This is a guest post authored by Chris Gucciardo
It is easy to point out all of the negative messages society is leaving out there for young boys, young men and teenagers, and adult men. However, it is another thing to do something about that. We can approach these messages, and examine the values being offered to or even imposed upon the males of our society and suggest healthier actions and behaviors.
The number one striking message reinforced by one’s family, friends, advertising or other forms of media, is to “be a man.” The common misconceptions of society and our world today is that to “be a man,” you have to never cry, use your anger for power, and use that power against women and LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) individuals. Essentially, you must exert your heterosexuality to its most obvious and threatening level.
I’m here, along with many other men, to tell you that this culture of masculinity is incredibly limiting, and may be harmful. We live in a society where women and members of the LGBTQI community are constantly demeaned and dehumanized merely because they don’t identify as male (and thus are not as powerful) or do not identify as a heterosexual male (and thus are not regarded as a man according to society). Since when was it a crime to be a woman, queer, or trans?
Let me list some of the traits of being a man, the way society has laid out for us:
1. Heterosexual dominance: If you are gay, then you are not a man. Stereotypes of gay men are portrayed as being effeminate, and not being masculine enough to be considered a man. These beliefs not only often demean gays, but women as well.
2. Abuse of power: We know a male is likely to be physically stronger than his female partner, but never is it right for a man to use this strength to abuse a women. This power dynamic applies when considering any types of abuse – mental, emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual.
3. Hypersexuality: I don’t intend to bash those men here based on the number of female sexual partners women they have slept with. Instead, I am suggesting that hypersexuality among men in our society leads to men treating women as sexual objects, instead of as another human being. This mindset can, too often, be followed by sexual harassment and sometimes even sexual assault.
4. Taking advantage of women: Rape is any non-consensual sexual act between individuals regardless of sexual orientations and gender, and is unlawful. Men not only take advantage of women with strength, but will even do so through a woman’s loss of inhibition due to alcohol or drugs. It may be hard for us men to accept, but “No” means “No,” no matter how unsure the female may seem, no matter the clothes and/or make-up she is wearing, or the gestures she makes. Silence means no, anything that isn’t “Yes” means “No.”
If you feel as if you need to learn more about what it means to truly be a man, check out the latter half of this post, which will be published this Thursday. In the next blog post, I will talk more about two ideals for practicing healthy masculinity. Please stop by and read more next time on MasculinityU. Thank you.
Chris Gucciardo is a student at at The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He is an Executive board member A Men’s Issue, a group at Syracuse University.