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During a conversation I once had about masculinity, a good friend of mine expressed a primal idea that prevails to this day concerning the subject. He said “To have an erection makes me feel like a man…” Men the world over will generally agree that nothing can make us feel more alive than the rush of blood through our genitalia and the climactic use of it. Masculinity is defined by mans ability to be sexual, right?

If an erection makes a man “a man”, then manhood is in a sorry state indeed. It would mean that any individual capable of consummating a relationship or even raising a gallop whilst watching porn is “a man”. Contrary to popular opinion, authentic masculinity does not presuppose or necessitate sexual activity. What is at the root of this warped perception that man is released into a state of uber-masculinity through engaging in sexual activity?

Putting sexuality aside for the moment, social stereotypes about masculinity heap certain expectations onto the male gender. For men to be deemed “men” we need to be perceived to embody strength and a tough skin whilst emanating just enough emotional  vulnerability to prove we have a romantically softened underbelly. There is also a pressure to project a sense of achievement in financial status.  And then there is sex, the place where we believe our manhood really will be measured and authenticated.

For many, sex is the non-negotiable item on the list, and the belief that sexual activity is a defining factor of authentic masculinity drives us towards regular (and often unfulfilling) expression of it. The rarely spoken sentiment of many is that “I’m not really a man if I’m not getting any“.  My masculinity is not measured by the notches on my bedpost, if it were, I think over the past few years I would have developed ovaries!

I’m glad to say I know plenty of men who do reflect authentic masculinity without having to have sex, I’m not saying it’s impossible, to be sexually active and simultaneously reflect authentic masculinity, far from it! But there is a way of doing it (Christianity highlights this “way” as the covenantal union of marriage).

An article I recently read online in Christianity Today magazine defines masculinity in a way that I am currently on a journey toward but can currently only aspire to. This definition whets my appetite toward a new breed of masculinity.

“Authentic men are passionate, fierce, and noble—they care. In fact, they are dangerous. You might not see this passion on the exterior, but it’s bubbling under pressure just beneath the surface, forcing its way into every area of their lives. They have a spiritual longing for adventure, for a battle to fight that’s bigger than themselves, for significance in their lives. Like modern-day gladiators, they stand in the ring facing challenges with courage and passion. When you see a man with a passion for something bigger and nobler than himself, you are looking authentic masculinity in the eye.”

What truly defines masculinity and manhood? Any thoughts about their characteristics would be gratefully received under this post.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

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14 thoughts on “S & M (Sex and authentic Masculinity)

  1. I think regardless of the so-called ‘progressive’ world some things continue to remain the same. Much like the existence of rich and poor- there will always be that natural perception of masculinity in terms of strength, durability, and sex.
    Really interesting post 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts! Unfortunately I fear there is truth in them… I do dare to hope that a few men can season the progressive mainstream with an alternate breed of masculinity… It is a hope anyway!

  2. I would also state that true masculinity stands in clear view through self discipline and control. That is, I believe, much more difficult than fulfilling one’s self, especially for the moment…it is in fact more fulfilling.

  3. It seems you’ve based your “being masculine” mostly on being celibate. Honestly, although I appreciate your words and thoughts on the matter and agree with lots of what you have to say, I’ve heard about you and your past and actions and to be honest mate, you need to step it up in being a man and go beyond the whole celibate issue. We applaud you in being pure the last few years but your character as a whole, as a man, needs to step up a notch. I too am a celibate man, but Ive learnt that sexual drive isnt what we base our masculinity on. Whether youve been a good little christian boy or not, it goes beyond this. Your character, how you treat women. Even chivalry like opening car doors, acts of that kind all play a part in being a real man. Being thoughtful etc.

    You’re a little narrow minded and see one aspect since this is your topic of choice, but do the rest of us male species a favour and expand your horizons a lot more before making grand statements and theories like you have above.

    Cheers

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I’m glad you felt stirred enough to do so! Obviously because my blog is about my journey of celibacy, I am using that as my angle for the posts I make (as in this case). I am however not on any level saying masculinity and celibacy are synonymous.

      The main idea of the post was to put across that masculinity does not have to mean I’m sexually active, there are of course many other ways to exemplify manhood. You say my “character needs to step up a notch!” I agree!! I hope i can continue to grow in areas that i am currently weak (of which there are many!).. Character is not defined by a mans lack of sex! Integrity is far more multifaceted than that.

      Among the defining features of masculinity I would include the ones you mentioned, chivalry, thoughtfulness and many other great traits, i need to sharpen these too! You are of the opinion that I am narrow minded, I prefer to think of myself as single minded! And i will continue to be so! Thanks again for your input!

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey Dave – praying that your musings stir and challenge those who read toward a bold and unwavering love for Christ.

    Femininity and Masculinity are very intriguing topics – I’ve thought much about them… especially as a christian woman who doesn’t fit into the Christian mold of reaching ‘my highest calling – motherhood’ …

    I’m curious if there are any specific and commanding biblical passages which define ‘masculinity’ – and in that case, femininity too… or has masculinity/femininity (as we know it) been pegged and constructed by our society and tradition?

    Does Jesus really ever draw a line in the sand as to what a man or woman should look like? What characteristics they each should carry? Does He ever condemn a man who is caring or compassionate, or a woman who is bold and courageous?

    To quote the Christian Today article you read:

    “Authentic men are passionate, fierce, and noble—they care. In fact, they are dangerous. You might not see this passion on the exterior, but it’s bubbling under pressure just beneath the surface, forcing its way into every area of their lives. They have a spiritual longing for adventure, for a battle to fight that’s bigger than themselves, for significance in their lives. Like modern-day gladiators, they stand in the ring facing challenges with courage and passion. When you see a man with a passion for something bigger and nobler than himself, you are looking authentic masculinity in the eye.”

    But what if all those characteristics speak of my nature and heart’s desire… and I am a woman.. (gasp!!) … does that make me a ‘masculine’ woman?! God-forbbid!! 🙂 (Hope you can hear my cheeky tone of voice!)

    I think we run the risk of capping the beauty and glory of God dwelling within us when we attempt to box men and women into set gender roles/characteristics/traits…

    Your thoughts?

    My prayer for us is this: May we be free – free to be as Jesus has created each of us to be… whatever that may look like in the jar of clay that He has given us… each of us uniquely created and all of us together displaying His glory and splendor… May we each be free to live and love as Christ calls each of us.

    Blessings to you brother on your exciting adventures.

    .am.

    • Hi Annie!
      Great to hear from you! You make some really great points. If we try and conclusively define masculinity and femininity we will meet a fair few obstacles. To define every women as a Proverbs 31 girl, or every man as some kind of Abrahamic Patriarchal figure would be absurd… Off the cuff, I would suggest that femininity and masculinity can best be described as integrity and Christ-likeness poured through personality… Whether our personality traits are Choleric and adventurous or understated and phlegmatic, we can demonstrate masculinity and femininity in its raw form through a life of surrender and discipleship…

      I love what you said here “we run the risk of capping the beauty and glory of God dwelling within us when we attempt to box men and women into set gender roles/characteristics/traits…” and i share your prayer for freedom as we surrender to the potters hand!

      I do believe that biblical masculinity and femininity have been diluted through popular culture and sexual expectations, and this is something we can continue to positively affect as we reflect Gods work in us…

      Thanks for getting in touch/commenting, I hope all is well with you.

      • I like your off-the-cuff description: ‘integrity and Christ-likeness poured through personality’ … May it be so!

        But what if our personalities have been conditioned to live a certain way because of gender specific expectations put upon us by our society? Can we even begin to live freely with integrity and Christ-likeness if we’re viewing it thru tainted filters of what Christ-likeness looks like for man and woman? Things that come to mind: A man who has a tender and nurturing heart with a great love for children is considered odd working with young children… A woman who has great integrity and leadership is considered out of place leading a congregation.

        How do we break free from the boxes that limit the Spirit of God? How do we begin to recognize the God given potential within us – without regard to testicles and ovaries?

        Further more how do we invite people into a freedom to be wholly who God has created them to be!? (These are questions I grapple with often… and I don’t expect you to have an answer!)

        Here is something I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on: Can one live a celibate life, yet miss Christ’s call and invitation to live a pure life? Is celibacy synonymous to purity? Is purity one dimensional – or multifaceted? Sometimes I think our culture (the christian sub-culture) views purity in terms of sexuality alone… and we fail to address the root causes that drive us toward sexual immorality… thoughts?

        Keep speaking boldly my friend! Grace and peace be yours.

      • Hi Annie,
        I just saw this last comment… More great thinking on your part! How to respond? I think that the questions you ask at the end may need some more thought from me… I’ll come back to you at a later date with my response, maybe even tackle this issue of the other aspects of purity in a future blog post… Keep in touch!

  5. So when I first started reading this post I was thinking, “yea, I probably shouldn’t read this…but I’m going to anyway” 🙂 And I’m glad I did. Definitely enjoyed many of the points you made on masculinity. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus while reading. After all, He was the perfect man and He was celibate. Never once sinned, so never experienced an orgasm. So how did Jesus, a single, virgin, male exhibit masculinity? I would say He did so when He taught 12 men and trained them up to be world changers. Or when He had compassion on the masses of people and fed them all from 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread…or when He wept b/c Lazerus had died. Or how about when He died on the cross for a world who stripped Him, beat Him and spit on Him. He was loving, humble, sensitive & tender hearted, characteristics most would connect with women and yet He was the perfect man. The perfect leader. The world has so many ideas (such as gender roles) so backwards and unfortunately we as the church do too. We are in need of awakening and a paradigm shift on so many levels. I think addressing these topics aids us in this shifting. That really saddens me to think that a man will feel he is most alive by having sex. After all, it is a temporary moment of pleasure and I believe only has meaning if it stems from love. I can see how people become addicted to sex if they think that is the source of their life. They will forever continue to chase that feeling of false living and end up enslaved. Love is eternal and will never leave you nor forsake you. Love never fails you. As I’m sure you already know, true life is to know Love. And be known by Him 🙂

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