It is not easy to be a real man these days. The role of man has been damaged, by a long history of abusive, primitive and destructive behaviours. These days you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If you assert your male energy too much, you are all too easily associated with the category of abusive male. And perhaps rightly so, in some cases. If you don’t assert yourself at all, you are a spineless wimp. Either way, the quest to be an authentic human being gets marred by social prejudice and cultural memory.
And for the record, I don’t resent this anymore. Perhaps this is just our lot as a generation of men. Perhaps we deserve it. I come from a family riddled with memories of domestic abuse and alcoholism. And the wounds are very much alive in the relationships that exist today.
In the past, in fact until very recently, I have resented this, because it has left me apologising for crimes I never committed. But now I realise that I should stop fucking complaining.
Yes, it is hard to be a man in this day and age. You don’t know if you are coming or going. It is not clear what is expected by society, by your family, by women. But tough. You can thank your forefathers for this. You can thank the church. You can thank the whole panorama of an abusive patriarchal history. We really have to get over it. Men are the abusers in this society. The point I am trying to make however, is that there is nothing inherently abusive about being a man.
I can’t speak for the gay community, but in some ways you have to envy the position these men are in. At least there is an openness and freedom in as far as your self-expression and sexuality.
Heterosexual men do not have this. Well, actually, check that. Yes we do. We just don’t think we do. I think the challenge for heterosexual men these days is to express themselves as individuals, as sensitive, unique human beings, while at the same time play the role of man. Our genders are our roles within society, whether we like it or not. I don’t buy into this post-modern dogmatism about how gender is soluble, and how our roles within society are constructs that we can now throw away. That women can be men, and men can be women, and the whole thing is one big fucking free for all. That’s nothing better than a cluster fuck, and it actually creates a lot more abusive behaviour on the part of men in society than it challenges.
We are men. Whether you are a poet, an accountant, a nurse or a football player – you are a man. We do not exist in an abstract void. Existence might precede essence. But you still need to eat. You still need to shit. And you still need to fuck.
And what is more – you are a man. What in God’s name does that mean? It means you are a physical being, with a unique positive charge. You are a force of nature. You are a whole weather system unto yourself. And if you don’t believe this, or if you are a woman sneaking a look at this blog and you are defensive about what I am saying here, look at the science. Look at the testosterone levels. Men have more of it. We have a power that women do not have, and that is just the bottom line.
Problems start not when we assert this energy, but when we repress it. Because, when we repress it, as we have done for centuries under patriarchal ideologies, then we end up expressing it in unhealthy ways; abusive, self-destructive and even criminal ways. Masculinity is not in a state of crisis. It is society’s relationship with masculine energy, with the basic thrust of testosterone, that is in crisis. And it is a state of crisis that has been around for centuries. It is what feminism was reacting against. Abusive expressions of what is otherwise a very natural and powerful energy.
I am no expert or anthropologist, but most tribal cultures have some form of ritual by which the young man tames this energy. The woman doesn’t need to, simply because she does not have this baggage. She does not have this power, this physical drive. She is therefore not born at odds with her environment, but with an empathic sensitivity to it. (Incidentally, I would argue that men have this empathic, “feminine” power as well, it is just that testosterone counters it, and we forget it is even there).
So, evolved, tribal cultures know all too well that unless a young man has come face to face with his limitations, that unless he has wandered into the blackness of the forest, or the aloneness of the desert and faced terror by himself, then he will forever be a liability to the safety of the tribe. Because his forthright creative power will be untamed, will have no relative sensitivity to the environment or respect for the bigger picture of the tribe’s place in the life cycle. This is not bollocks. This is biology – pure and fucking simple. Look it up before you start dismissing it on the grounds of some faux-enlightenment scepticism masquerading as empiricism.
Also, look at the world we live in. If ever there was proof of a society destroying itself because of an untamed testosterone, then contemporary culture would be it. We are dislodged from the ecological system. We are destroying ourselves and our environment because of an insane consumptive and conquesting energy. And any attempt to curtail this energy is confusing to us. Why can something that feels so right, be so wrong?
How can it be so wrong to want to make one’s mark? To want to bend the rules of nature so that our quality of life is improved? And while we are at it, why is it so fucking wrong to desire a woman simply because of her physical beauty? Since when did every instinct in my body become a sin against woman, nature and life itself?
No wonder we are in conflict. No wonder you are reading this blog. No wonder I am angry enough to write it.
The fact is, that there is nothing wrong with your instincts. There is nothing wrong with your sexuality. There is nothing wrong with your desire to make a mark, to be praised, to achieve for the sake of achieving. There is nothing wrong with wanting to figure nature out and harness her powers for your own benefit. There is nothing wrong with the testosterone pumping through your body. There is nothing wrong with wanting to run, dance and fuck yourself into exhaustion.
Look at every other animal. Look at the way the male behaves. I always laugh at my sister’s cat. Even though the poor bugger has had his balls cut off, he still feels the need to climb every curtain, chew every cable and chase every flash of light or shadow in case it is a mouse. The thing is constantly on heat. And it is a demented animal because of this.
It is a paradox, however, that this incessant and adventurous spirit is exactly what determines the survival of a given species. The difference between men and other male animals, is that we have the power to understand this energy. We don’t need forced castration. And we needn’t feel ashamed of our energies. (Shame being a non-physical castration).
What we need to do is understand ourselves, to respect ourselves, and to have the humility to understand that nature – the expansive, silent feminine energy of the poets and the beasts – is much larger than ourselves. We need to come face to face with our own limitations before we can truly value ourselves and our place (our essential place) in the life cycle. If there were no men, women would die out. Sperm is not all we have to offer. We have a power they do not have. End of story. So dust yourself off mate, and stop worrying about it. The only thing you have to do is bravely face the challenges of the day and see mistakes, failure, fear and pain, as nature’s way of shining a light on this power. Self-respect, poise, grace and wisdom are your birthright, and they all have their roots in that raw testosterone inside you. The challenge is not curtail this energy or restrict it in any way. The challenge is to understand it and face up to it. This is as much a challenge for the whole of society, women included, as it is for each individual man living today.