Once upon a time, a baby boy was born to loving parents who had dreamed of his arrival for many years; they doted on him and he was their greatest treasure. Having recently been birthed from the source of all divine energy, the baby boy was whole and perfect, and he brought with him the possibility of unconditional love for his was a gentle and compassionate temperament.
But theirs was a kingdom of oppressive social and religious constructions, based on many thousands of years of cruelty, privilege, and domination. Not all the people were loved equally and even after much civil strife, the women and children were still considered to be only partially as important as the men.
So those loving parents strapped him down to a board and cut off their son’s foreskin, violating the sanctity of his body because that’s how it had always been done and they did not want him to feel badly about himself when compared to his father. Because to speak openly of bodily autonomy, differences, and sexuality with children was frowned upon in the kingdom.
And the boy’s body learned that skin was not a boundary worth respecting.
The adults in the kingdom worked as wage slaves, having internalized the precept that money was the ultimate commodity and that it could buy happiness, even freedom. Every day they exhausted their bodies by pushing to succeed in a world held paralyzed by lack, invisibility, and isolation—where they would never be enough, never have enough. Where they were praised for pushing past their bodies’ limits, for telling them to go faster and work harder, achieve more.
So those loving parents taught their son to sleep by putting him in a prettily-decorated cage and then shutting the door so that he could cry, unheard and isolated, until exhaustion took him. Because the parents knew little about respecting their own bodies’ signals, so couldn’t help their son and, instead, forced him to self sooth while flooded with stress hormones. Which was the daily reality for all the kingdom’s people.
And the boy’s body learned that its signals were to be neither trusted nor heeded.
The kingdom told its people that they must all be learned and productive in highly-specialized, narrowly-proscribed ways. So they trained the children rigidly: to value intellect over creativity, what is provable over what is felt. To sit still among strangers and learn the concepts of sharing space, following directions, and keeping your hands to yourself. None of which were intuitive or pleasant to learn because they forced smallness.
So the loving parents sent their son to school, where he was expected to get along, listen, share, pay attention, and do what he was told lest he receive bad marks and risk public embarrassment. Where the unspoken rule was shine too bright or act too big and you will be corrected, ultimately bringing dishonor to the family and shame upon himself.
And the boy learned that conforming to expectations kept him safe.
The boy felt a great sadness as his divine spirit and creative fire waned, slowly extinguished in service to tests and expectations and logic.
He sought comfort and understanding from his parents, but they were engrossed in the daily struggle of their own survival and in service to the notion that boys must be strong in the face of adversity. So they instructed him to be a little man; to not cry when frustrated; to not grieve as his feelings and experiences were belittled or dismissed.
Because he was now a little man, the parents no longer babied him. They curtailed their physical affections, hugged him less frequently, kissed him rarely; they admonished him not to cry and became frustrated when their attempts to toughen him up met with resistance. They worried that he was weak, that there might be something wrong with him; they became afraid and their eyes mirrored their thoughts.
And the boy learned that his feelings didn’t matter, that they could be minimized or ignored, especially if they were painful or inconvenient for someone else. He learned that being strong meant swallowing his grief and pretending it didn’t kill his spirit.
Finding no comfort with his parents, the boy turned to his peers, for he had heard it said that a true friend will love and see you. But the other boys had also been steeped in the propaganda of Be Strong and Don’t Feel and Never Cry, so even when their spirits bade them be kind with one another, domination arose in its stead for that was their experience and they had learned to be afraid of judgment. They teased and were cruel and played power games in an attempt to see who among them was a man, who could tough it out.
They punched in lieu of hugging because they were afraid of being called gay; they laughed in lieu of crying because they were afraid of being called pussy. None of them received from the pack what they had originally come to find: understanding, empowerment, and acceptance. Instead, they found twisted shadow versions that mocked their pain and required them to offer up their humanity on the Altar of Masculinity.
And the boy learned that all things feminine were weak, pathetic, and undesirable; that their body parts were insults; that their divine powers of compassion and empathy were less desirable than strength and reason. The boy learned that to be a man he must ignore, hobble, or kill all things feminine inside him; that to be loving and merciful left him open to attack; that to acquire what he wanted required swift action and much bravado.
His spirit in anguish, his body tormented, his psyche confused, the boy knew not what to do, where to turn. He wanted to believe that he was worthy of love, worthy of attention and affection—and yet all the kingdom’s lessons had taught him otherwise. Had proven to him time and again that he was born imperfect, flawed, unlovable.
His body had withered from lack of loving touch and he no longer heard its messages; he was disconnected from his own experience and utterly wretched.
Who could love such a creature? Who could see him for what he truly was? Who could help him feel strong even though he feared he would always be weak and alone?
And the kingdom, eager to find solutions for its people lest they become too aware through introspection, answered: Girls. The girls are the ones who will give you affection, the ones who will complete you, the ones who will see you. They are the ones we have chosen for you.
But how do I get them to give me what I need? asked the boy. The kingdom whispered to him about the ways of manipulation, coercion, and guilt. And the boy listened; his body and psyche understood, for they had internalized this lesson well.
- Men are raped almost as often as women in America. We need to talk about this. via Slate
- In Defense of the Men via Neevita