There was one recent discussion on /r/polyamory regarding male role models, especially in the poly community. And based on the discussions on that thread, two main questions emerged.
- How do you find perfect role models who consistently commit to nontoxic masculinity and and inspire responsible male sexuality in an imperfect world?
- How do you balance a respectful read of subtle consent with confident display of male sexuality in modern dating?
This will be a two-part series. I’ll be discussing the first question on this post.
Personal Reflection on Masculinity
Like many of my generation, I too have had a very speckled personal history, one that is marred with toxic masculinity, disappointing male role models, and constant external judgments and assessment on what kind of man I should or should not be.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized how insignificant those external factors were in determining my own personal idea of a positive male role model.
I can recall that exact moment very clearly.
I was 21, sitting at a bar in East Village in New York City. I remember I had absolutely no plans other than to spend some quality time with myself and this book I wanted to explore. I don’t remember the name of the bar or the book I was reading at the time. But I do remember perusing through the scotch selection and settling on Balvenie 12 DoubleWood. Bartender took a one quick look at me and realized I probably wasn’t going to stay for long, or tip very much. So she went to hang out with some of her friends at the patio table facing the street. I tried really hard to stay focused on reading, but I felt so incredibly out of place. Disoriented without being inebriated. Wandering but not lost.
And I remember looking out onto the streets at all these people who had better places to be or at their own respective destinations. And I remember feeling so incredibly daunted at the idea of knowing exactly what you wanted. That concept of self-assuredness eluded me for so long. I had never had that kind of visibility into my own ego, certainly not in the ways I’ve projected how clearly others might understand themselves. It’s weird to think about now. Even at my current age of 29, I do not believe I have achieved that unrealistic level of self-clairvoyance.
I remember tossing my book between my hands, thumbing through pages that I’ve promised myself to read. I remember blankly staring at pages, swimming among the words without absorbing any of it. I took a sip and then it suddenly hit me.
I was right where I wanted to be. It didn’t matter that my then-girlfriend was at London. It didn’t matter that I had no job lined up, staying at my aunt’s rent-free. I felt so incredibly content with just meandering among people I’ll never encounter again at a bar I’d never visit again in a city I’ll probably never get to live in again.
I started thinking about all the decisions I had to make to arrive at this moment and place in time. Graduations, funerals, birthdays. And I focused on the people that got me here. All the male role models who’ve promised and subsequently failed to deliver: my uncle, my father, and my professors. I didn’t resent any of them for what they couldn’t accomplish because not everyone was ready to live up to this impossible perfection of masculinity. I appreciated that they tried. At that moment, I realized I wanted to become a self-made man. I too wanted to try. I wanted to try and be this faceless ideal of a man who stood proud – unweathered, untethered, and confident.
I decided to continue chasing that feeling, of that minute contentedness.
To round this back to the original quest to find a perfect role model for male masculinity (especially in the poly community), I don’t really think there is one.
For one, there are just fewer ethically non-monogamous people in general. Since there are just fewer of us, there aren’t as many vocal folks who can be role models. Also, not everyone has the same ethical frame of mind who can be universally righteous and fairly conduct each and every one of their relationships. Here’s a good example. Some folks consider hierarchical polyamorous relationship to be unethical, even between informed and consenting parties. Some would consider Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policies to be perfectly ethical, while others might disagree. There are very few absolute moral positions and ethical and mindful practice of polyamory is no exception to that rule. But most importantly, different people love in entirely different ways; to expect existence of one or even many globally accepted male role model when everyone is so different is wildly naive and oversimplifying a very complex concept.
In polyamorous relationships, we do not expect any one particular partner to fulfill all of our needs. And because we have limited resources, not every single need that we have will be met even in polyamorous relationships. Why would it be acceptable to find one or even many role models who will fit all of our needs from male role model? Why does that role model even have to be a man at all?
At least that is my personal conclusion that I’ve arrived to.
So let me ask you readers a question. Who do you personally look up to in your own journey through relationships?