Celtic Riverside – The Online Journal of James Keenan

Questions for Readers

I wrestle with a lot of questions about myself, about my sense of activism. As anyone who has ever taken a communication course knows, we have windows into ourselves as well as others. I know things about myself that I know you also know. I know things about myself that I know you do not.

More to the point, you know things about me that I do not. In some cases, I know that I do not know those things, and in other cases it’s such a blind spot that I don’t even know it’s a thing.

Here are some examples, in the form of non-rhetorical questions, that I have about my blind spots (and links to related pieces on those areas that may provide useful context):

Moral Flexibility and Privilege

I’m morally inflexible on a number of issues. If a thing is wrong, then it’s wrong and I cannot do it because “the ends justify the means”. It’s incumbent on me to find an alternate, moral way of satisfying those means. However, am I allowed that sense of moral inflexibility because of my privilege? It’s easy not to steal when one isn’t starving. Does being a straight, white male allow me more freedom to be that strict about my morality?

Devil’s Advocate (Logic and Certainty)

Another thing readers and followers may know about me through other posts is that I’m a people-pleaser who hates conflict. I want to be kind. I want to hear your take on things, even if it’s inexpert and purely your belief. Unless it’s something I find egregiously wrong, I love discussing alternative viewpoints.

I am not an expert. In anything. One can make the argument that no one is truly expert, but I mean even from a practical standpoint. I’ve worked in multiple industries doing multiple jobs. My degrees are only marginally related to that career work. I have studied in multiple areas both formally through school and as a matter of personal interest. I have a strong intellect, a predilection for analysis, and a grasp of theoretical concepts that makes me intelligent, but I’m no expert.

I recognise that. In some cases, I present my best understanding of the issue publicly so that others might challenge it. In other cases, I have little understanding and might actually take a side just to provoke those who do have information into discussion. In those cases, I love to take a back seat immediately and let the discussion play out, not continue to argue from a place of ignorance to promote discussion.

But therein lies the rub. Do I have a responsibility to commit more strongly to positions, knowing they could be wrong, just to have the discussion? This is not debate. I’m not an expert, and typically the other person is not. We are two people who have formed worldviews debating those worldviews on the basis of the facts and anecdotes that led us to that worldview. When we leave, we’re most likely to be entrenched further in that worldview because it was assaulted. If I’m not arguing though, many people lose interest. Conflict drives narrative.

What, exactly, is my role in getting “off the fence” and engaged in discussions where I acknowledge that my entire position may be foolish or ignorant?

Male Feminism and Sex as a Motivator

If a woman I find physically attractive interacts with me, is nice to me, actively flirts with me, it arouses me as a straight man. However, it’s also true in my case that sex is a poor motivator. I have this ability to “fast-forward” to a point where “we’ve had sex, now what?” and most of the time I’ve lost interest.

I’m an introvert. I have my moral inflexibility. Finding people who I not only like but also can have around on a regular basis is a challenge. With most people I like to interact, go our own way, then meet up again later. So I know that short-term interest, that instantaneous arousal, is not worth much to me in the end. What is in my interest is to put that aside and focus on the relationship.

But with that ability to diffuse any sexual tension, I sometimes wonder, Do I relate poorly with the average man? Is my sense of feminism and treating women as humans rather than sexual objects coming from an atypical sex drive? I certainly want to expect more of men – I don’t want to believe they are generally incapable of functioning when women are present (eg. the college football team who could not have the women’s track team running in their sports bras). Is it possible that for many men it is biologically impossible move beyond that and I’m part of a unique population of men who can?

I feel angered by men who “think with their dicks”, but does it come from an achieved place of enlightenment or from the fact that my ability not to do that is so naturally and easily procured? As a man dedicated to gender equality, do I need to alter my approach to this? Certainly I have a responsibility to society as a man to hold other men accountable, but the method is something with which I may be ineffective.

2 Responses to “Questions for Readers”

  1. Cass

    I don’t buy the argument that it’s “physically impossible” for men to overcome their biological/ sexual urges. (Exceptions for a few physiological impairments.) I think the crux of the matter is that most men don’t ever get past the privilege of NOT having to get over their own urges. Selfishly, they know that the world will (usually) accommodate them. A track team not being able to practice in sports bras, because men are distracted is ridiculous. Are these men allowed at the beach? If they can’t focus around a sports bra- then they shouldn’t be! And how- just how- can they play a game when there are cheerleaders around? Hm…

    From middle school on, women are given a dress code- so as not to distract the boys. Until it’s time to go perform and look cute for the boys (looking at you cheer leading!) In my opinion, if a grown man can’t get past his sexual urges enough to function around women- there’s a problem, and not with the women!

    As an aside, it seems as if men bond over objectifying women, which reinforces this behavior.

    In short, no, I don’t think that biological urges are really what’s at play here. I think it’s all about power and entitlement. After all, every human being has to put away their basic biological urges to function in society. Why should waiting to eat until you’re on your lunch break be a given, but treating human beings as non-sexual objects be excused?



    • Cass

      Yikes! I was being cheeky with my cheerleader comment. As a former cheerleader, I have no issue with cheerleaders. I just think that it’s silly that middle school/high school cheerleaders can break the school’s dress code- while VERY publicly representing the school. I know that there’s more than “just looking cute” involved.
      My apologies!



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