Men and Transactional Intimacy
Men and women deserve better than a masculine culture of dominance which churns out broken men.
Our generations old dominance-based man box culture of masculinity shames and bullies young boys out of authentic emotional expression and connection and then slots them into a hierarchical, pecking order version of masculinity based on a narrow set of rules for being a man.
One result is masculinity extremists’ (MRA’s and Incels’) openly transactional view of human intimacy. They declare human intimacy to be an exchange of goods. Status for sex, etc. This is a by product of our domination-based man box culture of masculinity.
In man box culture, boys are bullied into believing that “real men:”
1) Don’t show emotions
2) Make a lot of money
3) Have power/control over women
4) Have a lot of sex
5) Are heterosexual
6) Only talk about money, sex, or sports, nothing deep
7) Are always leaders, tough, never show pain
8) Are providers, never care givers
And what do we call boys who fail to conform to these man box culture rules for being a man? We call them sissies, girls, or gay. This drumbeat denigration of the feminine keeps young boys in the man box, stripping them of connection even as it teaches them women are less.
Because man box culture is about what we do, not who we are, men must prove they are living up to these rules every day. Man box culture doesn’t care who we are. It only cares that we can dominate others and rise in status or fail to dominate others and lose status.
This status driven metric for being a man is deeply transactional. Men’s mechanism for self validation is based on a combination of showing what we have produced and dominating those around us. Whomever scores highest wins. And someone always has to lose. That’s how domination-based hierarchies work.
Which brings me back to masculinity extremists. Incels and MRA’s talk constantly about the “sexual marketplace” as the mechanism by which women determine who gets to make the transaction for sex and who does not. “Chads, the ideal men get sex, the rest of us don’t.”
All of this dysfunction is the result of deep trauma inflicted on young boys beginning in infancy.
bell hooks writes: “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves….
“…If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”
What Hooks so eloquently describes as “psychic self mutilation” and “emotional crippling” points to the deeply traumatizing experience boys and men face. What level of ongoing brutality does it take for boys by late adolescence to give up the joyful connection of our youth?
All boys and men have left, is a culture of masculinity obsessed with transactions. I have no value as an individual, but here is my money, my status, my ability to dominate. What will you trade me for it? Or even worse, what can I take from you?
To buy into man box culture, you must deny men’s powerful capacity to change, heal and create authentic connection. Organizations like
and others, are powerful sources of healing and connection. I do this work. It has changed my life.
Men and women deserve better than a masculine culture of bullying and dominance which churns out broken men, angrily spewing their trauma as narratives of bitter transactional disappointment. Human connection is never a transaction. It transcends everything man box culture teaches.
So, to any man out there, I offer this invitation. When you are ready to come in from the cold, there are men waiting to welcome you to the work we all need to do. It’s a matter of giving up our victimhood, forgiving ourselves for not knowing sooner, and choosing connection.