But Katja Lewina was no less astonished at how many guys correspond to the common clichés. On “International Men’s Day” a conversation with the author about penis fixation and why women cannot help the crisis of masculinity
Ladies first! True to this motto, Katja Lewina first took care of the liberation of female sexuality and last year fueled the debate about women and lust with her book “She hates Bock”. Her second book is now available: “Bock. Men and Sex ”. And here, too, she does the trick of writing about a rather complicated topic in a rather entertaining and stimulating way.
Mrs. Lewina, did the work on the book “Bock. Men and Sex “changed your view of men? I consciously say: man, because “men” don’t exist.
I was confronted with that when I wrote about women. Of course, men are as diverse as we women. We are all individuals. And yet there are these images of men, this collective consensus on how a man is or should be. We all grow up with this idea of masculinity – and even men who already live differently or want to be different are affected by it and have to put it off first.
Was it astonishing that men suffer from these images of masculinity too?
I was amazed at a lot of points. I had the feeling that I know everything about men. I’m straight, I’ve spent a long time being in relationships and having sex with men. I know them! And then it was always surprising to find out in conversation how vulnerable they are. And how hurt. Many are not aware of how hurt they are by the system in which they grow up, or by these ideas that they carry around with them about themselves or from a successful masculinity. In the end, this ideal of being strong, being active, of doing – that is, of potency in every respect, not just in bed – is also an insane pressure that many cannot meet.
And maybe you don’t want to.
Just. But this ideal robs many men of the opportunity to go their own way.
It is possible to get advice and help – which men are increasingly doing too.
It may be that many men notice that they do not correspond to the image of the so-called new masculinity – and yet there are still too few who really want to change something. Too often this leads to aggression and leads to men saying, I can’t get out of there, so I turn outward and channel it through anger. We see that in the discussions about toxic masculinity and the misogyny that is rampant online.
From the ranks of the men, however, one can always hear that this anger only comes about because feminism, which also wants to be a constructive force, turns out to be a wagon castle in discussions.
That feminists always call for the discourse and also speak about problematic aspects of masculinity, but that men can hardly get involved in this discussion. And especially the forgiving men do not feel heard. Similar to the women who feel ignored in the discourse about equality.
My impression is more that men feel that they are not allowed to say anything more. In my book I tell of a journalist friend who has the feeling of having got into a sexually assaulting situation and who still struggles to write a text about it.
Because he is worried that as a man he could be denied that he would feel like a victim?
Exactly. And I can understand him there too. I do not come from intellectual feminist circles myself, I write about what I see and experience and do not want to raise it into an academic discourse at all. And there I’ve already caught a lot of slips. It doesn’t just happen to men. But there is still no reason to shut up, on the contrary. I think it is important and rewarding for men to reflect on this, also publicly. Otherwise the idea of equal rights has absolutely no chance.
Because it only works together …
We cannot exclude the men from there. But I also understand women who are more combative because it is just the case that until recently men dominated the discourse – also about women, their bodies, their sexuality, their place in society. For a long time women had no right to express themselves. And so it is completely okay if women today demand that men simply take a step back and give women the space.
If you look around in men’s research, there is definitely cause for hope. Because on the one hand, if we may believe Walter Hollstein or Klaus Theweleit, not much has changed in the last 40 years in terms of “men’s problems”, but in every generation there are men who manage to break the vicious circle, or at least one To cut a path in the thicket of old fears and trauma. Men who say this is no longer my concept of masculinity.
That’s how I experienced it too. I was often touched by the openness and willingness with which the men talked about themselves and also shared very intimate things. I did not expect that they would have such a great need to show themselves and to reveal something. At the same time, I was very touched by the fact that virtually everyone I spoke to has no way of talking to other men about sexuality and exchanging ideas about insecurities and weaknesses. If you don’t have a group of men, who should you turn to? All the conversations you can have are rather competitive, it’s about how many women you have made it clear what a good engraver you are.
Cliché alarm ?!
Well, I’ve talked to a lot of men, but I can’t remember anyone saying they have other men to open up to. As a woman, I experience that very differently with my friends.
But there is too little exchange not only among men, also between the sexes.
It’s just incredibly difficult to talk relaxed about the relationship between the sexes. Because women have been the inferior sex for a long time and some of them still are. And had no place at all to speak for themselves. If you’re already in the inferior position, how are you going to find a smooth, friendly path? Of course there is pent-up anger and the need to be loud. But being loud is also something that many women still can’t really do. Only a few are involved in public discourse. Most women are still the ones who are quiet, who earn less, who care about the well-being of their children and their partner. Very few people live an equal relationship.
Katja Lewina , born in Moscow in 1984, studied Slavic studies, literature and religious studies and worked as a lecturer and in artist management. Since 2017 she has published her texts in all major newspapers and magazines. She lives near Berlin with her husband and three children. The fact that she lives in an open relationship and writes about it just as openly often brings her angry letters.
International Men’s Day was first proclaimed in 1999 and has been celebrated annually on November 19th in many countries around the world since then. With this day, the initiators wanted to pay tribute to those men who stand up for their communities and families, but also for equality. boh
Which brings us to the social structures: Even if couples want to leave old role models behind, they quickly reach their limits, not just economically.
I saw it myself when we switched from a classic family model to a more contemporary one. Before that, my husband also worked harder and made most of the money while I took care of the children. We then tried to split the fifty-fifty – that was absolute hell.
Because it is much more convenient to divide it up so that the man earns the money and the woman serves the domestic sphere. But if you want to change something, it’s like a revolution in your own four walls. It goes haywire – in between we had the feeling that we were destroying our relationship. On the other hand, you have to get involved and let it happen. Both are not easy.
And that will probably go on for a while as long as men have to think about whether they want to take six months of parental leave and then go back to the job – or whether they want to go back to work after two weeks …
But I keep thinking: man, have the balls, it’s your decision! On the other hand, it is also weird that many men at work really have to fight to be able to take parental leave. There is such a gap between desire and reality that men inevitably stay full-time and take a maximum of two months of parental leave – and are therefore not equally involved in raising children and housekeeping.
There are “men” authors who argue that quite a few boys and men are off the beaten track because society is so strongly influenced by women. And because they can’t please women, either in bringing up them or buying children’s shoes, they prefer to leave it alone …
What? I haven’t heard that before, except maybe from some wacky men’s rights activists … But that’s amazing that it comes down to the fact that the woman is to blame for the man’s misery. Incredible! Such a twist of everything! But still it is the case in many families that the father is not as present as the mother – even if it is often chosen by himself. There is an interesting study that says that couples who work 40 hours a week or more are happier. And satisfaction drops significantly if the man only works part-time.
Because then he is at home so much?
No, according to the author of the study, it is probably because couples who want to live their own model are constantly struggling against the mills of the common and always have to justify themselves that they want to do it differently. It also plays into the fact that a man who takes care of the children and the household while his wife earns the money also has to deal with the fact that he is a washcloth for some. That is still considered unmanly. And couples can still plunge into deep crises if the man loses his job or the woman overtakes him in terms of careers.
Have you come across clichés about men who you thought were from the day before yesterday?
So, I was amazed at how much men carry all these clichés, which are actually considered more of a myth. This penis fixation alone! Is it big enough, does it satisfy? I was totally blown away by how obsessed men are with their penis. The comparison of cocks at the urinal, the mutual masturbation among young people, which I don’t know from girls at all. They neither compare nor look at each other. Women tend not to know what the other looks like in the crotch, which of course is also due to the anatomy. But men’s constant fear of being too little, too small, too impotent, does not exist in women. There is more of a fear of being too big, too loud or too fat. Men, on the other hand, want to be expansive, and they openly admit that, at least when they are young. In men over 40, all of these things are negated. They then say, it’s all a free decision, everyone lives according to their own ideas and there are no gender clichés with me.
Also an illusion?
I am afraid so. In any case, younger men are much closer to it and also notice that they don’t even want to live up to the standards they grew up with. They say to themselves: I can live well with myself the way I am. Metoo changed something again.
In what way?
This discussion did not only focus on sexual assault, it was also always about questions of coexistence and mutual respect. That’s why you shouldn’t be too ambitious. The differences have become finer and are no longer as blatant as they were perhaps 30 years ago, but they have still not been reduced. We’ll have to be patient a little longer. But I am completely with the male researchers you mentioned and I am confident that in every new generation some men will break free from the vicious circle.
Speaking of the vicious circle: you expose yourself quite a bit when you write about your love life, your open relationship … Unlike men, when you look at women who make sexuality and open relationships – basically: self-determination – their topic, it quickly turns around the question of morality to go. Do you often have to hear that it is morally reprehensible what you are living there?
Clear. And then the poor children! However. I think the monogamous relationship for life, which is our ideal, is almost like a religion. In my opinion, this search for the right person is people’s Achilles heel. Some who put sexual fidelity above everything immediately feel personally attacked if you just say that there is more for me. It’s no wonder: In surveys, loyalty is always to be found in the first place when it comes to what is important to the respondents in a partnership. But the question of whether one can define fidelity beyond control over the sexual organs of the other does not even arise. It’s also such a security.
What is your impression: Has the perception of these topics changed in the years that you have been writing about love, sex and open relationships?
In any case. In the beginning it was still called “that bitch”. But in 2017, when my first texts about it appeared, it was a different time. At that time, Friedemann Karig’s book “How we love” was just published, which was fairly well known in the media. And an incredible amount has happened since then. Suddenly there were people talking about their different models of living relationships. I had a lot of inquiries about it and thought: Crazy, everyone wants to publish something about it. It also has a voyeuristic aspect.
Because an open love life seems to be a secret longing of many people after all?
Apart from the fact that a surprising number of people cheat in their relationships and simply keep it to themselves, it is like this: If we are honest with ourselves, we notice that we want to maintain emotional and physical autonomy. This freedom is an incredibly attractive prospect. But the downside of it – namely having to share the other – we don’t want that.
Which could come from the fear that love will suddenly mix with all this freedom and one will lose the other.
Is it really about love? Or is it not about the deceptive security that the other will stay with us as long as we control their sexual organs? I know so many couples who have lived monogamous for a long time and then split up because of another man or woman. But these separations only come about because we think: as soon as someone else comes into play, then I no longer love you and unfortunately I have to leave.
Interview: Boris Halva