A recent Playboy article entitled “Bros, This Is How Your Slut-Shaming Is Backfiring. A Sex Researcher Explains” observes that “When the slut-shaming stops, everyone is likely to get laid more.” This is an obvious point that even very minor bloggers have already made. Still it’s nice to have it echoed in the used-to-be-popular press along with supporting evidence.
The most interesting thing in the article is a passing reference to “‘precarious masculinities,’ a term…to describe men who perceive manhood as an impermanent state that’s easily lost if they fail to conform to gender norms.” This seems like a real thing to me–proving you’re a man and all that–but also personally very weird. I myself feel not at all macho, but deeply masculine. This is mostly a matter of bearing, but also there’s the matter of my deep voice, broad shoulders, bald head, and thick coat of hair everywhere else. I’m not “comfortable in my masculinity”, an idiotic phrase that makes no more sense than “comfortable in my right-handedness”. It’s a like-it-or-not state of affairs. Nothing precarious about it.
I just did a clever double-brag in that last paragraph: reaffirming my conventional male appeal while simultaneously polishing up my liberal feminist bona fides. (It’s the only way I know to be sexy.) As a way of taking myself back down a peg let me point out that there are aspects of machismo I lack–like mechanical aptitude and a capacity for violence–that I feel as true shortcomings and admire in other people. Furthermore, I am a lot closer to the traditional macho guy (whom were are all implicitly looking down on here) than plenty of other men. For example, the chubby, high-voiced, unathletic, geeky, adult role-playing-game enthusiast is nobody’s idea of macho, but still embodies a recognizably male archetype. (Also has a Fetlife profile and gets laid way more than you or I.) Notions of gender are, sigh, fluid.
Only recently have I learned the term “cisgender” as in the opposite of “transgender”. I get a kick out of it because how often do you come across a new prefix, but also because it is a concise way of evoking this sense of inevitability. I have taken to calling myself “cis-as-fuck”. Now this term has the distinct connotation of trans = good (= oppressed sexual minority) and cis = bad (= frat boy), and it’s a notion of the valorization of one’s born gender more than its certainty that “cis” is getting at, but nevertheless there’s a sense that a man who balances his masculinity precariously on his shoulder is less “cis” than someone who takes it for granted.
Part of learning this delightful new prefix is that I now get to add “cisgendered” to the list of privileges I tick off as part of my ritual white-liberal ablutions. This is justified. Feeling comfortable in one’s own skin is a privilege, and it’s one that the “precariously masculine” frat boy of our imagination enjoys a little less than I do.