Every man who’s fit to live has his own stories about the time, like a Hard Case character, he ducked the police, got in over his head with money, or abandoned himself in pursuit of love or sex. We’ve all climbed up windowsills, driven all night, and gotten into fights over a girl. Of course, a man must be able to read a woman’s signals, and it’s a good thing that feminism is teaching young men that no means no and yes means yes. But there’s also that ambiguous middle ground, where the woman seems interested and indicates, whether verbally or not, that the man needs to prove himself to her. And if that man is any kind of man, he’ll allow himself to feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion. —Mark Judge, “Hard Case Crime: The Beauty of Male Passion,” Splice Today, September 10, 2015.
Mark Judge was often quoted in 2018 during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Many of his articles were used against him and Kavanaugh, often taken out of context. The quote above, in particular, was repeated so often that people who’ve read nothing else Judge has written may have read this one paragraph.
I disagree with Judge on many issues, but there’s one thing on which we agree: the beauty of uncontrollable passion. It can be wild, it can be scary, it can cause people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do, but it’s the life force. And in the right context, it can heal trauma better than any therapy I’ve ever tried or researched.
I found Mark Judge while writing about harm reduction for alcohol—the topic for which I am best known—searched for “fetishization of sobriety” and came up with a 2003 Washington Post article he wrote about Alcoholic Anonymous. I wrote to him, he kindly replied and suggested that I read his book, The Devil’s Triangle: Mark Judge vs. the New American Stasi, though I may disagree with it.
I liked his writing style, his swagger, and his openness in writing about his experience [and observation of ] maleness. While I’ve never met him, reading Judge triggered a memory that I had suppressed for a period of time: I really like men. After a period of abstinence from some enjoyable forms of male companionship, I started dating again. I rediscovered that I like men with a little swagger: men who aren’t afraid to say what they mean, stand up for themselves and what they believe in, and open the car door for a lady. Today’s version of gentlemen warriors don’t have to fight wars or play sports, but to get my attention they have to have a strong sense of who they are and be comfortable with defending it.
I have good feminist credentials: I was a union organizer for an almost entirely female workforce (nurses) for 20 years, then I got my Masters in Public Health and proceeded to work in harm reduction for people who abuse alcohol. Much of my work has been helping women get out from under combinations of abusive family situations and alcohol use that left them trapped in an endless, deadly cycle.
I’ve been sexually assaulted more than once. Sexual assault isn’t about passion, it’s about power. Violence. Rape is no more about sex than being stabbed to death with a kitchen knife is about cooking. Fortunately, none of this turned me off from raw male passion. I love it when a man does crazy things to impress me. I want him to be obsessed with my high heels.
Women who openly show passion for men get attacked from left, right and center. Our mothers told us not to chase boys. A popular brand of feminism tells us not to dress in ways that traditionally are considered attractive to men. I’ve been shamed for wearing high heels, doing my nails and wearing my hair long. I’ve been told I only think that I want to dress that way because the patriarchy is so ingrained in my mind that I don’t know what I want.
I do know what I want. I want to look in the mirror and feel sexy and want to know that the man I’m about to meet for dinner is going to lose his mind. What’s wrong with that? I don’t want to be a passive object of the male gaze, waiting around for some guy to pick me out of the crowd and decide to give me a good (or mediocre) time. I don’t want to cover myself in unisex clothing that hides my curves. I know I’m valued for my brains; I make my living off my intellect, not my body. But when work’s done I want to be with a man who isn’t afraid of some raw female passion.
Women who want men have been caricatured and demonized. Judge mentions this characterization: “There’s also the pulp tradition of the bête noir, the woman who is sharper and crazier than any man and maneuvers the protagonist to his doom.” I spend some time fighting against that stereotype. I’m not trying to lure anyone to their doom. Just to dinner.