I'm not sure what I have to offer to this discussion, but through several links in a not-entirely-sane reading of the internet last night, I found this post*, on the narrative of desire that straight men are missing (I think). I'm not entirely sure I've processed everything from it, but I did like how he drew it together at the end.
"It’s not women’s problem to solve; it’s not as if it’s women’s job to start stroking yet another aspect of the male ego. The answer lies in creating a new vocabulary for desire, in empowering women as well as men to gaze, and in expanding our own sense of what is good and beautiful, aesthetically and erotically pleasing. "
Really, that article isn't the point.
I remember how insecure I felt with my first boyfriend (when I was 22! Which officially made me a dinosaur). It was his first relationship as well. I remember, he asked if he could kiss me, and I said yes, so quietly, because I felt like I couldn't breath. Of course, I then immediately pressed my lips together and looked down. The way we both felt, I'm sure, was a heady mix of elation that it was finally happening between us and the awkwardness of not knowing what we were doing. Those first few kisses, incidentally, were terrible. We got better.
I was insecure about my body, of course. I was also terrified of how fast we were going, which was actually not at all fast. Not even for a first relationship and certainly not for having been friends first. I was floored when he said that he was very attracted to me; I remember gaping at him, a little shocked that he had said it at all. We had been close for so long, but it never really occured to me that he was actually attracted to me. I think the fact that I had been so attracted to him for longer than he had been interested in me played into this - I had actually spend months before we got together trying to convince myself that he wasn't interested, I needed to get over it, I needed to move on.
Which is why I was shocked to his response when I told him that he looked good with his shirt off. He didn't argue, he didn't act like what I thought was insecure, and he look of his clothes far more easily than I did, but he just....didn't believe me. Quite honestly, it never even occured to me that me might be insecure about his body.
This is probably my tragic flaw, a failure to see inherently human things in another. Men are, though in a completely different way, bombarded with images of how their massculinity should look. He wasn't like that - isn't like that - and to be honest, that was one of the things that was most appealing about him. Still, it's not shocking that he had internalized those things. Neither the oppressor nor the oppressed, there probably was never a place that he felt like he could talk about his own feelings towards his body.
This is, I am so sure, not the case of every man. I've met men who I'm sure aren't insecure about there bodies (and there are always degrees, which is something else I should remember - there are women I know for whom insecurity is not the same as mine. Of course). But this is a troubling aspect of gender experience that I often over look, even in light of personal experience, which I guess is the whole point.
This also came up at happy hour last night, when I told two of my friends that I was trying to learn to flirt with my boyfriend.
* What are the ethics for linking and then writing about a blog post? Do you tell them? Luckily, this is mostly about me.