Men and women are equal but different. They are vastly different, in particular, with the expression of genuine emotions. If women naturally and openly show or express love, most men are uncomfortable with it. It is, however, not true that men do not have feelings or do not fall in love as comfortably as women do. Some men often refuse to acknowledge that they have fallen in (or out of) love, taking it as a sign of defeat or weakness, but most men, who fall short in the expression, simply do not have the training or orientation for it (Haggerty 1999), And if women perceive love as their very lives, men view it as only a part of theirs.
Men must keep their heads on their work or business on a daily basis, not just to survive but to move on or achieve some pursuits, which must take priority over their emotions. Moreover, few men are brought up in the easy and pleasant expression of affection or love in a constructive way (Haggerty). In most societies, big boys do not cry or express love or sadness. The measure of manhood was the capacity to withhold or suppress feelings. That was how their father, grandfather and other male elders told them a real man should be. Softness was considered effeminate and laughed at. Hardness or even heartlessness was the virtue to cultivate if a boy must be a man. The truth is that men do feel and do love just as much as women, but lack the latter's prowess in admitting and expressing it. Rather than celebrate their immunity to experiencing but denying genuine love, men feel great frustration towards their inability to acknowledge and let the feeling of love go freely.
The lack of skills or inclination to acknowledge, experience and express genuine love is a greater strangeness in disadvantaged cultures, such as the Black community, and in very unfortunate circumstances, such as imprisonment.
Nathan McCall describes his own experiences of how his community observed the double standard of morality and how he took part in it as a fourteen-year-old (McCall 1995). Boys his age got berated by older, more sexually knowledgeable boys and younger Black men if they were occupied in lesser matters than having sex with girls. These street instructors relayed their real and imagined exploits and other adventures for younger "dudes" to imitate. These model figures stressed that capable and distinguished boys always managed to have sex with a particular girl. But they specifically cautioned the newcomers about falling in love or developing genuine or deep feelings for a girl. She was just for the winning at the moment, an object of instant pleasure, and every girl was a potential catch, as long as she was not an immediate female family member.
As an adolescent, McCall got exposed to this lack of respect and meanness that growing Black boys subjected young Black girls, whom he considered the most vulnerable sector of the human species. He was a constant spectator to, although later an active participant in, the popular game called "trains" wherein Black boys and young men would line up to have sex with a single Black girl. He was always cut between the forces of peer acceptance and a sense of guilt that it was not the right thing to do to another human being, even a Black girl who wound not squeal. As early as 14, something in him rebelled against the practice, although he could not verbalize it. He did not have the resources to even confront it, and much less to stand for it.
He and his brothers were raised by his mother all alone when their father left them. There was no male figure to provide them with a cast as to how men should treat women and their emotions. His mother could not provide them with the right sex education and training in morals farther than pointing to her belly as the place where babies come from (McCall). He was 13 when he had his first experience with Sharon, the tutor of the group. Nothing in their communal indoctrination hinted at the respectability that should go with sex or even the possibility of feeling something for a girl. It was not considered part of growing up. But it was altogether different when he learned about running "trains" on girls, most of them unwitting or unwilling. He narrated the very pathetic travails of Vanessa, the 13-year-old girl who was new in the block, in the hands of his peers. McCall writes that he had earlier wanted to warn her about being run on a train by his friends, but it was too late now, because they had found her before he could warn her.
It took some time to negotiate with Vanessa, who was virgin, naive and unwilling. Helplessness forced her to cooperate, but during the lengthy ordeal, she had her hands on her face, not wanting to see what was being done to her. McCall was the sixth in the line and writes that he could not muster the guts to engage in sex in the presence of other dudes, probably because of an unrecognized repulsion for making sex a game. Unable to violate conscience, he simply went through the motions in the hope of retaining peer approval, which is very significant to adolescent boys, especially adolescent Blacks. When everyone had run the train on Vanessa, McCall felt sorry for the young and innocent girl, who from then on, would have to live with the scars of a dreadful experience she did not look for or deserve. A twinge of conscience towards this disrespect of a young woman was, however, transitory, and he was soon exchanging congratulatory remarks with his friends. It was their first group sex activity and as such was indelible as marking their sexual debut. Other such bouts followed, sometimes at his own place when it was free. But as they went along "running trains" - no longer in motels or cars, but right in their own homes, McCall suddenly came upon the idea that the act involved sex but was not about sex at all, and absolutely nothing about love or respecting a woman. It was only about proving how cold, hard and brutal they were and that this was how a man should be.
He continues to write that, on reaching adulthood, he realized that he and his peers were utterly confused (McCall) and that they did not love but hate their sisters because they were Black. He also discovered that they performed such repulsive acts out of repulsion for themselves because they were Blacks.
Part of his account was the devastation of his sweetheart Denise, whom he loved. Denise was a classmate in the ninth grade. It took him a lot of effort to convince her to get to bed with him. She was different and he treated her with respect. Denise gave in and when they were in the room, a group of dudes suddenly appeared and interfered. There was a clash for a while and he had lost Denise, only to learn later on from her parents that something utterly vile had happened to her. Her parents sued for rape and those 18-year-old and older boys went to jail. McCall sees this incident as part of his punishment for his own earlier participations and initiatives to run "trains." The other part was his being avoided by other girls in school for what they believed he had done to Denise. What was most unbearable to him was not only what happened to the woman he had felt love for, but also that she probably believed he even had some participation in it. He considers his being a persona non grata in school and by Denise's family as a retribution for his having run trains in the past himself, a trap he laid that ultimately destroyed the honor of the girl he loved and took her away from him.
Male writers have an advantage over those who are not writers, in that they have this facility to externalize genuine and deep feelings, such as through poems (Fisher 1995). Some male poets express their overwhelming emotions of joy or pain in simple and concrete words, but some even go lyrical. Or else, their un-expressed feelings are limited to these printed interpretations, such as "I adore you truly," "unforgettable you, it's love, it's true," and "there were dreams of a love eternal." One poem was about a beloved woman who remained loved by the man although she turned into a prostitute. And another poem was by a married man and how he loved another woman, although his wife knew about the affair.
Love, sex and respect were meant to be together in order to perfect and satisfy the human person. But the lessons that young Blacks in prison learn are very much different and very much difficult to accept and live with. When…