On Ownership: Giving Space

I don’t own her

I don’t want to own her

I don’t own her

I don’t want to own her

I miss her

Missing is not necessarily rooted in ownership

Why does missing hurt?

Can missing ever feel good?

I want to miss her and enjoy that feeling

I am going to work on finding pleasure in missing

Is that masochistic?

Is that torture?

Is missing only a painful sub-emotion?

Is missing rooted in fear or love?

Maybe both?

 

How can missing be rooted in love?

Missing lovingly says: (Maya angelou says this best) I miss you but I can’t be with you right now so go, enjoy yourself, go.

Missing out of fear says: I miss you and want you here now or I will go to you now. I am sad to know you are having fun because it makes me think you won’t ever want to spend time with me as I am likely not as fun.

Missing out of fear says: I am not enough and I know it. I am not better than your other options.

Missing lovingly says: I love you and I miss you and I’m unable to do all the things you need. It is just beyond any one human’s capacity - given how complex we are - so I am glad that you have found ways experience your fullness and I hope that you don’t forget what I am able to do for you.

Missing lovingly says: I enjoy what you do for / to me.

Missing out of fear says: Please don’t do the things that you do for / to me with anyone else because you may enjoy serving them more than you enjoy serving me.

‘Miss’ means both (1) to fail to notice something and (2) to notice a loss or absence of something.

Interesting how in missing someone, we can be doing both of these.

That is to say, one problem with missing is that we fail to notice her and we notice that she is gone simultaneously.

We notice that she is gone but still fail to notice her.

We notice that she is gone AND fail to notice her.

I want to notice she is gone and notice her fullness in that goneness (or absence) - rather than noticing her solely gone.

In noticing her fullness in her absence (as above: I’m unable to do all the things you need), I can love her healthily while she is gone as she becomes human in my gaze rather than an object without complexity of the human spirit (careful with the term spirit and it’s Christian implications, spirit in the sense of belonging to the universe and having essential interconnectivity with all things in it - therefore needing to be connected to all things, which I’m grateful to fit into in a particularly special way).

Thoughts on an invisible side of rape culture

If a cis man responds with a non-verbal "no" when asked to penetrate without a condom and it happens without a condom against his will - regardless of (a) the justification for the action or (b) the length of time or (c) the number of times the penetration happens or (d) his level of satisfaction - is it rape?

***

After being abstinent for two years, I had an experience that forced me to reckon with this question and my sexual past. I'm starting to think that I've been getting raped my entire life by women who I thought I was having sex with. 

The first thing that is happening is a set of questions - that would never come up if the gender pronouns were changed - keeps coming up. Here are a few:

  • Is rape ever sex?
  • Can I enjoy rape?
  • What is rape anyways, really?
  • Why am I so deeply embarrassed when the power structure remains the same? I am all the things of privilege but White and rich (which are important but still). 
  • Why am I having such a hard time calling it rape?
  • Why am I diminishing my experience and creating all of these clauses in my head before I think to myself about what happened?

If I were to see these questions and imagine a woman being the speaker, I'd say she's dealing with a ton of trauma due to being raped and society is fucked up for letting gaslighting her into this spiral of self-doubt. Why can't I say that for me?

So what actually happened? 

New Masculinities: Poetry & Conversation - A public reflection

This time last week I was decompressing from an amazing event at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe that included some new poems, a discussion about masculine performance and identity, and a reflection on New Masculinities with a brainstorm on where to go next. All of that in two hours on a Sunday explains why I'm still processing it all!

While there were many takeaways, I'm left feeling that people are deeply interested in grappling with the horrors of masculinity and embracing the beauty of its complexity and nuance. New Masculinities will be moving forward with the strongest suggestions from this event and discussions leading up to it.

1. Conversations: I will continue facilitating these conversations at colleges and universities and will expand to spaces that are open to the public. Perhaps still at a college but sometimes with a broader group of folks. Other times at a community center, street corner, or a church.

2. Podcast: People are truly interested in what I have to say on this topic and I've let my humility get in the way of occupying space in this area. There were clear signals that I need to cut it out so that's coming soon.

3. Art: I'll be making a concerted effort to find artists who are creating art through the inspiration of ideas that intersect with new masculinities in some way, shape, or form. The plan is to then showcase that art to generate discussions, inspiration, new thinking. Maybe even host as guests on the podcast.

New Masculinities: Poetry & Conversation - Sunday, April 30, 2017 - Photos: Chauncey Velasco

The outlandishly gorgeous person to my left.

The other night, I was made aware pretty early on that this insanely beautiful person sitting to my left (well two seats to my left, my poor friend was sitting between us battling with the energies we were exchanging across him) was curious about me. I say that because that’s all the evidence I have since all she did was keep looking at me and I kept looking at her. I really held back from approaching her because I have a knee jerk reaction to try to throw myself onto beautiful people immediately and give it my best shot and hope we end up married or something.

Anyways, so I let it go and then during the talkback session, she keeps looking at me and brushes past me when she walks by, which I’m not sure means anything in a tight space like a theatre but it happened and it’s on my mind. Eventually, after the show, I approach her but left it at the smallest talk you could imagine and went on with my life (obviously not because I wrote this that night).

So that all happened but what I want to explore is the reaction that I got, and expect to get, from people who I tell this to (and from myself as I recount other ways I could’ve approached the situation).

 

The reaction is: obviously she was hitting on you and just tired of you not taking the hint and approaching her so she just let it go.

The reaction is: why didn’t you give her your number?

The reaction is: well, she was staring at you, obviously she wanted you to talk to her.

The reaction is: NIGGA.

The reaction is: I don’t know what you’re afraid of.

The reaction is: you need to get over your ex.

The reaction is: well, you could have just said this, or that, or this, or that.

 

My thinking and framing is: I am conditioned to chase people that I’m attracted to in every moment of every day. I am actively resisting this ingrained urge because it doesn’t feel right.

It doesn’t feel right to expect that I should throw myself onto this woman just because she kept looking at me.

It doesn’t feel right that I feel bad for not having hit on her.

It doesn’t feel right that I feel guilty about not giving my number to her.

It doesn’t feel right that I keep mulling over what I could’ve, should’ve, would do next time, as opposed to just enjoying the fact that something about me caught the attention of some unreasonably beautiful person tonight.

 

It would be great if I could find a way to just enjoy these interactions and not regret them.

It would be great if I could remember how good it feels to be in someone’s gaze.

It would be great to bask in being attractive – for whatever reason – without having to turn that attraction into anything more than simply attraction.

It would be great to just smile and say something nice and move on, for real though – not like move on and deal with the weight of not having attempted to make anything more of it.

On John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons (and Patriarchs?)

I went to see John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons at The Public Theater last night and during the talkback, someone asked Leguizamo why he focused so heavily on the successes of people who have served the country in the military and why he choose to make it such a patriarchal version of Latin History.

 

[Image of playbill cover on a window sill: Leguizamo's head split at his forehead with the words Latin History for Morons coming out of the opening.]

[Image of playbill cover on a window sill: Leguizamo's head split at his forehead with the words Latin History for Morons coming out of the opening.]

 

At one point in the script, John Leguizamo writes about how Bartolomé de las Casas wrote that machismo wasn’t even here until colonists brought it over. In that one statement, it is clear to me that he is regretting his social conditioning and begging the audience to investigate that along with him. I am annoyed with the ways some of these points can be easily glossed over by audience members who are attempting to create critical dialogue in a talkback session.

I want to be clear with myself that masculinity is not patriarchy. Patriarchy could not be shied away from due to the fact that we are talking about the realities of Latin American history, which were plagued by patriarchal actions (that look to me like toxic masculinity – raping, hyper aggression, performance of male dominance, etc.) that lead to complete destruction and resulted in lots of patriarchal practices passed down through generations, which is sad but real.

When I think about parts of the show that were patriarchal, I think about the ways Leguizamo used comedy to force viewers to ask hard questions about patriarchal socialization. At one point, his daughter tells him that he’s spent all this time sharing a myopic patriarchal view of history and he responds with regret saying something like, “oh no, now I have to read and reteach this whole history,” to which the audience immediately reacts negatively too since his character (himself) is pretty obsessed about this whole history exploring/sharing throughout the script. I think he’s essentially having this dialogue with himself as an artist who wrote the play but also as a character in the play who lived parts of this.

There are so many more moments I could point to where Leguizamo presented really complex internal struggles around masculinity and masculine performance – one being when he was trying to figure out how to insult someone without hurting anyone’s feelings and another being when he was taunting people at various points and sticking his chest out to them in an attempt to present as more masculine but really grappling with the posturing he felt he had to do.

Perhaps what’s most important to think about regarding this idea of it being too focused on patriarchy and making some people uncomfortable is to figure out where that discomfort stems from (the particular viewer or the show itself)? If you’re uncomfortable, who’s job is it to work through that discomfort? My sense is that people who are unfamiliar with our history will struggle very much when it is presented to them and it is important that they grapple with what we must grapple with when we learn about their history.

Interestingly enough, nobody asked questions about how tokenizing he was to all of the minoritized communities that he represented throughout or why he choose to go with particular stereotypes to represent minoritized groups, including men of color – as hypermasculine, alcoholic, and ghetto. It is almost as if the position he took on to exclude women’s, perhaps even white women’s, contributions to history, struck a chord with the audience in a way that his exploitation of caricatures - that have been generating and exploited through mainstream (white) media and theatre – did not.

***

So what does this mean for patriarchy as it relates to his show and is he doing anything that could help deepen our understandings of masculinity?

His response to this person’s question on patriarchy was something like: there is no way that you can shy away from the accomplishments of soldiers who have fought for this country. You can say that maybe I’m not smart enough, or maybe I’m not as good of an artist but you cannot say that I didn’t fight hard for the country when I died for it. That is why I chose to focus on the military.

In his comment, I heard something more nuanced. I heard: You (white folks) have set up a system in which I am unable to convince you that my achievements and the achievements of my ancestors are great enough to be in the textbooks or in the mainstream eye so I found a string of achievements that you cannot deny – because you talk all this patriotism nonsense.

You’ve also created a system where you don’t value my masculinity unless it is rooted in war or violence, therefore, when I talk about the masculine performance that my son exhibits and grows through throughout the show - from a warm sense of healthy masculinity, where he is in touch with his emotions and not interested in violence, to a more toxic version that he was forced into when he had to fight and get suspended due to terrifying acts of bullying - there is no recognition of the ways in which I’m working to unravel what masculinity could look like and does look like for some young, teenaged, Puerto Rican boys. This unraveling and exploration of various types of masculinity is inherently anti-patriarchal due to its resistance to a singular idea of what a man should be. My son’s masculinity, in fact, is anti-patriarchal in many ways but that blew right over your head because you were focused on a section of the show that overemphasized the ways that achievement is honored through the system that is patriarchal – which, by the way, I did not create and cannot stand.

To that end, I'd have to say: yes, this is certainly a contribution to deepen our understandings. I want to reflect more.

If I care about eradicating patriarchy...

I have taken part in the abuse and neglect of women and their emotions. I know that I am a product of a system that coaches, conditions, and sometimes required me to do that well. I don't ever intend on it but when it happens what good are my intentions?


If I am true, which I aim to be, I will take responsibility for my shortcomings. If I care about eradicating patriarchy, I've got to actively rid it in myself. That process must be in place while making speeches and workshops and loving.


People ask me what NewMasculinities is and I tell them I don't know and they get frustrated as if I'm supposed to know. NewMasculinities is an effort to better understand masculinities. NewMasculinities is the process without an intended solution. Without an end.


What a fucking joke I'd be - to do what the men in my family have done to the women in my family and to the women who were not in my family while committed to my family. I'd be a mockery of an existence -- if even existing at that point.


To be too harsh on myself is the least I could do - for I've been harsh in my analysis of the system that taught me to love with such toxicity. To allow myself to be open to interrogation and to never do again rather than saying sorry and repeating and saying sorry and repeating and saying sorry. Excuses can't be used twice with integrity and so at some point I had to reflect and reconsider my resistance to feedback -- or gaslighting. It really hurts knowing that I've participated in that, and much more, with those who I've been most intimate with. That's real but to fall victim to me is just as real and so woe is me and never do again. Simple?


Thank goodness for language. Thank goodness for lovers who know better than me. And love that is better than me. And examples that I can only dream of because they don't exist yet. Someday I will.

Marc Anthony can kiss men too: My understanding of our misunderstandings of sexuality.

Marc Anthony posted an image of himself kissing a few people, including some who we think he has private parts in common with and it is really messing people's minds up. Just check the comments if you're curious.

Marc Anthony Good morning my people! Share a kiss! #elbesoeffect #magnusstrong #whatsurbeso 😘❤

Marc Anthony Good morning my people! Share a kiss! #elbesoeffect #magnusstrong #whatsurbeso 😘

What frustrates me more than the folks who are saying he's gay and that's sad is the folks who are denying the possibility of his sexual attraction to men by saying a kiss is meaningless and just because he's kissing a man doesn't mean that he's enjoying it or whatever. I'm not naive enough to think that kissing is indicative of sexual attraction, but this reaction begs the question: what is our resistance to that possibility in this instance?

So with that, I'm reflecting on my understanding of our misunderstandings of sexuality. 

1. Categories of sexual orientation are socially constructed. 

It's all nonsense basically, like every other social construct. We created these categories for whatever reason anyone believes in but they're here and they once weren't here. Because of them being created, the same categories look different across the world so standardizing them would be essentially irrelevant because each society is iteratively constructing as we attempt to police. I'm focusing today on sexual orientation but there's much more to cover.

2. Attraction is more than sex. Way more.

We are attracted to all sorts of people and things all the time. Attraction is when my eyes can't stop looking at something for whatever reason. When I double take because I see a nice outfit - that is attraction. When I compliment my colleagues, I'm expressing an appreciation and attraction for their look, style, or whatever it is that I'm complimenting. Our fear of admitting to particular types of attraction in particular instances is so divisive! Maybe someday we won't have to say no-homo.

3. Sexuality is fluid.

For example, I've never been attracted to men to the point that I've wanted to engage with one intimately. That doesn't mean I'm heterosexual because it's completely within the realm of possibilities that I'll wake up tomorrow and find myself gravitating towards someone that I never thought I'd be attracted to. The next common question, which is constantly on everyone's mind when I speak with them about masculinity (I know because they try to ask me in the strangest ways) is am I queer. The answer is: we all are - because every other category through which we examine and understand sexualities are not nuanced enough to include any real life human beings.

There's a school of thought that believes that the sexual orientation that we are born with is the one that we stick with throughout life. This is useful for speaking with folks who think being gay is a sin (or whatever other illogical thing they have going on) but when it comes to framing sexuality as an ever-evolving phenomenon within each and every one of us, I have to reject that idea. This is not for the sake of changing people, rather it is an adaptation of our understanding to include people who are changing - it is to give space for us to engage with ourselves more freely.

4. What would folks who identify as LGBTQIA+ say to me (as a self-identified cisgendered heterosexual man)?

I get pushback here all the time because people think I'm the straight guy trying to live in both the LGBTQIA+ circles and the straight circles. I understand that. I'm offering up a much more complex view of sexuality that does include heterosexual people into the rest of the identities along that strain (perhaps after the +) rather than rejecting heterosexual identity. With the rejection of the heterosexual identity in these conversations, in my mind, its power and dominance over the others is reinforced rather than equitized.

Equitized because it isn't half of the conversation, rather it is one of the many identities that fall under the umbrella. If it was equalized, it would be just as important as the other marginalized identities, which is not anti-patriarchal. Equitized also reframes the notions of oppression that are implied by grouping them together. I'm not saying I'm oppressed in the same ways or am lacking privileges in those ways due to my not having ever been attracted to someone who shares my privates but what I am saying is that it is possible that one day I could wake up and that could happen -- then what?

So what you didn't harass her? I'll tell you what revolution isn't.

This morning, I was grappling with how to best share what it means to be anti-patriarchal - because everyone asks - and so I decided to share this: 

Spent all morning resisting the urge to give compliments to beautiful people on my way to work. If I really mean no harm, I figure I should do no harm by keeping all compliments in my head!

I got all sorts of responses, from hearts to encouragement to give compliments anyways. It ate away all day because there was no context so here is some context.


To be clear, refraining from complimenting people I don't know is no revolutionary act. I am not displaying my feminist allyship when I don't harass women. It is something you do when you see people as people before anything else.

I'm often asked what I mean when I press for us to imagine new masculinities and I struggle with sharing my thinking on what an anti-patriarchal masculinity actually looks like for so many reasons - potentially rooted in traditional masculine pressures.

Being vulnerable is painful.
I've always believed that where there is vulnerability, there is growth. This concept is most salient in art. I think back to my training as a poet, where the most impactful poems I was audience to were the most vulnerable and my most vulnerable poems today are still the most well received.

I don't see use in telling anyone what to do.
I spend more time than I'd like to admit, reworking my writing such that I'm not telling anyone what to do. It doesn't make sense for me to engage in telling folks what to do because I don't even know what masculinity means. I don't think anyone is really an authority on this, and by doing this work in this way, I am to reframe ways of knowing and acquiring knowledge.

Naturally, people will often ask me to tell them what to do and I tell them what I've done or what I may do and qualify that with it coming from me for me and not for them. Oh the frustration that causes.

I'm teaching and learning by example.
Something I've noticed that I've been trying to write more concretely about is the ways that many men who do this work on masculinities in public spaces, such as conferences or college speaking tours, aren't necessarily teaching by example. Rather they are telling folks what to do and not being really vulnerable in the sense that they rarely talk about their own internal/external struggles with masculinities. How nice would it be to hear these speakers grappling with their baggage? Wouldn't that send the 'it is okay to deal with your baggage' signal across more effectively? It has in my experience. Although it is costly.

Reframing Insecurities: On the misplaced burden of a dull sex life.

Since my first time, it was abundantly clear to me that enjoyable, refreshing, and the most desirable sexual encounters are much less physical and more emotional, mental, and spiritual. However, there is a common narrative connecting men as merely in it for the physical connection and women for the emotional - no where to be seen are folks outside of the binary.

Another problem with emotionless masculine performance.

If we follow this simple logic by ignoring the spiritual/mental/emotional aspects of sex and focusing on the physical - because we operate in a male-centric social system - it should be no surprise that we have bad sex, right? Well capitalism ran with this and had us build an entire industry, maybe a few industries, on trying to improve our sex lives, rather than stepping back and figuring out what some of the root causes may be.

It is the role of women to please men & men cannot be wrong.

Kill me now. An archaic system we live in, indeed. It seems to me that there is something paradoxical about this because of our culture of courting in the public sphere but we all know in the private sphere, the tables turn, or do they? It is a complex interaction and probably cannot be generalized but I think it is fair to say that patriarchy has us thinking that women are here to please men. Kasey Rose-Hodge captures this much more eloquently than I can in her piece: Dear Creepy Heterosexual Men Guarding Our Bathrooms.

Another thing that comes with male dominance is that men cannot be wrong when it comes to sex. They are in charge, they call the shots. Women are pleasers. There is no real focus on men pleasing women in the traditionally masculine sense as it is not their role. And if they ever do present themselves as willing to please, it better be through aggression and dominance, or they are met with emasculating stigmas. This is evidenced concretely by the rare self-questioning of by men with regard to their sexual performance and the overthought that is exhibited by women regarding their performance.

Women's magazines must be managed by men or something. They just must be. 

With all of the content devoted to women improving their sex lives as to keep the men in their lives happy rather than to be more pleased themselves, I have to wonder who the hell is creating all of this content and why. It isn't even on any specific sex-centered titles, it is everywhere! What kind of crap goes on in our advice columns and where is the advice for men to improve their sexual performance in GQ and Sports Illustrated (outside of drugs)?

The internet just did more damage in this area. We have apps, blogs, vlogs, twerk tutorials, pole dancing classes, make up teachers, and guides on fellatio, etc. I often hear people say that a lot of this is sexual empowerment work so I wouldn't want to blanket this all into male pleasing but my gut says it has something to do with male-centeredness and maybe it is masculine-centeredness. Either way, there needs to be more exploration there, for sure. 

Men needs to ask themselves to 'spice things up.'

We have nerve to ask for things to be spiced up. Seriously. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a woman asking her boyfriend or husband to spice things up in bed. It is nearly laughable. It is clear to me that this is the case in a lot of situations where men are simply disengaged, focused on the climax and not engaging in various aspects of sex that would make it most desirable.

The headline to this section was, "only men can ask for things..." and I deleted 'can' because that's not the case, although it may seem that way. It is important to reinforce the reality that even though we are socialized to think we are the only ones able to ask and we cannot fathom ever being the problem in sexual encounters (at least in public because in private we are all insecure as hell), we can be asked to step our game up. I'm thinking we should be asking ourselves in more open and honest ways, rather than the shameful approach I think we take, as a culture, to poor sexual performance.

We should reimagine sex by reframing our insecurities to expand our understanding of sex.

We project our insecurities on our partners by saying they need to figure out what is in their head blocking them from reaching climax. What about reframing our thinking and imagining that this is an opportunity for us to be more thoroughly engaged in all aspects of sex, in ways that our partners are? How wonderful would it be to become as emotionally connected to sex as our partners are rather than placing stigmas on them for it? I think most wonderful.

Though the motivation and intention for my thinking on this is to better serve women in our lives, adjusting for this misplaced burden is not solely in that spirit (dare I do that!). By reframing our insecurities, we can become more available for our partners to engage with us on our sexual practices. We can receive feedback that will allow us to improve and it will positively affect everyone else involved in our lives, even those who operate outside of our relationships and are affected by the status of them.

#OnYourFeetBroadway: A reflection on male dominance on Broadway.

Overall, I'm impressed by 'On Your Feet: The story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan.' I think it is a step in the right direction to honoring people in our community in a way that is authentic and just plain old difficult to do in a complex space like Broadway. That said, I think there are areas that we should ask questions regarding our intentionality behind representations of male dominance and what the impact is of those representations in theatre settings. We may also want to consider whether the characters' experience is the way it is, due to the residue of our patriarchal order in our writers, directors, and producers. Conversely, are these characters purposely portraying male dominance, in a covert way, as to realistically mirror humanity at a particular time, in a particular place.

Gloria's vocals are sharply engrained in my subconscious and I am grateful for them. I had not many expectations when entering the show and was just planning on enjoying the show. That said, I acknowledge that I went to see "the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan." We didn't reach the intermission before I realized that there were a few important dynamics that were at play that I wanted to think more deeply about afterward.

Gloria was not as complex of a character as her husband is in the play.

The story is being advertised through all of Gloria's voice, beauty, talent, but her character is often sidelined to give us a sense of her husband's ways of thinking and being. There were quite a few instances where I felt like he was just taking up too much script space that Gloria should have been occupying. It would have been more helpful to know about her life outside of its relation to Emilio. I think we get a clear sense of Emilio's motivations for success, he is often referencing his relationship with his son and his family. He narrates his flashbacks in dialogue and not only through song, whereas Gloria only uses music to narrate her thinking. It removes its relevance and importance, in some ways, I think. I may have just forgotten but I don't remember her having a strong relationship with her child, although I do remember how when she wasn't caring for Emilio, she was focusing on caring for her father. It was clear that she was responsible for the men in her life but there was a limited sense of her actually grappling with this reality and come to think of it, this may just be so real that it is bothersome.

Is this show a result of the realities of our patriarchal order?

A lot of Gloria's energies went into satisfying, defending, focusing on, etc. Emilio. Being that the show does have his name in the title, I suppose it should focus on him just as much as her, but he was overpowering. Is this just a result of the system that we are living under and does it necessarily need to change? Is there anything wrong with it? My immediate sense is yes, there needs to be more focus, emphasis on Gloria, but I think we can also say that Emilio was sort of hiding in the shadows throughout Gloria's career so this is an opportunity for his story to be showcased. On the other hand, with the advertisements focused on Gloria - probably an easier sell due to her hypersexualization of women in ads - one would think that she would be at least given just as much complexity.

Who cares? Why it this worth thinking about?

Well because there is a bunch of opportunity here. There could have been moments where Gloria was able to unpack and unravel her experiences in relation to these two important men. She was surrounded by men making important decisions about her career, from her husband, to all of the record company executives, to club owners, etc. Interestingly enough, there was a community of women supporting her, from her mom to her grandmother to her sister and arguably the friends she had met along the way. Where is the contextual understanding? I was waiting for the talk back session as if the actor could have given us that but I imagine there is something to be said and I am so eager to hear how the writers, directors, producers, and actors are feeling about this.

How does this show contribute to the broader ecosystem of Broadway productions?

Broadway is incredibly inaccessible and I had to seriously step back and say I am going to shift money around to get to this production so I don't think of myself as truly Broadway savvy or fully in the know of what is happening these days there. But I can't stop thinking about the way that this play is simultaneously revolutionary and not. I also don't think is common on Broadway and there were a few moments that explicitly challenged the way we think about and categorize music, especially within Latin American contexts. It is revolutionary in that it goes against all standard notions of Broadway plays by using Spanglish for the entire play, having a live salsa band on stage the entire show, and focusing on Cuban immigrants from their perspective.

It is not revolutionary in that it is embracing the delicate balance between falling into stereotypes and being authentic. Like any balance, there has to be both sides so in this case stereotyping must exist. For the record, I currently don't have much of a problem with stereotyping as long as it isn't used as a tool to generalize a group of people and folks are given opportunities to live nuanced lives that include the stereotype and other complex parts of them. It seems to me that this production really grapples with that and is intentional around problem solving that tension, which is more than I can say about most mainstream representations of communities of color, so kudos.

Avoiding divide & conquer tactics.

I hesitate to reflect so critically in a public way because I am hypersensitive to the ways that we are constantly divided and conquered. That said, there needs to be a space for healthy critique, one that does not diminish, rather instills a sense of hope and urge for forward progress, new learnings, teachings, and understandings of what the future holds.

On Longing for Love & Battling Patriarchy

As I engage in this work - anti-patriarchal masculine performance - more deeply, I am constantly challenging the deeply rooted notions of what it means to be a 'good man' in today's society. What I'm being challenged with lately is my overcompensation as I err on the side of avoiding contact as opposed to making advances to women I'm attracted to.

I am constantly being advised to hit on women even though it is something that brought me to this work in the first place. It bothers me when I see uncomfortable women in public due to men cat calling or taking up personal space on the train as to make an advance, etc. What I've noticed over the years, however, is that women who have gotten to know me will often make excuses for me if I do those same exact behaviors and even worse, will encourage me to conduct myself in that way!

I don't get it!

They will say things like, "Oh gosh, men are dogs, but not you, you're the exception." I usually cringe. There are times that I will share that I walked past a really beautiful person and did nothing and I will be told I should have made it a point to interact and taken her number and asked her out and...At this point, I'm usually confused into silence or expressing a visceral reaction where I am rigidly rejecting the encouragement with intensity and it seems unnecessary so the conversation drops. I'd like to spend some time exploring the layers of this visceral reaction and what is happening in my head that makes me reject their advice so adamantly.

First, I'm understanding my attempts to advance as being part of the problem with toxic masculine performance and I would really like to figure out how to approach women I'm attracted to in such a way that I am performing an anti-patriarchal masculinity or at least some healthy form where they don't feel unsafe and I don't feel like an exploiter of my maleness. I've gotten to a point where I just think that is impossible. I imagine they feel much like I do when a police officer is near me - really unsafe, regardless of the interaction or lack thereof.

Next is my understanding that I need to stick to my guns with this work. If I am going to be about it, I'd better be about it. All too often we see advocates doing things against their advocacy work. I am trying to create space to work on changing a paradigm here and so I need to at least be actively engaging in that on a personal level. That is the only way, right?

Then there is a part of my that knows I will not do anything to [intentionally?] hurt any of these people who are super attractive on the street. I just want to say hi and I think my chances are so slim that nothing will ever solidify anyways so what is the harm? Regarding chances, this is an interesting idea. In a patriarchal system, we imagine heterosexual relationships to be end-all. While I would really like to get to know these people and somehow be intimate with them, I struggle with that because what is wrong with having good healthy relationships that aren't contingent upon whether we are able to be intimate? I think the answer is the way that I've been conditioned is not to have substantive relationships be at the forefront of my thinking, rather to focus on the sexual interaction as a first priority and then move on to back up plans, which include: waiting until she breaks up with her boyfriend, or is willing to cheat on him. All of this operating in the gender/sexuality binary, of course, as relationships that aren't hetero are disregarded as real, stable, and long-term.

So there's all that. And so lately I've worked to counteract my last point by stripping myself of the possibility of being intimate with people I just meet anywhere by focusing just on having positive interactions with women I'm attracted to, without asking for contact information, or to see them again or whatever else. It is hard. Why though?

Then while I'm in that "why" limbo space, I'm usually brought back to my first point, where my women friends scold me for telling them all of this and encourage me to make an advance.

This cycle is vicious.

About Last Night: A meta-reflection on my first public showcase of these reflections...

So about last night...

I worked head on to engage with the question of the day: 219. What does the process of moving conversations on masculinity outside of academia entail?


I'd love to know more about how everyone in attendance experienced last night and I figure it's only right to share what the stage felt like so here goes.


Poems from Spanglibonics: I didn't preface much on purpose but my goals of being honest and vulnerable seemed to come through and using art is one way to open a space for deeper discussion.


Reflections on Masculinities: Way too fast. I really attempted to use talking points that wouldn't trap us into confusing terms or ideologies that need long explanations or require a lot of context so it could be relatable to everyone there. I found myself using theatrical techniques to make sense of things that I'd otherwise explain with academic jargon just so people could see the images/ideas. I was planning on switching outfits to a more professional look for the second part and decided not to at the last minute. I spend more time than anyone probably should thinking about clothing and the implications it has in our interactions. I think people were at ease and it balanced out what looked and felt to me like an academic presentation and so there's more to explore there.

 

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I suppose these two points in isolation could be one response to my question and that is:

Conversations on masculinity outside of the academe can entail various artistic expressions, maybe even an integration or intersection of theatrical (improv, movement, character, emotional connection, comedy) and standard academic presentation techniques (visual accompaniment-PowerPoint, Q&A). It may also entail creating new uses of existing language to replace academic jargon that isn't relatable to the vast majority of people. It also may entail a certain level of humility and disregard for mainstream ideas about how we should present ourselves through our speech. I was intentional about integrating curse words as well as a few terms that are specific to gender studies and so on, in an attempt to experiment with how people would receive these ideas.

I'm interested in exploring further and hope folks feel inclined to share with me their experience. If you'd prefer a private message, click here and scroll to the bottom where there is a contact form.

March Masculinity Madness: How critical masculinity studies may force college leaders to be more responsible.

March Madness isn't only becoming a big time pastime for those who have attended college or enjoyed college sports growing up, it is becoming an increasingly growing financial incentive for participating universities. Besides all of the crazy money that the television networks and corporate sponsors make, double the amount of money wagered during the Superbowl will be circulating. The point is, there is a ton of money in this. Read more about that here.

To be a man of color on a basketball team that participates in March Madness requires a certain level of dehumanization through the mainstream construction and sustainment of masculine norms for this group. 

Athletes in this group cannot be presented through mainstream media channels as showing emotion, intellectual curiosity, rebelliousness, etc. because these images would negate the images of the dehumanized male servant that was created a few centuries ago. He can be hypersexualized and incredibly athletic/fit to the point that he is superhuman. This superhuman label is not the best approach as it further distances the players from the people they actually are. Afterall, they are humans, right? Furthermore, the athletes are rarely given an opportunity to be more than athletes, which presents a problem because the data is clear that the vast majority of college athletes do not make it to the professional level.

So...?

My thinking is this: Part of the problem is that we have not only constructed March Madness around this simplified narrative of male athletes of color but these players live their lives after we shut off our television sets and this is most likely an integral part of their identity. How are we not helping them by pigeonholing them into an identity that is defined - at least partially - through dehumanization and exploitation for profit? 

It is imperative that we fight the urge to think of these young men solely as basketball players and engage their entire lives. It is less important for us as consumers to do that - although that would be ideal - and more important for the leaders of the colleges and universities that these students are representing on the national stage. I think many folks have engaged this idea that our athletes need support in other areas of their lives but tonight I thought maybe critical masculinity studies will help us get there.

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Disclaimer: I've intentionally and unapologetically focused on self-identified Black and Latinx/Hispanic men.

How Social Pressures of Traditional Masculine Norms Robbed me of Friendship

I am currently reviewing the work of an amazing person that I used to be connected with in high school and always deeply admired. Fine, I had a crush on her. The poet in me wrote her a love poem too early and haven't spoken to her since the day I gave it to her. That usually happens. She was spooked out - I get it - but love can mean a lot of things, right? I wrote her a poem in the shape of a heart. It was a lot, I know, but we used to frequent bookstores and talk philosophy and all that - can anyone really blame me?

I think the way that I recount that story is the way most guys probably do who have lost their friends due to the pressures to solidify intimate relationships with every girl/woman that we pass - as mandated by Traditional Masculinities Article 1. Section 3. I have been exploring this idea for the past few months.

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We have a huge problem. Some people will say boys are socialized to "always be on the prowl." I have a few problems with that statement but it is what it is for tonight. I was facilitating the Masculinity Detox Workshop Series at Dartmouth College during their fall 2015 session and I told a story about how I was pressured into objectifying a student in my middle school when I was 11-years-old and I was met with an overwhelming number of similar stories, which I think is indicative of this reality and a common phenomenon as I share stories like this with groups of men.

With the pressure to continue to constantly search for new intimate partners, we find ourselves lonely, frustrated with our performance (because it is unrealistic for most of us), angry with the men around us for pressuring us in the first place and getting in the way afterward, and so much more.

So what? Are guys that weak? That's pathetic. How can we not see past the pressure and just be civilized instead of chronically exploiting the love our friends show us in an attempt to gain something else?

Well, I've been asking myself that for some time now and have tried to take concrete steps in a direction that I think clearly articulates what an anti-patriarchal friendship between a cis-hetero-man and cis-hetero-women situated within a patriarchal society looks and feels like. For starters, I have stopped reaching out to people when there is a hint of the pressure I spoke about earlier in my motivation to reach out. I think we often overlook our motivations and a wonderful example of this the plethora of excuses people have for catcalling when we know guys aren't catcalling each other. It has caused me to become hyper-aware of my intentions and slightly paranoid about the impact of my communication. Being a person who enjoys writing and showing affection through words, this is doubly difficult but completely possible.

I'll reflect on it with more depth sometime soon.

Finding Comfort in Heterosexuality

In my last post, I briefly touched on the ways that I've changed my behavior "since becoming more and more public with my work on masculinity and changing up my hypermasculine tendencies - language, tone, cadence, posture, demeanor, etc." I didn't make the connection during that post but afterward, I realized what I was talking about was just becoming more comfortable with my sexuality, that which I've called heterosexuality but who knows really what that is. I've fought hard to not disclose my sexuality in my work because I feel fetishized in some strange way. I think it is extremely important, in this instance, to be explicit about my heterosexual identity because this piece can easily be thrown into the pile of the "problems for those gay people over there."

How is heterosexuality ever uncomfortable?

We often subscribe to the idea that heterosexuality is comfortable. I've been spending a lot of time becoming more and more comfortable with my heterosexuality (it even sounds weird doesn't it?) over the past few years as I learn more about my intersectional anti-patriarchal stance on masculine performance. To become more comfortable, one has to be uncomfortable - see my logic here?

How do traditional masculine values make heterosexual men uncomfortable?

Language - Between No-Homo and That's so Gay, there are a ton of different ways we use language as a tool to create anxiety and discomfort around our sexuality. I've experienced people question my sexuality for using words like tummy rather than stomach - ridiculous, I know. It likely has more to do with insecurity and discomfort than the actual language, although it is a nifty tool to oppress!

Clothing - My experience being policed through attire really deserves a few posts. I've even caught myself doing some of this as I entered the professional world, attempting to ensure that people understood the norms and expectations of business attire: how to tie the tie, when to wear the belt, etc. All of these things keep us on edge and the hint of questioning our sexuality in the back of all of our minds takes a toll. 

Interests/Hobbies - Dare I say I'm learning how to crochet after years of being interested and being shunned for it as if it wasn't something I could do while having sex with women - insanity, but real life stuff.

There has to be a ton more but we will leave it there.

What have I done to become more comfortable?

Challenge all that nonsense. Take a minute and examine what is happening and just challenge that caveman thinking. There may be a part two of this idea that will explore the ways that white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy set the foundation and continues to reinforce these crazy pressures we put onto each other. I'm a big fan of reflection and so I spend a lot of time processing my day and my thoughts and my interactions with people to try to better equip myself for future interactions. 

I'm just saying. I want to be and sex freely without worrying about feeling like I have to hide or share my sexuality with others for whatever reason, especially when we really don't understand sexuality in the first place. Maybe someone does. I'd like to learn. Lastly, I try to learn as much as I can and stay open to new ideas and possibilities about myself and everyone around me, even those I don't see or will never see or know.

An Attempt to Understand Mactivist Culture

Mactivist - A political activist who uses his/her reputation for activism, organization, and political ideology for the purpose of hitting on people. 

I have to say, I found an image that made me stop in my tracks and reframe this entry. At first, I was going to talk about the ways that (we all know) patriarchy creeps up in the minds and hearts of activists who are men grappling with how terrible it is and trying to destroy it - making them reify it in their actions, especially in relationships women. I figured someone already did this online and found it here. I don't know if I totally endorse every word there but I think that is a worthwhile read.

So here is the image I found:

Source: http://mactivistsonblast.tumblr.com/

I'm essentially processing this as I write so I welcome the critique/pushback. Here are a few things that I can't help but try to figure out.

1. Are mactivists only cisgender heterosexual men?

Absolutely not - the above definition doesn't assign a gender. That said, I'm getting this one out of the way early to focus on the more important stuff because men are still men within our patriarchal system and even if I'm being hit on or whatever, it doesn't compare. The placement is strategic in an effort to not invalidate my next points.

Since becoming more and more public with my work on masculinity and changing up my hypermasculine tendencies - language, tone, cadence, posture, demeanor, etc., I have been lead on by quite a few people who I thought were interested in my work and ended up being more interested in me. Needless to say, that just doesn't work - ever.

Note: Cisgender - If a doctor announces, “It’s a girl!” in the delivery room based on the child’s body and that baby grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender - with all of these privileges.

2. Are mactivist men any different than other person - attempting to hit on people for all the wrong reasons - under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy?

I'm not sure. I get the sense that mactivists are slightly more engaged in social justice theory, data, and/or philosophy, therefore they are being held at a higher standard. Should they be? Yes. Should everyone else be too though? Yes, just because you aren't on top of social justice literature (hashtags?) doesn't excuse you.

I think what may be happening though is that women are in some ways simply creating markers to survive because under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, protection is necessary. I'm assuming that women created this term as I've only heard/seen it used by women on social media.

3. What about those who look just like mactivists but aren't? What about them?! Don't they deserve a fair chance? Isn't it unfair to group them all together?

This was my first inclination. I think this reflex is a result of the patriarchal order. It happens with any group that oppresses, we try to excuses, outliers, good examples, and all that jazz and it ends up distracting from the issue. The reality is that those people who look/sound like mactivists and aren't using their ideology as a way to get attention - aren't using their ideology to get attention anyways so it doesn't matter. Right?

Let me try to be more clear: What we are doing when we say this is we are attempting to hold off women's attempt at taking our access away from them. We are saying, "Wait! You should continue to give me access to your body because I'm a 'good' guy. Don't block me out because these guys are who they are. That isn't me."

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Clearly we have some work to do and I definitely have more learning to do with regards to mactivist culture. I see this in many spheres that I am a part of: Photographers, Painters, Rappers, Poets, Musicians, Academics, Finance, etc. It seems like wherever there is fame, or the illusion of fame, there is an opportunity to court. Although courting and pursuing people - especially men pursuing women - in ways that diminishes power and reinforces these oppressive systems  are completely different things, that at the end of the day help no one.

So...we have to do better.

Anti-Patriarchal Sexting: A Reflection

The internet has had a profound impact on my life, relationships, and (of course) my performance of masculinity. I had access to two things.  AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) & Porn.

AIM is where I spent a lot of time learning how to write in ways that were compelling. I spent a lot of time reading how other men wrote about themselves and how women wrote about themselves and how people outside of the binaries coded their identities. I learned how to court girls/women with my words and only my words. I learned how to write tactfully - understanding tone and diction. Later it would help with the construction of professional e-mails, newsletters for jobs I've had, poems to get my undergraduate degree and publish books, maybe even these blogs, who knows?

Porn gave me tools necessary to be an erotic writer. Porn is ironic this way because we know it isn't pleasurable for the people acting - they are actors - but we have scenes and images that are pleasurable to watch, and more importantly for me at the time, to recreate in my writing. It was a nice exercise of erotic poetry and hypersexual dialogue, whenever I would engage in cybersex. One day, my circa 13 year-old-self told a girl- who I'd been friends with, had actually talked to over the phone, seen naked (over the internet), had grown feelings for - that I would make her my b*. She stopped answering and we never spoke again. Anyone who knows me knows that I despise that word now and this is just one reason.

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We are now in a world where it is expected that you have a cellular device, stronger than most of our first home computers, attached to your hip. With phones becoming a part of our daily life, what we knew as instant messaging (AIM, Yahoo Instant Messaging, MSN Instant Messaging, etc.) has become text messaging or texting.

Just as my generation were the young pioneers of internet acronyms such as LOL and strictly online porn companies like BangBus, we also broke ground with cyber sex - and arguably found ourselves trying to emulate porn in our online chatboxes.

Here we are today with all of these options: phone-sex, AIM and Yahoo IM-sex, and now text-sex or sexting. All of this is influenced by internet porn as it is most accessible and often times easy to stumble upon by mistake. Porn is troublesome because most times it isn't real and it's deep patriarchal roots influence the ways we imagine sex.

The experience that I share earlier had a dual-influence. On one hand, I was influenced by the extreme violence inflicted on women in porn that I'd consumed - in this case verbal abuse. On the other hand, I was guided by girls who told me throughout my entire life that I wasn't bad, tough, mean, rough, scary, enough to be with them or to sexually entice them. I had been coached before by girls to be more aggressive and this was my first (and essentially my last) attempt at being a hyperaggressive cybersexer. It isn't enough to say aggression though, right? To do what I did is more than being aggressive. It is disrespectful, degrading, demoralizing, misogynistic, and probably a few more horrible things. I remember hesitating but I followed through. What is that force? It seems to me that it is our intoxication with traditional masculine values, norms, and expectations. Here are three things I'm doing (not saying you should, just saying I do):

FILTER PORN CONSUMPTION: I worked very hard to filter my consumption of porn, not completely abstain - that is unrealistic for me and many people that I know. As I said earlier, all you have to do is care about a woman and you wouldn't ever want her to be in porn. We know porn is extremely patriarchal and has a lot of negative influence. Filter it!

HUMANIZE EVERYBODY: I work hard to see myself as human just as much as the person on the other end of that electronic device is. Neither of us should be seen as opportunities to cum. Sexting can become very manipulative, very fast. I prefer nudes with faces, save voice recordings and videos - anything to humanize. This includes stripping derogatory terms from my vocabulary. 

SHARE PUBLICLY: In the same way that physically releasing chemicals from our body must happen through our skin and other places, I'm making the case that detoxing traditional masculinities can look like public sharing - a similar type of release.

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I choose to be anti-patriarchal through vulnerability. I choose to be vulnerable through honesty. I choose to be honest through experiencing pain that heals. I choose to experience pain that heals publicly, so that my support system can love me back to a humane existence, where I can live as a heterosexual man detoxed from traditional masculine values, norms, and expectations.