Gen Xers are a lot more conscious about their food than their parents were — especially the men, who are cooking and shopping more and watching food TV as much as women.
For nearly 25 years, researchers from the University of Michigan have followed the lifestyle habits of a group of 3,000 Generation X adults — men and women born between the years 1961 and 1981. The latest report [PDF] based on the ongoing study focused on Gen Xers and food, and found that this generation is a lot more conscious about food — especially the men — than their predecessors were.
The data collected as part of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth found that Generation X adults spend more time shopping and cooking food, watching cooking shows on TV and talking to their friends about food or cooking.
“Generation X adults view life as a smorgasbord and have a little bit of everything in terms of food,” says study author Jon Miller, the director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Gen X men are more involved in all aspects of meal preparation — from grocery shopping to cooking — than their fathers were. These men spend more time in the kitchen than their dads did, cooking about eight meals a week and buying groceries more than one a week.
“Men have fun in the kitchen,” says Miller. “I was surprised by how often they shop and cook. If men just happened to wander into the kitchen and make something, that makes more sense, but when you buy into the whole process, then you’re into it. Clearly they are into it.”
Gen X men also watch cooking shows and read magazine articles on cooking just as much as women do. “Males overall get something different out of watching cooking shows than women because I don’t think men have as many cooking skills acquired young at their parents arm. My guess is young men are still learning basic skills. They are still learning how to boil water,” says Miller.
The shifting roles in the kitchen is also likely a sign of modern household dynamics. In many Gen X couples, both partners have full-time jobs outside the home and share household responsibilities. “In previous generations, there was often a disparity, and the husband’s job brought in more money or was more time consuming. That’s not the case anymore,” says Miller. “Now there is much more parity between genders and in many cases, the woman makes more. That means there is a reallocation of time and duties for these people.”
Dr. John Ardizzone, the director of assessment services program at the Family Institute at Northwestern University who is unaffiliated with the study, says he also sees more professional men taking on domestic duties than he did in the past. “The men in this age group definitely do more work in the home, and more cooking for sure,” says Dr. Ardizzone. “They also help out more with their kids than you would stereotypically expect of men. They are putting their kids to bed and giving them baths. They share in chores and responsibilities.”
Again, their motivation has a lot to do with the fact that their partners and spouses are working full-time too, says Dr. Ardizzone, and the household tasks need to be divided. “These women are well-educated, are working more or also have more interests outside the house that take up time,” says Dr. Ardizzone.
“It’s ‘have to’ and ‘want to,’” says Ellen Galinsky, the president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute in New York. The Institute released a national study of the changing workforce in 2008. “These men can have to do more cooking and want to at the same time. We find that women are changing too. Younger women are just as ambitious as men. Men are becoming more family involved and women are becoming more work and career involved.”
The Gen X report revealed a few surprises: for instance, only 9% of the surveyed adults said they preferred to buy organic foods when available. About half said they buy organic “some of the time,” but the other half almost never purchase organic. ”There is this perception that Generation X people are passionate organic buyers and it is not necessarily true,” says Miller. “I think they also take into account price, availability and other factors and don’t feel the need to always buy organic. Those who are really devoted are a much smaller group than we would’ve guessed.”
Here are some other key eating habit findings in the study:
- On average, Generation Xers cook meals for guests about once a month and talk to friends about food or cooking about six times a month.
- Married women cook the most and prepare about 12 meals a week. Single women cook about 10 meals a week and both married and single men cook about eight meals weekly.
- Generation Xers have a low level of genetically modified food knowledge. “Generally speaking they know more about genes and biology than their parents did, but genetically modified food is not something they think about often,” says Miller. “Those who are scientifically literate still monitor food news about food safety.”
Monday, April 30, 2012
Yay for the Gen X guys - we cook! Although, personally, watching food TV is right up there with watching paint dry. On the other hand, Gen X folk don't seem to know as much about GMO foods - and we should - but our educated peers keep abreast of information about healthy food.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Jessica Bennett (senior writer and editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast) takes a look at the new film from Morgan Spurlock, Mansome, an examination of what it means to be a 21st-century man through an unlikely lens—male grooming.
There are probably a few ways to get people to watch a pseudo-documentary about male grooming. One is to put Jason Bateman and Will Arnett in a bathtub together, with fluffy white facial masks and cucumber eye coolers.
Two men. One bathtub. A $200 facial scrub. Competing for who has the deepest voice. It’s perhaps the perfect example of the modern male contradiction.
And so begins Mansome, the latest film from Oscar-nominated director Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, and will be released in theaters on May 18. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for it. I did not make the cut.) Produced by Arnett and Bateman, the film aims to tackle what it means to be a 21st-century man through an unlikely lens—male grooming. That means everything from the philosophy behind the mustache to mandatory manscaping to the rise of the man spa, where dudes can watch ESPN while getting their nails buffed (it’s a manicure, right?).
As Spurlock describes it, male primping has reached a tipping point, of sorts—and indeed, The Wall Street Journal proclaimed it in a story just this week: “Men’s grooming has gone mainstream.” If you bother to compile the data, you’ll find that men spent $84 million on high-end skincare products last year; they make up an estimated third of spa-goers; and 900,000 of them underwent cosmetic surgery procedures last year, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. (Brotox, anyone?) And in tough economic times, some men are willing to go to even greater lengths: in a Newsweek survey, 12 percent of men said they’d consider cosmetic surgery if it upped their chances of getting a job.
“There’s been a real commodification of manliness in the last few years, and I think, over time, there’s been a kind of softening of men,” says Spurlock, who shaved his mustache during his film’s New York premiere. “And I’m sure there are still men who chop down trees and hunt things, but I think those people are few and far between.”
Spurlock, it appears, has suddenly discovered the metrosexual—albeit a few years late. Or perhaps it’s the more retro version: you know, guys who buy designer hunting gear, and cologne that’s scented like the woods. So while Spurlock insists he’s a “bar soap and water” kind of guy—save for his $50 La Roche-Posay facial cream—he set out to learn the ins and outs of male grooming habits across the country, with testosterone as his guide.
The male identity part gets lost along the way, but we do learn some interesting facts. For one, did you know that the world-champion beard grower is a dude from Walnut Creek, California? His red mane reaches to his belly button, and he will threaten to kill anyone who touches it (yes, really). Also: who would have known that male Mexican Molly fish have actual mustaches? Apparently it makes them more attractive to the lady Molly fish—or so explains science.
“When you wear a [mustache], you project a totally different energy and purpose,” the cofounder of Movember (the month formerly known as November) explains. “Deep down, every man wants to know what he looks like with a mustache.”
It’s hard for Spurlock to go wrong when he’s got Arnett and Bateman in a tub. Add ZZ Top, Adam Carolla, and man-movie maven Judd Apatow to the Mansome mix, and you’ve got the frat boy’s documentary dream. Zach Galifianakis, seated in a forest, in a lumber-man’s jacket, tells us that his father smelled like “garlic and diesel fuel.” Judd Apatow makes sure we know that men “try to look good to meet a woman—or so that the woman doesn’t run away.” Which is pretty much what Spurlock’s 5-year-old son does, when he sees that his dad has shaved his beard. (Dad emerges from bathroom clean-shaven. Kid breaks down into hysterics.)
But Spurlock also introduces us to “regular” people, like the founder and CEO of “Fresh Balls” —it is what it sounds like—who explains simply, “I woke up one night, I had a problem, and I fixed it.” Or Mr. Carmine, a Yonkers toupee-maker with a thick Italian accent and a (very) full head of gray hair. We meet an extremely hairy pro wrestler who has his buddy help him shave his back—because hairlessness comes with the job.
And then there’s Ricky, a young New Yorker with what seems like a case of body dysmorphia—and the most artificially sculpted eyebrows known to man. He uses two separate razors to shave his face every day, so his skin is baby smooth. He tans, moisturizes, exfoliates, and buffs, and then gels his hair back, with a crisp white button-up. You can basically smell his cologne through the screen. “When I look good, I feel fearless,” the man tells the camera, taking one last look in the mirror before he heads out for the night.
Spurlock doesn’t bother to provide much context for such grooming habits—you know, the economy, men’s place in the world, the rise of plastic surgery, and all those stories about how men are in “crisis.” Nor does he give a reason for the sudden vanity. (Men’s magazines? Queer Eye? Photoshop?) What’s clear is that as women rise up in the world, they’re allowed to be selective—and let’s be honest, who wants a man who doesn’t groom? “Women can now afford to be picky; and men probably sense this,” says Helen Fisher, the biological anthropologist.
But what Spurlock will say is that men are facing what women have long endured: mass marketing, and constant pressure. “We’ve started to do to men what’s happened to women for years—which is to say, ‘you’re fat,’ ‘you’re ugly,’ ‘you need to fix this and that,’” Spurlock says. “And now suddenly all these guys who were incredibly confident just because we were men are saying, ‘Maybe I’m not good enough.’”
In other words: welcome to the club.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Author Daniel Mendelsohn, below left, and his father, Jay, went on a cruise that retraced the mythic journey of Odysseus. Shortly after they returned, Jay passed away. It's a touching story - and the context of the cruise is also fascinating.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Documentary Heaven, looks at the long and complicated history between human and dogs.
Broadcast (2010) "Dogs Decoded" reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs—with surprising implications for the evolution of human culture. Other research is proving what dog lovers have suspected all along: Dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. Humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. How did this incredible relationship between humans and dogs come to be? And how can dogs, so closely related to fearsome wild wolves, behave so differently?
Dogs have been domesticated for longer than any other animal on the planet, and humans have developed a unique relationship with these furry friends. We treat our pets like a part of the family, and feel that they can understand us in a way other animals can't. Now, new research is revealing what dog lovers have suspected all along: Dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. Humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. How did this incredible relationship between humans and dogs come to be? And how can dogs, so closely related to fearsome wild wolves, behave so differently? It's all in the genes.
Dogs Decoded investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dog - with big implications for the evolution of human culture as well. In Siberia, the mystery of dogs' domestication is being repeated--in foxes. A fifty-year-old breeding program is creating an entirely new kind of creature, a tame fox with some surprising similarities to Man's Best Friend.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
An is an interesting collection of links from Bookforum - why sex matters. Interesting articles on transgender and intersexuality.
- Adam Rosen (Pratt): Retrieving the Power of the Question: Aristotle's Inquiries Concerning Sexual Difference.
- Elaine Craig (Dalhousie): Troubling Sex: Towards a Theory of Sexual Integrity.
- Julie A. Greenberg (Thomas Jefferson): Intersexuality and the Law: Why Sex Matters.
- From Gender Forum, a special issue on sex(uality), gender and pornography, including Stefan Offermann (Cologne): Dildos and Cyborgs: Feminist Body Politics and Porn from the 1970s to Posthumanism; Johanna Schorn (Cologne): Subverting Pornormativity: Feminist and Queer Interventions; and Samuel Horn (Colgne): Fragments of Fear and Power: On the Pornographic Construction of Masculinity.
- From the Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies, a special issue on Rae Langton’s Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification.
- A review of Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality by Gayle Salamon.
- A review of Sex Before Sexuality: A Premodern History by Kim Phillips and Barry Reay.
- An interview with Hanne Blank, author of Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Hetrosexuality (and more and more and more).
Monday, April 23, 2012
This article from Robert Augustus Masters was the February 12th, 2012, Integral Post at Integral Life. As usual, Masters offers a deeply intimate and spiritual perspective on monogamous relationship - one much needed in our society, and perhaps even more so in the integral community.
This is the introduction to his new (reissued, updated) book, Transformation Through Intimacy: The Journey Toward Awakened Monogamy. I read the original version of this book, and based on that I can highly recommend it.
Read the whole article.
Robert Augustus Masters shares the introduction to his new book, Transformation Through Intimacy: The Journey Toward Awakened Monogamy, now available for preorder on Amazon.
Intimate relationship has over the last four or five decades evolved so far from its long-established ways—mutating in diverse directions—that its very nature and structuring, once a largely unquestioned given, is clearly up for some deep questioning and reformulating.
Reformulating, revisioning, restructuring, reinventing—how we tend to look at intimate relationship is changing almost as rapidly as intimate relationship itself.
One result of this is that many of us do not have a particularly clear view of intimate relationship and its possibilities. Nonetheless, we have to admit that something is different about intimate relationship now. We look back just two generations, and it seems as if we’re looking back many hundreds of years. Things are shifting that fast.
For a very long time, intimate relationship was viewed and lived, with few exceptions, as an alternative—and not necessarily an equivalent alternative!—to spiritual life. There was the householder, and there was the spiritual seeker, and there wasn’t much overlap between them. As wide as this split was for men, it was even wider for women. Intimate relationship was something you did—or endured—until there was cultural permission to do something “deeper.”
Now there not only is a significant amount of cultural permission—small by conventional standards yet substantial enough to register on societal radar screens—for something “deeper” to happen within intimate relationship, but also an increasing pull toward it. So intimate relationship has, at its leading edge, become less a prelude to spiritual opening and awakening, and more a catalyst or crucible for it.
This is nothing less than great news. Relational intimacy, especially in the form of monogamy, is then not something we have to get past or outgrow in order to spiritually evolve, but something that serves that evolution—and our journey toward wholeness—without any need to bypass or marginalize our humanity.
Grounding our spirituality in the raw material and inevitable difficulties of daily life—as are amply supplied by intimate relationship—is much needed, leaving us more present, more aware, more vitally whole. Spirituality directly lived in the context of ordinary life is spirituality that can have a great impact on the quality of life. Staying plugged into our spirituality during our relationship’s bumpier times provides us with an essential perspective, greatly increasing the odds that we won’t sweat over what’s not worth sweating over.
If we can access our spirituality—and access it at a deeper level than that of belief—during the inevitable trials and challenges of intimate relationship, we can probably access it just about anywhere.
Intimate relationship is perhaps the ashram of the 21st Century—a place especially ripe with transformational possibility, a combination crucible and sanctuary for the deepest sort of healing and awakening, through which the full integration of our physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions is more than possible.
Intimate relationship as a crucible and sanctuary for our healing and awakening—sounds good, doesn’t it? But once our honeymoon with this is over, the real labor begins. The path is not neatly laid out for us, in part because we, through our very relatedness with our intimate other, are co-creating that path, that relational unfolding, as we go, feeling our way—more often than not in far-from-straight lines—toward what really matters. In this, we travel together not only through adventures spawned by our mutual conditioning, but also take up residence in deeper stages of intimate relatedness.
These are exciting—excitingly alive and excitingly unstable—times for intimate relationship. The playing field for men and women has, in far more ways than not, been leveled, making possible encounters and openings not generally available when women were second-class citizens or worse, cut off from their own voice and power. Now men and women have far more of an opportunity to meet eye to eye, belly to belly, heart to heart, without the disempowering ethics of earlier times. A meeting of true partners no longer has to be such a rarity.
However, a level playing field is not without its own perils, for it’s easy to reduce it to a flatland of force-fed equality. Once that women had more rights and a more inclusive cultural context in which to live, they began leaving men, in trickles at first, then in droves—which brought more and more men to psychotherapy or at least to their knees—and men then began to realize that they would have to do more than flash some bucks, be nice for a while, or raise a fist to keep women with them. Many relationships became arenas of negotiation, wherein equality between the partners did not liberate, but rather only fed the status quo.
Transformation Through Intimacy: Monogamy as a Path to Awakening
In this extraordinary discussion, Robert Augustus Masters and Diane Bardwell Masters speak with Ken Wilber about the next evolution of intimate relationships: monogamy as a spiritual path, a crucible for awakening, and a vessel for enlightenment in the 21st century.
Neurotic egalitarianism seized the helm, declaring an across-the-board equality that not only increased comfort and apparent security, but simultaneously dulled and deadened. The husbands typically depicted on television sitcoms—sexless, inept, and often spectacularly unattractive—reflected and reinforced the notion that for men marriage was, whatever its trappings, a trap. And so on.
Intimate relationship shifted for many from barbaric to bland, infecting more than a few with nostalgia for the barbaric, because at least that had some juice, especially for the men. Affairs multiplied. Pornography infiltrated the mainstream, attracting refugees from the wastelands of conventional marriage.
It became essential that relationship move away from the banality and stagnation of such widespread conventionality, but it mostly went backward instead of forward, while often acting as if it were indeed moving forward (as exemplified by “open” marriage and multiple-partnering practices and their accompanying rationalizations). Monogamy started to take more and more heat, getting overly associated with the deadening of passion.
Nevertheless, amidst all this relational upheaval there was something else starting to emerge, something neither barbaric nor bland, something at once deeply passionate, caring, awakened, and rooted in integrity and love—a stage of intimate relationship that I call awakened monogamy (and have elsewhere referred to as mature monogamy). The territory between immature monogamy and awakened monogamy, an ever-shifting yet ever-fertile zone of potential relational evolution, features a remarkably rich mix of landscapes, emotional and otherwise, and can seem overwhelming in its complexity and overlapping concerns.
Awakened monogamy may sound wonderful, but how do we get there?
Sunday, April 22, 2012
The general belief has been that boys don't talk about their feelings because they would be embarrassed or afraid of being seen as weak. According to this new study, however, they simply do not believe that talking about their feelings will make any difference.
A lot of my counseling clients do not think it will help to talk about their feelings, either, including a lot of women, but that does not make it so. It's good to know that "boys didn't express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls," so at least it's not a fear issue.
We can educate boys to know that sometimes it does help to talk about feelings. And I would suspect that part of their belief that it doesn't help comes from their socialization. We teach boys that feelings are useless, stuff for girls to talk about but not something real men even think about. That can change - it needs to change.
Boys are never likely to share as much emotionally as do girls, but that does not mean we cannot help them be more emotionally intelligent and, with that, more empathetic and compassionate.
Citation:Amanda Rose, Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, Rhiannon Smith, Lance Swenson, Wendy Carlson, Erika Waller, and Steven Asher. (2011, August 22). Males believe discussing problems is a waste of time, study shows. University of Missouri press release. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2012, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822151021.htm
ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2011) — A new University of Missouri study finds that boys feel that discussing problems is a waste of time."For years, popular psychologists have insisted that boys and men would like to talk about their problems but are held back by fears of embarrassment or appearing weak," said Amanda J. Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "However, when we asked young people how talking about their problems would make them feel, boys didn't express angst or distress about discussing problems any more than girls. Instead, boys' responses suggest that they just don't see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity."
Rose and her colleagues conducted four different studies that included surveys and observations of nearly 2,000 children and adolescents. The researchers found that girls had positive expectations for how talking about problems would make them feel, such as expecting to feel cared for, understood and less alone. On the other hand, boys did not endorse some negative expectations more than girls, such as expecting to feel embarrassed, worried about being teased, or bad about not taking care of the problems themselves. Instead, boys reported that talking about problems would make them feel "weird" and like they were "wasting time."
"An implication is that parents should encourage their children to adopt a middle ground when discussing problems. For boys, it would be helpful to explain that, at least for some problems, some of the time, talking about their problems is not a waste of time. Yet, parents also should realize that they may be 'barking up the wrong tree' if they think that making boys feel safer will make them confide. Instead, helping boys see some utility in talking about problems may be more effective," Rose said. "On the other hand, many girls are at risk for excessive problem talk, which is linked with depression and anxiety, so girls should know that talking about problems isn't the only way to cope."
Rose believes that the findings may play into future romantic relationships, as many relationships involve a "pursuit-withdraw cycle" in which one partner (usually the woman) pursues talking about problems while the other (usually the man) withdraws.
"Women may really push their partners to share pent-up worries and concerns because they hold expectations that talking makes people feel better. But their partners may just not be interested and expect that other coping mechanisms will make them feel better. Men may be more likely to think talking about problems will make the problems feel bigger, and engaging in different activities will take their minds off of the problem. Men may just not be coming from the same place as their partners," Rose said.
The paper, "How Girls and Boys Expect Disclosure About Problems Will Make Them Feel: Implications for Friendships," will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Child Development. The study was funded by the National Institute for Mental Health and was co-authored by current and former MU psychology graduate students Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, Rhiannon Smith, Lance Swenson, Wendy Carlson, and Erika Waller and Rose's colleague Steven Asher.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
This looks like a great program - one that should be implemented in all schools. If we can help young men think about sex and sexuality differently than they might otherwise (which means different from the cultural messages), we can help them grow up to be good men.
by ZOSIA BIELSKI
Published Saturday, Apr. 21, 2012
- What is a nymphomaniac? And is it okay to have a relationship with them?
- Is it wrong or weird to think of someone else while having sex with someone?
- Why is it okay for guys to have multiple sex partners but not girls?
- Is it okay to masturbate five times a day?
Deep questions – at least if you consider they're being asked by 14- and 15-year-old boys.
In Blake Spence's class, no topic is off-limits, especially when a boy has dropped it anonymously into the “question box.” Mr. Spence, 28, co-ordinates the WiseGuyz Program, now on offer to Grade 9 boys in two Calgary high schools. In 14 two-hour sessions offered once a week, the guys talk – yes, talk, without girls in the room – about everything from reproductive anatomy, sexually transmitted infections and birth control to relationships, values and the media.
WiseGuyz, run by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre (which gave Mr. Spence his training), isn't just sex ed with an update. It's part of a new wave of initiatives to intervene in a young, male culture that is giving many adults cause for concern.
Long-term, the aim is to combat the rates of domestic violence and sexually transmitted infections. Short-term, the goal is to tutor young men in healthy relations with women and non-destructive masculinity.
A U.S. study of 1,430 Grade 7 students published last month found that nearly one in six (15 per cent) reported being physically abused by someone they had dated; one in three (37 per cent) said they had been victimized psychologically or electronically in a romantic context.
“The script about what sexual relationships should be has been written for young men – that they have to be the aggressors and that it's about their pleasure, not necessarily their female partner's,” Mr. Spence says.
He also points out that boys in Grade 9 today “consume a lot of pornography.” Thus, “they need a lens to understand that those messages can be harmful, and that they're actually not realistic. We're giving them a context to consider.”
At a time when media and college-campus chatter seem to celebrate binge-drunk sex, disposable partners and protracted adolescence as the norm, critics such as Wendy Shalit and Laura Sessions Stepp have raised the alarm about “girls gone wild,” while seeming to neglect the other half of the equation.
But educators, at least, are increasingly shifting their focus to the masculinity script.
They say they need to start early: As young men construct their sexuality, they are being presented with myriad misogynist offerings, from the blatantly sexist attitudes of Tucker Max's “fratire” bestseller I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell or on TV in Two-and-a-Half Men, to a “pickup artist” scene that has spewed out countless “seduction manuals” and boot camps for guys eager to try out techniques such as “negging,” which involves bulldozing a sexual prospect's self-esteem to break down her resistance.
On campus, disturbing signs of what feminist critics call “rape culture” have emerged, including a 2010 late-night march by a Yale University fraternity that saw pledges walk around a female-freshman-housing area chanting “No means yes! Yes means anal!”
Equally queasy messages can be found in advertising: Earlier this month, a Facebook ad for vodka manufacturer Belvedere showed a man pinning down a frightened woman in his lap. “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly,” the tagline read.
Most of all, perhaps, hard-core porn is now also seeping into the way adolescent and teenage boys navigate sex.
“Two clicks away and you're watching people have sex, all kinds of ways of women being degraded,” laments Pam Krause, executive director of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre. “Is there a message in urinating on a woman's face? If your parents aren't talking about sex with you, and you aren't getting good sex ed at school, that might be your first and perhaps only context for sex and sexuality for a while.”
A British survey published by Psychologies magazine in 2010 found that 81 per cent of 14-to-16-year-olds (regardless of gender) had looked at porn online at home, while 63 per cent called it up on their phones; a third of them had seen sexual images online when they were 10 or younger. A 2006 study involving rural Alberta youth from 17 schools found that 88 per cent of Grade 8 boys had viewed porn online, while 60 per cent had watched sex videos or DVDs.
“The availability of free Internet porn means not only that pornography is instantly available to anyone of any age, it also means that porn has permeated the culture to the point where its dominant messages about women, men, sex and power have permeated areas that we don't think of as porn: advertising, film and television,” says Michael Messner, a sociology and gender studies professor at the University of Southern California.
“A challenge facing any adults working with boys is just to get them to think about and talk about these images, while not falling back on the guilt-loaded, anti-sex strategies that have proven so unsuccessful in the past.”
WiseGuyz was first piloted in 2010, and it will be adapted into a non-mandatory curriculum available to schools this fall. (Students need consent from their parents.) Teachers and administrative staff nudge into it the boys they think would benefit most: “It might be guys already in relationships, guys that get into trouble often, guys that have potentially negative attitudes about women or about someone from the LGBTQ community,” Mr. Spence says.
Whether it's boys-only sex ed such as WiseGuyz, hockey coaches slipping in gender studies during practice or anti-sexism campaigns for college guys, educators hope that young men will begin asking themselves: “What is masculinity, and why do I act the way I do?”
It's a fine tightrope walk, to discuss these subjects without vilifying men, emasculating or using the dreaded F-word – feminism. That's tricky, given that the new programs for guys only “exist because of feminism,” according to Prof. Messner, author of It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports. He argues that although few young men today would self-identify as feminists (and neither would many of their female peers), a lot of them would agree with feminist positions on issues such as equal pay or violence against women.
“The trick is for these guys to come to see these issues not just as women's issues but as their issues, too,” he says. “Feminism as a movement is stalled partly because of backlash against it, but also because we have not yet taken the next step, which is to involve boys and men in seeing how feminism promises to broaden their lives in healthier directions.”
A CASE FOR SEX-SEGREGATED SPACEMost of these new initiatives involve segregating the sexes, which is something of a throwback, as co-ed is the gold standard in contemporary sex education. But proponents suggest that it lets young men talk about their shared experiences from a more specific, gendered perspective.
“Eventually you bring the two [sexes] together, but they need to build self-understanding, self-confidence and comfort on their own,” says University of Windsor sociology professor Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, who holds the Canada Research Chair in social justice and sexual health.
Programs catering exclusively to adolescent and teenage girls have existed for years in Canada, including Girl Time for Grades 7 and 8 and Starburst, which promotes “resiliency” in girls through Grade 7 to 9, working to bolster their self-worth and help them build and navigate personal boundaries.
In the male versions, “it's about looking at the male experience and helping them to redefine that for themselves,” Ms. Krause says. About sexist images in pop culture, for example, she says: “They don't have an opportunity to explore what that means, or have values around it, because we've never said to boys, ‘What do you actually think of that?' That's what we want to do – start the conversation.”
In many ways, these programs are a junior version of the Men Of Strength (MOST) Club: Now a decade old in the United States, the 22-week curriculum for 11-to-18-year-olds emphasizes “healthy, non-violent masculinity.” A college incarnation, Campus MOST, is now pushing bystander intervention in sexual assaults.
“It does a good job of portraying the well-rounded, healthy, chivalrous man, the real masculinity. It's not just your jock – the media portrayal of what a man should be,” says Adam Middleton, a freshman at George Washington University who attends Campus MOST.
Mr. Middleton, 19, started taking MOST sessions in Grade 10; he would go at lunch on Fridays, and he recalls that they were “compelling conversations.”
MOST is the brainchild of Men Can Stop Rape, a Washington, D.C., non-profit founded in 1997 that this year launched a highly publicized call for college men to intervene against sexual harassment and rape. Its “Where Do You Stand?” campaign stood out for its images of beefy jocks taking on would-be date rapists. “When Kate seemed too drunk to leave with Chris, I checked in with her,” read one such image, which 22 schools from Miami to Montana have already ordered on posters, bus shelters, sweatshirts and wristbands.
The organization is also hosting workshops in which guys are called on to discuss, as Men Can Stop Rape executive director Neil Irvin puts it, how “dominant stories of masculinity impede men's emotional intelligence.” They critique celebrations of binge drinking and putdowns of “cock blocking” (getting in the way of another guy's attempts to “score”) – “the frat-boy culture.”
While that kind of machismo might have been more acute in decades past, “it's not a lot better either” today, Prof. Messner says. “We still contend with sexist hyper-masculinity as a dominant force on campuses.”
Windsor's Prof. Maticka-Tyndale argues that such boorish behaviour goes in and out of style: “We're on a bad swing right now … a more raunchy swing of the cycle.” At least, she says, the jocks sneering from the back rows of her gender-studies classes in the 1970s were replaced in later decades by guys who “came in with an honest desire to address issues of sexuality and gender,” and that remains true, at least inside the classroom.
An anti-sexist men's movement arose in answer to second-wave feminism and “has had a low-keyed life since the eighties, but is still around,” says Gary Cross, a professor at Pennsylvania State University and author of Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity.
But where that movement might once have been negative about “conventional ideas of masculinity as strong and heroic,” as Prof. Messner puts it, today's programs tout male strength as a resource that guys can use to resist peer pressure and stand up for women.
Even some fraternities have taken an interest in rehabilitating their images, as evidenced by the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign, which sees burly dudes donning stilettos to fundraise for rape-crisis centres and domestic-violence shelters. Founder Frank Baird says that “tens of thousands” of U.S. postsecondary male students have participated, with roughly 40 per cent of the walks now being organized by frat houses, a number that, to his surprise, has risen annually since the event was launched in 2001. During the walk, guys shout anti-rape slogans and hand out pamphlets on drinking and sexual consent, among other issues, while teetering around in heels.
“It's a very dramatic way of showing, ‘I want to be a good guy,'” Mr. Baird says. The frat members do the walks to fulfill the community-work requirements in their charters, he says, but they are also occasionally spurred by assaults on campus.
Might the appeal be more in the attention-seeking than the activism? Mr. Baird acknowledges that for some it might be, but he points out that to do the walk, the young men first need to connect with a rape-crisis centre or a domestic-violence shelter: “That's when they start to get educated. ... These guys are directly interacting with the mostly women who are working there. Under what other conditions would they come together?”
After all, he says, “men don't often get a chance – many of them feel like they never get the chance – to say anything about gender. ... What happens when men get beat over the head is they shut down. We need to do this in a way that doesn't make men defensive.”
WANT BOYS TO TALK? ENLIST A JOCK
Reaching young men in a way that doesn't make them leery takes a particular type of role model, but parental efforts have long come across as too prying. In the case of intimacy and sexuality, many parents are still simply too squeamish for the job.
“It depends on each family, but often parents are relieved not to have the conversation with their kids,” WiseGuyz's Mr. Spence says.
One place many advocates are looking to find positive role models is in sports.
“In school, there's a lot of pressure to be sexually successful, have lots of girlfriends and be a jock, an athlete, a man's man,” says Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at SUNY Stony Brook University and author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. “Which is why using athletes and coaches to bring men into the conversation is so valuable. They really have the credibility.”
The high-school athletics program Coaching Boys into Men, for example, brings gender studies into team practices. Now used across 20 American states as well as by junior hockey coaches in Alberta, the program started out as a playbook for coaches who wanted to take advantage of teachable moments when they overheard troubling talk in the locker room, some of it about sexual assault. Now, it's free for anyone to download online.
“In our pilot work, we found athletes saying that coaches are like a second dad: ‘Whatever coach says, I listen to,'” says Elizabeth Miller, chief of the division of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh who helped to develop the program.
A study published last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that young men who went through the sessions were more likely to intervene when they witnessed their peers disrespecting or abusing women than other boys. By the end of a season, Dr. Miller has seen teen males calling each other out in the presence of women: “When they caught each other being disrespectful, they'd say, ‘Yo! Boys to men.' ”
While they're not coaches, the facilitators at WiseGuyz aren't exactly stodgy either: “We're not teachers. We're young guys,” Mr. Spence says of his three-man team. (A female instructor helps with some sessions.)
“The more we can connect with them, the more we're going to respect them,” agrees Collin Anda, a 15-year-old student at Calgary's Georges P. Vanier Junior High School, where WiseGuyz is currently halfway through the 14-week course.
The curriculum includes sessions on sexual diversity, fatherhood, emotional stress, sexual consent and conflict resolution, among many others. The boys discuss cases such as that of Matthew Shepard, the young Wyoming man murdered for being gay in 1998, and watch feminist Jean Kilbourne's Killing Us Softly, a film about gender stereotypes in advertising.
“It's a laid-back class, but it teaches you a lot,” Collin says, such as “how to keep a manly life but also be responsible and respectful” and “how she'll feel in certain situations, and how you can change that – how you can make a relationship better at a young age.”
Does Collin think the exercises have the potential to groom him into a better boyfriend, when he has a girlfriend?
“Yes, actually, I do,” he says. “It makes you think about how you are. It makes you look into the mirror. It just gets you thinking.”
In fact, Collin's mother, Thais Anda, says she has noticed a change already. Before WiseGuyz, Ms. Anda would hear Collin chatting girls up via Skype and “shake her head” at the things he would say.
“Now I notice that he talks differently,” says Ms. Anda, a 38-year-old administrative manager at Dell Canada. “He doesn't talk in a way that's demeaning. He doesn't try to make the girl like him by acting stupid. He talks more maturely and wisely.”
Zosia Bielski is a reporter for Globe Life.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
A little wisdom for the spiritual path . . . . Even steps that feel like going backward are taking us where we need to go. Sometimes we need to take the bigger perspective, to know that we are always already exactly where we need to be on our journeys.
Sometimes during our spiritual growth we can feel as if we are going backwards, rest assured you are not.
There are times when we feel that we are spinning our wheels in the mud in terms of our spiritual progress. This can be especially true following a period of major growth in which we feel as if we’ve gained a lot of ground. In fact, this is the way growth goes—periods of intense forward movement give way to periods of what seems like stagnation. In those moments when we feel discouraged, it’s helpful to remember that we don’t ever really go backward. It may be that we are at a standstill because there is a new obstacle in our paths, or a new layer to get through, but the hard work we have done cannot be undone.
Every step on the path is meaningful, and even one that seems to take us backward is a forward step in the sense that it is what we must do to move to the next level. In addition, an intense growth spurt requires that we rest for a time in order to fully integrate the new energies that have been liberated by our hard work. When we feel we are not making progress, we can encourage ourselves to take a moment to rest. We can meditate more, feed ourselves well, and get extra sleep. Before we know it, we will be spurred on to work toward the next level of our development, and this rest will make sense then as something we needed in order to continue.
Once the sun rises, it doesn’t go backward but instead follows its path in one direction. It may appear to stand still for a moment in time, or to move more slowly at some point or another, but really it is steadily moving forward on its path. We are the same way, and once we have moved through something we can never really go back. We may be resting or revisiting issues that seem old, and it’s natural to feel stuck, but in truth we are always taking the next important step forward on our path.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
From Blip.TV, a discussion presented by Adelaide Writers' Week, March 2012:
At Adelaide Writers' Week, two novelists explore the vexing questions of contemporary manhood. Malcolm Knox’s novel The Life is a knowing rift on the life of a retired surfer. Deborah Roberston’s Sweet Old World tells the story of a man who falls in love with a mother trying to save her child. Their books paint complex and thoughtful portraits of contemporary masculinity, and in this conversation they explore their ideas further.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Kate Lombardi is the author of the new book, The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger. She was on NPR a week or so ago talking about the book. While I listened to the brief interview, I found myself arguing with the author and remembering a book I reviewed a while ago for Wildmind Buddhist Meditation.
I agree that mothers can teach their sons emotional intelligence - and that's important. But I see a lot of men who never fully individuate from their mothers - men whose wives feel they are the 2nd most important woman in his life. I'm sure Ms. Lombardi is not advocating an unhealthy relationship, but when women start telling men what healthy masculinity looks like, I get cautious.
First up, here is the segment from NPR's All Things Considered - then below that is the review I wrote of Michael Gurian's The Invisible Presence.
I agree that mothers can teach their sons emotional intelligence - and that's important. But I see a lot of men who never fully individuate from their mothers - men whose wives feel they are the 2nd most important woman in his life. I'm sure Ms. Lombardi is not advocating an unhealthy relationship, but when women start telling men what healthy masculinity looks like, I get cautious.
First up, here is the segment from NPR's All Things Considered - then below that is the review I wrote of Michael Gurian's The Invisible Presence.
Hardcover, 324 pagesApril 8, 2012
There are plenty of pop culture references to the dangers of a close mother-son relationship. From the myth of Oedipus to the movie Psycho, narrative after narrative harps on the idea that mothers can damage their sons, make them weak, awkward and dependent.
But for millions of men, the opposite has turned out to be true, author Kate Lombardi tells NPR's Laura Sullivan. Lombardi — a mother herself — is the author of the new book, The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger.
Lombardi's own relationship with her son was a major inspiration for the book. "For a long time, I thought that what we had was kind of unique," she says, "that I was somehow blessed with this especially sensitive, caring boy." But in her research for The Mama's Boy Myth, she discovered that she was far from alone.
Her starting point was that mothers and sons face a stigmatization that other parent-child relationships don't. Mothers and daughters, she says, have no problems. "I'm very close to my daughter, and it doesn't raise any eyebrows," she says. Similarly, father-son relationships are viewed as very important, and even father-daughter relationships are valued. "But mothers and sons — that relationship is always looked at with a little skepticism and a little fear."
Lombardi speculates that it might be Sigmund Freud's Oedipus complex at the back of many parents' minds. "I think some of this fear and anxiety around the mother-son relationship really predates Freud," she says. "But that said, Freud codified it. I was amazed how many moms in 2012 were still bringing up the Oedipus complex."
A Healthy, Loving Relationship
The stereotype of the unhealthy mother-son relationship is very familiar — a controlling or dominating mother that interferes with her son's life and refuses to let him come into adulthood on his own. But that's not how it has to be to have closeness, Lombardi says.
"A healthy, loving relationship is one where the mom is emotionally supportive of her son. She recognizes his individuality, his sensitivity, and his vulnerability along with his strengths," she says.
The ideal mother-son relationship is one where the mother can and does respond to her son's emotional needs — and perhaps it's not all that different from a healthy mother-daughter relationship, she says.
It often goes awry, though, when mothers of young boys are pressured to let their child learn to cope on his own. One mother Lombardi interviewed related a story where her pediatrician had accused her of "modeling anxiety" while comforting her son after a fall. "We get the strong message that the last thing a boy needs is his mother, when in fact the research shows just the opposite," she says.
A Good Bond Leads To Better Relationships
The research is actually quite extensive, as Lombardi tells it. Small boys who lack a healthy attachment to their mother are often more aggressive, disobedient and even violent. When boys reach middle school age, the differences are apparent in their views on masculinity.
"Boys who were closer to their mothers ... didn't think, for instance, that every time you got challenged you had to fight," Lombardi said, "or that being a guy means acting tough or going it alone." A better relationship a son has with his mother translates to better mental health.
As those boys reach manhood, the differences can be many, Lombardi says. For one, they often have an easier time in adult relationships.
"One of the things that moms tend to do with their boys is they teach them emotional intelligence," Lombardi says. "They teach them to recognize their feelings and talk about them."
Take the classic image of a little boy melting down in a grocery store, and the mother responding, "Use your words." Or when the sullen high schooler comes home, slams the door and yells, "I don't want to talk about it!" The mother with the healthier relationship, Lombardi says, can ask her son to cool off and talk it out when he's ready.
Lombardi knows it works — after all, her own son, now 23, now enjoys the benefits of having that healthy relationship while growing up. And now that his mother has shared it with the world?
"He's pretty proud of it," she says. "He's not ashamed of our closeness."
Monday, April 16, 2012
I have never seen an episode of Mad Men, which probably makes me one of the few guys in the country. Still, it's impossible to not know something about the show, which made this an interesting episode of The Secret Lives of Men - Dr. Blazina speaks with Dr. Stephanie Newman about her new book, Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show.
Mad Men has captured the imaginations of millions of viewers, winning fifteen golden globes and four Emmys. In Mad Men on the Couch, Dr. Stephanie Newman analyzes the show’s primary characters through the lens of modern psychology.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
It is estimated that nearly 1 in 3 female military veterans were victims of rape or sexual assault by their fellow soldiers (Time, March 8, 2010) while serving on active duty. Now it seems that the military, rather than deal with the issue, is blaming victims by diagnosing them with a personality disorder and discharging them.
For those who do not know what this means, it is widely considered (albeit wrongly) that personality disorders are incurable - so giving someone a personality disorder diagnosis (Axis II in the DSM-IV-TR) is labeling them as "crazy." Once this diagnosis is given, it will follow these women for life, impacting their employment options, their insurance costs, and many other areas of their lives, not least of which is their sense of self.
This is fucked up - these women are victimized by their fellow soldiers, then they are further victimized by the patriarchal military system. Adding further insult, dumbass talking heads on networks like Fox News are blaming them as well:
“I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminist.”Is this how we should make sense of the violence? Military women should expect to be raped because they are serving in close proximity to men? Men cannot control their beastly sexual urges when they are around women?
She then noted that the budget of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office increased from $5 million in 2005 to more than $23 million in 2010.
“So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much,” Trotta remarked.
It must be noted, despite the belief that rape is about sex, that most rape is about anger, power, humiliation, or some other motivation (control, revenge, and so on) and is NOT about sex. Please keep that in my mind throughout this post.
Cultural and literary critic Camille Paglia thinks women need to get beyond the feminist idea that men and women are equal (from PBS - Rape: The most intimate of crimes).
In her book, Sex, Art and American Culture, Camille Paglia calls these "somber truths" women must accept. "Feminism keeps saying the sexes are the same," she writes. "It keeps telling women they can do anything, go anywhere, say anything, wear anything. No, they can't. Women will always be in sexual danger." She may be right, but that doesn't necessarily make rape a woman's responsibility.Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem believes we need to stop worrying about who gets raped (aside from being focused on the 18-24 age range, there are few other patterns, and even older women are targets) and start looking at who does the raping:
"We have to stop talking about who gets raped and talk about who rapes. Somebody is doing these things. And we have to identify who they are." Who is that somebody? Why do men rape women? And how do you stop them?When humans lived in a world of physical power, small tribal groups, tenuous survival, and little to no higher cognitive function (such as guilt or empathy), rape may have been a part of life. Or at least that is what the evolutionary psychologists argue, and they contend those same drives are still present in our psychological make-up as a species.
They may be partially correct - rape is more likely when social structures break down in famine, natural disasters, and warfare. To a certain degree, social structure helps reduce violence and enforces norms of behavior.
Further, while we tend to think of primates as more sexually violent, Frans de Waal and other primatologists present very different viewpoints. Barbara Smuts (Discover, Aug. 1995) observes:
Orangutans and chimpanzees are the only nonhuman primates whose males in the wild force females to copulate, while males of several other species, such as vervet monkeys and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees), rarely if ever try to coerce females sexually. Between the two extremes lie many species, like hamadryas baboons, in which males do not force copulation but nonetheless use threats and intimidation to get sex.
Clearly, this behavior is not common to all primates, and bonobos offer the best example of a culture where male assault never has been recorded - interestingly, we are as closely related to bonobos as we are to chimpanzees.
A unique aspect of bonobo society is that they are a female-dominated species thanks to the network of support that exists between bonobo females. Chimpanzee females are largely isolated from one another, but bonobo females come to one another’s aid. While there may be genetic differences that account for the lack of sexual coercion in bonobos, one important factor is the different environment that promotes these cooperative networks and limits the usefulness of male coercion (see my interview with Frans de Waal for more on this topic). Male bonobos mate more frequently by gaining support from these female networks rather than using sexual coercion as can be found in chimpanzees. Males grow up with this “culture” and observe the older males in their troop emphasize grooming over aggression and then adapt their own behavior in order to maximize their reproductive success.But even among baboons, where sexual violence is common, where the physically dominant male forces females into sexual relations, there is a clear pattern of learned behavior that can be unlearned in a single generation (as related by Robert Sapolsky in his essay “A Natural History of Peace” for the journal Foreign Affairs [pdf here] and cited in Scientific American, July 20, 2011):
Male baboons have been known to viciously maul a female that has rejected their advances and the level of male aggression is strongly correlated with their mating success. However, in a unique natural experiment Stanford primatologist Robert Sapolsky observed what developed when the largest and most aggressive males died out in a group known as Forest Troop (because they were feeding at the contaminated dump site of a Western safari lodge). In the intervening years Forest Group developed a culture in which kindness was rewarded more than aggression and adolescent males who migrated into the troop adopted this culture themselves.Clearly, there is a learned component to this form of behavior that is not inherent in baboon culture. So why are human males still prone to sexual violence - millennia after we have outgrown the conditions that may have supported such behavior - and why does male sexual violence seem worse in the military?
Why doesn't military structure offer some of the same protective structure against rape as civilian culture? Maybe there is something about the military culture that also produces or encourages this behavior? According to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA), the system is completely broken.
The Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 service members were raped or sexually assaulted in 2010. Due to a military culture heavy on retaliation and light on prosecution, only 13.5 percent of the victims report the rape.Rep. Speier says there have been many reports outlining the problems and suggesting changes, but the Pentagon has systematically ignored them.
The system of justice designed to adjudicate cases of rape in the military is in complete shambles. Victims are blamed. Assailants are promoted. Unit commanders - whose promotions are dependent on the conduct and performance of the soldiers they supervise - have an incentive to see that allegations are few and convictions are fewer. As a result, the overwhelming majority of cases get swept under the rug.
This abomination is not new. The Pentagon has largely ignored the recommendations of 18 reports on sexual assault and rape in the military over the past 16 years. As a result, the problem is now worse than ever.
It took four years and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to finally establish a statutorily required commission to investigate reports of sexual misconduct in the military. His successor, Robert Gates, has yet to implement a statutorily required database that would centralize all reports of rapes and sexual assaults in the military.Read the whole article.
It is time for the Pentagon to stop treating legal directives as mere suggestions. And it is time for Congress to abandon its role as a bystander.
The military has issued a couple of reports that are freely available online: