This is probably one of the most difficult subjects to talk about to a varied audience, yet it also one of the most important subjects—maybe that's what makes it so difficult. It's also so hard to define, and yet so many people think they know exactly what makes, well, a man a man and a woman a woman. Even if you agree that most definitions are arbitrary and related to world views, you also probably agree that satisfying your own personal vision of your gender is very important to your overall sense of fulfillment.

How can one do this, however? Our ancestors based their judgments on what makes a good male or female on characteristics they believed would best fulfill their biological imperative, and this could mean anything from personal strength to growing an awesome peacock tail. In some ways, what makes us attracted to each other is based on this ancestry (and we can't deny the role sex plays in gender perceptions). Thankfully for us humans we also have a lot of brain matter—or a soul—and that allows us to have more social and intentional ideas about gender that will make us happier, and not solely to have offspring that survive to have their own children.

This means the first thing to do is to have a good grasp about what your gender means to you. Even if this is something you haven't thought much about before, trust me when I say that you have some strong, preconceived notions about your sex. Your job now is to find out what those notions are. Think deeply about them, perhaps writing your ideas down on a piece of paper. If you have trouble coming up with your own ideas, spend some time thinking about you think the preconceived notions of those around you are; if you take the time to think about it, you will probably discover that those ideas affect how you perceive yourself everyday, even if you don't necessarily agree with them.

Now that you've discovered what your ideas are, it becomes important to realize that the ideal for either gender—sometimes even your own ideal—is not something you should even necessarily try to live up to. The goal is to be comfortable with your expression of gender and your sexual nature. Your ideals may be very similar to whatever is considered traditional around where you live, or it may be something different, but in the end what matters is that you live up to an ideal that you are comfortable with and can make you happy. The role you end up happy in might not be a mirror image of the one you consider to be the "ideal".

Finally, what you should do to actually fulfill your sense of virility is two fold: one, work on changing your ideal into one that you can be happy with and is realistic for you—trust me when I say that most ideas about gender, even yours, are mostly fabricated, and you shouldn't feel beholden to one if you're miserable. Yet, changing your outlook on what it means to be a man or a woman can have a real, tangible effect on your self-respect and confidence. Secondly, you need to try and live up to your ideal. If you were to write down the good qualities you think your gender should possess, you would in fact probably be writing down your own set of virtues! As long as your vision is healthy and realistic (and doesn't depend on physical features), you can work on improving your gender-linked characteristics much like you would any other virtue set, probably continuing with these virtues with this self-discovery in mind.

Now, as a final note, I bring up two things. One, for those of you that were thinking that virility should mean more confidence in the bedroom or a more exciting romantic life, I suppose that could also be a part of your sense of virility, but really, being comfortable with your sexual nature and what your gender means to you, and finding someone who can empathize or at least be compatible with that will often go a long way to do the trick. For more detailed advice on improving virility, you will need to find another sort of guide or see a professional medical doctor if you want further help in this area.

As a second note, I see that it probably seems like I've been alluding exclusively to hetero or homosexual lifestyle decisions, and that's not the case (although that's definitely a part of your sexual nature). This is such a subject of sensitivity that I don't think it behooves a guide about virtues to give you advice in it. Simply remember that the decision of how you identify yourself is ultimately yours, and that almost all sexual-related shame is endlessly blown out of proportion let alone this one form of sexuality.

Anyway, here are some activities that may help you hone in on your virility:


  • Reflect on Your Gender: This may seem like a strange thing you do, but you do it all the time, everyday, although perhaps you're not very aware of it. Every time you look into the mirror, pick out an outfit, talk to members of either gender, or decide what activities or hobbies you will take on, your are somehow keeping your own and your society's ideas about gender in mind. The goal is to illuminate these ideas and influences in your life a little more. Think about why you feel the way you do about your appearance, your job, your responsibilities, your self-image. Try to be as honest as possible, as it's likely that some of these influences are ideas and philosophies come from those you may even vehemently disagree with. You may want to keep a journal or jot down a few notes, but you should try to get some of your thoughts into writing.
  • Figure Out What Parts of Your Self-Image is Related to Your Gender: After you do some of your self-research, take an inventory on how strong your self-image is, and how many of any of your problems are related to your perception about how well you fulfill your gender role. Detail what you believe (by philosophy and by your heart) your role as a member of your gender should be, and look it over. Are you fulfilling this ideal you hold? How much of any lack of self-esteem is related to these perceptions? Next, go over which ideas are ones that provide unrealistic goals (or ones you have no control over), and which ones are valid issues you need to work on. Do research and rewrite a new gender manifesto, and then make a plan to improve yourself in those areas where they are truly needed; this may be a time to focus on other virtues. Fulfilling a personal sense of your gender is essential to feeling more verile.
  • Reprogram Your Bad Attitudes: Create a new manifesto as up above and try to adapt to it. Do your best to remind yourself of these new ideas whenever you are over-critical of yourself over unfair ideas about gender. Every night (or morning), reread the manifesto and contemplate how well you lived up to your ideals and how often you let yourself doubt your manliness or womanliness due to other ideals. Take this time to correct yourself and reaffirm your new direction.
  • Get Better Acquainted with a Spouse, Boy/Girlfriend, etc.: I have avoided talk about love and sex up to this point, but nature has made the acts involved with reproduction so vital to our very being that this always remains a big part of the identity of most people. It is a good idea to try and mend relationships, rekindle love-affairs, and responsibly work on making your love life more exciting. If you are avoiding romance at all due to work or educational responsibilities—or anything else—work on reevaluating how you can bring dating and such back into your life. It's hard for most humans to feel completely at peace with themselves without some romance in their lives.

Your Record

Whenever you lose self-esteem over negative ideals toward gender or over things you have no control over, then mark yourself at "fault". Make goals based on the ideas up above. If you fail to live up to your goals or fail to take part in the planned activities, then mark yourself at fault.


Remember and help America remember that the fellowship of human beings is more important than the fellowship of race and class and gender in a democratic society.

Marian Wright Edelman, American Activist for the Rights of Children

If folks can learn to be racist, then they can learn to be anti racist. If being sexist ain't genetic, then, dad gum, people can learn about gender equality.

Johnnetta Cole, Scholar and Founder of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute

The future belongs to those who are virile, to whom it is a pleasure to live, to create, to whet their intelligence on that of the others.

Henri Deterding, Dutch Entrepreneur and One Founder of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company

What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.

Susan Sontag, American Writer and Activist

Golden Mean

Cowardice, meanness

Recommended Reading

Sex and Gender Differences in Personal Relationships — by Daniel J. Canary, Tara M. Emmers-Sommer, with Sandra Faulkner

This book is a little different than the book that believes that the gender live on different "planets"; it attempts to reevaluate men and woman and uncover how they are more alike each other in how they relate in relationships, and how they are different.

12 Secrets to Virility — by Al Sears

This book is focused on male virility (that is such a big part of their gender-identity anyway, it seems), with a focus on the more intimate parts of the equation. It provides diet and exercise ideas along with others provided by a medical doctor.

Men Don't Cry, Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief — by Kenneth J. Doka, Terry L. Martin

Not a self-help book, but good for those interested in how gender and stereotypes affect people who are grieving.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

First find the man in yourself if you will inspire manliness in others. Amos Bronson Alcott