Clarisse Thorn, one of my favorite feminist writers, has written a number of posts examining how gender roles and traditional views of masculinity affect men. This sort of analysis isn’t anything new, but it’s always fraught with peril since it is often used as a smoke screen for Men’s Rights Advocates to claim that feminism has made society “forget about men” or some other silly nonsense. Thorn does an excellent job of describing the impacts as she sees them, while still calling bullshit on male privilege when it’s needed.
There’s no doubt in my mind that gender essentialism and discrimination hurt women more than men, but it’s useful to point out the ways in which society’s narrowly defined set of acceptable behaviors hurt both men and women–doing so makes arguing against those gender-boxes that much easier.
The piece I want to draw attention to today is on the subject of male sexuality and the toxic double standards that go along with it.
The pressure put on men to be initiators, yet avoid seeming creepy or aggressive, leads to an unpleasant double bind. After all, the same gross cultural pressures that make women into objects force men into instigators; how many women do you know who proposed to their husbands?
So how can a man express his sexual needs without being tarred as a creep? After all, the point of promoting sex-positive attitudes is for everyone to be able to be open about their needs and desires, right?
This is something I struggle with a lot, personally. It’s tough trying to walk the line between appropriately self-confident and excessively aggressive when male sexuality is generally seen as predatory. Politeness means that it’s fairly rare for anyone, woman or man, to flat-out reject the advances of a stranger. Hell, doing so can be outright dangerous for women in certain situations, so it’s a small wonder.
It seems that the only way to walk that line is to be very, very good at reading subtle clues and body language, but frankly, that’s kind of easy to fuck up. I’m sure I do it pretty often. I know I’ve barreled right over the line into creeper territory by accident more than once, and it’s totally not my intention.
Anyway, all I’m getting at is dating kind of sucks, nobody can communicate with anybody else (including me), and gender roles make everything bad for everybody, all the time.
Speaking of creeping people out: I had to go into downtown today to pick up my bike, so I was waiting at the bus stop decked out in my spandex tights and other cycling kit. I was sharing the bus shelter with a woman who looked to be about 65 or 70. Bored, I started doing some stretches, including some calf stretches. I wasn’t facing her, but apparently I must have really grossed out this lady, because she abruptly stood up while making a sort of “yuck” sound and walked out of the bus shelter rather than watch me stretch in my tights. Oops.
On a more positive note, I did my grocery shopping on my bike today, so I just rode straight from downtown to my grocer down in Lake O. When I arrived I had my facemask on and a little girl asked me if I was a ninja. I told her I was a bike ninja and totally struck a pose, it was awesome and she made my day.