Well, it’s been a good run (no it hasn’t) but it is finally time for me to be cancelled and evicted from the blogosphere. Today I shall defend the Masc 4 Masc guys, and in the process address Sixpence’s feigned befuddlement at the fixation many gay men have with having sex with straight men. (He is still a dear, though.)
The core of the argument is simple: when we signed up to be male homosexuals, not all of us were on the same page. Some of us correctly thought that to be homosexual was to be attracted to other homosexuals; others of us mistakenly believed that to be homosexual was to be attracted to men. We committed the sin of fetishizing secondary sex characteristics typically associated with masculinity: deep voices, body hair, British accents, big muscles, Walking Dead T-shirts, questionable skincare regimes, and the stoicism borne of being out of touch with one’s feelings. We had a conception in our brains of what “masculine” meant, and that is what drew us like moths to a flame.
But then God played a cruel trick on us. He didn’t make us macho and butch. He gave us lilting voices, affinities for showtunes and dance, emotional sensitivity. We talked with our hands and cried in public. With enough effort we could look butch: we could work out at the gym and spend hours each day pushing body hair out of reluctant follicles. We could put on Toyota caps and “forget” to shave our scruff. But it would never be good enough. As the old insult goes, “he looked so butch until he opened his mouth and a purse fell out.”
But you know who can be butch and macho, seemingly without effort? That’s right. Straight guys. I agree with Sixpence: straight guys are probably no good in bed. But that’s almost beside the point. Sooner or later, we all learn that — like potato chips and chocolate bars — straight guys are bad for us. That does little to stop the craving, even though we would be better off with a plate of steamed broccoli instead.
Since straight guys are off-limits, what are we left with? Our fellow homosexuals. So we seek out the butchest, most masculine specimens available in the dating pool, because — for better or for worse — that is what we find attractive. Enter Masc 4 Masc.
There are some gays for whom stereotypical masculinity comes easily. Some of them are genuinely into sportsball and motorcycles. Some of them naturally assume body language and vocal mannerisms that fly under other people’s gaydar. They are the lucky ones — at least to those of us attracted to them. For the rest of us, it takes effort. Some element of Masc 4 Masc is a contract: “I am attracted to masculine men, and I have to work hard at appearing masculine myself, so I am looking for a partner who will make the same commitment.” If this sounds like the demands many people make of their partners to stay fit and attractive, that’s not a coincidence. There is a reason the catchphrase is “no fats, no femmes”.
Is being Masc 4 Masc okay? That’s where things get complicated.
Just a Phase
We often mock the Masc 4 Masc crowd on the same grounds that we mock bisexuals: they are just phases reflecting internalized homophobia and reluctance to accept one’s gay identity. Believe it or not, some of us don’t come out as gay right away. Instead, we test the waters by timidly announcing that we bisexual, and then we mysteriously sleep exclusively with men. So many gays go through this process, in fact, that when some guy announces he is bisexual we assume that he is just gay and in denial. Therefore, bisexuality does not exist, and men who cling to bisexual identities are fair game for mockery.
The same story holds for the Masc 4 Masc crowd. Because some of us claim that we like “normal guys, not like those ones that make the rest of us look bad”, we assume that anybody who claims to be attracted to masculine men is internally homophobic and in denial. Once they grow to accept themselves and their sexualities, we reason, they will let that go and be attracted to any man it is politically correct to find attractive. In the meantime, the Masc 4 Masc crowd deserves our derision and mockery. It’s just a phase, right?
Masculinity, Femininity, Misogyny
Consider the word “masculine”. What comes to mind? I’m willing to be something comes to mind, even for you gold-star woke gays.
Now consider the word “feminine”. What comes to mind now? Are there any differences? If there are, you are not woke enough.
There is a lot of stuff going on here, and it is tricky to disentangle. Because I am a homocon dinosaur, there are specific traits I associate with masculinity, and specific traits I associate with femininity. But there is a real paradox here. I cannot defend any of these traits out loud, because there will be exceptions to any trait you name. (Go for it. Name something you would define as masculine but not feminine, or vice versa.)
At the same time, we cling to these unspeakable notions of masculinity and femininity pretty tightly. We have collectively decided (or had decided for us) that it is okay for trans people to undergo some severe body-modifications so that their bodies are in greater concordance with their gender identities. At the same time, we have made it socially unacceptable for gay men to be attracted to people who are more masculine and be not-attracted those who are more feminine. We call this “internalized homophobia”. But for some reason it is also unacceptable to propose that gay men can take one step further and be attracted to women instead. We call that “the ex-gay movement”, and to respectable gays those advocating such positions are pariahs.
There are good reasons for these social sanctions. We don’t want trans people to suffer from dysmorphia. We don’t want femmes to face systemic and hurtful rejection from other gays. We want to outlaw the ex-gay movement because generations of homosexuals (often teenagers) have been traumatized by the movement. These good reasons do not change the fact that holding all of these positions simultaneously is incoherent.
Why are we in the broader culture so hung up on masculinity and femininity anyways? We all know the answer to this: patriarchy. Unlike what the mixed-sex marriage advocates tell you, masculinity and femininity are not complementary categories enjoying valuable and equitable territory in God’s Heart. Rather, masculinity and femininity are complementary categories, and masculinity is superior to femininity.
Why should we (as gay men) worry so much about being butch, anyways? Why should we fret about being femmy in the first place? Because gays are as steeped in our culture as everyone else, and we see femininity as weakness, and treat it with derision. Hello misogyny.
The misogyny in gay male culture runs deep. It might be worse than the misogyny straight men feel for women, because gay men (unlike our straight counterparts) do not require the company of women for sexual satisfaction. Hence, “he opened his mouth and a purse fell out.”
It isn’t just the straights who think of us as sissy-boys. We do this to ourselves. You are all too young to remember this, but back in the old days we would intentionally feminise our names and misgender each other in public conversation. “Did you hear about Dr Spoetta? She broke her sewing machine, and now might not have a new frock ready for Palm Springs! Can you imagine?” The surface explanation was that this misgendering helped us hide in public society, but I am willing to bet that some of this was our own shame disguised as catty cruelty. What could be more shameful — more of an insult? — than a man being treated like a woman?
“But what about drag?” you proclaim. What about it? Are you trying to tell me that misogyny is absent from drag culture? Why exactly do we refer to drag queens who look a little too much like women as “fishy”?
This gets even weirder and more upsetting when it comes to situations where we celebrate feminine gays. Think of our founding myth: the riots at the Stonewall Inn. We talk about how it was those who didn’t fit in — the drag queens, the transwomen — who finally put their collective foot down against the police raids. And what do we celebrate about their actions? They threw rocks. They got angry. They were tough and aggressive in standing up for themselves. They acted like men. Even those who identified as women acted like men. “There’s nothing tougher than a drag queen, honey,” we say. But what if those drag queens and transwomen had embraced their feminine sides instead, being demure and caring instead of angry and aggressive? Would we be celebrating them then?
We are in a curious bind. On the one hand we want to overcome the humilation of being treated like sissy-boys and girly-men by reclaiming it. We want to embrace our mannerisms and voices and love of musical theater as elements of our whole selves. At the same time, many of us don’t want that at all. We are Pinocchios, and some part of us would give it all up to be real boys.
It is true that different gays are into different types of men. Some like the young twinks, and some are drawn to feminine men, but lots of us (even those of us who imagine ourselves enlightened) continue to find those butch masculine traits attractive. Just look at the illustration Sixpence chose to illustrate his entry. Does that look like a guy who moisturizes to you? (For that matter, consider the gay fascination with Tom of Finland.)
The difference between the respectable woke gays and the Masc 4 Masc crowd is that the Masc 4 Masc crowd are expressing their preferences openly and bluntly, and the rest of us won’t.
How to Develop a Fetish
Maybe patriarchy is awful and incorrect, and valuing masculinity above femininity is also awful and incorrect. So what? We are drenched in this culture, and some of us imprinted on it. As I argued in one of the entries linked above, the heart wants what the heart wants. Our sexual preferences are not a function of the neocortex, but of our reptile brains, and once our preferences are imprinted (so the theory goes) we are stuck with them. Maybe some of us made the mistake of being attracted to toxic masculinity. What do we do now? Pretend that this is not the case? If we can’t expect pedophiles (or poop fetishists, not to equate the two) to change their preferences, why do we expect those who fetishize masculinity to do so?
Yes, some of the Masc 4 Masc crowd is expressing internal homophobia. Yes, if given the opportunity some of that crowd will find itself falling in lust with men who are less butch. That does not mean that none of that attraction is genuine.
Even more threatening is the way that our culture wants to extirpate conventional straight men as thoroughly as it has extirpated stone butch lesbians. It is not okay for straight guys to be out of touch with their feelings. It is not okay for them to be gruff and depend on brute strength to solve their problems. It is not okay for them to offload the emotional labor of their relationships onto their wives and girlfriends. There is some element of our culture that wants straight masculinity to either become metrosexual or be ostracised from society.
So now we are blaming the Masc 4 Masc crowd for preferences they did not choose, and we publicly disparage those who possess the traits they prefer. I am not surprised they are defensive.
The real problem isn’t that Mascs 4 Mascs exists. Lots of weird fetishes exist, and we do not fret so much about them even if we think they are weird. Part of the problem is that there are so many Mascs 4 Mascs, so we run into all the time. But there are two other problems in addition to this.
Firstly, we prioritize masculinity over femininity, so those of us who are not very butch get rejected over and over again. We feel our potential dating pool is smaller, especially when we are femmy guys who like masculine ones. We get bitter and resentful, and we start making demands. “Those bitches are self-hating homophobes if they can’t see what a catch I am,” we tell ourselves. (Yes, of course we call them “bitches.” Misogyny, remember?) But what else are we going to do? We’re not desirable like real men. We’re girly-men, and deep down inside we feel we are not worthy because of mannerisms and traits we did not even choose to have.
Secondly, we have not figured out how to exclude others with kindness.
Whether justified or not, most of us have preferences, and ideally we would like to ride the relationship escalator who matches our preferences. But we have no way of expressing those preferences without making some people feel left out and excluded and hurt. So instead we get hard. We add all kinds of conditions and disclaimers to our profiles: “no fats, no femmes”, “no endless texts”, “drug and disease free, UB2”. And those of us who don’t fit those categories get hurt. In turn, we hurt others. (And that, kids, is why everybody on dating sites comes across as cold and heartless.)
So what are we supposed to do? When we don’t feel that spark, how do we let others know we are not interested without hurting them? If we are good respectable woke gays and pretend that we are attracted to everybody, how kind are we being when we lead others on? Worst of all, what happens when others are attracted to us and we don’t reciprocate? We have no good ways of dealing with this, so we ghost and we say cruel things, and then we all get hard. (So much for gays being in touch with their feelings.)
Are the Mascs 4 Mascs to blame for this? They certainly have their parts to play. But so do the rest of us — even those of us who think we are woke. Mascs 4 Mascs have their problems, but I continue to believe that the problem is bigger than they are, and I have a lot of difficulty laying all the blame at their feet.
And for those people who have self-examined and become comfortable with their sexuality and purged their internal homophobia and are STILL guilty of being attracted to masculine men? Sucks to be them, I guess. They should have chosen better preferences.