WHAT AND WHERE WE (MEN) LEARN
verything I seemingly know about my body, sex, and love comes from television. Synclair and Overton on Living Single taught me that Black love gets stronger over time. D’Angelo’s “Untitled” music video taught me that if I work out really hard I, too, could be adorned like a Greek God. Samantha Jones on Sex and the City taught me that if I RSVP for a party, I ought to make sure it’s my business to come. As I’ve grown older, I know that all of those things I learned from sitting in front of a TV didn’t amount to much of anything. In fact, I know nothing at all.
More often than not, we are taught, from a variety of sources, who and what we should romanticize and vilify. As men, we learn lessons about sex and manhood from our father figures—if we’re lucky enough to have them in our lives. Other times, we learn from television, music, or the block. If we somehow altered what we learned and the spaces we learn them from, we could live and love better.
MEN HAVE NOTORIOUSLY BEEN SHAPED AND SOCIALIZED BY THEIR SURROUNDINGS, WHICH TEND TO EXHIBIT ATTITUDES THAT AREN’T THE MOST PROGRESSIVE.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being a guest on a podcast discussing homophobia. The host’s name was Tahoe. Tahoe was a straight, able-bodied man with a decent hairline, a ton of questions, genuine curiosity, and a piquancy of xenophobia. We navigated through the general questions that most people tend to ask of gay men: “Why do y’all’s wrists go limp?” “Why do y’all speak like women?” I eventually stopped and asked, “Where did you learn this?”
Men have notoriously been shaped and socialized by their surroundings, which tend to exhibit attitudes that aren’t the most progressive. While talking to Tahoe, he continuously expressed that while coming from a loving single-parent household, everything he learned about “how to be a man” was taught by his peers from “the streets”—also known as his neighborhood.
He learned how to treat women, have sex with women, use homophobic and transphobic slurs all from this ominous institution from which many of us hail. During the conversation, it occurred to me that not only were our maligned attitudes towards a bunch of socially constructed ideas an issue and stumbling block, but we also often don’t know how our bodies operate to perform and be better.
WE ARE CREATURES OF HABIT, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN WE ARE CREATURES OF CIRCUMSTANCE.
Damon Young, Editor-In-Chief of VerySmartBrothas, wrote a piece about Black men and their reluctance that prevents some from going to the doctor. He highlights a myriad of reasons why he, and a bunch of other Black men, refuse to go to the doctor and why it’s doing us a disservice. Lack of healthcare and financial availability aside, it isn’t the most “manly” thing to do. Men tend to gauge their well-being and health based on their ability to perform sexually and athletically. We’re our own doctors. We tend to nurse ourselves back to health, and everything turns out “iight.” If we were to rid ourselves of this fear of the doctor and, more importantly, unlearn the faulty notion of what is “manly” or not, we could begin to truly understand our bodies and be happier and healthier in life and love.
There is something to be said about what and where we learn. We are creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean we are creatures of circumstance. We do have the power, now more than ever, to educate and inspire others to live and be their best. The current moment indicates that we are in an age of unlearning. Now we must rid ourselves of complacency. In order for that to work, for us to be free, we must develop spaces and facilitate dialogue for this to take place. At the end of my discussion with Tahoe, he thanked me for being patient and assisting him in opening his mind for the better. I smiled and said, “Now, it’s your turn.”