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Sat Jan 12, 2013, 02:58 AM

Emasculating. What does that really mean, aside from the literal?

Last edited Sat Jan 12, 2013, 07:47 AM - Edit history (1)

Literal is easy, castration or penile amputation (such as for cancer) would be pretty much a tremendous emotional blow to any guy.

But, to say someone feels emasculated because of a comment or event, is that really any different from saying their sense of self esteem took a hit? Is there some specific way a negative life experience can make a man feel diminished in a way a woman could not be diminished?

I have been pretty open on DU about my recent experience in the mental health system, was diagnosed as bipolar and now recently diagnosed as also having PTSD from childhood abuse at the hands of my father. I took a big leap of faith and told my oldest sister about the events of the past six months, it went well, actually, and we ended up comparing notes from our childhoods about what we went through.

My father specifically degraded me as a teenager because I didn't live up to his standard of masculinity. Weak, not at all athletic, painfully withdrawn and socially awkward, bullied a lot in school, desperately too shy to even think about approaching girls, you get the picture, not exactly captain of the football team.

So, dear old dad, when he was pinning me down in the sight of a loaded rifle, or even when he wasn't, liked to specifically tell me I wasn't a man, was gay, weak, acted like a girl, was a piece of human garbage who deserved to die but wasn't worth going to prison over. Nice guy, my dad, not that I'm bitter about all of that or anything.

Given the fact that my father was a closeted transvestite with a tremendous range of mental health issues himself, I found all of his emotional abuse pretty disingenuous -- c'mon, the guy used to put on bras with foam falsies inside that made Dolly Parton look small, dress in satin panties, negligees, old fashioned nylons with garter belts, and had, in his twisted sick mind, a monthly period. And I was the one who wasn't man enough? Really, dad? Really?

Nice way for a boy to grow up, huh? It certainly destroyed my sense of self esteem, and looking back, it's probably pretty amazing that I took 47 years to end up in the psych ward, I'm surprised I didn't crack years ago. But, I guess because I knew at five, when I woke up to my first day of kindergarten to see dear old dad at the breakfast table in a normal, white t-shirt with the bra underneath, that El Perverto was NOT the standard of masculinity or the role model I needed to follow. And, given all of that, I think from a psycho-sexual perspective, I'm a pretty normal hetero guy with healthy attitudes about sex, relationships.

But I do question my masculinity in other ways -- am I too weak physically and emotionally? Am I too preoccupied with appearance, I admit I'm pretty vain when it comes to things like clothes? Not able to interact with other guys on the same level, since I don't really do a lot of "guy things" like play or watch team sports? Not into hunting, fishing, cars.

Then I turn it around and remind myself I'm NOT dad. Which helps a lot.

But taking it full circle, when I compared notes with my sister, who is 16 years older than I am, and was out of the house when the gun play started, I really can't say the emotional aftermath has been much different. She was more level headed. But the reactions we had to all of this seemed pretty consistent, no real difference except she didn't end up in the psych ward.

So, emasculated or just beaten down - is there really any difference?


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Reply Emasculating. What does that really mean, aside from the literal? (Original post)
Denninmi Jan 2013 OP
Major Nikon Jan 2013 #1
Denninmi Jan 2013 #2
Major Nikon Jan 2013 #3
Denninmi Jan 2013 #4
noamnety Jan 2013 #6
lumberjack_jeff Jan 2013 #5

Response to Denninmi (Original post)

Sat Jan 12, 2013, 05:53 AM

1. Often it means you have it worse as a man

To their credit, women tend to have intricate support networks. As someone else pointed out, women have shelters, men have jails. I don't think PTSD affects men and women that much differently, but as they are perceived as the weaker sex, women tend to get more sympathy and support when it happens. Men are socialized to be self sufficient and to not appear weak or show pain.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 12, 2013, 06:02 AM

2. But, do you think it has to be that way?

I find, as long as I communicate very honestly about things that have happened, I get a lot of feedback, support, and some surprises too.

I called up my best friend the day after I was discharged from the psychiatric day program, and told him a lot of gory details. I was afraid what he would say, and think. And that maybe that was the last time I would hear from him. Instead, we've been talking a lot more than we had, previously I would hear from him every few months, now we're talking every 10 days, two weeks, and it's nice and helps me a lot. And I think it helps him, too, his wife is struggling with MS.

When I finally told my boss some of the gory details, the fact that I was undergoing psychiatric treatment, on meds, seeing a therapist, his reaction really surprised me. He sat me down and told me about his wife's battle with severe agoraphobia and his own battle with serious depression, and that after about 10 years he is still on SSRI's for depression. I wouldn't have guessed any of that, his wife is a very bright, bubbly woman, works full time as a teacher, loves to shop and go out to eat and to cultural events, and he is far from depressed in any of his actions.

I was afraid, going in to this, that he would be so upset to have a psychiatric patient working for him that he would fire me -- afraid he would think I was going to go off on a client or worst case, maybe not be "safe" to be around. Who knew we are kinda both in the same boat?

Jails -- now there is a concept I've had a problem with. Because when I heard "bipolar" I immediately thought, oh great, homeless guy walkin', that I was headed for the gutters and would probably be the guy that slapped a cop just so he could get a hot meal. Of course, that was just a healthy serving of anxiety with a side of paranoia, but it did open my eyes to both the stigmatization and the plight of many people with serious mental illness. When I drive home from my therapist's office, and when I drove home from the initial psychiatrist's appt where I was given this never-ending gift of a mental health diagnosis, I have to drive right by a men's shelter, and old courthouse that is just feet off the main street through a small, depressed urban city. It was/is really hard for me to see the homeless guys milling around waiting to be let in.

Weak, yes, I worry about weak, too. And, I have to admit, I buy into the concept of male strength. So much so that I really desperately want to take no contact/minimal contact boxing classes in the near future. Because I was so weak, emotionally, that I basically allowed my situation to happen. Sure, part of it is neurobiological, that happens, but the bigger part was my inability to control my reaction to events. Did I need psychiatric intervention? Absolutely? Did it have to be the rather traumatic route of the psych ward? Probably not, if I had been a little more able to just calm down and approach my solution from an intellectual rather than an emotional angle. I am doing my best to be both physically and mentally strong. But that isn't at all the same as stoic, aloof, the Marlboro Man alone atop a horse on the mesa. Part of being strong, a big part, is being strong enough to know when to say "I need help", which I didn't do soon enough this last time. I sure will in the future.

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 12, 2013, 07:46 AM

3. I don't think it has to be that way, nor should it

But the reality is if you are a man you are disposable. Certainly there are women who are homeless, but there's more men and for the unsheltered homeless there's even more. Fortunately you found help before that happened and it's great that you found people who you could talk to about it. As bad as your situation sounds, it could be a lot worse. There's a lot of lost souls out there who may never be found before it's too late and nobody is completely immune from it. We could all find ourselves there someday. One of the worst things about this country is how we coddle those who are the most fortunate and how we throw away those who are the most unfortunate.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #3)

Sat Jan 12, 2013, 08:00 AM

4. I hate to admit this, but you are completely right about that.

For me, it's a "there but for the grace of God goes I" situation. My fears about homelessness were irrational on multiple levels. First and foremost, exactly as you alluded to, I'm among the "coddled" due to life circumstances. And, frankly, maybe I don't deserve to be, it's a matter of luck of birth in that respect, although in about almost any other respect being born in to my family was NOT a stroke of luck. It was a North Korean gulag, albeit in a great neighborhood with nice "stuff" all around.

If I were in different circumstances without the economic means to afford "the best" in terms of medical care, I so easily could be in jail or committed or dead by now, I was pretty much on the cusp of the third scenario anyway, and it wouldn't have taken much to get me to one of those other places, I was pretty much a total mess in August. And that was all a big culture shock and blow to my ego, because I had this attitude of "this kind of thing is not supposed to happen to educated dudes from the nice 'burbs".

Which is bullshit, it happens a LOT here, people here just have the resources to deal with it a different way than those of fewer means. For one thing, they hush it up as much as possible. Another good example, my boss has a developmentally disabled daughter, and as they age, they are pondering her future. So, they went in with a couple of other parents of DD women, and they just bought a home to serve as a group home for their daughters for life, and found a service organization to staff it with the SS benefits the women receive. Don't even get me started about how many times in my community people who are regarded as important end up having substance abuse issues -- the local news anchor, our township supervisor's husband, a couple of prominent auto execs. They too can afford treatment/rehab.

But for men specifically, yes, I can see how we could be "disposable" in one sense, because no resources go to us. Women with children get aid in the form of things like WIC, medicaid, etc. Single men get squat, don't let the door hit you in the rear on your way out. Why is that? Because we're supposed to tough it out and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps?

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 05:48 PM

6. I'm not convinced about the last paragraph.


WIC is given to women only while they are pregnant and just after birth, so my interpretation is that women are equally disposable EXCEPT when they are functioning as baby incubators. If you aren't actively doing god's work by cranking out babies, in other words, you're as welcome as any man to go crawl into a corner and starve to death. The I and C in WIC are gender neutral. I didn't think medicaid favored either gender except that more women qualify for it.

Your larger points though, I appreciated those and really strongly appreciate your voice on DU.

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Response to Denninmi (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 07:06 PM

5. I would say "Deprecation of the positive attributes the target associates with their masculinity"


Masculinity isn't one thing, but anyone who deprecates your positive masculine attributes (e.g. confidence, decisiveness, competitiveness, self-reliance or emotional strength) as a tactic to give themselves an advantage could be said to be engaged in emasculating.

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