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For Men, It's Not a Matter of Learning--But Unlearning

November 13, 1994

Phil Berardelli's column on male-female relationships in our society ("What a Father Dreads Most for His Little Girls," Oct. 31) blames male contempt for women in our society on lack of civilization. He is mistaken.

It is not schoolboy vulgarity that is the source of the contempt men feel toward women and female sexuality in our society.

Rather, it is the Augustinian tradition of regarding devotion to moral purpose as a "higher, spiritual" function of the mind, as contrasted with the cravings for bodily pleasure, which are, to this day, regarded as "lower, non-spiritual" feelings.

Since the attraction of a man for a woman is looked upon as the result of the "lower" cravings, female sexuality is looked upon as appealing to human "weakness." Men fight these cravings not by denigrating their own sexuality, but by denigrating the female's capacity to enhance and satisfy these cravings.

So you see, it is not lack of civilization that causes men to denigrate and act brutally toward women; it is an excess of the wrong kind of civilization. Thus, men in our society do not have a lot to learn--they have a lot to unlearn.

LARRY SELK, Los Angeles

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Phil Berardelli paints a poignant picture of a father's concerns for his daughters. He is certainly justified in that feeling and he has my complete sympathy.

But he should know that any place where teens gather you will find girls on the prowl. You will find many boys, who would otherwise mind their own business, forced into aggressive behavior so they won't appear like wimps.

The plain truth is that men are only a half of the wicked population.

JOHN DEGATINA, Los Angeles

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Another male mea culpa. OK. But: We are still, after thousands of years, attributing lousy human behavior to our so-called animal nature. If humans behave badly, they are beasts in the throes of "animal, inhuman rage."

I propose that animals never behave with the cruelty and depravity of humans. They certainly don't mix sex and rage. As a matter of fact, the females of most species make males earn their favors by growing fabulous plumage, gorgeous stripes or huge horns.

The scorn and contempt women have endured in our society for millennia is not found in other animal populations. So please, spare us the beast metaphor and own up to the truth: Human behavior can be uniquely despicable and malignant.

RACHEL ROSENTHAL, Los Angeles

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Phil Berardelli's article stated very well most fathers' concerns for their daughters.

However, atrocities are perpetrated against our sons as well, mentally and physically.

We all bear responsibility for this behavior. We all fail, women and men, at some point in our lives to instill proper respect and concern for fellow human beings in our offspring.

DAVID COMPAS, Long Beach

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