Is Masculinity Toxic?

o-MIKE-RUIZ-PRETTY-MASCULINE-APP-facebook.jpgI want to clarify the difference between “men” and “toxic masculinity” because people (mostly men) seem to be confused.

Men are human beings who can make decisions and act in ways they are able to choose based on their biology and experience.

Masculinity is a concept of an imaginary male ideal which people use to tell men how they should behave.

Healthy masculinity is when men are told that being a man means protecting people who are weaker than you or putting the needs of others ahead of your personal desires. It means contributing to society in a positive way. Healthy masculinity is teaching men to strive to be the best they can be professionally, academically and at home. Are these positive qualities of any human? Yes. Men are human and positive human qualities are also positive male qualities.

Toxic masculinity is the process of telling men that they are not allowed to display emotions or appear weak. It is failing to teach them to respect the autonomy of women. It is making jokes about men in prison being raped by other men. Toxic masculinity is saying that men are inherently evil and incapable of controlling their anger or lust.

Men can promote toxic masculinity. So can women. It is an equal opportunity disease and its victims are first men and then the women they love.

And yes, there is a toxic femininity as well. It is the idea that women have to be small, powerless and attach themselves to a man and produce babies in order to have meaning. It used to be a huge problem and still is, but not as much as it was because women stood up and took control of their narrative.

Men need to do the same.

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What Men can Do

What can men (particularly young men) do to reduce sexual violence and harassment of women?

A friend asked me this when the #MeToo movement first started gaining momentum and I’ve been considering a response for some time.

My first consideration is that the usual advice doesn’t seem to be working. Publicly shaming every guy who ever made a woman uncomfortable doesn’t seem to be working. And as much as we can talk about men also being the victims of a lot of violence, it is overwhelmingly men who are the perpetrators of violence, sexual and otherwise. It is a male problem and “stop making it about men” also isn’t helping. So what would help? I’m not sure, but I’ve given it some thought. This is the advice I would give to men who are wondering how to start becoming part of the solution.

1. Don’t be a “Good Guy”

It is very easy to become defensive of criticism when the world is divided into “Good Guys” and “Rapists”.  Learn not to say “I didn’t do it” every time somebody tells you that you made them uncomfortable. If you can’t ever see yourself as anything less than perfect in every sexual encounter then you are going to walk all over other people’s consent and eventually you will rape somebody all while thinking you are still a Good Guy.

Instead, use each encounter as a learning experience. Communicating consent isn’t always going to be intuitive. It is something you learn. That learning experience means that sometimes you are going to push somebody’s boundaries and by a combination of inexperience and enthusiasm it is inevitable that you will end up in situations where somebody ended up doing something they weren’t comfortable with. Talk about it and learn from it. You aren’t expected to be perfect right away. You are expected to learn from your small mistakes and adapt your behaviour so you don’t make big mistakes in the future.

2. Making the First Move

As a man, you are culturally expected to initiate ALL physical interactions you may have with women.

This is not a perfect situation but it is what you are working with. It is inevitable that if you are putting yourself out there you are going to encounter rejection and you are going to cross somebody else’s boundaries at some point while you learn how to see boundaries. In that acknowledgement, if you think you may have crossed somebody else’s boundaries: ask. If you did, apologise without defending or explaining. Try to understand how they felt in the situation. Learn how to read the situation better to avoid doing it to someone else. Keep experimenting and communicating. It’ll make sense one day.

3. Quit Slut Shaming

Quit telling sex workers that they don’t have a real job, or that they are selling anything other than a service. Quit trying to limit access to abortions to punish women for having sex by forcing them into parenthood. Quit telling women what they should and should not do with their bodies.

This might come as a shock, but this ridiculous mating dance we’ve created where women pretend they aren’t interested in sex (to avoid being labelled a slut) and then allow men to “convince” them is where rape culture comes from. If a woman boasts to you about a sexual conquest, give her a fist bump. Do NOT tell her that her body is like a car or a flower or some crap about people not wanting to buy cows. Pretending that women have to be “pure” rather than empowered is every bit as dangerous as any “locker room talk”. Shut it down when you see it, especially when it is said by somebody in authority.

4. Gendered Communication

Try to learn the differences between how boys and girls are taught to speak and behave. Women have a lot of social pressure telling them to be agreeable and humble while men are expected to be confident and competitive. Breaking down that culture is a bit much for any man, even a very confident one. Instead, seek to allow space for the women in your life to express themselves in the way they’re comfortable with. Women may not be able to outright say what they want. Instead of just doing what you want to do in the absence of a clear “no”, give her opportunities to have an input into your shared experiences without having to outright turn you down.

5. Sex-Drive Myth

Don’t buy into the myth that men are supposed to want sex all the time. A huge portion of public sexual harassment of women by men is men displaying their sexuality to other men. This kind of behaviour is mostly engaged in by men who are self-conscious about their sexuality. Encourage the men in your life to bond with you over interests other than sex and displays of physical prowess.

Presentation: Gender, Sexuality and Faith

These are the slides for a presentation I did today.

A summary of the basic points of the article.

Observation:

Heterosexual Males and Homosexual Females are prone to risky behaviour

Homosexual Males and Heterosexual Females are prone to risk avoidance

Homosexual Males and Heterosexual Females are prone to religious behaviour

Heterosexual Males and Homosexual Females are prone to church avoidance

Premise:

Rejection of an angry, vengeful God = high risk behaviour

Rejection of an indifferent God = risk neutral

Conclusion:

Heterosexual men and homosexual women are more likely to leave the church and reject the Christian God than homosexual men and heterosexual women because of their gender/sexual attraction to risk taking.

The perfect man.

Some foundational problems with the study.

Problems:

1. A meta-analysis of 150 studies in risk taking behaviour shows no correlation between gender and risk taking (Byrnes 1999, p78). So while men may be more prone to certain kinds of risk taking, the overall difference in risk taking is not significant.

2. This study compares only two religions in its American population study. So it is not really a comparison of risk differences but Christian and Jewish doctrinal/social differences. Assuming that denying Allah could also be considered risky behaviour, one would expect similarly high ratio of female Muslims, this is not the case however. Only 38-39% of Muslims in America are female (Robinson 2009, np).  Perhaps the issue is more complex than mere risk avoidance.

3.The people sampled were not asked if their believed that God exists. That would seem to be an important question to ask when deciding if their behaviour is risk based.

4. The groups that tended to avoid church also tended not to believe in an afterlife. So where is the risk in not going to church? Playing soccer on the highway is perfectly safe if there is no such thing as cars, trucks and busses.

I propose we need a new theory…

Because all truth is Jamin's truth.

In a case of two equally unfounded theories, the prize goes to the one with the prettiest diagrams.

Jamin’s Ultimate Theory of Masculine/Feminine Faith Disparity

1)Genderality is a continuum between purely masculine and purely feminine. Men tend to gather around the telly on one end and women tend to gossip in the kitchen at the other, but there are no guarantees. Sexuality tends to fall somewhere on that continuum too, often nearby one’s genderality but that’s really more of a guideline than a rule.

2)There are a number of masculine and feminine traits which will be expressed in a person depending on where they fit on the spectrum.

3)All conscious beings are also on a developmental moral continuum, somewhere between Egocentric, Ethnocentric and Worldcentric. The gendered traits find expression through whatever developmental stage we happen to be on.

4)There are several masculine traits which, when expressed at certain levels, could easily cause a person to feel that church simply isn’t the right place for them to be. Likewise, there are several feminine traits which, when expressed at certain levels, will cause a feminine person to feel that their church is exactly where they need to be.