Ellie Lumpesse has been posting a series of interviews with men about masculinity all of which are absolutely fantastic, and I highly encourage you all to check them out. A little from her on her interviews: “So the other day I was thinking about masculinity. And then I realized I should probably think about it in conjunction with men. So, I asked a few guys to answer some very difficult questions about their relationships with masculinity. I’m amazed by the response so far and I hope that a dialogue will begin.”
When was the first time you remember being aware of masculinity? How old were you? What was the cultural climate or influence?
Growing up I don’t recall much of a focus on what masculinity was per se. I was raised by a single mother and largely raised by my two grandmothers; in fact I never even met my father until I was 7. Also I grew up in Norway which means a slightly different culture than in the US, though the ideas of Masculinity and Femininity are similar enough, if perhaps somewhat less extreme.
My first real experience with a Father Figure was when my mother got married to another man, a man I hated with a fiery vengeance. He also had a son who was 4 years older than me and we disliked each other even more. Growing up I had never been in to a lot of “proper” masculine activities, I hated sports and while other boys would love to play soccer or go skiing I would prefer staying home reading a book.
This didn’t fly with my step father, he had rather traditional ideas of what boys should be into and so he set out to “make a man of me”. Of course, even back then I had a rather stubborn and surprisingly well-developed anti-authoritan streak and I fought back against pretty hard. Luckily it didn’t last long as he and my mother had problems that resulted in a short marriage.
Do you think of yourself as masculine? Why or why not?
Yes and no. I like to think that I’ve embraced some of the better aspects of masculinity while rejecting the aspects I consider useless or counterproductive. My “embrace” of my masculine side began in High-school where I went through a large shift in personality, seeking to become more assertive, more confident and more in charge of my life. But with my typical contrariness I put my own spin on it and refused to easily fit with a masculine stereotype. Where other boys were still enamored by sports and physical prowess, I focused on mental prowess and poured my energy into becoming some sort of Intellectual Alpha-Male. The advent of the internet made this even easier and I adopted an online persona where I felt I explored a more aggressive masculine persona. I found it easier to be what I had been taught a Man should be online where I could play to my strengths than in real life where I still found the typical male bravado and chest-thumping to be rather distasteful.
Eventually as I got more comfortable with my masculine sides they also began to mellow and I began to feel more like moving outside the limitations they in some ways imposed on me. I feel less of a need to prove my masculinity, but more of a need to really explore it beyond what I had been taught about it, to find a masculinity that’s my own instead of that imposed by culture and society. I am still going through this process and am probably going to be doing so for the rest of my life. In fact the whole question of masculinity becomes just a part of a larger context of self-realization where simple labels increasingly fail to convey any real meaning about who I am and the ideas, thoughts, opinions and desires that I’m composed of. Masculinity fits, better than some other labels, but my Masculinity is to me unique, in some ways more forceful, in some ways more compromising than what others expect. It is in some ways subversive while in others it is almost frighteningly conformist.
How does your masculinity relate to your sexuality (be it your orientation, preferences, or expressions)?
For me my Masculinity in many ways ties in with my Dominant preferences. I don’t consider myself strictly heterosexual, but I’m primarily attracted to Biological females who are “feminine”, and I tend to present my Masculine side to others. Occasionally though, I feel a need to move completely out of that framework, to be the one not in charge, the one being fucked instead of the one doing the fucking, the one who surrenders control, while at the same time I have a very hard time doing so, and even talking about it or acknowledging it becomes very challenging. My appearance, mannerism and demeanor are thus almost universally “masculine” often in an almost exaggerated manner, especially around strangers or people I don’t know too well. In some ways this might be a defense mechanism, an easy way to keep others from really learning about me, from really getting to know me. Opening up and being vulnerable is something that I’ve always had a hard time with and even with my current partner who I feel closer to than anyone my whole life it still takes enormous effort on her part for me to really open up and show my vulnerable sides. The only consolation here is that it’s gradually getting a little bit easier.
Now this is not to say that I feel bad about my expressions of Masculinity, I definitely feel they are an important and cherished part of me, but I also feel a need to move beyond them and no longer be restricted by the limitations I feel they impose on me.