I really didn't like the tone of your OP actually, it sounds as though you think children only listen b/c of fear, and b/c parents are "big and mean and scary" - thats just not true. Yes, some toddlers stick close to their parents b/c they're not very social, or for whatever reason, but thats not necessarily b/c they're scared of what mom and dad will do to them if they don't stick close by. FWIW, my ex DOES believe in GD, and doesn't spank or use corporal punishment (he's much better at playful parenting than I am - its incredible actually). I've NEVER seen my ex use the "testosterone" tactic to scare our ds into doing anything - he's very good at getting down on his level and playfully re-directing or getting him to clean up, or whatever.
I felt similarly. I also objected to the idea that kids behave because they don't see their parents and have a strict nanny. As a WOHM, I don't think that my kids behave because they miss me so much. And I have been very careful about who cares for them and how when my dh and I were both working. Now that my dh is a SAHD, they are still well behaved and there isn't a chance that they are scared of my dh. He's a kitten.
The restrictions are primarily for their safety, and secondarily for them to practice functioning in a society where we can't always do what we feel like doing at the moment we feel like doing it. I think if you want your children to behave differently, you will probably need to respond differently to their behavior. But if you are not willing to lay down restrictions or institute consequences, then you will need to accept that this is going to be the norm for your kids, at least at their young ages. If you believe that your parenting method is a good and healthy one, then it really doesn't matter what results everyone else is getting from different methods, does it? Your parenting is for the benefit of your children, and if you believe that what you do is beneficial, and that their behavior is normal and healthy and acceptable, then comparing them to other children isn't going to help you or your children.
Agreed. Safety first. Then functioning in society. It's easier now with my older dd to explain that when I want her to do something--like eat with a fork for example--my role is to guide her into being able to function out in the world in a way that's exceptable. I'm not trying to conform her in any way, just trying to lay the ground work about being polite. She doesn't always like it but I think she understands it.
I also think you probably need to cut yourself some slack. I do think that boys can be totally different creatures. It amazes me how much some boys are just wired to bounce off the walls. Others not so much but some of them, it's just in their genes! And although I think you can guide a two year old, I have yet to meet one that actually "behaves." I remember telling a friend once that they could avoid a lot of headaches if they just tried to avoid any situation with their little kids where there was an opportunity for "misbehaving." I think being near a playground and not being allowed to go on it is one of those times--especially for a rambunctious 2 year old boy. It's too much to expect that he wouldn't want to go there. So instead of putting him in a untenable situation and then getting frustrated when he isn't acting like you want him to, just avoid the situation in the first place. Another example: I remember someone complaining that every time that they folded the laundry, their two year old would pull over the pile. I just think putting a folded pile of laundry within the reach of a two year old is asking for trouble--setting them up to do something that is going to make you angry. So you might want to lower your expectations on what you can expect from YOUR two year old. Great that other people have ones that aren't as active as yours but you need to do what is right for you and your son.
Good luck. And I agree with what everyone said about having very consistent consequences if the behavior is unsafe or unacceptable. It sounds like you have tried that but if it's not working, then you need to rethink what you are expecting from them.