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.