Lads and people with a penis… It’s time we talked about sex.
And relationships. And well… Masculinity in general. Because often we don’t talk about our problems to each other, and that needs to change.
What does it mean to be a man?
Stop me if you’ve ever felt, as a man or a person with a penis, pressure to be horny and to be having sex. If you’ve ever been shamed for not being confident, strong, or even dominating. If you’ve ever been told to “suck it up” and “take it on the chin” when you’re upset, or that “real men don’t cry”.
Even if it’s not in these specific words, many of us have been confronted with these ideas at some point in our lives. These are the beliefs of stereotypical masculinity, and none of them are true. You don’t need to be athletic or aggressive to be a man. You don’t need to hide your emotions or be the breadwinner of your family. Hell, you don’t even need to have a penis. Masculinity isn’t about biology, its about identity, and it is ever changing.
Stereotypical masculinity puts us in a box, telling us who we are and what we should be. And when we don’t conform? We are shamed and made fun of. We develop all sorts of misconceptions about sex and performance that can impact our self-esteem, our relationships, and more, as a defence mechanism to survive in this environment. Our desire to conform to stereotypical masculinity can push us to do things that harm others, and ultimately ourselves. This is toxic, isn’t what real masculinity is, and contributes heavily to the abysmal mental health of men across the world.
Navigating masculinity in the modern day is difficult. You are likely juggling a mix of these unspoken traditional expectations, being exposed to shaming rhetoric that blames all men for the impacts of toxic masculinity, while also trying to discover your authentic self and who you are. It’s complicated and confusing, and can leave men adrift in a sea of uncertainty.
Modern masculinity highlights the strength of knowing your limits, the value in being compassionate, and the power of honest and authentic expression.
It isn’t wrong to resonate with certain “typically” masculine traits. Being a man is being authentic to yourself. Do you enjoy sports and going to the gym with your mates? Power to you! Would you rather stay indoors and play games? That’s awesome. Do you want to wear jeans and a jersey, but also feel comfortable in a dress and heels? Hell yes! Are you attracted to men, women, both, or neither? Fantastic! You can be a man and be all of these things and more.
We all need help sometimes, and seeking support isn’t weakness. Knowing when to ask for help, acknowledging when you’re struggling or out of your depth, is strength itself. Healthy Male has been helping Australian men navigate masculinity for generations, and has dozens of resources available on everything from premature ejaculation to testicular health. If you want to seek support for your mental health, visit Beyond Blue, or MensLine Australia, or visit your local GP to talk about mental health options. For youth friendly STI testing in Boorloo/Perth check out our referral resource to see what locations near you or for regional WA visit the Get the Facts website.
Male Sexual Health
One of my favourite questions to ask boys during workshops is “what do you think the average penis size is?”. I have gotten responses varying from 4 inches to 7 inches, and there is almost always one boy who can practically pinpoint the exact number. It usually leads to a great discussion, but the fact that question is even associated with what it means to be a man demonstrates just how closely tied sex and being sexually successful is to being a “man”. And that is a gateway to all sorts of negative thoughts, self destructive behaviours, and even outright dangerous actions.
Not only this, but misinformation around sex is rampant. For example, did you know that all condoms are the same length, regardless of size? That’s right, it is actually the width of the condom that changes, so even if you don’t think you have a particularly large penis, you may need a larger sized condom. A properly fitted condom is comfortable, so if it hurts or is uncomfortable, try a different size. WAAC provides free Find Your Size condom packs, a sampling of lots of different sizes so you can find one that suits you.