Heterosexism's control over masculinity



Heterosexism's control over masculinity


I think we here share a concern with heterosexism's control over masculinity through homophobia. As long as so-called straight guys accept homophobia as the definition of masculinity, they'll remain in a psychological/emotional/spiritual straitjacket.

When I began really thinking about masculine issues, really being honest with myself, and observing relationships and interactions among people, I concluded that nobody was homosexual or heterosexual. They just are, humans, homo sapiens, hence homo sexuals.

In the film version of Gloria Naylor's novel The Women of Brewster Place, Mattie and her friend discuss what makes their lesbian neighbors "that way," and the friend says the lesbians love women like a woman loves a man, that such love is different, just different.

Mattie says, "But I've loved some women stronger than I've loved any man."

"Yeah, but it's not the same," the friend says. "It's just different."

Mattie's response is profound: "Maybe there ain't no difference. Maybe that's why people have so much problems with it because there ain't no difference."

I've often asked people how they distinguish emotions that attracted them to their mates/spouses and emotions that attracted them to their friends. I get several blank stares and verbal fumbling as responses. I contend that if I'm attracted to my wife because she is faithful, honest, and trustworthy, I will likewise be attracted to a best friend with those same qualities.

In fact, I'd probably see those qualities I like in my buddy first because that relationship would have probably been formed in boyhood when boys usually aren't interested in boy-girl romance. In other words, as Mattie says, "there ain't no difference." Our emotions are our emotions which will attach to anyone who appeals to us.

When we like someone (and I'm talking nonsexual), we like their company and desire their company and companionship. I think what frightens many people, especially men, is that liking someone can be, and usually is, intense. Intensity no doubt is the basis of fidelity because intensity cements relationships. Just think about the bond made during a marriage. A pledge of lifelong commitment to love, respect, and honor to death do them part is sealed by exchanging vows and rings, symbolic of the union, and often the coiled arms of the bride and groom who sip champagne, symbolic of a blood covenant. Those vows are seriously intense. It's no wonder that breaking that bond is so painful, ultimate betrayal. A physical expression of union is a natural response to intense attachments.


Bill Weintraub

Re: Heterosexism's control over masculinity


Thank you Redd -- that's terrific!

I see three key points here:

1. "As long as so-called straight guys accept homophobia as the definition of masculinity, they'll remain in a psychological/emotional/spiritual straitjacket."

2. "Our emotions are our emotions which will attach to anyone who appeals to us."

3. "A physical expression of union is a natural response to intense attachments."

As you guys know from my recent posts -- including Statius and The Comradeship of Wounds and Achilles on Scyros and now The Mingling of Their Bones -- in the last few months I've been looking a lot at the ancient world and ancient authors.

And to me, the ancients -- and ancient Men in particular -- were a lot better off than we are, because they took for granted points 2 and 3; and weren't hamstrung by "homophobia" -- that is, a fear of sex between men.

So that they were a lot closer to realizing their Natural Masculinity than are Men today.

Because they understood, as Redd says, that emotions are emotions, and that "if I'm attracted to my wife because she is faithful, honest, and trustworthy, I will likewise be attracted to a best friend with those same qualities."

That's exactly right.

Now of course men in those ancient societies had different cultural expectations of marriage than they did of their male-male relationships.

As John Boswell puts it in Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe, marriage was "for family and country"; whereas a male lover was "a friend inspired by God."

Marriage then was something undertaken for practical reasons -- a marriage had to be pragmatic; whereas a male lover was there for romance.

But the fact is some of these men did fall in love with their wives; as well as fall in love with other men.

"Our emotions are our emotions which will attach to anyone who appeals to us."

"A physical expression of union is a natural response to intense attachments."

Again, the ancients would take those two statements as givens.

In our discussion of Ovid in The Mingling of the Bones, you can see that he takes for granted that a boy will love a boy.

And a boy will love a girl.

And a girl will love a boy.

And that these boys and girls and men and women will seek to express their love physically.

That's what people do.

He knows that and as a consequence in certain areas of his life he -- and his audience -- were far freer than we are.

Now -- to come back to Redd's first point:

"As long as so-called straight guys accept homophobia as the definition of masculinity, they'll remain in a psychological/emotional/spiritual straitjacket."


We can think of the gay / straight categories which dominate our lives and the lives of all Men today as a game -- the sexual orientation game.

The sexual orientation game is lose-lose.

If you choose gay, you lose your manhood.

If you choose straight, you lose your natural masculinity.


Again, the sexual orientation game has been set up in such a way that, once you're in, you can NOT win.

The game puts the gay-identified guys into an effeminized, analist cage -- a ghetto -- in which metaphorically or otherwise they're expected to cut off their balls.

While if you're in the straight cage, in theory you still have your balls, but now you've been cut off from your fellow MEN.

Which is a problem.

Because while a Man who's been cut off from his fellow men may still have his balls, he doesn't have his fellow Men to help stimulate the production of testosterone by those balls.

Men need to be with other men.

The need is not just psychological.

It's physical.

Remember that Joe said, in Crimes against nature, that he had the best sex with his wife that he'd had in years -- after he found our site.

That's not an accident.

The sight of all that cock2cock stimulated his own testosterone production.

That's one of the reasons he likes being around his masculine buddies.

But he'd do even better if he could rub cocks with one of those guys every now and then.

That would make a huge difference in his life.

Because at that point he would no longer be HALF a MAN -- which is what he's been all these years -- but a WHOLE MAN.

He'd be liberated, in touch with, celebrating, and enjoying his NATURAL MASCULINITY.

The sexual orientation game also makes it impossible for boys to mature naturally.

I was thinking about that in regard to the coed wrestling post.

Left to their own devices, the boys on that wrestling team would do two things:

1. Form all-male -- homosocial -- groups.

2. Form romantic attachments with each other.

How can I be so sure of that?

Because that's what males have done in traditional and even not-so-traditional cultures for millenia.

Of course they would also form attachments with girls.

But that has to come at a point in their life when they're ready for it.

It's worth noting that in Beatific, Luke found Stephen in adolescence.

He didn't marry until he was significantly older.

And as we just saw with the bottlenose dolphins, who are clearly a very successful species, they have a similar arrangement.

The first bonds they form are same-sex bonds.

Later -- 10 to 15 years later -- they will father a calf.

But they remain bonded with their same-sex partner as well.

This is the Spartan pattern, which was greatly admired by the Greeks as being sensible and stable.

The first bond, at age 12, is same-sex;

male-male bonds and homosocial living arrangements persist through adolescence and young adulthood;

marriage at 30;

male-male bonds and all-male homosocial groups remain important throughout life.

So that's one model through which Men can realize their Natural Masculinity and lead whole and complete lives.

Now, in Redd's earlier post, Heterosexism's encroachment on masculinity, he pointed out that men today are defining themselves by their relationships with women, while women feel complete unto themselves:

[T]he males' identity is wrapped in their relationship with women, but the females' identity isn't wrapped in their relationship with men. The females, then, feel more comfortable in themselves, more comfortable around other women without feeling that their womanhood, their person is lacking because men are not around. Young women today hear pop music that tells them to be independent, pop music that promotes girl power.

Yet the males ... [have] been taught to think of masculinity, man2man, as gay, as sissy. They've been taught to define their masculinity by their relationship with women. The man2man that they know, like gangs, carry negative connotations. Sports figures don't mean man2man as they depict man2concubine, man2bitches, man2money-to-buy-my-mom-a-house.

Boys and men rarely, if ever, hear anything about traditional, natural, historical masculinity that was defined by its relationship with men, that had specific rites of passage.


And this is an enormous turn-around from the past.

A number of Greek myths are what I call "myths of male parthenogenesis," in which males basically create themselves.

For example, in the Cadmus story, which is the foundation-myth of the Greek city of Thebes, the hero Cadmus is told by Apollo to follow a heifer and found a city where she lies down.

When she does lie down, he finds that the spot is guarded by a huge snake or dragon, a son of Ares, the war god.

Cadmus kills the dragon, and, on the advice of Athena, sows its teeth.

Men fully-armed arise from the earth and immediately begin fighting among themselves.

When only five are left living, the fighting stops, and the survivors populate Thebes.

These five men are known as the Spartoi -- the sown men.

As you can see, they come into existence without women -- they're the offspring of Ares' terrible dragon, which is also his son, and they are literally born fighting.

The story of Achilles and Patroclus has similar elements.

The name "Patroclus" means "glory to the father"; while Achilles means "no lips" -- and he is so called because when he was an infant he was given to the centaur Chiron to raise, and so "no lips" of his ever suckled at his mother's breast.

Rather, as we saw in Achilles on Scyros, he was fed on the entrails of wild beasts until he was able to hunt on his own.

Now, let me just say that there are inconsistencies and variant versions in the Achilles story, as there are in many Greek myths.

With Achilles, on the one hand we're told very clearly that he and Patroclus grew up together in Achilles' father's house.

On the other, we're told that Achilles was raised by Chiron, until his mother took him to Scyros, so as to avoid the upcoming war.

So there's a gap in the story, which I suppose could be mended by saying that Achilles was raised and mentored by Chiron, then went to live with his father Peleus, where he met Patroclus and who became his beloved companion, and then was spirited off to Scyros by his mother, who wanted to protect him from the war.

From the point of view of a boy hearing these stories, that version is just about perfect:

Achilles is mentored by a Centaur, who teaches him the arts of the hunt, of war, and of civilized life; he then goes to live with his father, where he meets and loves Patroclus; and he then goes to Scyros, where he in essence shacks up with the king's daughter Deidamia and gets her pregnant with his son.

Now -- why do I say "loves Patroclus" and "shacks up with Deidamia"?

Because in the Iliad, it's clear that the person he cares about is Patroclus.

He just doesn't spend a lot of time pining away for Deidamia.

And when Patroclus is killed, Achilles makes clear, as we discuss in The Mingling of Their Bones, that he wants to be buried with Patroclus.

Again, there's no mention of returning his body to Deidamia.

So: What you see in these sorts of stories are MEN creating themselves.

They're not defined by their relationships with women -- though they do have significant relationships with women and may indeed love those women.

But what defines them are their relationships with each other and more than anything else the fighting spirit they evidence in those relationships.

Valor in battle -- that's what defines them.

You can see that very clearly in the story of Achilles on Scyros.

He's in hiding and in drag.

But the moment he sees those weapons, says Robert Graves, he strips to the waist and grabs them.

He whispers a few words of comfort to Deidamia, asks her father to marry them so that she won't get into trouble -- she is pregnant after all -- and then he's high-tailing it for those long ships and his warrior bros.

So what matters to these Men is their Fighting Spirit.

Vir - Virilis - Virtus

Man - Manliness - Manly Valor


Here are two very brief passages from Statius that exemplify this ideal.

Tydeus has gone as an ambassador to the usurping Theban king.

Of course, the person of an ambassador is supposed to be sacrosanct.

Instead, the king, violating all the rules -- behaving as dishonorably as he can -- sends 50 men to ambush Tydeus in the dead of night as he leaves the kingdom.

Tydeus, being a great hero, kills 49 of them and sends the other back to the king with the bad news.

In this first passage, the king is wondering how his plot to kill Tydeus could have failed:

for he'd supposed
The project simple, Tydeus easy prey
To arms so numerous, and never weighed
Against their numbers valor and resolve.

"valor and resolve"

The king, who's a tyrant, has failed to factor in the force of one man's fighting spirit -- his valor and resolve.

Next, we get a snapshot of Tydeus as he walks home having battled and killed 49 men:

And now Tydeus well on his homeward way
Was passing wearily across the land
Of Argos, down Prosymna's green hillsides --
A ghastly sight. His hair stood stiff with dust,
And from his shoulders dripped a filthy sweat
Into deep wounds. His sleepless bloodshot eyes
Bulged red; his lips were strained wide back
In gasping thirst; and, flushed with his fine feats,
His soul breathed a deep pride.

Even so returns
A warrior bull to his familiar fields,
With dewlaps torn and neck and shoulders drenched
In blood, his enemy's and his own; then, too,
Valor, exhausted, swells and glories in
His battered breast while on the empty sand
His foe, disgraced, lies groaning, and forbids
Him feel his toil's raw pains.

So: Physically, Tydeus is a mess, but spiritually, he's in great shape: his soul breathes a deep pride; his *valor* is like a warrior bull's, which swells and glories in his battered breast.

That's fighting spirit.

That's valor.

That's VIRTUE.


Redd, thank you.

You're a true Warrior, and these are terrific posts.

Bill Weintraub

© All material Copyright 2007 by Bill Weintraub. All rights reserved.

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