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.