A grotesque €100m cir­cus of testos­terone where al­pha males are cel­e­brated and a vis­ceral and raw vi­o­lence is glo­ri­fied

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - By MARY CARR

THE Conor McGre­gor/ Floyd May­weather fight will be over by the time you read this, but it will still be a while be­fore the bil­lions of dol­lars made from the tawdry spec­ta­cle stop pour­ing in. More than 20,000 peo­ple pitched up at the T-Mo­bile Arena in Las Ve­gas, while mil­lions of men all over the world, many of them stay­ing up all night for the plea­sure, watched it on their Sky­box or the equiv­a­lent.

They feasted on an orgy of vi­o­lence, while those at the live fight will have en­joyed the in­cred­i­ble en­ergy that surges through the crowd at piv­otal mo­ments, an in­com­pa­ra­ble high that, ac­cord­ing to those who at­tend such events, has to ex­pe­ri­enced to be be­lieved.

Just as im­por­tantly, per­haps, the ‘en­ter­tain­ment’ was en­tirely guilt­free. So­ci­ety has awarded cage fight­ing, wrestling and box­ing its stamp of ap­proval, so buoyed by the plea­sure of male bond­ing, washed down, no doubt, with co­pi­ous amounts of al­co­hol and take­away grub, it had all the in­gre­di­ents of an adren­a­line-charged lads’ night out.

But what re­ally ex­plains the moth-to-the-flame at­trac­tion among men for a prize fight be­tween two mis­matched ad­ver­saries, one a former cham­pion who has come out of box­ing re­tire­ment for the prom­ise of a lu­cra­tive pay­day, the other who has never boxed pro­fes­sion­ally in his life but is a su­per­star of the MMA fir­ma­ment?

It’s cer­tainly not the thrill of a fair fight be­tween equals. Money is ob­vi­ously a part of an­swer; not the eye-wa­ter­ing purse for the nov­elty fight, but the money that has, over a short num­ber of years, been pumped by Las Ve­gas en­trepreneurs Frank and Lorenzo Fer­titta into mak­ing mixed mar­tial arts so­cially ac­cept­able and glamorous.

Prior to the Fer­tit­tas’ deep pock­ets, cage fight­ing was an un­der­ground pur­suit, so vi­cious and bar­baric that the US ca­ble net­works wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

Sen­a­tor John McCain dis­missed it as ‘hu­man cock­fight­ing’, but like al­most ev­ery­one who once wagged a fin­ger at the ugly sight of men sav­agely beat­ing each other to a pulp, he has soft­ened his view.

Still all the money in the world would not have pushed MMA in par­tic­u­lar into the main­stream if there a ready­made au­di­ence of men who seized on it with alacrity, as if their lives de­pended on it.

Psy­chol­o­gists can ar­gue whether there is an in­nate drive in men to con­quer and dom­i­nate. Ge­neti­cists might pon­der if the Y chro­mo­some con­tains a code that forces men to lit­er­ally flex their mus­cles so that the world cow­ers in sub­ju­ga­tion be­fore them. So­ci­ol­o­gists might claim that ma­cho pos­tur­ing is solely the re­sult of so­cial con­di­tion­ing.

But it is in­dis­putable that boys and girls em­u­late their role mod­els and that up un­til re­cently, the dom­i­nant male archetypes were ac­tion he­roes, from dash­ing James Bond who could set the world to rights while woo­ing the ladies, to a gallery of sport­ing he­roes from Ge­orge Best to Hur­ri­cane Hig­gins, cel­e­brated as much for their self­de­struc­tive streak as their ag­gres­sive pur­suit of sport­ing glory.

But the prob­lem for boys reared on these stub­bornly re­silient ideals of ‘real’ mas­culin­ity is that so­ci­ety to­day of­fers few op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­press their in­ner Tarzan. A gen­er­a­tion ago, the ac­cepted way of stand­ing up to the school bully was through brute force.

The boy who could box the play­ground bully to the ground and send him home with a blood­ied nose was the school hero, the mighty pro­tec­tor of the weak.

Nowa­days, the scourge of bul­ly­ing has been taken out of chil­dren’s hands, en­trusted to school man­age­ment and a mat­ter of school pol­icy.

It was not that long ago that boys who han­kered for the dis­ci­pline that comes with in­tense phys­i­cal train­ing or the chal­lenge of ac­tive com­bat could head for the mil­i­tary.

The best-sell­ing book, Hill­billy El­egy by JD Vance, de­scrib­ing Trump’s at­trac­tion for the white US work­ing classes, tells how the au­thor joined the Marine Corps and served time in Iraq. But the chang­ing face of modern war­fare and wide avail­abil­ity of col­lege ed­u­ca­tion has cut off that par­tic­u­lar path for most young men.

AND what of the con­tem­po­rary male icons which young men can look to for re­as­sur­ance about their pri­mal crav­ings for ruth­less com­pe­ti­tion, der­ring-do or even blood­let­ting? In place of rough-and-ready hemen like John Wayne or hard­boiled hell­rais­ers like Oliver Reid, they have sym­bols of met­ro­sex­u­al­ity like David Beck­ham, who cham­pi­ons eye­liner, nail var­nish, wax­ing and new ex­pertly coif­fured hair­dos prac­ti­cally ev­ery week. Or Paul Galvin with his short trousers and no socks. No won­der there is a cri­sis of mas­culin­ity where preen­ing van­ity rules and boys join a gym not so that they can get phys­i­cally fit and strong but to be selfie-

ready with rip­pling mus­cles and toned bi­ceps.

The asex­u­al­i­sa­tion of men, which sanc­tions pony­tails and shaven legs, blur­ring the dis­tinc­tion be­tween male and fe­male ap­pear­ance, has oc­curred in tan­dem with their emas­cu­la­tion.

The tra­di­tional male role dur­ing courtship of pay­ing bills and mak­ing the first move has all but been oblit­er­ated, as has their sta­tus as sole provider and wage earner.

These dra­matic changes in gen­der roles have hap­pened very quickly. Men are no longer ex­pected to be as­sertive, to be strong and silent types. Un­der the watch­ful eye of the PC po­lice, they must con­tin­u­ally check their male priv­i­lege.

Whether that means not fall­ing into the same trap as John McEn­roe, who got into hot wa­ter for sug­gest­ing men’s ten­nis was su­pe­rior to women’s, or whether it just rules out mak­ing sex­ist or las­civ­i­ous re­marks about the fairer sex, is still a mat­ter of some con­fu­sion.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of baby-car­ry­ing male hip­sters buy­ing or­ganic oats and al­mond milk at Whole Foods might say it all about how father­hood has changed.

But just as Don­ald Trump has ex­posed the un­der­cur­rents of re­sent­ment and of­ten racially fu­elled ha­tred that ex­isted be­neath the PC con­sen­sus in Amer­ica, it’s also pos­si­ble that the cur­rent male at­trac­tion to vi­cious sports re­flects a re­sent­ment about the usurp­ing of their power.

And it also may sig­nal a fierce drive to get away from the fin­ger-wag­ging eye-rollers and into a testos­terone-soaked safe space where al­pha males are cel­e­brated and vi­o­lence, the more vis­ceral and raw the bet­ter, is glo­ri­fied.

Watch­ing two well-oiled spec­i­mens of man­hood, stripped to the waist, squar­ing up to each other in the ring, promis­ing a fight to the death just days af­ter trad­ing un­speak­able racist and ho­mo­pho­bic in­sults amid all the razzmatazz of a Hol­ly­wood spec­ta­cle, may be just the thing to prop up the fal­ter­ing male ego at this point in time.

For out in the real world of our soft­ened and fem­i­nised so­ci­ety, no man – or woman – would get away with wear­ing a pin­stripe suit like Conor McGre­gor with the words F*** You hid­den in the pin­stripes.

STRUT­TING his stuff like a proud pea­cock, risk­ing life and limb for no higher mo­tive than money, Conor is al­most a male fan­tasy fig­ure, a prac­ti­tioner of a bru­tal, atavis­tic vi­o­lence that out­side the blood-cur­dling world of cage fight­ing dare not speak its name.

Who knows, but it’s also pos­si­ble that the darker un­der­belly of these com­bat sports, where the rates of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence are twice that in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and even a fighter of Floyd May­weather’s stature is ac­cused of vi­o­lence against women, ac­tu­ally en­hances the at­trac­tion.

It’s a hor­ri­ble, thought hardly sur­pris­ing, that misog­yny is also a glue in this al­ter­na­tive man-made uni­verse.

It seems a pity that when men have lost their moor­ings re­gard­ing their gen­der role, they can only ex­pe­ri­ence mas­culin­ity vi­car­i­ously through a cave­man pur­suit that in­volves in­flict­ing max­i­mum dam­age on a fel­low hu­man.

How­ever, we should be­ware the cyn­i­cal mon­ey­men who of­ten, un­be­knownst to us, are pulling our strings be­hind the scenes.

The sani­tis­ing of pornog­ra­phy, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of vul­gar re­al­ity TV, of naked self­ies, of apps that fa­cil­i­tate strangers in hook­ing up for sex, are, along with MMA’s stun­ning pop­u­lar­ity, all of a piece.

They are a sign of how even our pri­vate de­sires are now be­ing mon­e­tised and ex­ploited for profit.

It shows how un­der the aegis of ad­vanced cap­i­tal­ism, there is lit­tle that is sa­cred that can­not be bought or sold.

PrEEn­InG: Conor McGre­gor pro­motes mas­culin­ity in its crud­est form

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