Performance and Subversion

by Cam Fraser // September 5 // 0 Comments

What does it mean to be a man? When we define maleness, or masculinity, we are quick to assume that to be a man means being aggressive, loud, violent, and dominant. Even more, maleness and masculinity is often defined by one’s gender, their gender presentation, and how they perform maleness and masculinity.

A common notion that is often not discussed when examining men and masculinity is how much emphasis is put on the performative aspect of being a man. Performative masculinity is a performance of masculinity that you put on so others around you won’t question the fact that you’re a man.

Take shaking hands, for example. A "masculine" handshake between two men is rooted in previous actions – both their physical performances (the firm clasp, the decisive shake) and the way they’re spoken or thought about as "masculine" ("Don’t trust a man with a limp handshake," "He has a good, assertive grip").
There’s an unspoken choreography that moulds the encounter between two men. The less it is thought about, the smoother it operates. The moment the performance is brought to awareness, it feels clunky and unnatural, because this reveals the fact that the sequence could have been executed differently.

The act of bringing this performance to awareness and deliberately executing the sequence differently is known as subversion. To subvert something is to take oppressive forces and turn them into something that challenges the oppressor.

Subversive masculinity is the adoption of criteria for a gender other than male. For example, a man wearing a skirt and make up is an act gender subversion. To engage in subversion is to use the “rules” of gender against those who intend to enforce them, turning their intended meaning into something completely different.

You do not need to use material means such as clothing or make up to subvert masculinity, you can also subvert gender through the act of recontextualization. For example, taking a heteronormative song, movie, or tradition and placing it in a queer setting.

Cam Fraser is a Certified Professional Sex Coach and Certified Sexologist. Being a former Tantric Yoga Teacher, his work integrates scientifically validated, medically accurate information about sexual health, with sacred sexuality teachings from the mystery traditions. As a coach, he helps men go beyond surface-level sex and into full-bodied, self-expressed, pleasure-oriented sexual experiences free of anxiety or shame.

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