Toxic masculinity feeds rape culture as having sex with a woman becomes a rite of passage into manhood, says the writer. Picture: Virgilatte Gwangwa/Pretoria News

Toxic masculinity and its gender patterns is hurting us, our humanity and society’s ability to trust us, writes Kyle Lewis.

“Okay class and specifically men, let’s talk about masculinity.”

I leaned forward in anticipation as I’ve always found the concept of masculinity appealing.

The other men leaned back, sighing as they were preparing themselves mentally to hear something that might trigger them. One guy stared into space while others began scrolling through their phones but my attention was piqued.

I have always thought that as young men we need to interrogate the masculinity and understand all its facets. When I was younger, I used to think of masculinity as boxer shorts and certain thoughts and perceptions about what it meant to be a man and how a woman should be, but that is changing.

South Africa needs to talk about our masculinity issues and how toxic masculinity hurts us too as men.

Toxic masculinity refers to the “socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.” It is more than just biology.

Toxic masculinity and its gender patterns – how we are expected to behave in society as men – is hurting us, our humanity and society’s ability to trust us.

Toxic masculinity feeds rape culture as having sex with a woman becomes a rite of passage into manhood. In communities where toxic masculinity is rife, all self-worth and social status depends on the number of women you have had sex with.

That means without sex, a man is denied his path to “manhood”- which many feel is a birthright. With this mindset women hold the keys to manhood.

Men get violent when they encounter sexual rejection because it becomes a rejection of everything they are.

Toxic masculinity discounts the fact that we need women in our lives to be ourselves fully. It sees a confident woman who refuses to be controlled. Men then respond to this confidence and female empowerment with physical and sexual abuse.

Toxic masculinity teaches boys and young men that women are possessions to be controlled.

Men seek to control and label those who are seen as acting in a way different to misogynistic expectations. They are called sluts and hoes.

Toxic masculinity has men constantly sex-starved and dictating to women what they must do to satisfy our needs, while we don’t return the favour.

I wish that as men we can reject toxic masculinity and build identities that are not dependent on sexualising women in order to define ourselves.

Violence against women will continue for as long as our views of masculinity continue to be defined by sexual conquests.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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