Myth, Phantasy, and Culture: Male counterphobic defenses against emasculation

“The problem with cooperation is that at times one wants to retard, rather than foster, cooperation between players. Collusive business practices are good for the businesses involved but not good for the rest of society.”

Part of the grim strategy employed in game theory can be analyzed through a psychoanalytic lens. At the heart of this psychological reasoning for grim strategy in game theory, we describe one reason as belonging to a parthenogenetic wish. However, this is just one reason. There are many other dark psychologies and dark reasons that entertain dark outcomes with grim strategy. But here I am addressing what is known as matricide.

Carol Cohn wrote about her experience with intellectuals, the professionals who informed and legitimized American nuclear strategic practices in the summer of 1984. She explained how she had become fascinated by the extraordinary abstraction and removal from what she knew as a reality that characterized the professional discourse. She questioned, “How can they think this way?” The workshop on nuclear weapons, nuclear strategic doctrine, and arms control was a conference that held dominance with mostly male intellectuals. In fact, they were all men. The weight of social intersubjectivity allowed for the language to contain dominant male metaphors. She raised the question of gender and language in the discourse. Cohn said one of the roles of nuclear strategic thinking is its use of a “specialized language” which she termed “technostrategic.” Women who are concerned with nuclear weaponry and nuclear war must give careful attention to the language we use and when that language allows women to communicate with it and what it allows us to think as well as say. Cohn said this because after being steeped in the defense intellectuals' “language and discourse,” she started asking herself, “How can I think this way?” She assumed their reasoning and posture. Defense intellectuals spend their days calm and matter-of-factly discussing nuclear weapons, nuclear strategy, and nuclear war which occurs seemingly without a sense of horror, urgency, or moral outrage. In fact, there seems to be no graphic reality behind the words, as they speak of “first strikes,” “counterforce exchanges,” and “limited nuclear war.” Human death and human suffering, in nuclear parlance, is most often referred to as “collateral damage.”

In fact, one of Cohn’s subheadings read, “White men in ties discussing missile size.” Feminists have often suggested that an important aspect of the arms race is phallic worship. That “missile envy” is a significant motivating force in the nuclear build-up. One of the reasons these men resisted nuclear disarmament was because it was perceived as emasculation. How could any real man ever consider becoming disarmed? Both the military itself and the arms manufacturers are constantly exploiting the phallic imagery and promise of sexual dominance that their weapons so conveniently suggest. Thus, the bombs that became the military’s ultimate destroyers were the progeny of the atomic scientists — and emphatically not just any progeny but male progeny. CONSIDER: If this fact is so, then who are the people responsible for the creation of a “technostrategic language” of clandestine electronic targeted assaults and psychotronic torture?

To further my inquiry, I’d like to make a comparison to electronic targeted assaults and psychotronic torture. The perpetrators of these behaviors, like defense intellectuals, are primarily male. In fact, I believe my attackers to be men. The reason I think this is so is that, like Carol Cohn’s defense intellectuals, they speak a “specialized language,” that is, a “technostrategic language.” For one, there seems to be no sense of horror in inflicting the pain and suffering they deliver to their targets. Secondly, they seem to lack moral urgency toward correcting their immoral action and there seems to be no perception or conception that this crime is violent and psychologically damaging for the targets. Thirdly, there seems to be no concept of the graphic reality to the psychological violence electronic targeted assaults and psychotronic torture both impose and the extent of injury placed on another human being as well as any understanding or concept for the victims compromised sense of well-being. Fourthly, their use of electronic weaponry can be seen as a “counterphobic defense” that may be an unconscious psychological defense against the fear of emasculation. It was stated above, “disarmament is resisted because how could any real man ever consider becoming disarmed?”

If you remember, I had shared some of Judith Butler’s ideas regarding independence. Independence is somewhat of an illusion because we never achieve a completely pure form of independence from others (Butler, 2021). We are always dependent upon others, in fact, evolutionary survival demands individuals and groups cooperate. Thus, independence becomes more of an interdependence. This is where cooperation and negotiation play a part and in grim strategy, the cooperation is either replaced with deception or a feigned form of cooperation or is replaced with brute force. We may perceive tariffs as a form of violence imposed on the consumer and in fact, that is just what they are. If a country says to another country, “I will not place a tariff on your imports if you do not place a tariff on mine” and both countries agree to the terms. Then, after six months of no tariffs, one of the countries reneges his offer and starts raising tariffs on the other countries' imports. What do you think will happen?

Likewise, electronic targeted assaults and psychotronic torture take away from the target individuals’ sense of empowerment which seeks to clandestinely disable him or her thereby manipulating the playing field in favor of the opponent/perpetrator. As a result, their personal choices become limited, their lifestyle choices are compromised, and the person becomes disenfranchised and poorer for it. And as a result, society becomes poorer as well. In electronic targeted assaults and psychotronic torture, its mechanistic dehumanization is similar to militarized operations and nuclear strategic planning operations and, because of its sanitized abstractions, it continues to inform a culture in a very real and clandestine way regarding violence. All this hints toward sexual and patriarchal domination in myth, phantasy, and culture. Its weaponry and phallic imagery perpetuate a counterphobic defense in fear of emasculation. Why would a real man ever consider disarmament?

The very real problem that should scare everyone regarding this relatively new phenomenon is the lack of horror and moral outrage possessed by the perpetrators of these types of crimes as well as the subtle and clandestine, sanitized abstractions which are similar in their footprints to nuclear strategic war planning. This is not to imply that the federal government is responsible for my electronic targeted assaults or psychotronic torture, although it hints at the historical administrative tools traditionally utilized by federal agencies to govern, punish, and control its citizens. Rather, I am saying there are men in society who utilize the same type of language and discourse rooted in the same type of myth, phantasies, and culture. That is a “specialized language,” a “technostrategic discourse” that unconsciously expresses their counterphobic fears of emasculation and an insatiable need for dominance.


Axelrod, Robert. (2006). The Evolution of Cooperation. New York. Basic Books.

Butler, Judith. (2021). The Force of Non-Violence: An Ethico-Political Bind. New York. Verso Publishing.

Carol Cohn. Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals. In Signs, Vol. 12, №4, Within and Without: Women, Gender and Theory. (Summer, 1987) pp. 687–718.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store