Lack of respect for consent is what is wrong with masculinity.
I was assigned male at birth and raised as a boy, I am a girl and have been living as one for a while now. This life experience has offered a look at toxic masculinity from both sides. With the recent rash of reporting on sexual misconduct, I must say I am surprised by none of it. Not one of these ‘recent revelations’ in the “post-Weinstein era” has surprised me. Here’s why.
Boys are taught early on that girls hold sex, horde it, and protect it. From that point onward achieving sex becomes about breaking down those barriers. It is deeply ingrained, reinforced and insidious. The achievement, or lack thereof, in breaking those barriers down is directly equivalent to your masculine value.
This is where we get rape culture from.
What about something more subtle? Non-verbal cues in otherwise consensual situations?
Romance and flirtation are largely about non-verbal cues. If a man has made it into a bed with a woman there is almost always an understanding of non-verbal cues. So when a man ignores those cues when those cues start to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’ or ‘fuck off,’ that is an intentional act.
I’ve been on the other side of those conversations when men talk ‘only’ amongst men, the intention to ignore or misinterpret those cues has been made clear in many groups I have been a part of though my life – including so-called progressive circles. There is a belief it’s easier to get the sex and then beg forgiveness afterwards in text messages or some shit.
Here’s a sad fact – before I was out as a trans woman and still living as a man, I was a party to a number of conversations that involved only men. The topic was everyone’s best maneuver to get from kissing to laid. I promoted the idea of simply asking the other person if they wanted to have sex.
People were incredulous but the general response I got from men was that asking someone to have sex was a bad way to get laid. My own experience begs to differ.
Also at that time, I had found myself newly single and out as bisexual, while I had dated men in the past discreetly, now I was free to do so openly. That was an eye-opening experience because being on the receiving end of male desire and sexuality can be extremely dangerous.
I found that out first hand when a guy tried to ‘stealth’ me.
The practice of removing a condom during sex without consent (stealthing) is, in my opinion, sexual assault. By the time a guy does it to you, you’re in a compromised position and have likely already consented to sex, consented to safer sex, that is, with a condom. Not having some shit-for-brains take it off midway through who then could expose you to a Sexually Transmitted Infection. Even if you can stop the act, as I was able to do, you’re still compromised, he’s worked up, angry, and horny, getting out of that situation requires delicacy.
That experience made it difficult, when I returned to conversations with groups of straight cis men, to accept the idea that asking clearly for consent wouldn’t get you laid or is a dumb thing to do when the reality was: they felt that asking for permission was not masculine. Meanwhile, the impacts to those on the receiving end are potentially very damaging.
What’s wrong with masculinity? A lack of respect for consent is what is wrong with masculinity.
Some are asking where we go next. I would suggest that men need to collectively reexamine masculinity and teach future generations of boys to be better people.
As for me, I am bi, which puts me in the position of being able to date a butch woman and sidestep this toxic masculinity bullshit. Because I’ve seen it, been impacted by it on both ends and I’m fed up.
For the men who have read this and thought, “that’s not me.” Great. Make sure your actions say that also and work to change the collective culture of your gender.