Friday, December 07, 2012

What It DOESN'T Take To Be a Man

Colton Ford on What It Takes To Be a Man | GuySpy:

I am not feeling very good about "manning up" of late. Far from it. As I negotiate my own private fiscal cliff, my performance on the Strength, Courage, Skill and Honor scale is underwhelming to me, with my character flaws more than readily apparent. But my interest in the subject of masculinity never assumed that I was a paragon or a role model. Hell, I have a lifelong interest in religion and in psychology, but the interest does not automatically cash out either into sanctity or mental health. Nietzsche created, for good or ill, a powerful set of culture-changing ideas, but his own life is hardly a model of them. They need to stand or fall on their own. I guess it's part of my Five character, that ideas are compelling to me by themselves apart from how well or badly those who express them also embody them. Unless they are involved in a scam that insults my intelligence and seeks to do me harm.

That said, if you want to get in touch with the modern post-feminist (and common gay) view on manhood, we have this opinion piece by Mr. Colton Ford. It's the usual. Being a man, it turns out, has nothing to do with what most of the planet has assumed it is about for pretty well all of human history. It is, above all, about not matching any kind external standard. It's just about being yourself. Whoever that is. Oh, and feeling a lot. And not judging anyone. In short, being a man means not giving a damn about being a man.

And how difference would his advice be on being a woman? This view of masculinity has nothing to do with masculinity. It is just de-gendered Hallmark card moralism.

God, could it be more inane?

There is a certain irony in Mr Ford's view, since his career as a porn star has relied precisely on the muscles and fur that he apparently finds so irrelevant. This reminds me of Jack Donovan's cue, that despite the public gay ideology of transcending or ignoring masculinity as some kind of tyrannical breeder sideshow (Are we as gay men still falling prey to the straight man’s idea of what being a man is all about?), porn does not lie.

Colton Ford

In our "egalitarian" culture, any traditional standard that feels exclusive of or even just insensitive to the aspirations of a beloved Designated Victim Group must be dismantled. This agenda is the essence of the non-discriminatory ethical life.

An inclusive image of manhood:
fill in the blank with anything you want.
It doesn't matter.

The piece also shows the usefulness of Donovan's point that being a good man and being good at being a man are two different things. Masculinity is not basically moral, but archetypal. Achieving manhood is more like learning to talk. It's a necessary skill. You have it or you don't. How you actually use that skill, virtuously or shamefully, is another matter. But unless you learn to talk, to speak the language competently, the problem doesn't arise. In our astoundingly moralistic and secular culture*, --not a link you'd expect-- masculinity is seen fundamentally as a moral issue. It's not. You can, in our pampered but fraying world, be a male who is "a good person" without being much of a man. In fact, since manhood is morally suspect at best, being a man can get in the way of that nobler unisex goal.

Ford is also a personal trainer, helping other men toward the physical goals he both incarnates and sidelines. (I know this because I used to work out at a New York gym where he had clients. Even had a brief exchange of pleasantries with him. Nice fella.) And in the last few years he has tried to morph, not too successfully I think, into a singer. And his music videos, if you turn off the sound, are founded on his physique.

Why, I wonder, do gay men work so hard on developing the masculine potential of their bodies but if you suggest that they work on the masculine potentials of their souls, they freak out and start calling you names?

The other irony is that the site which features him is a GPS-linked gay sex hook-up business, helping you use your smart phone for ease of local sex play.

I do not point these things out as ad hominem arguments against his ideas. (But it is sorta like me, with my five degrees, telling people that being educated has nothing to do with reading widely and deeply and learning to think and express yourself critically and clearly, it's just about saying what seems right to you.) His motivation for saying what he says may very well come from a desire to avoid wounding the egos of men who admire his muscle and fur but who cannot approach his kind of frame. He could also be a nerdy tax accountant writing this stuff and it would still be confused, though in that case it could sound like self-justification. The ad hominem game is adaptable. But it does reveal a larger problem, in which he participates and which he exemplifies. His description of "what it takes to be a man" could just as well apply to a drag queen or a teenage girl.

Whether kind or defensive, the ideas don't amount to more than feel-good epicene mush.

*When you think about our public discourse, what isn't a moral issue? Liberal religion is totalitarian and theocratic.

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