Reflections on masculinity, male sexuality, and being a man
Men often show up as weak in some way:
- A weak masculine self, somehow feminised
- A swaggering John Wayne macho image of immature masculinity
- A chaotic and confused adolescent maleness
- A masculinity which includes acting out violence and aggression (often against women)
- A masculinity that is afraid to stand up and show itself in all its glory
- A masculinity that is afraid of women, or seeks to placate them, or dominate them with physical and emotional manipulation. This cripples a man in his relationships, both sexual and emotional, with women.
- A masculinity which turns against itself, and abuses itself with drugs, addiction, violence, self-harm
- A feminized masculinity in which a man is ashamed of being a man.
I sum up true masculinity with words like strength, consistency, clarity, compassion, care, vulnerability, emotional literacy, gentleness, protectiveness, anger, joy, grief, fear, courage, excitement, adventure, risk-taking, providing for others, protecting others, and so on.
Some masculine stereotypes may be innate, though
Perhaps small boys, big boys, and men all want to have adventure, excitement, and take risks (even little ones). And maybe women are fearful of this.
It may be that men are more interested in going out to work and bringing home the hunted animal (or a pay packet) than making a nest.
It may be that men are genetically programmed to be providers and women are programmed to be more nurturing. Maybe men think differently to women, so that communication between the sexes will always be difficult. And maybe a woman wants stability and a man wants excitement – in many ways, including sex.
So dare we accept that men and women have evolved with different genetic programs to do different things? To feel different things? To be moved by different things?
Most importantly, can we learn to accommodate our true differences as best we can? Can we stop pretending that actually we’re all really the same regardless of our gender, and we could all get along nicely if only we men would be more like our womenfolk?
YES! But if we do this, then along come the responsibilities: in particular:
- To learn what true masculinity means for ourselves and for our brothers (i.e. other men).
- To care for our families instead of going off and fucking the next willing, attractive woman who comes along.
- To raise adolescent boys so that they know what true maleness is, and so that life is not ruined for all of us by leaderless gangs and undisciplined males acting out aggressively in our society.
- To behave towards women with self-respect and other-respect. To stand up for ourselves with women assertively and not aggressively or abusively.
- To learn that the meeting of the true masculine and the true feminine is complementary.
- To understand that the sexes can be true to their own gender while still respecting the other. Not to fear or hate or be violent towards each other.
Video – Masculinity
There is little doubt that the different brain wiring patterns of men and women are in large part responsible for the different behavioral patterns of men and women.
If you want to read a good popular book on this subject, which includes a test for you to complete so you can judge the degree of masculinization/feminization of your own brain, buy: Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, a book by by Alan and Barbara Pease.
According to Barbara and Allan Pease, science now confirms that the way our brains are wired and the hormones pulsing through our bodies are the two factors that largely dictate, long before we are born, how we will think and behave. Our instincts are simply our genes determining how our bodies will behave in given sets of circumstances.
That’s right: socialization, politics, or upbringing aside, men and women have profound brain differences and are intrinsically inclined to act in distinct – and consequently frustrating – ways.
To make things worse for men…
Many men are brought up in families without much male emotional support or physical presence. And so they may lose a masculine sense of adventure, of risk, of maleness itself. For boys brought up in single parent families, without any male role models, no matter how wonderfully caring their mothers may be, one thing is certain: there will be a time when they need an adult older male to show them what it means to be a man.
Meanwhile, the feckless man who leaves his children, the adolescent gangster, the wife-beater, the man who uses abusive porn, the deceiver who seduces woman and abandons them: they have all got one thing in common – they are shamed by society without compassion.
And yet, who ever taught them to be men? Whoever gave them the models they needed to respect, to look up to, and whoever taught them that a man needs a vision and, if not a vision, a role?
Yes, that’s right – no-one. And who cares? Well, many men. You just have to find them.
Many years ago, I went on a ManKind Project weekend, a men’s group. Here, I and another 40 or so men were given the chance, probably for most of us for the first time in our lives, to get up on our feet and talk openly. To talk, without judgment, about our lives as men. And the pain and pleasure that emerged were profoundly moving.
In this complete cross-section of society, from the humblest and most disadvantaged guys, who had been injecting drugs for years, surviving on their wits on the edges of society, to the wealthiest white middle-class guys and the educated black classes – the experiences were the same. Every man’s story was a part of every other man’s story. We are indeed all brothers under the skin.
Between one third and one half of the men there had paid for sex, either once or regularly. Perhaps when their wife was pregnant. Perhaps because their wife or partner was not interested in sex. Perhaps in addition to having sex with a partner or girlfriend.
Some men who had lost their virginity to prostitutes, sometimes because their father or an older uncle had taken it upon himself to initiate the lad in this way.
As one guy said: “The bastard told me: ‘I’ll make a man of you.’ Thanks a lot, Dad. Unfortunately you started 15 years too late.” And the product of this was shame and guilt.
Nearly all the men had used porn – some obsessively, some for years, from adolescence onwards.
Some had filmed themselves having sex with their girlfriends, either openly or secretly. Their women had often reluctantly gone along with this to please their man. All the men masturbated regularly – some many times each day. They all had many ways to pleasure themselves. About twenty per cent of the men in this group had had sex with men at least once. And many more had wondered if they were gay. Many spoke of having erections all the time, saying that they felt as if their penises ruled their lives.
But what fascinated me most was that the overriding desire, spoken again and again by men of all classes and colors and educational levels, was simple. To have a real heart-centred relationship. To be in an intimate, connected relationship of love, respect and sexual fulfillment.
It seems we as men have two conflicting needs here: on the one hand a need to fulfill the dictates of our testosterone by reaching orgasm freely and liberally. And on the other hand, a need to satisfy our very human desire to meet another human being from a soul connection. In other words, to love a woman and be understood by her, to have intimacy and love. Yet often the testosterone wins. And there is no shame in that.
But the point is this: we are men. We do what we can, yet we can always do better. Celebrate your masculinity.
A book about masculinity: understand more about being a man
The author describes each of the title’s four archetypes in turn, explaining both the positive and negative aspects of each one, and how each can interact with the others.
A great book for readers turned off by self-help works that are either too simplistic or too mystical. And, as the reviewers have pointed out, much of it would appear to be of interest to women as well as men.
Iron John : A Book About Men
by Robert Bly
Bly feels men are in trouble, and tries to explain why. He also attempts to define a real man: one who has the courage and conviction to fight, but also has the compassion and tenderness to feel. Men in our society seem to be too much on one side or the other. We have too many wild, violent, brutal men with no feeling.
We also have too many submissive, weak, ‘Yes Dear’ type of men. He tries to give reasons for this ‘downfall’, using important themes such as: 1) Young men without responsible, older men in their lives, 2) The industrial revolution separating father from son 3) The elimination our link to nature as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and 4) How the feminist movement, while absolutely necessary, has had an adverse effect of creating a culture which portrays men as complete idiots.