5 Lies that Distort Male Sexuality and Hurt Everyone

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence and Abuse

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life came through sports. They taught me hard work, commitment, and teamwork. They also taught me some of my most foundational lessons about masculinity and sex.

Not all of these messages were problematic and harmful. I often had coaches talk to me in positive (though sometimes paternalistic) ways about “respecting women.” But looking back, most of the messages I received about sex and my masculinity’s role in sex were quite horrifying.

Perhaps one of the most terrifying messages that I received came from an older soccer player named Dave when I was in tenth grade. One day, he was bragging to me about his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, a girl widely recognized as “hot” and “popular.”

In the midst of his braggadocio, he mentioned wanting to perform an incredibly violent sexual act that would violate her consent and would likely lead to serious injury.

He said he was only joking, and I laughed along, but it didn’t sit right with me. No matter how uncomfortable it made me, though, I didn’t dare challenge the “joke.”

After all, to do so would not only have challenged a man I was supposed to look up to, but it might have led to me being further ostracized for being “gay” (because apparently men are gay if they stand up to violence against women, and being gay was the “worst possible thing” I could have been in high school).

To this day, I’m ashamed that I never said anything, but I simply didn’t know how. I was a young man lacking in confidence, and I felt like it was “normal” that we were talking about women in this way.

Though some might write this story off as adolescent immaturity, this story speaks to a wider problem of patriarchal masculinity and how we as men are taught to understand sex and sexuality.

Feminism vs. Patriarchy

For generations now, feminism in its many iterations has done an amazing job of pointing out the terrible impacts of patriarchal masculinity. And, increasingly, feminists have focused on how patriarchy hurts people of all genders.

With the rise of the Internet as a dominant force in so many people’s lives, though, the resistance to feminism has only grown louder and stronger.

The power of the Internet for organizing Men’s Rights Activists, Pick Up Artists, and other anti-feminist groups has meant a surge in numbers of those who see feminism as “anti-male” or who despise the ways that feminism subverts patriarchal masculinity.

And ironically, these groups prey on men who feel hurt, who feel insecure, who feel entitled to sex, but who struggle socially and can’t find fulfilling relationships.

MRAs and PUAs tell insecure men that the problem is feminism, not patriarchy, and in doing so, fuel a particularly violent online (and offline) misogyny.

Yet the hurt and frustration these men face when it comes to sexuality is almost always directly tied to the ways in which patriarchal masculinity distorts male sexuality – which is a battle that feminism fights.

In her book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, bell hooks describes patriarchy as the single most life-threatening social dis­ease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation.

If we are ever going to engage men more fully in dismantling patriarchy and ending misogyny,we need more men to understand how the messages we receive about sex hurt more than women. These messages hurt us in myriad ways, too.

Thus, though I could likely unpack just about every message about sex that we receive, I want to analyze five of the most prominent messages men are taught about our sexuality.

1.  ‘Sow Your Wild Oats’

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

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Love: Endlessly Selfless and Powerfully Selfish

This weekend, I had the incredible pleasure of officiating the wedding of two of my best friends.  If you remember my Letter to Baby Jett, they’re Jett’s parents.

It was a beautiful ceremony held in Western Colorado, and I am so happy for the newlyweds.  Because of its relevance to my audience, I thought I would publish my message from the wedding.  I hope you enjoy…

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As English speakers in the United States, we have a crisis of imprecise language.  Ancient Greek has five words to describe the phenomena we refer to as “Love.”  Latin has four.  Chinese has, arguably, 7-10 words to describe everything from love for a friend to the love for family to the love for a romantic partner to the feeling of cathexis, a strong physical connection with another.

Yet in English, we describe everything from the beautiful love Stacie and Brandon share for Jett to the way they love their friends to the way Brandon “loves” to be naked to the love we come together today to celebrate with one word.

One word!

This imprecision has gotten me in trouble in the past.  I once told a woman that was a dear friend that I loved her, meaning that I value her friendship and love spending time with her.  I didn’t think much of it, but it threw her for a loop.  She spent a week interrogating whether we would be compatible as partners and whether she should risk the friendship for romance.  A week later we found ourselves in a pretty tough conversation, and I was told, “Never tell a woman you love her unless you’re damn clear what you mean.”

And she’s right.  We need to be clear what we mean when we speak of love.

As they prepared for their wedding, I wanted to help Stacie and Brandon be clear in what they meant when they spoke of love, so I asked them to read together and discuss selections from a book that changed my life: bell hooks’ treatise on love and relationships, All About Love: New Visions.  More than just a simple self-help-style relationship book like Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, hooks aims to explore how our understandings and misunderstandings of love in the United States (and elsewhere) have profound implications for relationships, families, death and dying, politics, social justice, everything.

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Daily Affirmations

Recently I’ve been participating in a book club where we are reading bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions.  Let me start by saying that if you haven’t read this book, you’ve got to pick it up.  I have never recommended a book to so many people.  I haven’t even read the whole things yet, and it is blowing my mind.  I look forward to blogging about it after I’ve read the whole book.

In the book, Hooks talks a lot about self love.  It’s not a new idea, but she very eloquently goes into great detail about how we can’t hope or expect to accountably love another person if we cannot truly love ourselves.  Part of that love is affirming oneself, reminding oneself how wonderful you are.  She is clear to make a distinction between “healthy narcissism (the self-acceptance, self-worth, that is the cornerstone of self-love)” and “pathological narcissism (wherein only the self matters)” (117), but she spends an entire chapter (“Commitment: Let Love Be in Me”) discussing the importance of healthy self love.

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