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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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

 

 

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

Lets Create Something.

So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about something a few people have said to me.

“I couldn’t handle the way you play, I’m not ready for that level.”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get this gist.

The public play that most are exposed to are Dot and I together and truth be told I beat the hell out of her, because We like it. I’m a sadist and she is (among other things) my masochist. Canes, heavy rough body play, blood, spit, the list goes on. It’s hot as hell and we both need the release. However, what people don’t see is the softer side, or less physical activities.

Sensory Deprivation and sensation play, Needles and Needle play, mind fucks, Spanking, forced orgasms and orgasm denial, service, and bootblacking, the list goes on.

I’m adept at much more than just rough body play and other more violent and fucked up activities, I LOVE getting responses, whimpers, facial expressions, gasps, giggles and the connection that comes with it.

Too much I see people pigeonholed into one thing being their thing – the whip person, the rope person, the toy whore, the knife person. I am more than just a one trick pony, I truly believe that connection over a shared activity is much more important than the intensity of the activity, it’s about creating something together that is fun, satisfying, and beautiful together.

Before allowing yourself to pigeonhole someone, or being pigeonholed, I’d highly advise you look beyond a list of fetishes, or your preconceived notions about them. I for one hope that people realize I’m not just the heavy body play/cane guy, I have a whole world of other BDSM activites I enjoy and am quite proficient at. I want to share that with people and help create something we can both carry with us forward.

Regards,

 

Syn

Mentors Vs. The Cult of Personality.

When I first started dipping my toes into the wider world of BDSM (AKA found Fetlife and joined the local community), I made a few very telling mistakes… and it’s something I see a lot of still happening to people on a regular basis.

I fell into the trap of hero worship (emulation) rather than forging my own path and adopting things that had practical real world value for my life and relationship.

You see, my town is incredibly small and at the time there were few (No) power exchange couples locally for me to talk to and exchange ideas with – So I went searching, and this is where I found out the difference between carefully constructed fantasy versus real world applications. For those of you familiar with them, I aspired to be the next Peter Acworth, Stefanos, and James Mogul. Is this smart or healthy? I suppose it could be, had I not been taken up in the PERSONA’s rather than the real people behind the characters.  (For reference Stefanos is still someone I’d love to meet/attend a class from.) I very quickly was approached by someone who kindly offered some advice Via PM on fetlife and Helped nudge me in a better direction, To this day even though we don’t talk much I follow things he (and his slave) likes and comments on closely.

Over the years since then I’ve learned the difference between hero worship and mentors.

Mentors are people you can go to with questions, or in need of advice, and for the most part they are readily available to answer said questions or give out some wisdom. They’re regular people with flaws, insecurities, and practical real world experience. They can fill gaps in your skill set, and might offer other people to talk to who have a better grasp of certain subject matter. They want to see you succeed and reach your goals, and will help facilitate that however is needed, they should push you and challenge you. Mentors should not: try to fuck you,  sabotage your goals, or not practice what they preach.

Hero worship is blind allegiance to the ideal of something. Imperfections, and the struggle to become are swept aside in favor of a sparkling view of effortless success. The sad and accurate truth is these individuals are usually lauded with praise, and afforded attention that others are either denied, or have to work harder to achieve by order of magnitude. In such a sexually charged environment like the BDSM/and Leather cultures something as simple as a certain aesthetic or method of play can cause the hive mind to elevate that person to status and credibility that they might not otherwise attain or deserve.

So whats the point?

I see time and time again mistakes I’ve made manifesting in others, the Cult of Personality is strong, and the pull is intoxicating – To fit in, to aspire to the pinnacle, it can be human nature to do so, all too easily, and the followers of the these people can be zealots, from the D-list to A-list celebrities in vanilla and BDSM circles.

Many people confuse this with mentorship whether they mean to or not. Blindly accepting something as the proper path, or one to aspire to, will, in the long run, cause a pretty spectacular train wreck, publicly or privately.

Think critically of the people you put your trust in, your future in this subculture is your own – don’t blindly follow and expect success through emulation of your hero’s or trying to copy their aesthetic. On the flip side evaluate if you want to be a paper paragon, or someone people want to follow based on realism and merit.

I for one plan to do what I do, because I like it, and if people choose to ask – I have no problems digging up the pristine, along with the dirty truth of my journey because they just might learn something.

 

Syn

 

 

 

 

Lessons, Leather, and Small Cats.

It’s odd how something so intensely personal on one level, can get you thinking about something which seemingly has no real relation to it in the first place.

Then the connections and reasoning become clear.

I lost my Constant companion Daisy a little over a month and a half ago, and truth be told it’s still affecting me today, I still come home and have to stop myself from checking her nap spots, or worrying about feeding times. I still get sad, having her Urn near me on my bedside table simultaneously makes me feel better she is near and fills me with sadness my friend is gone and I’ll never be able to trade head boops with her again. I will say though, it’s gotten me thinking.

In my past and especially at the start of my leather journey I was so fucking worried about being universally liked or desired, or even fucking NOTICED. I went out of my way to try and achieve these things and ended up angry (in my head), when I was ignored or dismissed because of stupid and arbitrary things, like my physical appearance, or play style, or clothing choice – hell even the fact I had a dick. There were friends and acquaintances, who to my FACE, told me that they wished I wasn’t in the picture so they could “go after” my slave. Truth be told it was soul-crushing at points.

When I was younger, I was always the fat wingman, the white knight, and the “buddy” who always third wheeled. Reliving that in my adult life, albeit differently since I am in a committed Power Exchange, with not only someone who is my slave, girl, little fae, best friend and fiance, made me question connections I had made, and overall community on a whole.

Then we met the people who would eventually become “The Herd”, and Some others who might as well be family too. (you know who you all are, and if you don’t – Ask. <3)

So where does Daisy fit in all this?

As I reflected on the years with her, I realized a few things I should have a long time ago.

Cats, dogs, animal companions, in general, don’t give a fuck what you look like, how you dress, or if you make an ass of yourself. They love and accept you completely, without reservation. They will cuddle with you if you had a bad day, and you can tell them your secrets, content in the knowledge you won’t be judged or have it used against you because they can gain something. They don’t care if you have a penis, a vagina, or your sexual orientation. True companions simply want to be with you when you experience life, they want connective experiences, love, and affection, and will return what you put out in kind.

These are the connections I crave, value and want in my life.

I have all this and more with my girl, as well as my other partner Trixie and her primary. I’ve recently discovered this with The Herd and other others who have become family of choice. Discussions and laughs over a Too-big (LOL) breakfast, smiles and tackle hugs from people I see far too little of. Even connections we’ve made in other provinces, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and beyond, being welcomed with an open heart and arms is new to me, and I must say I appreciate it more than I can express, and I value each and every one of you.

I’ve never really had anyone close enough to me I would consider A Brother or Sister of choice, and truth be told, now that I do, I find it hard to express just how much it means to me…. I consider you family, my tribe, and I hope that I can be someone you are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with. Others from the Leather Nation who I’ve met, and helped show me their connections and energy, thank you – coupled with some introspection, it has restored some of my faith in people, and I hope I can return some of that energy and positivity some day.

It seems odd that a tiny, outcast, feral cat could help me realize these things, but I swear that’s how my mind connected the dots. I’ve always said lessons can come from anywhere, and I believe it more now than ever.

The next part of growth is for me learning how to verbally articulate these things rather than spewing them out in text.

People deserve to know they are valued, loved and accepted unconditionally.

A tiny cat, who just happened to be the best friend I ever had taught me that, and I’m sure she still has lessons for me for years to come.

In leather,

 

Syn