A Male Sexual Revolution: Redefining Masculinity

The more time I spend with my son the more I realize the challenges of raising men in today’s society.  My goal for my son is to prepare him to live in the structure of family, work, and community that are equitable and just for all.  Hopefully, he will find enriching social and work relationships between himself and other men and women.  Even at the age of 5, he is trying to identify with other males in so many ways.  At this age it is more of  “are you spider man or batman?”  But I know from my own experiences, that this will soon develop into hoping to find achievement and success.  During youth and adolescence, its academics and possibly athletics.  As men get older, position and finances usually determine success.  It is an unfortunate measuring stick in our society. 

Boys look to men to understand how to act.  Today’s society emphasizes positive qualities such as being courageous, determined, goal oriented, hard working, team player, and respect.  However, while striving for these things often the message and images are distorted.  I see young men everyday that try to find respect through violence, courage turns to false pride, hard working becomes a form of domination.  This often leads to distorted images of other men through homophobic comments or violence.  This causes distorted images of women through domestic violence and prejudicial language and sexualized violence.  This is all in the name of being a man or “brothers”.  But it is “brothers” or “real men” who are killing each other and being less than brotherly.  It is them that are raping our sisters.  It is the appalling silence of the rest of us that allow it.  On the one hand we seek brotherhood but on the other hand we want to prove how tough we are and stand-alone.  Competitiveness is engrained at an early age.  Sports to dress to verbal conflicts to fights or financial assets.  Aren’t there more opportunities to expand the ethical and emotional lives of men? 

How are we raising boys to be men?  We aren’t.  We raise them not to be woman or a sissy or a gay man?  Think about the ways this ‘negative-defining’ position contributes to “anxious masculinity”. If all value definitions are based on NOT statements, then any feature that would counter that NOT must be fought and eliminated. If we were constructing solid beings of ‘positive’ stuff, the things that men are wouldn’t be shaken quite so easily.  We tell them not to cry, not to show emotion (unless it is in an extreme happiness or anger) but that’s it.  Feelings and emotions are tools that help you deal with everyday life.  The most masculine men very often are misunderstood because that masculinity is a mask for who they are on the inside.  Do you remember the first time someone called you a punk or a sissy?  What was the response?  It was probably something to prove that you were not.  We pose a constant and relentless threat to each other.  Ever mannerism, every movement contains a coded gender that must be followed.  If it is not, you are criticized or even ostracized.  This deprivation of an adequate way to express and deal with emotions manifests itself into physical abuse, sex abuse, irresponsible sex, and other risk taking behavior that only leads to prison and death.  Sexism targets men as well as women.  It is accepted and condoned by sustained threats by men toward other men.  “Don’t be a sissy”, “Man UP”.

Women have been redefining themselves and their roles.  While we have remained stagnant.  Where is the male revolution?  Take a look at the suicide rates and incarceration rates.  Given the gendered nature of these difficulties, why don’t we want to look at ourselves deeply and critically?  When will we be more accountable for ourselves and stop acting as if women have or are the problem?  We must confront each other and enact change.  It is no longer to talk of sensitivity in public and be sexist and homophobic in private.  Many men are ashamed by the behavior of other men but silence is assent and validating.  It gives the appearance of approval and prevents criticism.  This is not male loyalty.  It is the glorification and acceptance of ignorance.  In order to preserve this unhealthy male bond, we are in denial.  We are living a lie.  We can stand against the lies.  We can express a new model of masculinity and generate more positive and committed relationships.  We can become better communicators and role models.  We can become REAL MEN.  Being a man is allowing yourself to be the whole person you are.  Being a “good guy” is not enough.  Good guys will speak up and  support  women and confront the men who would otherwise remain silent or unaware of the problem.

Published in: on March 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Those are intelligent views. Redefinition is not a bad way to put it. Like many things, though it may be awhile until we can see some improvement!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. “Good guys will speak up and support women ”

    Saying women can’t support themselves? How sexist.

  3. Very enlightening perspective . . .

    The other variable is the alarming rate of young men being raised only by mothers and, therefore, learning to be men from those who quite often don’t define or represent real men or who, quite often, too, are only boys . . .


  4. @ anonymous

    How is “support” sexist?

  5. i truly hope the “support” comment was meant to be facetious. if not, i find that interpretation of the term to be alarmingly narrow – if not completely inaccurate.

  6. … social science does not talk about (the single) masculinity any more – it points out that there are many different masculinities in different countries, ages, continents … An interesting project http://www.masculinities.org

    Best regards Arthur

  7. really really really feelin this post and this blog. thanks for your sagacious words around issues of black masculinity and fatherhood. i am adding you to my blogroll postehaste!

    in solidarity, respect and peace

  8. Arthur,

    I don’t know what to say. I respect what you are doing, don’t stop. Recently I was made aware of the modern oppression of women. I am a woman and I didn’t see it. Society raises us to behave a certain way and I was doing that meanwhile oppressing myself in so many ways that I didn’t realize. Thankfully I was educated in a way that did not make me angry at men but at the way men and women are raised in society. I think the best approach to resolving the issue of the roles that men and women have is education. We have to be able to see through the many vales put in front of us. I am inspired to start an organization for better male role models. Changing the roles of men and women is a revolution in the way we think.

  9. This is a great post!

    I agree with LRG. Women who THINK that they know how to teach boys to be men are deluding themselves – you can teach boys how to be righteous and responsible and compassionate and respectful and independent and all of those things…but a woman can NOT TEACH manhood when she has not been a man. I am sorry ot the ladies here who feel it’s possible. It is not.

    I disagree with the Anonymous 3/30 1:20 am commenter who said the sentence was sexist. It isn’t sexist AT ALL.

    I had a discussion on my blog titled, “Black Masculinity and Its Impact On Black Women” about a month ago that had the video about black masculinity that came out a few years ago. I wrote the post in order to mention The Masculinity Project that had just started.

    I fully support and promote the idea of redefining black masculinity! Please feel welcome to stop by my blog and re-start the dialogue on black masculinity any time you’d like!

    Continue to blow your trumpet about this issue!

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

  10. How inspiring and comforting to read this post! I’m glad there still are some real men as yourself around in this world since sometimes it’s easy to lose faith in that… Peace, love and respect to you brother!

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