In the In the years since I began writing and gender, sex, and relationships, my hypothesis on the true nature of gender has evolved. Originally, I explained "gender" as a spectrum with masculinity at one end and femininity at the other. Any given person, regardless of their biological (do they have a penis and testes, a vagina and ovaries, or any of the variations and combinations that can occur) or genetic sex (XX, XY, or any other variation that can occur), fell somewhere on the spectrum. It looks something like this:
I had liked this idea because it allowed for the wide variety of gender expression we see occurring throughout our populations. The problem, though, is the construct didn't allow for the combinations of masculinity and femininity we see.
For example, it would be entirely possible for a biological and genetic male to exhibit very strong masculine traits, yet also exhibit very strong feminine traits situationally. Based off my hypothesis I explained in this post on my other man camp blog, this kind of man would commonly be called a "gentleman" and would be considered exceptionally high value to potential mates. In the realm of gender research, this man who displays both masculine and feminine traits would be considered "androgynous."
This man, however, can't really be described with the "spectrum" model above. If he's placed somewhere in the middle, we couldn't discern him from an "undifferentiated" person who exhibits few masculine OR feminine traits, which according to the hypothesis, would be low value to potential mates.
So I needed a new representation of my model, and this new model had to account for a few... issues. Including:
- The model has to represent combinations of masculinity and femininity as discrete constructs. This would alleviate the problem of the spectrum graphic representation above.
- The model has to represent gender expression independent of biological and genetic sex. A major problem with the concept of "gender" is it's often conflated with sex. Part of this is simply an issue with the colloquial use of the the terms. In popular culture, we use sex and gender interchangeably. Our new model has to account for the fact that sex and gender, while often occurring together in most of the population, is not a perfect correlation. Most genetic and biological males are mostly masculine, but there are obvious exceptions.
- The model has to account for variability within the same individual over time and between different circumstances. A biological and genetic male may be masculine as fuck in one scenario (like confronting an aggressive homeless person), but may display strong feminine characteristics at other times (like when caring for a sick child.)
Taking these into consideration, I developed a better model. Note this isn't actually MY original idea; the inclusion of masculine and feminine gender traits have been studied by personality psychologists for over a hundred years. My model is unique in that it's tailored to be used as a foundation for the rest of the ideas and concepts that make up the "man camp" world view.
Gender as a Personality Construct
My new model is quite simple. We have the two gender constructs: Masculinity and Femininity. Our personalities are made up of these two traits; all of us will possess SOME masculine and SOME feminine traits. The degree to which each of us possess masculine and feminine traits can be measured with a test such as this one designed off the work of Sandra Bem, or if you really want to dig into the nuances of your gender expression, take this test. Either one will give you a ballpark representation of the combination of masculine and feminine traits you possess.
Your particular measure of masculinity and femininity will be represented with two cups:
As the measure of masculinity and femininity increases, the cups get progressively more full. Each of us will have a particular level in each cup that represents our distribution of masculine and feminine traits.
One of the cups will be more dominant and more outwardly obvious more often. This is our primary gender. The other one will be our secondary gender. A strongly masculine man will behave in a masculine way most of the time, but may exhibit feminine characteristics in specific situations. Masculinity would be his primary gender; femininity would be his secondary gender.
Likewise, a strongly feminine woman will behave in a feminine way most of the time, but may exhibit masculine characteristics in specific situations. Femininity would be her primary gender; masculinity would be her secondary gender. Here are my cups:
As you can see, I skew HEAVILY towards the masculine. Interestingly, back in my "Nice Guy" days, I would have scored FAR higher on the femininity cup and FAR lower on the masculinity cup. Not because I was a fundamentally different person, but rather because I thought that "Nice Guy" persona would get me what I desperately wanted - female attention. The cups above represent my authentic self. I'm pretty good at the feminine traits represented in the cups above because they're fundamentally part of who I am. But the feminine traits that I "faked" as part of my "Nice Guy" persona? Not so much.
I'd expect the majority of the population to follow this particular pattern. HOWEVER, it's entirely possible for other combinations to exist. A biological and genetic male could express feminine characteristics as his primary gender. And vice versa. Or a genetic or biological male or female could have equal parts masculinity and femininity. AND those characteristics could be balanced in such a way that they're equally dominant (both "primary".) And so on.
The way to think of "gender", therefore, is that it exists independently of biological sex, genetic sex, sexual orientation, or any other such construct.
The model itself isn't new or revolutionary; it merely gives us a useful framework to talk about the role of gender on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, and helps explain, predict, and alter how we relate to other people. Especially in relationships.
How We Can Use This Model
I make a lot of observations, give a lot of explanations, and make a lot of predictions across this blog and my other sex and relationship blogs. Pretty much all of these observations, explanations, and predictions can be explained using the Two Cup Gender Model. Here's a sampling:
- Gender expression is biological in nature and difficult to change without profound consequences. The idea that gender is hard-wired is one of the enduring, fundamental aspects of my hypothesis, which I detail in this post. However our cups are filled is largely innate and difficult to change. We can ACT in a way that violates our biological imperative, but that violation will come with significant struggles. It's essentially the same as if a gay man tries to be "straight." Possible, but extremely distressing personally. This deviates from the popular notion that gender is a social construct, which has virtually no scientific support.
- All of us have an authentic "default" ideal combination of masculine and feminine traits. This is tied to the previous point. Each of us has a default combination of masculinity and femininity that feels authentic. When we're acting in that way, we're most likely to reach our full potential.
- Masculinity and femininity are complimentary in nature. Great things happen when masculine and feminine people work together towards a common goal. Masculinity or femininity alone are both woefully inadequate at accomplishing greatness. Masculinity and femininity also falls flat if the constructs are competitive in nature.
- Masculinity and femininity can both create and ease tension, which creates the foundation of the push/pull dynamic of flirting and seduction. When masculinity and femininity interact, there's an inherent tension based off the stark contrast between the two. This contrast is the fuel that supplies the fire of passion. This applies to relationships or, really, any situation. Bringing masculine and feminine individuals together makes life more interesting.
- Relationship health increases as a function of the the disparity between masculinity and femininity in each partner. As I mention in the last point, the tension between masculinity and femininity fuels passion. The greater the discrepancy between the two, the more passion can build. The more passion builds, the more subjective enjoyment we get from relationships, the longer and more satisfying we'd expect the relationships to be.
- Most men are aroused by strongly feminine women; most women are aroused by strong masculine men. This is in no way a given, but generally speaking, this holds true. This is the reason a great deal of the man camp teachings involve learning to get better at being a man.
- Relationships are most successful when both partners score high on both masculine and feminine traits. The more of each trait a single individual possesses, the more capable they are at navigating life, empathizing with others (including their partner), and more dynamic and interesting their personalities become. A masculine male with strong feminine capabilities paired with a feminine female with strong masculine capabilities will create the best, most successful relationships. Basically, two androgynous partners are the pinnacle of relationship potential.
- Relationships are least successful when both partners score low on both masculine and feminine traits. Basically the opposite of the last one. Two undifferentiated partners are going to have the least-successful relationships.
- Children thrive when they're exposed to both masculine and feminine influences. Role models are important for children. Having a strong masculine and a strong feminine role model will expose them to the full range of gender expression, which will help them learn the nuances of both. It's important to note the biological or genetic sex of the parents don't seem to matter. A gay couple with one masculine and one feminine partner has the same basic outcomes as a straight couple with the same gender expression variability.
- The most successful tribes have roughly equal numbers of masculine and feminine members. If you follow this blog, you know tribalism is a major focus of my hypothesis. Generally, the more diverse the tribe, the more successful it will be... mostly because diversity gives the tribe a wider range of capabilities to solve interesting problems that arise within and outside the tribe. Gender is a MAJOR part of this. A tribe of mostly masculine members or mostly feminine members is not going to be nearly as successful as a tribe with equal numbers of each.
These are just a few of the practical applications of the Gender Cup Model. Moving forward, this'll likely be the model I use for future posts.