Thanks to 'H' for her part in our wonderful conversation the other day that danced back and forth so beautifully around the perceptions of the nature of 'masculine' and 'feminine'. Inspiring me to revisit this fascinating topic.
Disclaimer: If you're looking for the definitive answer to what the 'authentic masculine' is, there isn't one. It's actually a journey of inquiry, not an end result. It's also broadly-speaking a 'subjective' definition.
In our 'patriarchy' it's easy to feel shame about being a man, even a conscious man. I believe we're actually being subjected to a 'puerarchy' - a culture unhealthily dominated by men with the emotional intelligence and weak morals of unbalanced needy boys. (A society led by authentic men would look very different from the one we have, so I see the title of 'patriarchy' as being very misleading when it comes to talking about the potential of men.)
Culturally, male identity has been shoe-horned into some very limiting and shallow expectations and cultural representations. Leaving many asking: “What does it mean to be a 'man'? And wondering how to begin seeking the answer. Well, presuming that the phrase 'authentic masculine' resonates with you at all, rather than trying to define it analytically, it can be useful to ask yourself: “What does the 'authentic masculine' mean to me?”
Everything you read here can only be a personal perspective. Reflections on my own journey, which was a path of healing after physical and emotional abuse from my father, and from male peers in secondary school. Not to mention emerging from some of the debilitating crap that patriarchy serves us on a daily basis during our formative years. (And ever after, though it's the formative years where the primary psychological patterns of belief and identity are formed.)
These days there's a lot of debate on what even is gender? Is it physical embodiment, or psychological or social choice? Is it hormonal? Can people be born into the 'wrong body'? What's the relationship between gender and erotic attraction? How much is hard-wired, and how much is cultural expectation, or simply personal preference due to personality type?
So many questions. It's a minefield! Or is it? The simple answer is that the path is an individual one. If the word 'man' has no resonance for you, then this isn't a quest for you. Yet if it does feel meaningful, there's nothing wrong with embracing that. In which case, asking yourself what the 'authentic masculine' means to you becomes an opportunity to discover what calls from within. (Rather than taking on board other people's definitions wholesale.) There are a lot of 'truths', some of which overlap, and many of which do not. There is no ideal 'authentic masculine' to try to measure up to. The idea that there is, is a cultural imposition which diminishes the magnificent potential of our individuality.
For instance, identifying as heterosexual is one option amongst many valid ones. It's one I like and feels natural to me. Though I don't presume it must feel the same to every other male-bodied person. I consider myself as being 'conscious hetero' rather than 'default hetero'. (My gender identity is something I've considered, explored, and dug beneath, rather than just taken on because I was told to.)
The path for me has led to exploring things like 'Presence', 'Groundedness', 'Authenticity', 'Integrity', 'Self-Reliance', 'Courage', 'Erotic Potential', 'Accepting my Sensitivity', 'Finding my Passions', 'Holding Space', 'Accepting Differences'... A whole lot of classically 'masculine' stuff. Though not as a quest for perfection, but as a journey of ongoing discovery.
Relating authentically to other males can really help this quest, though that too depends on following the what works for you as a unique individual. Again, don't fall into the trap of assuming that others have found the 'one true path' that must be followed. (Or that if you don't relate to their path that it is you who is at fault.)
In 2008 I was looking around for menswork, and I couldn't find any in Melbourne that matched what I intuitively wanted. With some background in Shamanic studies and a lot of experience in Transpersonal Psychology I was seeking something far from any cultural stereotypes. Something apart from commonly accepted social definitions. A space where men could be in simple presence together. To explore, in practices and raw communication, the challenging edges of their lives and the deeper archetypes.
I didn't want to just talk about problems. I wasn't interested in anything involving 'egos' or 'leaders'. Nor in the idea of people roaring into each others' faces – an activity which can so easily slide into ego and distracting competition. The unhealthy element of masculine competition doesn't help anyone in the long run, and is a hidden trap. I have had enough of people who put themselves (or others) on pedestals, and just can't relate to that kind of psychology any more. Not even if it's meant well.
Luckily for me I had a strong intuition that men being conscious, real, open and accepting together would invite in something greater than the whole. It was a feeling that seemed to relate to my spiritual background as a Celt. The basic idea for the 'Evolving Man' evening courses and weekends arose from that intuition, with Jared Osborne soon becoming involved as co-developer, co-facilitator and embodiment specialist. Events that we ran regularly until 2014.
Throughout all of these (especially the evening groups based round a Medicine-Wheel) the presence of 'something more' became apparent. Something dropped in that was greater than any collection of individuals. Allowing us to be even more real, open and in the process of deep self-discovery. We had stumbled upon a rich formula - exploratory open-ended questions, simple grounding exercises, and sharing and witness practices. It truly felt as if 'spirit' (I named it as 'the Green Man') joined us.
I also took some online studies around increasing confidence and self-expression. Podcasts, blogs, video-training... Some were poor (in terms of integrity) – basically techniques in how to manipulate others. Typically based in (and reinforcing) an embedded scarcity consciousness (the hidden fear of never being good enough), including disrespectful competition with other men. Others were fantastic – focusing on strengthening self-acceptance, integrity, and acknowledging our human vulnerabilties and imperfections.
The biggest skill I learned from all of the online research was probably 'discernment'. How to separate the personally useful gold from the generalities and the scarcity-based thinking. Through tuning in to what felt healthy and right for me. One standout piece of wisdom around what the 'authentic masculine is, was that it's based in the combination of courageous self-inquiry and raw honest expression. The most profound practical advice was to spend more time connecting to my body and reawakening its wisdom in a world that massively over-prioritises the intellect.
So that's it. No definitive answers, but perhaps some pointers for the journey.
Arven (24th Nov, 2016)
Acknowledgement: The image on this page is the logo that Cam Wyers designed for the Evolving Man events. Thanks Cam.
I was at a great workshop last month, where a common concern around intentional erotic connection was voiced:
“If we talk about all the options and boundaries first, isn't there a risk of losing sexual spontaneity?”
It's an interesting, obvious, and logical question - if you're not yet experienced with intentional intimacy. Because, as fans of intentional intimacy will tell you, exactly the opposite is typically the case when you start to communicate richly about what you want and how you feel before connecting.
I remember as well, a wonderful chat about erotic archetypes and shadows a few weeks back. During it, a friend said she rarely met people who could understand how crucial communication and sensitivity are for her in intimacy. With the result that she rarely feels safe enough with someone to let go into her darker and deeper passions and desires.
Then recently I also read an online article about 'Erotic Polarity', which separated sexual and emotional attraction. (A potentially misleading distinction in the way it was handled.) For instance, it put 'closeness' in the emotional section, and claimed that closeness is not a key part of creating erotic polarity.
That claim is misleading. For many, the most primal and dark erotic explorations occur only with those they feel emotionally close to, therefore closeness is a primary creator of polarity. Personally, sure I've had really great intimate connections with women that I just 'liked a lot'. But the 'darkest' places, where my beast and shadow desires really flow, only happen with someone I feel emotionally close to.
The article also listed ways to 'amp up' erotic charge, but in doing so mentioned only activities. It ignored the importance of who/how we are as people, and the value of authentic communication. In fact it mentioned communication only in relation to 'winding down' erotic charge. Despite the fact that quality communication is for many by far the most effective way to create amazing erotic polarity.
All these incidents together inspired this blog.
Here are the points that right now stand out for me the most around this topic:
What is 'Intentional Intimacy'?
Basically, it's the idea that you can approach sex (and erotic/intimate connections that don't involve sex) by talking about and (to some extent) planning them first. More specifically, the idea that this approach actually makes such experiences even more exciting, deep, fulfilling, and spontaneous that if you don't talk about them first. Which is contrary to the popular culturally embedded idea that as much spontaneity as possible is 'critical' in order for sexual/erotic intimacy to be satisfying, exciting and worthwhile. So, now let's discuss a few angles on this....
What works Best depends on You
For some, anonymous or casual sex is the only way they can create satisfying erotic polarity. For others, trust, closeness and communication create the container necessary for them to feel safe to unleash their 'beast' or 'wild man/woman'. Culturally we learn that 'trust', 'closeness' and 'communication' are all about things like: 'being polite', 'not rocking the boat', 'not disappointing anyone', and 'not being passionately expressive'. Which is why a lot of people equate trust and closeness with lack of polarity. Luckily a lot of the cultural 'truths' we are taught are horse**it!
Real Closeness is NOT About being 'Nicey Nicey'
When it comes to erotic connection, we are culturally taught a lot of repressive crap. I'm NOT saying don't ever be nice to your lover. Of course you should treat them with respect. What I am saying is that ONLY behaving in 'nice' ways in the commonly understood sense (never rocking the boat, never saying something that might make someone uncomfortable, never admitting your erotic shadows...), means also suppressing your natural depth. Whereas the truth is that for many it's precisely this 'depth' that opens the doors for the most potent erotic charge to be created.
Polarity Does NOT Depend on Being an Erotic Superhero
For a year or so I hobbled along under the false belief that erotic polarity meant I had to be this 'David Deida-esque' perfect man. Part of me knew I was emotionally very sensitive, but I was trying to hide that. Then I started to hear disaster stories about Deida-esque relationships. Plus I met several men who were great at classic Deida behaviours, yet were also really good at manipulation, dishonesty, ego-based competitive behavior, and at hiding a major sense of insecurity and unworthiness. IE Being a good Deida student didn't equate with being a decent person.
Eventually I decided 'F** it'. I'm going to cultivate only the Deida perspectives that feel right for me (and there were a bunch), and I'm going to ignore those that feel like I would be fake. It must have been one of those threshold times in life. Almost immediately I discovered 'Intentional Intimacy', and my experiences of erotic polarity escalated in quality like never before.
Planning & Discussing Intimacy Before it Happens
What can it involve? Talking Openly about your Desires and 'What you Want' before you Engage. Being honest and open. Being prepared to encounter someone's edges that aren't compatible and aren't mutual interests. That's just life. It's the quality and feel of intimacy that's important anyway, not the specific activities. Disappointment often depends on having ungrounded expectations, and if you truly aren't compatible then it's good to learn that sooner rather than later anyway. Honesty and openness builds deep trust. Deep trust allows the body, psyche and emotional vulnerability to relax – which are the exact conditions many people require to open into their most expansive erotic selves.
The idea that Sexuality isn't Just about Having Sex.
We're culturally trained to focus only on the actual act, and to ignore the rest of the deliciousness available in erotic connection. Which is a shame, because the more you expand your erotic fluency (tenderness, communication, authenticity, subtlety... as well as passion and confidence) the better actual sex gets anyway. It's a balance where each supports the other. Enjoying all aspects of someone, and of engaging with them, means you can have your cake and eat it too (and the cake is better as well)!
Realising that Tenderness, Vulnerability, Sensitivity and Slowness support Erotic Polarity
These are all natural parts of the ebb and flow of erotic chemistry and of real Tantra. Sometimes people are horny 'right now' and sometimes they're not. My Tantra trainings and life experiences revealed that when vulnerability is respected, and expectations/pressure are genuinely dropped, then truly passionate sex actually becomes much more likely. As opposed to engaging in sex when (or how) you feel you're 'supposed to', which means you aren't going to be as enthusiastic and engaged. (And therefore there won't be anything like as much polarity.) Building a connection through things like eye-gazing, breath, subtle touch can feel profoundly erotically satisfying all on their own, as well as their building the foundations for deep and passionate intimacy.
Being Aware that Polarity isn't actually based on any Activities.
Erotic interaction and sexuality are about meeting another being deeply and powerfully. Remember the workshop question at the start of all this? Here's one reply that was given:
“If you discuss a lot of possibilities in detail, remember that you will probably only include a small proportion, and also how and when you include them will be a mystery in the moment. Whatever ends up being experienced can be allowed to arise spontaneously as part of the flow.”
That is wise, and generally true, yet still only part of the picture.
Here's my response:
“Intimacy isn't primarily about the activities or techniques. They're just tools to assist engaging with another amazing being. Humans are totally magnificent, mysterious, and magical. The whole point of erotic intimacy and sex is about exploring the unfathomable awesomeness of whomever you're with and the unique alchemy between you. If you take that approach then tools or techniques lose their pivotal focus, and so they should. The simplest activity can support the most amazing erotic connection, and can end up being part of a very different experience every time you explore it, despite being technically 'the same activity'.”
Valuing Compatibility above Techniques
A great Tantra teacher once told a training group I was in about something a lot of teachers don't clarify: “As long as you're evolving yourself and approaching your edge as best you can, then having a great Tantric connection with a lover doesn't depend on more and more skill at techniques. Once you both know the Tantric basics, the most significant factor is your natural compatibility and the authentic connection you have. That alchemy creates Tantra spontaneously, without having to learn anything else specifically, except exactly what you feel naturally and easily drawn to explore. So, one powerful approach to Tantra is to focus much more on authenticity and openness rather than on skills and practices.”
I'll end this little taster on 'Intentional Intimacy' by expanding on the value of the pre-planning element, as that is so alien to our cultural training. Many others aspects and distinctions are also important, but I hope this piece has whetted your appetite.
Planning and Discussion actually make things Sexier and Darker.
How does that work? How they heck can talking (maybe for a significant time), about what you might do, make the act itself deeper and darker? Surely, really 'getting it on' with someone has to be hard, fast, and now? With zero or absolutely minimal talking??? Well, ...
Arven (16th Nov, 2016)
Arven Alexander is a self-development enthusiast, currently residing in Melbourne, Australia.