Good boys. Bad boys.
Who turns you on the most?
Whether you’re attracted to men or women, both, or neither, let’s tell some truth.
I don’t know about you, but for much of my life, I have been a crash course missile, heading straight for a “bad boy.” So many of my girlfriends, colleagues, and thousands of women who cross my threshold have similar tastes.
I was on the phone, last week, with a pal when she asked me why her so-unbelievably-good partner makes her furious sometimes. Her wife is loving, kind, compassionate, patient, adorable. Everything we think we’d ever want in a relationship. And sometimes, it’s unbearable. Sometimes, the kindness is too much, and makes her doubt everything. Mostly herself. Because what kind of monster gets upset at that kind of goodness? What is that ABOUT?
The “bad boy” trope didn’t get to be a trope by accident. We are attracted to people who .. aren’t so nice to us. The ones who withhold affection, who make us feel unsure of their love, the ones who give us crumbs…
You might have a partner whose goodness sometimes feels unbearable, or you may be chasing after an unavailable love. Two different sides, same coin.
So what is the “bad boy” phenomenon really about? Toxic masculinity.
Oh, Mama Gena, “toxic masculinity” – what does that even MEAN? Fair question, darling. What I mean is that, regardless of gender, we’re all made up of masculine and feminine energy. (This is the heart of much eastern medicine and philosophy, for starters.) Balanced masculine energy is protective, strong, light, and generous. Balanced feminine energy embraces openness, softness, darkness, and receptivity. We need both. We grew up in a patriarchal culture, though, that praises the masculine over the feminine. Without the natural and necessary tempering of the masculine by the feminine, we have imbalanced masculinity. Masculinity gone wild. Masculinity that’s … toxic. Toxic masculinity shows itself in violence, aggression, control, withholding. Still with me? So, men aren’t the problem (or the solution, for that matter); toxic masculinity is. And because of the culture you were raised in, you might have kinda a thing for toxic masculinity.
Therapists may say you have “daddy issues.” You don’t have daddy issues.
Okay. You do have daddy issues. But, in this culture (I’m speaking mostly to those of us in North America), we all have daddy issues. (We have mommy issues too, but that’s for another day.) Daddy issues is another way of saying we are living in a patriarchal culture that has upheld toxic masculinity. Our culture is set up so that few of us live with inter-generational family in extended communities. We’re raised with the father we have. Period. Unless we’re not raised with a father at all. And so many of our fathers/uncles/men – usually, our dominant models of masculinity – were raised without the kind of acceptance and nurturing that could secure them in their healthy masculine; so even if they wanted to, they don’t know the first thing about it. The people likeliest to expose us to healthy masculine energy are often deprived of it themselves. That affects what we each give, receive, and seek in relationships.
The divine masculine makes us feel fully loved, cherished, treasured. We are certain of our beauty, our worth, our worthiness. We are fed to fullness, never wanting. We have healthy attachments.
Feeding a daughter to fullness so she never wants for love or affection, so her capacity for both naturally grows for the duration of her childhood… it’s a big job. This isn’t about blaming your father. If he was in your life, even the most loving, present dad couldn’t do this alone – it’s not a one-person gig. You – and he – needed a team of uncles and friends and community and media messages and more. Because, again, it’s not a man-only gig – it’s a culture gig.
So, my darling, you, and likely the majority of women – certainly the majority of women I’ve met over 20 years of this work – don’t even have sense memory of embodied, healthy masculine love. You don’t know what it would feel like to fully receive. And when you encounter it, it seems .. strange. (Ever meet a nice guy and wonder what’s wrong with him? Ever look into your partner’s loving eyes when you’re at your worst and just want to scream?)
And not only is it an unfamiliar taste, we’re also so very accustomed to eating crumbs. If I starve you for years and then present a feast, you’ll feel nauseous. Your body won’t be able to digest it. It will feel wrong. Unfamiliar. And what we’re trained to long for is the familiar. Familiar feels like home.
So let’s get back to the Bad Boys. We want them because they offer crumbs and we know what to do with crumbs. We grew up on crumbs. Let’s get back to my friend’s wife. She’s offering a feast. The problem isn’t with the feast. The problem isn’t with the person who doesn’t know what to do with a feast. The problem is the culture that taught us deprivation is natural.
My friend married into a feast because she – like you – knows there’s something not right about deprivation. She recognizes she might be hungry. That doesn’t mean she knows what to do once she sits at the table. It doesn’t mean she won’t feel awkward and irritated. Or that she’s wrong for it. (Her wife, by the way, may have the same challenges – just because she knows how to offer doesn’t mean she knows how to receive either.)
But here is what I know. It is possible to enjoy a feast. And, more than possible, it is necessary.
Having studied this phenomenon for decades, I can tell you you are absolutely capable of expanding your appetite and capacity for healthy love. You can unlearn malnourishment as a way of being. (And it doesn’t necessarily require leaving your current relationship to find.)
A woman does this by falling in love with herself.
And falling in love with yourself isn’t just a nice self-help idea; it is a teachable skill. A skill I teach.
For a woman to fall in love with herself – to give herself the experience of healthy masculine – here are three certain requirements:
1. She must have the support of a community – a community of approval, a community where every part of her is not just accepted, but loved. As I’ve said, this isn’t a one-person gig.
2. She must have visible models of other women falling in love with themselves. She needs to witness the arc of this work in others. This inspires. We get non-verbal transmission from each other. We learn well from stories, from examples. But, also, it rewires our brains. New beliefs become possible.
3. She must have reliable, doable practices. You can’t think your way to loving yourself. You have to do. With support. (See item 1.)
The School of Womanly Arts is the best container I know for exactly this learning and practice (and more), but there are steps you can take to begin to retrain your appetite where you are.
Gather together at least five women where you are and commit to meeting at least once a month – meeting in-person weekly is ideal, but if you can’t manage that, then regular check-ins by phone or Google Hangouts or Facebook between monthly meet-ups is good.
And then be willing to do two Holy Trinities each – a brag, a gratitude, and a desire (my book Pussy: A Reclamation has more about this) – every day, with your pod. The first Trinity is your chance to brag about a way you have taken the time to invest in your self-love. Self-love is step one in attracting love. The second Trinity is to have you describe a small positive interaction you have had with another person, where you have allowed yourself to receive something, adding healthy masculine energy to your diet. It takes a bit of practice to teach ourselves how to ask for something that we want from others. But if we start small, we can continue to expand and expand so much that crumbs are not longer enough. And only a feast will do..
Letting in love is not so different from building a new muscle at the gym. We can start small and then, our capacity grows and grows and grows. We must do this. For ourselves, for our children. With patience, we can each slowly and surely expand to receive the love we want. And by so doing, we teach the world how to love.
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
The School of Womanly Arts
Regena is an academic of pleasure, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, a feminist icon, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.
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Mastery 2018 is open!
The School of Womanly Arts Mastery Program – Regena’s signature, internationally-renowned work – begins this March, and registration is open. Mastery was created over 20 years ago, to be a road map for women to get unstuck, turned on, and thriving inside a deeply supportive community. It is an immersive, experiential course unlike anything else in the world, with a combination of live intensives in New York City with Regena – Mama Gena herself – and ongoing support structures in-between. Women come from around the globe to join the movement and change their lives. Are you thinking of joining them?
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