A Letter to Men
I want to talk about a topic that is close to my heart and one that activates some of my work in the world.
The gender and sexual conditioning of men and male bodied people.
I live in a country that is machoistic. I grew up in a culture where boys are brought up to accentuate their masculinity and minimise (or deny) their femininity. In Australia, even to suggest a ‘man’ has feminine traits is a grave insult to his character and one that could be unsafe for him.
In the sunburnt lands ‘feminine’ traits such as feelings and emotions, the desire for heart intimacy and softness are considered to dilute the masculinity of ‘men’ and are branded ‘gay’ which in this country can come with harsh consequences particularly in schools or male focused institutions.
For a boy to survive a school system and the threat of bullying or exclusion he must deny any sign of his ‘feminine’.
I have a friend with two sons who told me that although he doesn’t want to ‘toughen up’ his boys - no hugging other boys, no crying; if he didn’t they would face worse things once in high school.
Like he did. Lateral violence.
The consequences of conditioned masculinity in boys and the inherent homophobia associated with any feminine expression means that intimacy between boys and men is not welcomed. In fact it is condemned.
I identify as a woman and I have had female lovers, in my community this is looked upon rather positively, one could say it is somewhat objectified as ‘hot’. Girl on girl intimacy is most welcomed amongst my peers, likewise, I can hug, kiss and touch my female friends and share various levels of platonic intimacy with no drama. Modern culture deems this acceptable.
Yay for me and my homegirls!
Unfortunately, this is not the case for men.
Not at all.
Platonic touch between men, particularly between heterosexual men is deeply shamed, and a heterosexual man sharing sexual intimacy with another heterosexual man? Horrendous.
Maintaining masculinity is deeply connected with a man’s sense of survival- not being outed by the brotherhood, the tribe. This conditioning is so ingrained that it has largely been accepted by all of us- men just don’t need brotherhood intimacy beyond a handshake or a brief chat about the footy.
The suppression of femininity in men means that it is often outsourced to the women around them, men can seek their feminine expressions through women alone. It is often only the partners of men that glimpse the concealed layers of emotion or tenderness that has been protected from the world. He cannot afford to reveal it.
I find it curious that even in searching for images to attach to this article I had to type ‘gay men’ to locate ANY image of two men touching. It is unfathomable even to google that two heterosexual men would touch fingers- they must be gay.
I also want to speak to the shame associated with a man’s anus. The highly pleasurable prostate is full of nerve endings and incredible orgasmic potential, it is a significant erogenous zone in a male body. It’s association with homosexuality however has castrated most men from exploring this portal, dredged in shame we find anal sex between men reduced to the dark corners. Prisons. Public toilets. Parks.
The base mysteries of the body lay dormant.
I want to create spaces that transcend the construct of gender and sexuality, where we first acknowledge and integrate the duality of masculine and feminine within and then go beyond it to the singularity of the soul that cannot be compartmentalised or split.
From this place we can share intimacy with other souls regardless of gender or sexual orientation. There is no gay or straight.
I want to create spaces where men can explore intimacy (sexual or platonic) with other men or male bodied people without it impacting their sense of masculinity.
I am part of a movement of people creating spaces that challenge sexual and gendered conditioning and allow the full expression of a person to emerge.
To my heterosexual brothers, I ask you. How would you feel if a male friend kissed you? Held your hand? Stroked your arm? Lay down next to you and cuddled? Would these actions throw into question your sense of self? Or sexuality?
Intimacy between men should not be a question of gay or straight.
It should not throw into doubt masculinity, potency or power.
It is an expression of love that has been stolen from boys, men and male bodied people.
I want to create spaces that give this back.