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One of the things I love most about masc-for-fem relationships is the space they create for masculine-of-center queers like me to be ourselves. In a society that designates who’s allowed to express masculinity from birth and limits a woman’s exploration of it, a healthy relationship with a fem queer woman creates a safe happy bubble in which our masculinity is normalized, enthusiastically accepted, and attractive to someone different from us.
And why shouldn’t it be? Contrary to popular belief, masculinity isn't inherently bad. In fact, some traditionally masculine attributes and actions benefit romantic relationships. Strength, courage, leadership, assertiveness, chivalry, providing and protecting help our fem partners feel secure and reinforce the safety of that romantic bubble. Pumping your partner’s gas, taking out trash, being handy around the house and other stereotypically masculine tasks are just thoughtful, helpful things we can do to make a fine fem’s life a little easier.
So, what does make masculinity bad? When it goes from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, and turns toxic. We all know what the ugly side of masculinity is—the harmful kind with strong Godzilla energy, stomping on buildings and throwing cars. It’s saturated with ego, insecurities, and a need to control, belittle, and diminish others for validation. Excessive aggression, bullying, domination, emotional repression, and abuse often accompany it, to the detriment of those that toxic mascs project on. TV, movies, music, and the male figures around us have inundated us with this skewed masculinity for so long and so aggressively that many cis men and masc queers have adopted it into their lives (romantic relationships included). Being the seed that misogyny grows from, women in these relationships have shouldered the burden of unhealthy masculinity since forever, and in a queer context, fems receive the brunt of it from MOCs.
Because of this, that safe and happy bubble gets burst real quick. Relegating your fem partner to all the household chores like she’s Florence from The Jeffersons, controlling the finances and limiting her access to funds like a parent, berating her in front of friends and family, invalidating her womanhood, violating her boundaries, ignoring her needs, downplaying her growth because you’re threatened by it, and using physical force in any way to show dominance over her are signs you’ve taken your idea of masculinity way too far. As “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” plays in your head daily and your life slowly becomes the subplot of Mulan as you claw your way to ultimate manhood, you maybe need to sit down ask yourself: Do I have to be mean to my fem partner to be masculine?
Well, the good thing is that you don’t! Here are some tips to keep you grounded:
Proving your masculinity should never come before your relationship. If you want your relationship to last, you have to feed it the right things. Destabilizing and alienating your fem partner to feel more masculine are not only the wrong things, but are sure fire ways to lose her. Work within your relationship to find a happy medium between preserving your identity and nurturing your relationship properly.
Masculinity is a spectrum. There’s no one way to be masculine, and whatever way is healthiest for you and (your fem partner) is just as valid as any other. If society’s definition of masculinity is too harsh and doesn’t reflect who you are, don’t subscribe to it. Don’t worry, your card will still be valid.
Masculinity is NOT muting. Never silence your fem partner to assert control or dominance over her. She should always be able to voice concerns, have opinions, disagree with you, and offer (respectful) constructive criticism without it shaking your foundation.
Remember that you and your fem partner are equals. Superiority isn’t a thing in healthy, long-lasting relationships. Your fem partner’s needs, wants, and boundaries are just as important as yours, and should never be put on the back burner to feel more secure in yourself.
Therapy, therapy, therapy. Toxic masculinity is learned, and it may take some extra help to unlearn some of the toxic things picked up in your journey. There’s absolutely no shame in seeking help to recalibrate your ideas of manliness and learn how to show up in a relationship the way that serves you and your partner the best.
Look, you have to protect your romantic bubble. And toxic masculinity seeks to pop it by focusing on self-serving and putting unhealthy, unrealistic ideas about relationships between you and your fem partner. Don’t feed into the narrative that your masculinity and a healthy relationship must be at odds. Instead, tune out the Mulan soundtrack, trust that your fem partner accepts and loves the masculinity you come with, and pump as much goodness into the relationship that you can.
Written By: Eden Carswell (@locs_on_the_rocks, IG)