I find it interesting that no men submitted a piece for this issue on the Human Body. Is this just coincidence? I dont’ think so. So why then? Well, it is certainly not very masculine to speak of one’s body. I think men experience a lot of shame about their body in their own ways. Actually, I don’t think men know what to do with their bodies.
Through centuries men have been fighting-warriors and sexual-procreators. Times have changed, but men are lost. I’m not saying that all men have to offer is sex and fighting, but I’m not sure men know what is expected of their bodies in our day and age. Women have had to fight hard to be seen and experienced as equal. Women have had to fight not to be seen as sexual objects. Women have come to embrace their bodies, all shapes and sizes, as well as celebrating child birth, breastfeeding and holding the child. Many might not embrace their bodies, but at least there is a movement of sorts and support for women in this direction. But I don’t see what kind of celebration men have had in terms of their body.
Men are now told to stop fighting, yet asked to die in numbers at war. Men are told to be “nice” to their partners and yet forget how to be sexual. Focusing on the body for heterosexual men also seems to breed homophobia, as though only gay men can be body-focused. Obviously there are exceptions to all of this, but it is an interesting phenomenon and I believe it greatly impacts the 21st Century male. When we look at the powerful sense of “being” the human body brings to experience, a man also needs to appreciate and experience his body in ways that make him feel alive. I’m not going to go into all the current societal ways that men express their physicality, but we can easily look around and see that men are physical. Boys can be very physical and need men that can help them embrace their physical being. Is this happening?
Men, in many cultures, are seen as the protectors, or they actually are the protectors. This creates a great deal of anxiety as a man always feels the pressure of death – death of the self who cannot provide, and death of the body that cannot work, cannot fight, cannot protect. Men in some ways cannot embrace their bodies as they would collapse from anxiety. Ernest Becker, in his book The Denial of Death, discusses quite poignantly the anal stage of childhood and how a child’s fascination with this disgusting aspect of their body is a greater metaphor for the reality of death and decay. We are going to die and the physical body is going to die. Men are asked to be superheros, and yet they are going to die. Men do not embrace their bodies because it is too scary, and they do not embrace their bodies because they are not given permission any longer to work out that anxiety through work, sex, and play, but instead sit in offices and/or are asked to be polite. Men are dying.