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Though you may or may not know it, we all live in a patriarchal system.

A patriarchy is a system in which males are the central figures of authority, social organization, moral authority, property owners, and in particular, where men, and more specifically fathers, hold authority and power over women and children.

A patriarchal society implies that the institutions set up by men should rule over men and women and children, and there is a definite implication of female subordination.

Patriarchal families tend to pass property and title through the male line, so that females are disadvantaged in every way, both socially, legally, politically, is economic the, and possibly sexually as well.

Born into a society that strives, or at least claims to strive, for the equality of the sexes, it can be a shock to understand just how deeply we as men collaborate with a system that is essentially patriarchal in nature, one that not only deprives women of power and authority and influence, but is actually designed to do precisely that.

As far as sexuality is concerned, patriarchy is a system that implies the domination of women by men, and it also implies control of sexuality.

Regrettably, the aspects of sexuality that are most frequently associated with patriarchy are violence, rape, and sexual dominance. It's arguable, though, that the control of female sexuality is the most fundamental aspect of a patriarchal system.

Could it be, do you think, that the simple question of giving women control over their own fertility by giving them easy access to birth control and abortion, is corrupted by the desire of men to control female sexuality?

Patriarchy seems to deny a woman the right to control her own sexuality, and certainly the right to control her fertility.

This is a fascinating issue, because it's hard to imagine, as a man, what it must be like to sit in the shadow of a system that is designed to oppress your very being, and deprive you of your basic human rights.

It's no wonder that the right of women to control their sexuality, including the right to have sex with whomever they please, whenever time they please, has been described as " the beginning of the end of the patriarchal system" .

Now, it's possible to dismiss issues of sexual conflict and sexual dominance as part of a culture war between men and women. It is much better for all of us if we see it for what it really is -- part of an integral system that oppresses women, where sexual matters are directly representative of the social and economic issues that are just as important. This is really fascinating as a point of discussion about why men and women fall in love.

Can It EVER Be Different?

There is a culture amongst the Himalayas in the Masuo people where men and women define themselves through connection to a maternal clan.

This appears to be true matriarchy, because when a girl reaches sexual maturity, she is able to choose a man with whom she may or may not spend the night, and when children are produced by such a union, the child becomes part of the maternal clan.

The fathering role was done by the Bros and uncles of the mother, and the mothering role is shared among sisters. If either member of a couple gets tired of a sexual relationship they end it and find new partners.

Now, I'm not sure that I believe this is good for the children, although I'm not enough of an attachment theorist to know the consequences of being fathered and mothered by a group of individuals rather than a pair of human beings who have produced a child.

What I do know is that in this culture, there is complete freedom of sexuality amongst the women, so that the concept of illegitimate children does not exist -- all children have mothers -- there are no " loose" women, and there are no " whores" , simply because women are free to have sex with whomever they choose to.

With reference to this culture, it's possible to see patriarchy as a system that is actually designed to dominate women through the control of female sexuality.

Female sexuality is effectively controlled when patriarchal marriages pass property on through the male line, and in which " virgins" are preferred to sexually experienced women for marriage (while the man is expected to be sexually well informed).

You only have to think of Prince Charles's marriage to Princess Diana to see how recently the stereotypes and patriarchal demands have been operating in England, at least in some sections of society.

The dependence of women men are meant to support, and the ability of men to choose other sexual partners even when they are in an existing relationship, are all aspects of patriarchal sexuality. And why did this arise?

It's probably about knowing who fathered children. Because, historically at least, it's been hard for the father of a child to be identified, whereas there is little doubt about who gave birth to a child.

So, the best way to be sure that the child born to your female partner was in fact fathered by you, was to control your partner's sexuality absolutely, so that there could be no access by other men to " your" woman.

One of the problems that I see in discussing this subject is that the sociobiologists have some very clear explanations of how these impulses arose.

From a biological perspective, it's very necessary for a woman to have a man stick around, so that her investment of nine months' gestation and a long period of child raising is protected by the presence of a male figure who can provide and protect and support.

From the point of view of the man, the best reproductive strategy is to spread the seed around as widely as possible, so that he leaves as many children as possible -- potentially many more than he would if he paired up with one female for life and raised their offspring. [If that is true, where does it leave men with sexual problems like delayed ejaculation?]

The point to me is that we are, as a species, evolving to a higher level of both spirituality and consciousness, and against that framework, we should be able to overcome the impulses that have controlled our cultural development and the evolution of society up to this point. Ha. Fat chance.

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