Lately, I have seen quite a few references to ‘real men’ as in ‘real men don’t rape’, ‘real men don’t beat women’ and so on. This has been making me rather angry and for some quite complex reasons.
To start with, what is a real man? Well, biologically speaking, a real man is a genuine adult human male. That is, a human being with the anatomy to rape. Now I know that this isn’t what is being meant when people (usually men) say ‘real men don’t rape’ so I want to explore the cultural significance of this saying and also what it infers.
My own reading of ‘real men’ is that it relates to a specific type of masculinity, one we can trace way back to the Dark Ages: chivalry. Chivalry is a proscribed code of conduct and laws originating from the medieval institution of knighthood. Knighthood was about honour, piety, loyalty…
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