“Who gets to be the man?”

By Erin Brown


Nobody gets to be the man. Not even men. 

The job is boss. It’s decider, determiner, it is who is centered at every turn. Catered to, credited, believed, expert. It’s top.

People in queer relationships are often asked this. (Don’t.) And it’s worth dissecting: What do you mean? 

One is the very real question of who has the dick? Because we cannot for a moment fathom what even the point of sex would be if there isn’t at least a metaphorical dick involved. Heteronormative narratives about sex are so centered around the penis (and frankly boring given all the options with bodies) that we can’t imagine what two people with vulvas would even do with themselves. Even though in heteronormative narratives about sex there is always a vulva present, as well as all the other body parts, nerve endings, and erogenous zones a person has. We just remove her body from the equation. Or see her as holes for dicks. A sheath for a sword, the etymology of vagina.

We remove her body from the equation. Or see her as holes for dicks.

Which is frankly sad for everyone involved because the full range of pleasure for all parties results in the most pleasure for all parties. It leaves a lot on the table. And leaves a lot of women disconnected from sex or operating as though it’s an obligation, performance or favor. 

So if the question is “Who is the point of sex? Who is centered all of the time?” No one gets that. 

And that’s not to discount that some people of all genders and sexual identities enjoy subbing or performing or switching or dominating or whatever they are into. But all of this is agreed upon. Everyone counts.

If we aren’t talking about the actual dick then we are talking the metaphorical throwing of the dick on the table? Who is in charge? Who answers to who? Who gets to put their foot down and always knows best? 

Who is in charge? Who answers to who?

No one gets that job either. 

Equals discuss. Equals defer to one another’s strengths. Equals compromise and are honest about where they can’t. About themselves. No one asks permission to be themselves, pursue their interests or have a moment alone. No one is captive. Or secretly charged with doing everything. 

Equals discuss. Equals defer to one another’s strengths.

Maybe you mean in a family role? Then do you mean who gets a parade for changing a diaper and being around and who is scrutinized by what feels like the whole world for every move she makes while being primarily charged with everything as a birthright? Even if she doesn’t want that for her life?

Equals discuss. Equals don’t by default charge one person with all of the care taking unless that is decided upon within the context of the relationship and what everyone wants to do. Revisiting regularly to ensure the wellness of everyone. 

Or do you just mean who takes the trash out and builds things verses who does laundry and cooks? 

I mean. Whoever likes those things and or agrees to their portion of shared responsibilities. Shouldn’t that always be the case? Unless you really believe that man hands are too fumbled to fold a pillow case or my lady hands couldn’t possibly use a power tool and you’re sorely mistaken. 

No. No one gets to be the man. 

No one gets to be the man.

This scales. It’s the same conversation about privilege and oppression. Folks who find themselves somewhere in the middle keep shooting to have what the man in front of them does instead of realize no one gets that job.

No one is always the boss, always holds the cards, always is centered, always the expert. 

Always the ego that is carefully catered to instead of just getting shit done. 

Everybody matters.

The punchline is that I am read as militant. All the tropes of feminists past. I’m supposed to be ugly and bitter and unfuckable and hate men and joy. Literally kill joy. And I’m advocating for pleasure, great sex, and relationships with shared understanding, communication and fuller lives for everyone. 

I don’t want men to go away. The role of man as we’ve defined it is antiquated, harmful, reeks of entitlement and no, no one gets that job. 

But as for the question I know is at the top of your list. Who gets the dick? The plainest answer I can give besides that that’s an incredibly invasive question, the likes of which you would not like directed at you. I want you to know that a woman can be properly fucked without one. And if you don’t know that, and you are a woman or have sex with them, I implore you to slow down enough to figure that out. And I tell you that generously because I want everyone to have the best time. 


***The language of this piece is very binary on purpose. Because it’s poking holes in gendered conditioning that is largely binary. These “roles” were created by oppressive religious ideologies and white supremacy and enforced by colonialism. Not actually “how things have always been.” Gender and sexuality are individual and the degree to which people explore and develop within their own identity is often largely correlated with privilege.***