Photo of dictionary page for New Rules post

New Rules

As regular readers and twitter followers might know. I am male. Most days I am  pretty happy about that. But not every day. There are days when I find it hard to know what a man is supposed to be. I know I am a product of my times and I also know that in the scheme of things being what I am has afforded me opportunities that others would not have received.

There were lots of rules about how to be male when I was growing up, some of them were enforced with violence, and that, as a point of fact,  was one of the rules.

Now the rules didn’t make everything okay. But I did know exactly what I was supposed to do. I was to open doors for others. Stand to greet people. Be polite. Respect your elders. Never hit a woman. Men don’t cry.

And of course. Be a man, toughen up. Now these were by no means the only rules, there were rules beyond counting and new rules for every new thing you joined. Rules for the baseball team and rules for Gym class and rules for how you talked about (and to) women.

Things were starting to change even then. But the pace of change has increased over the years and while it has been mostly a good thing it has often left me perplexed about what the new rules are.

So I thought I would take this time to put down what I see as the new rules to be a man might be.

Treat everyone with respect.

This means everyone, not matter their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, sexual preference or religion*.  You do not need to agree with them but you must treat them as you wish to be treated.

In all things sexual always seek consent.

This does not mean that they said yes once upon a time so I have permission forever. Use your brain and seek consent unless you are in an ongoing relationship without issues, and even then if you have the tiniest bit of doubt. Ask again.

Ask questions.

If you meet someone and you are at all unclear about how they identify, ask them. If they don’t want to say see the first rule.


Talk to everyone and listen to what they have to say and if you can possibly manage it, maybe you could consider answering others questions. I know that it is annoying and that google has many of the answers, but sometimes people are more comfortable with dealing with real, live humans and just think what good you might do if you can open just one mind.

Now I don’t imagine that this list comes close to a comprehensive collection and you might have noticed I have utterly avoided all the do nots. That list changes quicker than I can possibly keep up with and to be perfectly honest is incredibly unhelpful, so I have I decided to to have a more positive approach because other people telling me what I can’t do only makes me mad.

So, tell me what I have missed down in that there comment section below.

But remember the new rules.


*While I will respect your right to practice religion, if you try to apply the rules of your religion to my life we are going to have issues. Likewise if you turn up at my front door to espouse your beliefs I am going to openly share mine with you.

P.S. Can we please stop using gendered body parts as insults? Maybe we could use bits we have in common? I have always been a fan of “asshat”

Update. I have been asked by the British contingent (FurnessGirl) to add Arsehole as an alternate.

6 thoughts on “New Rules

  1. I like this reflection. As someone who is probably a few years olderr than you, these new rules become even more confusing sometimes, but I ‘ve come to not give a fig what anyone does unless they try to interfere in what I wish to do. I would force no one to live as I choose

  2. The sphere of influence on any individual has changed dramatically and increased exponentially in the past few decades. While access to information is literally at the fingertips of the masses, that access does not guarantee accuracy, applicability, or understanding. Becoming An Adult – man or woman or other – is a terrifying, enlightening, confusing experience. It is universal in that we all go through it (if we live that long), and it is isolating in that we each experience it differently. Trying to learn from others How To Adult must be flabbergasting in this age. Who do you learn from, and how do you apply the lessons? Who do you emulate? Whose examples are “best”? Which behaviors should be avoided at all costs? How do societal rules apply? Are there ANY societal rules anymore? And who is going to cook me dinner, dammit?!? (No, seriously.)

    I’ve read many a post on How To Be A Man, and they range from machismo caveman brutality tactics (that are practiced culturally in some areas of the world and held up as horrifyingly shining examples) to “Just mold yourself to be whatever your partner wants you to be” leming-isms, and everything in-between. Be emotionally available, but man up. Help her around the house but don’t let her tell you what she needs from you, because you are THE MAN and you wear the pants! (Unless you’re doing the dishes naked.) Share equally in the raising of the children but be a 16-hr-a-day breadwinner. Display gentleness but if you don’t get your way, be violent. Get consent but never take no for an answer.

    It makes my head spin, the mixed messages. We do it to women too. (How’s that for gender equity? Confuse the fuck out of the binaries in equal measure!)

    Maybe – just maybe – if we tuned out the segregated sex “you must”s and “do not”s for a moment, and focused on what it means to be HUMAN, we might get a little farther along in our understanding.

    Your list is essentially a few basic rules for How To Human. And everybody could use a little positive direction in that regard. 🙂

    1. You have said exactly what I said to him when he wrote this post. This is a list for how to be a human not to be ‘a man’ and he smiled at me and nodded. I suspect there will be more on this subject from him at some point


  3. Relating to each other simply as human beings should just be this easy and yet we tend to make things way too complicated.

    I keep saying that if we each follow just five ideas no matter if it’s friendship, siblings, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, lovers….

    Respect, responsibility, communication, compromise and consent.

  4. These four Michael are very good, very functional for general coexistence. I also like Rose Bliss’ add-ons: “respect, responsibility (accountability),” and in my own words “more collaboration” (compromise). Maybe not so quick on the judgement-triggers?

    I would add two more into the mix: inclusion and compersion. However, I think these two are seemingly more (or too?) advanced, evolved at the moment for the USA. Nevertheless, we can hope, right?

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