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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I want to be a pretty boy

I've never been a manly man. When I was younger, I watched quite a bit of television. I remember lots of the imagery I was presented with quite vividly. In almost every case, I wanted to be the girls. Growing up, I quickly learned that wanting to be more like the girls was a desire frowned upon by pretty much everybody else—not least of all, by the girls.

These days, the same things still come up in daily conversation as they did in years past. "I wish I could lose ten more pounds—I don't feel pretty," I hear women say all the time. In response, everyone simultaneously begins talking about the oppressive nature of our culture's media campaigns. "Oh, come on. You don't have to look like every model in the magazines. You're smart, you're kind; of course you're hot," they'll say to her in an effort to comfort and sympathize.

Most of the time, I think women's self-image issues are physically, though not emotionally, unfounded. All but one of my girlfriends were, to use the obvious example, heavier than the BMI charts would have them feel comfortable about. My femdom fantasies have always been tilted toward larger girls. Hula dancers were an ironic motif, but I attribute this mostly to the healthier, more attractive weight Hawaiian girls tend to carry. I'll never understand the fetish for stick-figure girls. That can be sexy but I think women are sexier if they're shapely.

Issues men may have with their body image, however, are almost never even recognized. If they are, they discuss how unmanly boys feel and offer ways to feel more manly. Nothing we see in our culture tells boys that it's okay to want to feel pretty, to want to be treated in ways similar to the way we see people treating girls. If a boy, like me, wanted that, they call him a sissy and expect him to want to feel bad about it. I find this fact, an association often cited between cross-dressing and humiliation, nothing less than repulsive.

Furthermore, every time I've ever hinted at having body image issues of any kind at all, a very strange thing happens. Rather than address these issues, people turn to my girlfriend and give her a once-over. Then, they turn back to me. "How can you think of yourself as not attractive?" They ask, puzzled. "Your girlfriend is so hot."

Granted, my girlfriend is hot. But what, pray tell, does that have to do with my own self-image? You've just told me that my own self-image should be measured by how hot my girlfriend is. Call me crazy, but my girlfriend's attractiveness should not be the scale by which I measure my own.

Is that what you'd say to a fat girl, by the way? Oh, you're totally sexy because your boyfriend is super skinny. What kind of logic is that? It's not only completely missing the point, it doesn't make her feel better. In fact, it often makes her feel worse. And that's exactly what doing that does to me: it makes me feel worse.

Why is it a taboo to discuss men on the basis of their looks? Even in romance novels, where the gallant and obligatorily handsome man plays center stage, most descriptions about his looks center on his other attributes. His strong muscles. His virile penis. His healthy hair. It's not about the way he looks, it's about what he can offer in every other realm; wealth, health, or power. Even here, men's sexual attractiveness is being judged on everything except their looks. This is crazy.

To top it off, even the pretty men, who were called the derogatory term "twinks" in gay slang for quite a while, are usually portrayed in as decidedly not delicate a manner as possible; sweating profusely, working out, doing some manly chore, or otherwise being rough and tumble. The message? Be ruggedly handsome, sure, but don't be pretty.

By this culture's dogma, being pretty is a woman's job. Women are the ones who are "supposed to" do the attracting; men are supposed to be attracted. But this is insulting, and unfair. Wanting to feel pretty often goes hand-in-hand with wanting to be pursued. The emotions are the same: love me, I'm precious. But being pursued is the woman's job, as if they are the only ones allowed to feel as though they are precious and worthy of loving attentions.

This whole fucked-up mess does a lot of things for men. It makes us get paid more at work. It makes it easier for us to attract people into old age (where, I'm sorry, looks are just not going to follow). It makes it harder to objectify us in ways we don't want. And, unfortunately, it makes it a lot harder for us to talk about body image issues—especially if you're like me and you don't even want to have the traditional Vin-Diesel-the-body-builder look and instead want to look like the lithe, nubile, pretty young things you only see cast in the gender role of supreme femininity.

Well, I have a confession to make. I like dressing up as a girl because, in part, it makes me feel pretty. It does this because putting on frilly panties is the only time I feel the culture in which I live is telling me that I might actually get away with being pretty.

This confession, low and behold, is not uncommon. Men who want to feel pretty end up wanting to emulate women because we have no other choice. Why can men, secure in their masculinity, not also be pretty? Even the dictionary is stupendously unhelpful here. Defining "pretty" results in this definition from Princeton's web dictionary:

pleasing by delicacy or grace; not imposing; "pretty girl"; "pretty song"; "pretty room"


(Emphasis added by yours truly.)

I have been called graceful. I have also been called delicate. I've been called pleasing a bunch more times than these other two things combined.

People I don't know ask me if I dye my hair when they look at its color in the sun (I don't). They ask me if I've ever played the piano when they notice the way my fingers curl around cups as I drink (I haven't). They have remarked on how carefully I treat all my belongings, and how thoughtful I am when I am hosting a guest. But they have never called me pretty.

It may surprise some of you to hear this, but Eileen is actually the first person I have known that has called me pretty. She is fond of my ass and these days I might call it one of the prettiest parts of me, but it was not always this way.

One night many years ago, well before I even consciously thought about why I kept wanting to feel pretty, I was lounging with my then-girlfriend in the bedroom I shared with my brother. I remember only a single sentence from the conversation we had that night. It was this sentence that my girlfriend said to me that cued six years of body image issues centered around my butt: "I would like it if your ass was firmer."

What did firmer mean, anyway? It meant that I should have more of a boy's body. I didn't have a muscular gluteus maximus; I didn't have the body of a strong, rugged, self-respecting man. But you know what, I didn't want that body, either. And that should've been okay.


Addendum: For those interested in a bit more academic self-education (the best kind, if you ask me), I would highly suggest reading the Wikipedia articles on sissyphobia and effeminacy, for a start.

A particular passage of interest is cited below, and serves as a wonderful example of the fact that cultural ideals change with time. My message in this post, if you are to take one from it that I did not actually intend when I started, would be to stay aware of this constantly changing cultural stereotype—in all cultures and in all situations—and to avoid letting cultural noncompliance result in prejudiced or oppressive actions of any kind.

Pre-Stonewall "closet" culture accepted homosexuality as effeminate behaviour, and thus emphasized camp, drag, and swish including an interest in fashion (Henry, 1955; West, 1977) and decorating (Fischer 1972; White 1980; Henry 1955, 304). Masculine gay men did exist but were marginalised (Warren 1972, 1974; Helmer 1963) and formed their own communities, such as leather and Western (Goldstein, 1975), and/or donned working class outfits (Fischer, 1972) such as sailor uniforms (Cory and LeRoy, 1963). (Levine, 1998, p.21-23, 56)

Post-Stonewall, "clone culture" became dominant and effeminacy is now marginalised. One indicator of this is a definite preference shown in personal ads for masculine-behaving men (Bailey et al 1997).


My personal experiences written above are likely the result of my interaction with New York City's leather subculture, as that community is my primary social outlet (for now).

40 comments:

Eileen said...

Eileen is actually the first person I have known that has called me pretty.

You know, although everything you've said in this post I can see playing out in your life, and even though all of this is spot-on true, every time you say I'm the only one who's said this I have to gape a little.

Because fuck, sweetie. You're ridiculously pretty. Especially with your clothes off. And whenever you say this it makes me think, "Was everyone else just not paying attention?"

Yes. That is my comment.

maymay said...

"…whenever you say this it makes me think, "Was everyone else just not paying attention?""

Actually, yes, only a very select few people have paid much attention to me at all. That's kind of the story of my life and starts way back in second grade when I tried to get out of school and no one bothered to consider my arguments before writing them off as a young boy's reckless attitudes towards authority figures ("don't they all want to do that?"). Not "being seen," as you know, is nothing short of a tragic recurring element in many, many arenas of my life.

You are optimistic about people in general because you haven't been ignored for most of your life. I remember when you finally understood the bitterness so evident in my writing and in Bitchy's. Men like me are the pitiable Mister Cellophanes of the world.

Hmm. Perhaps it's nearing time for that post. What do you think?

devastatingyet said...

I wish I could answer this beter but my own, opposing irritations get in the way.

"Pleasing by delicacy or grace" is a nice definition, though. I like that very much. This is something that my own love strives for as well. And I call him pretty a lot :-)

Juliet said...

On a personal level I find this - most odd. And a real shame. I call both my (male) partners "pretty" on a regular basis (because they are!); and amongst my friends that's a standard compliment to be made about boys just as much as girls. Which is nice :-) But I'm aware that my social grouping is abnormal in a bunch of ways, so this is probably one of them.

On a more general level, it does sound familiar (in the sense of it fits with some of the body image issues I've heard male friends & partners talk about. And, undoubtedly, that whole set of Stuff sucks.

FWIW, I do think it's entirely possible for men to be pretty without emulating women. I also think that disentangling words like pretty, graceful, & delicate from gender is a Good Thing. (Which is not to say that if you or anyone else want to dress up as a girl that's not OK!).

Beautiful's probably not a traditional male word, either, is it? That's a shame, too. It should be.

Assessing your attractiveness by that of your partner - now that's entirely batshit. You have been encountering the batshit people, there! You may wish to avoid them in future ;-)

Darkness in the Attic said...

on the same note as the lack of man body issues, and how we do things to be more "manly", in my own views i would have a difficult time calling another man "pretty" unless i knew that he would not mind being called such, and/or i was flirting with him and trying to pay him a compliment. but i dress up for much the same reason you state, because the clothes on the outside fall into what would be considered "pretty". unfortunatly, i am a bit on the heavier side, and have to let my imagination pretend that i do not have a gut, do not have a BMI of like 36, and appreciate the way the different materials feel on my skin.
i think i had another point, but its gone. :(

Bitchy Jones said...

You always get cross with me when I talk about gender and feminisation.

But you know I am the one who wants men to be comfortable with being desired. Sweating and digging and power and strength are all pretty things to me. And not necessarily physical.

I have never seen a cock that wasn't beautiful - although that might be off the point.

There is hardly any language for me. I practically have to write my own dictionary some weeks. And sometimes the language just slips out from under me and you read what I write about masculine beauty and think I'm not talking about men like you.

You couldn't be more wrong.

maymay said...

"You always get cross with me when I talk about gender and feminisation. "

Oh, Bitchy, I hope you didn't read it all that way. I cut off the link before "but don't be pretty" because I don't think you'd have any problem with that part.

I linked you because, well, you like the manly men and there's nothing wrong with that and if I'm going to link to someone who wants manly men it's sure as hell going to be you. (Also, who else would I link to? As you said, you're kind of a lone voice right now, not many others speak that way with your passion and skill.)

"But you know I am the one who wants men to be comfortable with being desired. Sweating and digging and power and strength are all pretty things to me. And not necessarily physical."

Yes, this I know, and admire, and appreciate, and feel thankful for, actually. And if there's someone I was going to dig a big hole for all strong-man-like and powerful, it'd probably be you.

I don't want to be weak or not to be manly. I love it when I feel masculinity rippling through me like so many single-tails marks on my back. Love it.

It's just, well, I want that to mix well with being precious and being the object of such cherishing emotion. And I don't get that sense from a lot of people.

Tenderness is just as sexy as cruelty.

Eileen said...

Bitchy-

May will probably beat me to saying this, but really, I love the way you talk about men sometimes. A lot of what you say is about beauty, and is relatable, and is utterly hot.

I think your opinions on feminization and masculinity are a slightly different reflection of May's ideas (and my ideas) of feminization and mascuinity. In the end, they're about men being beautiful. That's the good stuff.

Maja said...

"Is that what you'd say to a fat girl, by the way? Oh, you're totally sexy because your boyfriend is super skinny. What kind of logic is that? It's not only completely missing the point, it doesn't make her feel better. In fact, it often makes her feel worse. And that's exactly what doing that does to me: it makes me feel worse."

I've encountered this - "How can you complain? Your boyfriend looks like Brad Pitt!" It's not fun, and I commiserate.



"Was everyone else just not paying attention?"
Now hang on a second. Didn't Eileen just recite the history of your bum, and how it only emerged in this most recent era? Maybe others didn't notice because you didn't notice, in a way?

Story:
Eileen took me to her ren faire the summer after we met. This meant corsets and all sorts of frills that I don't bother with every day. And we get there, and she sees a friend of hers dressed up as Sir Francis Drake or somesuch, and we go over to say hi, and in one fluid motion he bows sweepingly, takes my hand and kisses it, looks me in the eye, and smiles flirtatiously. Holy God.
And when he was gone, I turned to Eileen and said "Oh my god, I'm a woman!" Like, wow, my body isn't just a means of conveyance for my head!

I haven't known you long enough to know for sure, but it seems almost like you're experiencing a second, more awesome adolescence - the yay i'm pretty one, versus the whoa my voice is changing one. Crackpot theory?

Crown Vic said...

I've had body-image issues too. I'm tall and athletic, but in the past did steroids, probably due to internalized shame at the "unmanliness" of my submissive feelings. I truly felt under siege at the time.

A number of years later a parent of mine died in my care. I moved back to New York and got a freelance computer job. It was Winter and I had bronchitis. I lost a bunch of weight and felt like death, but I still got up every morning and did what I need to do: work, look for an apartment, re-establish my life.

It's only now that I can internalize that the broken-down skinny guy was the manly powerhouse and the musclehead guy who looked like he could beat you up was just a sad, scared person.

We all are going to undergo ordeals like that, we've earned the right to be however makes us feel good: pretty, extravagent, helpful, adored, subservient, sadistic whatever. Life is the equalizer. Unfortunately very few people seem to understand this, and even fewer are public about it, as you are.

Curvaceous Dee said...

I'm with Juliet on this one - I call both Apollo and Adonis pretty and/or beautiful frequently - because they both are!

Interestingly, in the five years I've been saying it to Apollo, it's had a huge effect on his self-esteem. And the same is starting to happen with Adonis.

*nods* Genuine compliments are a Good Thing™, so I use them with abandon.

xx Dee

Sierra said...

You’re very close on what romance books describe about men. The majority emphasize the alpha type qualities that most people think women look for in men. That’s slowly starting to change, especially since the term meterosexual came about.

As for me, I don’t have a problem telling a man I think he’s pretty. I’ll even tell him he’s beautiful. And by beautiful I’m not talking about his soul, though that can be beautiful too. I make sure he knows I mean in how he cares for himself, his mannerisms and certainly his looks. My god, don’t women get up close and honestly, deeply look at a man’s face. There are some men who have lashes and cheekbones to die for. And don’t get me started on how some men have the softest lips I’ve ever felt.

*shivers*

Anyhow…

Viewing men as something other than super alpha male who hunts and gathers is going to be hard for most of the female, for that matter male, population to change their way of thinking. It’s bred into us, taught to us from just about the very minute we take our first breath.

Who says that the pretty one can’t hunt and gather? Pretty does not equal stupid in my book. He may not be as strong as some men but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of doing what needs to be done some other way than using physical strength.

Juliet said...

Strength & prettiness can definitely go together - it's not an either/or.

(I say this in part because I am fully aware that both of my pretty, skinny, delicate-looking partners are stronger than me. And it's not like I don't have perfectly usable muscles. Bastards. ;-) )

And none of the above should mean that cherishing and other actions of that sort aren't also an option

But that, of course, is not the same as what is, in general, socially perceived to be linked together or to be acceptable. Which is where we came in.

The more I think about this, the more I want to locate my Really Big Gender Expectation Smashing Hammer. I'm sure I left it round here somewhere.

Kismet said...

"Was everyone else just not paying attention?"

Well I did! When I first met May I was captivated by his beauty, but at dinner I was even more drawn to him, not just for his beauty, but for his intelligence and sense of humor.I just wish I had the courage that night to interact more with the group...but I did enjoy myself and I am glad I met you both!

maymay said...

Okay, comment swarm time. :)

Juliet:

"On a personal level I find this - most odd. And a real shame. [...] On a more general level, it does sound familiar (in the sense of it fits with some of the body image issues I've heard male friends & partners talk about. [...] You have been encountering the batshit people, there! You may wish to avoid them in future ;-)"

Oh, I'm well aware of that. Though half my point is that they're not batshit insane, they're perfectly sane, and their ignorance or misunderstanding of the facts are perfectly logical effects caused by the fuckuppery that is the typical monopolization of cultural gender roles.

Darkness:

"i would have a difficult time calling another man "pretty" unless i knew that he would not mind being called such, and/or i was flirting with him and trying to pay him a compliment"

Agreed; unless I know someone well enough to break the traditional rules, I don't break them. Which is why I hate traditionally gendered atmospheres like company Christmas parties (or salsa dances) and enjoy alternative environments like those that I make with friends.

"i dress up for much the same reason you state, because the clothes on the outside fall into what would be considered "pretty"."

This is where I get to stand up and say "Yay! I'm not crazy! It's not just me!" and hope that more and more people start writing the same things I'm writing about to prove to everyone who's not reading my blog that I'm not crazy and that it's not just me.

"unfortunatly, i am a bit on the heavier side, and have to let my imagination pretend that i do not have a gut, do not have a BMI of like 36, and appreciate the way the different materials feel on my skin. "

People can be pleasing by delicacy or by grace and not also be a 12-year-old girl. It's in how you look at yourself, and though I understand the difficulties in attempting to divorce one's own body-image from that of the stereotype, doing so really is the first step to redefining its meaning.

Maja:

"I've encountered this - "How can you complain? Your boyfriend looks like Brad Pitt!" It's not fun, and I commiserate."

Yay again, more of the "look, I'm not a loony!" evidence.

"I haven't known you long enough to know for sure, but it seems almost like you're experiencing a second, more awesome adolescence"

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I'm a lot stronger and more self-confident now, and I'm sure that has a lot to do with the fact that I might dare call my own ass a pretty part of me, for instance, but the point is still the same: It's not fair that boys have to be as strong as I am and have to work as hard as I have done to get here or to stay here just to feel okay about themselves.

Okay, hang on, there shall be more.

maymay said...

Crown Vic:

"I moved back to New York and got a freelance computer job."

Sooner or later people are going to realize that these days alpha males are the computer geeks among us. And then we will rule the world. More obviously than we already rule the world. Insert evil laugh here.

Dee:

"Interestingly, in the five years I've been saying it to Apollo, it's had a huge effect on his self-esteem."

That's not surprising; after all, tell something to someone long enough and they'll start to believe it no matter what it is. Like, you know, "men can't be pretty." A lot of people seem to think that's The Word.

Sierra:

"My god, don’t women get up close and honestly, deeply look at a man’s face. There are some men who have lashes and cheekbones to die for."

And nails. I've often heard girls complaining that boys have better nails than they do, too. I keep wondering if this doesn't have something to do with god awful amounts of horrendously damaging nail polish they use, ironically in an effort to look prettier, but whatever.

"He may not be as strong as some men but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of doing what needs to be done some other way than using physical strength."

See evil laugh about computer geeks above. However, that said, I still don't know a single person, male or female, myself included, that doesn't get at least a little hot and bothered at a display of masculine strengths. Lots of guys know that they can just flex their biceps and they'll have hordes of girls wetting their panties. There's nothing wrong with this and, as you said, it's bred into us, but it's good to be aware of how limiting that can be.

Juliet:

"The more I think about this, the more I want to locate my Really Big Gender Expectation Smashing Hammer. I'm sure I left it round here somewhere."

Ooh, where did you get one of those? I want one.

Kismet:

"When I first met May I was captivated by his beauty, but at dinner I was even more drawn to him, not just for his beauty, but for his intelligence and sense of humor."

If you're not careful I might just blush at all this and then I'll look really pretty, all crimson-cheeked and whatnot.

Z said...

I commented on Eileen's post as well that where I live men are often lauded for their prettiness, and not seen as any less manly.

Then I started to think about how often I refer to men as "pretty" as opposed to "handsome", and the answer is quite often - but not necessarily to their face. On the other hand, I don't often refer to women as pretty to their face either. There is something potentially demeaning about the term, particularly with the unspoken "little thing" hanging in the air after it. As a result I probably refer to both men and women, privately and to their faces by other terms.

How people physically perceive and describe us often dictates how they treat us. As a woman who is often described as delicate looking (+ "little thing"), I seem to have dedicated my life to proving how fucking tough I am, and sometimes I get tired of having to prove it. I guess then the reverse can be true for those who are presumed to be, or to want to be, less Rambo like. Stereotypical expectations can be killer unless we have the strength to not care about them.

maymay said...

Z:

If this were a blog more about traditional fuckuperry and less about BDSM-specific fuckuppery I would probably write a whole post about why I think the way people use language is completely fucked up.

Your comment is a perfect example: people don't use words to mean what the words mean, they use words to mean what they want to say but don't know how to say it.

This is why I am so careful with the words I use, why I refer to the dictionary all the time, and why I believe linguistic precision is not just a way to make yourself look smart but also a way to become understood.

Looking up the word handsome, we get this:

fine-looking: pleasing in appearance especially by reason of conformity to ideals of form and proportion

and its alternative defintion, this:

big: [...] "a handsome allowance"

Why people use the English language so incredibly poorly is not really something I should go into on my own comments thread, but is a particularly persistent pet-peeve of mine that I get very pissed off about because of its broad implications.

That rant over, I totally see your point about self-confidence and inner strength, but would also say that expecting people to be self-confident and strong while giving them absolutely no cultural tools with which to do this is an oversight at best and hypocritical at worst. "We" should know better, but I don't see very many people holding other people up to such standards.

Toni said...

Just because you want to be pretty like a girl doesn't mean you have to whine like one as well. If you had grown up in the early 80's, pretty boys were all the rage. Tahe it further, what about the dandies in the 18th century or the worship of the male form throughout history, there is a reason Michelangelo is more popular that Titan you know.

maymay said...

Toni, I'm not sure if you made it in time to catch my addendum, but if you didn't let me rephrase it for you:

Even in the 18th century I'm willing to bet that men who expressed personalities contrary to the cultural ideal of the time were looked down upon. If I want to feel like a pretty boy (not a pretty girl as that's transgenderism, which is not what I'm talking about in this entry if you actually read while paying attention), why should I be made to feel it's not okay just because I had the arguably rotten luck of being born in this era instead of some other time? Generalize and extrapolate that argument and maybe you'll understand why I'm so fond of diversity and celebrating it.

On another note (if you are who I think you are), hey, welcome to my blog. I was wondering when you'd get tired of badgering the dominant women and started visiting the submissive men. Which group of us will you find more incessantly narcissistic, I wonder? But, seriously, welcome to my turf.

Toni said...

You right, I am that Toni. I still don't buy it that the world doesn't have loads of people falling for pretty boys and as far as I can see it has always been that way, if anything more so in more recent years. You never saw Elvis with stubble did you? The 80's when I grew up, (if I ever did), was a time for pretty boys if ever there was one. You are right about being narcisstic though. I don't think the dommes have anything on you, maybe that is what I find annoying, and as you mentioned the transgender people, I lived in Bangkok for 4 years it has a sizable tg community, although I suspect it is more of a career choice for most of them! I remember talking to a hooker in a beer bar and she told me why she hated katoeys. She said she thought they just wanted an easy life, to be frivolous and shyed away from any of the traditional responsibilities of being a woman, which are quite extensive for working class Thai women. I could see her point and I guess I feel like that about sub people as well, mind you I am prepared to admit I am not the most open-minded person around.

Richard Evans Lee said...

I don’t know why that Wiki article says that masculine gay men were marginalized. They – ok, we – were sought after, “real men,” you know.

They shift against nelly gay guys was a bit later that the article implies I think.

But as a young gay man the terms butch and fem were common and accepted. Because I dressed like rough trade and had a (grrr!!!) heterosexual normative persona I was “butch.” But not really tough in any sense and a femme guy could bend me around his finger with a dash of pixie dust.

For a number of years I was in a heterosexual relationship and then pretty much not involved in the world at large. When I returned to gay men it was a bit of a culture shock. The labels butch and fem were gone replaced – in a limited sense – by top and bottom. (And being a vanilla (grrr!!!) top those two words gave me all sorts of trouble when I encountered them in BDSM.

And the gay equivalent of homophobia – sissyphobia – was everywhere. The kinds of guys who gave me so much happiness and who still make me smile when I see them were viewed as disgusting creatures that “discredit” gay men.

Sigh.

tom allen said...

Last year when I posted the pics of my new piercing, I also posted a couple of my face and most of my body (was holding the camera by myself, and couldn't get the whole thing in).

A few of the women from another group I frequent commented on my "handsomeness" (naturally I hear that so often that I barely pay attention anymore) but one woman - a well-known toppish sort - said "Oooh, Tom, you're *pretty*. "

I wasn't quite sure how to take that at first, because I don't associate "pretty" with the list of adjectives that one uses for men.

For me, it's a cultural thing. Who knows where it came from? Playground teasing as a lad? Overheard derogatory comments? Like so many cultural proscriptions, it just sort of shows up.

I know that just blows my image as "Mr. Non-judgmental", but it goes to show that some of our ideas and concepts can lay hidden for years until there's a specific situation that compels us to examine them.

maymay said...

Toni,

"I still don't buy it that the world doesn't have loads of people falling for pretty boys and as far as I can see it has always been that way, if anything more so in more recent years."

Some of the above commenters would tend to agree with you, I think, but even they cite the fact that while they may be falling over the pretty boys, the pretty boys hardly feel good about their own prettiness. I really do think you need to re-read my post, perhaps this time with less tunnel vision. Once again, and only once again (at least on this comment thread), my entire point in writing this is about the internalized discomfort many men feel in this day and age about their desires to be pretty, not about the fact that they actually do have tons of sex appeal.

And while we're on the subject, maybe what you find annoying is the fact that for all my complaining, I am still getting shagged six ways to next Tuesday in the ways I want, while what I find annoying is how hard I have to work to get shagged that way. One might call this a difference of opinion, if one were so inclined.

"I feel like that about sub people as well, mind you I am prepared to admit I am not the most open-minded person around."

But then again, let's just say I'm not so inclined.

maymay said...

Richard,

"not really tough in any sense and a femme guy could bend me around his finger with a dash of pixie dust."

Hm. I'm thinking I could do with a bit of pixie dust.

"When I returned to gay men it was a bit of a culture shock."

This is exactly what I find so…sad. Narrow-mindedness and binary, bad logic ends up driving large numbers of people into, well, unhappiness. It's exhausting trying to stay happy while not being blind to these things.

Tom:

"I know that just blows my image as "Mr. Non-judgmental", but it goes to show that some of our ideas and concepts can lay hidden for years until there's a specific situation that compels us to examine them."

Invisibility is the enemy of awareness. That is too dangerous a thing for me not to rail against.

Z said...

...expecting people to be self-confident and strong while giving them absolutely no cultural tools with which to do this is an oversight at best and hypocritical at worst.

I agree completely, and it's idealistic to imagine they can. I also take your point about the BDSM fuckuppery - but I think that's just part of the fight you have on your hands, and yes, you just have to keep plugging away at it, articulating it, and having people remind you that you aren't the only one.

I don't know why it is, but when I read you I'm often reminded of feminist issues - or at least, as it relates to the battle to be recognized as being more than one thing, even if the more than one things are contradictory, and a desire not to be forced into a box by virtue (or vice) of your sexuality. This is one of the last barricades. We in the heterosexual vanilla world are all clued up on gay culture, we can get our heads round male doms and female submissives, and now we're coming to terms with the fact that all female doms don't either walk around in corsets or overalls all day leading their sissy boys behind them.

We need more time, and more information, before it all fits into place, and we can stop trying to find alternative preconceptions. And perhaps that applies both to the world of kink and non kind, or vanilla and knickerbocker glory or whatever. Until these things are defined, it's hard for other people to blur the definitions enough to keep everyone happy.

maymay said...

Z:

"I don't know why it is, but when I read you I'm often reminded of feminist issues - or at least, as it relates to the battle to be recognized as being more than one thing"

Other people have said as much before, and I'm not really sure why that is either, but I do have my suspicions. Whenever this happens, I am reminded of a time when my friend told me she was studying Ayn Rand in her college ethics class and then being absolutely stunned when I asked her who Ayn Rand was. I was a freshman in High School at the time, which I then summarily dropped out of, and after she told me about Ayn Rand, I responded rather arrogantly (in typical 15-year-old-maymay-style), "Oh, well, duh. Why would I read books about something so obvious as the notion that self-interest is paramount?" But I guess that's an entirely different blog.

Toni said...

Sorry MayMay but I think tunnel vision is the only kind I possess and I am myopic even in that! I have already expressed countless times on the Jones site that this male submissive thing, well I just don't get it! And all this introspection that is beyond me also. I wonder if all this discomfort over feeling pretty is a bit of a case of the lady protesting too much! It seems odd that you would feel insecure about being pretty but confident enough to brag about getting laid with regularity and as for this outrage about people saying you must be attractive because attractive people want to fuck you, c'mon doesn't everyone love having the hottest girlfriend? I mean if you really felt bad about it I guess you wouldn't mention how hot she is quite so often! I treated most of my trophy girlfriends the way other misogynist dicks treat their cars. I accepted that the reason I had the best girl was because I was the best man.

maymay said...

In a way, I do envy you, Toni. This world much seem like such a simple place to you.

Toni said...

Awww shucks - it feels like you just scratched me behind the ears and through a stick for simple ole me to pick up!

Toni said...

through? Shurley shome mishtake. Ole Toni must have been hitting the grog too hard again!

maymay said...

"Awww shucks - it feels like you just scratched me behind the ears and through a stick for simple ole me to pick up!"

Well, you've proven yourself not utterly daft. However, I believe the definition of insanity is to perform the same actions repetitively while expecting different results. Since you've clearly stated the limits of your capabilities, there isn't any other kind of interaction we can have, is there?

All you do is try to redirect conversation, and when steered back to the topic at hand or when offered the explanation you seem to seek you insist you "just don't get it" and cite your own shortcomings as excuses. Didn't Bitchy ask you a while back what you're doing reading our blogs in the first place? I don't think you ever gave her a straight answer.

Anyway, be grateful I didn't throw the stick too far away. Then you'd have felt completely lost.

Juliet said...

I showed my partner this post last night, & he read it through & said "well - basically I agree with everything he's said there". Including the bit about people asking if you dye your hair...

We talked about it all, and a bunch of other side-issues, for a while, but unfortunately it was the sort of discussion that leaves you thinking "gosh, we talked of many interesting things!" without being able to summarise them well :-)

Thorney said...

I have never felt the urge to be "pretty" in the sense you describe, but I have had at times a very strong desire to be sexually desirable, i.e., seen as something of a sex object. (I'm 62, bearded, mildly overweight, and don't seem to be overly attractive, except to my wife who is obviously not relying on visual cues.)

I tried to write about this desire of mine, years ago, and I've just found one of the bits I wrote and stuck it on my blog, at

http://thorney.blogspot.com/2007/08/desire-to-have-some-of-advantages-of.html

(I'm new at blogging, I hope that works. The whole title didn't come through, I see. Let me try again, breaking the line which is a nuisance. Help requested...).

http://thorney.blogspot.com/2007/08
/desire-to-have-some-of-advantages-of.html

Tom Allen said...

Holy cow! Thorney's here!

Thorney, I'm sure you get tired of hearing this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: you and Mrs. Thorney are my heroes.

I'm totally blogging you.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Whoa, it's Thorney! Holy something holy!

almost said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
almost said...

Lovely boys who want to be cherished melt my heart. ;)

I'm glad you wrote this post.

Wendy said...

I always find it odd when men say they are never told that they're pretty! When I meet a pretty man, I like to let them know. But then again, I've always had a thing for pretty boys.

I only met you in passing at the perverts salon last week, but I thought you were very pretty. ^_^

Its a shame boys don't often get the chance to voice their desire to be pretty and feminine. For the most part, its perfectly acceptable for me to walk around talking about how 'manly' I am, and behave in 'manly' ways, waving my metaphorical cock around and such.

I had a friend, however, who all he's ever wanted is to be treated more like a girl, yet he's spent so much of his life sublimating that desire, and telling *no one*. I think I was the first girl who he ever told.

It didn't help him that he came off as a very virle, hairy manly man. The fact that he looked so masculine, in his mind, just gave him more angst about wanted to feel pretty.

And since he's told me, and the other women who he dated after me, it's def. changed him, if only for the fact that he's so much more *relaxed* than he used to be.

maymay said...

Hi Wendy, thanks for stopping by.

"I always find it odd when men say they are never told that they're pretty! When I meet a pretty man, I like to let them know. But then again, I've always had a thing for pretty boys."

Lots of times I feel very ineffectual. What the hell am I doing writing a blog about cultural sex issues to an audience of people who have very little issue with sex and who, like me, are largely so outside the culture with these issues that they can barely relate?

But you see, while you may not have trouble finding or telling men you think they are pretty, the majority of the world out there doesn't even consider that a possibility, and that's kind of my point and why I write the things I do, regardless of whether or not anyone who really needs to hear it will be reading. Even though I can't really relate to the mainstream, I am (thankfully, I guess?) sensitive enough and affected to a degree that even I, Mr. Constantly-getting-told-he's-pretty, still feel pretty bad about things most of the time.

"I had a friend, however, who all he's ever wanted is to be treated more like a girl, yet he's spent so much of his life sublimating that desire, and telling *no one*. I think I was the first girl who he ever told."

I rest my case. :)

"I only met you in passing at the perverts salon last week, but I thought you were very pretty. ^_^"

Thanks—sorry we didn't get more of a chance to talk. Ping me some time, we'll talk more.