How important is this issue of men getting away with unwanted or humiliating sexual behavior toward women?  I would argue that it has a very long tail.  A New York Times article about the impact of the Access Hollywood tape on couples reported that many women who had been sexually assaulted earlier in life had never told their husbands or anyone else for that matter.  Never, that is, until the so-called locker room talk tape came out.

Most people found the talk of uninvited sexual touching and groping to be disturbing.  What caught my attention was that many men and women saw this as a minor issue compared to the larger issues facing the world.

The article describes the husband of one woman responding as follows:

“He was a guy’s guy,” Mr. Smith said of Mr. Trump, noting that he had run beauty pageants. “He was surrounded by beautiful women. He shouldn’t have said them, I agree. That being said, we have so many larger problems to worry about” (my italics).

This sounds right on the surface when you think of all the terrible things going on in some parts of the world.  I believe Mr. Smith meant that sexual harassment is a women’s issue, a thing that exists in its own little niche and is not life-threatening. But is it really separate from these other “larger problems”?

I wondered whether the gender issue may be woven into the larger conflicts and crises we face, here and abroad.  Perhaps the minor issue of sexual harassment is not so minor.

Practical problems

Many larger problems have little or nothing to do with gender issues.  They are practical problems we can agree about.

Some “larger problems” stem from major dislocations resulting from technological and other changes specific to the current period.  For example, the problem that jobs are being shipped overseas and many middle class families and communities have been struggling for economic survival.  This is evidently due to large scale changes resulting from things like globalization, automation, and shifts to clean energy.

Likewise, cyber security qualifies as a “large” problem.  But these seem to me to be problems that, although serious, are solvable.  The problem of declining  manufacturing jobs can be addressed in various ways.  It is just that, a problem that can be solved even if it takes a while.  As for cyber security, our national security experts are pretty confident that we can get a handle on it.  It is a new challenge, but over time it can and undoubtedly will be effectively addressed.

War and the male role

From tribal clashes to world wars, the seemingly endless conflicts about domination, control of territory and resources seem to be larger problems of a different kind.  They persist and seem to have no practical solution in sight.  And they cause and have always caused human suffering on a large scale.

I am not making the time-worn case that “if women ruled the world…” But in this age of questioning of our gender roles and of challenging  rigid ideas about our sexuality, one can see in these  “larger problems” the signature of what is known as “toxic masculinity” or “masculopathy”.

Toxic masculinity demands that there be an extreme opposite, an “other”.  The ability to dominate and control only makes sense in contrast to the group being defeated and humiliated.  Ideally the male role does not take this form.  Dr. Frank Pittman in his classic book “Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity” argues that exaggerated masculinity results from inadequate fathering and male role modeling.

Larger global socioeconomic changes in the US and in the world generally have put extraordinary stresses on families and their ability to raise children.  It is only in my lifetime that it has become impossible for most people in the US to support a family on one income.  It is also in my lifetime that women have entered the “male” world of the professions, the boardrooms, and government.  Women have begun to balk at being the weaker sex just at the time when men are most uncertain as to their male identity compared to their fathers’ generation.

Terrorism, totalitarianism and xenophobia

The religious extremism and terrorism confronting the world today are big problems which have everything to do with the sexual domination of women.  Often the ideology is one that systematically oppresses and disenfranchises women.  Women often cannot go to school, go out alone, drive a car or vote.  This is the toxic masculinity these ideologies are fighting to protect.

The enslavement of the enemy’s women and the rape of women and girls in terrorist conflicts illustrate that male domination and the protection of the male role underlies and is central to the way the conflicts are played out.

The paranoia around preserving ones sense of self demands the domination of what is “other” and “alien”.  A different race a different nationality, a different religion.  And  what is male dominance answer to these fears?  Totalitarianism, the strongman leader, and of course the appeal of Trump to the most threatened among us.

Interconnectedness is the ultimate answer to these persistent conflicts. And enforcing separateness, the rejection of difference is an elaboration on the need to enforce gender differences.

The sexual harassment of women is in fact fairly pervasive even in our advanced society.  It represents a base need for male dominance that runs through many of the other, “larger” problems we face.

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource and at www.sexaddictionscounseling.com