He is playing masculine because she is playing feminine. She is playing feminine because he is playing masculine.
He is playing the kind of man that she thinks the kind of woman she is playing ought to admire. She is playing the kind of woman that he thinks the kind of man he is ought to desire.
If he were not playing masculine, he might well be more feminine than she is — except when she is playing very feminine. If she were not playing feminine, she might very well be more masculine than he is — except when he is playing very masculine.
So he plays harder, and she plays … softer.
He wants to make sure that she could never be more masculine than he is. She wants to make sure that he could never be more feminine than she is. He therefore seeks to destroy the femininity in himself. She therefore seeks to destroy the masculinity in herself.
She is supposed to admire him for the masculinity in him that she fears in herself. He is supposed to desire her for the femininity that he despises in himself.
He desires her for her femininity which is HIS femininity, but which he can never lay claim to. She admires him for his masculinity which is HER masculinity, but which she can never lay claim to. Since he may only love his own femininity in her, he envies her femininity. Since she may only love her own masculinity in him, she envies his masculinity.
The envy poisons their love.
He, coveting her unattainable femininity, decides to punish her. She, coveting his unattainable masculinity, decides to punish him. He denigrates her femininity — which he is supposed to desire and which he really envies — and becomes more aggressively masculine. She feigns disgust at his masculinity — which she is supposed to admire and which she really envies — and becomes more fastidiously feminine. He is becoming less and less what he wants to be. She is becoming less and less what she wants to be. But now he is more manly than ever, and she is more womanly than ever.
Her femininity, growing more dependently supine, becomes contemptible. His masculinity, growing more oppressively dominant, becomes intolerable. At last she loathes what she has helped his masculinity to become. At last he loathes what he has helped her femininity to become.
So far it has all been very symmetrical. But we have left one thing out. The world belongs to what his masculinity has become.
The reward for what her femininity has become is only the security which his power can bestow on her. If he were to yield to what her femininity has become, he would be yielding to contemptible incompetence. If she were to acquire what his masculinity has become, she would participate in intolerable coerciveness.
She is stifling under the triviality of her femininity. The world is groaning beneath the terrors of his masculinity.
He is playing masculine. She is playing feminine.
How do we call off the game?
From "Masculine/Feminine — Readings in Sexual Mythology and the Liberation of Women"
Betty and Theodore Roszack
Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1969.