Growing up, I had some weird ideas about men. These ideas stemmed from the purity culture that I was surrounded by, which simultaneously idolized and outlawed anything to do with sexuality and relationships.
When it came time for me to actually be in a relationship and get married, there was a lot I didn’t know about men. Here are some of the things I’ve learned!
Men have feelings
Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Well it isn’t when you have grown up being taught that men are emotionless statues that occasionally grunt to ask for food or sex! It took me a long time to wrap my head around the fact that men have emotions besides anger. Let alone that they have the capacity for passion, love, joy, etc!
Men aren’t inherently immoral because of their sex drives
I grew up being taught that men were bad and women were good, because men were heavily interested in sex and women weren’t (lots of stereotypes there, huh?). Now I know better, and beyond that reject the Gnostic notion that anything of the body (e.g. a libido) is bad and only the spirit is good. Sex drives are part of God’s design for men (and women) and are not in and of themselves immoral.
They have self-control
This was a sensitive one for me, and one that I talked about in my book. I was groomed to believe sexual assault was always the fault of the women because of how she acted or dressed or what she said…really any number of excuses. Men were never at fault because they didn’t have self-control and were easily stimulated.
Now I know that men do have self-control, as proven by the fact that my husband and I both waited to have sex until we were married. He never once crossed a line because of his “visual nature.” I know many more men like him now that I trust and respect. They have taught me that there is no excuse for a man raping a woman, ever.
I thought men were natural born leaders growing up. They that had everything they needed to be successful and powerful. This goes back to the emotionless statue notion where men don’t cry or get overly happy, they just exist.
Since then, I have learned that men are truly complex, emotionally beautiful creatures. I’ve stood alongside and journeyed through life with men who suffer from depression, anxiety, body image issues, imposter syndrome, and all sorts of other insecurities. I’ve seen that they are human; nothing more, nothing less. I have more respect for them because of this, not less.
They are all different
In my youth, I saw very few different types of men. Hard working farmers, dads, drunkards, rapists, and deadbeats. I rarely saw a side of men not born from family obligation or immorality. It took me by surprise when, as an adult, I saw my husband light up working with audio, something he is truly passionate about. Or read a male friend’s fiction story. Or listen to stories of something that a guy really enjoys.
I think society as a whole suppresses and shoehorns men, but purity culture even more so. I wish I could go back and impart on my young mind that men are human too so that I could have encouraged the ones around me to share the things they kept bottled up to fit the mold laid out for them.