Thursday, July 31, 2008

The New Man, Episode 22: Rob MacNamera: What is Strength?

Another excellent podcast from the good folks at The New Man, who are featured in a fine interview in the new What Is Enlightenment?

I've posted a couple of blog entries by Rob McNamara (here and here). His vision of masculinity is tender and strong at the same time, offering us all a wonderful model for how to be fully integrated men.

And, as a side note, he is a kickass fitness coach, having authored the fitness module in the Integral Life Practice kit.

Episode 22: Rob MacNamera: What is Strength?

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Are you feeling at your best physically? Are you looking for that edge to keep you sharp at the workplace and help you handle the intensity of life's challenges? If you are like the average man, chances are you have not felt that great since you were in your teens. Not only is our poor physical condition slowing down our bodies, but its slowing down our minds as well.

This week we are talking with Rob MacNamera about strength. Strength is the abundance of power. This abundance is true for our muscles as well as our brains, and affects our performance across the board. We can increase this abundance with regular strength training.

Listen as Rob MacNamera breaks down the secrets of strength and shares with us the dire importance of taking care of our bodies.

More about Rob McNamara:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review - "Does Feminism Discriminate against Men? A Debate"

H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online) posted this review of the newest anti-feminist book by Warren Farrell. I'm not really a fan of Farrell, as I have mentioned before (here and here). Although Ken Wilber thinks he is integral, I have my doubts.

I don't get the sense that Farrell (who is answered in his positions, apparently weakly, by James Sterba) is offering anything new here, but I offer this for those who might be more sympathetic to Farrell's arguments.
Warren Farrell, J. Steven Svoboda and James P. Sterba. Does Feminism Discriminate against Men? A Debate. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 258 pp. Bibliography, index. $39.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-531282-9; $16.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-19-531283-6.

Reviewed by: John Lauritsen, Independent Scholar.
Published by: H-Histsex (May, 2008)

Does Feminism Cause Injustice to Men?

The title of this book is not ideal, though my own may be no better. Either way, we must first define "feminism" in order to discuss whether or not it injures the rights of men. One Trotskyist group makes a distinction between "women's liberation" (good) and "feminism" (bad). Christina Hoff Sommers distinguishes between "feminism" (good) and "gender feminism" (bad).[1] Camille Paglia describes herself as "absolutely a feminist," but sharply criticizes "PC feminism."[2] Wendy McElroy distinguishes three forms: "liberal feminism" (the ideology of the 1960s); "gender feminism" (the dogmatic, men-are-the-enemy form); and "individualist feminism" (her own preferred form).[3] The trouble is that very few people observe distinctions, and are likely to end up examining both the good and the bad aspects of a single ideology. In an interview with Steven Svoboda, Warren Farrell said: "I'm a 100 percent supporter of the portions of feminism that are empowering to women and a 100 percent opponent of the portions that hone victimhood as a fine art".[4]

The title of the book is also misleading, as there is no true debate. Farrell presents his case--thirteen areas in which he believes that feminism discriminates against males, then James Sterba challenges Farrell's arguments. But Farrell is not allowed a rebuttal, and Sterba's arguments are less than convincing. Farrell is still a feminist, so his argumentation lacks the vigor that a forthright opponent of feminism might bring to the case for men's rights. He often sounds like a marriage counselor (which indeed he is)--concerned with helping men and women "listen" to each other, rather than with decrying the real injustices that are done to men and boys (and women and girls). Farrell started off as an enthusiastic supporter of feminism, writing The Liberated Man (1974), a book that considered the ways in which men could support the women's movement. He was in great demand as a speaker, and was elected three times to the Board of the National Organization for Women. Then, as he began to see things from men's perspectives: "Almost overnight my standing ovations disintegrated" (p. 5). He wrote two more books, Why Men Are the Way They Are (1986) and The Myth of Male Power (1993), thereby becoming persona non grata to the feminists and an elder statesman to the fledgling men's movement.

The thirteen issues (and chapter headings) examined by Farrell and Sterba are as follows: (1) "Do We Need Men's Studies?"; (2) "Do Men Have the Power?"; (3) "What the All-Male Draft and the Combat Exclusion of Women Tell Us about Men, Women, and Feminism"; (4) "Why Do Men Die Sooner, and Whose Health is Being Neglected?"; (5) "Domestic Violence: Who is Doing the Battering, and What's the Solution?"; (6) "The Politics and Psychology of Rape, Sex, and Love"; (7) "Does the Criminal Justice System Discriminate against Men?"; (8) "Why Men Earn More: Discrimination? Choices?"; (9) "Are Women Doing Two Jobs while Men Do One?"; (10) "Marriage, Divorce, and Child Custody"; (11) "Does Popular Culture Discriminate against Men?"; (12) "Are Schools Biased against Girls? Or Boys?"; and (13) "The Future of Feminism and Men."

For each issue Farrell finds evidence of anti-male discrimination, and Sterba in turn minimizes it. Obviously, it would be beyond the scope of this review to go into all of these, so I'll concentrate on four issues where Farrell's case is strongest: health, domestic violence, rape, and the criminal justice system.

Read the rest of this excellent review.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finding the Truth in Men's Experience: Masculinity, Change and Healing

This is an excellent article from the CG Jung Page. David Tacey looks at the current crisis in masculinity from a Jungian perspective, which is in line with some of my own views.
Finding the Truth in Men's Experience: Masculinity, Change and Healing
Contributed by David Tacey
Wednesday, 31 January 2007

According to David Tacey, professor of Jungian and Pscyhoanalytic Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne, traditional masculinity is suffering from a crisis of confidence and if humanity is to be renewed, masculinity needs a makeover. In this article, Tacey argues on the side of restraint reform, suggesting that there is a New Man in the making, who is a mixture of the best of traditional masculinity and the sensitivity and emotional expressiveness required in today's environment.

Traditional masculinity appears to be suffering from a crisis of confidence, and some are saying it is not before time. Many of the world's most serious problems and illnesses can be traced back to an exaggerated or distorted masculinity. The brutish spirit of "progress" that rides roughshod over nature, women, and indigenous peoples is largely a product of an heroic and conquistadorial masculine style. The fiercely striving, competitive, and exploitative temper that governs First World economics, commerce, and politics is a temper which is based in hegemonic masculinity. And the style of consciousness which is extraverted, outward, confined to rationality and the intellect is a consciousness that is onesidedly masculine, having little or no room for non-heroic or receptive dimensions of human experience. If humanity is to be renewed, if we are to be saved from the world-conquering aggressive ego and from the heroic complex that drives us to the brink of self-destruction, then clearly masculinity has to be altered in some way. If we are to be saved from the spectre of ecological devastation, and from the push that would subdue the entire physical world in order to further the ego's short-term needs, then clearly traditional masculinity has to be checked and restrained.

Men have to realise that they are, or have been, deeply linked to a patriarchal heritage which now has to be challenged for the sake of life on earth. Men have to wake up from the patriarchal dream, realise what is wrong, and do something to promote a less hazardous and destructive world. However, this will involve men in a good deal of pain, self-questioning, anxiety, and uncertainty about themselves. Patriarchy is not simply an external social system or political authority, but an internal and emotional ideology by which we unconsciously construct our identities. In changing the world to ensure a better future, men will first have to unpack and unravel themselves, to identify the patriarchal and conquistadorial elements of our character, and consciously sacrifice these elements for the sake of the world. This is the hard work, the tough, inner work that must accompany any revolutionary desire to save or change the world. Some people are alarmed at how "internal" or "psychological" the popular revolution in masculinity is, and of course there are those who insist that all this internal work is indulgent or narcissistic. But I think the unpacking and unravelling of ourselves, the questioning and self-criticism, is absolutely essential if there is to be any real or full response to the critical situation that collective masculinity has placed us in.

I take it that men are, or have been, the beneficiaries of an unconscious patriarchal system that has given us status, privileges, and an emotional stability which must all be challenged as society moves forward to discover what a postpatriarchal social system could look like. As society slowly removes itself from the old patriarchal foundations, all of us, but especially men, are going to feel this emotional earthquake at the depths of our lives. In order for society to move ahead, there has to be pain and rupture, wounding and hurting, so that the old structures can be consciously identified and suffered, in the hope that transformation might occur. Coming to consciousness is always a painful activity, and any act of consciousness brings in its wake suffering and some despair. There is no easy way out of this, so that a popular men's movement that offers relief from despair and the removal of this suffering can readily be counted as a backlash against the times. We men have to recognise that we live in stormy times, that the stakes are high, and that the responsibility now rests with men to attempt a real change and to sacrifice some of the privileges of the past for the sake of a future world.

There are, it must be realised, two quite different tasks to be performed at this moment in time. The old, destructive masculinity must be allowed to die, and a new masculinity must be brought to birth. None of this will happen by itself, spontaneously, but it must be aided by consciousness and supported by a progressive culture. Men have to feel within themselves the enormity of the patriarchal heritage and the psychological and social problems to which it has given rise. Then, having identified the difficulty, there has to be a ritual separation from the past, and a mourning for the violations and abuses that have occurred "in the name of the father". After this shock, grief, and mourning, we then have to herald and celebrate a new beginning, get to work on the New Man, and positively explore the rebirth of masculinity - a new masculinity that won't end up in macho-heroics, hegemony, and world-destruction. Collective masculinity is suffering a kind of midlife crisis, and this crisis demands urgent and thorough measures: the old masculine self has to be Unmade, and masculinity has to be Remade, using the best elements from the past, together with new awarenesses from the present and future. This is the age-old pattern of all archetypal human experience: birth, death, and rebirth.
Read the whole article.

My agreement with Tracey can be summed up in this quote:
I think there is a New Man in the making, and this New Man is a mixture of the best of traditional masculinity, plus the sensitivity and emotional expressiveness that is being demanded in today's environment.
He seems to be positing the unification and transcendence of traditional masculine values and the postmodern sensitive New Age guy (SNAG) into a more balanced and integrated masculinity.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Are Men Happier than Women?

An interesting article from the New Scientist blog, Short Sharp Science.

Are men happier than women?

by Tamsin Osborne, New Scientist contributor

I've just received the rather troubling news that I am doomed to be unhappy in later life. Or at least that's what a study published in the cheery sounding Journal of Happiness Studies implies.

The researchers claim that women start their adult lives happier than men, but from the age of 48 onwards are more glum.

Anke Plagnol, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, and Richard Easterlin, an economist at the University of Southern California, compared survey responses from two separate data sets – one containing information on aspirations and attainments, and the other on satisfaction and happiness.

They concluded that the mid-life changeover in happiness levels comes down to unfulfilled desires.

Apparently, women are happy with their lot earlier in their lives, whereas men have bigger financial goals and tend to be unfulfilled during their 20s, both financially and in their family lives, which makes them miserable.

But by middle age, men have fulfilled their financial and family life goals and have cheered up, whereas women are more likely to be unfulfilled and unhappy.

The authors think a major factor underlying this is the shift in the proportion of men and women in relationships: men are more likely to be single in their 20s, and women are more likely to be alone in middle age.

They admit that this rests on the assumption that being married actually makes people happy, but they point out that if marriage is something you really want (and they found that 90% of both genders did), then being single might get you down.

There's also the point that people in relationships are likely to be better off financially.

Of course, it's quite possible that family life just suits men better than women, who often get the bulk of the childcare responsibility and often have to somehow fit in a job as well.

It is pretty amusing that, despite the fact that the research found men to have at least as much money, if not more, than women throughout their lives, they still had lower financial satisfaction. There's no pleasing some people!

These findings tie in with previous reports that, despite having more, recent generations are less satisfied with their lot than previous, poorer generations.

So perhaps the moral of this story is set your sights low and you won't be disappointed.
I wonder how much of this is cultural (women postponing their lives and happiness for the family), how much is hormonal (shifting balances of testosterone to estrogen ratios), how much is social, and how much might be gender-based in terms of personal fulfillment (or outliving spouses).

There are so many possible factors that might contribute to these findings. But it is disturbing to think that aging women are unhappy because they have never fulfilled their desires in life. That sucks.

Ken Wilber - Eros and Agency in Masculinity

The new issue of What Is Enlightenment? features the usual discussion between Ken Wilber (pandit) and Andrew Cohen (guru). This time, in keeping with the general topic of the issue, they are talking about masculinity.

In their own words:
What It Means to Be a Man

Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber

In their twentieth dialogue, Cohen and Wilber strive to define the leading edge of masculinity today, exploring the cultural forces at play, examining the evolution of male-female relations, and explaining why spiritual enlightenment may hold the key to liberating men’s authenticity.

So, not too far into the "discussion," Wilber makes the following, and I believe highly useful, distinctions (I provided links for Wikimedia terms where possible, but these are only approximate):
In my view, men and women develop through the same gender-neutral basic structures (the same basic waves in the spectrum of consciousness), but they tend to do so with somewhat different values and styles. As we've discussed in the past, development happens in two modes: translation and transformation. We define transformation as a change between levels in the developmental scale and translation as a move within levels--translation as a horizontal movement and transformation as a vertical movement. Both of these are important. In both the translative and transformative domains, men and women have different tendencies. In the translative domain, there are two fundamental drives of agency and communion, which are drives of horizontal movement. And we find women tend to put an emphasis on communion, and men tend to put an emphasis on agency. In terms of transformation, there are two vertical drives: Eros and agape. Men tend to put an emphasis on Eros, and women tend to put an emphasis on agape. Eros means freedom, and agape means fullness. So women tend to have more of an emphasis on fullness in their relationships; men tend to value freedom more in their relationships.

There are healthy and unhealthy versions of each of these drives. The healthy versions of agency that we can see in men are, for example, self-responsibility and self-esteem. Unhealthy forms of agency are rigid, alienated, hyper-masculine, hyper-aggressive notions of self, fear of commitment, and so on. With Eros, the healthy version is freedom, whereas the unhealthy versions are not freedom but repression, fear, contraction--and those tend to be the types of dysfunctions that men get caught up in.

So men try to translate with an emphasis on agency and transform with an emphasis on Eros. Women tend to translate with an emphasis on communion and transform with an emphasis on agape. Those generalizations are just that--generalizations--but they do tend to be true across cultures. Eros and agape, agency and communion--those are the most universal, the most generalized drives, and there are positive and negative things about both of them, so you don't have to get into an argument over which sex is the most destructive. The main point is that you want all four of those drives to be healthy. (pg. 41)
Here are the AQAL defintions of the key words (see the actual AQAL Glossary):
One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with Agape, agency, and
communion. The vertical drive of the lower to “reach up” towards the higher; selftranscendence. The urge to find higher, deeper, and wider wholeness. Its complementary opposite is Agape. Its pathological expression is Phobos.

One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with communion, Eros, and
Agape. The horizontal drive for self-preservation, autonomy, and wholeness. The drive to be a whole and not a part. Its complementary opposite is communion. Its pathological expression is alienation, repression, rigid autonomy, and hyperagency.

One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with Eros, agency, and
communion. The vertical drive of the higher to embrace, enfold, or “love” the lower; selfimmanence. Also refers to the involutionary force that pulls evolution from above. Its complementary opposite is Eros. Its pathological expression is Thanatos.

One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with agency, Eros, and Agape. The horizontal drive for self-adaptation, partness, and joining with others. The drive to be part of a larger whole. Its complementary opposite is agency. Its pathological expression is fusion, herd mentality, and hypercommunion.
Wilber's claim is that agency and Eros are generally masculine traits, while communion and agape are generally female traits. In general, for the majority of American men, I think he may be correct.

However, I wonder why men shouldn't also develop communion and agape as central features of an integrated psyche. Wouldn't an "integral man" embrace all four features of a healthy holon and work to make them healthy?

Certainly men and women are born with specific preferences or inclinations, and biology shapes a large measure of who we are as human beings. But are not limited to our genetics -- we are growing, evolving human beings. To me, an integral man would want to be a complete and healthy holon embracing all four of the primary drives.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shrink Rap Radio - #165 - Irritable Male Syndrome

An interesting podcast from Shrink Rap Radio on the issues surrounding male aggression and depression, which are quite commonly co-morbid in many males. Depression seems to often result in aggression (not necessarily violence), or as Diamond suggests, men act out depression (which is very different than how women experience depression).

Some of this might be cultural, but I suspect it has more to do with men being focused more on doing than communing (i.e., sharing).
#165 - Irritable Male Syndrome

photo of Jed Diamond, Ph.D.

Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a licensed psychotherapist for over 43 years and is the author of seven books including the international best-selling Male Menopause and Surviving Male Menopause that has thus far been translated into 32 foreign languages and the recently released The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, which is also developing a world-wide readership.

Jed is Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Though focused on men’s health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network. He is also a member of the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male and serves as a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Men’s Health.

He has also written numerous booklets, e-booklets, audio, and video programs. He has taught classes at U.C. Berkeley, U.C.L.A., J.F.K. University, Esalen Institute, The Omega Institute, and other centers of education throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

His PhD dissertation, Gender and Depression, broke new ground in creating a better evaluation system for diagnosing and treating depression in men and women.

He lives with his wife, Carlin, on Shimmins Ridge, above Bloody Run Creek, in Northern California. They are proud parents of five grown children and eleven grandchildren.

A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Men do everything they do in order to get laid, Part II

Here is the second installment in Satoshi Kanazawa's series for Psychology Today. Some comments below the article.
Men do everything they do in order to get laid II

Age-crime curveWhat explains the age profiles of geniuses and criminals?

In a previous post, I explain that, regardless of what they do, whether they be geniuses or criminals, men’s productivity has an identical age profile. It quickly peaks in late adolescence and early adulthood, and then equally quickly declines throughout adulthood. What explains this common age profile?

It turns out that a single evolutionary psychological theory may be able to explain the productivity of both creative geniuses and criminals over the life course. According to this theory, both crime and genius are expressions of young men’s competitive desires, whose ultimate function in the ancestral environment would have been to increase reproductive success.

As I explain in an earlier post, there are reproductive benefits of intense competitiveness to men. In the physical competition for mates, those who are competitive may act violently toward their male rivals. Their violence serves the dual function of protecting their status and honor, and discouraging or altogether eliminating their rivals from future competition. Their competitiveness also inclines them to accumulate resources to attract mates by stealing from others, and the same psychological mechanism can probably induce men who cannot gain legitimate access to women to do so illegitimately through forcible rape. Men who are less inclined toward crime and violence may express their competitiveness through their creative activities in order to attract mates.

Benefits of competitionThere are no reproductive benefits from competition before puberty because prepubescent males are not able to translate their competitive edge into reproductive success. With puberty, however, the benefits of competition rapidly increase. Once the men are reproductively capable, every act of competition (be it through violence, theft, or creative genius) can potentially augment their reproductive success. The benefits of competition stay high after puberty for the remainder of their lives because human males are reproductively capable for most of their adult lives.

This is not the whole story, however. There are also costs associated with competition. Acts of violence can easily result in the man’s own death or injury, and acts of resource appropriation can trigger retaliation from the rightful owners of the resources. A man’s reproductive success is obviously compromised if the competitive acts result in his death or even injury. Before men start reproducing (before their first child), there are few costs of competition. True, being competitive might result in their death or injury, and they might therefore lose in the reproductive game if they are too competitive. However, they also lose by not competing. As I explain in a previous post, if they do not compete for mates in a polygynous society, which all human societies are, they will be left out of the game and end up losing as a result In other words, young men might lose if they are competitive, but given polygyny, they will definitely lose if they are not. So there is little cost of being competitive, even at the risk of death and injury; the alternative -- being a total reproductive loser -- is worse in reproductive terms, which once again is the reason the death penalty cannot deter young men.

Costs of competitionThe cost of competition, however, rises dramatically with the birth of the first child and subsequent children. True, men still benefit from competition because such acts of competition might attract additional mates even after their initial reproduction. However, a man’s energies and resources are put to better use by protecting and investing in his existing children. In other words, with the birth of children, men should shift their reproductive effort away from mating and toward parenting. If the men die or get injured in their acts of competition, their existing children will suffer; they might starve without their father’s parental investment or fall victim to predation by others without their father’s protection. The costs of competition therefore rapidly increase after the birth of the first child, which usually happens several years after puberty because men need some time to accumulate enough resources and attain sufficient status to attract their first mate. Nevertheless, in the absence of artificial contraception, reproduction probably began at a much earlier age in the ancestral environment than it does today. There is therefore a gap of several years between the rapid rise in the benefits of competition and the similarly rapid rise in its costs.

Propensity toward competitionBoth the age-crime curve and the age-genius curve can be explained as the mathematical difference between the benefits and costs of competition. Young men rapidly become more violent, more criminal, and creatively more expressive in late adolescence and early adulthood as the benefits of competition rise, but then their productivity just as rapidly declines in late adulthood as the costs of competition rise and cancel its benefits. Criminality, genius, and productivity in virtually everything else men do vary as they do over the life course because they represent the difference between the benefits and costs of competition.

These calculations have been performed by natural and sexual selection, so to speak, which then equips male brains with a psychological mechanism to incline them to be increasingly competitive immediately after puberty and to make them less competitive right after the birth of the first child. Men themselves do not necessarily make these calculations consciously. They simply do not feel like acting violently, stealing, or conducting additional scientific experiments, or they just want to settle down after the birth of the child, but they do not know why. The intriguing suggestion here is that a single psychological mechanism may be responsible for much of what men do, whether they are criminals or scientists.

Now, given that human society has always been mildly polygynous, there were always many men who did not succeed at securing mates and reproducing. These men had everything to gain and nothing to lose by remaining competitive and violent for their entire lives. However, we are not descended from these men.

By definition, we are all descended from men (and women) who attained some reproductive success. None of us are descended from total reproductive losers who left no offspring. And we are disproportionately descended from those who attained great reproductive success. Twelve children carry the genes of a man who had twelve children, but only one child carries the genes of a man who had only one child. And, of course, no children carry the genes of a man who had no children. (Yes, childlessness is perfectly heritable!) Contemporary men did not inherit from reproductive losers psychological mechanisms that force them to stay competitive and keep trying to secure mates for their entire lives. We all act as if we have children by the time we reach early adulthood, whether we do or not, because we are descended, and inherited our psychological mechanisms, from our ancestors who did.

So, the majority of male competitive behavior is directed at increasing chances of reproduction. I guess that makes sense in a reductionist kind of way.

However, I love competition, and I have NEVER wanted to have kids. Maybe my genetic impulse to have kids compels my enjoyment of competition, and then my rational brain overrides the biological imperative, or converts it to something else.

According to his argument, I am past my prime for being "genius" in any realm, being past the biological window in which most men father children. Dang, and here I thought I was actually getting smarter as I get older, and more creative.

The Great Male Survey has just posted the results to the Great Male Survey, an interesting look at what men think and how men experience themselves, their work, and their relationships. I wish they would have looked more at spirituality and religion, not to mention more about how men actually perceived themselves.
Who and what is "the modern man"? Arriving at a definition tends to involve making a lot of assumptions, and descriptions of the modern man are varied and plenty: there's the player, the family man, the workaholic, the dandy (to name just a few). Determining whether or not any of these portrayals are factual largely boils down to a single question: Is there any real data to back them up?

Until today, the answer was no. As the No. 1 men's lifestyle site on the web, we knew that it was up to us at to deliver the numbers. And as one of our millions of monthly readers, it was up to you to supply them. And we both pulled through! Our 2008 Great Male Survey, launched in conjunction with Yahoo! Shine's Great Female Survey, was a big success, drawing over 75,000 participants who generated a combined total of more than 10 million answers.

So now we reveal the results. Read on to discover what you and your fellow men feel about dating, sexuality, lifestyle, money, and our gender in 2008 -- in short, who the modern man is.

Lifestyle Results | Dating Results | Sexuality Results | Power & Money Results | Men In 2008 Results
Some totally random and interesting results:
94% believe that real men cry (but 58% have conditions)
93% feel that American men are getting fatter
60% feel that no commercial portrayal of men is accurate
69% are concerned about the effects of global warming
57% thinks actors or musicians should be considered role models

21% measure personal success at work by salary
38% are comfortable speaking in front of more than 100 people
61% are not terribly excited about going to work each day
48% think status symbols are lame

53% try to watch what they eat
41% maintain daily basic hygiene, a regular haircut, and additional skin care
66% think men should never stop playing video games
59% want better abs

78% would change something about their girlfriends
77% think it's important that a girlfriend be "wife material"
71% can't tell if a woman fakes an orgasm
79% feel that women put too much emphasis on financial worth
75% believe in the idea of soul mates (24% have found her)
70% believe that marriage is a necessary institution that I will participate in and to help preserve
77% have shed tears over a woman
59% would dump their girlfriend if she got fat
49% fear commitment
35% have faked an orgasm

27% (only!) believe sexual orientation is determined at birth
33% believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, and it's immoral
Go read all the results.

The results are interesting, although this survey was clearly answered by a predominantly straight readership.

I find it interesting that 48% think status symbols are lame, but that 59% would dump their girlfriend if she got fat.

The only two questions that addressed homosexuality are also interesting. I guess it's good that only 33% believe that homosexuality is immoral, but it's also depressing that 73% believe that it's a lifestyle choice and is not biologically determined.

You can read about what women think here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Andrew Cohen - A Call to Arms for the Postmodern Male

From the new issue of What Is Enlightenment? This is a brief but interesting essay on Cohen's journey of understanding what it is to be a man. I'd be curious to hear any thoughts readers might have.

A Call to Arms
for the Postmodern Male

by Andrew Cohen

Until I was in my early twenties, I never even thought about what it meant to be a man. I grew up in an upper-middle-class secular Jewish family in Manhattan and went to liberal, progressive schools throughout my childhood. I never had a bar mitzvah, the Jewish boy’s traditional rite of passage into manhood. My brother, who is five years older, used to beat me up on a regular basis from before I can remember, which turned me into a bit of a wuss. I was always one of the last picked when we engaged in competitive sports, and it goes without saying that I lacked confidence. Endeavoring to relieve my insecurities, my mother sent me to a therapist at the ripe old age of five.

My father, who was not an introspective man, loved me deeply. When I was eleven my parents separated, and shortly after my fifteenth birthday, my father died a slow and painful death. During those years and afterward, I spent a lot of time with my mother, who was at the time a passionate advocate of feminist values. My teachers in the three different high schools I attended in the United States and in Europe were generally decent, sophisticated, and well-meaning people. But when I think back on those days from the wisdom of my current fifty-two years, I’m stunned by the realization that no adult, including even my counselors at summer camp, ever counseled me about what it means to be a man. I now understand that I wasn’t the only one in this strange predicament—in fact, it seems to be a cultural phenomenon. I don’t think this subject was brought up in any situation I was ever in until I began to think about it myself in my early twenties.

When I was twenty-two, as a result of a profound spiritual experience that had occurred six years earlier, I seriously committed myself to becoming an enlightened human being. My first step was to take up a disciplined daily practice of martial arts because I wanted to become strong. I wanted to conquer my fear; I wanted to be tough—I wanted to be a man.

At the age of thirty, after much serious practice and dedicated searching, I found what I was looking for in Mother India. To my own astonishment, I ended up in the uncomfortable position of becoming a spiritual teacher virtually overnight! In this unusual profession where soft and sweet are generally considered to be the hallmarks of authenticity, I’ve been the very opposite. Almost from the start, I’ve had a reputation for being bold, strong, direct, and confident—for more than a few of my contemporaries, too confident.

Ever since my life turned upside down in this way, I’ve had the rare privilege of meeting and interacting with many different people from all over the world. I’ve gotten to know lots and lots of men. And I came to recognize that the majority seemed to share the same perplexing postmodern cultural predicament that I did: Very few seem to have ever considered the perennial question, What does it mean to be a man?

I’ll never forget my surprise when I discovered a hidden secret about some men who have seriously considered this question. I’m talking about men who are invested in being tough and who can project an air of confidence that is uniquely masculine—the kind of man that I at one time in my life had aspired to be. I’m talking about students of mine who were martial artists of high attainment. I was amazed when I discovered that whenever one of these tough guys was in a situation that required that they trust a little more and give up a bit of the control they were so invested in, they usually fell into an utter panic. Underneath their bravado, even though they weren’t afraid of a street fight, they were terrified of real intimacy, especially spiritual intimacy. Ironically, this would come to the surface especially when they came together with other men—spiritual brothers who were committed to creating a new culture together, a culture based upon higher values, the evolution of consciousness, and the commitment to be strong, transparent, and authentic at all times.

I became a man when I found the courage and conviction to trust God more than I trusted the fears and desires and conditioned thinking of my puny ego. The first expression of authentic manhood was when I boldly declared from the therapist’s couch, “I don’t want to do this anymore; I want to be free!” and noticed no hint of fear in myself when the therapist responded strongly, “But Andrew, you’re barely getting started!” The final moment of transition happened eight years later. My longing for liberation had become so all-consuming that I was ready to let go completely—to die to everything I had known and been up to that point. I was sitting in front of my last teacher, passionately telling him, with a hint of desperation, “I want to die, but I don’t know how.” I can visualize that moment as if it was yesterday, and I clearly remember that he remained silent. At first he looked shocked, and then tears welled up in his eyes.

What it means to be a man, of course, always relates directly to the cultural context within which the question is being asked. We are living in a very challenging time, when old values are crumbling and new ones are just barely beginning to emerge—including what it means to be a real man. My experience as a spiritual teacher in the midst of this upheaval has convinced me beyond any doubt that it will be impossible for the postmodern male to become a vibrant, powerful, and truly evolved expression of the masculine principle unless he pays the ultimate price by transcending his culturally conditioned, overly sensitive, highly narcissistic, and painfully arrogant self. A cultural revolution at the leading edge needs strong, liberated, and highly evolved men to be compelling examples of what is possible for us all. That’s what spiritually enlightened men do.

What Is Enlightenment? - Constructing the New Man, Perspectives on Masculinity in the 21st Century

The new issue of What Is Enlightenment? is devoted to "the new man."

Constructing the New Man
Perspectives on Masculinity in the 21st Century
Issue 41 / August–October 2008

Continuing the inquiry that began with last summer’s widely discussed issue on women, WIE presents an in-depth look at the twenty-first-century man. What is authentic masculinity today? How has the move toward gender equality changed society’s rules—and roles—for men? Is there a “new man” emerging on the horizon, ready and willing to reshape our culture in the coming decades? Approaching these questions and others through a multidimensional lens, WIE delivers one of our most culturally provocative issues yet. Featuring: Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, Ani DiFranco, Harvey Mansfield, Jean Houston, Jenny Wade, Erwin McManus, Rebecca Walker, and more.

Here are Cohen's editorial comments:
What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a man at the beginning of the twenty-first century in a post-traditional, postmodern world? Who are our exemplars, and to whom can we look for mentorship as it relates to gender identity in our own time? If we look backward for indications of how to be men in the new world that we’re all creating together, we’re unlikely to find what we need. Why? Because the world that we’re living in is changing at a faster rate than it ever has before. Cultural evolution, which has progressed through history from traditional to modern to postmodern values, is very much in a state of flux, transition, and to put it bluntly, existential confusion. The truth is, these days most sophisticated men and women aren’t very clear about what it’s supposed to mean to be male or female. I know in my own case, being a late-blooming boomer from a liberal, progressive family, the subject of what it means to be a man literally never came up. (Although I must admit, Superman was my favorite superhero when I was a kid!)

In order to address this enormous void in our evolving culture, we at What Is Enlightenment? have put together what we believe is a very compelling collection of articles, interviews, and dialogues that, I must admit, raise more questions than give answers. But that’s what we felt we needed to do: Get the conversation going! I, for one, am pleased with the result. This has been an educational journey for all of us here and one that we feel will hopefully bring a little bit of light and energy to an important dimension of our collective lives that needs to be illuminated.

In our special feature, “Constructing the New Man,” we present four perspectives on manliness in the twenty-first century from men with very different backgrounds, ages, and viewpoints. In “What Ever Happened to the Vikings?” senior editor Elizabeth Debold presents a provocative and hard-hitting exposé of the predicament in which men find themselves in some of the most progressive countries on our small planet. In “Speaking of Men,” we ask nineteen powerful, influential, thoughtful, and accomplished women to describe their vision of what the next step for men might be. In “Confessions of a Formerly Sensitive New Age Man,” my colleague Ross Robertson describes in excruciating detail what it was like to grow up in the 1970s in Northern California, guided carefully into manhood by an adoring psychotherapist who happened to be his mother. Finally, in my “Guru and Pandit” dialogue with philosopher Ken Wilber, we endeavor to embrace this entire topic in the biggest context we can.

I’m sure you will enjoy this heady brew!

I look forward to reading this issue.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why Nice Guys Finish Last

ABC News recently ran a story offering a biological explanation for why women often choose "bad boys" over "nice guys."
Why Nice Guys Finish Last

New Research Points to Biological Reason Why Girls Like Bad Boys

ABC News Medical Unit

Ricky Menezes, a 22-year-old from Marlborough, Mass., says he knows he will hook up with "about 20 girls" in the next month.

nice guy
New research suggests that bad boys may indeed beat nice guys when it comes to getting female attention.
(Getty/ABC News)

How does he know this, you ask? Ricky knows this because he's what we call a "bad boy" -- the type of guy who knows exactly how to act, what to say and how to manipulate women into giving him what he wants.

"It all started in high school," Ricky said. "I started being the outgoing, crazy, funny kid that everyone thought was fun and wanted to hang out with."

After being validated by his peers in high school, Ricky said he has more or less mastered the art of being a bad boy, and has done so with one overriding goal in mind -- sexual conquest.

"I don't pretend to be anything I'm not," Ricky said. "I'm honest and outspoken. I say that I'm just looking to hook up. ... I'm not afraid to go for it, and I rarely get rejected.

"Oh, and I'm in a band. You have to be in a band. Girls love guys in bands," he added.

Most everyone knows -- or at least knows of -- a stereotypical "bad boy" like Ricky. The guy with such high self-esteem he could aptly be called a narcissist. The guy who wins women over with deceit, callousness and impulsive behavior. Basically, the type of guy who resembles a real-life version of Hugh Grant's character in "Bridget Jones' Diary."

The success of Ricky and so many other "bad boys" with women seems to add weight to the popular saying "good guys finish last."

And there might be more than just a grain of truth in these mantras about bad boys; new research suggests they might actually be attracting more women than their "nicer" counterparts.

The Positive Side of Negative Traits

Researchers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces gave 200 college students personality tests to see how many of what psychologists call "dark triad traits" they possessed. These traits include callousness, impulsive behavior, extroversion, narcissism and various other anti-social traits for which "bad boys" are known.

The researchers also asked about the student's sex lives, their feelings about sexual relationships, their number of sexual partners, and what they are seeking in sexual or romantic relationships.

According to Peter Jonason, lead study investigator, although society tends to look down upon these "negative" dark triad personality traits, there seems to be quite an upside to being a bad boy.

"We would traditionally consider these dark triad traits to be adverse personality traits, and we think women would avoid these kinds of men, but what we show is counterintuitive -- that women are attracted to these bad boys and they do pretty well in terms of sheer numbers of sexual partners," Jonason explained. "They're taking quantity over quality as their sexual agenda, being serially monogamous and having multiple partners or one-night stands."

Jonason compared the type of "dark triad bad boy" that the study refers to as a modern-day James Bond figure -- a man with little empathy for others, a penchant for fast cars and even faster women, and a seeker of short-term rather than long-term goals -- especially concerning the opposite sex.

And because these characters appear in this study to be successful at achieving their short-term goals -- which, in this case, is a short-term sexual relationship -- Jonason believes such character traits have persevered in so many people because they seem to be evolutionarily successful.

"Dark triad traits are useful in pursuing our agendas at any given time," Jonason explained. "If you like someone and want to meet them and date them, people who have the dark triad traits appear to be more successful at facilitating short-term mating."

Jonason validated this point with a comparison to the popular VH1 show "The Pick-Up Artist," wherein nerdy, nice guys meet with a typical bad boy to learn how to pick up more of these dark triad traits -- and also more women.

Read the rest of this article.

The article goes on to point out that nice guys often win out in the end.

From my perspective, there is no reason men can't embody self-confidence, assertiveness, and a fierce sense of living and still be compassionate, empathic, and emotionally intelligent. Why should it be either/or?

Men do everything they do in order to get laid, Part I

An interesting column in Psychology Today. This is the beginning of a longer series. In this first post, the author proposes that most men achieve their greatness while they are still young. How this relates to his thesis remains to be seen.
Men do everything they do in order to get laid, Part I

Paul McCartneyBill GatesWhat do Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals?

In my last series (Why are almost all criminals men? Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV), I explain why men are so much more likely to commit violent and property crimes than women. It turns out, however, that there is nothing special about criminals. All men are essentially the same.

For a quarter of a century, criminologists have known about a persistent empirical phenomenon called the “age-crime curve.” In their highly influential 1983 article “Age and Explanation of Crime,” two leading criminologists, Travis Hirschi and Michael R. Gottfredson, claim that the relationship between age and crime is the same across all social and cultural conditions at all times. In every society, for all social groups, for all races and both sexes, at all historical times, the tendency to commit crime and other analogous, risk-taking behavior rapidly increases in early adolescence, peaks in late adolescence and early adulthood, rapidly decreases throughout the 20s and 30s, and levels off during middle age. Although there have been minor variations observed around the “invariant” age-crime curve, the essential shape of the curve for serious interpersonal crimes is widely accepted by criminologists. Crime is essentially a young men’s game.

One of the striking features of the age-crime curve is that it is not limited to crime. In the words of the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey F. Miller, the same age profile characterizes “every quantifiable human behavior that is public (i.e. perceived by many potential mates) and costly (i.e. not affordable by all sexual competitors).” The relationship between age and productivity among male jazz musicians, male painters, male writers, and male scientists, which might be called the “age-genius curve,” is essentially the same as the age-crime curve. Their productivity -- the expressions of their genius -- quickly peaks in early adulthood, and then just as quickly declines throughout adulthood. The age-genius curve among their female counterparts is much less pronounced and flatter; it does not peak or vary as much as a function of age.

Jill SobuleIt is not difficult to find personifications of the age-genius curve. Paul McCartney has not written a hit song in years, and now spends much time painting. Bill Gates is now a respectable businessman and philanthropist, and is no longer the computer whiz kid of his earlier years. J. D. Salinger now lives as a total recluse and has not published anything in more than three decades. Orson Welles was mere 26 when he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane, which many consider to be the greatest movie ever made. (In the words of the singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, in her song “Heroes” (Album: Pink Pearl), “Orson Welles peaked at 25, ballooned before our eyes, and he sold bad wine.”) There are some exceptions. Some artists, writers, and scientists remain productive into their middle and old ages, just as there are a few career criminals who commit crimes all their lives. But, in general, the pattern of youthful productivity holds for most, regardless of what field they happen to be in.

What is the reason behind all of this? Why do criminals usually desist from committing crimes as they age? Why does the productivity of creative geniuses also often fade with age? I’ll address these questions in my next post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Warren Farrell - Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? (Part 2)

The last time Warren Farrell was on Integral Naked, I posted it here -- so this is part two of the discussion. No free audio this time around. Farrell is considered a leader in the masculinist movement, after having once served on (and being asked to resign from) the New York State board of NOW.

It appears there will be a part three down the road, since Wilber wanted to discuss specific points from Farrell's book, but didn't get too far with that.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of masculinism:

Masculism (or Masculinism) has two contrasting meanings. When used by self-identified masculists, the term refers to social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies primarily based on the experiences of men. Masculism, when used by masculists (or masculinists), provides a general critique of social relations; many of its active proponents also seek to analyze gender inequality and promote men's rights, interests, and issues.

In an older, usually critical, sense used in sociology, anthropology, psychology, and some feminist thought, masculinism refers to a belief in the superiority of men or the masculine.[1] Traditional academic usage tends to use the form "masculinism" whereas the newer movements focused on men's rights tend to use the form "masculism." However, this distinction in usage of the two word forms is only approximate, and both forms are used in both senses.

I'd assume Farrell (mostly) identifies with the first and rejects the second of these two definitions. Here's a little more:

There is no consensus as to what exactly constitutes "masculism." Some feel the word describes a belief that the male and female genders should be considered complementary and interdependent by necessity. Such expressions of masculism are built around the belief that differentiated gender roles are natural and should be exempt from government interference. Others masculists, such as Warren Farrell, support an ideology of equivalence between the sexes, rather than a belief in unchangeable gender differences. A more encompassing definition might be "a movement to empower males in society, and to redress discrimination against men."

I don't buy Farrell's notion that there is equivalence between the sexes -- we are biologically, psychologically, and socially different creatures, partly by natural genetics and partly by cultural shaping. The cultural part is what we can change, and the genetic part is what we should celebrate.

The challenge then is in discovering how to create equality for all people, irrespective of sex, gender role, or sexuality.

Let's get even more specific -- even among men, there is a huge difference in physical, emotional, and intellectual development, not to even mention the obvious differences among gay men, straight men, bisexual men, and transgendered men. Same thing is true among women.

The idea that all men and women are equal, especially within an integral framework, is insane (consider the integral psychograph). However, no matter the differences, all human beings should be given equal rights and equal consideration under the law.

From my limited view, it seems to me that we need to free people from gender identities and allow them pick and choose among roles as they see fit. We all have our experience and vision of masculinity, femininity, androgyny, and [fill in the blank], so why not be free to inhabit those roles as we see fit?

Anyway, this is the text that comes with the Integral Naked show.
Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? Part 2. Integral Gender Studies: Beyond Feminism and Masculism

In the second installation of Warren and Ken’s dialogue we explore the stages of psychological and sexual development in both men and women that have shaped the gender roles that have so defined human civilization, now and throughout history.

Who: Dr. Warren Farrell is a founding member of Integral Institute and the author of six books, including the international best-sellers Why Men Are the Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power. Dr. Farrell is the only man in the US to have been elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women in New York City; and he has also served on the boards of three national men’s organizations. Over a period of 25 years, Warren has formed over 600 women’s and men’s groups and has worked with more than a quarter million men and women from all walks of life. The Chicago Tribune described Warren as "the Gloria Steinem of Men’s Liberation." (Warren, though, has more gray hair.)

Summary: In a 1997 interview with an online men’s magazine, Warren had the following to say:
"Men don’t oppress women any more than women oppress men. The whole concept of men and women oppressing each other is ridiculous. That’s a fabrication of the feminist movement. What is true is that both sexes have roles that can legitimately be considered oppressive, but those roles are not roles designed by men or women, they were designed by biological necessity and the necessity of survival. Survival was the oppressor….

The biology of women in a survival-focused world was the childraising and that left the social role of men to raising the money to support the biological role of women. And it’s not been until industrialized societies had enough income to help society progress from what I call a Stage 1, which is survival-focused to Stage 2, which is focused on the balance between survival and self-fulfillment, that we could produce people who were able to focus on what rights and opportunities they had."
As it is, women have already begun to move from stage 1 to stage 2 en masse, beginning with the women’s liberation movements of the 50’s and 60’s, while men have largely remained "stuck" in much the same condition women were in before the rise of feminism. And this cultural "stuckness" not only reinforces many of the same unhealthy dynamics feminism was originally conceived to address, but also makes it much more difficult for women to fully grow from stage 1 to stage 2 in a complete and authentic way.

At first, the rigid gender roles of men and women were born from necessity, and reflected a conscious choice on behalf of both genders to separate the world into public and private spheres, with men tending to the public, and women tending to the private. These roles became increasingly reinforced throughout history, as biological necessity determined that women would be valued for their fertility, and men for their disposability.

However, the moral, ethical, and technological advancements commonly associated with modernity have begun to change the rules entirely, accelerated by both men’s and women’s destinies being liberated from their biology—especially as muscle-power began to be increasingly replaced by mechanical and microchip-driven power, and as birth control offered women much more control over pregnancy. These evolutionary developments have enabled a considerable amount of women to migrate from the private sphere into the public, for the first time in history. How can men make a similar transition from the "brute power" of the public sphere to the "invisible powers" of compassion, connection, introspection, and sexuality traditionally associated with the private sphere? Do we need an authentic "masculist revolution" in order to regain our collective balance?

Metaphorically, we could say that society is something like a boat, with gender roles rigidly assigned so that men row predominantly on one side of the boat, and women row on the other, more or less assuring that the boat keeps moving forward. However, since the rise of the enormously beneficial women’s liberation movement, women have begun to learn how to row on both sides of the boat—exploring many of the roles traditionally associated with men—who, unfortunately, have not experienced a similar sort of "men’s liberation" movement, and are thus still rowing on the same side they always have. What happens, of course, is that rather than continuing to move the boat forward, the boat begins to move in a circle, seriously compromising any sort of meaningful progress for humanity as a whole. We are very much in this boat together, and must therefore learn how to consciously transform both genders, culturally and individually, so that we might once again be able to point our little collective dinghy in the right direction.

So what can we do to help men learn how to row on the other side of the boat? Unfortunately, there exist virtually no role models for men to guide this sort of transition, no rites of passage or cultural road signs to help remind men that there are indeed higher and deeper levels of masculine maturity yet to be explored and developed. As Ken mentions in the discussion, there are nearly 30,000 examples of Women’s Studies classes, lectures, and departments throughout American colleges, but not a single case of Men’s Studies to be found, on its own accord and outside the auspices of feminist ideology.

Interestingly, while we can look to the absence of emphasis upon "men’s liberation" as a major factor in the ongoing gender inequities of today’s world, Warren himself does not believe we need such a "masculist movement" or any other male-focused analog to the feminist movement of the 50’s and 60’s. Instead, what is most needed is a genuinely Integral "transitional gender studies," rooted in a mutual respect of the roles, rights, responsibilities, and resentments that are carried by both men and women, along with a sincere acknowledgement of all the ways both men and women are simultaneously victims and perpetuators of traditional gender roles.

Click here to listen to Part 1 of this dialogue: Redefining the Relationships Between Men and Women.

Mankind Project Clarifies Stance on Reparative Therapy

I posted on the Mankind Project a while back, but I had no idea the "reparative therapy" nutjobs had picked this organization as a "masculinity" booster program to "straighten out" gay men. Dumbasses.

Fortunately, the Mankind Project has taken a solid stand against such ignorant attempts at brain washing.

Warren Throckmorton blogged about it a while back:

I provided a link to this statement in a previous post. Essentially, some reparative therapy clients/therapists were recommending the New Warriors Training Adventure to same-sex attracted men as a means of enhancing their sense of masculinity. Reparative therapists believe male same-sex attraction derives from a sense of distrust of men and a disconnection from natural masculinity. Via the reparative drive, he sexualizes his desire for masculine closeness and seeks homosexual relationships. Get a man feeling all masculine and his SSA disappears. Perhaps one of the clearest statements of this hypothesis and the proposed remedy is David Pickup’s the Workout program.

Mr. Pickup recommends the New Warriors Training Adventure and notes on his website that he serves as training coordinator of the Los Angeles branch of the Mankind Project. This is the branch which hosted Joseph Nicolosi, Narth co-founder and father of reparative therapy, at a training session in 2005. This session was quite controversial and eventually led to the MKP statement.

The email to MKPers provided this rationale for the new rainbow link:


As many of you are aware, the Project Council approved a Position Statement on Reparative Therapy in February 2007. Based on initial text prepared by Jim Mitchell, I prepared a statement which was then revised by a group of gay, bi, and straight men, and men who identify as having Unwanted Same Sex Attraction (USSA). We decided that it was necessary to take this stand because many men were being referred to the NWTA by reparative therapists and groups who had little or no experience with MKP (as well as by some reparative therapists and USSA men who had been through the training.) It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings. I sent the statement to the reparative therapists and groups I knew about, and have continued to do so when I learn of others. I asked organizations which implied on their websites that MKP offered or supported reparative therapy to remove such statements and any links to our website. Some complied with the request, though not all.

I got a chuckle out of this sentence: “It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings” since the MKP is so secretive about what men can expect. In any case, I believe it is valuable for MKP to indicate to men that they do not adhere to the masculinity enhancement model of reparative therapy for men who might be encouraged by reparative organizations/practitioners to seek NWTA for that purpose.

This is what the Mankind Project page on Sexual Orientation says:

  • The ManKind Project creates trainings and circles in which men are invited to discover their deepest truths.

  • We welcome men of all sexual orientations: gay, straight, and bisexual, as well as those who identify as having unwanted same sex attraction, to do their own work as they define it, to respect the identity and value of others, and to take responsibility for the impact their words and behaviors have on others.

  • We support each man in pursuing his path to deeper authenticity. We do not provide therapy or endorse any particular therapy, including reparative therapy. Any group or organization that states or implies otherwise does so without our permission.

  • We do not, and will not, attempt to change a man’s sexual orientation.

  • We stand firm in support of gay and bisexual men. We support men who believe that homosexuality is a normal part of the spectrum of human sexuality and of mature masculinity.

  • We will not tolerate proselytizing for any religion or belief and do not tolerate discrimination on our trainings or in our communities. We support our training and community leaders in identifying and challenging discriminatory language and behavior.

For further clarification, email the Executive Director, Carl Griesser.

Kudos to MKP for doing the right thing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Differences Between Men and Women - An Integral Interpretation

OK, that was just a little humor.

There were two interesting articles last week about the differences between men and women. Both articles demonstrate differences in the ways men and women process emotions -- and the second one sees these differences in terms of brain architecture.

First, a look at flirting from GeniusBeauty.

Women and Men Interpret Flirt Differently

Woman and Man FlirtingIt is well known that lots of men misinterpret female flirt and quite often do not understand it. Scientists have discovered another interesting fact. It turns out, married men and married women react differently to flirt with strangers, report scientists from McGill University, Canada. They found that if men do some flirting with a stranger, they have higher demands to their spouses. Women, on the other hand, after a flirt with a stranger treat their husbands more softly and are trying to improve the atmosphere in their families.

A simple test demonstrated that after a successful flirt men are willing to forgive their wives for 12% less than before the flirt, while women in response to their own flirting are willing to forgive their husbands for 17.5% more. The scientists believed that the difference is based on the different attitude of men and women to flirt. While men understand how insignificant and short-lived a relationship based on flirt is; women, on the contrary, take seriously any relationship and in any flirt unconsciously see a danger to their families, that is why they are trying to strengthen their marriage relationships. It seems that the best way out is not to flirt at all in order to save the family. But some women cannot live without flirting.

That's interesting in its own way, but it seems little more than artifact when considering the next study. The next study is a more comprehensive look at the differences between male and female brains (both structure and, presumably, function), from Psychology: Blogs, News and Information.

Men and women have different brains, research reveals

THE saying goes that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but scientists believe the real explanation for differences between the sexes lies in the structure of their brains.

For a long time it was thought that the basic architecture of the brain was the same in both sexes, with behavioural differences between men and women put down to hormones and social pressures.

But now an increasing amount of evidence is suggesting that male and female brains are built from significantly different genetic blueprints.

According to latest research, there are also differences in the circuitry that wires them up and the chemicals that transmit messages in the brain.

Scientists now believe there is good evidence that there is not just one kind of human brain, but two - each designed for equally intelligent behaviour.

Such findings could help develop more gender-directed treatments for dementia and other brain-related disorders.

Dr Jill Goldstein and colleagues from Harvard Medical School measured and compared 45 brain regions in healthy men and women.

They found that parts of the frontal lobe, which houses decision-making and problem-solving functions, were proportionally larger in women, as was the area which regulates emotions.

Meanwhile, other studies have found that the hippocampus, which is involved in short-term memory and spatial navigation, is proportionally larger in women than in men, which may come as a surprise given women's reputation as poor map-readers.

In comparison, in the men the proportionately larger areas included the parietal cortex, which processes signals from the sensory organs and is involved in space perception.

The amygdala region - which controls emotions and social and sexual behaviour - was also larger in men.

Dr Larry Cahill, a neurobiologist from the University of California, Irvine, said: "The mere fact that a structure is different in size suggests a difference in functional organisation." His team carried out brain imaging experiments on men and women, finding that sex influences how some regions of the brain are used.

When shown emotional images, men used a different side of their brain compared with women.

And while men were able to recall a general gist of the image, women were able to concentrate on the details.

Dr Cahill said this suggested men and women processed information from emotional events in very different ways.

Research also suggests that differences in the brain may explain why men and women have different reactions to pain.

Women are more likely to seek help for chronic pain than men, and certain painkillers work better in men than in women, other studies have found.

The research, published in New Scientist magazine, also points out that women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men and their brains typically produce about half as much serotonin - a neurotransmitter linked to depression.

In comparison, men are more likely to be diagnosed with autism, Tourette's syndrome, dyslexia, stuttering, attention-deficit disorder and early-onset schizophrenia.

But much research has so far failed to take into account the differences between male and female brains, researchers said.

Most studies have been carried out on the brains of male animals or human male volunteers.

Dr Jeff Mogil, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, criticised researchers for not looking at female brains, which could help lead to more targeted treatments for many illnesses. "It's scandalous," he said. "Women are the most common pain sufferers, and yet our model for basic pain research is the male rat."

For how men and women's brains differ see this pdf.

This is a good bit of research, although it leaves out the impact of cultural shaping on the brain. What we use gets bigger, and this proves true in the brain as well as the body. So maybe the differences can be accounted for less in terms of genetic or even sex differences as much as by the way cultural gender roles shape the use of the brain, which in turn shapes the size and organization of brain structures.

Certainly, it is some of both.

Where research like this is most useful is in breaking down the idea that sex differences and gender role differences are all culturally or socially constructed (which has been the stance of certain elements of the feminist movement in claiming equality with men). There's no doubt this is true in many ways (boys don't cry, girls don't climb trees, and on and on). But it's equally true that we are born with different hormone levels, different bodies, and different brain structures (the corpus callosum is more dense in women than men, as only one example).

Another example of brain structure differences came up in terms of the amygdala -- it's larger in men according to this study. Here is a brief sense of what the amygdala does:

In complex vertebrates, including humans, the amygdalae perform primary roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. Research indicates that, during fear conditioning, sensory stimuli reach the basolateral complexes of the amygdalae, particularly the lateral nuclei, where they form associations with memories of the stimuli. The association between stimuli and the aversive events they predict may be mediated by long-term potentiation, a lingering potential for affected synapses to react more readily.

One would think based on cultural patterns that this region would be larger in women, as is the hippocampus, a region responsible for short term memory and spatial navigation. We generally think of men as having better spatial skills and women being more likely to create deep and lasting memories of emotional events -- but this study suggests both of those stereotypes do not hold up when looking at the brain -- either that or fMRI studies can only reveal structures and not functions.

Until we begin to integrate the biological differences with the psychological differences and the cultural roles we have been shoe-horned into, we are never really going to understand the fundamental interactions of males and females in any real way. And further, without this understanding, we will never change the social structures that keep women earning less than men, having constantly to fight for their biological rights, and from breaking through that glass ceiling the feminists argue keeps them out of the highest levels and business and government (I seriously think this has changed considerably at the macro level, while progress is still needed in some micro realms).

Any attempt to explain men and women through fMRI scans, genetic studies, emotional response scenarios, or cultural roles is doomed to failure for being only partial and not integral in focus.