This book, Male Lust: Pleasure, Power, and Transformation, has been on my shelf since the early 2000s. Back then, it was at the top of my to-read list, but circumstances intervened and so I am only picking it up now. I’ve read the introduction and I think it’s really interesting to juxtapose the two passages below. In the text, the first one actually comes after the second one. I have put them in this order because I think it creates an interesting tension between them.
Because a privileged man’s life is “unremarkable,” he is less likely to know how his social position affects his life. A “white” man knows he is “white,” but he is likely to have little idea how this identity shapes his social world, much less his sexuality. He’s rarely forced to stop and think about it. Any interpersonal or emotional difficulties he might have are thus made to appear as individual worries. This illusion of a fully autonomous self lets privileged men act with less concern about the social impact of their actions—they are more “free” than others. Yet, this freedom makes them less able to identify the links between their concerns and the larger social environment. Because of this hyperindividuality, itself socially constructed, privileged men are vulnerable to intense feelings of self-blame and isolation when something goes wrong. It makes them less able to understand how their lives relate to the lives of those around them, and less able to respond to the social forces that daily shape their lives. (xix)
Think of a judicial system that not only favors heterosexuality but reserves its favor for specific types of heterosexuality: not S/M—that could cost you your kids; not polyfidelity—that could cost you your kids too; not for pay—that could cost you your kids and put you in jail. Think of the African-American, Latino, and Chinese men who have been lynched for the mere suspicion of looking at a white woman. Whatever biological ground our bodies provide, “male lust” is clearly a highly regulated—and therefore social—affair, shaped through a deployed and nearly ubiquitous series of sticks and carrots. Removing these pressures, or adopting a different set, would radically change the way we think about the social/biological categories “male” and “sexuality.”