Posted in Mental Health, Sex & Intimacy

Inadequacy: Men and Expectation

There’s something wrong with what we do to boys before they become men…

As I have discussed before, male suicide is three times that of female suicide despite that women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and seek help for their mental health problems.

Now, a researcher has asked “Is macho culture to blame?” it’s a very simplistic question and I very much doubt that there is a simple answer but once again it points the finger rather than attempting to do something about it. “Macho culture” is a problem, but it doesn’t just come from men either.

“Society seems to like dictating how we should act as males. A magazine last week dedicated an issue to How To Be A Man, By Women. We were advised to “go out, earn some money, come back and look after the children. Men should be men.”

Here is that offending article but it is merely a list of links to articles by women on what men should be and how we should act. I guess feminism hasn’t quite got as far as the same right to self-determination for men that it encourages women to realise. I kept seeing “I want a real man!” across the dating sites when I was on them – a real man, whatever that is, appears to fit neatly into whatever box the woman in question expects the man in question to fit into.

The man should always be the breadwinner, the leader, “the man” even if it is not a role he was ever comfortable with. I came across this attitude when I went on my one and only date with The Sergeant. There were indicators in her profile that she expected her date in each case to “be the man” and decide where you would both go on a date. She was so caught up in me being “the man” that she even decided that I should choose what she should drink. I was not going to play that stupid game, especially for a woman of her age (38) so I did not even ask to meet again.

She came back to me a week later, sending a lengthy email about how I am not what she is looking for. My reply should probably have been blunter than it actually was, but I simply pointed out that it was obvious from the start that neither of us were what the other was looking for.

The “Real Man” isn’t the only stereotype we are expected to conform to. “Prince Charming” dictates how we are expected by women to act in courtship, regardless of how we are comfortable acting – he is the pursuer while she acts passive, swept along by her dreamboat. “Strong Silent Type” and “Sensitive New Age Guy” also create boxes and though they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, neither is helpful in helping men define themselves either as individuals or in a society where traditional gender roles are blurring.

The fact is ladies, you have no business pushing a man into being what you want him to be. If you cannot accept a man for what he is then you have no business being with him in the first place. Encourage him to be a better person and achieve his goals and values, but they must be his and not yours.


We have massive expectations from each other and it usually starts in childhood. “Be a man” is the most damaging three words you can ever say to a young boy. You will damage his self-esteem if he feels he is not acting sufficiently “man-like” and if he is different, homosexual for example… actually it doesn’t even need to be that different – being an introvert and more of a “feelings” person he is going to feel he isn’t good enough for not measuring up to society’s expectations.

And then we expect it from each other: we expect to each share our stories of sexual conquests, firstly for who we kissed at the club last night and then later in life, who we have had sex with, how often we are having it and how many people we are having sex with – where quantity becomes more important than quality and those of us who seek closeness with a few carefully selected sexual partners are weird for not “being the man” and “”nailing” as many women as we possibly can.

Finally, men are valued often purely for their utility: whereas a woman’s value is placed on her physical appearance, a man’s is based on his usefulness. This is prevalent in the ideal of a man is only a worthy partner if he is tall and muscular (so he can act as a protector), educated and has money / lots of material assets (so he can act as a provider). Men who are short and have little material wealth or social standing often feel lost, that they are somehow less worthy and this is reinforce by other men, by women and by society as a whole.

If you have a penis, then you are a “Real Man”: straight, gay, bisexual. Your desires, your hopes, values and goals are yours and yours alone and you should not have to apologise to anyone for not conforming.

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Author:

I go by the name of Frank Speaking. My blog "In the Mind of Men" (former name Chin Up, Chest High) started out as a chronicle of my mental health recovery. Now it is a forum where I discuss issues related to male mental health.

14 thoughts on “Inadequacy: Men and Expectation

  1. “The fact is ladies, you have no business pushing a man into being what you want him to be. If you cannot accept a man for what he is then you have no business being with him in the first place.”

    Well said. In fact if you swapped genders in this quote, this would be a prevailing attitude women have about themselves, their self-esteem and the attitudes they have about their would-be suitors.

    Why doesn’t the door swing both ways???

    1. Apologies for the delay in responding, I have been away for the last few days.

      I quite agree, people need to stop thinking they know what is best for other people and either accept people for who and what they are or move on.

  2. I understand what you’re saying, but everyone has a right to their preferences in a partner. It’s not wrong for a woman to want a provider or a strong, decisive partner. Just like it’s not wrong for you to not fit that role. It’s not a “game” if a woman has a desire for a man who will choose the place for dinner and pick the bottle of wine. It’s simply her preference, her desire. If you don’t fit that role, you two are just not compatible. That’s okay. Every man is not for every woman, and vice versa.

    Personally, I need a take-charge, dominant partner. I wouldn’t choose someone who isn’t. That is not to say the men that aren’t for me aren’t “real men.” That is absurd, of course. I agree that being a “real man” simply means being a man. I would even include transgendered men and others without a penis (either by birth, an accident, etc.). I reject the idea that means each woman can’t have her own ideal for the man she wants a relationship with, though.

    I will use the same quote another commenter did:

    “The fact is ladies, you have no business pushing a man into being what you want him to be. If you cannot accept a man for what he is then you have no business being with him in the first place.”

    I agree that a woman shouldn’t be with a man who isn’t what she wants. I also agree you should accept people for who they are, and leave them if you can’t. Rather than force incompatibility and just accept the first man who comes along that doesn’t meet her expectations, a woman should wait until she finds a man with the qualities she needs who she can accept as is. I settled in the past for someone who wasn’t right for me and we both suffered. You can’t change what you need from a partner.

    1. It’s not a “game” if a woman has a desire for a man who will choose the place for dinner and pick the bottle of wine.

      Apologies for the delay in responding, I have been away for the last few days. While I agree that there’s nothing wrong with anybody having preferences, for some it goes waaaaay beyond that. Some do treat it like a game as though they have a checklist in their mind that a man must live up to – he must check all of those boxes, no exceptions, or he fails her test. It was clearly a problem for The Sergeant that I wouldn’t be pushed into her pro-conceived alpha male role. I agree that’s ok, we just weren’t right for each other, but I did feel she treated our date like a game – and I was the contestant with the odds stacked against him if he didn’t perform the right tricks at the right time. She wasn’t the first and if I am ever single again then I doubt she will be the last.

      This attitude is more prevalent than people like to pretend and I feel that women have been sucked into wanting the neat boxes of “real man”, “strong silent type”, “sensitive new age guy” and whichever other new “type” Cosmo has invented this week 🙂 It is just as relevant to discuss this as it is to suggest why macho culture is damaging.

      I settled in the past for someone who wasn’t right for me and we both suffered.

      We really only learn the hard way, don’t we? I was in a similar situation. I let myself be pushed around a little too much by my ex-wife and her mother. I learnt through a slow process of attrition over many years that what I wanted and thought wasn’t as important as what they wanted. That’s why I have made a conscious effort to avoid anything that I perceive to be controlling behaviour.

      1. Yes, I think most people only learn the hard way. It’s part of the process of growing, which can be painful. I stay away from games. I just know what I want and what I don’t, what will work for me and what won’t. I learned that you can’t change people. If someone isn’t what you need, it is best to walk away.

  3. That documentary looks good! I will look out for that!
    I think one of the aggravating things in dating is that (some) people have an idea of what dating and intimacy should look like and how their ideal person would be. Then they force that expectation on that person and covertly criticize if the other doesn’t measure up. Which is dumb because intimacy is supposed to be about getting to know someone else as they are, not checking a list or changing them to your fantasy. There are guys that do this to me!
    Sometimes you just have to go with it and learn about the person and see if you two can ‘vibe’, and leave your conceptions at the door.

    1. It’s very controlling isn’t it? What used to be little niggles that you work through now become major red flags for which to toss the other person on the scrap heap!

      Remember that it says more about those guys than it does about you.

  4. Why are male virgins usually more negatively stigmatized for being virgins than females? (The Forty Year Old Virgin, What a Man, Adam, The Sessions) Why does society try to brainwash people into following archaic ideas in innovative ways through the media of TV, movies, books, games (men “should” be sexually experienced, if you haven’t had a sexual experience by so and so date or age there is something “wrong” with you, men “should” be tall, muscular, sexually experienced, alpha, and dominant, otherwise they aren’t attractive to women)?

    1. It’s the flip side of “slut shaming”. Traditionally, women are shamed for having too much sex and men for too little.

      When it comes down to it, you’re right. It’s about what men “should” be doing as dictated by social attitudes.

      As for why, I do not know. When such things are done to women, it’s called “patriarchy” but that implies men (and only men) are responsible for such attitudes.

      1. My cousin has become a feminist and uses code words like “patriarchy” to describe the damage traditional masculinity inflicted upon society. Yes, it seems her code word “patriarchy” implies men are responsible for these social attitudes and norms.

        1. A simple question I always ask about “patriarchy” is why, if it is a system designed to privilege men, it would ever put men at a disadvantage – in military conscription, family courts, ladies first, women & children to the lifeboats and so on.

          1. If there really was a “patriarchy” that existed then Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Carly Fiorina, or Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t be considered candidates for president or any other political office position.

            1. Precisely. Though I am not American (British) there is no way in hell Margaret Thatcher would ever have been Prime Minister. She was not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination.

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