PDF Confessions: An Honest Male Perspective on Issues Concerning Manhood and Masculinity

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There are various important differences with regards to the roles of men and women, how they relate to each other, and what they expect from each between feminine and masculine cultures. For example, women in masculine cultures tend to have different personality preferences in boyfriends and husbands, while in feminine cultures women want the same in a husband as they want in a boyfriend.

In masculine cultures, men expect women to be modest, caring, gentle, and passive. In feminine cultures, women and men expect men and women to be modest caring and gentle, and men expect women to be active, decisive, and ambitious. In feminine cultures there is no equally strong gender separations and homosexuality and intermediate genders are accepted as a fact of life. These differences in gender roles and expectations also strongly influence sexual behavior.

In masculine cultures, women are expected to be passive during sex and are not really expected to enjoy sex. For men, on the other hand, sex is a competitive achievement. Because of this, sex is often exploitative in masculine cultures, and often experienced as such by women. It is only a very slight exaggeration to say that the model of sex in masculine cultures is rape. In feminine cultures, in contrast, women are expected to be active during sex and to enjoy it, and as a consequence, in feminine cultures women actually do indeed more often enjoy sex and experience orgasms much more frequently and more easily.

Furthermore, in feminine cultures women rarely experience sex as abusive. Sex is most of all an extension of physical and emotional intimacy between equal partners. Perhaps, this is the starkest contrast between masculine and feminine cultures — sex as rape versus sex as intimacy — and this contrast captures and reflects many of the other differences mentioned above.

It is no coincidence that sexual harassment is a bigger problem in masculine cultures, by the way. In masculine cultures masturbation is associated with guilt and disgust, while in feminine cultures it is primarily associated with pleasure. In both dualisms, passivity is associated with femininity and activity with masculinity, and this indeed is typical of masculine cultures, while in feminine cultures, both men and women are expected to be active. More in general, the sharp contrast presumed by these dualisms is itself a characteristic of masculine cultures.

In such cultures gender is an absolute dichotomy: black or white, with nothing in between. In feminine cultures, on the other hand, there is no similarly strong opposition between the genders. Of course, the genders are distinguished, but the distinction is gradual more than absolute — it is no dichotomy and it accepts various shades of gray.

In fact, in comparison to the black-and-white perspective on gender typical of masculine cultures, feminine cultures only recognize shades of gray. Connell to refer to the idealized form of masculinity or manhood that is traditionally used to legitimize male dominance or hegemony. Hegemonic masculinity is associated with violence and toughness, and with the bread-winner role in the family or tribe.

In addition to violence and toughness, characteristics and keywords of hegemonic masculinity include aggression, courage, strength, risk-taking, competitiveness, achievement, emotional restraint showing no emotions except anger. Hegemonic masculinity is a paradigm of manhood, but it competes with other less paradigmatic perspectives and experiences in the lives of actual men and women.

As a paradigm it operates mainly through the formation of exemplars of manhood.

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These exemplars have authority over cultural ideas of what it is to be a man, even if very few if any men can live up to the ideals they embody. Hegemonic masculinity is the dominant perspective on what it is to be a man. Hegemonic masculinity is typical of the perspective of masculinity in very masculine cultures, but not of the perspective that characterizes feminine cultures. But even the latter are strongly influenced by hegemonic masculinity for reasons discussed in the next subsection. I have written about that topic before, and it is easiest to just quote myself.

The first of these is hegemony. Paradigmatic or exemplary manhood is the standard of what it is to be a man, and as such the symbol that legitimizes male control over everything else. But there is an interesting twist. Hegemonic values and beliefs are hegemonic in the Gramscian sense because they serve the interests of the ruling group i. Surely, it serves some male interests, namely the interest of social and cultural dominance.

As already suggested above, hegemonic and toxic masculinity are not unrelated to cultural masculinity. Consequently, one might expect that toxic masculinity as the negative counterpart of hegemonic masculinity is especially problematic in masculine cultures, but Terror Management TMT — see above may somewhat complicate the picture. If that worldview is perceived to be under attack, or perceived to be weakening, then this threatens the terror management of its adherents. Hegemonic masculinity as a radicalization of the stereotypical masculinity of masculine cultures may be such worldview defense — that is, it may originate in a perceived threat to traditional gender-related values and perspectives.

Such perceived threats can have many forms including cultural change i. The United States might be an example of such a country.

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It had a very masculine culture, but more recent measures show a decided shift towards feminine culture, 27 and there have been obvious discursive changes and changes in the public roles of women as well. Hegemonic masculinity is a hegemonic notion or stereotype of masculinity that is loosely? It is hegemonic in the second sense mentioned above because making masculine culture the effective standard serves the interests of masculine countries.

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But much more importantly, it is hegemonic in the first sense — that is, it is the dominant or standard point of view. Examples of this dominance have already been mentioned above: in the English-language scientific literature on gender roles, the psychology of gender, and so forth, it is nearly always assumed that the gender roles, gender relations, and gender stereotypes that are typical of masculine cultures are universal rather than culture-specific. That hegemonic influence of masculine culture remains mostly invisible to the feminists operating within it, however, which is a perfect illustration of how hegemony works.

The dominance of hegemonic values and beliefs is not the result of some kind of planned process or a conspiracy, but rather of a more or less automatic process.

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It is primarily the political, economic, and scientific-discursive hegemony of the United Status — that is, the role of the US as the paradigm of success and prestige — that created the pathway to the hegemony of cultural masculinity. There are, however, some related cultural pathologies that may also have played a role in the rise of hegemonic cultural masculinity, although it is at least equally likely that hegemonic cultural masculinity created the fertile soil for those pathologies. This overlap in characteristics facilitates the spread of one through pathways created by another.

Furthermore, both cultural masculinity and cultural psychopathy are closely related to neo-liberalism, which is equally hegemonic.

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And like the other two cultural pathologies, the epidemic of narcissism and the hegemony of psychopathy, hegemonic cultural masculinity is harmful. Or actually, cultural masculinity is harmful. Cultural masculinity helps those who are already ahead and further tramples down those left behind.


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Cultural masculinity leads to discrimination of women and to toxic masculinity. And cultural masculinity ruins sex and intimacy in general — for men by making sex stressful, and for women by making sex unpleasant.

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Assuming that causing undeserved suffering is inherently bad, 31 this implies that cultural masculinity is bad. And that conclusion makes its dominance or hegemony even more problematic. But when I read her essay, I read it against the background of Terror Management Theory, concept dichotomization, and these various masculinities, and that is how — in my opinion — the essay should be read regardless of whether it was intended as such. The separation into parts follows more or less the thematic organization of the essay.

The essay proper is preceded by a short preface and followed by a postscript, and I will start there. Except for this preface and postscript, I will quote all parts of the original essay in full with permission of the author before commenting on them. This is a sketch of the Symbolic Order of Life and Manhood. It is a schema for structuring the understanding of reality that is applied, to varying degrees, by many past and present people of any gender.

I do not claim or believe that it is universal. If this seems like a caricature, bear in mind the following: this is a sketch, and caricatures are often sketches, too. No one person will live by the symbolic order sketched here to the letter, for it does not exist as such. It is not universal, and thus a cultural worldview in the sense intended by, for example, Ernest Becker and Terror Management Theory. In one word, it is hegemonic. There is some friction between the rejection of universality claims in the preface and postscript and the text of the essay proper, however.

There is no hedging in the main text.

Rather, every claim is written as an absolute and universal claim. The circle of manhood is at the center of the circle of life, which is bound by death. Our instinct tells us this is good and necessary. Any doubts we might have about the rightness of this process will weaken our resolve and must be controlled and repressed. The power to take what we need and what we want from the circle of life, and make it our own to do with as we please.

This is what gives us pleasure. Every time we succeed at taking something is a confirmation of our position within the circle of manhood. A man is defined by his ability to control and not be controlled.

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A man that allows himself to be controlled or even influenced too much is at the outskirts of the circle of manhood at best, and beyond it at worst: at the level of women, babes, and animals. When a man becomes a man, he is drawn into the circle of manhood by other men. No more does he belong to the outer circle that is the realm of children, women, and other possessions.

He is now a man among men, who compete, cooperate, and together sustain the circle of manhood by drawing in men, and casting out non-men. The first things that should be noticed in reading this passage are its predatory view of human life, and its Nietzschean overtones. But humans are not predators.

go These two conceptualizations of life seem to reflect two different ways of viewing our place in or relative to nature. This, as well as the aggressive versus gentle tones of the two conceptualizations, reminds of the Babylonian gender opposition and its associations. If Begging for It is an old downtown gallery afterhours, this is the marble and windows and mirrors of a grand museum sculpture garden on the first few minutes the doors open.