What can dog nuts tell us about human gender issues?

In two of my dad’s churches, the front of the churches were set up so that there was a raised area surrounded by the communion rail. The podiums were towards the front of the raised area. Then there was some open space and towards the back, there was a table where the offering plates, Bible, candles, and cross were arranged.

Behind the table was a large velvet curtain on the wall. At one church it was red and at the other it was blue. Even as a minister’s kid who ran willy-nilly all over the church, I never went behind that table. So, for a long time, I imagined that there was something behind that curtain, maybe another room or a poster of Jesus or something that only the minister was allowed to know.

Finally, when I was in high school, I looked behind the curtain and found there was just an unfinished board.

I was thinking about this in terms of that porn that’s like “let’s stick a camera right inside your vagina” and you look at it and wonder who the hell gets off at looking at something that’s so devoid of context that it appears to be just a bunch of shiny soft pink billows and folds.

It’s like the opposite of the curtain at church. The curtain at church pretends to cover something mysterious, but really just hangs there as a backdrop. But the vagina is inscrutable. No matter how long you look at it or how close up you get, you’re never going to see that place where the boundary between here and there–the ordinary and the eternal–is always permeable.

And yet, there it is–bringing forth life when you want it and sometimes when you don’t or remaining silent and unmoved when you beg it to stir something up, making up unviable monsters and viable babies, dumping out blood and tissue and sometimes small humans.

The Legal Eagle once said, “Until you can impregnate yourself, men have a role in this thing” when he was arguing that men ought to have a say in abortion. It’s a little like the flour saying to the whole kitchen, “You can’t have cake without me.”

Fair enough, but you can’t have cake without the oven and the eggs and the bowls for mixing, either. Why does the person who supplies the flour have as much of a say as the person who supplies everything else? The flour is crucial to the production of the cake, but it’s not an equal contribution to all the rest of the ingredients and whatever else is in the kitchen combined.

Anyway, I’m sure most of you saw this story in the Village Voice this week, about the man who tortures pitbulls (Important quote from story: “Ed Boks, the director of New York City Animal Care & Control, says the blame for pit bulls’ negative image is shared equally by the press–which is fascinated by pit bull attacks–and breeders who take advantage of the dogs. ‘Pit bulls are actually a rather stable breed,’ says Boks. ‘The thing about pit bulls is that they are stuck with this bad reputation. They are extraordinarily loyal and loving animals and they will fight to the death just to please you.'”) in order to make them monsters.

Here’s the relevant passage to our discussion:

“The men always say, ‘You’re taking my manhood away.’ We get that every week. They say that they can’t walk the dog in their neighborhood anymore because people will see that his testicles are gone. They are adamant about it,” Clemmons says.

They’re talking about this over at Pandagon, too, and it’s the comments that have me thinking. One commenter in particular says, in response to someone talking about dog vasectomies, “That’s the solution for me. I’m sorry, I’m not going to be responsible for some other dude, whether human or canine, getting his balls cut off.”

Isn’t this interesting? It’s got me wondering if this is an opposite impulse to the “I must make sure those slutty women are punished with babies” or if it’s really the same impulse.

We could see it as an opposite impulse–some men saying “not my body, not my place to demand its modification to suit me.” But I worry that’s it’s evidence of the same impulse, one that understands the man as being defined by his manhood, which is represented by his ability to control the animals and humans beneath him. Their fecundity is evidence of his manliness.

The behavior of others–what a fragile and stupid thing to hang your own self-worth on.

10 thoughts on “What can dog nuts tell us about human gender issues?

  1. For me it’s just a matter of empathy. That area is delicate and can be the source of great pain. So a man assumes any cutting in there is going to hurt the dog a lot.

    I suppose there is an identity crisis there too for some. Like it or not, gender is part of a person’s identity. And just the word vets use ‘neutering’ implies complete removal of gender. It takes you from a living being and puts you on par with an inanimate object.

    W

  2. Maybe it’s just because I’m a farm girl, maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but when are men going to quit placing their significance in the size (and presence) of testicles and start putting it in things that matter (if you’re looking for some possibilities, let’s start with compassion, empathy, love and common courtesy.) Men seem fascinated with watching their dogs (and other animals) balls slap around. FYI: Before they remove their testicles (not a synonym of “manhood” I might add)they give them incredible amounts of sedation (they take horses down to the ground) and within one week (way less time that recovery from a cesarean section) they forget the episode all together. The beauty of being an animal.

    Your ability to reproduce is not what makes you a man or woman. (Ever heard of guys shooting blanks and women who are sterile? Guess what, still a man and still a woman.) Gender is a basic descriptive – identity is something deeper, that transcends gender.

    Have your pets spade or neutered. (I promise you, the males will still hump your leg and other females – they have no clue it’s not there.) Start focusing your justification for self-worth on yourself and not your dog (or anything else for that matter.) And above all, be an f-ing responsible citizen. The pet (and human) population is already way out of control.

  3. I’ve seen studies that find most men define masculinity as ‘earning a paycheck’, and, yeah, they mean a bigger paycheck than women earn. (if memory serves, Faludi cites on in Backlash)

    But what I’m interested in is that kitchen. The problem is that long after the flour has made its contribution, the kitchen is still working, and for some of those 9 months + 18+ years, it’s working, or on call, 24/7.

  4. “Why does the person who supplies the flour have as much of a say as the person who supplies everything else? The flour is crucial to the production of the cake, but it’s not an equal contribution to all the rest of the ingredients and whatever else is in the kitchen combined.”

    This is where you lose me. For someone who continually rales that feminism must be about elevating women but not denegrating men, that it is about respecting both sexes equally, yet in this which is without question a matter that affects us both, you would deny my voice. I dont think by saying that I should have a say in whether a woman I impregnate has an abortion in any way lessens her voice, and yet you would lessen mine? Why is my role as father less important than your role as mother? and if you treat me this way, will I not begin to believe it myself, thus making it so?

    Just because I cannot become pregant does not mean that I cannot form an emotion attachment or connection with my child before it is born, it does not mean that the birth of this child will not dramatically affect my life as much as it does yours.

    LE

  5. I’ve been afraid of this day, and yet, I knew it would come–the day when the Legal Eagle finally throws my own rhetoric back in my face.

    Just as a side note, this is a most effective means of arguing with me, because it always knocks me off kilter.

    But here’s my question for you. Is it “a say” or is it “final veto power?” Because one I have no problem with. The other is an insurmoutable problem.

  6. The problem as I see it, is that if I dont have a “say”, which, to me, is really what the its my body its my choice movement seems to be arguing, then the only option I have is the complete veto. If you will not allow me to express my opinion, but instead repeatedly tell me that my “say” is meaningless, then what else am I to do?

    I can either accept your position, that in fact the choice is entirely yours – if so, then do not hold me accountable for my failure to participate, when you, in fact, have told me my participation is unwelcome. this does not seem the best solution and i think it infantilizes men to a certain extent and allows them to escape their responsibility.

    or if I believe that you are wrong, and I do in fact have a stake, but you will not listen to me, the only option I have is to prevent you from making a choice with which I disagree and the only way I can do that is to remove from you that option.

    I certainly do not mean to imply that the woeful state of the abortion debate in this country is because of women or because of feminism but just that the debate has become so polarized that I dont think the average man on the street even cares anymore.

    LE

  7. Well.

    In one way I agree with ‘the big E.’ I am now sterile (thank you, menopause!), but does that make me less of a woman? Or less of a sexual being? I say nay, and most people (men or women in similar circumsances), I think would concur.

    I would, however, concede that the LE, when he states:

    ‘I can either accept your position, that in fact the choice is entirely yours – if so, then do not hold me accountable for my failure to participate, when you, in fact, have told me my participation is unwelcome. this does not seem the best solution and i think it infantilizes men to a certain extent and allows them to escape their responsibility.’

    has a very valid point. At what point does the life-to-be in question come into consideration? It does, at some point (a very debatable point to be sure), become an issue. Never, ever? I don’t think that’s fair either. That’s when the law comes in. I don’t believe this will ever be resolved, pretty much like the problems in the Middle East.

    Eh. I’m tired of thinking now. I’m going to go get some more cold Pinot Grigio.

  8. When I want entertainment, I read something funny. When I want to make my mind work, I wander over here and read Aunt B and the comments. Good one. Thanks.

  9. Just because I cannot become pregant does not mean that I cannot form an emotion attachment or connection with my child before it is born

    True. And I believe that the man’s opinion is valid, and should be taken into consideration. Indeed, after the child is born , I believe that the father’s voice should carry equal weight as the mother’s (providing, of course, that care is shared between the parents).

    But. Until the child is born, the father’s opinion, while important and not to be ignored, cannot be the deciding vote. That way lies wingnuttery. For 9 months there is one, and only one person who “pays the price” of pregnancy. The woman goes through the discomfort of pregnancy, she risks her life to have a baby, she bears the consequences, emotional and physical, for an abortion. It’s her body and ONLY her body that’s affected. So yeah, I guess it’s slightly unfair, but until a man can say “I’ll take this pregnancy off your hands, then” I’m afraid that the only one to make the final decision regarding an existing pregnancy is the woman

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