The caging of mas­culin­ity

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

One of the great cons of hu­man his­tory is how mas­culin­ity is as­so­ci­ated with strength and tough­ness, when it is prob­a­bly the most del­i­cate char­ac­ter trait ever, con­stantly need­ing to be pro­tected, de­fended and af­firmed. Mas­culin­ity is vul­ner­a­ble, needy and all of the other ad­jec­tives that men have clev­erly pro­jected onto fem­i­nin­ity since Eve was plucked from Adam’s rib cage.

The lat­est ben­e­fi­ciary of this en­dur­ing fraud is Don­ald Trump, whose pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was suc­cess­ful partly by folks be­ing se­duced by his sup­posed strength and tough­ness, a per­cep­tion dis­proven hourly by the pres­i­dent-elect’s pouty Twit­ter feed. And since Trump – an el­derly, pudgy, bald­ing trust-fund man­child – is the an­tithe­sis of phys­i­cal prow­ess, the “tough­ness” that so many peo­ple ad­mired was his courage to say the racist thoughts they were too cow­ardly to whis­per.

How­ever, this col­umn is not about Adolf Trump (I just be­lieve no op­por­tu­nity to speak out against him and his en­ablers should be skipped, and that re­searchers will fi­nally prove a link be­tween mi­cropenises and au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism if Trump’s dick is do­nated to science when­ever he dies).

Rather, I was re­cently lis­ten­ing to a morn­ing ra­dio show that was field­ing calls about a plot line in the new HBO se­ries “In­se­cure,” where a male char­ac­ter re­veals to his po­ten­tial girl­friend that he pre­vi­ously had sex­ual en­coun­ters with other men. Not sur­pris­ingly, the ra­dio callers, men and women, were nearly unan­i­mous in voic­ing that such a his­tory dis­qual­i­fied a man from fu­ture het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships, and, more im­plic­itly, man­hood al­to­gether.

Mas­culin­ity dis­solves faster than sugar wa­ter. Its most rec­og­niz­able ex­pres­sion – male het­ero­sex­u­al­ity – is the only sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion frag­ile enough to melt at first touch.

If I were to have sex with a woman tonight, I would wake up no less gay in the morn­ing; like­wise, women do not lose their claim to be­ing straight or les­bian if they have one or a dozen hook-ups with a part­ner that doesn’t cor­re­spond to their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. “If I were to have sex with a woman tonight, I would wake up no less gay in the morn­ing; like­wise, women do not lose their claim to be­ing straight or les­bian if they have one or a dozen hook-ups with a part­ner that doesn’t cor­re­spond to their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.” Straight men jeop­ar­dize their iden­tity by sim­ply ap­pre­ci­at­ing hand­some­ness, and their het­ero­sex­u­al­ity can­not re­cover from the wrong type of phys­i­cal con­tact with another man.

There’s an ev­er­green para­noia that po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness at­tempts to tame mod­ern man­hood, while the ac­tual caging of mas­culin­ity – the sex­ual and emo­tional con­fines of the het­ero­sex­ual male hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence – is re­in­forced by ev­ery de­mo­graphic, in­clud­ing gay men. We are as un­for­giv­ing as the rest of so­ci­ety, quick to read any type of sex­ual ex­per­i­men­ta­tion by a straight man as a sign that he is a la­tent power bot­tom.

My promis­cu­ity did not be­gin when I found other gay men. I touched, sucked and grinded penises through­out el­e­men­tary and high school, re­cip­ro­cally, and the vast ma­jor­ity of my sex­ual play­mates grew up to be het­ero­sex­ual men.

The pic­tures of their wives and chil­dren that they post on so­cial me­dia do not strike me as an elab­o­rate scheme to re­main clos­eted, and I have no urge to out them for liv­ing a lie. There are some who I won­der if (or wish) they con­tinue to en­joy that type of bond with a man, but that still doesn’t make me doubt the sin­cer­ity of their het­ero­sex­u­al­ity.

There are oth­ers who I hope are not haunted by me­mories that I count among the best of my life. That seems like a tough bur­den to carry to be ac­cepted as a real man. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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