New masculinity and sexuality

By Rodrigo Sac Amaya

Conservatism, machismo, and religion can negatively influence access to proper sexual education and lead to inaccurate ideas about sexuality. This affects the development of Guatemalan men and education about human, sexual, and reproductive rights, as well as sexual diversity.

These three factors have inhibited their learning process. In Guatemala, many men are ignorant about the basics of sexuality. Families shy away from discussing these “taboo” topics, and this causes their young boys to grow up learning misinformation. As adolescents, they are hesitant to ask their families or teachers about sexuality and rights. As young people and later as adults, shame or a lack of interest causes them to ignore these important themes.

As men, we used to strive to be masculine, strong, and machista. We are used to hearing comments such as “Men don’t go to the doctor,” “Real men don’t use condoms,” “Having multiple sexual partners is an achievement,” or “Don’t talk about sexuality because it’s shameful.” Our role in society became flawed and subjected to prejudice. We were insecure and limited, and automatically closed ourselves off in a bubble.

This bubble prevented us from growing freely. It made us ignorant about sexual and reproductive rights. We shied away from finding out about basic matters, like getting to know our bodies and living free from discrimination and violence related to sexuality and gender identity. They are matters that we often learn about at home, and many times are absent from school curricula because we are taught to think it bad to discuss them.

How does all of this affect us?

As men, we are accustomed to not expressing who we are, keeping our feelings inside, and not discussing our vulnerabilities. We don’t go to the doctor when we’re sick because we’re “strong.” Often, these barriers cause us to hide. Harm begins when we are unable to let go of that which hurts us. We do not open up to other people, and everything stays inside. We repress ourselves so much because our (false) masculinity is at stake, and we have to defend it at all costs. We have not learned that we are missing out on knowledge and personal growth. Changing and knowing our sexual and reproductive rights doesn’t just benefit us, but also those around us.

Despite this, there are organizations that provide spaces for men to learn about sexuality. According to the NGO Grupo de Apoya Xela (GAX), in 2020 and 2021, there were 672 men—gay, bisexual, transmasc, and heterosexual—interested in learning more about human rights and sexual diversity. In response to this interest, GAX offered programming including certification, talks, and training events that discussed sexuality.

There is still, however, a great challenge ahead: reaching those who do not have access to technology and men who are in rural areas of Quetzaltenango. It will be a group effort, but we each should think about how we can help individually. We grew up in spaces that were closed-off to different ideas, holding beliefs that limited us and kept us from a wide and diverse education. At first, it is hard to unlearn what we have been taught and be open to change, but the more we look within ourselves, the easier it will become. Those of us who have dared to know our bodies and fully enjoy our sexuality form part of a large group of people who recognize how important sexual and reproductive health is for everyone. 

Did you know? 

According to the Guatemalan Ministry of Health’s Department of Epidemiology, through 2019 there were three-times as many men infected with HIV as women.

6,414 men obtained condoms through the Ministry of Health in 2021.

In 2019, 46 out of every 100 people with an STI were men.

Rodrigo Sac Amaya is in charge of GAX’s social media and communications.