Spend a nanosecond on social media these days and you’re pretty much guaranteed a handful of “toxic masculinity” posts floating amongst the “last thing you ate” and “color of your underwear” posts. I’ve recently seen a few such posts like the one where a dad is standing in a field flanked by his very young sons, all wielding huge guns while his tiny daughter stands empty handed in the middle of this machismo display. Apparently, he was a teensy bit thin skinned and he got quite an ego burn while watching a nice little Gillette ad that invites men to be kind role models for young boys. There was also the post about a man on an airplane who body shamed a woman who in turn immediately confronted the man and then posts a less than flattering pic of the man telling the world about his asshattery. And then there are the endless stream of #metoo posts about all the ways toxic masculinity consumes, abuses and destroys women.
Against my better judgment, I still read the comments (please, don’t read the comments) and it seems like a particular kind of comment is showing up more frequently as part of the backlash against toxic masculinity. Some version of “if I were married to that jerk, I’d become a lesbian for sure!” or “guys like this ass make a great case for being a lesbian” and a personal favorite “with men all over Youtube lighting farts on fire, maybe it’s time I gave lesbianism a try!!”
Now I imagine the women (who by their profile appearances identify as straight) think they are just being funny and likely believe they are friends to the gays. I get it, ladies, you’re just trying to get a laugh, but sometimes even well intended jokes fall flat. And more than a lame joke, some people might even think that a bad dude can turn a gal into a lesbian – and as it turns out that just stokes the toxic fires of some men. Let’s unpack this a little more.
I am a lesbian. I like women. Well, one woman to be precise, my wife, but I am configured in such a way as to find women attractive in a romantic way. I am not attracted to my wife because I hate men or because a man hurt or abused me. I am not a lesbian because some men are assholes or stupid. And I didn’t fall in love with a woman because I’d just don’t want to live with a man. I am a lesbian because I am a woman who is sexually attracted to a woman. This part of my humanity is not predicated not a negative response to men, per se, but it is a grounded in a positive repose to women. My sexuality is not caused by or in any other way defined by men. My sexuality is oriented toward women.
The only significant relationships I have had with men were with kind, gentle, goofy, smart and entirely masculine in their own UNtoxic way guys. One is the the creative, smart, compassionate father of my child, the others with really nice guys I met when I was MUCH younger and really confused about who I was. Relationships with these men, or avoiding relationships with toxic men, did not turn me into a lesbian.
There are men in my life now – good friends, close friends, who are all, in one way or another, the epitome of masculine, just not the toxic variety. Since moving to The Netherlands, I have met so many really nice, smart, kind and creative guys who have not been bred on the hyper macho narrative of toxic masculinity. And I have the immense good fortune to call as my dearest friends a handful of mixed-gender, long time married couples and guess what, no matter how nice, funny, smart or cute the guys are, no matter how perfectly loving their relationships are, not once have I thought,”with guys like this, maybe I should give being straight a try.”
It. Doesn’t. Work. That. Way.
So friends, the next time you read a post about, or worse, encounter a man exhibiting toxic traits, DO call him out on it. Speak up about what behavior is unacceptable for him (or anyone for that matter), tell others if necessary, but please do not roll your eyes, throw your hands up and say “men like you are why lesbians exist.”
Lesbians do not exist because of men. Lesbians exist because of women.