You know you want it. The feeling is carnal. A primal lust. It’s irresistible — you can hardly hold back from that instinctual need to clasp your fingers around it, wrap your lips around its thick flesh, sink your teeth into that sumptuous parcel of indulgent sin. You want it.
Considering America’s current political climate and the media’s obstinate fixation on criminal motive, it’s not surprising some people might suggest that the U.S.’s broken conception of masculinity could have something to do with recent mass shootings. While attempting to link the two is a causal leap, and in the wake of tragedy comes the risk of sounding a bit tone-deaf, I believe it’s as good of a time as any to begin discussing masculinity’s modern definition. Further, we can use art as a lens to determine masculinity’s place in society. While many people would argue that women in the U.S. face far more pervasive disadvantages than men and, as a result, conversations on masculinity are subordinate to those of femininity, there is no implication that I am arguing that men face systematic disadvantage. Moreover, many of those who would argue that American women face systematic oppression would also argue that masculinity (the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc.) is at least in part to blame.
I’ll preface this column by stating my intentions. I’m here to attempt to calm down these masculine macho men we see too often in many of the fraternities here at Cornell, and to approach this subject through my experience with it in the Marine Corps. That’s right, I’m a jarhead. During boot camp, we were legally and illegally hazed. The specificities of my treatment are best left unsaid because quite frankly, they were disgusting and atrocious, and absolutely insane, but there was some purpose to this hazing.
When I was much younger, around four or five years of age, I played soccer on a YMCA little league team. Yet, as I’ve been subsequently told, rare was it that I actually joined in and played the game with the other kids. I possessed no interest in the ball and I instead preferred to run around carefree behind my team, acting out my own fantastical Power Rangers- or epic action-adventure. After soccer came a brief, two-year stint in little league baseball during elementary school. My brazen defiance of the rules in both of these sports indicated to my parents that organized sports were indeed not my forte (and around this time I began taking piano lessons).
I have been a research assistant for the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, now known as the Youth, Risk and Opportunity lab, for a few years now. One of the projects I worked on last year was transcribing interviews. The interviews were conducted to clarify the course of one’s relationship with NSSI throughout one’s life as it relates to the trans-theoretical model. This model reflects an individual’s readiness to act on incorporating a healthier behavior into their lives, which in the cases of these individuals would be working towards ending their engagement in NSSI. The interviews themselves were of many perspectives.