Am I Any Less of a Man?

I’m not really the most open speaker when it comes to sex. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable talking about it; I just don’t volunteer a lot of information. I’ve always been like this; in addition to simply not discussing my sexual experiences, I also have never been especially apt to make sexual jokes or comments that involve misogynistic slurs.

This lack of willingness to denigrate women or speak openly about my sexual partners has actually confused people in my past as to whether or not I’m even interested in sex. “Are you asexual?” I’ve been asked. It would be fine if I was, but I’m not.

The fact is, I’m pretty straightforward in bed. I like closeness, sweetness, passion, and mutual pleasure. That’s about it. I’m not really “into” a lot of things that people expect men to be into. I mean, you know, I have one or two favorites, but long story short, I’m pretty simple.

It occurred to me recently that I may not have truly developed a sexual identity. What is a man’s sexual identity supposed to resemble? Dominance, growling passion, un-concealable need, irresistible desire to have. To many men, cis- or otherwise, sex seems to be an outlet for expressing emotions that arise in one’s day to day life that one is not free to express: anger, aggression, fiery passion, and the like.

And of course, to “feel like a man,” because I guess a lot of men don’t get to feel “like men” in their day-to-day lives. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

And many women actually seem to want to be the targets of this unexpressed anger, aggression, and other directionless emotional substance (which perhaps is partly the result of feeling like less than a man all day, or less than human), and to be allowed to feel “like a woman.”

Perhaps this is the aspect of my sexual identity that is underdeveloped. I don’t “take out” my aggression on anyone, much less someone I’m very fond of, someone who accepts me for who I am. Sex, for me, is a connection, a closeness, a sustained feeling of needing and being needed in that moment. Sometimes I like to keep it laid-back, and other times I go “tiger-mode.” So I guess it makes me feel “like a man” too. That’s pretty much the role it serves.

“Like a man.” What does this mean? The fulfillment of a physical need? A phallus fucking a yoni? I’m willing to accept that sexual output and expression is indeed a need, although not on the same level as food, shelter, and clothing. So it is really that I enjoy feeling “like a human” once in a while, as opposed to “like a man.”

The funny thing is, there is a lot about being human that I don’t like. I don’t like getting older. I don’t like losing friends and familymembers. I don’t like depression and sadness. I don’t like failure and loss and regret. I don’t like affliction and disease. I don’t like war and injustice and misery. I don’t like alienation, loneliness; I don’t like when there is someone all alone with no one to help him or her. Or when a baby is crying because she is scared. There are some things about humanness I don’t like.

So maybe feeling “like a human” is not something I really enjoy. Food, clothing, shelter, sex…these aren’t really things that produce most of the enjoyment in my life.

With regard to food, I maintain a vegan diet for mainly ethical reasons. My fulfillment from food comes in part from that ethical framework (although a lot of vegan food tastes good, too: cake, stir fry, pizza, lasagna, donuts, big-ass fruit smoothies…..)

As for clothing, I like to look neat, but I don’t need any more clothes for at least ten years.

Shelter? All I need is a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and one more room for books, a desk, and a drumset. Or I could do well in a tent.

So sex? Like I said, I like to think I’m fairly simple. Yet as a feminist, I get a certain edification from it as well, not wholly dissimilar from the feeling I derive from eating within an ethical framework. I know the bedroom can be the worst place to advance a political agenda, but I have discovered that without one, I can sometimes have trouble finding myself within it.

In my last two meaningful relationships, sex served the purpose of being either a) the act of the female fulfilling a seemingly exclusively male need, or b) extremely meaningful and emotionally loaded. Neither sexual context felt right.

By fulfilling the first woman’s expectations of her own total sexual self-sacrifice, I enabled the prolonged hurt and alienation of her damaged sexual identity, which was the result of having been a survivor of past sexual abuse (from a cop. Thanks asshole). This was before I was in any way educated as a feminist.

In the case of the second woman (which was after said education), I seemed to not attach the same level of meaning to sex that she did, which hurt her feelings of womanhood and of being wanted.

Truth be told, I was more attracted to the first woman than to the second woman. One conclusion I could draw from this, then, is that I simply have not had a meaningful, sex-positive/feminist relationship with a woman that I was very attracted to. Perhaps that is why I am somewhat underdeveloped.

In sexual situations now, I often feel tons of pressure to meet certain expectations and come off a certain way. If I don’t know the person well enough (a condition I endeavor to avoid), the pressure is, of course, greater, because there is a dearth of mutual trust.

This creates an association with sex in my mind that relates it to anxious feelings of insecurity. Will I be mind-blowing enough? Will my body function the way I want it to? Will the setting be perfect? Will she see the real me also? Because that’s important to me too. My sexual self is not nearly as cool as my nonsexual self, with all of its humor, creativity, passion, thoughts, ideas, and further generosity. This is why I usually like the moments after the sex act— talking quietly in a darkened room, wrapped in each others’ limbs—more than the act itself.

And then there is the societal expectations that I feel I also must live up to (which are related to but separate from the expectations I place on myself). Will I be “alpha” and masculine enough? What if I underwhelm? I often focus on pleasuring the woman in order to overcome this area of insecurity. If she is pleasured adequately, how likely is she to be underwhelmed? To be dissatisfied? To be unamazed and without wanting more? It is a strategy that usually works, I’m not going to lie. At least at first, until she asks me what she can do to satisfy me. I never know what to say.

My needs can be dealt with later. My fantasies can be explored and dealt with later. The actual sex act can be dealt with later also. As long as she’s happy.

It is easy to see how some arrested development could occur, some negation.

I guess the real question, which I hinted at earlier, is, am I really not super-interested in sex? Or is it that I have just not found the right person, someone with whom I share a mutual trust and understanding, and a lasting chemistry? I think that might be half of it. The other half is, I have other things on my mind than pointless self-indulgence in bed all day. I have a tendency towards self-absorption as I pursue the myriad things that I’m passionate about and in which I am constantly engaged: writing numerous blogs, stories, diary entries, and books; thinking and learning how to “do” politics and political action; doing and learning about fitness and building my fitness business; making YouTube videos; exploring veganism; optimizing my environment to minimize obstacles to my productivity; finding new ways to self-improve and divest myself of unwanted and self-defeating tendencies for which I seem to have such an affinity….and this list does not even include what I do to unwind.

A somewhat ironic thing is, because I am a man, society has not tied my sense of self-worth to my appearance at ANYWHERE NEAR the level it does so for women. All of these activities are the result of believing in my self-worth. I’d rather engage in them than waste time in bed, is what I’m saying. Whereas a woman, for whom much of her own sense of self-importance might originate in the bedroom (an idea I’ll expand on in a moment), hanging around in bed or having more “sexy time” in general can seem like a grand idea. Most guys would say, “sure!” But, sometimes, part of me says, “Ehhhhhh…”

But does my less-than-constant desire to bang make me any less of a man? I don’t believe that, in reality, masculinity and femininity are fixed ideas.

Let’s explore the concept of, “You must act a certain way in order to be a man.”

What if I am always true to my word, help my friends when they are in need, talk about a grievance I have with someone face-to-face rather than behind that person’s back, and clean up my own messes, literally and figuratively? These are traits that, while basically being those of a good person of any gender, are commonly referred to as “being a man” (which suggests that the opposite of them—being a liar, being selfish, talking about people behind their back, and being unable to solve problems you create—could be seen as being “like a woman,” which is a slur on women). And guess who lives up to all of these “manly” behaviors, to the best of his ability? I do. Ask anyone I know. I’m not perfect, but I sure as shit try.

So not wanting to “smack my bitch up” in bed somehow diminishes my manhood? NOT wanting to dominate?

This is the problem with masculine and feminine as fixed ideas: we associate behaviors with them that all genders are fully capable of evincing, when in reality, the positive ones—like the “manly” ones I list above—are simply how anyone should and can act, and the negative ones I list above as their opposites are how no one should act, but plenty of people do, of all genders.

What are some positive attributes commonly associated with femininity? Softness, emotionality, sensitivity, nurturing, spirituality, being book-smart. Therefore, the opposites of these are associated with men, and men who feel themselves going in these directions are often insecure in their manhood despite being offered a great gift: the ability to feel, and maybe even to think.

See, it is not so much that one set of behaviors is truly masculine and the other set is feminine. It is that one set is positive and admirable and enriches humanity, and the other set is negative and petty and degrades humanity. And all genders are capable of all behaviors. Simple.

So there is no fixed essence or idea of masculine and feminine. They are comprised only of what we associate with them, what society tells us they are. Why? So that we’ll be simpler and easier to control, and so that people will fight for these ideas as they would for any other tradition against those who believe in a broader range of human potential for self-determination beyond what “masculine” and “feminine” have laid out for us.

So maybe I don’t want to “develop a sexual identity” if it means embracing the oppressive conditions that society wants to impose on me by making me question my manhood. Basically, fulfilling societal expectations. Maybe the “sexual identity” that I’d like to develop, and I wish everyone could develop, is based on shared affirmation and equality through the sex act, rather than the unbridled self-interest, domination, and alienation that our society is based on, WHICH CREATES the inner anger in men which we men are given permission to take out on “our” women.

If I seem at all defensive or excusatory, it is probably because I anticipate that this blog entry will turn some women off from me as a sexual partner (whaddayagonnado), or open me up to accusations of Full Betaness from bro-dudes who believe that their sex-partner list is essentially their scorecard for life, because, for whatever reason, they have no other standard by which to judge the success, fullness, or quality of their lives. Except maybe their bank accounts.

As I’ve discussed in other entries, I don’t like to let people down or disappoint them, and I don’t like to open myself up to harsh criticism, even if the people who might be criticizing me, and their opinions, don’t matter. I also tend to anticipate conflict. That might be my one definitive Beta trait: subservience to the opinions of others. It tends to get me exactly nowhere.

Sometimes when women ask me about my fantasies, they’ll project their own fantasies onto me. “How about you dress up as my English teacher and discipline me for showing up late to class?” I mean, sure, that sounds kinda hot, I guess, but it’s definitely not my fantasy. It’s hers. Which is fine.

As I mentioned earlier, some women (keyword: “some”) like to be dominated because they want to see a manifestation of extreme desire for them (or so I have read). They want to see a man who is so consumed with physical need and arousal that he can’t control himself and must—absolutely must—“have” her then and there. So this type of scenario forms the fantasies of some women: to be dominated by hot-tempered, impulsive men. That’s what turns her on.

I get that a woman’s sense of self-importance and purpose can easily be closely tied to her attractiveness. As I mentioned earlier, attractiveness has historically been the main societal determinant of a woman’s value. And as a man, I have been taught the opposite of what women have been taught: that I have distinct value besides my physical attractiveness. This is a condition I deplore.

And that’s partly why this idea kind of wigs me out. I like to have my ego reinforced and built up, sure. I like to feel wanted and that I arouse the person I’m with. Who doesn’t? It’s a groovy feeling.

But, as I mentioned above, my sexual fulfillment largely comes from pleasuring the other person. Therefore, when the other person’s fulfillment comes from the same thing, that’s a winning combination for me. I think that wanting to pleasure someone is a pretty sure sign that I’m attracted to that person. Why does it have to enter into dominance and “discipline”?

I despise societal images of men and women that depict men dominating or punishing women. On a personal level, I don’t carry around anger towards women. I don’t blame them for my frustration and inner turmoil; I blame the system under which we live, and life itself. It’s these things called “root cause analysis” and “taking responsibility for myself.” So I don’t really fantasize about disciplining or punishing them.

I explained how I don’t fantasize about dominating women to a female partner recently, and her response was, verbatim, “huh. Well that’s somewhat depressing.”

Of course, some folks will say, validly, that a feminist man is, in fact, able to have domination fantasies without being a misogynist, just as a woman having submission fantasies doesn’t make her “oppressed,” “brainwashed,” or “confused” by society’s expectations on her. Sexual activities are separate from social behavior, separate from what is genuinely, truly believed. You cannot extrapolate misogyny or any other oppressive tendency from someone’s sexual proclivities. Fine.

So where do these fantasy ideas come from? Are men innately dominant and women innately submissive? Obviously not; otherwise there would be no market for dominatrices. So SOME women and SOME men. Okay, sure.

But why them? Do their fantasies and fancies just appear out of nowhere? Or are they somehow the result of their environment? Their upbringing? Their relationships with men and women throughout their early lives? How their values are formed? Et cetera.

It’s naive to think that these fantasies appear out of nowhere, and worse than naive, it’s downright dehumanizing to think they are innate. That’s the essentialist, reductionist standpoint of those who would argue that there are fixed ideas of “masculine” and “feminine,” that men are “naturally meant” to dominate and women are “naturally meant” to be dominated, and those men and women who deviate from these fixed ideas are somehow wrong, bad perversions of “real” men and women. That’s fucked up.

So then it is environmental factors which create these phenomena, that implants these desires, these inclinations, these so-called needs.

Why can’t society be organized so that women don’t need to be told how attractive they are in order to get off? That’s what domination fantasies are about, at least the type that I describe earlier.

Why can’t society be organized so that men don’t need to dominate or punish in order to “feel like a man” or express the anger and frustration that they can’t express anywhere else? Men AND women alike (although I’m not saying equally) are spiritually crushed, oppressed, and exploited by the system of bosses and profit known as capitalism under which we live.

And what about James Deen? Maybe you’ve heard about him; he’s that male adult film actor who was reputed to be a super-feminist man and then ended up ignoring his girlfriend’s safe-word and raping her. He appeared in all kinds of dominant sexual situations opposite women throughout his career, earned tons of money from it, and became a household name (as far as porn actors go). And it turns out he’s a horrible human being. Is it just an isolated incident?

Or is it possible that sexual desire may, in fact, and perhaps only in some men, reflect a man’s everyday attitudes about those that he seeks to sexually dominate?

What about the movie, “Hot Girls Wanted”? In that film, we see the somewhat horrifying reality of a porn market based on dehumanizing imagery that goes beyond misogyny—rape, humiliation, racism—all of which earns millions of dollars because so many men pay handsomely for it.

Is it merely that such imagery is taboo, and if we were a more open sexual society men wouldn’t seek it out online? And then, if it was more available, the desire for it would diminish because people would have less shame about it?

So if men could just get together and openly express their feelings and their desire to dominate women, that would somehow remove that desire.

I don’t see that working out too well. The images of male domination still exist; the pressure to dominate is still there. Of course I think men should express how they feel, but dominating women is pretty much accepted in society and it’s depicted all the time: commercials, movies, TV shows, in the news, etc cetera.

In other words, while certain specific images are taboo, the male act of female domination is very much the norm. So men would be expressing something that society basically already approves of. Although things have improved in a lot of ways and are still changing, the man is still expected to financially, socially, and interpersonally dominate the woman.

My point here is quite a humanistic one: men are not born misogynists. They are not born “pigs.” They do not, “by nature,” want to dominate women in order to feel like men. Society tells them that dominating is how one behaves “like a man” and submitting is how one behaves like a woman, and every person is always either dominating or submitting. To this binary, there is no in-between. And of course, there is a value judgment placed on his ability or lack thereof to dominate, just as there is a value placed on a woman’s ability TO BE dominated (if she’s not hot, she’s not desirable, therefore she’s incapable of being dominated because she arouses no sexual desire, therefore she has no value).

Men want sex, sure we do. Of course. I mean, hell yeah. And so do women. Sexuality, even coitus itself, does not intrinsically involve dominance and submission. Sure, the man generally does the “fucking.” But if said fucking is fully consensual, it is a 100% two-way street, mutual and equal and capable of making both parties feel equally great, empowered, and human.

And men can be raped.

Men are made into misogynists by images and formative experiences that shape their understanding of male/female relations. It is only by combating the purveyors of these images and the societal conditions that create the formative experiences that the “natural” desire of men to dominate women will be diminished.

We can’t control how we develop and the types of things we find “hot.” I don’t fully blame people for their tastes. At the same time, rich people are raised to be greedy fucks who expropriate huge amounts of money from their workforce, invest in the defense, prison, animal torture, and fossil fuel industries, and take as much as possible from those who need it most in order to further enrich themselves.

These people are fucked up. Their “tastes” actually hurt and ruin society and lead to the deaths and misery of millions of people. And how do the conscience-driven among them deal with it? By giving tax-deductible donations to charities that dubiously have a hand in cleaning up the messes they and the system they profit from create. That’s not very manly.

They would never attempt to actually change that system. They are not beyond judgment because of how they were raised.

The same is true of those men (and the world is run largely by men, Angela Merkel notwithstanding) whose sick capitalist upbringing produced a mindset in which domination, desecration, and destruction are somehow “natural” and therefore desirable. The root causes of this mindset must be attacked mercilessly.

But we feminists want it both ways. We want to give good men room to have their dominating fantasies, but we also want an end to the societal conditions which cause domination to be sexually arousing, and the male identity to be tied to domination. It will take a long time and lots of resistance from those men for whom there is no other metric of their value as people besides dominance (a group from whom, I suppose, some feminist men are excluded).

It will also necessitate resistance from those women for whom being dominated is the only metric of their value. People will fight it; they will fight the “pussification” of men, and the “butchification” of women. But when people of all genders can simultaneously submit—by which I mean mutually accept that they all share similar human conditions of oppression—and dominate—by which I mean struggle, not against each other but against the system which creates those conditions and pits them against one another—both categories of behavior will cease to mean anything.

Society is not composed of one idea which dominates and another which submits. It is composed of those ideas that win while the others, despite struggling, lose. But the struggle continues. Eventually, true equality will be pitted against dominance/submission, and dominance/submission will lose, because those who benefit from equality far outnumber those who benefit from dominance and submission.



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