When we started Authentic Masculinity in 2015, we explored Kipling’s poem, “If”. That poem begins, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”
All over the world, today, women as well as some men are losing their heads and blaming it on you, on me, on men. Keeping your head is all about self-mastery. Self-mastery is the key to being an authentic man. We, as authentic men, master our appetites to protect women from ourselves.
Men and women are meant to cooperate, not to compete. We are created differently for many reasons and we are wise to discover those reasons. And yes, ladies, men are very different from women, but the two sexes are complementary, not antagonistic. Here are some thoughts on why.
Let’s start with testosterone. Men have lots of it. Nature gave it to us to help us do what we must to feed and protect our families and to defeat the dangers the natural world presents. Women like men with testosterone, even though sometimes that testosterone makes men a little hard to handle. In fact, Hollywood makes billions of dollars because ticket sales show pretty conclusively that women actually like the bad guy. In the words of my four year old daughter watching Han Solo steal a kiss from Princess Leia in “Star Wars,” “Daddy, I like that bad man.” Quite honestly, so do most women. Books have been written on why.
And gentlemen, we want to be what women want. We want to be what women need. Sometimes women say yes to us, sometimes women say no to us. Is it always straightforward? No, but it’s our privilege to figure out what yes and no mean. So how do we know? How do you know when yes means yes and when yes means… no? Authentic men are responsible for knowing the difference. It can be confusing, but the difference starts with taking the time to form a relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with a woman, you will never know the difference between yes and no, and if that is the case, the answer is always no. A relationship does not mean you merely know her name. A relationship requires time and attention to detail. A relationship has the kind of detail that gives clues to when yes means yes. If a woman says yes before your good judgment tells you it’s time to say yes, you are obligated to say no. Having the strength and good judgment to say no politely without insulting the woman who has said yes is what a gentleman does.
The media show us sensitive, timid, impotent men presented as intelligent and kind. Testosterone makes us strong, aggressive, and virile; it doesn’t make us stupid and cruel. And, incidentally, genuine kindness descends from strength, not weakness. More than ever before, women need authentic men to know when yes means no. All too often, it’s easy to get caught up in an emotional moment when reason escapes us. We lose our bearings and can’t tell when yes means no. When you find yourself in that awkward moment, when yes means no, it is the authentic man who sees it is not the time to press his advantage. It doesn’t mean that women don’t know what they want, but sometimes the timing isn’t right. Not every woman will thank you for stopping. Some women will get downright offended and offensive. But in that case, you can be thankful you avoided a mistake you didn’t need. But the woman who isn’t offended, who recognizes your gentlemanly restraint for what it is? She may be worth getting to know better. You might have the beginnings of a relationship, there. And who knows? It might even mean a future where yes really means yes.
Take a moment to enjoy an interesting 3-minute video by Professor Jordan Peterson, “Why Women Go After Bad Boys,”
and a very good song by Bruce Springsteen, “Secret Garden”, that captures some of the complexity of yes and no between the sexes.
In the meantime, don’t stop being a tough gentleman with good judgment. You are the kind of men who will rescue the world.