Big Men Don’t Cry

It’s a tricky subject to address, the idea of male vulnerability; can I write about it in a fair and balanced way? Will I come across like a douche, no matter what I write? Who am I to write about this topic anyway, and why do I even want to?

I want to because some of my favorite people are dudes and I want them to know that they can feel safe to be themselves around me. I want them to feel safe to be themselves with other people as well. I want to because we need to make sure that we are constantly examining gender expectations to see how they fit into today’s quickly evolving society, because it can do everyone some good. And I want to because I feel it’s only fair that if I get to be a bumbling idiot sometimes, that men or those who male identify are granted the same freedoms.

Perhaps I’m too disconnected from “normal” society to be familiar with the current state of male vulnerability acceptance. The vast majority of men in my life exist there because they are already comfortable with their emotions and possess the thing that I am the most attracted to; confident vulnerability. I have trouble relating with humans who refuse to bring their walls down, though I am trying to understand at the very least, why these walls exist. Even those that I know that do have walls up, eventually bring them down around me because I make it somewhat mandatory, as part of knowing me intimately. You cannot get to know me if I can’t really get to know you. That’s not fair to either of us.

Men are and have always been expected to be strong. Strong is and has often been equated to rising above adversity and not only containing negative or sad emotions; but also not acknowledging their existence. Unless we are talking about anger, patriotism, or beer fueled sports celebrations, history hasn’t made a safe place for men to be emotional.

Things have changed over the past few years. Those of us born after the baby boomer generation are more likely to look inward and focus on self-fulfillment than our parents were. Some have dubbed us “Generation Me”, and those generations to follow us are even more aware of the need to “find themselves” than even we have been. Though I might argue that with everyone being on the internet nowadays, generational lines are somewhat blurry. I can easily find myself relating to an 18 year old on one day and a 45 year old the next. We’re all part of one big generational soup.

As a result of this generation’s focus on “being true to ourselves”, men are being encouraged to open up more and more, with their partners being encouraged to embrace their husbands and boyfriends with open arms when it’s their turn to cry. But where is the infrastructure to support this honesty when the man leaves the house? What happens when the safe space crashes down around him at the end of a relationship and suddenly he has to be alone in the world again, as the only person he could feel vulnerable with was his partner, who is now gone? While it’s all well and good that we encourage open communication and acceptance of emotions within the boundaries of intimate relationship units, what really happens when men step outside of that zone?

Society talks a good talk about accepting and encouraging male vulnerability but are we really there yet? Or have we simply acknowledged that it’s a place we need to get to, while we wait for our judgments and assumptions to catch up to us? Do women *really* respond well when their man breaks down, admitting a fear, insecurity, or sadness to them? Or do we instead feel conflicted by the fact that we WANT to be ok with this but often still crave that male stoicism; that “I can handle everything because I am the protector” persona. Research has shown that women feel happier when their partners are expressing emotion of any kind, but we have to allow men to do so without trying to shape that expression. I remember the first time that my husband actually yelled at me during an argument; I couldn’t help myself from smiling as I was just so happy to see him sharing his feelings on ANYthing, good or bad.

Whether we’re talking about men expressing themselves at home, or with the world, we have to ensure that we let them fumble and figure it out as they go, helping as they need and when they ask. Society for decades hasn’t made this easy territory for men and now suddenly there’s huge expectations for everyone to be comfortable with their “softer” side without any thought being given to what guidance they may need to do that. Just because we are working on addressing our conceptions of masculinity doesn’t mean that the macho guy who’s always had to let everything roll off his back, will know how or be ok with telling you he’s afraid of dying. Or feels under-appreciated at the office. Or feels you don’t compliment him enough. Or or or … the list goes on.

In both our individual relationships and our interactions with the world around us, we need to find more leniency for men to be what they need to be and let them figure it out as they go. Outside of abusing others, there are no right or wrong ways to express feelings, and we need to all be mindful that we aren’t trying to box someone in because we have not yet learned to speak their emotional language. Maybe they haven’t even learned it yet themselves. It is ridiculous and unfair to expect a large percentage of humans to simply absorb their feelings and censor them for the sake of our comfort. Showing emotions should no longer be perceived as being weak, when it requires true strength of character to let guards down and let people in.

Let me be clear about one thing. As a submissive woman, I love when a man is in control of things. When we, as lovers can temporarily embrace “traditional” gender roles for the sake of hot sex, I am all about it. However, if that same dominant man is not able to come to me in other moments and be honest about his feelings, his weaknesses and his needs, I struggle with staying interested. As I mentioned before seeing someone confidently own their vulnerability is possibly the sexiest and most honest thing a person can do. Having a person acknowledge their imperfections is to me the definition of perfect. If I have to push past my societal training to see someone for who they really are, to allow them a safe space to be not just a man, but a human, it’s worth it.

Further reading, courtesy of The Good Men Project:

  • Matthew

    In the same way that society says it’s now ‘ok’ for a man to show his feelings outside of anger or a ‘touchdown on Super Sunday’ it’s also right that society hasn’t really given a man the…I want to say ‘training’? to do it. In the same breath, society hasn’t given the tools to the female side to know how to react or understand when a guy finally let’s go and let’s someone in ( friend or lover ) So you’re completely right. The world has said ” OK, here’s how it is. Guys? You can now be emotional and appear vulnerable and it’s going to be ok with us.” but in no way shape or form has it been explained HOW to do that and still be accepted.

    I think too often guys are too afraid of losing that ‘alpha male’ status and keep it inside. ” it’s not how I was raised” and ll that jazz. Openly expressing emotion and feelings are still seen as a weakness in the male based side of society and as much as the world today says it’s ok, and you’ll see changes in guys as we move along through time, I think the changes will sadly still be slow ( but steady ) but they’re coming. And with more people like yourself pushing for that type of change and having more women ( and not just women, but everyone ) there to help support it, it might not be as slow of a transition as we think.

    Don’t get me wrong, being a guy I still want to be that person that can rise above and be that dominant man who can over come, but to know that I can be free to admit that I’m scared or admit that I’m sad or whatever else I’m feeling at the time is…comforting. Which in turn I think makes a stronger man in the end. It’s a luxury that previous generations didn’t have and that future generations should definitely take advantage of and use.

  • Chris McC

    Is it that we have been “allowed” to be vulnerable? Or is it that these latest generations, more and more, are raised in single parent homes without a masculine figure to balance the more feminine aspects? I expect it is the combination of these two things that has done that.
    The de-masculinization aspect of this is one of those pendulums that will swing too far one way, the return and swing too far the other.

  • GetLusty

    I don’t agree that by showing vulnerable emotion men are somehow being “de-masculinized”. Masculinity shouldn’t be defined as a diametric opposite of traditional femininity (emotional v. stoic, etc).

    • Samantha Leigh. TMI.

      I don’t agree either. That’s what I’m trying to point out. Society – in general – does have this idea, but it’s certainly not my view. I agree with you.

      • GetLusty

        Oh I know, sorry for the confusion! I was trying to reply to the comment made by Chris McC.

  • A Guy From Ottawa

    I read this post the day you put it up and loved it. As a guy, sometimes it is hard to show our feelings and vulnerabilities. Just as women are subjected to (and pressured to be) this media image of the “perfect” face/body/clothes etc… Men are often made to feel that if we show emotions we need to “man up” and deal with it. As you say, we talk about accepting and encouraging male vulnerability but don’t really practice it yet. I came across a bunch of these “women’s perspective” YouTube videos and was really enjoying them until I saw this one : Then I thought about the fortuitous timing of this post and figured I’d share. Whether it was sarcastic or not, the message is still there: Man crying = bad.

    I’ve been reading your blog since February and have always found it to be quite enjoyable. I love how inclusive you are of all people to make their own choices and be who they are. I’ve also found it very educational since my wife and I decided to open our marriage earlier this year. I look forward to your next post!

  • Joe Johnstun (SLI)

    Maybe we should modify the saying.. something like ‘Big Men Don’t Cry in Bed’ or ‘Big Men Can Cry Sometimes but Please Avoid Shedding Tears While We’re Fucking’