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Missing From the Domination Fest: Men

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Now that women are empowered, they feel guilty about it. They tried out equality and decided it's not so hot. And they're tormented by the fuzzy boundaries between sex and aggression.

Am I getting this right, ladies?

These, apparently, are the startling revelations generated by the surprising success of Fifty Shades of Grey, the pulpy piece of porn-lite that is now stuffed surreptitiously into the backpacks and diaper bags of millions of American women. For those just emerging from the cloister, the compliant heroine of the book, Anastasia Steele, happily submits to spanking, bondage and other risque acts with the sadistic billionaire Christian Grey. He wears the pants in the family, and she wears whatever he wants her to. Because she loves him. And she never heard of Gloria Steinem.

That's not all. There's a violent spanking scene in the recent movie A Dangerous Method. The popular new TV series Girls features ambitious twentysomethings who fantasize about sexual submission to men as an antidote to their exhausting, you-go-girl careers. There: That's three, which proves it's a trend. "Spanking goes mainstream," declared Newsweek.

Since we don't analyze women's psyches enough, Submissionpalooza has provided a much-needed moment of self-examination, with familiar experts like Katie Roiphe and Katha Pollitt explaining what it all means. If I understand it all correctly, today's women are having an adverse reaction to the feminism they grew up with, and the economic power their forbears bravely earned for them--but they themselves never asked for. Roiphe, in Newsweek, explains the "current vogue for domination" this way: "It may be that power is not always that comfortable... it may be that equality is something we want only sometimes and in some places and in some arenas; it may be that power and all of its imperatives can be boring."

Roiphe is smarter than I am, plus she knows what lurks in women's souls and I don't, but I wonder if she might be leaving something out: Could it also be that today's men--economically descendant, oblivious inside their headphones, and upstaged by women at every turn--have simply lost their dominator instincts? Maybe the post-feminist, pre-extinct antimatter known as modern man realizes, deep down, that it has become pointless trying to influence anyone or even propagate himself.

It is "the end of men," after all, as journalist Hanna Rosin will explain in her much anticipated book coming later this year. Men have been losing ground against women in the economy for 25 years, and they now face a higher unemployment rate and worse prospects for future prosperity. They account for less than half of all bachelor's and advanced degrees, and are basically waiting around for outdated jobs to rematerialize, unaware the modern economy requires brains and skills. Meanwhile, women have kids without men, they enjoy fulsome lives without men, and they never have to lower the toilet seat.

During the glory days of domination, men would hunt, gather and otherwise provide for their families, then come home and enjoy their earned right to do whatever they wanted to their wives. That no doubt explains why there was no vogue for domination among women in the 1950s. But today's man has a lousy job, watches too much cable and still can't even scramble an egg. He has barely earned the right to massage his partner's feet when she gets home from her 12-hour workday at the investment bank or the ER or the particle accelerator. He's too emasculated to dominate anybody.

If all of these women are fantasizing about being dominated, then they're clearly not experiencing any actual domination. But men are. We're being dominated at the workplace. We're being dominated around the kitchen table, where we have nothing to talk about expect South Park reruns. And we're being dominated in the national debate about gender pyschosis, in which women get all the attention and men's psychosis goes virtually unacknowledged. Who wants to get dominated all day long, then have to make the complex mental adjustment required to become the dominator, not the dominated? Maybe women are capable of that, but men... Huh?

The real crisis isn't one of women's confidence or backsliding equality. We have a bigger problem: The formation of a huge void where routine roughing-up used to be. We raise our boys these days to be oversensitive sissies, drumming all the aggression out of them. Then they hit the workforce and realize they're outgunned by the chick in the next cubicle. A dreary realization sets in: Economic impotence is for life. So why bother? It may be only a generation or two before men lose the procreative urge altogether, and their testicular glands shut down.

With luck, the pharmaceutical firms will have invented synthetic sperm by then, so the species can continue. But it probably won't be invented by a man. So women, please get to work on that, and don't waste any time feeling guilty about it.