Features May 8, 2008 at 4:00 am

I'm a straight guy with no interest in sports and almost no body hair. What makes a man masculine? The question led me to a doctor’s office, a therapist’s couch, and a drag bar in Tacoma.

Before and After KELLY O


I can't believe you have 0 comments on this article. Perhaps they were removed, censored, or not censorial enough for the Stranger?
Your writing kicks ass - a mini odyssey trying to understand your place in this universe - smart,funny, honest, respectful, blah blah forget the book reviews - looks like you have a potential book of your own. & thanks.
You 'da man! :) Hey Paul, it's Kat from high school. Stopping by to check up on you. Hope you are well.

Paul's article is one of the reasons I regularly read The Stranger. It is comforting to know that critical thinking and literacy still exists in the younger generation. Keep up the good work
Great article. It's too bad all men, straight and gay, couldn't take the time you have to think about what masculinity is and what it means for us.
I think I have too much testosterone if it makes you feel any better:) lol nice article.
I have been on T for over a year now and I want more facial hair whats your opinion on that. I see that all you all have nice facial hair. Seth
Fucking excellent article. Blew my mind.
Great article. I went through a similar journey when I was growing up, learning on my own what being a man meant when dad's vision of manliness wasn't working for me. What helped me me get to my current comfortable masculinity was a two fold process: joining the Marines and looking beyond the American stereotype of what's "manly". Growing older helps, too.
Unbelievably clear writing and a story that was fascinating. You covered more intensely and with so much more clarity the issues of gender on so many levels than I found in Master's level classes on the subject. Thank you for sharing your experience and writing. Thank you for putting a message out there that so many men and women can learn from. Thank you for your courage.
This article is incredible-- and frankly, the writing is more attractive that beefcake.
What a great essay; might really get some thinking going. It has resonance with a SavageLove podcast (from a while ago) about why (some) lesbians like manly women but don't want men. The layers of what constitutes "gender" are fascinating, complicated, beautiful and maybe a little disturbing. I grew up not knowing what this "feminine" was that everyone wanted me to be. Now that I'm old enough to not care what (most) others think -- and out as a dyke -- I still don't know.
I have a very short attention span and This article kept my interest the whole way. Great writing style and great topic as well. I hope to see more articles from you.


along with everyone else, great article. i would recommend the book 'Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again' for an interesting and entertaining read.
Great article. You have put together an interesting perspective on what society considers to be manly.
Well, it's not your appearance only that decide whether you are masculine or not. It's also your action, imo. I never really choose man from their appearance. I love people who pays attention to me and love me of course. So you are man enough if you can love a woman with all your heart.
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I have a friend that went through the same thing. Hey not all guys like sports. Not everybody is a mold.
Great article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post.
Great article! You should do a documentary based on it. I think it would be great - especially if it could open more people's eyes to the fact that genitals aren't the center of the universe.
If you do a documentary then you should get your testosterone levels measured and an MRI scan to check if your mirror neurons are normal. Mirror neurons read what other people's muscles are doing and if your's are inactive then a lot of body language should have passed you by as a kid.
But as I said, great article =)
I really enjoyed reading this; I'm a woman who has always wished I could be more "girly," but am hopeless with makeup, hairstyling or fashion, and I gave up trying to walk gracefully in heels years ago. The kink/BDSM community has given me a safe outlet to dress slutty and feel pretty and I am far more comfortable in my skin (especially dressing to show off my nice "rack") than I've ever been before.
Really great article. I've pondered my own femininity and have questioned my sexual orientation. I've concluded I must be bi. As for my womanliness, I'm still mixed on that. I dress in jeans, t-shirt/sweatshirt and running shoes. I've got short hair. I walk like a guy (when not wearing a dress), I have huge hands and feet like a guy. On the other hand, I also enjoyed a very low risk pregnancy and birthed a beautiful healthy baby boy. So I accept my mannishness and womanliness together. I was lucky in that I wasn't raised in gender roles; we were never told girls do this, boys don't do that, etc etc. Thanks so much for an insightful and intelligent article, Paul!
bret @20, you think you know the writer's sexual preference better than he does? Sure you aren't just projecting your own preference?

Great article Paul, I really enjoyed it. I guess I had "poor" (by which I mean, different from the norm) gender role models when I was growing up. I could never understand why women ''liked'' me, but few wanted to have anything to do with me sexually. As you surmised, I think it comes down to how we act, rather than how we look, but it took me a long time to figure that out. Frankly, I still think too many women want men who lord it over them, rather than being treated as equals (at least, if my experiences are any guide), as would be my preference. I'm not criticizing anyone for this, because I know how hard it can be to overcome that gender programming, even assuming there is that desire to do so.

Kos @ 21, I don't tihnk most gender education is verbal, more a case of imitating role models and changing perceptions and behaviours based on non-verbal cues. That's apparent to me in your words, due to your expression of gender confusion and need to categorise desires and behaviours as being gender specific, which saying you weren't raised in gender roles. I think everyone goes through that process, but most of us don't question it publicly.
well, its all depends on us, what we behave is what we look!!
An interesting article for sure. This is something I have wondered about for a number of reasons. I found growing up that I got teased a lot for not being masculine and a great deal of that had to do with the parents my clothes bought me. They were about as androgynous as it comes.

As I got older, I found that my extreme interests in color (and bright color) again earned me a spot in the gay camp. Because I found color exciting and wore the colors that I felt best expressed my mood, the girls loved it (but not me) and the guys thought I was weird.

Growing up in the northwest, I'd get picked up on my gay men at record stores - but I have never considered it. One of the reasons, aside from the basic attraction, is that by and large I don't get along with men - feminine or masculine.

What I have determined, after years of examination, was that the principle difference between women and men relies on the tension of emotional intimacy and what I prefer to term, emotional modesty.

I call modesty the ability to enforce and engage doors that will lead others to a greater knowledge of who you are.

Generally speaking, mature women are required to have significant modesty in their physical appearance and communication. The ability to know when and choose when to be naked or not, and how much, is a distinctly feminine power that rides on the goods you have at your disposal.

Mature men, on the other hand, have the possession of an extremely stable emotional support system and motivational drive. They exhibit what I consider emotional modesty - not letting themselves fly off the handle, but likewise not being an emotion brick wall. Unfortunately we live in a society of double standards when women are treated as sluts if they loosen up their modesty while men in the name of chivalry are expected to 'give it up' emotionally whenever the need arises.

When a women exhibits no modesty in her public appearance, she gets about as much respect from men as a man does who exhibits no emotional control when women deal with him. Now some folks go for others with no boundaries because they are easy to exploit, but that's a different scenario.

The problem now is that we have a generation of nice men who are exploited by women in need of emotional support who have no respect or love for these guys as men. When confronted with this reality, I sought the middle ground and determined that if you want to be seen as a man, you must not draw attention to yourself physically - be dominant in the psychic realm - and yet maintain composure and modesty in how your expressions are felt.

Wear a black suit, and a boring tie unless you want to sell, be seen, or get a point across. Don't confess at every opportunity, don't prove yourself to every naysayer, don't tell anyone your secrets unless they already respect you. Don't tell anyone what they want to hear unless it is what you want. I'm not saying be mainpulative, but be in control of your emotions.

That is what makes for the masculine.

When you look at the dominant mistress, she does the same - the black dress, the controlled flirt, the selective flash of skin or eyes. Again, modesty is the key to attraction - what a person is modest about establishes masculine or feminine attraction.

An interesting article to be sure. I think part of the problem here is that what our society holds up as the definition of manhood is but a caricature of it. Being a man has nothing to do with hanging out in bars in wife beaters, yelling at football players, or working on cars.

Instead, act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly and you'll have it nailed.

(Written as someone who growing up asked some of the same questions you did, only to realize the above later in life. No testosterone deficit, no hair deficit, I like women [in particular short, cute, brunettes], and watch football as if it were a chess match having come to a deeper understanding of the game).
Great article. I've definitely thought and journalled a lot about the nature of gender from the perspective of an unfeminine woman. I've wondered whether my life would have been simpler if I was lesbian, just because I fit the stereotypes so well. It's a gift to read about the perspective of an unmasculine man. Particularly one as perceptive and eloquent as you.
There are numerous interesting articles like this or something like political blah-blahs and pop-stars but there can be no high-quality amino acids proteins articles
Great article, very interesting.

However, this sentence made me frown: "Some men are frustrated when they find out that they have a smaller range of accepted behaviors to choose from when they become external females."

Please remember that trans women (pre- or post-op) are women, not men.

So it turns out Guy Fieri was a transexual all along?
If you had a group of people list words they would use to describe masculinity, I would bet that "brave" would come up quite often. It's interesting, then, that the author shows infinitely more courage by exploring his perceived lack of masculinity than do more typically masculine men who feel the need to regularly distance themselves from gay men or gay acts. While it may sound hyper-masculine to the shouter, "I ain't no fuckin' fag!" merely denotes a cowardly refusal to look inward.

Kudos to the author for having the balls to question his gender role.
If you had a group of people list words they would use to describe masculinity, I would bet that "brave" would come up quite often. It's interesting, then, that the author shows infinitely more courage by exploring his perceived lack of masculinity than do more typically masculine men who feel the need to regularly distance themselves from gay men or gay acts. While it may sound hyper-masculine to the shouter, "I ain't no fuckin' fag!" merely denotes a cowardly refusal to look inward.

Kudos to the author for having the balls to question his gender role.
So if I'm pretty much just like this but also have Asperger's Syndrome, have never had a romantic relationship, and am used to being assumed gay and asexual; does that make me some kind of double freak? Fun.
lots of cultures that have celebrations of manhood
as for modern man in America its Ability and intelligence and a bit of bravado.

as you have the ability to understand your question and go after it and find answers using intelligence it makes you Masculine.

Tarazan was a real bad-ass but what made him masculine was his ability to communicate with the jungle and use it intelligently to rule for good. and as the Jungle was Tarazan that was some high level Bravado.

Being Feminine is getting Tarazan to work for you as a monkey for a organ grinder.
What a thoughtful article. Paul Constant rules (as per usual).

"Sexual differentiation of the genitals occurs before sexual differentiation of the brain and is subject to varying and independent degrees of masculinization."
Front. End 2:1-11 (2011)

This quote is from one of the most thorough and up to date reviews on the current status of our understanding of the biological basis of sexual orientation that I have found. It is quite interesting and describes many of the animal models (including humans) used to investigate this question.

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