From Boy’s Town to Mature Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is not a symptom of being a man, it is a byproduct of ignoring natural masculine evolution. Boys need to evolve into men. Boy Energy needs to evolve into Mature Masculinity.

Toxic Masculinity is, in fact, stagnate Boy Energy.

Are we men or boys?

Becoming a man isn’t about getting older, it’s about evolving into a useful member of the tribe.

Unfortunately, evolving from boys into men is not supported in contemporary American culture and gay men’s culture as a subset of American culture is ignorant to, or actively ignores, the roles and responsibilities of mature men.

However, I’ve had a glimpse of what happens when the ideals of mature masculinity (as opposed to boy energy) are applied to my life. And I want more.

For me, Boy’s Town is a metaphor as much as it is any particular physical space. The term includes all the bars where I drank, the “sidewalk sales” afterwards, the house parties where I laughed, the gyms where I worked out, and the steam rooms where I cruised for sex. It’s a place for youth and young adults (under 35 years old) to explore who they are as men.

I’m not a youth or even a young adult.

I’m 54 and I’ve realized that I’m in the middle of grieving my time in Boy’s Town. That’s because it’s hard to let go of. I don’t see a clear road ahead to anyplace else. This grieving is a painful experience that nobody warned me was coming. It’s unexpected and that pisses me off.

But it’s as natural as the grief I’ve felt when moving from one city to another, from one relationship to another, or one job to another. Viewing my pain through this lens makes me excited for the adventure ahead.

Now it’s time to move from Boy’s Town to Man Country, a place where men celebrate their Mature Masculinity.

I’m fucking ready for that road trip!

The only problem is that Man Country appears to still be under construction. Finding examples of Mature Masculinity is difficult for all men but that is especially true for us gay men who have been reveling in our boy energy with our boyfriends in Boy’s Town for generations.

***

I’m done some sniffing around, mostly out of desperation, and learned some things about getting older.

Somewhere between being young men and being old men, an energetic transition needs to happen from Boy Energy to Mature Masculinity. If not, we all suffer.

It’s happening. This suffering is an epidemic in our country caused by the glorification of hero culture, but it affects gay men differently. Rather than hold close to the Boy Energy of Hero Culture that tells men they need to dominate through the use of destructive emotionlessness force, we gays hold on to the Boy Energy that tells us to dominate through sexual attractiveness, cute clothes, and shade.

Instead, we need to see ourselves as men, not boys.

Our ghettos are often called “boy’s town” and the moniker fits, but that’s because of our behavior more than the age of the guys there in the ghetto.

Guys who do not consciously evolve into Mature Masculinity usually stagnate in Boy Energy. That stagnation ripens into a stench. It’s not pretty. They become entitled Man-boys. That stagnate boy energy in old men is what people are calling “toxic masculinity”.

The public reaction to childish adult men is to demonize maleness itself, to make men bad, but men and masculinity are neither good nor bad. Eventual growth or stagnation depends on where you plant your seed and how you tend to what you’ve planted.

Stagnate Boy Energy causes pain for everyone.

Younger men feel the pain.

Without examples of mature masculinity to observe, our youth are adrift in the world without a compass to guide them, anyone to lean on for support, or any idea of what a thriving older gay man’s life looks like. They are left to sort out sex, body image, love, friendship, money, bio-family, chosen family, and spirituality all on their own or with the assistance of their similarly inexperienced gay brothers.

Each generation is forced to rediscover life on his own. The evolution from one generation to the next is stunted. Our community crawls rather than leaps forwards.

The next young gay man enters a lonely world he must discover on his own.

Older men feel the pain.

It comes from the emotional and spiritual stagnation of our existence in the realm of boys while our instincts are telling us we have so much more to give. Our experience has created knowledge, wisdom, and resources. But we have no one to share this with.

Our age has made us vulnerable to health issues, decreased social status, and loneliness due to the lack of non-club venues that would be attractive to older men looking for more intellectually engaged arenas to spar with others about the current state of the tribe and its path into the future.

Our fully developed elders live in loneliness until they and their wisdom wither, fade, and disappear without the transference of their knowledge, love, and leadership skills into the hands and hearts of those that follow them.  

The drag queen Jackie Beat addressed this stagnation as part of her act.

            You wanna hear a gay joke?

            A gay man walks into a bar.

            Every day for 50 years.

            Yeah, not so funny when you say it out loud.

As usual, an artist was able to illustrate our psychic pain long before we were able to articulate it. This “joke” illustrates the isolation and evolutionary stagnation gay men have felt for decades.

Toxic masculinity is not a symptom of being a man, it is a byproduct of ignoring natural masculine evolution. Boys need to evolve into men. Boy Energy needs to evolve into Mature Masculinity.

Toxic Masculinity is, in fact, stagnate Boy Energy.

Young men are not evolving, they are simply becoming old men without any thought of the responsibilities, efforts, and rewards of being a conscious mature man.  

***

So, what are the differences between Boy Energy and Mature Masculinity?

Boy Energy  Mature Masculinity
Possesses altruism, unbridled energy, naiveté (innocence) Possesses wisdom, generative energy, integrity
Self-identified Community-identified
Pursues pleasure and fun Pursues just and creative ordering
Manipulative action Disciplined action
Desires status and dominance in the community Desires order and wellbeing in the community
Encourages the release of chaotic energy (challenges the status quo)
Encourages stability by promoting the talents of other adult men and boys
Is unsure of his identity, making him boastful and suspicious of intimacy Is secure in his masculine identity, making him generous and open to love
DeconstructsStabilizes
Needs to be right Needs to understand

Several aspects of boy energy are useful, and that’s why we need to encourage our younger brothers, while they are still young (under 30), to revel in and be fully conscious of their Boy Energy: to feel the thrill of taking on the enemy, to have the idealism to fall in love, to be willing to break things. Those tools, and others, should remain within reach as we grow older so that they may be activated when circumstance calls for it.

Let me just say this plainly, Boy Energy is not bad.

It’s appropriate for boys.

It only becomes toxic when held on to for too long. Boy Energy was vital during our fights for civil rights. That’s because activism is suited to Boy Energy. Fight! Fight! Fight! Chaotic, deconstructing energy that knows it’s right. Rage and breaking things were and are useful while fighting our enemies.

We would not have gotten so far so fast during the plague without it.

***

But now it’s time to build.

It is important to hold on to the skills and generative attributes of Boy Energy such as altruism and innocence, but, when it’s time to become an adult, we need to let go of the limiting and destructive attributes of Boy Energy like dominance and the need to be right.

Again, holding on to Boy Energy beyond its sell-by date causes the stink of stagnation.

We stop building. We stop growing.

We flop around in an energy sucking bog of our own making. Exhausted from dragging each other down into the mud, we have no energy left to create a solid foundation the next generation can build upon.

We need to step away from that behavior and use our energy to till fertile soil so that our tribe may enjoy the fruits of wisdom, support, and unconditional love. If we do not, and it’s my opinion we have not, we live in a world of boastful, manipulative, frightened man-boys. These man-boys’ need for status and dominance, coupled with their natural identity insecurities, separate them from their gay brothers and the entire community suffers as a result.

***

The major work to be done in the current era of gay men’s evolution is to learn the difference between Boy Energy and Mature Masculinity, and when to move from one to the other.

This is what I’ve sorted out.

***

Boy Energy:

Our current president (Trump) is, unfortunately, a perfect example of stagnated Boy Energy. He’s what the authors Robert Moor and Douglas Gillette, in their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, identify as the “highchair tyrant”, an older man full of furious self-centered demands.

Here are my own examples of Boy Energy.

  • He uses the termadulating” to explain why he paid his rent on time, cleaned up after himself, or did anything that is not “fun”. 
  • He wears his adolescent behavior as a badge of superiority and bullies others, often with loud domineering behavior, and often in concert with other man-boys, if he receives any whiff of disapproval.
  • He avoids conflict, either by running away from it or retaliating with name calling or bringing up issues he knows will cause others pain.
  • He refuses to give up his style and dress like an adult even when the venue calls for it, like a wedding, a job interview, or a pretentious restaurant. Yeah, I get that some venues are pretentious. Mature Masculinity honors the venue’s right to be unique in its own way, or he chooses not to go. This is not about gender identification. Gender identity should never result in barriers. It’s about following the theme of the party.  Throwing a fit because the proprietor doesn’t appreciate your Marvel T-shirt and blinky tennis shoes just reveals a man unwilling to step into his manhood.
  • For him, sex is nothing but sport.
    He keeps score of the quality, quantity, and exoticness of every encounter and gladly interjects his current scoreboard or former highlights into as many conversations as possible, especially when he feels threatened of losing the attention of the group.
  • His car is an extension of his cock.
    It is not his “car”. It is not his “vehicle”. It is his “Beemer”, his “Bentley”, his “Mercedes”, or his “Harley”. I always wonder if these guys eat “Wonder” or “Oroweat” instead of “bread”.
    He has lots of couples photos with him and his car on social media.
  • He cannot be trusted to show up.
    He only shows up to a fraction of the events he marks as “Going” to on Facebook. He waits until the last minute to commit to anything because it’s his access to entertainment that matters, not the logistical challenges of the party’s host, or the commitments he has made to his “friends”.

***

Mature Masculinity:

Our last President (Obama) was a good example of Mature Masculinity. Essentially, these are attributes of a man who is not toxic or swampy. He has integrated the four Jungian masculine architypes of King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover.

  • He is more interested in understanding then being right.
    He can discuss religion, politics, and money because he approaches topics from a state of open curiosity rather than one of prescriptive dominance (being right).
    He is able to explore an idea with someone who holds the opposite view.
  • He is willing to talk about commitment.
    It might be about showing up for plans next weekend, discussing monogamy vs. polyamory, being honest about his interest in parenting, or buying a house.
    He is able to respectfully disagree.
    He does not change the subject or suddenly leave the premises to avoid an uncomfortable topic.
  • He keeps his world in order.
    He does not require supervision to clean up after himself, pay his bills, get a job, respond to invitations.
    He seeks advice more than assistance.
  • He asks for help.
    His humility enables him to seek advice from Elders and experts.
    He makes no demands on them to fix his problems.
    He uses their insight to develop his own plan for action.
  • He accepts responsibility for his decisions.
    He understands that his decisions have impacts on others and he is willing to acknowledge those impacts.
    He admits when he’s wrong.

***

Mature Masculinity requires us, as gay men, to fundamentally change how we view our social responsibilities regarding our brothers.

It requires us to be more than fighters and fuckers.

It requires us to be consciously aware of our social responsibilities for our brothers.

It requires us to create, bless (high-five), and protect things that are in the best interest of the entire tribe.

***

Good news! Gay men have the intellect, the resources, and the creative energy to maintain what is great about Boy Energy while simultaneously moving those of us, when the time is right, onto the path of the Mature Masculine.

Look at what happened when we were faced with a lethal pandemic. We had the brains, the heart, and the courage to fundamentally change how we are seen and how we are served by the greater society. That’s fucking huge!

Now, it is time to change how we see ourselves and how we are served by our own institutions and social groups.

The LGBT Center needs more programming that is specific to gay men.

The Center is a beacon of hope for all queer people, but its focus is on those most in need: the homeless, elderly, youth, women, and transgender and left this work undone. Men are privileged. That’s a fact in today’s culture. However, being privileged does not mean I don’t feel pain, loneliness, and shame. It does mean, that men are left to do our own community building. That includes transitioning gay individuals from boys into men.

This blog is meant to start an authentic conversation, to knock open the door of new possibilities, to take action, to hold ourselves accountable, 

This blog is meant to start an authentic conversation, to take action, and to hold myself accountable for creating movement on these ideas that grip my soul. 

I imagine a physical space designed with the values of Mature Masculinity in mind, a place where men lead lives informed by their inner Lovers, Warriors, Magicians, and Kings.

Listen, every gay man has already lived a hero’s journey. Each of us has be forced out of the known into the unknown. We have faced challenges and temptations, usually alone, where we sorted out allies, mentors, and beasts. We have slain the dragon of oppression, both external and internal. Part of us has died and is reborn, usually to such an extent that others see that change in us when we return to our place of origin.

From that place, we can make this next expression of gay men’s existence, brilliant in its satisfaction, dignity, and joy.


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Fantasy Fire Ritual: Supporting The Diverse In Diversity

An essay written for Letherati

The One True Banner

Deep in the North American state of California, in the high altitudes of the Sierra Forest, the Leather Council convenes under a star lit sky and the glow of a roaring bon fire. Upon a giant granite rock, under the One True Banner, the First and Final Five Master Tenders of Leather Tradition sit in cloaked anonymity. Simple shadows of humanity encased in polished leather from boots to cover.
Only THE ONE ever speaks and it has always been accepted that THE ONE knows all and what is best for leather folk everywhere. His voice is like thunder. It calls forth the language of the leather Gods and makes it decipherable to mere mortal leather folk.
“The high court will recognize the leather boy in jump boots, jock strap, simple vest, and collar who calls himself “jim”. You may approach Us!”
Until now, jim has been kneeling dutifully at the feet of his black leather clad Master. Knees apart, arms behind his back and head slightly bowed forward. His short military hair cut lays under the trembling gloved hand of his Sir.
The thousands gathered in the meadow of the tall redwoods say nothing. Do nothing. Look neither left nor right. Only forward and upward to the Master Tenders on the high holy rock. The crack and spit of the fire threaten to puncture the delicate membrane that is holding back a torrent of expectation. The derision of difference presses in. Only the Master Tenders can make it right.
“You have two minutes to make your case for wishing to wear your boot laces threaded on top of the first two eyelets of your boots instead of threading them under the first two eyelets of your boots as it has been done since leather men first road out on their motorcycles from the port cities of old! Explain your BLASPHAMY!”
**********
Wow, where did that little fantasy come from and what does it have to do with Leather diversity? I wonder?
To me, there are a lot of attractive elements to that scene: the intense protocol, the leather itself, the Master/slave practices, the fire, the sense of tradition, the drama. I love that stuff! But there are other parts that suck: like the inflexibility of the Master Tenders of Leather Tradition, the stifling environment jim finds himself in, and the silence of the other community members present.
Please notice the words “to me” in the above paragraph. I have some intense ideas on how I think the community should behave, who belongs in it, and who doesn’t. Did anyone read Carpetbaggers? But at the end of the day, that is what is important TO ME. My little world designed exactly the way I want it is my own personal trip. They are MY ideas and I’m entitled to them.
Unfortunately (and I say “unfortunately” because it complicates my carefully arranged little world) I also value diversity. I value having a broader pool of talent and resources to draw on when I get into trouble or my community needs help. When I’m fighting for my basic human rights, or dealing with a catastrophic calamity (like AIDS) I need some strong professionals and kinky family to help me get through it.
I also value finding new and twisted ways to get off. I might get bored! I’m the kind of person who wants all the bells and whistles installed on my kink caravan. I want options for installing features I don’t even know I want yet. I’m selfish that way. Being around people who look, play, and think differently than I do is the only way I can think of to be exposed to those new ideas.
But that process seems random. It’s unpredictable and I like things in order. Diversity is messy. So what is a tight ass, OCD, kinky man to do? Find some all encompassing banner we can all get along under?
I don’t think so.
The members of the community in my imaginary world above all stand under one banner, and because of that, there is no room for the difference in diversity to flourish. jim is not even allowed to lace his boots differently without permission from THE ONE.
As a Leatherman, I have to call foul! A big fat non-consensual foul! He’s at the foot of the alter of the One True Banner. Where is jim to turn? How is the difference in diversity supposed to express itself under that kind of single-mindedness?
That scene might be hot to many of us (who no doubt see ourselves as THE ONE) but its expectations and protocols are best left in a smaller private club, under a smaller more distinct banner, whose values are shared by those who choose to follow it.
The values of one club should not be expected to be followed by the totality of the kinky world.
Trying to pull ourselves together under one big all-inclusive-all-the-time-banner brings us to a pretty oppressive and sometimes mind numbingly boring place. The best we can do is try to agree on a few general principles like “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” – “Risk Aware Consensual Kink” – “Trust, Honor, and Respect” and leave it at that.
Trying to agree on the smaller minutia of kink or leather is impossible and I think it actually hinders our growth as individuals and as clubs when we give up our autonomy and attempt to come to consensus on everything.
Let’s give ourselves permission to disagree with one another on the small stuff. Maybe even look at those differences as a good thing. When that happens, we’re actually supporting the development of diversity.
But there are times when I’m just not feeling it. When I don’t want to be politically correct and tolerant. When I just want to be around people whose values and principles and gear and play are all similar to my own. The good news is that there is actually still room for me in the fetish world during those times.
I just need to plan my schedule accordingly.
As a responsible kinky player I’m going to have to take responsibility for informing myself about the kinky world I live in by looking at the calendar of events available to me and only going to the ones I’m in the proper frame of mind to attend. When I’m not feeling the warm fuzzies of the all inclusive bug, I will be spending more time at private events, in private dungeons, in German dark rooms, and on-line hook ups than I will be at huge events where the doors are open to anyone and everyone.
There are lots of private events that are very specific to the kind of people and play that resonate with me. It’s my responsibility to identify them. If they don’t exist, guess what? I need to either create those spaces myself or I need to support the clubs, events, and parties that speak to me.
In the end I’ll be a much happier kinkoid.
It also means that I’m going to need to give those freaks out there who think and act differently than I do the same room and privacy I want when they are doing the freaky things they enjoy. No matter how bizarre. I need to accept what they are doing even if I’m not invited.
It’s an under 40 party? More power to you my brothers. I don’t qualify for entry. I can’t wait to hear about how it went.
Unless you are taking away my opportunity to organize and produce my unique flavored play spaces, I’m going to have to sit back, shut the hell up, and wish you well on your endeavor.
It also means I might have to stay away from events that I’m invited to, but don’t like how they’re being run or who is showing up to them. For example: Let’s say a big event like, well, IML or Folsom is not up to my standard of kink anymore?
Maybe I should stop going. It might actually be my responsibility to not attend if I can’t keep my complaining mouth shut at the event.
This conundrum just slapped me in the face at July’s Dore Alley street fair. I was grabbed on the arm and stopped by three spiky haired, iPhone carrying, tennis shoe wearing, early twenty something twinks and their two girl friends. They stopped me and my boy and wanted our photo.
I was so incensed I decided to tell anyone who would listen at Stompers about what had just happened. “I’m not freakin Goofy and this isn’t Disneyland!”
Unfortunately, nothing is more certain than change. Our big events are not immune to it. And I need to accept it. I either need to accept the change or stop going and create an event that truly speaks to me. After all, who is forcing me to go?
After giving it some thought and seeing how shrill my 45 year old voice sounded when someone else told my Goofy story (accurately, damn it), I’ve decided that “being Goofy” is simply part of the price I need to pay to enjoy an exclusive packed patio area of booted up kinky people in a twink-free zone at Stompers.
We are a confederation of diverse communities, not one single community.
Have you noticed that I’ve been using the term, fetish world instead of Leather Community? I’m going to try that on for size for a while because I think it’s more accurate than calling ourselves a “community.” Each member of a confederation can be encouraged to be brilliantly different from the other members. Individual community members are expected to conform to the rules of the community.
So I started thinking; would it be possible to I create an event that acknowledges my personal kinks while still honoring other perverts out there whose kinks look, behave, and maybe even smell different than my own? How can I create a fetish world event?
And then I said fuck it, I’ll worry about the “how” later. What would it look like? And this is what I came up with.
**********
The Fire Event

The great sacred meadow of the redwoods has been meticulously cleared in preparation for the annual ritual. The full moon and stars that are shining through crisp mountain air blanket the ground with light. The movement of the towering redwoods in the cool summer breeze is all that can be heard. A thirty foot high and equally wide pyre waits in solitude in the center of the meadow. A ring of countless unlit torches are staked into the packed earth a safe distance from the still cool stack of wood which lays more than seven hundred footfalls from the tree line.
Inside the woods the Kurrent Kinksters are making their way through the dark forest down a well worn path that leads to the revered field. In the tradition of the annual gathering, they walk behind their new banner, mounted high on a tall staff. They are dressed in retro hipster low slung pants, button up collared shirts, thick black rimmed classes and untied hiking boots. Some wear a black leather armband on their wrist. Many of them carry classic medium sized brown overnight cases from the 1960’s.
From the covered darkness of the redwoods they emerge onto the field of the sacred meadow and see that from every point on the compass other banners are emerging from the ancient forest edge into the moonlight. Ten, twenty, thirty banners come forward. A myriad of crews expressing their own kink each find a torch and plant their banner behind it. Some reverently approach the circle while others roar with boisterousness revelry.
The Kurrent Kinkster quietly watch as the meadow fills with hundreds of clubs comprised of thousands of individuals. Motorcycle, drag, skin, uniform, rubber, sport, spandex, all genders, all ages, all colors are present. Each under its own banner. Additional torches are brought out when they are needed to be matched with new banners.
“Satyrs, motorcycle club!” A voice rings out with clarity. The light of the relatively small flame and decisive declaration quiets the great sea of people. The oldest crew present, by tradition, has fired up the first torch.
He and his crew have searched the gathering and have found the newest crew present. “The Kurrent Kinksters!” is called out nervously by the twenty-two year old banner carrier and his crew’s torch is lit by the light of the Satyrs’ torch fire.
One by one ever crew name is called out. Every torch is lit. Every banner’s colors are brought to light from the torches that are now lit.
“Whose flame remains undeclared?” The question is answered by the quiet reflections of smiling faces looking at the cornucopia of diversity they are surrounded by.
“Then it is time to light the one fire that brings us all together.”
Simultaneously, every torch is carried forward and the huge pyre is brought to life. Music bursts into the night air and with a collective roar the individual crews disperse into the sea of kinky brothers and sisters around them to celebrate their differences.