Are men unsafe? Are all men guilty of predatory behavior? Do locker-room talk, sex jokes, and lusting after a woman necessarily lead to sexual harassment and assault? Are all men sexists?
A lot of people would say “yes” to these questions, if a popular article at the Huffington Post about the #MeToo campaign is any indication. The author says she has little hope that women sharing their stories about sexual harassment and assault will have any effect because the real problem isn’t awareness of victims, but the dangerous effects of “traditional masculinity.”
The social media campaign is, of course, intended as a wake-up call for men. If every woman you know has been harassed or assaulted, then every man you know has likely made a woman feel unsafe.
Women can turn the whole internet into a list of ‘Me toos,’ but it won’t make a difference until men ― all men ― acknowledge how they perpetuate misogyny and commit to making a change. . . . . We need more organizations and publications that focus on progressive masculinity rather than outdated and dangerous stereotypes about what constitutes ‘manliness.’ We need men to start a ‘Me too’ Facebook campaign that lists a time they caught themselves being sexist, and states how they are committed to changing that attitude going forward.
Here’s the problem with all of this feminist gobbledygook. They think a man expressing his natural masculine sexuality is sexist and dangerous. Instead of focusing on criminal behavior (sexual abuse, assault, harassment, or rape), which has nothing to do with a man’s masculine identity but everything to do with a person’s evil choices, they focus on men for simply being men.
Your Feelings Do Not Determine Reality
This is one of the things that troubles me with the #MeToo campaign—it’s not just about sexual violations any longer. It’s about anything that has made a woman “feel” uncomfortable. “He leered at me from across the room.” “He made a sexual joke with other guys in my presence.” “I can’t put my finger on it, but I just felt something every time he sat beside me at the office meeting. He leaned in a little too close, and I caught him once looking at my body. It just made me feel so uncomfortable, and I shouldn’t have to feel that way at work.”
If you start down this path, it’s no wonder women who have been made to feel “uncomfortable” by a man conclude that all men are sexual predators and sexists. What these women don’t recognize or understand is the normal sexual tension that exists between men and women and the healthy unease this creates.
There is a natural polarity between the masculine and feminine. The attraction between them is like a magnet with opposites being pulled toward one another. This sexual tension is breathtaking, unnerving, and definitely uncomfortable. When the feminine feels the power of masculine energy begin to pull her, tug at her, she’s a little shaken by it. It’s a force of nature, if you will. This creates anxiety, but it shouldn’t be interpreted as a threat or predatorial.
“For real passion to occur, there needs to be a ravisher and a ravishee,” Tantric author David Deida writes. “Sexual attraction is based on sexual polarity. All natural forces flow between two poles. The North and South Poles of the Earth create a force of magnetism. The positive and negative poles of a battery create an electrical flow. The masculine and feminine poles between people create a flow of sexual energy in motion.”
Sexual Tension Is Inherent to Being Human
When we talk about the interplay between the sexes, we often refer to it as a dance. It is, but too often we think of it as a nice, polite waltz in which everyone is well-behaved. Or worse, the dance of middle schoolers standing at arm’s length shuffling around the room, not knowing what to do with each other. The reality is, these energies are powerful and passionate to the core. They tap into the deepest parts of ourselves and our most fundamental drives and needs. The dance between the sexes is more like a tango. Raw. Breathless. And a little dirty.
I don’t care if you’re tending to business in the board room, working in a research lab, sitting in class, or attending church, if men and women are in close proximity, there is going to be some measure of sexual tension. The intensity of its heat will depend on the level of attraction, but it’s there. We all feel it in our hearts and bones. And you know what? It’s nothing to be scared of!
Sexual tension is a beautiful part of being human. We feel it, and sometimes we act on it. Men are more apt to make the first move because they’re in pursuit of the woman, they want to “catch” her. Male sexuality is naturally more aggressive than female sexuality, but this doesn’t make it toxic. Can it be used for evil? Certainly (as can a woman’s own femininity). But it’s not dangerous by nature. It’s essential to being a man. A man’s masculine power is as much a part of him as his arms and legs. To diminish it by calling it toxic or evil and cutting that part off is to cripple him.
Telling Men that Masculinity Is Bad Will Hurt Everyone
Shutting down of masculine energy will create either passive males who emulate women, or men who resent being forced to douse their natural fire. They’re frustrated because they no longer feel truly alive. They don’t feel like they’re living an authentic life—and they’re not. As a result, they either become depressed and confused, or sometimes they become angry and bitter and transform into the predators they’ve always been told they are. This isn’t to say all sexual predators are a reaction to a kind of social oppression, but this can be the result as anger takes root.
Angry, depressed, bitter, confused. Isn’t that how we all feel when we’re told a natural part of us is bad? That we have to deny who we really are because someone else feels uncomfortable with it? This is what we’re doing to men when we say they’re all predators, sexists, and dangerous and they now need to become “progressive men,” another way of saying “act more like women.” In doing, this, we’re stripping them of their identity as men.
It affects women too, because they’re being robbed of the dance. They don’t want to engage with masculinity or accept its power because they’re too afraid. They haven’t been raised to recognize the difference between natural male behavior and abuse. They haven’t been trained to live in a world of tension.
They want to work with men, be with men, compete with men, keep the company of men, but they don’t want to accept the sexual tensions that come with being around men. They want to be pampered and coddled, and if this means emasculating men, so be it—their own comfort is paramount. But this simply makes them immature little children. Life, in many ways, is terribly uncomfortable, and if we don’t learn to grow up and handle being uncomfortable, we’ll remain like children—petulant, whiny, and selfish.
Time to Better Develop Your Read of Men
Like many women in the #MeToo campaign, I know sexual harassment. I know sexual assault. I know rape. Because of this, I’m not more prone to accept abusive behavior from men (as some have implied when I’ve written on this before), nor am I prone to conclude that all men are predators. I refuse to live in that kind of fear or to cast wide that net of blame. To do so only leads to dysfunction. These experiences and the common sense instruction I’ve received from wise women throughout my life have, instead, empowered me to navigate the waters of male sexuality with discernment and confidence.
I know when a man is violating me and when he is just hitting on me. I know when a man is desperately trying to get my attention just because he is attracted to me, and when he has crossed the line of harassment. I know when guys are expressing their pent-up aggression and male sexuality—as well as their competitive nature—as they interact with one another, and when men are in gang-like mode and threatening my well-being.
Other women need to learn the same. They need to learn the difference between natural sexuality and sexism. They need to learn to embrace masculinity, not run from it or force men to deny who they are. They need to meet masculinity toe to toe and eye to eye, not try to dominate it or diminish it. They need to learn to tap into their own feminine powers, not to conquer a man, but to respect him. To do that, we need to respect each other. This involves trust.
The problems we are facing today have nothing to do with masculinity, and everything to do with a breakdown in social trust. Women live in fear of men, and men live in resentment of women. We aren’t dancing. We’re fighting. I hope we can learn to dance again—a powerful, breathtaking dance that makes us feel alive, complete, and fully human.