Okay, fellas. I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve had the same thought. “What does she/he mean I don’t talk about my feelings? We have sex all the time.” You may also have thought, “I talk about how I’m feeling all the time. My boys and I play football, basketball, and hang out all the time. They know me. They know how I feel.” It may be hard for you to wrap your head around, but sex is NOT intimacy. Hanging with your bros is NOT talking about your feelings. Netflix and chill is not letting the person you care for know how you’re feeling. Sex is easy. Chillin in front of the T.V., drinking a beer, and watching the game with your boys is easy. They are easy because neither cause any sort of discomfort, or awkwardness while they occur. This means there is no growth when they happen. No connection. For true intimacy to occur there has to be risk, trust, and respect to reveal who you are behind the mask you wear.
Even from behind my laptop, I can hear the fire alarms going off in your brain.
“Talk about my feelings! My emotions! Does he mean how I feel? On the inside?!! Oh, no, no, no, no!!! Feelings are a girl thing, not a guy thing! Right?”
Wrong! Unfortunately, this is a myth perpetuated that “real men” should be stoic, quiet, and brooding in order to be attractive. The myth that the silence creates mystery, leaving women wondering, “Who is he on the inside, really?” or your boys saying, “Why can’t I be more like (insert name here)? He’s so calm, and sure. He has everything figured out. I bet he doesn’t have a problem in the world.” A good example is the final scene of The Amazing Spider-Man where Doc Connors believes that just because Spider-Man is a superhero, he doesn’t have a problem in the world. The truth is just the opposite, but the how is he to know there’s a boy with a world of problems behind the mask Peter wears.
These are just that, myths. True intimacy takes a lot more than a few romps under the cover, or a few beers. True intimacy means revealing that you are a human beneath the mask you wear. The perfect example of true intimacy can be seen in the Batman rebirth, Batman #4-6.
Now, Batman is a man’s man, right? I mean, he never talks about his feelings. When he starts to feel the urge to “communicate” and “express himself” he takes down a group of bad guys, letting his fists do the talking. Come on, when he lost his parents he didn’t cry about it. Instead, he traveled the world and became the most bad ass normal human superhero the world has ever known. He proves that real men don’t talk about their feelings, they get things done, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes saving lives, including his own, takes more than “going it alone”. It means taking off the mask and trusting others with the secrets you feel you have to keep to remain a “real man”. These issues reveal this truth with ease.
The first issues of Batman’s rebirth introduced two new superheroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl. Think of Superman and Supergirl, but in Gotham. They have super strength, x-ray vision, ability to fly, heat vision, the whole works. The two are on the job for less than a year and they end up killing innocent soldiers after being brainwashed by Psycho-Pirate (proving Batman is the best at what he does).
Unfortunately, the two can’t even kill innocent people without somehow messing it up (if that makes sense). After the massacre of twenty-seven soldiers, one soldier plays possum, and lies still, faking death and hoping for life. While lying among his dead comrades, the soldier watches as Gotham takes off his mask. Seeing the hero’s face, the soldier gets a positive ID on Gotham’s secret identity, goes to the home of Gotham and Gotham Girl, and kills their parents. Gotham shows up too late, but captures the soldier, snapping neck, and decides the only way to save the Gotham City is to destroy it.
The images attached depict how Gotham and Gotham Girl bought their powers, why Gotham is able to defeat the entire Justice League single handedly, and how Gotham Girl decides to put her brother down. Batman #7 reveals that being filled with fear by Psycho-Pirate, killing twenty-seven innocent soldiers, losing her parents, and killing her brother was a little too much for Gotham Girl to handle, go figure. However, with each use of her powers Gotham Girl gets closer to death. And with each passing moment she talks to her dead brother. Batman attempts to get through to her, but she’s too lost. That is, until Batman takes off his mask, and reveals to Claire that he is just a man in a mask who is also hurting. This is what breaks the spell. This moment of true intimacy, trust, and fear brought Claire back from the brink of losing her mind.
Men, what I am trying to say (with Batman’s help) is that wearing a mask around the people you truly care for is not being a superhero. It’s being alone, isolated, and unable to feel human around the people who make you feel the most alive. Yes, sex is a part of intimacy, and so is just hanging out and having a beer to relax, but there is more. Being a “real man” does not mean limiting your emotions. Being a “real man” means showing true intimacy with you partner, your family, and your friends by letting them know you are human. Let them know you are afraid, happy, sad, whatever the emotion as long as you let them in. Easier said than done, right? Absolutely! This is especially true for survivors of sexual abuse. However, the more you work at it, the easier it becomes. It’s the only way to breakdown barriers. It’s the only way to not feel so alone.