How to Find Your Unique Masculine Expression in the Modern World
"Respect" toward women has been a predominant theme in the media lately. This is a worthy message all men should heed. But, like I alluded to last week, some men get wrapped up in the message and become confused after acting in accordance with the message. Some men who are my readers and come to my practice hear this message of "Respect" loud and clear, practice it diligently, but then see something very different play out in real life. This recent message of respect called for from women has been mostly in reaction to Robin Thicke's song 'Blurred Lines,' and his performance at the VMA's with Miley Cyrus. I am not going to get into the song or controversy here, but only want to highlight a piece of the narrative that is out there that is confusing for men.
Many men have taken the message of "Respect Women" as to act so respectful they end up waiting for explicit signs or instruction from women before making any type of sexual or romantic advance at all. They think doing so is a sign of disrespect. Years of experience in talking with men and women about this has shown me that women often become frustrated when men do this. Women not only do not typically initiate sexual advances because of their own past social conditioning, but also tend not to communicate their sexual interests directly. Men become confused because they were trying really hard to show the woman that they want her for more than just sex by not making a move. Then often it is 'the player' who the woman ends up with, because 'the player' is assertive and makes the sexual advances. The respectful men hear the message of respect then observe a contradictory behavior, and end up thinking women are just crazy and feel like giving up. But these men also feel a strong drive to connect with a partner so they keep trying, despite it feeling like they are banging their head against a wall.
My first dose of this confusion between what men are told and how life really plays out in the real world happened with an old girlfriend. When I was in college I was interested in working with Severely Emotionally Disturbed Kids, who had schizophrenia, major depression, been abused. You know, the kind of work that doesn't earn a living. My girlfriend at the time was a vastly intelligent woman who grew up in family that was well off. When I told her that working with SED kids in residential treatment was what I wanted to do, she made it clear that she wanted to be a stay at home mom and have a man be the provider. This shocked me. A well educated, intelligent, strong, ambitious woman whose ideal was to be in a traditional role? In my mind she might as well have told me the world was flat. This was my first real dose of "be a man" from a woman. It was delivered in a more intelligent way than the usual direct demand to "be a man," but the message was clear. All these years of messages of equality and respect being pumped into me, and here is a woman with every opportunity available to her wanting this thing for herself that I thought was a relic of history.
The reality is that men do suffer now, and if men are not owning some important parts of their masculinity, they are going to continue to be left watching on the sidelines watching the jerks and assholes continue to be the ones to get the girl (as those men appear to be the "strong" ones) while the respectful men are left questioning what they are doing wrong. And women will also be left with the jerks and assholes not treating them well in their relationship when in fact they can have the total package- a man who is both respectful and exciting.
The main point is that masculinity is ok. Conveying attraction or sexual interest is not inherently disrespectful. Taking initiative is not necessarily bad, and does not have to be done in a disrespectful way. Not communicating it at all gets a person nowhere. I think it is important for men to grow beyond their fear of communicating this intent, and also understand that the "Respect" part is accepting the woman's the choice in the situation, whatever it is. Men own their part, women own theirs. Some women may also be confused themselves and take it that way because so much shame is transmitted to all of us about sexuality. If you feel something it is ok to express it. It is a large part of a man's personal power. Relinquishing what you really feel and want is not healthy. Express it, then back off and let the woman respond and make her choice. Simple as that. Her response could be reciprocating the desire, it could be shame, it could be anger. That is not under the man's control. You are only responsible for yourself and your own emotions and behavior. That is what is within your power. As with any power it is important not to abuse it. Just be aware and use it wisely, and respectfully.
Over the next few months I will be hosting a free monthly tele-seminar on different topics geared towards men on self-development, dating, and relationships. The only thing you have to do to listen in is to sign up for my email list. That is it, and it's free! I will announce the date and time through the email list, and if you cannot make it, you will be emailed the recording of the tele-seminar so you don't miss a beat.