I have been overwhelmed by the number of stories in the past few weeks about the horrors brought about by men who did not feel like they were “men.” On Thursday, a man stabbed a woman and slit her throat, killing her, on a train in Chicago because she turned down his advances. The Republicans voted to allow people on the No Fly List to continue to access guns unabated. And of course, Orlando.
I know, you may not see the obvious connection between these events and men feeling that they are “men.” Follow me for a minute.
Men, Women and Rejection
In the case in Chicago, a man’s advances (admittedly crude according to reports of other passengers) were rejected by a woman. Reports said she shook her head “no.” As far as investigators have reported at this point, there was not a prior connection between the two. A man was turned down. He kills a woman.
Unfortunately that is not the first incident like this. In the most upsetting Tumblr I have come across, When Women Refuse (whenwomenrefuse.tumblr.com) there are dozens of posts of articles about women being killed when the refuse a man’s advances. It includes articles from the past 60 days about a teen being shot to death for refusing an invitation to prom, a woman getting a glass smashed into her face for saying no to a man’s invitation to accept a drink, a girl burned to death for breaking up with her boyfriend, a mother shot to death for breaking up with her child’s father, and a woman shot to death in a bar for telling a man she wasn’t interested. And that is just this spring.
Guns and Gonads
In a strong article by Salon (http://www.salon.com/2016/06/13/overcompensation_nation_its_time_to_admit_that_toxic_masculinity_drives_gun_violence/) the author examines the link between the need for men to be “masculine” in American culture and gun violence and ownership. Guns are now like trucks with ridiculously oversized tires and truck-nuts. Guns are something men buy to make them feel “manly.” Using a gun make a guy who is not confident in his “manhood” feel like a “man.” And people end up dead.
There are several reasons elects voted against gun control. One reason is based in the the knowledge that if a male elected on the Republican side votes to restrict access to some guns he will be portrayed as “weak,” and “feminine,” and “unworthy of leadership,” in his next election.
Masculinity and Online Bullying
In a widely reported article originally published in PLOS (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131613) scientists found that men who felt emasculated in video games (namely losing in Halo 3) were more likely to bully and harass women online. They did not feel like “men” so to get that feeling back, they were very nasty to women online (where their risk was low of being confronted or interaction).
This lead to a great skit on Inside Amy Schumer where Twitter introduces the “I’m going to rape and kill you” button because that phrase has become so common on social media. Yes, so many people (mostly men) get angry and threaten to “rape and kill” a woman that there is a skit about it.
Masculinity and the Orlando Massacre
Reports are stating that the Orlando mass murderer was himself gay. He did not feel he could be gay and that being gay was “wrong.” He shot up a gay bar. This self-hate and homophobia is rooted in hating what is not seen as “manly.” A “real man doesn’t take a dick.” A “real man” doesn’t cry. A “real man” doesn’t love other men.
It is rooted in masculinity. The shooter did not go to a lesbian bar or event. There were no reports of him being upset by two women kissing. Women loving and having sex with other women is more okay in the United States than being gay. Gay men were the target in Orlando because this is a masculinity problem.
We, our culture, feed men these lines about what is “manly” and what is “okay” if they are men. We are creating killers.
What Do We Need To Do?
We are the ones raising sons who are not confident in who they are. We are creating the next generation of killers and bullys. We need to stop this. And in the kink world, there are special considerations.
I think everyone, any gender and any sexual orientation, should feel comfortable in who they are. Being attacked for something that is innate to your existence can be very painful. We all want to be accepted at some level for who we are.
First, we need to expand our idea of masculine. Lots of things are masculine. They include things like loving, being verbal, hugging, needing to be cared for, being open, care taking, and protecting someone. We don’t allow our men to cry enough. We don’t allow them to be touched in a non-sexual way enough. We don’t let them care for others enough.
When we stop our sons from playing with dolls, we tell them that taking care of children is not something a “man” does. When we tell them to clamp down on their emotions, to “tone it down” and to be stoic we hurt men. Men get angry. We need to be okay with that and teach our sons to express that in a healthy way. Men get sad and hurt. We need to teach our sons how to process that in a healthy way. We need to start letting our sons be okay being themselves.
Kink, especially, heteronormative D/s and M/s relationships create a challenge for this. In power exchange relationships between men and women, where the man is to the left of the slash, we call on our Doms to be hypermasculine. We want them to take control, to be level headed and not emotional, and we do things that institutionalize traditional Western ideas of masculinity.
Brats will tell their Doms and Daddy’s, “You hit like a girl!” or will call them a “Pussy,” for not wanting to have sex on demand. We tell Doms they are “not real Doms” if they are occasionally soft with the women in their charge. We can mock Doms who do not want to fuck subs they have access too. We need to think about these things.
The Doms, the very masculine Masters and Doms who are cis-men, do exhibit “manly” characteristics. They take control. In scene, they are not particularly emotional. They tend to be hypersexual. This does not mean they don’t know how to do other things.
My BFF, a Master, is very masculine and manly. However, he allows space for himself to be gentle with subs and slaves. He has cried himself. He will tell someone he loves them. He takes care of kids. He understands there is a difference between being in control and Dominant and being a dick trying to prove somehow you are a “real man” by beating up a woman.
Recognizing Doms and Masters need space for care, need space to be soft, need space to process emotions, means we have to allow our male Doms to do this without mocking them. We need to accept they will, and need to do this, to be a good Dom or Master. We need to learn to respect a man who knows how to care for himself emotionally, physically and otherwise.
Asking a Dom to be a cookie-cutter version of a “manly man” adds to this toxic culture of hyper-masculinity. For the sake of humanity and the man you love, let Doms have space to be themselves.