"I want you to hit me," she said breathlessly.
"Huh? Um. No. I don't do that." I said.
"Just once. Just slap me. Please?"
"No. No way."
She didn't understand why I wouldn't knock her around some in the service of her sexual pleasure. Later, I asked her what that was all about and she made it a question of my masculinity. As if not finding the fun in hitting her was somehow an indictment on what a pansy I was.
"I guess I thought you were more manly than you are." she told me on our last date of five. According to her I gave off the vibe of a "manly" guy. According to her, being "manly" included being a bit more physically aggressive with women than I was comfortable with. "I've seen you stand up to guys bigger than you in a bar so I figured..." She figured wrong but not only about me. She had her wires crossed when it came to understanding masculinity.
Most of my heroes are "manly men." My grandfather. My dad. Sylvester Stallone. Henry Rollins. Hunter S. Thompson. I suppose I balance them out with less masculine but equally badass people I consider heroes: My mother, my sister, my wife. Emma Goldman, Jodie Foster, Angela Davis. As a straight white guy from Generation X, however, the Alpha seems to be my go-to posture in most things.
To paraphrase my wife, I stink a bit of hyper-masculinity. I value the gruff old cats who talk about grit and tough love. I strive to emulate these men of a bygone era who had no truck with making excuses and saw weakness as something to avoid rather than wear as a badge of vulnerability.
This fact puts me in a bit of a quandary as our next wave of feminism is just a hair's breadth away from outright misandry in its consistent (but not entirely unwarranted) disgust with all things masculine.
Masculinity is not the same thing as misogyny. In fact, I don't think it's in the same camp at all. Masculinity, as a quality, has almost nothing to do with women. Masculinity is centered on how someone feels about himself and his place in the world. Misogyny is about power and disdain toward women. I'd even argue that one cannot be truly masculine AND genuinely misogynist at the same time although the two attitudes are so often confused as to seem one and the same.
And then there are the rapists. Rape is about control and power. Again, not in the same wheelhouse as masculinity. As I understand it, rape culture is the systemic objectification of women's bodies as property, the societal normalizing of sexual assault.
As the Venn Diagram of those who are strictly Masculine intersects with those who are Misogynist and then again intersects with those who proliferate Rape Culture, one begins to see a segment of society wholly detestable. That said, the castigation and elimination of Masculinity is not the solution to ridding the Global Tribe of these ratfuckers.
As soon as you start looking at actual human behavior things get a bit wonky.
Bill is an average guy. Average in that he is slightly overweight, is heterosexual, and is morbidly insecure and shitty when it comes to talking to women. Bill is frequently confused by the fluidity of sexuality and is often sneered at when he tries to inquire if an attractive woman is 1) heterosexual, 2) single, and 3) interested in him. Bill, like most human beings, wants to connect with a companion and have sex with her because his sock looks like a horror movie creature and doesn't laugh at his jokes.
Bill goes out into the world and sees that the women who are "hot" in the standard male gaze are dating and (assumably) having smoking sex with the guys who seem to treat them like shit. These 'dudes' and 'bros' seemed to have read that book The Game that told them to treat women with indifference and bought into the Hollywood meme that the best relationships start with acrimony and misunderstanding.
Bill confuses being masculine with being misogynist. And, in doing so, is accused of adding to the rape culture.
This confusion of how and who is universal and not limited to the Bill's of the world. All genders, all skin colors, all creeds experience this confusion and see the same images of misogynist men mistreating women and women being completely into these fucking guys.
The many synonyms for 'masculine' include virile, macho, manly, strong, strapping, rugged, robust, brawny, powerful, red-blooded, vigorous. Notice that there are no words included that connote being patronizing to women, catcalling, fetishizing, interrupting, domineering or fucking rapey. Men who are truly masculine are not de facto misogynists or rapists and real men understand the distinction.
A word of caution comes when leveling allegations of sexual assault when one feels uncomfortable, of course. Advocating that any time a woman feels uncomfortable in the presence of Bill, absent of any behaviors associated with misogyny or rapeyness, is no different from proliferating Stand Your Ground laws where someone can use lethal force if they feel threatened.
As we enter into new ground when it comes to gender fluidity and a stronger sense of feminism in society there's going to be a lot of confusion. Let's not mistake confusion with guilt.
As for the Bills of the world, shift your paradigm. No one owes you happiness or sexual fulfillment. Be masculine without entering the Venn diagram.