Seneca, Superiority and Self-Control

This post by Andrea Rubenstein touched on, inter alia, the trope of men as unable to exert self control:

II. Men as Beasts

What about the opposite sex hits me like lightning and instantly shatters my self control?

This trope is used everywhere from journal articles about rape (the good old “boys will be boys” defense) to abstinence only education (”you gotta hold on to your virginity, girls, because those men are beasts who would take it without a second thought!”). One reason I think this one is used and abused by men is because it acts as a “get out of responsibility free” card — “I can’t be held accountable for my behaviour, Your Honor, after all I’m a man and she’s a woman!” kind of deal. Men lose their self control around women and become these sexual beasts who can only think of the woman sexually and, sometimes, will go to any length to get what they want.

But, really, what does that say about men? That y’all are, deep down inside, horrible people? That you have no more control over yourselves than a baby does over its bladder? Is this really a view of manhood that’s worth perpetuating?

She reminded me of a quote from Seneca (referenced by Edith Hamilton in The Roman Way):

Do you allow the master of the house an intrigue with his slave-woman?  Then, of course, you allow the mistress to consort with her man-slave?  No?  Yet you hold a man superior to a woman?  Less able, then, to restrain his desires?  Your position, you see, is untenable.  If men claim superiority to women, they must show themselves superior in self-control.

~ by arkhilokhus on April 11, 2008.

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