I’m not afraid to say I love men. I do. I’m not threatened by any narrative that would denounce that. I lived it. I did the work to free myself from that mindset & my life changed in the most beautiful ways.
What I found was that to say I love men is precious, yet to let myself be vulnerable enough to sit in the dirt with my brothers is such a cracking open of my identity and the words I held onto. Even after years of looking, I still have to face the residuals in me of the worldview that has become so commonplace it has become a global blindspot on men and boys.
For instance, going to share a bit raw, #bringbackourgirls never once mentioned nor lamented the boys had been immediately brutally murdered. Why were they killed right away? This is the time old story of how the lives of males have been disposable since the beginning of humanity and the lives of women more valued. These criminals were also known to not go near the female dorms at all or tell the girls to go home and get married when they grew up while the boys were slaughtered like animals shot as they ran in terror.
The life of a boy was shown unable to be a strong bargaining chip which also shows our conversation as a whole as a society. It wasn’t just the criminals who killed those boys, I was made aware it was our lack of listening to the global reality of the violence enacted onto men. It was our lack of listening to the value of the life of males.
To ask men as a whole to say yes they are responsible for my personal abuse because they are male does not work as it is not true and also asks men to erase their pain and the pain of boys and men globally. It makes the distinction between man and criminal- which is not a gendered reality- imperative. Men are not criminals for being born male and so are not responsible for the actions of criminals because they happen to share their gender.
Just as I as a woman am not responsible for the actions of criminals because they happen to be women. We do not blame women for female criminals- actually as a society we are so sick in this conversation we even blame men for female criminals-we are clear in the distinction between woman and criminal. The detriment is we lack the clear distinction between man and criminal and this is literally killing men. I didn’t realize I didn’t have that distinction until I recognized it. It was a massive blindspot alleviated that forever changed my worldview and life.
I would assert there is a lacking of loving women until we see women as powerful and capable of action and a loving of men lacking until we see men the vulnerability and suffering of men. I’m not saying that from a make wrong but rather my personal experience.
To value men is to listen. To value myself and my voice is to listen as speaking is not complete without listening.
What I found was my ‘I love men’ statement and feeling was a beginning, yet for me personally- speaking for myself- I had only just began to peek through the looking glass.
And I found that nothing is as it seems.
Something interesting happened as I let myself take my voice for a spin, as I started to share my pain that I had experienced, something wild happened. I started to gently, tenderly, release myself from the fears I carried in regards to masculinity and men. Voice is vital.
I noticed as I spoke as I let myself explore my voice even though it didn’t meet what I thought was perfect, when I was met with the voice of men which had once intimidated me, which I had associated with deep pain and wounds and violations on my body, I heard something I did not expect, pain.
I saw in the eyes of men the same fear I had. I saw the scars on their bodies from women who had cut them, in a society where that was seen as funny. I saw the trauma reactions as their tears fell on my shoulders from pain of the abuse they endured that was not legally considered worthy of respite or safety. I saw men sitting right in the soil with me, right in the mud crying out in agony. I saw him eye to eye. A pain I had thought I had seen before but had no idea how deep it ran until I started to explore my voice and hear the voice of men right by my side.
I had placed men on a broken pedestal from my pain. They were bigger than life, gods that had all of the power in my perception. Because when I was victimized that was what I felt. I felt powerless. As I gave myself permission for my voice I gave myself permission to recognize the voice of men. To listen and ask questions to men. I saw my fellow human being not on the broken pedestal but feet to feet with me. Nose to nose. Our tears filling the same stream. I was so shocked.
All I thought I knew, had been ripped from under me. I hadn’t realized just how much men suffered by my side. Facing rape, abuse, silently like I had for so long. I didn’t realize just how scared they were to try their voice out just like me. Afraid to be met with hell just like my fears. I didn’t realize I had dehumanized men-speaking for myself- and in this saw them as not having pain in ways I’ve known. I had to be gentle, super super super gentle with myself as I faced my fears. As I faced myself.
What I found was this massive weight lifted, major fear moved in a way that felt like actually physically lifting off of me when as I spoke, I listened. In ways I didn’t know was possible. My fear of masculine and association of masculine with harm started to fade. My body no longer reacted the same fear way around men. My body started to relax as I was opening to really feel that I was not alone that men, my brothers, were right there with me in reaching for their voices to be heard in asking for their hearts to be seen. I cannot tell you the relief I felt. The freedom.
It started with me taking my very unperfect human voice and trying. No human is perfect I had to finally concede to this fact and not wait to be perfect to speak.
It is a mighty, powerful and confronting journey- The journey of voice. I know the journey of my voice I thought was just the journey of my voice. I found it was the journey of finding my voice and I was introduced to the vulnerable voice of men. I found my fellow human beings who I had hidden in plane sight without even knowing it. Pain, fear, anger, joy, all there being experienced with my brothers. Men right here in life with me. Our voices resounding together.
It sounds counterintuitive and in the journey of finding voice and being heard, which I did and I was, I found a new listening of myself, of men and of life. I had no idea how deeply connected finding my voice was to healing my relationship with masculinity, maleness and men. Whereas before I used to feel anxious around men, I found myself looking at the men on the train and my whole body relaxing and feeling safe because men were there.
I had been saying I loved men, and I did, yet I had no idea that to live it takes such a deep listening that confronted everything I thought I knew.
When I speak up about the impact of the sex industry/pornography I am most often met with defense. I will keep talking about it, however. I am not ‘anti-porn’ as to me that is the same conversation of ‘pro-porn’ because it feeds shame and shame is, after all, what keeps the sex industry alive.
There is a very real impact of perpetuated pain, addiction, and self loathing that the sex industry keeps alive. I know because I was a part of it. I both dealt and received pain and I had to numb myself with alcohol and lie to myself to stay in it.
There is a sort of despair that I notice comes up for people who actually can hear the impact of the sex industry/porn yet feel lost without it. I believe this is often the same despair that often fuels the defense of the industry. Which brings me great sadness. We are so used to the pacifier of the sex industry we have forgotten that we hold wisdom within. There is no wisdom in the sex industry. Everything I ‘learned’ there I could have found with meditation without the wounding.
Totally in inner-Scientist mode. Welcome to my laboratory.
My laboratory is not of beakers and measurements (though that stuff is super cool too), mine is one of heart, mind, body, soul and all that of which I do not know.
Serums, elixirs, unconsciousness mixing with the breath of presence and into explosions of awareness, shiny things, much pressing to see ‘what does this button do?’ and bracing myself for the inevitable dive into the human experiment of deep unconsciousness.
How else can I truly live and be alive if I do not test my own limitations, self conversation and my own habits in the laboratory of my own being?
Art by Travis Bedel