For every little boy, there comes a certain defining moment when they are suddenly no longer allowed to act like little boys anymore. As the sister of three brothers, I have watched the dawning of this moment three separate times. When it's no longer OK to miss your mom or to cry when you scab your knee or think that girls have cooties. Suddenly, the societal notion of masculinity begins to loom over their heads like a cloud. A young, timid 13-year-old boy who barely reaches five feet is suddenly expected to turn off his emotions, ward away childish behavior and begin to desire girls in a way they don't fully understand yet.
Sometimes, this isn't who the boy really is at all. Some would rather feel and show emotion deeply, be mama's boys and respect women completely. But typically, this type of behavior is not considered by society to be "manly," and it brings rejection and humiliation. Boys of this era are expected to fit a very rigid mold, and this perfect mold of a man has come to less resemble a respectful gentleman and more resemble an emotionless, nonchalant "player." These days, being in love with a girl is something a boy will be teased for, and being a virgin is practically unacceptable. These expectations and pressure have come to form a society that is ruled by lust and carelessness. This "hookup culture" is slowly burning out the values of love, trust, confidence, joy and respect within society.
It's a vicious cycle, really. A boy is expected to go out into the world and pick up as many girls as possible. Sometimes it even becomes a contest amongst groups of boys, and it's nearly impossible for them to escape. Being the only one among your friends not receiving any action will strip you of your masculinity and earn you scorn and mocking. Boys quickly learn to say exactly what girls want to hear in order to easily string them along.
Females so greatly desire validation. We want to be wanted so badly that it creates deep insecurity and self-esteem issues. We desire these scraps of recognition from men in order to resolve these insecurities, to feed our longing for love and companionship. In a way, we're really no different than men: we are all subconsciously hungering to console our self-esteem, to prove ourselves to our friends, even to prove ourselves to ourselves. We all long to be validated.
It is a constant cycle of men wanting to be accepted and women wanting to be wanted. Women are respected if they can keep the man, while men are respected if they can ditch the girl and move on without a care. And yet, we wonder why we keep getting our hearts broken.
I will never accept this fake mold as what a man should be any more than I will accept the expectation for women to all be a size perfect size 2. These pressures are sculpted from nothing; they are intangible and unintelligible expectations created from thin air. I will not follow them. It is OK for a man to be gentle, soft or emotional. It does not make him any less of a man. In my opinion, having the courage to reject these molds and follow your own values is what truly makes you a man. Respecting women, loving your mother, acknowledging your pain, expressing your feelings—all of this makes you a man. Whether society believes so or not. So to all the boys out there; it's time to start being men.