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The Myth of Warren Farrell: Farrell on Rape, Part One

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No book has had more influence over the Men’s Rights movement than Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power. Published in 1993, in the heyday of the early 90s antifeminist backlash, it set the agenda for the Men’s Rights movement as it’s developed over the last two decades.  He’s the one who came up with the notions of “male disposability” and the “death professions.” He’s the one who got MRAs fixated on the issue of draft registration.

Indeed, so pervasive has his influence been that if you see an MRA making a dumb argument anywhere on the Internet, the chances are probably more than 50-50 that it originated in the pages of Farrell’s book. Despite its age, and its eccentricity, The Myth of Male Power is still the first book recommended to MRA newbies in the sidebar of the Men’s Rights subreddit, the most active MRA hangout online.

It’s a book that deserves a lot more attention than I have been giving it on this blog. Sure, I’ve written about Farrell’s strange and creepy notions about incest, as set forth in a notorious interview in Penthouse in the 1970s, and about his recent attempts to explain away these views. But I haven’t devoted any blog posts to his most influential work. I intend to rectify that now, with a series of posts on some of Farrell’s chief arguments and assertions.

I will start with several posts on Farrell’s views on rape, which has been the subject of much controversy of late. This part will deal with his general statements on rape and sexuality; another will explore in more detail his views on date rape (did he really describe it as “exciting?”); and still another will look at the vast assortment of things he has inappropriately compared to rape.

Pinning down what Farrell “really believes” about rape – and indeed, about almost anything– is difficult. Farrell’s arguments, such as they are, are slippery and evasive. Instead of setting forth a clear argument about rape, Farrell instead provides us with a series of jumbled metaphors and strange comparisons. Instead of trying to summarize them – many of them defy summary — let’s just go through them one by one.

Farrell supporters will likely suggest that these quotes are taken “out of context,” to which I can only say: Check his book to see for yourself. None of his troubling quotes are any less troubling, or for that matter any clearer, in context, and many don’t have much of a context. Farrell writes in a rambling, free-associational style, and many of the “arguments” he makes in the following quotes seem to come from out of the blue, and are never developed further (though some, as you will see, are referenced again in later quotes).

Page numbers given are from the 1993 hardcover edition of The Myth of Male Power.

All that out of the way, let’s jump right in:

Near the start of his book , Farrell sets the tone for what will come by suggesting that men suffer as much sexual trauma from women’s mixed signals as women do from rape:

Feminism has taught women to sue men for sexual harassment or date rape when men initiate with the wrong person or with the wrong timing; no one has taught men to sue women for sexual trauma for saying “yes,” then “no,” then “yes.” … Men [are] still expected to initiate, but now, if they [do] it badly, they could go to jail. (p. 16)

Here, he elaborates on the notion that rape is a matter of bad timing, of “tak[ing] risks too quickly.”

In the past, both sexes were anxious about sex and pregnancy. Now the pill minimizes her anxiety and condoms increase his. Now the pimple faced boy must still risk rejection while also overcoming his own fear of herpes and AIDS and reassuring her there is nothing to fear. He must still do the sexual risk-taking, but now he can be put in jail if he takes risks too quickly or be called a wimp if he doesn’t take them quickly enough . (p. 168)

Here, Farrell falls back on the old “rape is misunderstanding” canard, and somehow manages to compare sexual activity –- from kissing up to and including rape — to eating a bag of potato chips.

It is also possible for a woman to go back to a man’s room, tell him she doesn’t want to have intercourse, mean it, start kissing, have intercourse, and then wish she hadn’t in the morning. How? Kissing is like eating potato chips. Before we know it, we’ve gone further than we said we would. (p. 311)

Here, he seems to seriously suggest that juries could do a better job judging rape cases if they were sexually aroused.

The problem with every judgment of sexual behavior is that it is made by people who aren’t being stimulated as they are making the judgment. A jury that sees a woman in a sterile courtroom, asks her what she wanted, and then assumes that anything else she did was the responsibility of the man is insulting not only the woman but the power of sex. (p. 312)

And then he returns to the potato chip metaphor.

A man being sued after a woman has more sex than intended is like Lay’s being sued after someone has more potato chips than intended. In brief, date rape can be a crime, a misunderstanding, or buyer’s remorse. (p. 312)

Farrell repeatedly tries to absolve men of sexual wrongdoing by suggesting that they are literally intoxicated by female beauty.

Sexually, of course, the sexes aren’t equal. It is exactly a woman’s greater sexual power that often makes a man so fearful of being rejected by her that he buys himself drinks to reduce his fear. In essence, her sexual power often leads to him drinking; his sexual power rarely leads to her drinking. If anything is evidence of her power over him, it is his being expected to spend his money to buy her drinks without her reciprocating.  …

It is  men – far more than women – whose mental capacities are diminished when they are “under the influence” of a beautiful woman. (p. 320)

But Farrell thinks it’s “sexist” – against men – to put men in jail for “selling sex” to intoxicated women:

As long as society tells men to be the salespersons of sex, it is sexist for society to put only men in jail if they sell well. We don’t put other salespersons in jail for buying clients drinks and successfully transforming a “no” into a “maybe” into a “yes.” If the client makes a choice to drink too much and the “yes” turns out to be a bad decision, it is the client who gets fired, not the salesperson.  (p. 321)

We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of Warren Farrell’s equally daft and disturbing views on sex and rape. Stay tuned.

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Chie Satonaka
Chie Satonaka
9 years ago

As long as society tells men to be the salespersons of sex, it is sexist for society to put only men in jail if they sell well. We don’t put other salespersons in jail for buying clients drinks and successfully transforming a “no” into a “maybe” into a “yes.”

What’s truly pathetic is Farrell has no idea how closely he is echoing the “reviled” Andrea Dworkin’s very discussion of how sex is framed in our patriarchal culture – that it is something that men must “win” and “take” from women, who are tasked with “protecting” themselves from it.

Chie Satonaka
Chie Satonaka
9 years ago

The only difference of course is that Farrell is outrightly arguing that rape is just a standard courtship ritual.

BabyLawyer
BabyLawyer
9 years ago

Sexually, of course, the sexes aren’t equal. It is exactly a woman’s greater sexual power that often makes a man so fearful of being rejected by her that he buys himself drinks to reduce his fear. In essence, her sexual power often leads to him drinking; his sexual power rarely leads to her drinking. If anything is evidence of her power over him, it is his being expected to spend his money to buy her drinks without her reciprocating. …

It is men – far more than women – whose mental capacities are diminished when they are “under the influence” of a beautiful woman. (p. 320)

Holy shit. That was some truly breathtaking scapegoating. BRB, going to go erase that from my mind with a 3 martini lunch at a shitty Italian chain place.

Nobinayamu
Nobinayamu
9 years ago

I see.

So, clearly, Farrell is an advocate of increasing awareness on what precisely constitutes rape. Anyone who truly believes that rape can be a simple, transactional misunderstanding would be supportive of the need to educate.

serrana
9 years ago

Does Farrell ever argue that the way we view heterosexual courtship and sex is wrong and needs to be changed, or does he just use it to excuse rape?

Bagelsan
Bagelsan
9 years ago

I’m pretty sure business contracts aren’t valid if you get one party pass-out drunk and then move their hand yourself to form the signature. I’m also fairly sure that “silence” doesn’t equal “sure, we’ll buy a million of your shitty cars!” in any business relationship… nor does it trump an earlier “no.” So even aside from how fucked up the business transaction metaphor is, it’s just plain inaccurate.

Historophilia
Historophilia
9 years ago

Well this is all vomit inducing *shudders*

And on another note, hello everyone! I haven’t been around in a while as I’ve just started back at University and have had a hell of a lot to do with essays due in, exams in a few weeks and various other things.

One of the things that has been taking up a lot of my time is my continuing quest to get my University Students Union to ratify the Feminist Society which I’m setting up.

Being ratified basically means we can get funding and advertising from the Union, and have a University email address and access to the system which makes it easier to book rooms and allows us to have a stall at the Fresher’s Fair at the start of the year along with all the other Societies on campus.

They rejected the first application and yesterday I had to present an appeal to a committee and then they’ve rejected the appeal only this morning.

We’re having our first meeting tonight and we’ve got to decide where we go from here, so wish us luck!

opium4themasses
9 years ago

So much of this reminds me of when I was younger. Even by the end of high school, these ideas were looking mighty shabby. To see a married father saying this still floors me.

howardbann1ster
9 years ago

it is sexist for society to put only men in jail if they sell well.

…there is no FUCK YOU in the world big enough for this shit.

hellkell
hellkell
9 years ago

It is men – far more than women – whose mental capacities are diminished when they are “under the influence” of a beautiful woman. (p. 320)

How misandrist of him. He clearly thinks men can’t control themselves.

Hey, MRM, nice “father” you’ve got there.

katz
9 years ago

One of the things that has been taking up a lot of my time is my continuing quest to get my University Students Union to ratify the Feminist Society which I’m setting up.

Get Patrick Rothfuss to be your adviser.

(Background: Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, was a faculty adviser for a feminist student group. He also said that he liked taking pretty girls to horror movies because “Occasionally, it’s nice to have an attractive young woman cling to you in a moment of pure animal terror.”)

theladyzombie
9 years ago

Shorter Farrell: Men are just hapless victims. They eat too many potato chips so they can’t help but rape because of reasons. Women are always, always to blame for rape.

‘K, got it.

Nobinayamu
Nobinayamu
9 years ago

So even aside from how fucked up the business transaction metaphor is, it’s just plain inaccurate.

This.

As someone who actually has made money working in high-end, commission sales – specifically for women- not once have I seen any of these jackasses provide an accurate representation of sales work.

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
9 years ago

David, did you slog through the whole book? You deserve some kind of medal for subjecting your brain to that.

In the past, both sexes were anxious about sex and pregnancy. Now the pill minimizes her anxiety and condoms increase his. Now the pimple faced boy must still risk rejection while also overcoming his own fear of herpes and AIDS and reassuring her there is nothing to fear. He must still do the sexual risk-taking, but now he can be put in jail if he takes risks too quickly or be called a wimp if he doesn’t take them quickly enough . (p. 168)

Women, of course, do not get STDs. And the Pill never fails.

It is also possible for a woman to go back to a man’s room, tell him she doesn’t want to have intercourse, mean it, start kissing, have intercourse, and then wish she hadn’t in the morning. How? Kissing is like eating potato chips. Before we know it, we’ve gone further than we said we would. (p. 311)

Going further than you set out to is not the same as being raped. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that he didn’t talk to any actual women in the course of writing this book. Is he presenting this as an opinion piece, or is he pretending to have research and facts on his side?

Sexually, of course, the sexes aren’t equal. It is exactly a woman’s greater sexual power that often makes a man so fearful of being rejected by her that he buys himself drinks to reduce his fear. In essence, her sexual power often leads to him drinking; his sexual power rarely leads to her drinking. If anything is evidence of her power over him, it is his being expected to spend his money to buy her drinks without her reciprocating. …

It is men – far more than women – whose mental capacities are diminished when they are “under the influence” of a beautiful woman. (p. 320)

A+ misandry right here.

As long as society tells men to be the salespersons of sex, it is sexist for society to put only men in jail if they sell well. We don’t put other salespersons in jail for buying clients drinks and successfully transforming a “no” into a “maybe” into a “yes.” If the client makes a choice to drink too much and the “yes” turns out to be a bad decision, it is the client who gets fired, not the salesperson. (p. 321)

I’m pretty sure a contract isn’t binding if one of the parties is drunk, nor should it be. Even when you compare rape to a business transaction (ew), the facts still aren’t in the rapist’s favor.

Mouse
Mouse
9 years ago

You know, Farrel, it’s actually quite easy to avoid raping someone. In fact, most people I know have not raped someone and do not seem to think it’s difficult to avoid. In short, you’re a disgusting piece of shit.

leftwingfox
9 years ago

Yeah, there’s pretty much no way you can salvage…

A man being sued after a woman has more sex than intended is like Lay’s being sued after someone has more potato chips than intended. In brief, date rape can be a crime, a misunderstanding, or buyer’s remorse. (p. 312)

…with context, unless that context begins with “Someone else said” and ends with “,and they’re an idiot”

This is like the world’s worst analogy. It treats the man as the passive provider (Lay’s) being sued because the active taker (the eater) took too much and regretted it. Date rape is the exact fucking opposite, when someone takes more than the other is willing to part with.

If corrected, this would be like Lay’s suing the convenience store owner for taking the entire delivery truck, rather than just their shipment.

And even then, it would be “Theft”. NOT RAPE.

I swear, anyone using this analogy should attend a class of ju-jitsu where their sparring partner ignores their attempts to tap out. Should give them a good dose of empathy for “Getting more match than they intended to”

genderneutrallanguage
9 years ago

Wow so hundreds of pages of well researched and documented writing boil down to “Men raping women is good”. Glad to know you have a screw loose in there.

Your entire post is “We should take every rape allegations at face value no questions asked, no investigation done, never even consider any possibility other than the divinity of women, guilty until proven innocent” Sorry that’s just BULLSHIT.

theladyzombie
9 years ago

…well researched and documented writing

*snicker*

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
9 years ago

Your entire post is “We should take every rape allegations at face value no questions asked, no investigation done, never even consider any possibility other than the divinity of women, guilty until proven innocent” Sorry that’s just BULLSHIT.

It’s true. The only possible positions here are “date rape isn’t real” and “women are divine and all rape accusations are true”. There are literally no other possible opinions.

Bob Dole
Bob Dole
9 years ago

This is it, Futrelle is critiquing the possible final boss of the men’s movement.

I say possible, as I personally consider Daniel Amneus a better candidate since he pretty much set up the hypergamy argument, the core of MRA calls to subjugate women and call it compassion.

katz
9 years ago

…I totally thought trolly mctrollersons was being sarcastic at first.

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
9 years ago

Poe’s Law in action (did we come up with an MRA version? Hoe’s Law, maybe?)

katz
9 years ago

Because this is totally a good summary of Farrell!

Wow so hundreds of pages of well researched and documented writing boil down to “Men raping women is good”.

Dvärghundspossen
9 years ago

I’m pretty sure business contracts aren’t valid if you get one party pass-out drunk and then move their hand yourself to form the signature. I’m also fairly sure that “silence” doesn’t equal “sure, we’ll buy a million of your shitty cars!” in any business relationship… nor does it trump an earlier “no.” So even aside from how fucked up the business transaction metaphor is, it’s just plain inaccurate.

THIS.

Sure, I guess a salesperson could take the client out to dinner and be all charming and stuff, and make the client change zir mind, and then the contract will be valid even if the client had had a drink or to. Likewise, if a man persuades a woman to go on a date with him although she’s not that interested to start with, but during dinner she starts to change her mind and find him attractive after all, and then they have sex after a couple of drinks, THAT’S NOT RAPE EITHER. But maybe Farrell thinks that’s what “date-rape” or “raping someone too drunk to consent” MEANS?

inurashii
inurashii
9 years ago

gendernutter:

You address literally nothing in Dave’s post. Weak neg, try again.

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