The notion of dismantling American manhood

The other day I was watching the show High Maintenance with my partner who is a cisgender, white male when his two roommates came in and vocalized their discomfort over a former episode of the show that showed two men having sex. I immediately tripped over my words, angry that they could fathom saying that. I know there’s criticism around the liberal echo chamber filled with Gender Studies degrees that like to flaunt their knowledge of the binaries; but again, I was still unamused by two Notre Dame fraternity stars explaining that gay sex was weird to them. My partner, by the way, stood calmly and explained that what they were saying wasn’t cool. They left the room. 

What a vibrator taught me about…the phallus

I’ve found, as a woman-identifying individual, discussing the pleasure of my partner in tandem with my own has fueled conversations around why heteronormative couples do not see certain options as available to them. At a time when we’re just on the cusp of actually prioritizing women’s pleasure, it may seem strange to shift the framework back to heterosexual men of all people; but this has an effect on women’s pleasure. 

We give the penis a lot of power in one form or another; So when I first heard of Tenuto, I was pleasantly surprised. I’d never seen a vibrator focused on stimulating a penis; the extent to which I discussed sex toys was clitoral stimulation, or as a gag gift for my more prudish friends. Tenuto is a vibrator for people with penises that can be used solo or with a partner. One reaction to the toy is simply, “I don’t need it.” If you have a penis, hands, and porn, you should be all set, right? This bedroom code of conduct grounds itself in an assumption that only what is vulnerable must be fixed.

The machismo state of the union is rigid. If you search “define: masculine” on Google, it states: anything “traditionally associated with men” and then a laundry list of adjectives from aggressive to brawny. Up until the recent era of spectrums, the archetype of what is masculine adhered to Google’s definition. Even now, when it comes to a roundup of all things phallic, messaging around men and penises are not spectrum-friendly but rather constricted to stories of castration like that of John Bobbitt or heteronormative sex from Pornhub.

Take, for instance, a flaccid penis during sex; something that is supposed to be fixed in the moment. But a vibrator for men doesn’t fix anything, so it is therefore unnecessary. Therein lies the certain historical stereotype that we must fix X or Y to mirror the ideal masculine identity or aforementioned archetype, due to an infatuation with the status quo (in this example, a hard penis). To, as they say, be a man. To dislike the High Maintenance sex scene. To “address” erectile dysfunction or plug a hair follicle. Instead of capitalizing off of insecurity or perpetuating the notion that straying away from a heteronormative sexuality is threatening to masculinity, there is an opportunity to encourage exploration, experimentation, and a world of spectrum.

Shifting constructs, increasing awareness

A product like MysteryVibe’s Tenuto is one solution among many that inverts stereotypical conversations that have previously made androcentric vulnerability a problem. Tenuto is a vibrator with wings that secure the penis and testicles, with three front motors designed to stimulate oneself or both partners, as Tenuto is designed to be worn comfortably during sex. The vibe also comes with a how to guide with numerous position suggestions. The existence of a wearable vibrator for people with penises symbolizes a dismantling of “manhood” as is defined in the current zeitgeist; ​beyond the bare bones simplicity that is often necessitated by a western version of masculinity. 

We’ve observed masculinity as reduced to adjectives and moments, rather than a participant in an oppressive pattern. By increasing sexual self awareness and self acceptance in the bedroom—between both men and themselves and men and their partners—we can begin to deconstruct any stereotypical ways of “being a man.” Perhaps, learning to think outside the confines of socially constructed “masculinity” in terms of sexuality could help men contemplate this dynamic in other areas of their life; down to a reaction to an episode, even. 

These rigid constructs of masculinity are inextricably linked to toxicity for all genders; and as we confront them all, there is something to be unearthed when it comes to heteronormativity entrenched in those who identify as men. 

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