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There has been a conversation on my Twitter feed about my use of the phrase “real men” in my “keeping sex complicated” post. I’d like to post what my friend Sean Patrick Sullivan had to say on the issue, as he says it better than me:

When one refers to a real man or woman, what one is saying is that they are mature, responsible, self-aware, capable of giving and receiving love, and grown-up beyond the point of mere boy- or girlhood. Our collective refusal to valorize and insist upon minimum standards for psychosexual maturity–this insipid Peter Pan complex everyone seems to have–will be the death of sex. And of all of us!

A man who wears mascara while treating the lady or gentleman in his life honorably is a real man. A man who smokes cigars and plays football and doesn’t know how to be romantic or supportive is a man-childish douchebag. While I understand the point about the word “real” indirectly valorizing traditional roles, the fact is that we need those traditional roles. Everyone can’t blaze their own trail. Some people really just need to follow an established standard. For those of us who live outside the boundaries of what’s considered classically, categorically masculine or feminine, we should have the legal, social, and cultural freedom to do (and to be!) who and what we want. But, at the same time, we should embrace and draw joy from, not resist or feel outcast by, our rejection of a norm, our creation of something new. I know this sounds harsh, but the ultimate benefit–establishing a baseline for acceptable courting behavior–seems totally worth it.

PS. I love rules and boundaries. I believe in rules and boundaries. I also love people who break them–willfully, intelligently, creatively. This whole “let’s ditch all the rules and standards” nonsense infecting our culture since the mid-1960s has resulted in a generation without morality, decency, or perspective. It has also resulted in such an anything-goes mentality that evil doers (whether individual or institutional) can pretty much justify and get away with anything nowadays. As someone who has done drag, painted his nails, rocked a cherry-red bob, and spent Fall/Winter 2008 dressed in head-to-toe pink and fuchsia, I would much rather deal with the occasional judgment or dismissal than live in a society so lacking in boundaries that Wall Street has become a Las Vegas gambling den and no one seems to care. And, yes, they’re TOTALLY related.