I have often portrayed males as the aggressors, or the evil perpetrators. The more I got to know the opposite sex, however, the more I realized that they are just as clueless as women. Many college men have not established their own sexual identity, and when placed in an environment filled with other guys raging in hormones, they cling to the ideal of hyper-masculinity and adopt the culture of the “vocal minority” as their own–namely, a culture that violently objectifies women, that is infused with homophobia.
Without the true identity of the self, the stereotype asserts that a man should be “manly.” And to be “manly” is to be “strong,” “aggressive” and “active.” One must avoid being “sissy,” “submissive” or “passive.” This goes to show the nature of the connotations of the words we associate with the male and the female. The words we associate with “manly” have positive connotations. It is definitely a compliment when we say, “You are the man” or “You’ve got balls.” However, words that are often associated with the female sex are often derogatory, such as “You are such a bitch” or “Don’t be such a pussy.” Since “male” and “female” divide the positives and negatives, to be “manly” must mean the shunning of the “unmanly” and even going as far as belittling them.
Therefore, I was surprised when I heard a rumor that to pledge a certain unnamed frat, the pledges have to sit in front of one another, naked, holding the penis of the person in front of them while walking in a circle. I asked, how is that not homoerotic? How do they reconcile that with their otherwise homophobic, hyper-masculine culture? A person replied that precisely because it is homoerotic, coupled with a sense of homophobia, the event achieves its purpose of being “degrading.” It states that homoeroticism is not “manly”–and not being “manly” is humiliating–since the “unmanly” have only negative connotations associated with them.
This type of culture makes it impossible for (insecure) men (who feel the pressure to cling on to their “manliness”) to treat women with respect for the fear of being called “a pussy” or “pussy-whipped”–even if they wanted to. In certain environments, such as frats and sports groups, giving oral sex is looked down upon while receiving the most oral sex asserts masculinity. To them, being “manly” is about being in control and asserting charge over the other sex. Therefore, they are to be “serviced” and will not take the initiative of lowering their lips to, God forbid, the vagina.
A friend of mine (who also belongs to a frat) is also puzzled at the phenomenon. For him, a large part of the turn-on comes from knowing his partner is really turned on and is having a fantastic time. Therefore, it is bewildering why some guys lack a desire to please, or enjoy sexual practices that degrade women. I tried to explain this phenomenon by listing reasons such as their lack of knowledge–of joys of shared pleasure and the excitement of driving a woman to ecstasy–and their clinging on to the aforementioned idea of “masculinity.”
Thus, the most confident guys I have met are not the ones who cling to the construction of masculinity (and who generally have more brawn than brain). They are, instead, often quite certain of their sexuality and thus do not feel the pressure to prove that they, in fact, like women. They do not feel the need to shun Terra (or Sigma Nu for that matter) in fear of being mistaken as gay (because of their freedom from homophobia as well). They do not feel that they have to belittle women to assert their masculinity, and therefore treat women with respect, as is due to any human being. They also understand who they are and hence are not afraid of their “emotional side.” They are often feminists and understand the positive benefits of the feminist movement for both genders. Therefore, they also understand the shortcomings and the dangers of the “masculine” and “feminine” construction.
“Boys don’t cry.” “Girls are bad at math.” These limiting constructs of genders inevitably invite sexism, violence and homophobia. Simply, they are hazardous to our well-being. Looking at gender construction, I realized that perhaps the guys are not to blame for their disrespectful ways, but their adaptation of a social ideal is. They are not inherently evil, but feel the need to overcompensate with a facade of hyper-masculinity to hide their insecurity and immaturity. They have the need to belittle others to establish their own ego. It is my hope that these guys would grow free of the weary “hyper-masculinity” that they feel a need to maintain. After all, what is more attractive than a guy who is respectful and self-aware? Remember, gender is but a construct and one can make up a more fitting set of rules for behavior that is not as restrictive and harmful–one that includes respect and is fitting for this century.
To shed “hyper” from “hyper-masculinity,” e-mail email@example.com.