One of the early posts on this blog, back in December 2007, was titled “Swagger vs Grovel.” It contrasted two “primal” male responses on encountering a beautiful female:
1. to strut and swagger, or
2. to be awestruck
As examples of “first responders,” I listed some familiar icons of movie masculinity—John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, et al.
But, guess what, just as many popular Hollywood actors can be found in the second category of responders—“men reduced to stammering, groveling adolescence by mere proximity to female splendor.” I cited Jerry Lewis, Woodie Allen, Jack Lemmon and many others, including, prototypically, Dudley Moore in “10.”
One among many groveling leading guys whom I overlooked, a familiar face on vintage movie channels, is Danny Kaye, especially in his Walter Mittyesque pursuit of Virginia Mayo,
In these films, I noted, “goddess worship could hardly be more explicit, nor the imbalance of power between male supplicant and dominant female more visible.”
I fancied my “swagger vs. grovel” formulation rather original. But I am not unhappy to learn that others have explored these same ideas and, in at last once instance, penetrated far deeper into the matter. In fact, it has prompted this sequel to that two-year-old posting.
I have in mind a short article on male psychology, “What Are You Staring At?” by Tomomi Kumakura, Ph.D. It can be found reprinted on the Dreamloverlabs website among their “Male Management” articles. I don’t know the original publication source.
In the article’s opening paragraphs the “Swagger” response is defined as “active lust,” and “Grovel” as “passive lust:
There are two psychologically distinct ways in which males can perceive a woman's beauty… The first psychological stance is that of the predator. In this case, the male's arousal is accompanied by what I call “active lust” which can be summed up as a wish to dominate the female and make her his through copulation.
The second possible stance that males can have is, however, a lot more interesting… and it consists in the same intense arousal associated with a sensation of worshipfulness, reverence, adoration; sometimes even awe. I call this “passive lust.”
The writer goes on to explain how this type of lust renders husbands and boyfriends much more amenable to behavior modification by the women in their lives:
The “worshipful trance” of the drooling, seduced male is a desired state in which willful compliance can be obtained; in fact, the ease of training of most naturally compliant males derives from the psychological position of weakness they perceive when exposed to feminine beauty… This sort of male is "locked into" the passive lust modality.
The article continues in a similar tongue-in-cheek behavioristic vein, yet, despite her playfulness, I don’t think Dr. Kumakura can be written off as a mere parodist, even when she explains how she exploits her own husband’s passive lust on her own behalf. Her psychological observations on this topic ring absolutely true to me—and I should know.
As I wrote to one who commented on my first “Swagger vs. Grovel” posting, “[A sense of awe and worshipfulness when faced with feminine beauty] is the jumping-off place in my own experience for all this wife-worship stuff. I can't control the response, and it can be almost overpowering, like being swept with some kind of brain-overload, however you want to describe it, even religious ecstasy.”
Hey, but isn’t that how Rocky Balboa felt about Adrian? Be careful, you macho guys. It could happen to you.