Everybody’s talking about The Definition of Man.
We’re trying (to greater or lesser extents!) to evolve beyond our pre-historic view of ‘manliness’ as being the aggressor, the protector, the provider. In the 80’s we saw the emergence of The New Man, the yoghurt-knitting, sharing-caring, soul-searcher. We understood that our view of Manhood was toxic, but simply throwing out despicable ‘male traits’ and embracing our ‘feminine side’ somehow didn’t cure the world… so now we’re pretty sure there’s something different about being a man than being a woman; and we’ve got some ideas about what being a man isn’t – but a contemporary coherent view of ‘what does it mean to be a man’, as yet, remains elusive. But there are plenty of people looking!
Laura Dodsworth was the first to pose the question to me for her Manhood: The Bare Reality project, and I didn’t really have an adequate answer. So when I heard about the Makings of a Man campaign I decided to join in to further explore my own ‘manhood’.
It was a simple enough little project, sensitively and intelligently put together by Itsnicethat for Harry’s male grooming products. They arranged life drawing sessions with five known (and pretty damn good!) artists and members of the public. The models were selected from applicants who all had different reasons to get involved, different relationships with their ‘male identity’. The strength of the project was in this selection; the representation of the diversity of ‘manhood’.
In the interview I gave on the day I said it’s all fine and dandy to SAY all bodies are beautiful - but words are cheap, its actions that matter. In The Small Penis Bible I claim to have found some peace, to have resolved my body image issues, to have overcome my own penis size anxiety. But I was very aware that I was quite possibly fooling myself; that it is easy to believe so, at this time of life and in a secure and loving relationship. I needed some way to prove, or even just demonstrate, what I’m saying in the book: a man need not be shamed by the size of his penis. If I could disrobe in a room full of strangers, with no hesitation, shame or false bravado then I would be certain that my body does not shame me.
And that is how it happened. There was the inevitable fear that I may 'pop a boner', since I’d never done this before, but otherwise it was a relaxed and entirely natural act. And I love the pictures. And I do continue to believe, that all bodies have a beauty.
Am I any closer to understanding the Makings of a Man, what it means to be a man? I believe so. My strongest feeling (ie. deepest conditioning) is that as a man, I must have strength - but not an aggressive or oppressive strength directed at others; rather just the strength to accept and own my vulnerabilities. To remove my boots, to eschew the trappings society drapes upon my shoulders, to refuse to be defined by manhood. The strength to stand aside from the herd; to declare my independence.
Manhood is made by others, their definitions, their expectations. A ‘modern man‘ a ‘good man’ has the strength to be himself.
The thing that defines manhood is, other people; their pre-conceptions, judgements and intolerances. We should not set our expectation of others based on gender (or cock size) - we should understand that we are all of us living in a minority of one for we are all of us individuals, not labels.