Thoughts On Toxic Masculinity

As of late the words Toxic Masculinity is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, from the Gillette ad, to word of mouth. It seems everywhere you go on social media and the internet in general people are analyzing, discussing, and dissecting what toxic masculinity means and how to promote healthy masculinity and what that looks like.

I’m not professing to have all the answers, however, perhaps some discussion about how I look at things can be a worthwhile addition to the conversation.

I think a large part of toxic masculinity stems from a lack of sex positivity, and sex positive parenting. The Idea of sex and power has always been linked to masculinity, more so than femininity, and I think this is where things jumped the shark. When I was growing up, sex was never talked about in my house, but when I got to highschool sex, and sexuality was talked about in hushed whispers. Who was fucking who, who got a blow job from who, and even “the” event where a (then 18) year old girl got filmed having sex with a local sports star – said video still exists somewhere too (even 20 years later).

At that time in my life, I was still a virgin (and would be until I was 19), but I can tell you one of the over-riding thoughts was if you were still a virgin, you were a loser. Men should be desired, athletic, and sexually active. Those of us that deviated from the norm (not into sports, geeky as fuck, and awkward around women on a whole – doubly so if I had a crush). Rather than discussing sex positivity and why it was OK to be sexually active, or even a virgin, it was simply something that was never discussed, and at that age, peer pressure and judgment had a huge effect on how I conducted myself. I thought that if I could just get laid, or have a pretty girl show interest in me, I would suddenly be more of a man. Vanity, ego and a lack of a positive male role model can really skew your perception of things at that age.

Something else I think needs to be considered is encouragement of healthy vulnerability. We’ve gotten to a point in social conversation where many people are talking about sharing of emotions, thoughts and really dissecting root causes of undesirable behavior and other predatory activities. This is a great thing, calling out behavior that is damaging to others, and how we can either receive closure, reparation or other solutions.

What we fail to do with regularity is acknowledge men who go out of thier way to display or discuss more positively socially acceptable traits. I know what some of you are thinking – “why reward behavior or acknowledge it when it should be the norm?” Simply put? because it isn’t the norm. Emotions like sadness, fear, and even some cases love are joked about, made fun of and the men that display these are even jokingly teased.

I am by no means saying we should all become completely emotional creatures, at the mercy of raw emotion. However, should the men in your life talk about these things, a bit of encouragement, or even acceptance can go a long way to making them feel more comfortable about seeking help and discussion about it, rather than bottling it up and having influence over negatively processing them.

I am a survivor of mental, and physical abuse, as well as rape and consent violations from both sexes. when I tried to report these things, the police basically laughed at me, my “friends” at the time ignored and laughed at me, I had a hell of a time processing grief, rage, anger, fear, and felt like less of a man for crying in front of people that were supposed to be my friends. It took me a long time to process and overcome these things by myself, I went through depression, 3 separate suicide attempts, and a battle with addiction before I came out the other side, barely. I can’t help but think looking back, that if I had had a support structure of people willing to deal with, and encourage healthy vulnerability around these things that the length it took me to “get over” and process would have been far less painful and destructive.

Labelling certain things as masculine, feminine, or even childlike in a negative context is also something I feel contributes to toxic masculinity. I think on a whole displaying stereotypically feminine or child like traits as a man is something I think a lot of people label as negative or undesirable.

When I was in my early twenties, and really much of my life up to that point, I didn’t have many traditionally masculine interests or hobbies. I don’t do sports like football or hockey, I read Sci-fi, play video games and get knee deep in all sort of fandoms. I felt ashamed that hundreds of miles from home, trapped in an abusive relationship I turned to online gaming and escapism to deal with my reality. Something I loved and enjoyed, and used to cope, ended up having me labeled as a “faggot”, “loser”, and a sissy. In that reality, these words were negative to me, the few things I still enjoyed and used to define me as a person were weaponized. Not only were they weaponized by my male friends, but by just about every female in my life as well. Women wanted to be around and associate with these “traditional” men. To this day, I can’t enjoy basketball or football the way I used to since I see them as reminders of just how unworthy I was of calling myself a man. (I understand now, how wrong I was, but old habits you know.)

It is refreshing now, to see geek culture and other non-traditional “adult” and Masculine pursuits more widely accepted, but we have a long way to go. Encourage men in your life to pursue and enjoy these things to their fullest. Keep this in mind though: Disliking something out of personal preference is much different than condemning a person negatively due to a biased thought process.

There are many other issues I think contributes to toxic masculinity, From body image and acceptance, all the way to nature vs. nurture. However, as I see it these are a few things not often talked about, or discussed at large in favor of other more socially visible parts of the issue.

Just adding a few thoughts on a topic that will no doubt be discussed for a long time to come.

Regards,

Syn.

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Home, Community, and Understanding.

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” — Christian Morganstern

Coming home to a small town after a large event is an odd thing, if you’ve never been to one, I don’t know if I can rightly explain the sense of belonging, community, and togetherness.

One of the presenters at Wicked in the West had said when they leave an event they crawl back into their cave and are alone again until it is time to “peek out”. I didn’t really understand this until I had time to think about it, and now I understand completely.

For us, it’s hard to keep in touch with people: work, the gym, minimal time with my girl as it is – our random phone calls, talking back and forth on social media it’s all a way to keep connected. However, I must admit, I miss talks till all hours of the morning over scotch, hugs, and not feeling like an outsider because of my/our fetishes or play. Even the act of entertaining, which we love isn’t something we get to do often, if ever.

The great part about being who we are, is that we are out, we make very little (if any) distinctions between vanilla and kink life, because of that I’m known as the slightly “odd” friend. There are parts of our lives I can’t discuss in good conscience from authority transfer to S&M on a regular basis.  I’m at home with this, and truth be told, we are currently moving towards helping create a local community, or at least increasing the miniscule one we have.

For those of you in a larger community, I offer this suggestion.

Quit taking things for granted, quit complaining and start contributing. Sure, there are issues – predators, drama, personality conflicts, and good old fashion disagreements. Is there a perfect solution? Hell no, however, at the very least do your best to not make whatever the current issue is, worse.

Realize that you HAVE a community of like-minded individuals available to you, for munches, play parties, and learning opportunities to explore things YOU find important. Even if it’s only 4 or 5 people who get together and practice rope ties. Your micro-community is there to support one another, and find joy in things that others can’t (or won’t) understand.

Reach out to people, try and find common ground, morals and beliefs. Be compassionate, fair, and non-judgemental. Have boundaries, sure, but be welcoming, inclusive and kind.

Be a builder, be engaged, and be thankful you have a home where people understand you.

In Leather,

 

Syn

 

 

Wicked Trifecta – Or 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad.

We just returned from Edmonton and the Wicked in the West conference. It was celebrating it’s 3rd year, and this was our second time attending.

Our second go ’round with wicked can be captured with a statement I thought of while in the car home. “Our first Wicked was like finding long lost family, this one was like coming home to them.”

I attended many of the classes that focused on the Journey of why we do what we do, how we got there and how to foster community. As per usual I learned a lot, about myself, my authority transfer, my Friends, and family. To each and every one of you, Thank you for having the hard discussions, letting us into your lives, and your transparency.

I have to also take a minute and recognize all of the WCPE and WCBB competitors, it takes a huge amount of courage to open yourself up and let people (in some cases relative strangers) put you under a microscope. Your commitment to sharing your passion, dynamic, and expertise is worthy of so much respect.

I have to confess, I do feel slightly guilty about not being able to meet as many new (to me) people as I would have liked. In the organized chaos of coming and going, play, and reconnecting with our western Brothers and Sisters, I felt a bit selfish for not being able to carve out more time.

Last year We attended with the intent of experiencing as much as we could at a Con far from home, meeting people, and learning from as many people as we could, this year for me, Wicked felt different in a few ways but no less game changing, and certainly caused no small amount of self reflection.

I learned the importance of family and being present with those we love for their milestones, Thank you for including me, and allowing me to share in your moment, and everything after.

I learned that I care little about judging pasts, but care deeply about how it helped turn them into humans I have taken to caring for a great deal in a short period of time. Thank you for your vulnerability, your wisdom and welcoming us as family. I will say it again – One day we’ll sit down and I will hopefully be able to share my past with you, so you will understand.

I learned the value of connective energy – from a few people, thank you for allowing me to share your energy, your joy and your catharsis through our scene (with one beautiful human) and being there for the others while you were having hooks thrown.

I learned the value of working on being a hedonist a little more, be in the moment, enjoy things for what they are. My head fuck things up a lot – and sometimes I need to listen to those that love me, and those that challenge those preconceptions I have. 10/10 would be less awkward. (Ok, I’m still going to be awkward, but I’m more OK with it now)

I learned the value of accepting a compliment at face value, I’m lucky to have friends in my life that see things more clearly than I do sometimes, and need to accept good council all the time, not just when it suits my comfort or narrative.

I learned I have things to do, and things I want to accomplish rather than just existing, I have found my way to continue to give back, I promise to try and live up to the idea of being a lynchpin because I think I understand now.

I learned that though I may not always agree with my Leather Family, We are still family, and I continue to be impressed, humbled and blessed to have you all in my life.

I learned the value of second impressions, especially when they are  close to chosen family sometimes the person you first meet, isn’t the same person the second time.

I learned that my girl is even more amazing than I thought, and although people may come and go, she is my constant, unwavering partner in life, love and so much more.

There are other lessons, other thoughts, and memories, but these are the ones I have been chewing over in my coconut the past week. I am sure as I unpack more I will have more learning, lessons and love to reflect on.

Thank you Nelson and imp for giving all of us a place to come home to every year and reunite, meet, and learn together. It’s a gift I can’t adequately thank you for, ever.

So that was part of my Wicked Family experience.

I learned.

I laughed.

I grew.

I was loved.

In Leather,

Jason/Syn

That Tiny Voice Gets Louder.

Conferences are interesting things.

Classes, people, Organized chaos, family, and friends, new and old.

For me these are just a few of the reasons I go to them. As a wise friend of mine said “That’s my favorite part of conferences, not the classes, the moments spent over a scotch or a meal, just visiting with people important to you.”

There’s the problem for me – My social anxiety lies to me a lot leading up to events like we have in just 9 days. Over the last year and a bit My (our) journey has put me in the path of some of the finest people I have ever met. hg

It’s hard to come back to the middle of nowhere and just sit it out until we can be reunited with Family and Friends again. Disconnection, and social anxiety sometimes has me questioning whether the connections I feel to people are real on their end too.

I’ve learned to write in order to express thoughts and emotions I can’t unpack inside my own head. This is both a good and bad thing though…. I write pretty clinically, I have a lot of time to think, measure, and decide how best to word or say something. It helps me see things in a different way, I can be a very spur of the moment and emotional/extroverted in person. You never really know whats going to come out of my mouth in pursuit of a laugh. After all, if you make ’em laugh, you have a way better chance of making them like you. Because of the disconnect between me as a person, and me as a writer – I absolutely suck at bridging the two together.

I see Dance card threads, people connecting, flirting, all the other stuff that happens around a gathering of us being imminent. It’s a piss off to be stuck between being excited, unable to express that, or involve myself in things I want to, Not to mention feel apart because my head is being an asshole.

Anxiety and awkwardness seem to be the norm for me, it’s less with my girl, but still there too, I’ve always struggled with it, it just seems amplified around conventions and the longer we go without seeing family and friends.

Some days I wish I could be more of a hedonist, more able to express things, and confident enough to do so.

Anxiety is a bitch.

It’s a tiny voice that gets louder some days.

It lies to you.

Integrity.

Integrity is a strange concept to most.

Many know the word, even more use it, but few really know how to define their version of it.

Folks in Leather circles also tout integrity as one of the standard core principles, but really what does it mean?

I can’t profess to tell you what integrity will mean to everyone, but I can tell you what it means to me, and how it relates to my leather path.

Integrity for me, contains two parts – being honest, and having strong moral principles.

Honesty is a no brainer for me. I will admit in my distant past I was less than an honest person, and it cost me dearly.  I used to surround myself with less than honest people, and so lies, deceit, and political games became my norm, couple that with the circles I ran in, the behaviors I indulged in, and the people who encouraged it, and it’s no wonder I hit bottom and bounced. I’ll get back to this later on, but I wanted to get this one out of the way for the time being.

Strong Moral Principles.

It hasn’t been an easy road to develop those, Just like my honesty, in my younger years I existed in a morally grey area, I lived a life that, in order to survive I continually compromised my morals to fit in, to make a living, and even just to feel like part of the people I chose to associate with. Cheating, lying and using people for my own ends was the norm.

I hit bottom, and disappeared, I had to reinvent myself because I didn’t really like the person I had become.

I won’t go into the proceeding years, but I will say I took a long hard look at my values, morals, and how far I would really go to protect the person I wanted to become.

So this brings us back to the two things I consider integral to Integrity. Honesty, and strong moral principles.

In my life I expect honesty from myself and others, I don’t word vomit everything to be honest or transparent, however if you ask me a question I will answer you truthfully – You might not like the answer but you’ll get it. I expect the same honesty from the people I choose to trust and let in. I also Do my utmost to be honest with my partners and family about needs, wants, desires. Honesty isn’t a part time thing, it’s all or nothing, in my mind it requires you to be comfortable with being a villian in many eyes, and strong enough to stand by your convictions.

Being of strong moral principle is a little more of an ephemeral thing. Everyone’s morals can and will be different, so I will speak from my own standpoint and beliefs.

I have a few core morals – conducting yourself ethically in relationships (ethical monogamy, and nonmonogamy), honesty, honor, transparency, and doing the right thing. There are MANY more, but these are some of the ones that spring to mind in regards to lifestyle context.

I tell my girl all most everything in regards to what is going on in my life, who messages, what we talked about etc etc…. The potential of new partners – play, sexual or otherwise is something that should be discussed on the ground floor in the interests of honesty and transparency. I also take the same stance with my girlfriend as much as able, and again to be transparent – less so in terms of scenes I may have, however I don’t hide them by any means. I also take a similar stance regarding friendships and acquaintances – If the information is relevant to them, I often share it, regardless of the outcome.

Doing the right thing is something that I think encompasses all of the above, however, Also the easiest to bend to fit your own world view. In my past I hurt a lot of people because my moral compass was quite literally broken as fuck. As I got older I vowed to try and do what was right, and it’s all I continue to try and do daily. It took a lot of work to get here, and I’ll be damned if I ever undo the work I’ve put into it.

Integrity is one of those core leather principles I hold dearly, and many profess to do so as well, some are genuine, and some like to think they are.

I really do try and surround myself with people who closely resemble and echo my thoughts on integrity and other Leather values, the trick is finding them and recognizing it in them. In my travels I have found many of those people and I am honored to call family, tribe, and love them as hard as I can.

In Leather,

 

Syn

 

 

Tools, Not Toys.

Not so recently, my opinion on Tools for BDSM activities has changed, I’ve gone quite minimal for a couple of reasons, which I’ll get into in a minute.

Right now, if you were to watch us pack for an event you might be surprised, my gear is simple: Black Jeans or Road Leather pants, Vest, random t-shirt, and my cane bag. That’s it.

Inside the Cane bag there’s a fairly impressive and growing collection, all from one vendor: Badass Canes. I have two other tools in there, Motherfucker and Oh SHIT!

Now the reason my Tool bag is so spartan is actually because of a thought I had a long while ago. I basically look at S&M as a hobby, and I’ve never been one to Cheap out on hobbies.

Full disclosure – I think the BDSM on a budget classes have their place, they’re a great place to get your feet wet and try out things for a minimal investment. However, my over-riding thought is that if you’ve decided to get serious about ANY hobby, you should eventually dedicate some serious money into quality tools.

Tobacco, scotch, vaping, drone racing, paintball/air soft, even photography. All popular hobbies/collections with functional application, but eventually you have to sink some cash into quality tools to improve the experience. I have a few friends who even knit or work with fibers, I’m sure they can tell you the investment in proper equipment is not only worth it, but improves the experience and end product by light years.

Using this logic I am of the opinion that, in order to create something extraordinary for myself and my bottom, I owe it to them to have high quality equipment. Picture a dark and dingy Kink.com video (we’ve all seen them), the bottom is squirming, yelping and sweat and blood is flowing off them, the dingy floor collecting all the various fluids, the screams echoing off the stone walls and floor – the tall dark and mysterious top is kicking them, punching, and taunting – then as a climactic finale they pull out the neon green and orange dog chew toy and proceed to swing it with wild abandon.

Would that ruin the carefully constructed fantasy from professionals? Probably.

We talk so often about fulfilling wishes and desires and carefully constructing scenes, but I find on a whole we rarely realize that the tools you use, from functionality to aesthetic is rarely considered – it’s all part of the scene you create, and personally I’d much rather have one REALLY well made tool, than a bag full I don’t give a shit about because they’re cheap.

Again: Quality tools are an investment, and yes based on the scene you’re creating or your level of involvement budget toys do have their place. All I hope you think about is how does this hobby stack up to other ones you have? Does it deserve a bit of an investment?

Just my 2 cents and a random thought.

 

Syn

Patterns.

I’ve written a bit about energy exchange in the past, and the give and take that people have both in the lifestyle and in day to day life. Using positive and negative energy to our advantage or detriment is something that, if you’re unaware of, can dictate your success or failures with partners or even your chosen role.

Which brings me to something I’ve been reflecting on for the last little bit.

Patterns.

Humans thrive on patterns, whether you believe it or not. We hear it every day “They had a pattern of behavior”, “A pattern of abuse”, and other patterns. The trick is recognizing them and learning how to break a negative pattern.

Personally, many moons ago, I had a pattern of the type of partner I would seek out, and honestly I didn’t even realize it at the time. Looking back it’s very clear.

Abusive partner I could “save” them from? Check.

Minimal work on Loving themselves or self eteem? Check.

unhealthy coping skills? Check.

Vapid, Jealous, and mentally or physically abusive? Check.

Now all these things aside, I had my own issues to deal with, which I have gone into at length elsewhere – The important part was realizing my pattern and trying to break it.

Originally I placed the blame for my patterns squarely on others, it’s so much easier to blame others for your circumstances than put the work in to change them. In the end, the truth of the matter is that -I- was (and am) the common denominator.

I took the initiative to change my thinking, and really analyze how I deal with people and situations.

Am I being true to myself?

Am I openly and honestly communicating my needs, wants, and desires?

Am I seeking relationships that will enrich my life and help with personal growth?

Do the people in my life add anything of value, be it joy, friendship or companionship?

Am I being honest with myself about what kind of person I am?

Are my interpersonal/coping skills the problem?

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

On the path of mastery one of the greatest things I ever made peace with was the fact that human beings on a whole are imperfect by nature (or nurture). I might not be able to control how they choose to act, live, and respond, However, I can choose to compromise with them.

Does my Partner make me happy? Hell yes she does, she adds to my life and my journey, but she does NOT define it, or control it. I see too much of people saying BDSM or power exchange “makes them whole”, or defines them, or their partner is used to define who they are as a person.

I used to think my partner, and my friends defined who I was as a person – that isn’t so, They do enrich my life, and expose me to a connection of something bigger than myself, however, at the end of the day I am the one responsible for my own joy, happiness, and how I view and interact with the world.

Dominant or submissive, it shouldn’t matter, YOU must strive to be the best PERSON you can be, not a label, and not relying on others to define you as a person. If that is the pattern you find yourself in perhaps it’s time to break it.

Patterns can be positive or negative but if you’re caught in a cycle of drama, destructive relationships, or even a cycle that stunts your growth, the only limiting factor is you.

YOU control your fate:

Not your Family.

Not your Friends.

Not your Dominant or Submissive.

Take the responsibility to analyze your patterns, and change them if you need to, ask for help, find a mentor, do what you need to.

Be authentic, be true to yourself, be courageous enough to break the patterns, and courageous enough to stop pointing fingers and start changing yourself for the better.

Regards,

 

Syn