Sensitive New Age Guys
As a child, growing up to pagan, feminist, politically-aware parents, I remember hearing this song by Christine Lavin, that gently poked fun at the new, 90's trend in "sensitive new age guys" in a call-and-response style- I particularly recall this bit:
Christine: "who's concerned about your orgasm?"
(music trails off)
Christine: "hey, wait a minute, wait a minute, I thought you guys said you were sensitive?"
One of the men: "Well, Christine, we're sensitive..."
Said in unison by all the guys: "..but we're not THAT sensitive!"
I still remember all the lyrics, even though I haven't heard this song for YEARS! But what struck me then, just as it does now, is that it was one in many ways I noticed how even the more alternative types of masculinity- the stay at home dad, the long-haired pagan, the gamer geek- were still constrained to behave in certain ways. Talking about your feelings? Still weird. Cuddling with your platonic friends? Nope. Crying? Still awkward! And this is among a bunch of people who are already out of the socially acceptable loop. Guys who do these things are then, of course, called emo and/or fags, and dismissed as “not real men”.
And what makes a man, anyway? Well, commercials would lead you to believe that Real Men like flocks of attentive females, bare-minimum personal hygiene, having a big cock, and being powerful. Men are more rational, better drivers, and the breadwinners - they don’t need to fuss around in the kitchen or figure out how to please a woman, and they certainly can’t be expected to be faithful, especially if their woman at home isn’t making themselves look good ! After all, boys break rules, they can’t be expected to toe the line. Don’t worry, though- there’s lots out there to teach you what you’ve been doing wrong and how to perform masculinity.
I was always interested in how gendered roles affect men as well as women- obviously, even as a young girl who played with My Little Ponies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and took ballet and karate, I could see from the reactions of the kids around me and the genders of those kids that boys did one thing and girls did another. My parents didn’t cater to such things, and I spent most of my childhood in jeans playing in swamps- but my best friend for years was a frilly girly girl who hated getting dirty when we played make believe games. I remember in gym class that boys were allowed to play soccer or basketball, while girls were strongly encouraged to spend the class walking around the field for their exercise. I also remember challenging the instructor on this, and being told that girls weren’t very good at throwing; I was sent to the wall because I threw that basketball at his head. I didn’t handle sexism well even then.
Having never been that attracted to “macho” men, I’ve always been with sensitive new age guys, or their close cousins- socially awkward geeks, vain metrosexuals, and, well, punk rock queer guys. Most of them wore skirts and/or eyeliner, some were vegetarian or vegan, most were proclaimed feminists. I knew they struggled with masculinity, and social definitions of what makes a man, but at the same time they’ve struggled with it long enough to have carved out their own versions of masculinity to work with. I’ve had my battles with the guy status quo, don’t get me wrong- arguments about why they’re emotionally retarded, discussions about what clothes are acceptable to what sort of events, and the old classic—no, cum-stained sheets are not “clean enough”. I’ve had the frustration of having to explain that just because I’m a sex worker doesn’t mean I’m always sexually available, and I’ve been left because I couldn’t agree to monogamy and they couldn’t/wouldn’t share. But the guys I’ve dated tended to like cooking, and didn’t think that doing laundry would castrate them.