In other posts, we have discussed the debilitating effects that popular culture and sociological conditions have on being a man, on the fluctuating definitions of masculinity. As men, our ears and heart are hardly ever on the same page and so we make halfhearted attempts to be masculine, but this often results in sociological failure or misguided attempts at demonstrating alpha-maleness or dominance. Nevertheless, these culturally imposed sanctions pale in comparison to other things that can wreak havoc on a man’s sense of self and purpose, things like prostate cancer.
Breast cancer changes a woman’s self-perception of femininity, does prostate cancer change men’s masculinity?
If the American Man were a comic book hero, his arch nemesis would be prostate cancer, as one out of every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although the survival rate is high, there can still be side effects that threaten our sense of masculine self, including two very big items: urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
The problem is that a lot of men don’t know how common the side effects, such as bladder leakage, are.” Bladder leakage is, of course, the accidental release of urine, aka peeing your pants. In the article, “Maintaining masculinity when living with prostate cancer side effects,” Delcotimes.com reports, “Men often don’t want to discuss prostate health or the side effects that sometimes accompany treatment because of social perceptions. It is, in other words, embarrassing.
For these men, it is their sense of Masculinity that is leaking out. It is a case of masculine leakage. Men, feeling bullied by that cruel disease, do not want to lose that sense of control, that sense of purpose, that comforting armor of masculinity (even if that armor is fake at times). Growing up and in grammar school, there was always that one kid who peed his or her pants. He or she was always the kid that classmates made fun of. For some of the kids, school was a living hell, a powder keg of nerves, bullying and medical conditions ready to go off at any moment. Regardless of whether you were the bully or the bullied, memories of school scar all of us to some degree. Within all of us, there is a bully and the bullied. In both cases, it creates a profound sense of embarrassment.
Wikipedia states that embarrassment “is an emotional state of intense discomfort with oneself, experienced upon having a socially unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others. Usually some amount of loss of honor or dignity is involved.” Discomfort, loss of honor and loss of dignity are all things that men worry about, although not many will admit to it. If men could, they would burrow everything shameful or embarrassing, but sometimes, there’s unavoidable leakage. As men, we must be ok with this, with any kind of leakage, emotionally and physically. In the end, it makes us fuller men, more realized.
We know what it means to be treated like a carnival sideshow. I’m sure that men stricken with prostate capture and bladder leakage, in particular, cannot shake the image of that frightened kid in the school hallway, wearing wet pants and a sorrowing, very-human look. None of us want to be that kid – it is emasculating, dehumanizing. While it is a crushing epiphany, learning you have prostate cancer, do not be shaken up by the side effects. You are still a man, and we love you. Masculinity cannot be forced out of you, no matter how hard your medical conditions might try.
Post by Geoff LaPlace