In our last look at positive masculinity, we looked at possible positive male role models and what we can learn from them. Our discussions extended to not just role models who are male, but also role models who display good masculine characteristics.
In this post, we will be addressing the second part of …
- 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?
We will first talk about consent, how it folds into confidence, and how vulnerability can be healthily expressed in modern male sexuality.
Let’s first talk a bit about what consent means here. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) defines sexual consent as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.” Consent at large covers a much larger variety of agreements and participants than just sexual activities. It can also include activities such as but not limited to cuddles, massages, and even school work coordination. Consent should have these following qualities:
- Clear – Were the terms of the agreement clearly communicated? Were the responses clearly received by all parties?
- Informed – Do the parties know what they are consenting to within a reasonable frame of mind? Does everyone clearly understand the ramifications of a breach in agreement?
- Mutual – Has all affected parties agreed to the discussed terms?
Consent do not require but also should also have the following qualities:
- Proactive – Were consents provided ahead of time and not under pressure?
- Ongoing – Has there been any changes since the first agreement? Do all parties still consent to the outlined terms in regards to those changes?
How Consent relates to Confidence
I am going to go on a small tangent here and tell you readers a story.
I love archery. I grew up watching Olympic archery competitions in Korea. So the archery form and practice has always interested me. But I did not pick up archery until very recently, when my partner and I experienced archery together at a practice range at a Renaissance Faire. Since then, both of us have bought our own bows, maintain our own equipment, and took intensive lessons on proper archery form and techniques. In specific, archery is much more about the headspace than the two hands in contact with the string and the bow. When you are releasing an arrow, you are following discrete steps to functionally standardize your form. I am good with the practice of fine-tuning and perfecting my form. But I used to have a really difficult problem with maintaining my mental state after a bad shot. After one bad shot, I get overly critical about that one mistake and the frustration leads to the next bad shot. That negative feedback would snowball and I would usually end my round in a downward spiral.
One of my teachers sat me aside after such experience and inquired about my mental process when it comes to tilt. And he told me that maintaining healthy perspective is more about trusting your own process than the end result. That the correct process of firing an arrow is much more important than whether or not that arrow lands in the middle. He first had me shoot normally. Then, he had me shoot my end of three arrows without looking at the end result after every shot. After both ends, he had me compare. I could tell from the first glance that my first end was scattered. I overcorrected after my first bad shot and there was no grouping in my shots. The second end was not anywhere near the center of the target. But it was much more bunched up in a tight grouping. My instructor adjusted a couple things for my mental game which significantly improved my own experience with archery.
Let’s bring this back. In that story, I leaned heavily on my physical skills to uphold my mentality. Once my mentality fell apart, so did my process. And with my process, it didn’t matter how physically talented I was. Confidence in male sexuality boils down to a fine balance between assertiveness/charisma and emotional intelligence. Very few are good at both. A lot of people are really good at one thing, but not another. For me personally, I felt easier expressing charm and charisma; it came naturally to me. So I decided to consciously focus on the emotional intelligence and be extremely mindful of boundaries and consent. I personally leaned on knowing my assertiveness and charisma will come out if I could focus on boundaries. One of the most common positive feedback I have received after that particular readjustment was that my partners found my sensitivity and emotional intelligence to own my own emotional labor incredibly sexy. Mentality, meet physical skill.
I have also heard of many other experiences from men who found it easy and natural to respect consent and boundaries, but struggled with displaying confidence and charm. In the past, I’ve given advice to those men to focus on what makes you feel passionate. Dive deep into why you feel passionate about the hobbies or interests you have, and expand on how you can better display and frame those same fire and intensity. Enthusiasm and passion are sexy by default. Learning to channel that same energy in a medium that your potential partners can see can be a difficult challenge. But success will build upon success.
Vulnerability in Male Sexuality
It’s not easy to ask. And a lot of artists have a problem with this. Asking makes you vulnerable.Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking” TED Talk. 2013.
Asking for clarification on intention can be sexy. Asking to elaborate on a stated boundary can be sexy. Asking for space while you vulnerably process your own emotional labor can be sexy. Asking for your partner to hold you while you struggle with anxiety or depression can be sexy. Asking for a safe space to be vulnerable in your partnerships can be sexy.
Male sexuality has been so incredibly warped and twisted to mean never showing any vulnerability whatsoever. It’s true. How many times has the media embraced the defiant, firm male stereotypes who never allow their male characters to be vulnerable and emotionally exposed?
Strength can be sexy. But the strength required to ask for help when you need it, strength to ask for more, strength to remain composed in a vulnerable space is incredibly alluring. It does not make you any less of a man to be in touch with your own emotions. Be strong and dare to be vulnerable in your next intimate encounter with your partner.
Life is full of struggles and mistakes. Openly embracing that vulnerability too should be a part of positive masculinity, of healthy male sexuality.