Masculinity & Failure

We were very generously awarded a New collaborations bursary from a-n The Artists Information Company in order to carry out a research project in Amsterdam, in which we will explore our fantasies of masculinity by attempting to become our masculine desires, how they appear, relate, seduce, experience and reflect power and weakness. Through the daily inter-relating of us as ‘women’ and as ‘men’ we will build characters and role-play them. Experimenting with ideas of reflection and seduction, the vulgarity and innocence of masculine performative images and expressions.

I seem to keep hitting against a brick wall in my attempt to give form to an intangible ‘thing’ that always existed within me. In the moment of my desire, and only within this moment of desire, I would swing back and forth between girl and boy, penetrated and penetrator, a constant push and pull; an in between-ness that is manifest within the whole visceral body of my work.

We spent the first five days trying to don the guise of ‘men’, trawling charity shops and watching with hawk-eyes the languid poetry of the male body on the streets of Amsterdam. I have been a bit fixated on this notion of trying to ‘pass’ in public as a real man, longing for the bristly brim of facial hair, and the broad shoulders of my imaginary protagonist, I would sigh in frustration as I caught a glimpse of my skinny legs sheathed in baggy jeans reflected in the window of a passing shop. It took me right back to adolescence, that gawky uncomfortable stance where I would sit in ill-fit nameless clothes, unsure as to who I was, or what I truly desired. An overwhelmed sense of self-consciousness, down to my very walk, my eyes undressed without years of make-up, and my hair short with ears poking out like radars. Who the fuck I am? Just someone trying to fit in, watching for cues of where to step, which foot forward, how to move manly hips, stand tall and don’t cross your legs. I seem such a long way from my Detective.


Every time I speak to her I feel a need to apologise for my lack of masculinity. Have I wrongly sold a lie? Does she expect a 100% transformation, deep voice, and stubble chin? Have I failed? All of my characters are so camp. I was so exhausted trying to be a ‘man’ 24/7, and who even said that this was the project anyway? My voice rises as I defend myself. We have been slipping in and out of character, female, male, fe-male. One of my characters, the Detective, is a woman dressed as a man masquerading as a woman. 24/7 I feel a like masquerade of some sort. I wear my masculinity in clothes, and the soft peak of my quiff. I like my hair short. I don’t really look like a boy, more tom-boy. I feel like a fake when I say the word masculinity. I can’t even carry my own posture well. I feel too feminine.  Right now I strive for androgyny. My friend was disappointed in me today, I was wearing make-up. ‘You should not be wearing make’-up she told me – I felt like I had lost the game. What is it I am trying to do? I want to stop being sickened by my own femininity. I want to feel comfortable with my body again (‘again’ was there ever even a before?), I’m sick of feeling not enough. When will I be enough? I uncovered my body today in order to get closer to my skin, then took it back when I saw the outline of my breasts through my ‘wife-beater’ – my nipples felt like beacons of truth, that would whisper with sly words my thoughts  as I smiled in serene silence. I was embarrassed by their honest form. I only feel masculine when I lie alone at night, with my cock, hard in my fist.  I only feel masculine when I am truly sexual. Master hunter, I always initiate the chase, until I am salivating for its sweet meat, and then I lie in wait. Why do I equate masculinity with sex? Why does there feel like such a need to prove myself? To conquer? I perform my masculinity in the way I carry the armature of my body, that supports my throbbing cock. I am aware that I have created a caricature of manhood, a ridiculous parody of something like gristle and burnt meat. ‘My name’s Buck and I’m here to fuck’ – god I want to be this hideous character. His misogyny gets me hard. How can I be this way as I woman? What is wrong with me?

Daddy I am a Man project

Image credit: We are Men, 2014, Daddy I am a Man project, AnnaMaria Pinaka & Prefix-poly, (photograph). Photographer: Daniel Bradburn