The gendered point of view seeps into almost all aspects of a person's life. While it is women who largely fall on the receiving end of this skewed perspective, men are not relieved either. The very notion of what being a man means is nothing but an idea perfectly aligned with patriarchy and toxic masculinity, an idea which has slithered into their public as well as private lives and makes them believe that there is only one, narrow way of being a man. This idea is so entrenched into the belief system of people that pressure to conform is often insurmountable and any deviation from it is seen as abnormal and ‘being less of a man’. For instance, if we take a look at the patriarchally defined bedroom dynamics that are supposed to exist between a man and woman that not only layout the structures of domination in a domestic space but often in bed as well, where man is expected to lead and to know how sex works despite the amount of experience they might have had.
The dictated dynamic becomes glaringly clear in the wedding scenario, especially in the first-night setting, and has even found representation in popular media. The constant nagging, teasing, intrusive questions, and unsolicited suggestions about how to please a woman, what to do, how to take charge, and everything that follows before the first night does exactly the opposite of what it aims to do. Men often grow up believing that the entire onus of the first night falls upon them, rejecting not only a woman’s autonomy but being under immense pressure to perform well. Even outside the walls of a marriage, men are often riddled with expectations of penis sizes, how it looks, how long it takes for them to orgasm, etc creating an environment that encourages and perpetuates a narrow image of how one should look like and a deviation from it, induces anxiety, body image issues, social withdrawal, etc and without a proper redressal mechanism, these issues become lifelong problems and often get projected on others. The dilemma men face is a double-edged sword, where either way they choose to go, lies a pit because choosing to uphold and adhere to the patriarchal norms of being a man means to keep mum about issues that they face since that would threaten to undermine their masculinity, perhaps that is why India is known as the ‘Impotence Capital’ of the world. Numerous studies reveal that despite erectile dysfunction being an easily treatable ailment, the taboo surrounding it has prevented men from talking or even addressing it because patriarchally speaking, the measure of masculinity of a man also lies in his penis.
A lot of problems surrounding men can be traced back to the stereotypical notions that society has set for them and more often than not adhering to them seems like a safer choice than going against it and risk being ostracized for perfectly normal things and a lot of times, problems like performance pressure and erectile dysfunction can easily be tackled with proper sex education at secondary school levels. If the stigma is removed at the root level, then it won’t cause problems further on. Therefore, it’s important to start a dialogue, for men to realize that there is no shame in feeling and asking for help, that they do not have to bear the weight of what patriarchy dictates and demands from men, and finally that there is no single way of being a man.