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The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture: men* increasing their capacity to nurture, and becoming whole. I am struggling to see the full shape emerging in the pencil rubbing, when only parts are visible at a time.
Violence and nurturance are two sides of the same coin. Compassion for self and compassion for others grow together and are connected; this means that men finding and recuperating the lost parts of themselves will heal everyone.
If a lot of men grow up learning not to love their true selves, learning that their own healthy attachment needs (emotional safety, nurturance, connection, love, trust) are weak and wrong – that anyone’s attachment, or emotional safety, needs are weak and wrong – this can lead to two things. They may be less able to experience women as whole people with intelligible needs and feelings (for autonomy, for emotional safety, for attunement, for trust). They may be less able to make sense of their own needs for connection, transmuting them instead into distorted but more socially mirrored forms.
To heal rape culture, then, men build masculine nurturance skills: nurturance and recuperation of their true selves, and nurturance of the people of all genders around them.
I am discovering a secret, slowly: the men I know who are exceptionally nurturing lovers, fathers, coworkers, close friends to their friends, who know how to make people feel safe, have almost no outlets through which to learn or share this hardwon skill with other men.
They may have had a role model at home, if they are lucky, in the form of an exceptionally nurturing father, but if they do not have this model they have had to figure everything out through trial and error, alone, or by learning with women rather than men.
This knowledge shapes everything: assumptions about the significance of needs, how one ought to respond to them, what closeness feels like, how to love your own soul, and what kind of nurturance is actually meant to happen in intimate space.
Meanwhile, the men I know who are kind, goodhearted people, but who are earlier on in growing into their own models for self-love and learning how to comfort and nurture others, have no men to ask.
Growing entails growing pains, certainly, but the way can be smoothed when one does not have to learn everything alone.
Men do not talk to one another about nurturance skills: doing so feels too intimate, or the codes of masculinity make doing so too frightening.
If they can’t ask and teach each other – if they can’t even find out which other men in their lives would welcome these conversations – then how do they learn?
Men have capacities to heal that are particularly masculine and particularly healing.
They often are not fully aware of this deep gift and how helpful it can be for those close to them, whether family or close friends.