In its simplest sense, masculinity is perceived as a set of behaviors and characteristics that define what it means to be a “man, according to Ia Merkviladze’s Dictionary of Gender Terms. According to this definition, it is obvious that masculinity is largely attached to sex. Being masculine means being a man.
But there is no one, universal, definition for masculinity. There has never been a single idea of what it means to be a man. In different societies various types of masculinities co-exist. They are not all equal -- some are dominant, some are subordinate and others are somewhere in between. Even though some have been defined, no single, perfect definition exists because forms of masculinity change based on public debate, political or cultural shifts and society's demands.
Despite this, there are some basic features: compulsory heterosexuality, power, control or aggression. But in reality, no one can really embody those ideals. Ideality prevents it from ever being embodied by a real human, according to Australian sociologist Raewin Conell.
Datuna, Drago, Luka and Mate recall being “encouraged” by others to embody a specific type of masculinity -- to grow up to be “a real man.” Drago, who identifies as queer, remembers when he was five or six and his father took him to boxing classes. It was “fighting without rules.” He stood there with his long hair and didn’t know what to do. Drago notes his father even brought boxing gloves home to encourage him to act like a boy. He failed to do so.
Datuna, an art history major at the Tbilisi Academy of Arts, recalls memories of playing with Barbie dolls.
“My sister’s friend was a designer and she sewed a dress for me because I played with Barbies. I went outside wearing this dress. My father became angry and he burned my doll's hair. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if he had simply thrown the doll out. But burning the doll’s hair had a huge impact on me. When I was meditating several months ago, this image of burnt hair popped up first.”
Luka, 21, recalls when he was nominated among the best ten models in a local competition. When a member of his family found out, he and his male friends repeatedly tried to convince him not to participate.
“It was a lot of pressure and at some point I started to think about quitting this competition," Luka says.