I Love You And Me-Comments On Male Identity In The Modern World


When I started to write this piece I was planning on just writing about marketing and advertising and how it unfortunately influences men in just as many negative ways as it does our female counterparts. The holiday season was finishing and  I saw the first article about male fashion underwear and my mind started to turn. Yes, in that way. Just look at the photo above. I am a gay man. If there are men around I'm objectifying. As soon as I had time to write the piece, I ran across some of the other articles on HuffPost and saw a much more substantial piece forming in my mind, based on the reactions to each one. Just so it is understood, I really like each of the additional articles and I respect and agree each of their perspectives; I'm just using them as a jumping point for my own writing. I'm just using what they wrote to collect together my thoughts and observations on modern male identity and hopefully portray my thoughts succinctly to all of you. Read the articles below; there is some really great stuff there.

I Love You And Me-Comments On Male Identity In The Modern World

Well here it is. Another seemly innocent photo streaming into my consciousness, which promises me sex, happiness, wonder and the recapturing of my youth all in one tight package. The answer is simple. I just need to buy quality underwear this season and not just any underwear. Designers have rediscovered the color red can be used on underwear, again. If I buy these brightly hued spandex briefs, I'll be twenty again, a gorgeous blonde with golden proportions, svelte, with abs you could do laundry on, and I'll have sex appeal I haven't seen from anyone but my husband in more than thirteen years. I'll feel light and fun and won't have a care in the world. That's before I even get to the words, the few there are in the article. That's what the lie tells me. That's what I'm supposed to feel, at least if I don't have a lot of self worth, if I'm insecure abut the way I look, or if I don't have those coveted qualities and want to have them terribly. Basically, all of us. Marketing plays on using our personal needs and wants against us and it works well. The add isn't selling me red briefs, it's selling me any of the things I may want from that photograph. It's selling me needs that may not be fulfilled, dreams and memories gone by. The disturbing part though is that the ad doesn't just work on me or my age group, it works on men of every age, of every type you can imagine. Advertising is very hard to fight and the impact on body image even harder to repair.

Negative body image used to be something that was discussed only in relation to women or teenage girls. Now it is far from a problem reserved for them. It's an all out epidemic. More and more, men and boys are crushed by unfair expectations. All men, despite age, face an increasing pressure to live up to images that are lies, photos that are faked, and represent themselves in ways that are stories constructed by studios, artists, and writers, stories that were never intended to be for real people. Life isn't a TV show, a movie, or the latest novel, it isn't your favorite song, or a music video. Life isn't a glossy shot of three young models blissfully playing together in their underwear. Life is monotonous, petty, dirty, messy, and wholeheartedly imperfect. It's the opposite of all the things marketers, advertisers, and creatives throw at us. If we are ever to have better relationships with each other and with ourselves we have to stop applying those fantastical situations to ourselves and stop expecting people to be Ken and Barbie dolls, acting like June and Ward Cleaver. We have to stop buying stuff thinking it will make us feel better. It never will. People need to be more independent, more accepting, and a lot less judgmental. We need to be willing to work on relationships and work on how we feel about ourselves as men. As women have made great strides at finding their full identities over the last century, so have men, but advertising, marketing, and consumerism have soiled empowering gains men and women have made. For every glass ceiling we broke, we stuffed ourselves in boxes, wrapped ourselves in confining ideas, and insisted on having bought crap that just weighs us down. We've got to love ourselves for who we are, not what we want to be. That's lofty, but we're worth it.

I never dreamed that I would live to see a world where gender identity and gender role issues would be a part of the conversation and where limits and potential didn't have anything to do with gender and your gender identity. I never thought I'd get to see transgendered people fulfill so many dreams and see those that embody both genders not be constantly penalized for their uniqueness. I never dreamed I'd be able to marry the man I loved and be recognized by governments around the world.  I learned far too late that I could be all the things I wanted to be and that I could love myself for that and find people who loved me becuase of all of those things. That's the life I want everyone to have. That's the future we should be after. Young people need to feel safe and to feel loved and to feel they aren't being judged. In the GLBTQ community there is infinite diversity. Unfortunately, there is also seems to be infinite judgement. A very bad trait I wished we hadn't adopted so voraciously in our culture. The quick judgements just diminish us and keep us from building an even stronger community. They keep us from fostering and protecting GLBTQ youth and they keep us from honoring our elders at the end of their lives. They also keep us from helping all those outside our community. Insulation is protective, but it's also restrictive.

We don't need braces on our brains or our hearts. I'm hoping that intimacy, both in public and when not in public, becomes a non-issue. It holds so many men back and keeps us from really expressing ourselves in a meaningful way, without sex being part of the equation. We also don't need to feel sexually confined because of preconceived notions based on human sexuality from centuries ago. If something turns you on, no one should able able to tell you that's wrong. As long as you act on those sexual feelings with consenting adults no one should be able to tell you it is anything but right. Trying to figure out what your feelings are and where they come from isn't so easy, nor is trying to explain them to other people.That's seems really hard for many men, but I can tell you from personal experience that locking up those feelings is a bad idea, that expressing those feelings, especially with someone(or someones) you love, well it's a great act of self love and self expression. Whether it is a different position, a place, an object, a defined fetish, or some other form of kink you are better off exploring those feelings and coming to terms with them, than lying to yourself or those your love. From personal experience I can tell you that bringing fetishes out of darkness, into your sex life isn't the end you think it is. It may take time for adjustment, but I can say from my own personal experience that I felt much more of a complete person. It made me feel truly happy to share such an intimate part of me.

We have to take control of the most intimate parts of our lives. Just as women should have complete dominion over their bodies, so should men. Without a doubt women are constantly ignored in this area, but it is rare to hear anyone call for a true equalization. There can be no gender parity without all genders being treated equally and with respect. No more fear fueled castigation about masturbation and sex, especially when we are young. No more pressure about reproduction and filling family dreams. No more misinformation about our bodies. Most certainly no more genital mutilation of male babies or hermaphrodites. No more gender stereotyping and no more talk about how someone can't do something because its has always been that way. All of this is holding us back and keeping us from being the best fathers, brothers, co-workers, neighbors, lovers, and husbands we could be. Our world needs us, the whole of who we are. We can decide to change all this, to be our own men, or we can continue to jump every time a person, a clique, corporation, or government wants us to change the color of our underwear to suit their owns ends.

Red for the Holidays
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-kleinmann/mens-underwear-red-for-the-holidays_b_2352103.html
 
Beauty and the Boy: The Impact of Negative Body Image on Our Boys 
 
Boys to Men

Why Kink Matters

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I read your part and will start reading the articles you provided links for.

    What your article reminded me most of is my time in AA: it seems very much that the steps provided by AA are not simply a way to quit drinking but a way to approach life. I know it mentions God or a god, but there is quite a school of thought in AA about getting in touch with one's spirituality and I believe that is more important (and sometimes counter to modern religion) - and that is just as much for atheists and agnostics - and I count myself among the latter. And from what you write, I see a call for a spirituality that would allow all people to get in touch with their deepest selves: spiritually, sexually, socially, lovingly. It seems we get so tied up in the ad world that words no longer mean what they mean and we no longer see ourselves for ourselves. And we get lost in a lifestyle that is sold to us via TV and movies and the Internet. And while it may be exciting to be a part of that, it is important to accept ourselves and not get lost in that world of appearance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think as we get older, and as reality sets in, we become more accepting of not being perfect, the stereotypes fade, and we are just thankful for another day.

    Some interesting perspectives above, you should consider submitting to Huffington Post or such...

    ReplyDelete

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