Monday, June 30, 2008

Do "Bad Boys" Have Higher Testosterone?

TC over at T-Nation (the T stands for Testosterone) loves to write about "bad boys" in his weekly Atomic Dog column. While he might be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, he also is pretty smart and reads a lot of scientific studies.

In this post, he cites a few studies about what makes men into "bad boys" and speculates that the reason women are attracted to these poor examples of masculinity may be their testosterone levels, which some women are drawn to as moths to a flame (literally).

What we find, though (and this is a generalization), is that higher testosterone correlates with more immature forms of masculinity, and women tend to know this. But they often choose the bad boys anyway. Could it be an artifact of evolutionary psychology?

Still, I think it is possible to have high testosterone (within normal ranges) and still be a mature man. It requires being a fully-developed human being and having some emotional intelligence, but it's possible.

I use supplements (legal) to keep my T levels normal-high, and I just discovered that a psychologist friend sees me as somewhat feminine, not swishy, but having a well-developed feminine side. So I guess I am proof that you can be manly in many ways, and still have a balanced feminine side.

It's worth mentioning that many gay men have higher than average testosterone levels and still have well-developed, or even overly-developed feminine aspects in their psyches. Clearly, hormones are not directly linked to emotional development, so there must be other factors at work (cultural, social, and so on).

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?

There's no use being coy about it, I'm a bad boy.

I sometimes go swimming right after a big lunch. I mean, I don't even care if the ladies in my book club get all freaked out. It's called thrill seeking, baby. Danger with a capital D.

And during summer evenings, despite all the dirty looks, I cruise back and forth in front of the Piggly Wiggly with the windows of my Prius rolled down and the radio blasting out some 'Low. (In case you're some buttoned up accountant or something, 'Low is how some of us bad boys refer to our muse, Barry Manilow.)

Screw your rules, society, I don't play by 'em!

And if I get a catsup stain on my Izod sweater? I don't even try to remove it with some soda water. I just leave it there because it shows my disdain for the world.

And sometimes, when I add "Kiwi Juice" to my mom's grocery list, I don't even dot the i's with a happy face or a heart! Heck, half the time I don't even dot them with anything! Face it lady, you done raised a bad seed!

Why am I such a bad boy? Well, cuz babes dig it. They dig it and they dig me.

Yep, it's been my personal experience that bad boys get the most girls and in case there was any doubt, there are now two studies that seem to confirm it.

Apparently, there's a nasty triad of personality traits that some individuals possess that allows them to do lots of off-shore and on-shore drilling of our fleshy natural resources. These three personality traits are referred to as the "dark triad."

The traits are, according to New Scientist, "the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive thrill-seeking and callous behavior of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism."

Generally speaking, people with heavy doses of these personality traits run a pretty big risk of being shunned by society, thus leaving them without mates or any types of relationships. This would potentially leave them hungry and vulnerable to predators, in addition to having no one to go antiquing with on Sundays.

However, being just slightly twisted can pay big sexual dividends.

Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University conducted personality tests on 200 college students so he could rank them for their dark triad traits. They were also asked about their sex lives, including how many partners they'd had or whether they were seeking brief tempestuous affairs.

Those that scored higher on dark triad personality traits tended to have more sexual partners and less desire for anything long-term.

As you might guess, the correlation only held in male students.

According to Jonason, James Bond epitomizes this set of traits. "He's clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things — killing people, new women." Just as Bond boinks woman after woman, people with the dark triad traits seem to make the shotgun approach to mating work for them.


One of the potential drawbacks of hooking up with a bad boy.

Jonason makes the assumption that evolutionarily speaking, this whoring around style of reproduction works, even if the bad boys don't stick around for parenting. The very fact that these bad boys still exist seems to confirm that it's a successful trait.

Another study based on a survey of 35,000 people from 57 countries echoed Jonason's findings. David Schmitt of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, concluded, "It is universal across cultures for high dark triad scorers to be more active in short-term mating. They are more likely to try and poach other people's partners for a brief affair."

While these studies might help explain the mating habits of some males, they don't really explain why women are vulnerable to them. Even though women didn't seem to score high on the dark triad tests, why is it they're often attracted to bad boys?

How do we explain the allure of seriously-bad bad boys like Ted Bundy or Josef Fritzl? In case you don't collect serial killer bubblegum cards, Ted Bundy was a notorious serial killer from the 70's who killed — depending on which police investigator you talk to — anywhere from 29 to 100 women.

Fritzl, while he apparently didn't kill anybody, kept his daughter captive in his basement for 24 years, during which time he fathered seven children by her, two of which had never seen sunlight or, ipso facto, gone to a Hannah Montana concert.

Amazingly both Bundy and Fritzl received numerous proposals of marriage after they were arrested! Some of Bundy's female suitors even sat in the courtroom, their moist, adoring eyes glued to him even as the prosecutors described his grizzly murders.

What makes these men — ultimate bad boys — attractive to women? After all, according to the studies, women themselves don't seem to rank very high on the dark triad personality traits.

Could it be the allure of Testosterone? Could the dark triad personality traits actually be tied into high levels of Testosterone? Maybe Testosterone is the ultimate aphrodisiac, causing otherwise sensible women to tattoo a bulls eye around their pudendum and then drop panties and bend over when these dark triad men walk by.

All that's missing is a carny barker pointing his stick at the hoo-hah and shouting, "Put the penis in the hole! Three tries for a sawbuck! How about you, Sport? Feeling lucky today?"

Don't get me wrong, I worship at the altar of Testosterone. I like it high-grade and unfiltered. I believe it's the inspiration for much goodness and greatness, but like all great powers, it has its dark side.

It seems clear that if you take high levels of Testosterone and mix them with just the right amounts of dark triad personality traits, you sour the mix. Let's take a look at a couple of steroid users, a group that easily constitutes the segment of society with the highest amount of Testosterone, or at least the highest amount of synthetic analogs of Testosterone.

Before I tell you about Brat, I have to shed some light on his name. We call him Brat — not Brat as in beat the brat with a baseball bat — but Brawt because he looks like the Brats you can get at the ballpark in Milwaukee, the kind they serve with onions and hot mustard.

In other words, Brat looks like he's stuffed with meat. He's hugely steroidal and his skin, aside from being paper thin, is perpetually tanned. He's a big sausage.

While we call him Brat to his face, I think "Mr. Hanky" is more appropriate. Like his South Park character namesake, this Mr. Hanky looks like he was created from eating hundreds of boxes of Colon Blow cereal, but unlike his namesake, this Mr. Hanky ate bowls filled to the brim with ego and narcissism and downright sociopathic tendencies.

Colon Blow

Yep, based partly on appearance and partly on how high he scores on the dark triad personality traits, Brat is one Herculean turd of a human being; the worst kind of bad boy.

A couple of months ago, I saw Brat sitting in-between two Ÿberbabes at a local bar. As I glanced over, I could plainly see that Brat had burrowed the first two digits of his right hand underneath the micro dress of one the girls.

And then I noticed he had the same two digits of his left hand buried in-between the other girl's legs.

Both of the girls were sitting there with silly clit-rubbing smiles on their faces. Whether or not either knew that Brat was searching for his car keys in the other girl's snatch, too, was unclear.

Now understand this: these girls were smoking hot; Brat is not. What could they possibly have seen in Brat?

Or consider the case of bad boy David Jacobs. Here's a picture of him from 2003:

hostess cupcakes

Some time soon after this picture was taken, Jacobs began importing raw ingredients from China that he used to manufacture anabolic steroids in his kitchen. He began selling his products to athletes around the country, including some NFL players.

Jacobs also started sampling his wares. Maybe he was like a chef who had to taste the bouillabaisse before serving it to patrons. Regardless, his body started to transform. Here's a picture of him just three or four years later:

hostess cupcakes

Jacobs was arrested in September of 2007 and charged as part of Operation Raw Deal, a large DEA investigation of suspected distributors of performance-enhancing drugs.

In May of this year, Jacobs was given three years of probation in exchange for cooperation with federal investigators. He resumed his life in Plano, Texas with Amanda Jo Earhart-Savell, runner-up in the 2008 Arnold Classic Figure Competition.

A few short weeks later, on June 6th, Jacobs and Earhart-Savell were found dead of gunshot wounds, victims of an apparent murder-suicide. He'd shot Amanda Jo multiple times with his Glock pistol, including in the face. Then he shot himself in the stomach, followed by a shot to the head.

The police confiscated 146 vials of steroids, a plastic jar containing suspected steroids, and three jars of clear liquid believed to contain steroids.

By most accounts, none of their friends were really surprised. Jacobs was apparently so jealous that according to an editor for Muscular Development, "If she looked the other way, he'd get into it with her."

What could this beautiful woman, apparently loved by all who knew her, been doing with an overly jealous, butt-ugly felon who, despite being on probation, still had a large stash of steroids in their home?

hostess cupcakes

Amanda Jo.

We all know that women find high-T men attractive, but most don't like their T too high. On some subconscious level, they know that really high-T men have relationship problems. They can't commit. They screw and run. They're more combative. And sometimes, they shoot you in the face.

But some women just don't seem to have their Testosterone radar, their T-dar, if you will, turned on. They seek out and revel in the bad boy antics of these men.

For some, it's actually cultural. Consider the Yanomano women of the Amazon. They romanticize violence and they welcome being brutalized by their mates as it's indicative of passion. In fact, women without scars are thought to have weak or insensitive mates.

In Shakespeare's Othello, the beautiful Desdemona falls in love with the great warrior Othello, even though he's old, ugly, and has a hairy back (I'm guessing about the back). His friends think he's "bewitched" her. He explains that she was won by the battles he fought: "She'd lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd...this is the only witchcraft I have used."

One explanation for the love of bad boys could have to do with cavewoman genes. Mates and offspring of good hunters and good fighters had the best chance of survival.

That trait persists today, but for most women, money has taken the place of physical prowess. For others, though, they still seem to be instinctively drawn to the old-fashioned definition of the bad boy: he who is physical, dynamic, and volatile.

But maybe my initial thoughts on the subject hold true, that it has to do with Testosterone itself. Sociologist Richard Udry of the Carolina Population Center found a low but statistically significant correlation between the Testosterone levels of husbands and wives.

The simple truth may be that the women who like bad boys are simply bad girls.

Embodying Masculinity, Part Two - Power

In an ongoing effort to define and embody masculinity in healthy ways, I offer this post from The Simple Marriage Project on owning power for men, and knowing how to use it wisely.

This is a pretty good post -- he makes the very cogent point that when men try to emulate what they see in the media, they are engaging in pseudo-masculinity. The failure to understand what masculinity really is results in the abuse of power, among other things.

I'm not sure I buy into the submission bit, which the author claims is the true source of power -- maybe to a higher power, but not to culture. [The author seems to have a Christian viewpoint, so that might explain the surrender idea.] Rather than submission, maybe seeing ourselves as integrated in a larger web and working as part of that.

Man Up: Power

This is part 3, if you missed the money or the sex discussion, follow the links provided. Now on to power.

Males today live in a precarious position. If a male steps up to the plate and strives to become the man the media displays, he soon discovers it was not masculinity being displayed. It was pseudo-masculinity. The poser. The man that plays the part of the man, but isn’t truly being one at the core. On the other hand, most males don’t know what it means to be a true man. They lack a role model that can bestow masculinity to their life since their father is either checked out, lost in his own life or both.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on this idea of power in a man’s life. Jobs are sought that have this label attached. Career advancement is pursued at all cost in order to get more power. You get the idea. Life has become about getting more. Money. Toys. Things. Status. Women. Sex.

The truth is, power corrupts.

Power, like the love of money, is consuming. When you obtain a little taste, you do most anything to get more. It is easy to lose focus and be overwhelmed by the pursuit of power. Leaving behind a wake of hurt, pain and destruction.

On a global scale, the struggle for power has led to wars. While many great things can come along with power, how it is used and managed is key.

Three powerful examples

There are many great examples of powerful men throughout history. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is renowned for his influence in the civil rights movement. His adherence to non-violent protests and vision for equality among all humans inspired many people around him and throughout the generations up to today. He displayed his power through his belief in freedom and equality for men and women of all races and faiths.

Mahatma Gandhi is known as a major political and spiritual leader in India. He used a peaceful approach for social change. His influence and power led to the independence movement of an entire country. He displayed his power through his belief in the alleviation of poverty, in the liberation of women, in brotherhood amongst different religious and ethnic groups, and in the self-sufficiency of his nation.

Jesus of Nazareth is best known in the Christian realm as God’s Son who restored fallen man back to God through grace by His death, burial, and resurrection. He is also in my opinion the greatest example of a powerful man. He used love as a means for change. Teaching followers to turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and serve those around you.

Each of these men had tremendous power. They also have huge followings due largely to the way they used their power.

The key to ending power’s corruption

The key to disarming power’s corrupting influence rests in its usage. When power is used for relationships, it is shared and flourishes. True power comes through submission. Submission to those around you. To marriage. To family. To society. We each play a role in a larger story of our lives. We are interconnected to those around us. When we think of ourselves as the end-all-be-all, people get hurt and we often end up alone.

While I believe that most wives want to be in a marriage with a powerful man, they want this power to be used well and for the betterment of others. Namely the family.

Every group or system of people operates best when there is a leader. And often this falls upon the man’s shoulders. But this leadership should be for the improvement of the entire system, not just the leader. When a true man takes the lead and willingly submits his power to his family, the whole family is blessed. Through his power, the family and the marriage are blessed.

A powerful man is not passive, he is also not timid. He is a liberator of others. His power is spread to others by his willingness to live for others. To love others.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some; it’s in all, everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~Nelson Mandela

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sex Every Day? How Men And Women Differ On The Idea

An interesting article posted over at Huffington Post. Could you make love to your wife or girlfriend every day for a year? Dr. Vranich thinks men and women have different feelings on this idea.

For what it's worth -- seems like a good experiment to me. Sure, some days the energy or enthusiasm might not be there. But that would be good practice in pleasing the other person for a day, or finding the love within that could increase motivation.

On the other hand, I'm a hopeless romantic, so I may not know what I am talking about.
Sex Every Day? How Men And Women Differ On The Idea
Dr. Belisa Vranich

This past week on the Today Show, Tiki Barber asked Dr. Ian Kerner* and me about the book 365 Nights: A Memoir Of Intimacy. In the book, a woman gives her husband the gift of sex every day for an entire year. Most male friends I've talked to about it light up, then in a matter of nanoseconds look crestfallen. The responses vary from "365? With anyone he wants?" to "A year? Every day? Just with her?" The initial idea, lots of sex every day, sounds good. Then reality sets in: it's sex with the same person every single day. Ev-er-y single day. Now same-person sex with a hot bedfellow on a regular basis is great--don't get me wrong. And you calling the shots as far as whatever you want to consider "sex" that day ("I'll have a BJ today, Honey") or with whatever variations you want ("How about the French maid outfit today, sweetie?") may work, but I don't think that that is what the author had in mind.

Needless to say, I listed the obvious downsides on air: it would become a chore, like anything else you have to do regularly--laundry, bathing, food shopping. The only upside that was really interesting to me was the fact that if you do have problems in the bedroom, you'd be forced to fix them. If the "gift" were for a week or even a month, well, anyone can get through lame or even just average sex for that amount of time. But think, day 95, day 140, day have to start being creative and really communicating; it's like the sex version of "Survivor." Alone on a island with your spouse for a year, and the prize requires you to copulate every day. Weirder shows have happened.

So, how would this play out in your life? If you had a pact with your spouse to have sex every 24 hours for a year. What would you want?

Summarizing from my male patients, when it comes to sex, here's what they want:

1. Sex with same person, but having her be "the freak" she was when they met.

2. Sex with same person, but have her initiate and "mix things up" so that she sort of has different sexual personas.

3. Sex with other people, because if it were really a "gift," it would mean variety in the most honest sense.

Female patients:

1. Sex with as much physical/intellectual foreplay as the sex they had in the beginning.

2. Men to read their minds about what they want rather than having to instruct them.

3. Not to have sex when they are tired or stressed, or have too many things outside the bedroom to focus on/worry about.

4. Not to have sex when they aren't feeling sexy (fat, bloated, unshaven).

5. Not to feel guilt about preferring to take a nap then have sex, rather than sex then nap.

Since climaxing is not a given for most women, the idea of novelty isn't usually all that appealing. Ask any gal pal who is dating men: she'll fantasize about the "friends with benefits" before she will about a different guy every night. One woman summarized it, "If you have to 'work' to find good sex or mold your man into a good sexual partner, then the last thing you want to do is go find another clueless man to bed (or one who anatomically just doesn't work for you)."

So you put these two animals together, throw in a bunch of rigid social rules, and cross your fingers and hope it works. That's why we have show after show, magazine article after magazine article, on making it work/ keeping it hot/blah blah.

A few simple rules that I've heard myself giving men over and over now for years (and for those of you expecting me to tell you to buy the sex swing chair, you'll be disappointed):

1. Spontaneity isn't the answer. Don't grind up on her and whisper in her ear about what you want to do to her while she is washing the dishes. She's scraping leftover meatloaf off the kids' plates and trying to figure out how to get 18 things done and still get to bed and have 7 hours of sleep before going to work tomorrow. Now there are 19. Oh joy.

2. Don't buy her gimmicky sex toys or sadistic lingerie. The 20-year-old that sold you the fake diamond-studded g-string thinks it's "hot" but fact is it's a 50-cent thong with glass bits (something you don't want near your genitals or anyone else's) sewn into it by some small child missing two fingers trying to make $1.25 a day. We'll wear it once then wish we had the $59.99 to spend on something else. Plus, to us it reeks of: here is yet something else I want you to do for me....I don't care/didn't realize your labia majora doesn't fit into this tiny triangle of itchy lace

The number one rule for both sexes in keeping things hot: Do stay polite**. Do groom just for each other. Bo-ring. Yeah, but it's the truth. Man or woman, the one thing each yearns for and misses is that the other continues to care about their own appearance simply just for their partner. Then notice. Keep the manners you had when you started dating; they wane if you don't, and all of the sudden you find yourself being that couple in mismatched sweats, using the sleeve to wipe snot off your kid's nose in the mall. Sexy.

*Check out Passionista and Sex Detox, two books I recommend often by Ian Kerner.

**This obviously won't make your relationship spicy, but it will keep at bay what couples talk about as feeling "taken for granted," and their other getting "frumpy." Also, I'm not knocking sweatsuits in any way.

My advice? Never forget to remind her (or him) -- often -- that you love her and why. We all want to know that we are loved, and sometimes we also need to know why we are loved. Do that daily, and the sex will follow, and it will be great sex (as long as everything else is in order).

One more thought. Be thoughtful. Keep her (or him) in your heart. Do things for the one you love just because you love her (or him). In other words, don't be selfish and/or self-centered. Love is a verb, as they say.

Friday, June 27, 2008

American Scholar - What Kind of Father Am I?

The American Scholar has a great new article called, What Kind of Father Am I? This is a very long and exceptionally well-written first person narrative. And I think this is the kind of question a lot of men lay awake thinking about, or maybe worrying about.

But it's a bigger theme than one man's life as a son and as a father of sons (three of them). To me, and I have no kids, it still touches on some universal themes familiar to most of us.

Here is one good passage from the article, written by James McConkey.
That first son [Larry] was followed three years later by Cris—an abbreviation of Crispin, his middle name; Jim was born seven years after Cris. When Larry was a teenager, a social worker and longtime friend—her husband was a colleague of mine—told Jean [author's wife] that we put an unusual burden on our sons by expecting them to live up to an unstated code of behavior, perhaps one similar to the relationship she had observed between Jean and me. We seemed, that is, to assume some kind of equality among the members of our family, permitting our children to call us by our first names and never imposing specific rules upon their conduct. Her observations were not accusatory in nature; they may have been partially intended to show us how little we had in common with the dysfunctional family relationships of her clients. And yet they seemed to imply—especially in that phrase “an unusual burden”—a difference between her own family and ours.

When Jean told me what the social worker had said, I found her comments accurate enough to be troubling. During the years that our children remained dependent upon us, I’d always felt a special responsibility, as the adult male, for providing security and guidance to my family. Though Jean and I each had professional careers, we assumed, in a way typical of our generation, that mine should have precedence. But I had never wanted to be a patriarch, that conventional figure of male authority. Jean and I always came to major family decisions through mutual consent; neither of us would do anything that might make the other unhappy—or our children, for that matter, after they were old enough to be consulted. The reason for such behavior, being self-serving, is nothing to be proud of: we knew we’d inflict misery on ourselves by pursuing personal desires that brought unhappiness to those we love.

Nobody can will that kind of love; one reason, I guess, is that it depends on at least two people to share it. In the attempt to save their failing marriage, one of our sons and his former wife had a series of talks with a marriage counselor. Ultimately, the counselor told our son that his marital problems were obviously caused by his parents. Successful marriages require the open expression of personal emotion; if his parents never argued and fought, the reason was that they had repressed their hostility, thus victimizing him to a repetition of their fault.

Ever since Freud, repression has served some analysts as a convenient and irrefutable explanation for the problems of their patients. For example, the indignation with which I responded when our son asked me if what the counselor had said was true might have been used by the counselor as proof of the extent to which I would go to repress my other emotions. As our choices of professions indicate, Jean and I have differing aptitudes. But it seems to me that our relationship over the decades reflects a mutual respect and trust that never has been corroded by resentment. If free will has anything to do with that, it undoubtedly comes from the desire not to repeat the mistakes of our parents.
Here is another beautiful passage in which the author talks about his own father.
It wasn’t until I read The Great Gatsby as an adult that I realized how much my father resembled Fitzgerald’s title character, possessing the same “extraordinary gift for hope,” the same “romantic readiness,” with the exception that my father’s “green light” was never a woman too idealized to be mortal, but rather an equally impossible “bracket,” a word he often used to describe the otherwise indefinable status he felt destined to attain. Like Gatsby, he sought spiritual goals through material ends, but nothing—neither the well-paying positions he still managed to secure nor his wife and children—came up to his dreams. During my adolescence, he asked my mother’s permission for a divorce, since he’d fallen in love with another woman. My mother granted the request, however desolate it made her, and she relied primarily on me, as her younger son, for affection during the next three years.

That bond should have made me an ideal candidate for the complex that Freud derived from the myth of Oedipus, but it didn’t. Though my love for my mother during those difficult years may have been far deeper, I never lost my love for my father—in part, I suppose, because my mother never did, either. That three-year period ended when financial problems caused my mother, brother, and me to separate. My father was then running a Packard dealership on Chicago’s South Side, living with his second wife in a high-rise apartment building a block or so from Lake Michigan. For about half a year, I stayed with them. That marriage, like the Packard agency, was failing; though they had welcomed me, I realized that my presence—for my unhappiness must have been obvious—only added to the tension.

My father began to invite me to accompany him on various errands, which permitted his wife (I never thought of her as my stepmother) to have the apartment to herself. Once he took me to a South Side restaurant that had a walled-in balcony with slits overlooking the floor. When I asked him the purpose of those slits, he told me in a quiet voice that they had been built for machine guns, but that the restaurant’s patrons were now safe from harm. I didn’t know that he (again, like Gatsby) consorted with gangsters until one day we were driving through the Loop area. While we were waiting in traffic behind a streetcar, somebody, in what seemed a single action, entered the Packard through a back door, closing it as he threw himself on the floor behind us. I never saw the man’s face, only heard his urgent whisper for my father to drive around the streetcar on the wrong side, and then to turn on the first side street. The commands kept coming until I—and presumably those pursuing the fugitive—was hopelessly lost. We were on a deserted street in a warehouse district when the man told my father to stop, and he slipped out of the car as quickly as he entered it. I knew, without my father telling me, that I should never mention to anybody that encounter. Until this moment of writing about it, I haven’t; and now, having done so, it seems more like an episode from an old George Raft gangster film than a commentary on a period in my father’s life when his Depression-era desperation to capture what lay only in his imagination led him into contact with underworld figures.
And here is one last passage.
I lack the desire—perhaps because I also lack the talent—to write a contemporary version of Oedipus Rex. But if I could write such a tragedy, the son wouldn’t kill his father because of sexual rivalry over the wife and mother—an absurdity, at least from my personal experience—but rather because of self-hatred, his motive hard to distinguish from suicide. As for me, I’ll never forget the long-ago moment I saw my father’s face in the mirror while I was shaving: despite my growing admiration for him in the years after the remarriage, it was the first time that I had fully accepted the likeness, and I realized that I had also accepted myself, whatever my shortcomings. That double acceptance involved more than the genetic connection: I was entering middle age, and the hair at my temples was turning gray, my skin losing its youthful tautness and beginning to sag below the cheeks. That is to say, my father and I were mortal and would share the fate common to all living creatures. I was living then with my wife and children in Paris; our apartment was a niche in a modern and impersonal housing complex. Maybe one has to be far from home to gain awareness like that. After all, visiting foreign countries is said to be a broadening experience.
Now go read the whole article.

I'm not promising this essay will reveal the secrets to being a good father. Only that this one man shares some experiences that all of us -- father and/or sons -- might have shared, and in the sharing, discovered ourselves part of a larger net of being men.

What Women Want in a Man

Granted, this is only one woman's point of view, but what she says is similar to what I have heard over the years from other women. So, if you are curious about what women are looking for in men, here is one very good answer.

From the forums at Art of Manliness. This is actually pretty long -- she clearly put some thought into this, so give it a read.
I put some thought into your question over the last day or so, because it's true… this sort of thing does happen a lot. And it's really funny because I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with my single women friends discussing how there are "just no good guys out there" when in fact, we are all very good friends with dozens of great guys.

So what is the problem? Why don't we see the great guys right in front of us? Why are we not attracted to them? And what is it about the athletic guys that draw us to them so instinctively, even when more often than not they are not great guys at all, but in many cases are real creeps…

Well here's the deal:

Women are attracted to all sorts of men, for many various reasons, but there are FOUR basic traits that ALL WOMEN want in a man.

These are:

1. Coolness
2. Confidence
3. Ambition
4. Attractiveness

And luckily for those born without Brad Pitt's genes… most of us want them in that order.

So…. From this we (both men and women) can all agree that:

1. TALENT is cool
2. WINNING builds confidence
3. COMPETITION drives Ambition
4. DIET and EXERCISE will certainly help with attractiveness

So naturally "athletics" tends to draw people who possess these traits, and also makes them very visible to the rest of us. Therefore, women seeking a companion know instinctively that athletic men are likely to have those four traits we so long for, and are an easy place to start.

One thing to note... just because a guy is athletic, that doesn't automatically make him a jerk... There ARE a lot of really great catches that can catch... and we know that.

BUT… the good news is that you don't HAVE to be athletic to possess these traits, especially the more important top 3. I mean really, let's face it… if you did, the ever-lovely Liv Tyler would have never been born!

So what's a nice guy who's not athletic to do?

1. You have to IMPRESS to be cool.
So FIND SOMETHING YOU'RE GOOD AT! (and no… the ability to play guitar hero for 5 hours straight on level "hard" does not count!)

There are many ways to impress a girl and she will think you are the coolest. Everyone is talented at something, and that includes you. You don't have to be a Manning to be born with talent.

Your talent can be something as superficial as making money. It's sad, but true, that the ability to make and possess a lot of money is very impressive to a lot of women and can help get you the girl… just look at "the Donald."

On the other end of that spectrum, you could have no money at all, but if you are really good in social setting, it can be quite impressive. You could be that really great, funny guy that everybody wants to hang out with and the ladies will notice and want to be part of that… So if you have the natural ability to make someone smile… you shouldn't have too much trouble.

As for the introverted nice guys that are very talented computer programmers… you need to be a bit more creative in order to impress… because even the most efficiently written, kick ass line of C++ code is just not going to impress anyone (except maybe other programmers). So channel your logic in another way… or use your skills to do something fun. I once read an article on CNN about a programmer that hacked his sweetheart's favorite video game so that when she reached the last level a personal message and a marriage proposal came up on the screen… Geeky as that may be, it's still pretty cool.

For all those that fall somewhere between these extremes… just know if there is something you're good at that you think is cool… chances are there is someone else out there that will too, and you can impress them with your skills.
Very cool.

2. Be confident!
If you're not naturally a confident person, then it's just something you're going to have to work on. Period. If you have doubts about whether you are worthy enough to be in a relationship, she will too.

Women like a man who can be a little assertive, but assertiveness should not be confused (but often is by many, including women) with aggressiveness. This is unfortunately where the "jerks" and "creeps" usually get away the crappy stuff they get away with.

But like it or not, relationships are kind of a game… especially in the beginning. And you have to be confident that you are ready to play. And it is difficult, because it requires a very delicate Balance

To the dismay of many nice guys… women really like to play hard to get. And less confident guys just can't handle that.

And as much as we like to play hard to get, and want you to love us and want us so bad you can hardly stand it before we give in and give you the attention you, as a nice guy, deserve… It is important to note that we also like to WIN.

That means we don't want to hear that we're the only girl that you've ever noticed… we just want to be the best. The smartest and the most beautiful. The only one you WANT… not just the only one possible. So if you come across as little needy and smothery… like if we don't like you, no one will… you will actually come across as desperate, not romantic. This is not to say that you should flaunt other women in our face, or flirt or cheat by any means… it just means that you need to be confident and independent. Make us feel like we are the luckiest girl alive because even though you don't NEED us in your life… you WANT us in your life. Balance.

When it comes to the physical stuff (i.e. sex) it is VERY important that the man be confident, but not pushy. Women want you to express interest (through body language as well as what you say) but not be demeaning. We want you to make us feel sexy, but not like sex objects. We want you to be attentive to our needs as well as your own, but we don't want you to just be "accommodating". Balance.

3. If I could think of the single most unattractive quality in a man, it would be laziness!

So turn off the X-box and get off your ass!

You don't have to aspire to be the next rich real estate mogul or win a national championship to have ambition… just do SOMETHING!

Know what you want and work your ass off to get it.

If you want a woman to be attracted to you, you have to have independence and drive. That way, she'll know that you've got what it takes to get things done. She won't have to worry that you'll drag her down if she has her own ambitions and/or can provide as necessary in the event that things go wrong.

Get a hobby!
Athletic guys have a hobby. They don't spend their lives sitting on the couch complaining how boring their life is. (and fyi... when you complain like that with a pretty girl sitting right next you... she's going to assume she's partly to blame for your boredom and HER insecurity will build... this is a bad thing!)

What do they do instead? They go out to the park... show off for their ladies ("This next home run is for you sweet-heart!"... Instant heart-melt). They play with their kids... they plan things on the weekends. They make new friends on their office softball teams. They do stuff!

This isn't to say that you have to like sports... but there are other hobbies out there. Women LOVE to tag along with their men and watch them have fun. It makes US happy to see you accomplishing something and having fun doing it. All the better if we can join in!

And finally,

4. Looking this good ain't easy... but you know what... it ain't that hard either!

It's true you can't control what you were born with, but you CAN do the best with what you've got!

Fitness: You don't have to strength-train for 2 hours a day at the gym to look good. Just take care of yourself and get a little exercise! Eat healthy (most of the time). Try to lay off the alcohol... there's a reason they invented those horrible "ultra lights"... beer is PACKED with calories. Try rum and DIET instead of rum and COKE. Believe me... no one will know the difference, and after the second or third... you won't notice either.

Eating well doesn't make you less of a man... but being fat does. I don't know when someone came up with the idea that having a belly and grunting all the time made guys think they were more manly... (more like pig)

*** Side note for an exception: If you take a date to a burger joint... DON'T order a salad! You'll make your date feel bad for the rest of the night if she orders a burger. Not what you want to do!

Grooming: Find a decent haircut for your face. Not the latest Eurotrend... not what Brad Pitt is doing lately... do what looks good on you. If that is a shorter cut... the barbershop may just be the place to go... the other articles on this blog are correct... hair stylists do not know how to properly cut short-short hair. On the other hand though... if you want a more stylish haircut... you need a STYLIST. So find a nearby salon and ask for someone with a lot of experience with men's cuts and TALK to them about what you're looking for (low maintenance, product education, etc).

Also... VERY IMPORTANT... if you have eyebrow issues... just take care of it.
It doesn't make you less of a man... it is not feminine to pluck... it is merely a HUGE turnoff if you don't.
The uni-brow, bushiness (think Martin Scorsese), ear hair... just get rid of it! Women don't like to do it either; we do it because you like it better. Have the same consideration for us!

Attire: Dress for success!
You don't have to shop for designer duds or wear a suit to look good... but pull up your pants and put on a belt! It's OKAY if you're a T-shirt and jeans kinda guy... there are lots of T-shirt and jeans kinda girls... just be sure to be clean and not too baggy. And it wouldn't kill you to wear a sport coat once in a while... you can even pull it off with sneakers now a days, so look sharp!

Okay well this has gotten ridiculously long so I'm going to wrap it up now, but I want to make one final comment:

Stop being jealous of the athletic guys… if you know you’re the better guy for the lady then get out there and show her! Louis and Gilbert didn't get the girls in the end because they were more athletic than the Alpha Betas... they figured out what their strengths were and with confidence they learned to impress and how to get noticed! And that's what you've got to do.

Being manly isn't about brute strength and putting them down...
It's about holding your head up high with class and distinction... cool.
Good stuff.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tara Parker - The Basics of Fatherhood

Tara Parker at the New York Times' Well blog offers up a nice post on the importance of fathers. While I have no doubt that mothers are crucial to the well-being and mental development of children, I also think fathers have been given short shrift in this area, both culturally and legally.

Having grown up without a father for most of my childhood (from birth - nine years of age he was working 6 days a week; at age 13 he died of a heart attack), I can attest the hole in my life that this experience created.

During the four years I had him in my life, I wanted more time than he wanted to give, although I did get to know him a little more in the last year before he died. Even so, his absence haunted me in many ways as I grew into manhood, and left me with the conviction that children need their fathers as much as they need their mothers, and for boys maybe even more.

Here is Parker's post, which references another article.
When it comes to issues of childhood health and raising kids, mothers tend to dominate the discussion. But as the Web site PsychCentral points out today, fathers play an essential but often undervalued role in the health and development of children.

In the essay “Fathering in America: What’s a Dad Supposed to Do,'’ Massachusetts family therapist Marie Hartwell-Walker talks about the role of fathers.

“Many TV sitcoms and animated shows continue to portray dads as dolts or, at best, well-meaning but misguided large children whose wives have to mother them as well as their offspring. If an alien in another universe happens to tune in to ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Everyone Loves Raymond,’ ‘Family Guy,’ etc., he (it?) will come away with a rather skewed idea of how men function in American families.”

Dr. Hartwell-Walker notes there is little agreement about what makes an ideal father, but there are some universal qualities that seem to matter most, including:

Be there. In study after study, kids consistently say they would like to have more time with their dads. Regardless of whether a dad shares a home with the children and their mother, the kids need dad time. Working together on a chore or simply hanging out can be as meaningful as attending events or having adventures. Kids want to know their fathers. Just as important, they want their fathers to know them.

Be there throughout their childhoods. There is no time in a child’s life that doesn’t count. Research has shown that even infants know and respond to their fathers differently than they do to their mothers. The bond you make with a baby sets the foundation for a lifetime. As the kids get older, they’ll need you in different ways but they will always need you. Insistent toddler, curious preschooler, growing child, prickly adolescent: Each age and stage will have its challenges and rewards. Kids whose parents let them know that they are worth their parents’ time and attention are kids who grow up healthy and strong. Boys and girls who grow up with attention and approval from their dads as well as their moms tend to be more successful in life.

Balance discipline with fun. Some dads make the mistake of being only the disciplinarian. The kids grow up afraid of their dads and unable to see the man behind the rules. An equal and opposite mistake is being so focused on fun that you become one of the kids, leaving their mother always to be the heavy. Kids need to have fathers who know both how to set reasonable, firm limits and how to relax and have a good time. Give yourself and the kids the stability that comes with clear limits and the good memories that come with play.

Be a role model of adult manhood. Both boys and girls need you as a role model for what it means to be adult and male. Make no mistake: The kids are observing you every minute. They are taking in how you treat others, how you manage stress and frustrations, how you fulfill your obligations, and whether you carry yourself with dignity. Consciously or not, the boys will become like you. The girls will look for a man very much like you. Give them an idea of manhood (and relationships) you can be proud of.

To read the full essay, click here.

Go check out the full essay, it's quite good.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heinz Advert with Male Kiss Is Pulled in England

Here is the commercial:

What's so wrong with that?

Apparently, more than 200 people complained that it was offensive to see men kiss. Here is what Heinz said in response to the issue:

"It is our policy to listen to consumers. We recognise that some consumers raised concerns over the content of the ad and this prompted our decision to withdraw it," said Nigel Dickie, director of corporate affairs for Heinz UK.

"The advertisement, part of a short-run campaign, was intended to be humorous and we apologise to anyone who felt offended."

World Nut Daily, and apparently Bill O'Reilly, felt a need to weight in on it:

Guests on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News Channel program laughed, saying the company was just "having fun with some gender blending" and warning not to read any agenda into the ad.

O'Reilly disagreed, insisting, "It was obviously a gay thing."

The guests agreed, however, that a commercial like this was unlikely to appear in the U.S., where people would definitely perceive a homosexual implication.


This is the 21st century for crying out loud. There is nothing wrong with a gay kiss. But I guess the Brits are just as homophobic as Americans. Too bad. I wonder if there would be as much noise if it had been two women kissing?

The real issue is that these people don't understand metaphor. This kind of ignorance is more alarming than homophobia in some ways. As long as people are ignorant in such simple ways, there's little chance that they'll get bigger issues any time soon.

The image of the New York deli guy in the kitchen is to suggest that using this mayonnaise is equivalent to having a deli guy for a mom. Meaning = moms should use this stuff so that their families will feel like they are eating deli food. Is that so tough to get?

In support of my view:
AMV BBDO, the advertising agency which made the ad, said that the idea was that the product "tastes as if you have your own New York deli man in your kitchen".

Do Real Men Cry?

John Tesh is an easy target for ridicule because, well, to be blunt, he's a goofball parody of himself. But he is very popular in the Christian community not only as a "musician," and I use that term loosely in his case, but as a relationships "expert."

He also has a blog, and he posted something that showed in my Google blog feeds on all things male -- and it actually makes a good bit of sense.
Do Real Men Cry?

A few months ago NFL quarterback Brett Favre made it official he's retiring from the Green Bay Packers. As he attempted to thank his team, his coach and the organization, he got caught up in the moment and tears rolled down his face. Favre's reaction created a debate: Do real men cry?

Some men feel it's okay for a guy to cry . . . but only at funerals. Some men argue a male should never cry in public. Yet other men were raised with fathers who told them real men are never afraid to cry.Crying1

I asked several male members of our Teshmedia team to admit the times they cry . . . if ever: at weddings especially their own, at the birth of their children, when they proposed to the love of their life and she said yes, when soldiers who died in combat are honored, at the raising of the American flag, at certain films like Braveheart, when looking at scenes from 9/11 and when they sense the presence of God.

According to the blog The Art of Manlinesss, tears can be proof that a man is sensitive, humble and well-rounded. But there is a definite balance between being so sensitive that a Hallmark commercial can make you weep and shed tears over something that is meaningful. If you're in a combat situation and witness one of your best buddies killed by a sniper, you've got to be made of stone not to be touched.

So what does this all have to do with marriage and relationships? Everything! According to marriage expert Gary Smalley, a man who can cry understands intimacy. However, it often takes some life-changing event before they can grasp this truth. Men who have rarely cried will suddenly get in touch with their emotional side when they undergo a divorce.

Does your husband have trouble showing his feelings? Here are seven ways to tell if your man is struggling with opening up:

·He's unable to discuss his feelings.
·He's determined to avoid his feelings.
·He's unable to express love, sorrow, or pain.
·He's unable or unwilling to cry.
·He's determined to make all situations into a joke.
·He leaves the room when emotional issues are discussed.
·He's insensitive to the emotions of those around him.

Read the rest of the post.

Real men can and do cry. It's not a sign of weakness -- no matter what we have been taught as kids.

Here's a nice quote to wrap this up:

Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it.
~ Albert Richard Smith, author and entertainer (1816-1860)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Masculinity and Violence in America

This video presents Jason Katz's opinions about masculinity and violence in America. I tend to agree with most of what he says.

However, I would rather not blame the media so much as ask parents, families, and communities to be more involved in raising our boys with healthier role models.
While the social construction of femininity has been widely examined, the dominant role of masculinity has until recently remained largely invisible. Tough Guise is the first educational video geared toward college and high school students to systematically examine the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.

In this innovative and wide-ranging analysis, Jackson Katz argues that widespread violence in American society, including the tragic school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and elsewhere, needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in masculinity.

This exciting new media literacy tool-- utilizing racially diverse subject matter and examples-- will enlighten and provoke students (both males and females) to evaluate their own participation in the culture of contemporary masculinity.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Humor - Top Ten Wrong Ways to Initiate Your Son Into Manhood

From Caffeinated Thoughts, a little initiation humor for men.

Top Ten Wrong Ways to Initiate Your Son Into Manhood

A friend e-mailed this to me last week, and it made me laugh out loud. So I thought I’d share it with you.

10. Teach him the secret male ritual of leaving the toilet seat up and the toilet paper roll empty.

9. Have a ceremony where you give him his own remote control.

8. Lead him through an afternoon of rigorous physical training in the back yard while you sit in a lawn chair with a half-gallon of ice cream.

7. Eat until you’re about to burst and then ride the Screamin’ Hurler roller coaster.

6. Put cream on his face and let the cat shave him with its tongue. lime green gremlin

5. Walk behind him through his school halls yelling, "You da man!"

4. Send him to the local discount store to buy mom’s "personal things."

3. Give him Grandma’s lime green Gremlin with personalized license plates that say, "TUFFGUY."

2. Send the womenfolk shopping, then get out your secret Old Yeller video and have a good cry together.

1. Shot put catching.

Embodying Masculinity, Part One - Taking Responsibility

This is the first of many posts to come on how we might embody masculinity -- and not all of these are distinctly masculine. For example, this is a traditional Buddhist practice that is beneficial for everyone.

One area where many men (or people in general) are lacking is in owning responsibility for our lives and our actions. However, if we can take responsibility and own it without judgment and criticism -- and without making excuses -- we begin to take back some power in our lives.

The more we practice this skill, the more freedom we have to be and act in healthy ways. This particular practice is known as tonglen.
The function of the practice is to:
  • reduce selfish attachment
  • increase a sense of renunciation
  • create positive karma by giving and helping
  • develop loving-kindness and bodhicitta
  • it refers to all of the Six Perfections of giving, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom, which are the practices of a Bodhisattva.
Here is the practice:
Imagine vividly a situation where you have acted badly, one about which you feel guilty, and about which you wince even to think of it.

Then, as you breathe in, accept total responsibility for your actions in that particular situation, without in any way trying to justify your behavior. Acknowledge exactly what you have done wrong, and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness. Now, as you breathe out, send out reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and understanding.

So you breathe in blame, and breathe out the undoing of harm; you breathe in responsibility, breathe out healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

This exercise is particularly powerful and may give you the courage to go to see the person whom you have wronged, and the strength and willingness to talk to him or her directly and actually ask for forgiveness from the depths of your heart.

~ Sogyal Rinpoche
We aren't limited to imagining or remembering our mistakes -- we can do this in the moment. The more we can immediately see when we have made a mistake, take responsibility for it, and make amends, the better people we will become. In essence, the more mindful we become, the better men we become.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Books for Boys Are Emasculating?

I think there has been some backlash against males in this culture, which is a natural part of righting the pre-feminism imbalances. But I think some people are taking things too far -- then again, it was Glenn Beck and it was CNN (Faux News lite), claiming that most of the books written for boys these days are "emasculating."

Here's the interview:

Sassy Monkey had some thoughts cogent on this:
Books for boys are emasculating?

by sassymonkey

This past week on CNN Glenn Beck and his guest, author Ted Bell, raised a few hackles with both male and female readers. It seems that because boys don't go around running to the rescue of girls in stories anymore boys are being emasculated. Yes, we're damaging young boys by not writing and publishing books with strong male characters, because boys (and men) can only be strong when girls (and women) are weak. Who wants to join me in the "Give me a break!" corner?

Not being an avid watcher of CNN, or TV in general (sorry Mr. Beck, I'm too busy reading), I first heard about it and watched the coverage on the Guys Lit Wire blog - a blog dedicated to good Young Adult fiction for boys. We've all heard people say that finding books for girls is easy and that finding books for boys is hard. There really are more books out there for girls (not all of which would fall under the "good" category) but that doesn't mean that the quality of books for boys is bad. There's a lot of good books out there and on Guy Lit Wire you'll find them along with some good conversation. Including this post questioning do teenage boys need books with weak females?

There are a couple of things that bother me about this discussion (between two adult men without a teenager in sight by the way). First it is that for a boy to feel heroic he must rescue a girl - and the girl also needs to be rescued. I'm sure the sociologists would have a field day over all this but I can't believe that anyone in the 21st century would believe that such antiquated notions of what it means to be a hero have any place in a worthwhile discussion.

One of the points brought up by Beck and Bell is that in Bell's book, Nick of Time, the little sister tells the bad guys that they better not do anything to her because her brother was going to come save her. And Bell and Beck thought that the girl not trying to save herself and waiting for the big brother was simply fantastic. Perhaps it worked in this book (I haven't read it so I can't comment on it) but as a general statement about books and boys? No. Scratch that, make that a heck no.

Let me be clear, I have no problem with a boy being the hero nor do I believe anyone else who is involved in this discussion believes that either. What I, and I believe many others, have a problem with is the statement that girls should not be heroes and that when they are it's threatening and damaging to boys. Libr*fiti doesn't mince words on this point.

Ok the whole brother not saving the sister anymore?????? I have no other way to say this - that is a load of crap.

Anna Jarzab isn't buying what Beck and Bell are saying either.

All YA is not emasculating to boys, and anyway their idea of “emasculating” is pretty narrow. They think that if the boy isn’t swashbuckling and rescuing damsels, then they’re not “learning to be a man”. Well, guess what? That sort of “adventure”, in our current times, has nothing to do with “being a man”. If they were bemoaning the lack of books that teach boys about respect or dignity or self-understanding or human connection, if they were saying that all books are like The Rachel Papers, filled with cheap sex and narcissism, that’d be one argument. But if it’s just that girls do all the rescuin’ in today’s YA market, well, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

The men on these blogs aren't getting behind Beck and Bell either. Raising strong independent girls does not mean we're raising weak boys. Maybe Beck and Bell are just a few too many generations removed to understand that. Perhaps they need to wander down to their local brick and mortar or library and check out what is actually on those shelves. Maybe they'll find a book that's actually been published in the last 50 years unlike the books they referenced on air. Or maybe they should let their fingers do the walking and find some great books online at the blogs above. Maybe they'll go to an online bookseller and realize that Bell's book is not even being marketed to teens but to tweens. I'm not holding my breath though. What about you?

Just in case you might think there are not any books for boys, Guys Lit Wire begs to differ:

I am second to none in my hope that more adventurous books for teens will be published (and more mysteries!) but I have read a lot of adventure type books that I am quite confident include strong and heroic boy characters. Just off the top of my head:

Darkside by Tom Becker - werewolves, vamps etc. (sequel due out shortly)
Operation Red Jericho & Operation Typhoon Shore by Joshua Mowll - pirates, mad inventors, etc.
Corbenic by Catherine Fisher - a fight to save the Fisher King
London Calling by Edward Bloor - time travel back to WWII in London
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson - travel to Faerie to save time itself
The Seiki & Judge Ooka series by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler - a series of murder mysteries set in early 18th century Japan where the hero goes up against all sorts of greedy devious bad guys

And then there are all the wonderful realistic dramas in which boys do some heroic things not in the grand adventure model, but very significant in many other ways:

King of the Pygmies by Jonathon Scott Fuqua
No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer
The Blue Helmet by William Bell
Into the Ravine by Richard Scrimger
At the Firefly Gate by Linda Newberry
Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp

I have not read the Percy Jackson series although it seems like it would fit in here as a big adventure and I'm still reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Sunrise in Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, but in both those cases young men seem to be making heroic decisions. It could be that these two books do not fit into Glenn Beck's moral framework however, as they challenge issues of freedom and patriotism in ways that are beyond the classic vision of unquestioning loyalty to "king and country".

But then again, part of the point of the 21st century is just what it means to be a patriot and beyond that, what it means to be a hero.
I would add Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain series was my favorite as a young lad), who is quite dead and not writing, or Gary Paulson, who has written many fantastic coming of age stories about being in the wilderness.

And what is wrong with the classic stories? Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Call of the Wild, Treasure Island, Lord of the Flies -- all of these and many more are great books for boys and teens, with good moral lessons and lots of adventure.

I agree that boys need the Hero myth as part of their maturation process. But not all books for boys need to be hero stories. Contemporary reality is not conducive to heroic stories, and people are apt to write about what they know.

Besides, has anyone asked boys what makes them feel heroic? I'm guessing it isn't rescuing the girl -- it's probably shooting things (bad guys, monsters, whatever) in a video game. Most adolescent and teen boys don't even read (which is horrible), so what does it matter if there are good books? Get rid of the video games and give them some classic books.

Glenn Beck is a moron (on his best days).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Glenn and Helen Show: Kathleen Parker on Why Men Matter

Hmm . . . didn't know anyone thought men didn't matter. The podcast is below.

First, though, you can read a review of Kathleen Parker's new book in the New York Post. I'm sure there is some partial truth to all of this, but I think there is still a great deal of power that men have over women in this culture -- until we fix ALL the imbalances, we are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes. At least she does hold men accountable for their own part in this.

Here's a taste of the review of "SAVE THE MALES" - NO COUNTRY FOR OLD (ER, ANY) MEN:
Are men necessary? In 2005, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who authored a book by that title, said no. Women are soaring to new heights in education and the workplace -- and men are intimidated by this success, she argued. And who needs them anyway when modern technology created the sperm bank? In Dowd's world, men might be headed toward practical extinction.

"Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care" is Kathleen Parker's sharp and witty criticism of the American male-bashing culture, where boys are thought of as bad and girls are lauded as good. Parker rails against women like Dowd who perpetuate this misandry that has seeped into media, schools and family life.

Never heard of misandry? It's the idea that men are inferior to women, but it's not commonly used. While many of us know the word misogyny -- the hatred of women -- few dare to argue that men might not get a fair shake.

Parker asks readers to take a second look: Teenaged girls wear T-shirts that read "Stupid Factory: Where Boys Are Made" and sitcoms like "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "The Simpsons" are driven by plots of husbandly stupidity and wives saving the day. When we embrace the stereotype that men are mamma's boys, invalids and bumblers, we're falling into a dangerous trap: We're emasculating the men we profess to love.

What happened? When did we stop thinking of men as strong providers and decide they were stupid and unnecessary? Parker describes this "trivialization of the father" as "feminism's collateral damage," arguing that father knows best went out of fashion with poodle skirts. In an era of blurred gender roles, "as we devalue the strong masculine type, we reward the feminized male." Parker quips that we've taken "the apron-men and the power-women and turned them into cultural icons of virtue and courage."

The "Sex and the City" generation of women expects little from men, Parker argues, and men have acted accordingly: "Random hookups," and no-commitment relationships create a culture where "men have been delivered from the expectation that they behave honorably" and in turn, "females hurt by men's lack of attention react in ways that ensure further alienation," pushing men out of family life and diminishing their contributions to society.

Even more pressing, Parker asks "Where did daddy go?" Today, a third of all American children sleep in a home where their father doesn't: A generation of fathers has been marginalized from family life by divorce laws that favor mothers and a culture that celebrates single motherhood, Parker claims.

Read the whole review.

And here is the text from the podcast featuring Parker talking about her book.

They used to say that it was a man’s world, but you don’t hear that much any more. Women outnumber men in college, get preferential legal treatment in many areas, and in general seem to be doing better, while boys lag girls in education and men generally seem to be doing worse. Should anyone care?

Yes, says Kathleen Parker in her new book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care. We talk with her about what’s going on, why the condition of men matters to women, and why many men are afraid to speak out. Plus, Barack Obama on fatherhood.

Listen to this podcast
Or download The Glenn and Helen Show: Kathleen Parker on Why Men Matter.

For another, somewhat male-centric (masculinist is the word they use) take on this issue, see this old article about Warren Farrell from Salon.


Save the males!
Men are going the way of the dodo in our feminized society, says Warren Farrell. And that's not good for either sex.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Amy Benfer

Feb. 6, 2001 | Warren Farrell, the feminist, had two houses, including a "gorgeous, gorgeous" home in the country. He drove a Maserati. Every article he wrote about women for the New York Times was published, without exception. When he made presentations at conferences, he was offered teaching positions in departments where he "was not even qualified to teach." (His doctorate is in political science, not psychology, the subject of his five books.) He was the only man to be elected three times to the board of NOW in New York. He was invited to appear on Phil Donahue's talk show no fewer than eight times.

Warren Farrell, the masculinist, has one house, which he does own, but it's "nothing phenomenal." He drives a 1989 Nissan 240SX. Nothing he has written about men for the New York Times has been published, without exception. The college professors have stopped calling and so have the feminists (although to this day the bio on his book jackets still begins with his NOW credentials). During his last appearance on "Donahue," Farrell says, he started to address men's issues. And that was, well, his last appearance on "Donahue." Phil didn't want him back, and Betty Friedan, if she didn't actually want him dead, would probably have preferred to see him muzzled.

It's hard work being a gender radical, especially when you switch sides.

Farrell says he was "100 percent" feminist in his thinking until sometime in the mid-1970s. At that time, he was leading anti-sexism workshops on college campuses across the country, most of them sponsored by feminist organizations. Farrell made men participate in "beauty pageants" to make them see what it was like for women to be judged on their looks alone. The feminists were good with that; they loved him; they sponsored him; they took him out to dinner and told him how wonderful he was.

But Farrell also wanted the women to see what it was like to be a man. Men, according to Farrell, "take 152 risks of rejection from first eye contact with a woman until intercourse." He decided that women should have to participate in a role-reversal exercise in which they were forced to ask a man out. The feminists did not like that. According to Farrell, most of them, after watching the men go through the beauty contest, walked out when it came time to participate in the role-reversal "date."

But Farrell's biggest argument with feminists came in the mid- to late '70s, when, one by one, NOW chapters across the country came out in support of giving mothers primary custody of children in cases of divorce.

"I said, 'Uh-huh. I see what this movement is about. It's about women having choices, not about fairness,'" recalls Farrell. "I definitely agree with choices for women, but I do not agree with choices for women when they eliminate choices for men. Rather, I think that the sexes need to make choices that lead to the maximum amount of win-win for both sexes."

Divorce, according to Farrell, leaves men who are dependent on women for their emotional lives with a gaping "love void" that must be filled. After his divorce with the feminist movement, Farrell experienced a political love void, and into it stepped men -- angry men, wounded men, men who want to be "nurturer-connectors" but who, according to Farrell, are simply viewed as "killer-protectors."

For Farrell, the stereotype of men as "success objects" came to feel just as pernicious as the stereotype of women as "sex objects," a fact that he believes has been ignored both by feminists, who see men as the keepers of power, and by traditional women, who rely upon men to support them.

Warren Farrell, masculinist, writes books that tend to make headlines because of their often inflammatory content, but that doesn't mean they are always taken seriously in a culture that views "men's issues" with derision on the one hand, and as a last, vicious grab for patriarchal power on the other.

Read the whole article.

I think Farrell has some good points, especially when he is talking about getting men more involved in raising their children. But I don't really see this as a reason to bash feminism, but rather as a reason to bash our particular form of capitalism, which still (like it or not) values men more than women in the work force.

It's harder for men to stay home with with kids (although the children most certainly benefit from the father-bonding that this would allow). Several European countries allow paternity leave -- we should, too.