The vast majority of the comments that I get on my TikTok videos are incredibly positive, supportive and reflective of the wide diversity of kindness that the world has to offer. They are life affirming thoughts of shared humanity, and they make it incredibly easy to keep going and making more videos on my Masculinity Detox journey.
And yet, these are not exclusively the types of comments that I receive because I am attempting to do something rather subversive in suggesting that Masculinity does not look like one thing. I am, in many ways, threatening the traditional displays of manhood in advocating for vulnerability, emotional connection, and the elimination of toxic behavior. For some people, exclusively men in my experience, they have taken this rather poorly.
In an effort to better understand these folks and what makes my ideas so threatening, I wanted to spend some time sharing their comments and talking through what they are so afraid of. To that end, I have come up with the 5 types of Precarious Masculinity. I say precarious because I believe that each of these comments represents something for each of these men that they are afraid of losing. The world is somehow “on the edge” and if The Masculinity Detox were to gain traction, their very existence would tip over into the worst timeline. And so they lash out with their comments in an attempt to stop it from spreading, while somehow not understanding that with every comment they help the video to reach more people.
As you will see, these comments say far more about their fears than they do about my beliefs:
“Does your version of masculinity mean being a bottom”
“The Detoxing Man is either gay or trans… as you can see.” And
“this is some gay ass shit you’re spouting off.”
These men care very much that they are seen as straight. They have internalized heteronormativity so much that they believe calling someone gay, and especially a subservient role in a gay relationship is somehow an insult. They treat these identities as others, as less than themselves. But, they are telling on themselves a bit. It isn’t that I believe each one of these men are self-hating gay men, but rather that they are simply afraid of being gay. Of being called a homosexual. They are so afraid of it that they cannot imagine anything worse. Their sexuality is so precarious that the mere discussion of toxic behavior within traditional masculinity means that their sexuality is being called into question, and therefore must be defended. If your sexual orientation is so fragile that it can be influenced by the mere mention of being kinder to others or fostering more emotional connection to yourself, perhaps you need to take a closer look at why.
“What does your wife’s boyfriend think though?”
“I can’t imagine you have very much success with women”
And “Dude you look like a simp even before you began speaking”
These men are very worried about fidelity to traditional concepts of marriage and rigid gender roles with a dominant man and a subservient women. They believe that it is insulting for women to have sexual freedom, loving partners, or even free will to choose something other than monogamous partnerships. They see women as possessions, as belonging to them in a relationship. But again, this says far more about them than it does about these fictional women. They are afraid of their wives leaving them. They are afraid that given the choice, women will choose sexual libration and to couple with other men than themselves. Their confidence is so shaky that they must call out whenever a loving man presents himself for fear that women will see it and choose a non-toxic alternative.
Misogyny is only accepted when everyone does it. If some men don’t buy in to it then it presents another option that is far more appealing, and they will not stand fr it. To this I say, I do not own my wife. She may do as she pleases as a whole human being capable of passionate love, intimate friendship, and deep connection completely removed from sex to whomever she wants, whenever she wants. I am not afraid of her leaving or being unloved. My relationship with her is built upon trust and honesty and a life that we have built together for over 20 years. Your fear shows frailty and everyone can see that you are just terrified of being alone.
“We can’t raise children to be fragile and weak.”
“Understand suffering is a part of life, embrace it and grow stronger. Stop being weak.”
“You have a duty as a man to your family not to be weak.” And
“You are doing nothing but demonstrating to society that you are weak.”
Clearly, these are all just variations on the same theme. These men care that they are seen as strong. They are worried that others would dare call them weak. They will fight anyone willing to accuse them of something so terrible. But, in this constant refrain of the weakness of others, they are actually calling out just how fragile their own identity is. If someone calling them weak is somehow an insult, if they think that vulnerability is a fate worse than death for a man, then who is it that is most at risk?
Is it me, who sees weakness and vulnerability as an asset, as something that helps me to be more connected to my emotions and to the people who are most important in my life. Or, is it these commenters who have to rely upon stoic displays of strength to justify their existence. I do not have to worry about being strong at all times. When I need strength to fight for justice or those in need, it is there, plenty in reserve. When I need vulnerability to support and care for my children, it is there, with no need to take off a mask to be kind to others. When I hear others call me weak, all I hear is, “I am afraid that your kindness will infect me and that I will be forced to feel something.”
“Just be a man”
“You are a slave”
“You weren’t bullied enough”
“You’re not a man”
“What role do you play that a woman couldn’t fill” And
“Post a video of you squatting two plates and I’ll listen”
These men are afraid that their manhood will be questioned. They are constantly trying to prove it to themselves and to one another that they are man enough. Their status is in constant doubt. They see bullying as quintessentially masculine and something to be praised. This is the policing mechanism that they are using on one another to keep each other in check, ensuring that no man is every comfortable in his own identity. But, the biggest tell here is that they are secretly, or in some cases not so secretly, just perpetuating male supremacy. Every time they say, “be a man,” they are simultaneously saying “don’t be a woman.” And why are they worried about being a woman? Because they believe that being a woman is a terrible fate.
They see women as lesser beings, and if you aren’t a man, then you are not on top. And they believe that you should at all times want to be on top, to conquer others lest you be conquered. The problem with this logic is that women are, in my experience, far stronger of will and in their own identities than most men that I have met. They don’t constantly have to prove that they are woman enough to one another. They don’t have to police one another for their womanhood. And so once again, they are simply telling on themselves, showing that in making these comments they are both worried about their status as men and fearful that we will all recognize that women are actually strong. It seems like a really hard way to live, quite frankly.
“Do you have the ability physically defend your family if someone were to type to hurt them? Do you have fighting skills? Firearms?”
“Grow up. Take the corporal punishment”
“Does it not both you that some ‘toxically masculine’ man could sexually abuse your wife and then murder your whole family and you could just watch?” And
“It’s why I prefer being alone and not interacting with others.”
This kind of comment typically gets very dark, very quickly. These men are so afraid of the world around them that they have invented stories to justify their obsessions with guns and fighting. Their horrific phantasies are either ripped from law and order SVU episodes or are straight from NRA propaganda. They are afraid of other people, specially other people who are different from themselves. And they are being obvious about their worldview. They are the protectors of white and male supremacy and anyone who dares to question that deserves to be tortured and killed because they are not fulfilling their role in perpetuating it.
And, for those who simply despair at this perceived reality, they opt out of connection altogether. They feel far safer when they are on their own, a lone wolf in the wilderness. Both of these reactions are simply fears for a perceived lack of safety. But, I feel safe, mostly because I deeply believe in humanity’s capacity for good and I do not fear that people who are different from me wish to do me harm. We have more that connects us than separates us. These men are constantly afraid and the only way to make themselves feel better about it, is to make sure I’m constantly afraid too. But, I don’t buy in to that version of our world and I never will.
Remember, all of these comments tell on the men who are afraid of the world as it exists. They are worried that they won’t have any role in the world if they don’t protect patriarchy at all costs. Their comments are sad and desperate, and they deserved to be called out.