random acts of violence and that women are not inherently violent and only are a physical threat when they are defending themselves (Barash, 6). Barash gives a parallel example of violence in animals, arguing that the males are usually responsible for violent behavior (Barash, 2). Furthermore, he explains male violence on a very microscopic level. Sperm compete to fertilize female eggs, thus this is supposed to justify that men will inherently by competitive through nature (Barash, 2). As a result, the belief is that competition generates violence which becomes evident when males attempt to show domination for example. Although there is support for this argument, there is much more evidence for contrary viewpoints that isn't addressed by a nature or biological argument alone.

George Mosse, author of Nationalism and Sex, believes societal norms are the key to an effective building of society that facilitates the creation of unity to create such things as an army. However, the question then begs what the social norms were that allowed such development of societies? Primarily, men demonstrating the traits of respectability such as proper gender roles and nationalism were necessary for proper construction of societies, according to Mosse (Mosse, 1-2). Simply put, men that could not control themselves and overly expressed themselves sexually through masturbation were abnormal (Mosse, 11). Homosexual men presented an additional threat and were considered criminals by the state (Mosse, 25). As a result, society began to create fear in men to prevent them from such acts of self-gratification. This was necessary to allow the creation of unity amongst citizens and throughout society. The illogical beliefs such as hairy-palms and anti-social behaviors resulting from masturbating were formed from the societal needs to control the activities of men which ultimately benefited the society as a whole. According to Mosse, masturbation was the primary reason for all loss of control among men. Furthermore, Mosse also deemed masturbation to be an abnormal passion to have at all (Mosse 11). Some physicians even believed that eggs and sperm were similar in that there were limited quantities of each and masturbation was essential "throwing money out the window" (Mosse, 34). The perceived consequences of masturbation also continued across all perceived sexual abnormalities such as homosexuality.

Mosse, despite any physical, medical or convincing evidence, believed that masturbation could even lead to homosexuality (Mosse, 29). The belief was that homosexual men were depopulating societies because they had no sense of civic responsibility or moral code (Mosse, 29). There was also additional conflict and disagreement surrounding homosexuality because homosexuality was not congruent with the gender lines and roles established by society. Take for example, Heinrich Himmler, a Nazi official from Mosse's book, Nationalism & Sexuality. He thought that homosexuality destroyed the gender role of men. Ultimately, this belief held by several members of the Nazi party propelled the Nazis to 'cure' this problem while during Hitler's reign over Germany (Mosse, 43). By this belief, homosexuals were perceived to be less masculine since they strayed from typical gender lines and thus, homosexuals were deemed to be unsuitable for useful purposes such as war.

Sexual abnormality fears strongly developed in the eighteen-hundreds during periods of conservatism and properness. Bram Stoker's Dracula helps clearly establish what these fears about masturbation were during that time period. The movie shows Dracula as a masturbator through his hairy palms who has clearly lost control of himself and blurs the gender lines. Dracula is contrasted against the epitome of a British Gentleman, Johnathon Harker, who demonstrates self-control and fits his gender role, however, Dracula is portrayed as a weak 'woman' who cannot control the acts of self-gratification. During this time, a term known as "vagina dentate" was also introduced. This belief was that lack of self-control will ultimately result in castration by evil women (Gilbert, Fall 2006). Essentially, a woman's vagina becomes a guillotine and cuts off a man's penis who has lost control. This fear increased many of the prescriptions already held in society about the lack of self-control and further provoked men to remain in control of their individual acts. These prescriptions surrounding masturbation and self-control were forced onto society because it reduced individualism and created unity among citizens which made is easier to build a strong, organized army.

The article, "The Castrating Sisterhood," by Peter Gay addresses the particular fear of vagina dentate. Gay believes that dreams of intercourse with a woman with a 'vagina with teeth' stems from a man's early dependence on women, such as a mother. In addition, Gay believes this also can be a result of prolonged sexual frustration with women (Gay, 200). This fear, on top of others, contributed to the further decline of sexual expression by men during the 1800s. During that time, nearly every sexual act became a perceived 'abnormality' which created a fear of women as a whole; a direct result of societal control over its citizens. The fear of women goes beyond having dreams of seductive women with the intent to castrate men. Regeneration and A Midnight Clear are films that depict these shell-shock victims in both WWI and WWII. Hysteria in men brought on by the traumatizing experiences on the battlefield was first believed to be "unmanly" because men are suppose to remain in control. Overtime, however, the belief that hysteria only occurred in women became controversial due to increasing number of shell-shocked soldiers. This initial misconception alone tells a great deal about the nature of man.

The assigned roles of women in society were to reproduce and to act as a protector of the family values. However, contrary to men, the passive roles women held allowed them to be excused of the behavior men were prohibited from

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