Toxic Masculinity vs Depression

I knew something was wrong the moment my mom walked into my room. It wasn’t just that she was crying, though she was. In a moment I was crying, too, because it was my mom waking me up to go to school that morning. Which was not her job. My dad was the one who woke me up for school in the morning. The moment I laid eyes on my mom I knew: my dad finally left her.

I was in fifth grade. Not quite ten years old. It was the early ’80s, and I was very shortly to have the disctinction of being the first kid I knew whose parents got a divorce.

It wasn’t a surprise. Like I said, I knew right away what had happened. And to be honest, I can’t — and could not at the time — remember a time when my parents weren’t fighting. I didn’t know what they were fighting about, didn’t really even want to. It was just a thing that happened, and when it did I would go to my room and play with my toys or read a book or I’d go outside and ride my bike around the neighborhood or go knock on a friend’s door or one of the thousand other things kids did back in the days when parents weren’t expected to schedule and supervise their childrens’ entire existence.

That morning was the last time I cried about it.

Because like I knew what had happened the night before, I knew what was expected of me. What was expected of any boy who wasn’t girly or gay or soft or weak. No one had to tell me that boys don’t cry.

So I didn’t. I tamped that shit down, put on my game face, and went on a field trip to Sea World with the rest of my class. As I recall, my dad was one of our chaperones. I didn’t ask him what happened. I mean, it wasn’t like it was a surprise. The real surprise was it hadn’t happened sooner.

I remember being very proud of myself for being so mature.

It wasn’t long after that I started acting out. Continue reading “Toxic Masculinity vs Depression”

Confession

[Trigger Warning for Survivors of Sexual Assault]

 

I am twelve or thirteen. There are five of us and one of her. She hasn’t lived in the neighborhood long. The others hold her down, laughing. One pries her legs open. I know what’s happening is wrong, but I don’t say anything. I grope her breast, the first one I have ever touched. I stand up and back away. Thankfully, it’s enough, and we let her up. I never tell anyone.

I am eighteen. I’ve gone out on a couple of dates with a girl whose friend just broke up with me. We’ve made out once or twice. One night in the middle of the night I go over to her house. The door is unlocked, and I sneak into her room. We have sex. After, I ask if we can do it again, and she says no. I leave. It’s not until a few years later I realize I probably raped her. I don’t tell anyone til I’m in my forties.

I am twenty-one. I’m having consensual sex. She freezes up, asks me to stop. I finish. I never tell anyone.

This list of my transgressions is hardly exhaustive. I can only hope it’s the worst I have done. In two of three cases, I’ve never told anyone until now. I didn’t want people to know. More than that, I didn’t want those things to have happened.

But they did happen. I did those things. And if it’s taken this long for me to human up and acknowledge them, well, that’s on me, too.

I could make excuses. I was young, dumb, and full of cum. I didn’t know any better. I came of age in the ’80s, when rape culture was just culture. Men were supposed to want sex, and anything shy of actual or threatened violence was on the table for getting it, be it deception, cajoling, or just getting her drunk enough to let you take her panties off and do what you wanted. I was a product of my environment.

Those excuses are bullshit. Basic human decency isn’t hard to grasp once you admit to yourself that other people are people.

I am sorry for the things I did. I apologize to the people I did them to. But I don’t presume to ask forgiveness. Some stains can’t be washed out. Just like some wounds never heal.

The idea of hitting publish scares the absolute shit out of me. People I don’t know are going to judge me. Worse, people I do know will, too.

But after reading as much of this as I could stomach, my conscience compels me to come clean and own up to the things I have done. Somebody has to go first.

I may not be a good person. But I can at least try and do the right thing. If we, as men, are going to do something about rape culture, we’ve got to look inside as well as out. You can’t fight something you’re not willing to face.