I recently sat down with Mike Campbell, a wizard of the man world who offers all men a fantastic, honest reality check. Mike offers a wealth of self-help experience, and has even earned the mantle of an Amazon best seller for his book Unleash Your Alpha. You can understand why I thought he’d be the perfect man to help me answer my big question: are gay men ‘real men’?
'49% of men aged 18-30 agree that society as a whole tells them that if you’re gay you aren’t a real man.'
A study out of the US, UK, and Mexico with a sample size of 1225 men aged 18-30 revealed that 49% of men agree that society as a whole tells them that if you’re gay you aren’t a real man (Heilman, B. et al., 2017). This is a powerful revelation for some, but for those who identify as gay, it is an all too familiar notion. You have sex with men? How emasculating…
This very naturally leads to a conversation about masculinity, which then feeds into a conversation about sex - both of which result in a fascinating take on relationships. Hence this interview being brought to you in three smaller chunks of brain watering goodness.
Mike opens with a dangerously quick response to my question, describing it as one that ‘automatically turns people off’ but which is the ‘cause of a lot of shit’. I couldn’t agree more. He then quickly offers his own take on what a real man is: he who understands who he is and is thus able to be his own man. He stresses that part of that is being able to let go of who you think you’re supposed to be.
The first value of a ‘real man’ that came to mind for me? Accountability. Responsibility. Mike suggests that it comes down to behaviour, and that this forms part of the armour that we put on.
‘We start to learn things about ourselves at a certain age… that takes on the idea of fitting into the group, acceptance, and therefore abandoning a part of ourselves. That’s where that break starts to happen’.
'The desire to belong is so strong that they will engage in any kind of behaviour that they believe will bring them respect and approval from their peers.'
I think everyone has a good understanding that humanity works in groups. We all want to belong. But for some of us, this desire is so strong that they will engage in any kind of behaviour that they believe will bring them respect and approval from their peers. This is especially pronounced in men. And, in my opinion, it is dangerously pronounced in men who identify as gay. It’s understandable though, we’re already a minority. In 2019 we’re accepted in most parts of the developed world, but are we respected?
‘Most of us have learned to hide parts of ourselves that we fear will be judged, that we really just hold shame around and judge ourselves [with].’ Keep in mind: Mike identifies as straight.
It’s interesting how a conversation around respect slips quickly into one around shame. Shame is an old friend of sex, especially for men who prefer to sleep with men. Mike eloquently concludes: ‘it’s mental masturbation’.
Check out the interview below and watch the ideas unfold.
Heilman, B., Barker, G., and Harrison, A. (2017). The Man Box: A Study on Being a Young Man in the US, UK, and Mexico. Washington, DC and London: Promundo-US and Unilever. Retrieved from here.
Nathan helps people to express themselves at home, at school, and in the workplace, all around the world. He's passionate about thinking, and engages in it regularly. He's not overly fond of writing in the third person though. It's weird. Connect with him on Facebook to continue the conversation, make a video at colourbeat.com, or even share a dance with him at movewithcolour.com!
A better definition and understanding of an identity allows for more men to be able to integrate it into their being.
Some things that we do are in an attempt to gain respect from our peers, regardless of our values.
Adults need to be equipped with the right tools and understanding to help children discover who they are.