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The price of greatness is responsibility
. Winston Churchill
Assumption of Power in High Risk Situations
On this page:
Assumption of Power vs. Real Power | Power and Force | Having Power and Losing Control
Although the following section largely applies to rape, it also extremely influential on high risk behavior.
Before we begin, let us state that under normal circumstances both males and females have power and influence on each other's behavior. This interchange of influence and power is a cornerstone of a functioning relationship. As people mature, they commonly come to understand this exchange -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- through experience and practice.
However, like trust, respect, love and credibility, power is something that is earned. It is not something that is granted by default.
What follows is a serious reality break about the nature of power.
Assumption of Power vs. Real
Although some -- who have no idea of the nature of power -- will deny it, there is one underlying truth about power. This truth especially applies to the power women have over men and that is:
Power is loaned, and it can be revoked.
Contrary to what you might think or have seen in movies: Power over people comes from them, not you. If you understand the nature of power, you understand why it can be revoked and how that is different from "your power is taken from you."
On a larger scale, people grant you power and influence because they believe it is in their best interest to listen to you, be involved with you and, in some cases, follow your leadership. What many people -- who will never achieve a position of leadership do NOT realize -- is that leadership doesn't just mean ordering other people around.
Leadership is about trust.
It means that someone trusts you to function in a capacity that will benefit them and care for their interests. And for that, they grant you power. No matter how you cut, power is given by others. Let's look at some examples.
Authority comes from a group/societal organization and your ability to fulfill a need in that structure. For example a manager is not made a manager by the people who follow him/her, but instead by those above him/her. Who believe that he/she can fulfill their business needs.
Those 'below' a leader elect a leader to look out for their interests. Even the most despotic leader has a cadre of people who are profiting from his regime, and it is those people who keep him in power. When such a person no longer serves the needs of a group, the power is revoked. In a Banana Republic, the person is assassinated. In developed countries, the person is either not re-elected or is fired.
But this principle also works the other way too. In an example more immediate to your lifestyle, you accept the leadership of you boss/manager ONLY as long as you stay at that company. If a manager abuses that position of power, what do people do? They quit. They reject that person's authority and by quitting, they take back any power that person had over them.
That's looking at power in the context
of a job or society. On a personal scale, people just quit
listening to you. Your power is revoked. People have either
A) lost trust in you
B) abandoned the hope that you will benefit them, or
C) in a combination of A and B, become angry with you
Unfortunately, sometimes the results are a little more severe than just not listening to you. In fact, in some circles, it can be like a deposed dictator.
Now what does all of this have to do with rape? Simple: Young women have power over young men.
And with power comes responsibility. A responsibility that if it is abused can lead to a revocation of power. Often, this just means that a young man will simply not have anything more to do with you, but, occasionally, it can have far more disastrous repercussions. When that happens you have a meeting between power and force.
Power and Force
At this time, it is important to differentiate between power and force. Power is a long-term influence. While power can be backed by force that is only one of many pillars that supports it. Force alone will never support power. Power is about long-term benefit for everybody.
Force, however, is just an immediate patch. At best, its purpose is to put a stop to an unacceptable and extreme situation. Or perhaps to achieve a particular short-term goal. At its worst, it is purely selfish and benefits no one except the user. When that occurs, force becomes violence. Although, often in the long run, it costs more than it gains. (The rapist who is prosecuted and jailed is a prime example of this idea).
Young women do have a very strong influence on young men. This IS power. However, its use and abuse has results and repercussions.
Learning to use power and influence over other people is a life-long and never-ending task of refinement and practice. It is a life skill. One that has much more value and use than just self-defense. In fact, understanding this about power is a fundamental of management: The better you get at helping other people get what they want, the more trust you earn and the more power you will have.
Power and Losing Control
The reason all of this is important is that many young women don't realize that the power and influence they have over young men is given to them by the men. It exists only AS LONG as the man is willing to listen to her. And, as stated earlier, the reverse also is true. Men only have power over women as long as they grant it to them.
But, many young and inexperienced women assume that the power and control they have over other people comes from within themselves(1). This gives them a false sense of confidence and often a dangerous overestimation of their own abilities. They assume that the power is always going to be there and that with words alone they can control others.
While this can be true as far as it goes, there are many situations where words no longer have power.
There is nothing like watching two men deciding to fight to show the conditional nature of this power. Think back to the last time you saw two men engage in violence -- not the build up to, but the actual physical conflict itself -- especially if other women were there. What did you see?
Among the men, they would be like two otherwise voice-command-trained dogs suddenly locked into instinctive behavior and ignoring the owner's commands. These animals are operating on pure canine instinct until the owner can physically establish control again. This analogy works very well for the men, since they've gone feral. The only thing that is going to break them of that pattern is either its completion or the intervention of a greater outside force.
But what about the women in the situation? What did they do? How did they react?
We have personally seen every reaction from storming away in disgust to standing there in shock, standing back shrieking orders for the males to stop, helplessly screaming for someone else to stop it, to women jumping into the middle of the fight to break it up and even going so far as attacking the other male. Believe it or not, we've even seen women physically attacking their males for ignoring them and engaging in unacceptable behavior. She doesn't care about the guy he's fighting, she's attacking her male for not listening to her. These are the most common behaviors, although there also are others.
All in all the most common reaction is for the woman to stand in total shock and confusion when her normal influence is temporarily shut off by the male. For that moment in time, she has absolutely NO power or control over him. This sudden and unexpected stripping away of her perceived power and control is as much a complete and overwhelming shock to her as the savagery of the fight itself.
Afterward -- WHEN he is willing to listen again -- the male is going to be either seriously upbraided or ejected from the woman's life. Once again, the woman's power and influence will be re-established. The nature of this new power structure, however, will be strongly influenced by the experience.
One should take particular note of the female intensity when re-establishing her control and influence over a male. There is often substantial anger involved. While there are many other factors, due to the intensity and degree of this anger, it is not unreasonable to assume that female pride, ego and trauma from the loss of perceived control is involved to varying degrees.
Watching a fight is one of the most blatant examples of what can happen when males choose to temporarily ignore normal social conventions and act primitively. The truth is that a woman's power over a man only lasts as long as he is willing to listen to her. Young females are often extremely traumatized and confused when this reality about their power over others is thrown in their faces.
It is even more traumatic when they are the target of a willfully deaf act of violence and aggression. We speculate that this is a significant contributor to the trauma of rape. It is not just the intensity of the physical assault, but the simultaneous destruction of her illusions of power and control over the male. This is in addition to the physical and emotional trauma of being assaulted.
But those illusions were based on a serious misconception about the reality of power and control, and their source. You cannot control other people. The only absolute control and power you have is over yourself and what you do. And one of the best ways to exercise that power is not to put yourself into high risk situations.
Speaking of high risk situations many of the same elements we have discussed here can be applied to dealing with someone outside of your normal social circle. There is commonly an assumption of power not realizing that the dynamics of the circumstances are different than how you normally deal with such a person.
After having read this, you also might want to take a trip to Negotiation Out At The Sharp End page for a more practical understanding of these issues.
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1) This is not necessarily true. However, in lower social levels there is very much a combination of force and power. For example, in the TV series The Sopranos, mob boss Tony Soprano maintains power through a combination of leadership/tradition (power) and physical violence (force). Having said that, such power that a such a person gains is limited in scope. Return to Text
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