Men and Masculinity
Why are men so sensitive when it comes to their masculinity? This question came to me when I began reading the introduction of this section on sex. I believe that men are pushed into a social stereotype just like women are. They are told how to act, when to cry, and when to be tough from a very young age. These traits are not only bestowed upon them by their parents, but by movies, music and government of the past and present.
?For many straight men, homosexuality is a direct threat to their identities?(O?Neill 5). Since men claim they are so powerful and masculine, they shouldn?t have a problem with homosexuality. Men have this problem due to the social construction. According to many heterosexual males that I have talked to, they feel that if they hang out with a homosexual or become a homosexual themselves, they would be deceiving the morals and values bestowed upon them when they were young. The majority of parents in our society have brought heir children up believing that a relationship consists of a man and a woman, and that there is no deviation from this norm. Many homosexual males never even tell their parents that they are gay. Many of these men feel that their families would disown them if they found out. The odd thing is that many of these homosexual men feel more afraid to tell their fathers that they are gay. They feel like their father would be more ashamed of them. One homosexual told me that his father would feel like less of a man if he knew.
When I asked a number of heterosexual men, ranging form the ages of 18 to 30, why they feel homosexuality is wrong, they all came up with basically the same answer. In one way or another they all said, ?That it is just wrong, and they take it in the rear!? Some of the men I asked even said they felt ?homosexuality is like a disease that might rub off on you if you get to close?. My feeling is that if you are not gay then you have no reason to be afraid of someone who is. I feel that if you have no doubt in your sexuality then you wouldn?t feel threatened by someone who is. It says in the Introduction ?Straight women, on the other hand, often don?t seem as threatened by lesbianism?. If according to the article ?Designing Men: Reading the Male Body as Text?, Culbertson states that ? Woman rarely have power??(Culbertson 3), then why does he also go on to later say that, ?masculinity as a gender construction in virtually every society must be constantly defended?(Culbertson 4). If men are the more powerful people then why are they so easily threatened by something that rarely has any affect on women? Also if men are the more powerful then why does Culbertson also state that, ?the homosocial system can be maintained only when men avert their gaze from each other; the gaze figuratively, must remain focused on a woman?(Culbertson 3). This is because they are not more powerful, they have just always been taught that they are the stronger gender. Why do men need women to feel confident in themselves, while women freely look at each other and themselves without a second thought? I think this is for reasons like the old saying, ?Behind every great man is a great woman?. Men are brought up, just as women are, to believe that they are to find the perfect woman. They are brought up with a psychological need for a woman. Men need women to make them feel masculine. Some men feel that having a girlfriend or wife shields them from the gay community.
With masculinity in a male comes great vulnerability and complication. Men always rattle on about how had women are to read, but really they are just as hard to read if not more. The only reason the male body is a difficult text to read is because it is not exposed as much as the female body. I disagree with Ward when he states, ?The male body has been a cinematic fetish for many years?(Ward 1). I think that women have been the cinematic fetishes while men have hidden themselves behind them. I have yet to see a movie in the same context as ?Striptease?, but centered on a male, sold or shown anywhere besides a porn store. If you go shopping at just about any store you will find a picture of a beautiful woman on just about any item a male might think about buying, but you don?t find very many of the same types of pictures on items that females buy. I think that the reason for this is because men have a major problem with buying anything that has another male portrayed in a sexual manor or pretty much in any way, while females are for the most part very content and open with their sexuality and feelings. Most females have no problem at all buying an item that has a beautiful females picture on it. Females don?t think it will hinder their sexuality, while males generally wonder ?what the guys will think if they see that they bought this?? I do however think that the male body is slowly coming into more prospective. According to Ward in his article ?Hung like a Horse: Male Stripping in Recent Films?, the male erection, which is generally looked upon as masculine, is no longer the main point of masculinity. Originally, the male body was shown as your stereotypical, tan, muscular, and rugged kind of guy. Such stars as Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwartzenagger portrayed this stereotypical male in the stereotypical masculine settings in movies such as, Rambo, Die Hard, Terminator, and The Fugitive. Now our typical male vision is being swept away from these old realms and pushed in a new direction. With movies like ?The Full Monty?, ?Boogie Nights?, and ?The Pillow Book?, have stripped the male body and exposed not it?s masculinity, but it?s vulnerability. In the movie ?Philadelphia? a gay man is being defended because he was fired from his job unjustly. This is a big step for our movie society to make. Being ?gay? is not something that is talked about. The movies are becoming more and more bold, making the generation today start to understand it?s okay to be whatever you want to be. Even though the male body is now making more of a dramatic appearance in movies and magazines today, I feel that the stereotypical male will always be prominent. I don?t feel that males are truly independent or confident enough to let go and feel as comfortable as females do. Even though females are more judgmental about our bodies, we are still not afraid to look in the mirror and see what is really there. We are not afraid to have a sleepover party and sleep in the bed or change in the same room. Males on the other hand feel that it would not be masculine sleep together or change, because they might made fun of or even worse, it might rub off on them.
In the future I feel the social construction needs to be modified. Men need to be taught that it is okay to show emotion and that whatever their sexuality is doesn?t matter. I think that men would be a lot more masculine if they could all come to terms with their feelings and be open and honest about themselves and their bodies. I think that males should be able to look the mirror at themselves and not feel ?gay? or not masculine, just as a female can. I am not saying that males should change their whole personality or standards, I just feel that they should conform to society a little better than they do. Women are strong, but still loving. Men should learn from the environment around them. To be more masculine they should learn to cope with their sexuality, and not be afraid to cry. Masculinity does not mean without feeling, it means being strong and coming to terms with who you really are.
Culbertson, Philip. “Designing Men: Reading the ale Body as Text.” Internet. Available: http://www.bu.edu/mzank/textual-reasoning/(volume7,1998)
Ward, Graham. “Hung Like a Horse: Male Stripping in Recent Films.” Online. Available: http://www.bu.edu/mzank/textual-reasoning/(volume7,1998)