Let’s explore the first part of that question first. As a male in the 21st century, I am the inheritor of two thousand years of male dominated culture. Maybe longer. Society, religious views, and yes, even women, have put tremendous pressure on men to be the dominant, in control, “head of the household”. Popular media reinforces this idea with strong, decisive heroes like John Wayne, Captain Kirk, and Batman. Religiously, thousands of years of Moses, Christ, and Mohammed have taught both genders their value and place.
But, do these values still hold up to 21st century Western culture?
The 20th century saw the rise of feminism, a direct response to patriarchal domination, and probably long overdue. Men were forced to re-think the role of women in modern society. Not only were women our mothers, sisters and lovers, but now they were our bosses, our business partners, and our priestesses.
In my search for what it means to be a man, I have discovered many strong and interesting women. From “Leather” Dommes to Wiccan High Priestesses. My interest in the BDSM world has taught me the strength of a submissive, and my journey into Paganism has taught me the wisdom of the Goddess.
So, as a man, interested in both alternative spirituality and alternative sexuality, where does this leave me?
When most people think of BDSM, they conjure up visions of male dominants and female submissives, thanks to popular media, and seemingly mainstream books like The Story of “O”.
These misconceptions spill over into much of the Pagan world as well, even though the Craft has been constantly misrepresented in popular media. For a “religion” that has it’s roots in the empowerment of women, this cross-over can be difficult to accept for many. So, from a feminist point of view, BDSM can appear to be the exact opposite of all that Wicca represents.
Camille Paglia, in her book Sexual Personae, describes BDSM as;
“fetishism, for instance, a practice which like most of the sex perversions is confined to men, is clearly a conceptualizing or symbol-making activity. Man’s vastly greater commercial patronage of pornography is analogous.”
Her very feminist response is one of my favourite quotes;
“Woman is the primal fabricator… she turns a gob of refuse into a spreading web of sentient being, floating on the snaky umbilical by which she leashes every man.”
But, I am a man. And although I could now feel a connection to the feminine aspect of divinity, I could not deny the deep, primal calling of that raw, aggressive, masculine aspect either.
And herein lies the problem. The things we men truly want can rarely be expressed due to the social barriers imposed upon us. On the one hand, we don’t dare admit that we need the maternal side of our lovers from time to time for fear of looking weak in the eyes of the women we love. After all, John Wayne never cried… did he? The “Bro Code” expressly forbids us to turn to our male friends for emotional support, expecting instead that we are men, and as men we deal with it ourselves.
As for the masculine, rutting, sexual side of ourselves, we dare not admit that we LOVE to see women on trampolines. Society forbids us to express our true sexual nature so that even when we are alone and intimate with a woman, we must even then restrain ourselves and rein in our darkest desires.
Phil Brucato, in Jennifer Hunter’s book Rites of Pleasure, says;
“Sex is an extreme sport, and an even more extreme form of worship. Safe sex is an illusion. Sex isn’t supposed to be safe. Passion seethes in our veins, occasionally grabbing us by the neck and fucking us till we scream. And we like it! We’re supposed to!”
He goes on to say;
“From sheer self-preservation, then, we need some degree of protection from sexual passions. Our relationships, our society, our bodies themselves would break from the strain of total sexual abandon. And so we set boundaries to shield our selves and societies from too much passion”.
So, rarely do we have the opportunity to do and feel what we need to. The passion that burns in us must always be tempered, held back within the social constraints that separate us from the savage beasts.
What do men want?
Maybe all we want is someone we can be ourselves with. Someone who will allow us to be that rutting, savage beast one minute, and forgive us if we hurt you the next. Someone we can give ourselves to completely, without fear of judgement. We get enough of that.