Yesterday, I had a long IM conversation where I ended up having said that "testosterone filled, guy movies" equals movies about rape. And there were no do-overs.
Because I know Frank is studying Spanish I suggested he should watch The Secret in Their Eyes. He dismissed it as something that probably wasn't for him, so I asked "What kind of movies do you like, anyway?" and he obliged with "guy movies." I said, somewhat dishonestly, that I didn't know what that meant so he elaborated with a link to Maxim's Top 100 movies of All Time.
Ok, here it comes: I tried to pitch my movie again, I said, "The Secret in Their Eyes is a rape/murder story with a bit of romance. Lot's of testosterone." I thought that was kind of funny, but Frank got irate. He said that rape is disgusting and horrible and guy movies aren't about rape, etc, etc. Then to his credit he calmed down a bit and started making me explain myself. "Why did I link rape and testosterone? Rape is not always done by men. Guy movies aren't about rape,"
I said, lamely, that "well, there is a man raping a woman," not wanting to suggest a scientific link since while frantically googling I couldn't really find anything that would bear that out, and also being confused at how horribly my joke had misfired.
In my opinion though, I think there is a relatively short perceptual leap between testosterone and rape. That is, rape being a means to assert power over women and reinforce a sense of manliness. I didn't think that this idea was new or very controversial. Just look at how methodical rape is used a weapon, recently in Darfur. I wasn't trying to suggest that there is a link between testosterone levels and rape, or that all men rape, or that manliness equals rape or even that guy movies are about rape.
But somehow, no matter what I said, this is exactly what I came across as having claimed.
Fired up and angry and ready to make a point, I stubbornly started looking into the movies on the list. It turned out that there is a strong link between guy movies and rape, many of them feature sexual violence, or the threat thereof, others make lurid jokes about rape and date rape.
Pointing this out didn't help, and at some point Frank told me to "stop trying to be logical, and that I was making something stupid more stupid" which almost made me choke at the classical chauvinist stance he was taking.
We circled around this for a while, him calling BS on the link between testosterone and rape and me trying to explain what I had initially meant and the conclusions I had come to later. Eventually, I said I was going to bow out because we weren't getting anywhere, and I went and took a shower.
In the shower I realized several things: 1) sometimes you just cannot reach a understanding no matter how hard you try 2) you can choose to back down and not be angry about it 3) he wasn't trying to understand my point of view at all, he was way too angry.
I was so relieved and happy, I stayed in the shower for a long time. When I got back to my computer, Frank had told me that I was wrong about the first point, and wrong about the point I was trying to make later, and "bye then," like a child squeezing in one last "yes, you did!" I felt bad for him, feeling so insecure and I wanted to make him feel better, but the only way to do that would be to do some variant of "you're sooo smart, I totally misunderstood it all!" (And I presumed he'd see through that.)
Because I'd come off as preachy and self-serving I can't tell him what I have learned about anger: how you get flooded and you can no longer think straight. How a single detail somehow gets so important that you must crush your opponent if not with your wits then with your scorn. How humiliating it is to realize that you have (yet again) sunk to the depth of yelling and swearing and calling people names. How resentful, bitter and insecure you become when it turns out that the thing you were so sure about was something else completely.
And I can't tell him that I have realized that I don't have to engage. I don't have to let the disrespect of the other irritate me or goad me into anger. And if it does, I can choose to back down. I can choose to stop talking, I can choose to ignore any "just walk away then!" yelled after me as I leave the room.
The adrenaline rush of that righteous fury doesn't do shit for me other than enhance the memory of how wronged I have been, and I'd just rather not feel wronged.