The Radical Notion That Men Are People | Monthly Forecast | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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The Radical Notion That Men Are People 

CHARLIE LEMAY
  • Charlie Lemay

Mars stationed direct on May 19, Libra on Monday, after being retrograde since March 1. In modern astrology, Mars is the planet of desire, motivation, drive, impetus, volition, and aggression, named for the Roman god of war.

Our society has Mars issues. We have too many wars. We spend too much money on wars, on police, and on imprisoning people. We also don't know the difference between need and want. We tend to want what hurts us and not want what helps us.

Mars is also about men. We train our men to be warriors, then seem surprised when they act like them.

The Mars retrograde journey has stirred up many questions, rocked the boat of relationships, and shaken up the life orientation of many people I've heard from. Mars retrograde at its best is a study in desire: in getting clear about what you want and why you want it.


During my coverage of Mars retrograde and related gender studies issues, several women have asked me what I have to say to men. But first I have something to say to everyone: men are people.

I say this because men are currently blamed for all of the world's problems. This is so prevalent that it's seemingly an unquestionable truth, perceived to be a fact of nature. Everything bad that happens is allegedly a man's fault. I don't deny the existence of the patriarchy, but it consists of a far more complex set of dynamics than most descriptions you will see.

The shape-shifting Archetypal Bad Man morphs from oil company CEO into the misogynist frat boy to the serial rapist into the emotional or sexual abuser to the womanizer to the psychological infant to the terrorist/active shooter to the deadbeat dad to the guy who will stick it anywhere to the state governor shutting down women's reproductive health services to the human trafficker to the hypocritical preacher, politician or warmonger.

Let's not forget the generic asshole, the jerk of a boss, the drunk, the guy who never puts the toilet seat up (or down), the dude who loves his car more than his girlfriend or children, and your everyday inhabitant of the fragile male ego.

The presence of the Archetypal Bad Man, the one whose values and conduct are so base he's not worth bothering with or acknowledging, or worse, not considered human, is looming everywhere. As a result, everyone with a penis is at least a little suspect.


If you are a man, you may find it extremely difficult not to take on some of this projection. However, I suggest you make a conscious choice of not taking responsibility for what you didn't do, that which is not yours or for who you are not. You don't have to accept the projections of others, especially those that would in any way deprive you of your humanity.

I have some suggestions for men and those people becoming men, which I would offer for all humans in search of their personhood. I offer these as ideas for your consideration, not as necessities or requirements. As ideas, they are focused on facilitating development into what you might describe as a self-actualized state.

Get to know yourself. I know, this seems obvious—but it's necessary to say in a society that is so committed to depriving people of self-knowledge, and where there are so many opportunities to forget. There exists a taboo against knowing who you are. Self-knowledge is considered a dangerous thing. Among those who lack self-knowledge, it certainly is. It's also an essential ingredient in freedom and the responsibility that comes with it.

Focus on your growth. Growth isn't just for little kids, puppies and kittens. Psychologically and emotionally, I would propose that growth has three basic elements: maturity, confidence, and self-esteem. These are different things, they are all closely related and they are all related to honesty. There's a severe shortage of these things in our society. They are equally meaningful, though I would say that of the three, the self-esteem crisis is one of the most serious issues facing our culture.

Know what you don't know. If you are clueless, that will make this fact all the more challenging to ascertain. Figuring out how little you know is one of the most liberating experiences of life. Ignorance, which has as its root the word "ignore"—an intentional, even forceful act—is not an excuse for anything. Its vast popularity is no excuse, either. That is different from lack of knowledge. To address that, you have to figure out what you don't know. This takes special sensitivity, because you need to notice your voids of knowledge without judging yourself.

Learn to look after yourself. By this I mean acquiring basic life skills that are quickly being forgotten in our "service-oriented" society. Learn how to shop for food, how to prepare meals, and how to establish and take care of your home. Learn how to wash your clothes and keep your house at least vaguely orderly. Learn how to take care of your body. Many men believe that it's a woman's role to do all of this for them. You're not learning this for their sake, however; you're learning it for your own sake.

Focus and master your talents. Pursue what you are good at, what is useful and what gives you pleasure. Note that some skills are to some people less "fun" but are also essential to a good life. I suggest you spend a significant portion of your time building your skills and accumulating knowledge, and putting them to use. This will make you a more well-rounded, self-reliant, and overall useful and productive person.

Take care of your health. This is a key aspect of looking after yourself—indeed, the most important. All the things you know can hurt you actually do. If you work with chemicals, know what they are and what they do—don't believe any claims of innocence by your company or by your boss. If you smoke, you are contaminating every cell in your body with every single drag of every cigarette—smoking is that efficient. The cigarettes you smoke are also deadly to the people you come into contact with (second-hand smoke) and the people they come into contact with (third-hand smoke). To quit, you may need to figure out why you smoke in the first place.

Learn to take care of women's bodies. If you're a man who has physical relationships with women, it's essential that you actually understand something about what a female body is and why it needs special care. Women's bodies are resilient, amazingly strong and do all kinds of fun and biologically fantastic things that men's bodies don't do. They're also more sensitive and more challenging to maintain. Rise above any ignorance and squeamishness you may have, or any sense that the woman's body is some alien "other."

Learn to negotiate sexual consent. That means having an authentic conversation in a sober state about what both partners want and whether sex is appropriate for you both at that particular time. This includes being real about your sexual history. Sex is negotiated on a per-event basis, not as a standing contract—even with your fiancée or wife. We are rapidly heading back into the time when there is no such thing as clear yes or clear no, but you don't need to go there. There's a lot more sex available without the integrity of a clear yes or clear no, but I don't suggest it's the kind of sex you want, and you can get in serious trouble without clarity. That puts a filter up —one made of respect and self-respect.

Keep it covered. Presume that all sex will include a condom, unless you specifically plan to create a child. You are responsible for the destiny of every single sperm cell your body produces. You are responsible for any pregnancy that you co-create. It does not matter if a woman says she is using birth control. Everyone needs to bring their own birth control to the table, and not put it off on anyone else. That means you.

If you're gay, accept that fact. If you're questioning, that's okay, too. Despite all the positive PR about being gay in recent years, many gay men still pretend to be ungay. If you're biologically and emotionally attracted to men and are not so attracted to women (or not attracted at all), then you're probably gay. There's no point being in denial, even if you don't understand why you are gay.

Bisexuality is normal. Having attractions to and fantasies about both men and women is normal, in the statistical sense—it's part of the norm. Many people of both sexes experience this (far more than you might imagine), and it does not make you gay. Along the way you will meet women who have attractions to both men and women—I suggest you treat this with the utmost respect. It's not your sex toy, and if you're ever invited into the sanctum of female-female sex, consider yourself fortunate indeed.



Deal with your homophobia. Your homophobia is not about that other guy —it's about you. Usually homophobia has a power source, an engine of some kind running it. It's up to you to figure out what that is.

Deal with your jealousy. The partners in your life are going to have attractions to others and others are going to have attractions to them. You are going to have attractions to people other than your partner. Make room in your relationships for the simple truth of this fact.

Your sexual desire is your property and your responsibility. It's not up to anyone else to provide you with sexual gratification. It's not the responsibility of women, no matter what anyone may say, think, or put into a music video. Your most available consensual sexual outlet is masturbation. It's more than about getting off; masturbation is an expression of your relationship to yourself. If you treat it that way, all forms of sex will become more relational and more about communication.

Your partners are not your property. You are not theirs. There is much confusion about this. Our society's whole relationship model is based on the presumed ownership of other people, which is so prevalent as to be taken for granted. The concept is inherent in everything from marriage to rape. This is the source of so much misery it's impossible to measure. Both sexes are trained to do this to other people. The only solution is to be your own person and to treat others as their own person. This takes bravery, enlightenment, and risking people thinking you're weird.

Love those who respect you. In the course of your life, you may fall in love with others who do not seem to love you back. You may put considerable energy into these seeming relationships. Unrequited love is a popular item on the menu of human diversions. This is worth looking at as early in life as possible. Who you love is your choice, and who loves you is their choice. I have found that we tend to love who and what we take care of. This is a profound gift of human psychology, and I suggest you be open to it working in all directions.

You will not live forever. Get used to that fact. Make your days, your seasons, and your years count. Notice the passage of time. There are some who say you're not really alive until you have a conscious relationship with death. This relationship will help you value your time more consciously, and calculate the risks you want to take.

I have three book suggestions. These are the three books that helped me understand being and becoming a man, and understand women, more than any others. They are: Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, and Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man by Susan Faludi. They are all worth their weight in pure gold.


The full-length edition of this article appears at PlanetWaves.net/men.

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