I was browsing through Grindr on the weekend, mindlessly flicking through profiles until one jumped out at me. What caught my eye was not his photo but his wording - “proud to be masculine”. I then started paying attention to other profiles that were looking for "real men”, or who were “masculine” or seeking “masculine”.
It got me remembering and thinking about this whole notion of masculinity. To be honest, I find it perplexing, partly because growing up my father was paranoid that I wasn’t man enough. I could never figure out what this quality of “man enough” was and why I was apparently missing it.
To be masculine or a real man is always said or written in a way that leaves several unspoken questions. For example, what is this quality of masculinity? What does it mean if you are “not masculine”, or “not a real man”? What does a “real man” look like?
This quality of masculinity is never defined, and I imagine if we were to talk to guys who want to be masculine and ask them how they see it, they would say something like:
“you know, strong, muscley, can’t be pushed around, dominant, you know…manly, masculine”.
For my father, masculinity had overtones of being a Christian soldier which was an ugly mix of the military, Christianity and masculinity.
Masculinity is a construct that is more solid in the imagination than in reality. We all think we know what is meant by masculinity, yet each of us have a nuanced meaning depending on our up-bringing and our early erotic experiences that so often determines what arouses us.
The whole notion of masculinity on gay apps is interesting given the backlash within the wider society against dominant masculinity, for example Harvey Weinstein and others who projected an image of being dominant and strong. People within the wider community are fed up with such brutish, selfish masculinity, yet on hook-up apps, we still look for real men who are “dominant tops”. (Here I am speaking of general hook ups and sexuality, rather than the specifics of leather groups or men who are into BDSM, where domination and submission is in a different context).
Within each of us there is a masculine and feminine aspect. Jung referred to this as the animus and the anima. When we are not comfortable with the feminine within us, we project it outwards to others, to the fems, to the queens, to anyone who reminds us of what we are uncomfortable about within ourselves. Our sexual activity and hook-ups become a constant fear driven attempt, to prove to ourselves we are “man enough”, because after all we only play with real men.
So, what is the feminine principle within a man? Does it make us “girly” or “sissy”? Of course not. The feminine principle is what enables us to nurture other people. Those of us who have children, those of you who have pets you love. Your ability to nurture, to care for another person or animal comes from the feminine within you. Your ability to enjoy the sensuality and comfort of a hug come from the feminine principle.
Does the feminine principle make you less a man? Of course not. It adds depth, it adds texture, it adds subtly to who you are as a man in and out of bed.
If I were looking for a real man, I would want a man who was comfortable with his nurturing side, a man who would have the flexibility to be strong and yet gentle. A man who had his boundaries yet can be compassionate. A man who would own his own crap and not blame others. A man who was strong enough to get counselling to resolve his own issues.
A real man is a man who, in his masculinity, is comfortable with the qualities of his feminine aspect. A man who is proud to be a person.