Gender and roles are incredibly interesting to me. In my blog titled “Real Men Don’t Have Penises” we looked at the differences in gender and how similar both genders actually are. In Vikter’s Q&A blog titled “A Stay At Home Dad’s Tale” we looked at a real life story of someone who has made the transition to a contradictory gender role.
As we go through life, our bodies produce hormones. The secretion volumes of thos hormones dictate our gender level as we grow older. The sex steroids (androgens, estrogens and progestogens) interact with vertebrae steroid hormone receptors to determine our genders. Hormonal balance is a tough thing as we age since our hormones are an ever evolving cocktail.
The yin and yang is a concept in Chinese philosophy that all things are inseparable and contradictory opposites. I believe that yin and yang is a wonderful representation of gender in you and I. As our male dominant side decreases, our female dominant side must increase to make up for the decrease in it’s opposite. This is no new revelation and Chinese philosophy can see many things as these polar opposites.
- Hot & Cold
- Female & Male
- High & Low
- Positive & Negative
- Good & Evil
- Life & Death
- Sun & Moon
- Love & Hate
- Submissive & Dominant
- You & Him
And of course the literal definition of the light & dark sides. (Star Wars reference, anyone?)
Yin is Female & Yang is Male
The Yin side of this equation represents the fairer sex or the light side of the balance. As the female or yin side decreases, so must the yang side increase to create a wholeness. This means as you explore gender roles with your male counterpart, his retreat from the male role to the female role means that you must also retreat from female to male.
This is of course not a permanent transition. This is simply an exploration of the societal norms that we’ve grown up with. Is a male with submissive tendencies acceptable in society? How about a female with dominant traits? Of course! Although the preconception of genders is the opposite.
The stereotypical stay at home mom is a woman who cooks and cleans while her husband is at work. She watches the kids if there are children in the household and she keeps the home clean. She is the master of the household and keeper of the domain. When the husband comes home, her obligation is to ask about his day, comfort him and ensure that his physical and emotional needs are cared for.
Stay at home dads seem almost silly or humiliating when you see them on television or in movies. Males are expected to be the breadwinners in our society and anything else is a complete flip-flop of the 1950’s stereotypes. Relations ebb and flow, much like a pie chart that mirrors the Yin and Yang of Chinese philosophy. In some cases, the male and female have always maintained high paying jobs and one of them loses their job. This is becoming more and more common as our global economy enters one of the largest recessions that we’ve ever seen.
Female Income Household
Thankfully in my household both myself and Kevin are blessed to be working. Some households aren’t quite as lucky and have been reduced to a single or zero income family. While my heart goes out to families living on a slowly dwindling savings account and government assistance, let’s talk about the often forgotten households with the female breadwinner.
In these female breadwinner households, things change. The dynamic of the relationship changes and the male becomes closer to the yin side of the equation. As his dominant masculine side retreats, he is no less of a person as his feminine submissive side increases. He is no less whole than his female breadwinner with the growing dominant masculine side and shrinking feminine submissive side. These of course are oversimplifications of the 1950’s stereotypes that we are all familiar with but you get the point.
How does he keep his identity as his role becomes less of a business man with important meetings, goals and sales objectives and more of a supporting role for his woman?
How does she keep her role as a woman despite taking complete financial responsibility for the household? How can she be proud of her household, her children and her pets despite being absent for most of the day? Even a work from home scenario, she is absent although physically present in the house.
As with the Yin and Yang described at the beginning of this blog, a household is made up of a supporting partner and a supported partner. I find the 1950’s stereotypes laughable but I don’t find them inherently wrong. With one of the partners regardless of gender earning income; the other partner must support the household to create the requisite wholeness.
Male as a Supporting Role
What happens when the male is the supporting role? What the hell do you think happens? He supports the woman. This means that he takes care of the house, daily chores, tends to children and ensures that the woman’s physical and emotional needs are met. Gay couples have been doing this forever and it really isn’t that difficult to understand. The physically assigned gender makes absolutely no difference in your ability to support your partner. For a wonderful example of this, read Vikter’s story about his transition into a supportive household role.
Does this make the man less of a man? Of course not. He is as much of a man as he wants to be. Does it make him less stereo-typically male? Probably, but who cares about those stereotypes anyway? When women are empowered with being out of the home every day, they may find themselves making lists of chores for their man. A honey-do list. Many women find that these changes in dynamic also bleed into the mix of physical and emotional needs that they require. As they feel more empowered and comfortable in their skin with their new role, they may desire a more dominant sexual life. As her husband takes a more submissive (Yin) role her dominant (Yang) side expands to fill the void between submissive and dominant. When one does not expand to fill the other, it can create conflict in the relationship. Although conflict in the relationship can cause feelings to be hurt, it is not inherently bad. Conflict can be a wonderful catalyst to help settle the balance of yin and yang in the relationship.
Asserting Her Masculinity
I say masculinity yet again as a reflection of those 1950’s stereotypes and not as a reflection of what masculinity should be. With her taking over roles in the household that are traditionally male dominated, she is not becoming more of a man nor is he becoming more of a woman. What results is the shattering of those gender role stereotypes. This helps to break down barriers that may help a couple become closer. Sexual dominance and submission are wonderful to enjoy especially when you break them free of stereotypes. Is a woman who enjoys pegging more of a man than a woman who does not? Is a woman who finds freedom and joy in exercising orgasm control in her relationship more of a man than a woman who does not? Of course not! A couple who enjoys the above activities is simply comfortable enough with the sexual balance in the relationship to try something new.
When a woman adds pegging to the relationship, she is exercising a level of empowerment. This may come as an extension of feeling empowered outside the household or perhaps at the request of the man who desires a level of dominance that is now missing from his life. Sex is also wonderfully represented by the yin and yang symbol. As his daily life veers toward a support role for his spouse, he also subconsciously craves a level of dominance from his partner. Our sex lives are an extension of our daily lives and a happy and healthy sex life needs to represent our self image. For the man, pegging represents an acceptance and trust of her financial care for the household and for him. Our sex lives are frequently a very literal metaphor for our emotional needs. Men are frequently disconnected from their own emotional needs due to the nature/nurture conundrum that they were raised with. A man who craves and enjoys pegging is accepting love and support from his woman into his body (physically) and his life (metaphorically).
A man moving to a supporting role in the relationship should not be seen as retreating. A woman moving to a breadwinner role in the relationship should not be seen as encroaching into the masculine role. Let’s break free of the gender/role stereotypes and move to a set of roles that focuses on supporting our partner and their needs regardless of gender. As with most everything on this site, I’ve written this in a male/female perspective and for that I apologize. That is my perspective due to my reality and my shortcomings in wokeness (sorry to use a cliche term). Please substitute genders and sexuality as needed for this article to suit your reality.
You have hit the nail on the head with this one. Thanks for the mention (twice even). I think what made the difference for me was understanding what did NOT change when our roles changed. The most comforting words when I felt like I had “failed” as a man were my wife telling me that “you are the same person I fell in love with”. It made me start to see that just because I do something different (for me and societally) does not mean I am not still me. My jokes are still bad, my food is amazing, I still love my family and I know they love me. It helped give the mental finger to what other people thought I should be doing. I have rarely done anything that anyone has told me, why should this be different.
Glad you liked it! Your wife is incredibly supportive, I like her!
I’m sure that your jokes aren’t thaaaaaaaat bad. Right?
So one day a little fish is swimming along and runs into a wall. What does he say??
How about, where does a hipster cook their food?
okay I’ll stop now.
Great post! Yes, things look for a balance and we (men) are moving away from the toxic sides but we’re also leaving some other stereotypes sometimes creating empty spaces that need to be filled.
My case is: i was the ‘nice guy’ and found a ‘sweet wife’ that was our guide before marrying. After our wedding, as i always saw myself and embraced the breadwinner, She went to a ‘more submissive’ role and i went to a more dominant. Neither did this on purpose, but i suffered it most. Even though we were both growing in our lives, i struggled and didn’t perform as the dominant sending us to a sub-sub crisis. We started distancing and She found the leadership She needed, and started leading us back together. We realized what was going on and then through time She has been taking more and more leadership although i kept the breadwinner (which i never saw as having more power, just as another way of serving Her).
i see many men, specially in the 15-30 years old range, confused. Unfortunately, in many cases, in a bad way as we (men) tend to be too comfortable. But i believe each couple will have much more flexibility to define their relationship and roles. Sex definitely carries lots of power dynamics so it’s being redefined. i welcome Emma and all the empowered women here as They help with this change.
Great post Emma. More couples would find true joy if they would adopt your advice to “break free of the gender/role stereotypes…” We all need to support friends and family who chose to break free from the shackles society places on us because of gender. This is especially true for younger couples. I’m very fortunate that my hubwife was open enough to reveal his submissive side to me when we were dating. It takes courage to do that. Hubwife’s honesty at that time laid the foundation for a successful marriage.
Keep up the good work!
The biggest question here is, would women feel comfortable with this scenario or would they be plagued with guilt? Feeling like they are being selfish even though they definitely would not be? Maybe it is societal conditioning but it kind of seems like women are not quick to adopt this role reversal because of guilt so they fill the roles of both higher income earner and domestic supporter which leads to burnout and animosity/conflict within the relationship. This role reversal also seems to have added pressure in how high income women choose partners. Almost as if even if they need to match with someone on their income level or higher. I was talking to my doctor (who is a an older woman) and she was discussing the issues surrounding being a woman in medical school at the time. I very lightly touched upon some of the subject that you discussed here. How helpful it would be to her career and advancement if a man took the supportive role. Her eyes lit up with excitement and intrigue. It ended up being a one and a half hour physical because of how great of a conversation we were having. It is an issue that requires all genders to be proactive in establishing the ying and yang system of harmony. .
I think many of us would feel guilty or out of line when it comes to assuming an atypical gender role. This is something that I feel should be overcome because it is only due to societal conditioning. If a certain set of roles works for you and your relationship, forget how society tells us it should be. Do what works for your relationship and communicate often and openly about how and why it is working for you.