Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Meditation - Men and Women in Combat

Remember the film G.I. Jane back in 1997, with Demi Moore? It's the fictional story of the first woman to undergo training in U.S. Navy Special Warfare Group. The SEAL/CRT (Combined Reconnaissance Team) course depicted in the film is offered at Coronado Naval Amphibious Base in California.

This program is considered by some to be the toughest "special forces" training in the military.
To make the grade, Jordan has to survive a grueling selection program in which 60 percent of all candidates wash out, most in the first most grueling week ("hell week"). The enigmatic Command Master Chief John James Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen) runs the brutal training program that involves 20-hour days of tasks designed to wear down recruits' physical and mental strength including pushing giant ship fenders up beach dunes, working through obstacle courses, and hauling landing rafts. After getting a 30 second time allowance in an obstacle course, O'Neil asks to be held to the same standards as the male trainees. Eight weeks into the program, she suffers a vicious beating from the Master Chief during SERE training, during which he tries to convince the other trainees that the presence of a woman will make them more vulnerable in combat. O'Neil fights back and wins his respect and that of the other trainees.
Remember, this is fiction - no woman has ever been admitted to this program as far as I know, and in general, women are not required to serve combat roles in the military (they can, however, volunteer). One of the rationals given in the film is the lack of strength in female soldiers, which Moore's character is determined to disprove - and does.
The traditionalist Center for Military Readiness stated that “Female soldiers [are], on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance”.[5] However, an article in the Army Times July 29, 1996, states that some women do possess the physical attributes suitable to become combat soldiers.[6] (Wikipedia)
Conservative writer Phyllis Schlafly, writing for the American Heritage Foundation, argues that women should not be trained for combat because it's unfair to the men that women can opt out of combat duty in wartime simply by getting pregnant.
The proposal to repeal the combat exclusion laws is based on the feminist ideology that there is not any difference between men and women - that men and women are fungibles in all occupations, even in the most demanding, vicious and dangerous occupation called military combat. So, how does the military deal with the problem that women get pregnant and men do not? When a servicewoman gets pregnant, she is given the-option of resigning immediately (i.e., escaping from the remainder of her term of enlistment) or having limited duty during pregnancy, receiving full medical benefits, receiving paid maternity leave ranging from six weeks to a couple of months, and promising to accept deployment then to anywhere in the world.
This is little more than the male equivalent of seeking a section 8, or shooting himself in the foot, or any number of others men have tried to escape active duty in wartime. Both sexes possess an instinct toward self-preservation - or simply a moral opposition to kill another person - that may come out when sent into battle.

Another aspect of this is that the US military is an all-volunteer force, and many people join simply to get an education. Then when our government enters into a war they have to make a decision - fight or go home (by any means possible). In the past, men could get out by coming out of the closet, just as women could get pregnant. Both sexes had a way out, but this may no longer be true when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is officially repealed.

Military Deaths by Sex

The reality remains that most combat deaths are men, even with women serving more active roles in the military - especially in the most recent "wars" where there are no front lines.

The following stats come from American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics (2009).

Since 1980 (as of July 25, 2009, incl. Persian Gulf War)
Female Deaths: 2,495
Male Deaths: 43,648

Persian Gulf War
Female Deaths: 15
Male Deaths: 368

Prior to 1980:

Korean War
Female Deaths: 2
Male Deaths: 36,572

Vietnam War
Female Deaths: 8
Male Deaths: 58,217

Self-Inflicted Deaths (Suicides) 1980-2008: 6,270

Clearly, military deaths are overwhelmingly male. However, women has long thought themselves capable of performing combat roles, but to a large extent, men have adamantly refused to allow women into any military roles beyond nursing and support staff. Combat has been seen - and protected - as a uniquely masculine role.
According to Dunivin (1994), the armed forces are characterized by a combat, masculine-warrior (or CMW) paradigm. With combat as the primary function of the military, all activities and structures are organized around combat activities. According to former Marine Corps Commandant, Robert H. Barrow, combat is the process of capturing, killing, and destroying the enemy (Dunbar, 1992). In addition to combat, a second component of military culture is the masculine-warrior image. This image reflects a view of soldiering as a masculine role in which masculine norms, values, and lifestyles are valued. Dunivin postulates that "combat arms provide men the opportunity to demonstrate their masculinity, and the warrior's role is one way to prove one's manhood" (1994, p. 536). In this masculine, androcentric culture, women are regarded as outsiders. (Rooks, 2000)
Despite this overwhelming being the situation, many men have argued that women are getting a pass and that men have been getting the shaft when it comes to military service.

Warren Farrell - The Myth of Male Power - does not see it this way - he feels that men are unfairly required to serve in war, be employed in dangerous occupations, and are being kept in a "glass cellar." Here are a few quotes from his website for the book:
Are "Power," "Patriarchy," "Dominance," and "Sexism" actually code words for male disposability? P.67
• When not legally drafted, men feel psychologically drafted. P.106
• "Glass ceiling": the invisible barrier keeping women out of jobs with the most pay. "Glass cellar": the invisible barrier keeping men in jobs with the most hazards. P.107
• Understanding men requires understanding men's relationship to the Three Ws: Women, Work, and War. P.123
• Before men can vote, they have the obligation to protect that right; women receive the right to vote without the obligation to protect that right. P.123
• The psychological draft of boys begins before, and continues after, the legal draft of boys. P.123
• Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher: when women led, it was still men left dead; equality was at the top--not at the bottom. P.125
• Wars will not end via female leaders but when men's lives are no more disposable than women's. p.126
• Increasing women's military combat options will be hailed as an advance in equality, but a true advance would require women to enter combat just as men are. P.127
• Equality involves equal options and equal obligations. P.127
• In Panama and Operation Desert Storm combined, men's risk of dying was three times greater than women's. P.130
• Women constitute 11.7% of the total military, but 12.6% of the officers. P.139
• Both sexes in the Persian Gulf received $110 per month extra combat pay--- equal pay despite unequal risks. P.130
• If a fetus has a "right to life," but eighteen years later has an "obligation to death," which sex is it? P.130
Some people - mostly feminists, have question his statistics in this and other areas, but I believe
he is not making this up. Sometimes, however, it is his interpretation that I disagree with, for example:
• What any other group would call powerlessness, men have been taught to call power. P.28
• Men civilized women by taking care of the killing for women. P.79
• When women complained they were being sexually harassed, the government radically expanded its protection of women by expanding its prosecution of men. P.121
• Men were left unprotected from premature death while women were protected from premature flirtation. P.121
• When we commit violence against an infant girl, we call it child abuse; when we commit violence against an infant boy, we call it circumcision. P.221
• Men commit suicide more often when they are unemployed or lose their life savings, so by killing himself, he is "killing the burden," making his suicide an act of love. P.171
There is a lot to like in Farrell's book, however, when he makes huge leaps in logic, such as those above, he plays the victim and privilege cards he so often chides feminists for using. In fact, his whole chapter on The Politics of Sex (p. 284), confuses sexual harassment with treating women as children. This may be true in about 5-10 percent of the cases - but men still harass women and it's widespread. I've seen judges refer to female lawyers as "Honey" while referring to male lawyers by their first name, and this happens often here in Tucson, so I'm sure it happens other places as well.

I'm not going to bother taking on all of these claims - but I will suggest that when men suicide to get out of debt, it is seldom an "act of love," maybe of fear, or despair, or guilt, but not love. Further, abusing a female child has no relation whatsoever to circumcising a male child - that statement is ludicrous. Circumcision is not necessary (although it does prevent HIV in men) and it does not intend harm or pain (anesthesia is quite common now, except in some religious cases), while abuse of a female child DOES intend pain and suffering. Statements such these - and others - make me question Farrell's agenda.

He is nowhere more wrong than when he talks about rape. Here is one gem: "Minimizing the role of sexual attraction in rape denies our responsibility for reinforcing men's addiction to female sexual beauty and then depriving men of what we've helped addict them to" (p. 311).

Blaming the victim is bullshit. Rape is an act of violence, not sexual desire. Here's more:
• Myth: Rape has nothing to do with sexual attraction—it’s an act of violence, "proven" by the fact that women of every age are raped.
• Being at the age of greatest sexual attraction makes the chances of being raped at least 8400% greater than being over fifty. (p. 311)
Rape is about violence and anger - and the reason more women at "the age of greatest sexual attraction" are raped so much more often is because these are the women rapists are angry at, afraid of, or feel shamed or rejected by - not their grandmothers.

One thing Farrell says about rape is true, however, it is often about powerlessness, not power - rapists tend to feel powerless in their lives. On the other hand, rapists also tend to equate sexual arousal with violence, they tend to believe rape myths (the woman wanted it), and they are more likely to be sexually aggressive toward women when given the opportunity (Malamuth, 1983).

OK, I seemed to have veered off on a little rant there - back to the topic at hand.

Back to Women and Men in the Military

Here is some more from Farrell on men, women, and military service, from an interview with John Macchietto:
Women have equal rights to join the military but not equal obligations to register. And once in the military, women increasingly have equal rights to fight in combat positions, but do not have equal obligations to be in combat positions if needed.

The single biggest barrier to getting men to look within is that what any other group would call powerlessness, men have been taught to call power. We don't call "male-killing" sexism; we call it "glory." We don't call the one-million men who were killed or maimed in one battle in World War I (the Battle of the Somme) a holocaust, we call it "serving the country." We don't call those who selected only men to die "murderers." We call them "voters."
None of this has anything to do with feminism. However, there are some issues over which I find common ground. Eighteen year old boys are required to register for selective service if they want to go to college, women are not so required. Farrell argues that men who fail to register are criminals - but only 20 cases have ever been prosecuted since 1980, and 19 of those were men who sought arrest to publicize their refusal to register.

The reason women have not been given equal combat roles in the military is because men have not given them equal roles or equal status. There are reasons for that which have nothing to do with seeing men as disposable - that view makes victims of men, which it seems is part of Farrell's agenda - reasons that are based in the four million years of hominid evolution.
  • We need women to give birth - one man can impregnate hundreds or thousands of women, so in a sense, speaking in purely biological terms, men are more expendable.
  • Until the development of rifles and machine guns, most battle was conducted with hand-held weapons, making women (in general) a liability on the battle field. Men are simply stronger and faster.
  • In most cultures, men hunted while women gathered and then eventually planted foods. Since men already possessed skills of killing, they were naturally the warriors.
Most changes to these patterns are relatively recent in our evolution - within the last 200-400 years. But our ideals of masculinity have not changed (chivalry, the foundation of the "traditional male gender role," dates to as early as the 10th century), so neither have our ideas about who should serve as warrior.

Ideally, we would have evolved beyond the need for war, and for young men and women to die in war. But that shows no sign of happening any time soon.

In order for us to change how men and women (biological sex) serve in the military, we need to change how we define masculine and feminine roles (socio-cultural constructs). As long as we - as men - cling to traditional definitions of masculinity, things like military service, sacrificing one's life for country, and the archaic "combat, masculine-warrior" role will be seen as part of the (required) masculine gender role.

It is up to us to change this - we need not make ourselves victims, as Farrell unconsciously seems to be doing - and to do it we must be willing to look at the ways at which we are complicit in accepting this traditional role.

There are now many masculinities - we need not choose from manly or sissy. We have the option of exposing ourselves to other ways of being men, and growing our options of masculine expression.

When men no longer see killing each other as a way to solve global problems - we no longer need to mourn the loss of life in war that Memorial Day commemorates.

Dunivin, K. O. (1994). Military culture: Change and continuity. Armed Forces & Society, 20(4), 531-547.

Farrell, W. (2001). The Myth of Male Power. New York: Berkeley Trade.

Macchietto, J. (1993). Interview with Warren Farrell. Transitions: Journal of Men's Perspectives: Newsletter of The National Coalition of Free Men. September/October.

Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Factors associated with rape as predictors of laboratory aggression against women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 432-442.

Rooks, S.C. (2000). Looking at G.I. Jane through Lenses of Gender. American Communication Journal; Vol. 2, No. 1.

Joanne Huspek - The Things My Father Showed Me

Nice little article from Joanne Huspek at Blog Critics on the value of fathers in their children's lives - I wouldn't really know about this, which is probably why I was interested in the article.

Joanne Huspek is an aspiring novelist with a day job which makes writing an interesting clandestine tryst. Currently a member of Romance Writers of America and the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America. Her web site ( is currently in limbo, …

The Things My Father Showed Me

Joanne Huspek

Father's Day is rolling around once again. I can tell by the crush of advertising admonishing prodigal children to buy this gizmo or that gadget in order to show appreciation for the dads in their lives. But when you get to my age (rounding the bend into my second half century) and his age (sliding into 80 with garage full of his own stuff), mere trinkets are not enough.

Sometimes the real tributes are the unspoken ones, like stocking the old man's fridge with his favorite beer, calling him early in the morning to discuss politics, or cleaning his ceiling fan or bathroom on those rare occasions when I'm in town.

I don't know about your father, but my father doesn't talk much about his feelings. This reticence could be a character flaw of the gender, or it could be the fact that his father was Greek with a limited knowledge of English. Either way, he is the last person on earth I would go to for an exploration of deep emotions. However, it's true what they say about actions speaking louder than words, and his have shown him to be exemplary in many ways.

Daughters being what we are, we want to please our dads. I was once accused of giving him too much leeway. "You're not even his favorite!" was what I was told. (How he could choose a favorite out of six outstanding individuals is beyond me.) Sure, the guy isn't perfect; who is? It's up to us to winnow the good modeling from the bad parenting and go from there.

My father escaped poverty and the cold, rugged bogs of northeastern Minnesota — now Nemadji State Park, home to swarms of mosquitoes and leeches — to join the Army. Good decision? He got to see the world, met my mother, enjoyed an Army career with a pension, and received a guaranteed GI Bill college education. His was the typical American success story: the one where the child does better than his parents.

I didn't agree with the war in Viet Nam, but that could have been more about wanting my father out of harms' way and nearby and less with my twelve-year-old political sensibilities. I had four sibs then, one a baby, and as the oldest knew I was going to have to grow up fast and pick up the slack. We needed a dad more than Uncle Sam needed a helicopter mechanic. I'm not sure my dad was into fighting, but he went where the orders told him to go. When he came back, he didn't talk about his experience the way his war buddies did. Their stories were rough and hard, full of manly gusto about taking hills and shooting people. My dad rarely added to the conversation and instead let his friends talk.

Shortly after joining the Army, my father bought the little house my grandma lived in (some say won in a poker game in the early 1950s) in the Minnesota outback. No running water, no indoor toilet, she was happy with it, happier than her last few years in St. Paul. She stayed there for three decades, until my parents' divorce decree stated the house was community property and had to be sold.

My dad might not have been home much, but he got a month's worth of leave every year. We took extended road trips to Yellowstone and other points in the West, and traveled back to Minnesota. When we moved from one base to another, it was an occasion for a road trip. There was always something interesting to see, some new part of the country to learn about. It could be why I don't find long car rides boring,

My dad showed me how to bait a hook and shoot a gun, to clean fish and critters. (We ate them, too.) There was eight years of lag time and two sisters between me and the only son, and we girls accompanied him everywhere he went. Even now we still take him to the "secret" old fishing hole tucked into a glen in the Rockies. He had us help him take apart car engines, clean pistons, and grind goop away from valves. We worked in his gas station and in his little auto repair business. I drywalled my own bedroom when I was 16. He never once told us our abilities were limited by gender.

When my mom took off, first for the old house on the other side of town, later for California, he was left with three children still at home, 15, 13 and 5. My dad didn't run away; he didn't try to push the kids off on my mom or me or someone else; he stayed and did his best. Was it perfect? Most likely not. There were hits and misses. My brother learned to cook. My sister got into trouble, like many teenagers do. My dad picked up my baby sister from day care and learned the dangers of teenage girls with credit cards. He might have missed key child-rearing moments during his military career, but has since more than made up for lost time.

Later, when my mom passed away, my dad was there. He didn't have to be; they'd been divorced over ten years. He didn't say much at the time, but he hosted the wake and kept us together. It's been eighteen years, and he still goes to the gravesite to visit and keeps it tidy. I call him on Mother's Day to wish him a happy one, because he's been both mother and father for so long, it seems like the right thing to do. Now there are grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I can only hope they see in him what I see.

I have recently spent a lot of time in my vegetable garden, and this is when I think of my dad the most. He has always had a garden, probably because my grandma grew her own food and canned her own produce. Unlike Grandma, I don't need to grow vegetables to survive — after the water bill, the mulch, and fertilizer, it's probably cheaper in the long run to buy tomatoes and cucumbers from the grocery store. I can my homegrown tomatoes and make pickles, but without Grandma, it's been an experiment. I credit my interest in urban guerilla gardening to my early childhood years of outdoor chores, digging with spades, and pulling out weeds with bare hands under a blazing Colorado sun. It's left a lasting impression. It seems wasteful to have a yard full of dirt and not grow food on it.

My father has never been and will never be a great orator like Barack Obama or Ronald Regan. He will never be rich and famous like Donald Trump. His brain isn't overflowing with knowledge like Einstein. He's not a doctor, a lawyer, or an Indian chief, or a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. He doesn't need to speak; he has shown by a lifetime of admirable action what it's like to be a dad.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Marsha Lucas, PhD - Why Early Reading Is Bad for Your Child | Early Brain Development
Read to them, but don't make them learn to read until they are ready.

This isn't exactly an article about men or boys, except that it is. I have some personal experience with this topic (and I think other parents of boys - more so than girls - will have had similar experiences), so I figured I might have some insight that makes this excellent post by Dr. Marsha more concrete.

And by the way, Dr. Lucas's blog - ReWire Your Brain for Love - is one of my favorite reads, so check it out if you aren't already familiar with her work (she also author of a forth-coming book by the same name).

Dr. Lucas argues in this post -Why Early Reading is bad for your child | Early Brain Development - that trying to make our children read at such a young age effectively short-circuits their brain development. When kids are young, the primary goal of brain development is centered around consolidating attachment and interpersonal wiring, not learning to read.

First and foremost: The fundamental task of early childhood isn’t learning to read, or to “get ahead” for school, or to impress the neighbors, or to give the folks something to brag about. Encouraging children to surge ahead beyond their real developmental needs leaves them with some really sludgy clean-up to grapple with later on.

The most important task of early childhood is experiencing a healthy, secure attachment in which the child’s caregivers are attuned to the child’s inner state and respond in a contingent manner.

Let me say that again. What kids need from the get-go is a parent who “gets” them, who pays attention to what’s going on inside them, and who responds to them in a way that’s actually related to what the kid is feeling.

Healthy, secure, attuned attachment gives kids some much deeper “advantages” in life than whether they learn to read early (and learning to read early doesn’t actually give them any advantages, anyway – which I’ll get to in section II below).
OK, so this part was not a part of my childhood experience. I am proof of why it's crucial to be with your kids and provide them with secure attachment.

I ended up with some ambivalent attachment (especially toward my mother - more avoidant with my father), which eventually forced me to seek therapy so that I could stop sabotaging relationships (lack of trust, neediness, inability to share my feelings) and self-destructing with drugs and/or alcohol.

You can see the issues with avoidant attachment and ambivalent attachment in these images. The ambivalent attachment has been the bigger issue for me, at least before doing a few years of good therapy - this combination, but especially the avoidant attachment, is sometimes diagnosed in adults as schizoid personality disorder.

Dr. Lucas points out that there are huge advantages - at least a dozen of them - to a healthy secure attachment:

The research on attachment shows that there are a number of benefits which last a lifetime, including but not limited to at least the following dozen:

  1. The ability to sustain attention
  2. Better management of physical reactions to emotions – leading to improved immunity and fewer stress-related illnesses
  3. Less anxiety
  4. Better relationships with childhood peers, and healthier relationships as adults
  5. Fewer behavioral problems
  6. Increased capacity for empathy
  7. Greater ability to regulate mood (for example, calming down from excitement, or not getting caught up in frustration)
  8. Enhanced skills in communicating emotions in healthy ways
  9. Greater confidence and self-esteem (and it isn’t just based on performance and grades, but rather a sense of abiding and healthy self-worth)
  10. Better able to generate alternative solutions to interpersonal conflict
  11. Enhanced insight into themselves, and others
  12. Better modulation of fear, allowing for a willingness to explore and take on growthful challenge
Attachment failures such as those I experienced are the reason people come to therapy with Dr. Lucas - not because they did not learn to read at age three. And I would add that Dr. Daniel Siegel has made it clear - in Mindsight and other books - that we can repair these attachment failures through mindfulness practice (as well as good therapy).

On the bright side, my parents did not force me to learn to read at a young age. In fact, when I started kindergarten, I could not read and had no interest in sitting down to learn how to read. I wanted to play on the swings, ride bikes, play tag and whatever else it was I did when I was five years old.

What was true for me seems also to be true for most boys when they start school (from the PBS Parents site Understanding and Raising Boys):
The average boy is less mature than the average girl when he starts school. By school age, the average boy is less mature socially, less verbal, and more active than most of the girls. "We ask too much of boys developmentally in the early years and they taste too much failure and frustration in school," says Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

Schools, not boys, have changed. Children are now taught to read in kindergarten when many young boys are not as skilled verbally as girls. "At age five, many boys are not ready to learn to read," says teacher Jane Katch, author of Under Deadman's Skin. "When I began teaching in the '70s, children were not expected to read in kindergarten. Some first grade teachers actually preferred that children learn the alphabet in first grade, where they could learn to do it 'the right way'!"
To be fair, it was mostly the girls reading when I was in kindergarten (1972), while the boys played. However, I managed to get through first grade without learning to read - and well into second grade. The teachers thought I was developmentally disabled - not to mention hyperactive (as an adult I was finally diagnosed with ADD) - and I was put in the "slow room" with other slow learners, all of whom were boys.

So I did not learn to read until I was seven years old - however, by the time I was nine years old, my teachers wanted to move me up two grades (from 4th to 6th) because I was bored and disrupting the class. That year I also was tested for and admitted to a "talented and gifted" program.

The downside of this experience was that I experienced a great deal of ridicule and shaming in 2nd grade for not being able to read. As I got older, I became hyper-aware of how I was perceived by others, which I have no doubt contributed to developing social anxiety disorder.

Anyway, it turns out that the research shows that children really are not ready to read until age six or seven, so there was nothing slow about me.

Dr. Lucas presents some compelling research in support of this approach:

And another thing: Early reading doesn’t do much for your child’s success in school, and there’s evidence that it may even be detrimental.

Let’s take a look at a few points in that regard – and note that this list is only a few of many reasons why early reading is a lousy deal for your child.

  • Louise Bates Ames, PhD, a superstar in child development and the director of research at the world-renowned Gesell Institute of Child Development, stated that “a delay in reading instruction would be a preventative measure in avoiding nearly all reading failure.” Leapfrogging necessary cognitive developmental skills — and asking a young brain to do tasks for which it isn’t truly ready — is asking for trouble with learning.
  • The brains of young children aren’t yet developed enough to read without it costing them in the organization and “wiring” of their brain. The areas involved in language and reading aren’t fully online — and aren’t connected — until age seven or eight. If we’re teaching children to do tasks which their brains are not yet developed to do via the “normal” (and most efficient) pathways, the brain will stumble upon other, less efficient ways to accomplish the tasks — which lays down wiring in some funky ways — and can lead to later learning disabilities, including visual-processing deficits.
  • The description of brain development on which the “Your Baby Can Read” program rests its questionable claims is remarkably flawed, confusing language acquisition with reading. They state: “A baby’s brain thrives on stimulation and develops at a phenomenal pace…nearly 90% during the first five years of life! The best and easiest time to learn a language is during the infant and toddler years, when the brain is creating thousands of synapses every second — allowing a child to learn both the written word and spoken word simultaneously, and with much more ease….” There is a huge and unsupported leap here from language acquisition – which is definitely an important developmental task, necessary for connecting to one’s outer world – and reading, which is a very different neurological and cognitive task, and one which is not developmentally appropriate for a baby or toddler’s brain.
  • Does early training really get you anywhere? There is a classic study of twins which was done by another pioneer in child development, Arnold Gesell, PhD, MD. He studied a pair of toddler twins, who were not yet able to climb stairs. For the study, one of the twins was given daily practice and encouragement to climb stairs, and the other twin had no stairs to practice on. After six weeks of practice, the “trained” twin could climb the stairs, and the “untrained” twin could not. However, within one week of being given the opportunity to climb stairs, the untrained twin completely caught up with the trained twin’s stair-climbing ability.
  • The whole idea that learning to read early gives children — or our educational system, or our economy — an “advantage” is not based on empirical evidence. If you look at the US and Britain, you see the trends toward earlier reading and increasingly less successful educational systems. On the other hand, the majority of children in Finland begin instruction in reading at age seven — two years later than here in the US (and even later than the folks at “Your Baby Can Read” would have you start). The outcome? Finnish students not only catch up to their earlier-starting counterparts, but they surpass the United States, other European countries, and Asian countries as well, with top overall scores in the world in reading, science, and math. Oh, and the Finnish do attend preschool, but it isn’t “academic” in nature — it emphasizes social development and exploration.
So if your child, especially your boy, is not interested in learning to read at an early age, that's normal. And trying to make your child, especially your boy, learn to read when s/he is three or four years old may end up costing them developmentally later on.

What they really need is loving attentive parents who give them attention, mirroring, and affection. Play games, be physical, but just be there - and this means fathers, too.

Cool Site - Masculinity Movies

Masculinity Movies movie selection

A Facebook friend turned me on to this site - very cool. Integral dude Pelle Billing is a contributer to the site.
You're a man. You watch movies. Yet, you may be missing out on the full experience of the movies you watch. Do you want to leave the cinema inspired, wanting to make the most of your life? Do you want to stay inspired? That's what I'm here to help you with.

Join me in uncovering the path of growth that awaits in the world of movies. Watching movies will never be the same again.

Here is a little more about the site and its origins.

The Concept

The idea to create came about during a time of intense study on what it meant to be a man. This is a question I’ve struggled with most of my adult life and this confusion has caused me to go through times of intense inner turmoil and depression. But the process has brought results and at this point, I was trying to find a way to juggle masculine and feminine energies and forms of expression in my life in a way that was beneficial for everyone. At the same time, I felt a growing need to share my own voice in this wilderness, and it seemed directly connected with my own sense of well being. There was just one problem. I had no idea what to say.

I was working on my Norwegian translation for The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida (still in progress) and applying it in the relationship with my lover, with great results. As the two of us spent some quiet quality time together watching films in her flat, the answer to the question that had plagued me for a long while – “how can I bring this material to the world in my own unique way?” came pulsing through the shimmering TV screen. In the middle of the unlikeliest of films – Erin Brockovich and Mrs. Doubtfire – it dawned on me, and was born.

Why do modern men need to learn about masculinity? Don’t we already have it covered? Aren’t we already tuned in, turned on and aligned with truth in every way that matters? If my own life experience is anything to go by, the answer is definitely no. Modern men struggle. Most of us haven’t found anything truly worth living (or dying) for and spend our days working to fulfill the visions of other men (and increasingly women), and most of these visions aren’t even that great. In relationship, many of us find ourselves overpowered by our women, unable to stand up for our own rights in the relationship and instead choose to succumb to the apathy of just tolerating her. We haven’t yet discovered our core strength, that reservoir of loving and wise warrior energy that each and every one of us deep down know we carry inside of us. Modern men need help. Trouble is – most of us don’t want it. The idea that a man needing help is a weak man is cementing his weakness. It’s a challenging place to be culturally, and we need to do something about it. This website is my small part in that large process.

My wish for is that it not only become a resource for in-depth movie analysis through the lens of masculine evolution, but that it becomes a resource central outlining the different guided paths of masculine evolution that are available in the world today. Through honing in on the themes of the respective films, I will offer resources – specific practices, and pointers to men’s groups, workshops, teachers etc – so that this growth becomes possible in our very own lives.

I hope you enjoy your time here. By reading this, you’ve proven that you’re one of the still relatively few men out there looking to better himself for the benefit of all. It’s men like you who will make the tide turn for the better. For this, I thank you. AND – I wish to get to know you.

Eivind Figenschau Skjellum founder

They have a small but growing collection of films, from a variety of genres. Go check it out.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Michael Castleman - Premature Ejaculation: The Two Causes of Men's #1 Sex Problem

Michael Castleman blogs for Psychology Today at All about Sex. In this post he reveals that PE is much more common than ED, but gets no press. He also suggests that the two biggest causes of PE are youth (kids are so damn excitable - but it often becomes a conditioned reflex) and pornography.

Premature Ejaculation: The Two Causes of Men's #1 Sex Problem

Premature ejaculation is men's most prevalent sex problem.

Ever since Viagra's 1998 approval, erectile dysfunction (ED) has dominated media coverage of men's sex problems. But ED is actually less prevalent than rapid, involuntary "premature" ejaculation (PE).

University of Chicago researchers have conducted the most widely cited research into American sex problems. Their two studies (cited at the end) are based on a representative sample of 2,865 men, 18 to 85. They show that from 18 to 59, PE is much more prevalent than ED, and that among men 60 and older, one-quarter of men continue to experience it. As a result, sexologists consider PE men's #1 sex problem. The numbers:

Erection problems*
(% reporting any during previous year)
18-29: 7
30-39: 9
40-49: 11
50-59: 18
57-64: 31
65-74: 45
75-85: 43

Premature Ejaculation*
(same criterion)
18-29: 30
30-39: 32
40-49: 28
50-59: 31
57-64: 30
65-74: 28
75-85: 22

(*One study tracked ages 18-59, the other, 57 to 85)

PE has a convoluted history. The 4th century Kama Sutra chided PE sufferers for frustrating women. However, during the Victorian era in England and America, women were not considered sexual, but merely passive receptacles for men's lust. Because women's pleasure was not an issue, neither was PE. In fact, Darwinians considered rapid ejaculation a sign of virility. Those men, they argued, were more likely to father children and pass their genes, including presumably those for PE, to future generations.

However, by the 20th century, PE was again problematic. Psychoanalytic theory blamed it on neurotic ambivalence toward women. But during the 1960s, Masters and Johnson conclusively showed that a simple self-help program could teach more than 90 percent of men to last as long as they wanted within a few months. Their success launched contemporary sex therapy.

PE has two major causes: youth and pornography. Young men have very excitable nervous systems. They're primed to ejaculate and don't even need sex to do it (wet dreams). In addition, in our culture, men are supposed to orchestrate sex, but few young men know much about lovemaking. This causes anxiety, which makes the nervous system more excitable and more prone to PE, which often becomes a conditioned reflex that can last a lifetime.

Meanwhile, pornography has become the leading sex educator of men. Internet porn is available for free 24-7. In a previous blog, I argued that porn does not cause rape (read more). But porn causes sexual harm. It teaches sex all wrong, deluding men about what good sex is. No wonder so many women complain that men are erotically clueless. Here's the deal, guys: Porn is almost entirely genital. Boy meets girl, and faster than dropping a zipper, they're deep into oral sex and intercourse. Porn-style all-genital sex puts tremendous pressure on the penis, which reacts by ejaculating quickly. Porn-style sex cements PE.

Fortunately, in just a few months, the vast majority of men can break the PE habit and learn to last as long as they'd like. The cure combines deep breathing and relaxation with doing the opposite of what you see in porn, namely embracing leisurely, playful, massage-based, whole-body sensuality that spreads erotic arousal from just the penis to every square inch of the body, taking pressure off the penis.

Many surveys show that women prefer lovemaking based on leisurely, playful, whole-body sensuality. Of course, this lovemaking style includes the genitals, but unlike porn, is not fixated on them. Men who embrace the self-help PE cure gain not only ejaculatory control, but also happier lovers. Ironically, women become happier not just because the man lasts longer--only 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic during intercourse no matter how long it lasts (read more)--but because the program that cures PE teaches men to make love the way women prefer, with the emphasis on whole-body sensually.

Anyone interested in the self-help cure for PE can visit my site,, and read the article on the self-help cure for premature ejaculation.

Studies cited:
Laumann, E.O. et al. "Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and Predictors (Age 18-59)," Journal of the American Medical Association (1999) 281:537.

Laumann, E.O. et al. "Sexual Dysfunction Among Older Adults: Prevalence and Risk Factors from a Nationally Representative U.S. Probability Sample of Men and Women 57-85 Years of Age," Journal of Sexual Medicine (2008) 5:2300.

His "cure" for PE costs $1.99 for a PDF download - payed through PayPal.

My opinion is the changing the focus from intercourse to intimacy - emotional and physical - goes a long way toward improving the love-making experience for both partners, whether PE is an issue or not. Just being naked together, enjoying each other's sensuality, scent, appearance, taste, and so can be very rewarding, no intercourse required. My guess is that this is part of most PE treatments these days - a form of desensitization to reduce arousal and/or anxiety. My guess also is that most women would love this experience, especially if intercourse isn't on the agenda.

OK, that said, here is WebMD's solution for PE.
Faced with premature ejaculation, most men try to distract themselves during intercourse, believing that by thinking about other things, they can trick themselves into lasting longer. Usually, that only makes things worse.

Don't tune out your body. TUNE INTO IT. You need to become more familiar with your different levels of sexual arousal. You also need to recognize how you feel as you approach your point of ejaculatory inevitability, the "point of no return." Once you recognize how you feel close to your point of no return, it's not difficult to make small sexual adjustments that allow you to remain highly aroused without ejaculating.

Sexual arousal is a four-phase process. In the Excitement Phase, breathing deepens and erection begins. In the Plateau Stage, erection becomes full and you feel highly aroused. When arousal builds to a certain point, the next phase occurs, Orgasm with Ejaculation. Then during the Resolution Phase, breathing returns to normal and erection subsides. The key to ejaculatory control is to extend the Plateau Phase, to maintain arousal without triggering Orgasm and Ejaculation.

To learn ejaculatory control:
  • Don't use drugs or alcohol. They're distracting and they interfere with the self-awareness crucial to learning ejaculatory control.
  • Appreciate whole-body sensuality. Men often think sex happens only in the penis and only during intercourse. That view is a one-way ticket to premature ejaculation (not to mention erection problems, and women with those proverbial headaches). The best sex involves head-to-toe arousal. Men learning how to approach -- but not arrive at -- their point of no return, need to appreciate whole-body sensuality, the pleasure potential in every square inch of the body. Whole-body sensuality releases tension. Tense bodies that have no other outlet often find release through involuntary ejaculation. But as you learn to appreciate sensual pleasure from head to toe, whole-body arousal takes the pressure off your penis, and you last longer.
  • Whole-body sensuality means relaxation, but the "relaxation" involved in great sex is not the kind that includes an easy chair, a six pack, and Monday Night Football. It's the kind you feel after a hot bath or a good massage. In fact, bathing or showering together before lovemaking can help men relax and appreciate whole-body sensuality -- and last longer.
  • Breathe deeply. One very easy way to stay relaxed while making love is to breathe deeply. The body has a natural tendency to breathe deeply during sex. But many men fight it. They think they should stay in control by not breathing deeply and making the little love-moan sounds that go along with it. But when men work to control their breathing, they often sacrifice ejaculatory control. Try breathing deeply. Let your breath go. Many men are amazed how much this one little change improves their premature ejaculation.
  • Start with masturbation with a dry hand. By varying how you caress your penis, you can learn to stay highly aroused for quite a while without coming. When you feel yourself approaching your point of no return, simply back off a bit, stroke yourself more gently or not at all, and stay aroused without ejaculating. Then as you feel yourself getting a little distance from your point of no return, return to more vigorous self-stimulation. Repeat this several times over several sessions. Approach your point of no return, then back off. For most men, it doesn't take long to develop good ejaculatory control while alone.
    Then move on to masturbation with a lubricated hand. Use saliva, vegetable oil, or a commercial sexual lubricant. For most people, lubricants increase the sensual intensity of erotic fondling. Follow the same program: Masturbate until you approach your point of no return, then back off. Repeat this several times over several sessions.
  • Once you have good control during masturbation, and appreciate whole-body sensuality, and feel comfortable breathing deeply during lovemaking, then you're ready for the couples program -- if you're in a couple. The couple approach is called the "Stop-Start Technique." First, arrange "stop" and "start" signals with your lover, for example, a light pinch or tap, or a tug on an ear.
    Then, your lover strokes your penis by hand as you lie still. When you approach your point of no return, give the "stop" signal. Your lover immediately stops stroking you and simply holds your penis gently, as you continue to breathe deeply and pays close attention to the sensations you're feeling. When you no longer feels close to ejaculation, gives the "start" signal, and your lover begins stroking you again. How many stops and starts should you do? A half-dozen over a 15-minute period works well for most couples. Do what feels comfortable for you.

    With stop-start, the focus is on the man. He's the one learning the new skill. But don't forget the woman's sensual needs. As part of each practice session, she might guide your hand over her to show you what she likes.

    Once you've gained good ejaculatory control with your lover's hand, try the same stop-start procedure with oral caresses. Again, you begin by lying still.

    Once you've gained good control orally, feel free to start moving. You're making love again -- but now you have ejaculatory control. Congratulations.

Here are some other suggestions for lasting longer:

  • The man-on-top (missionary) position can be fun, but it's harder for most men to control their ejaculatory timing, because they have to hold themselves up. Try making love with the woman on top. This position is more relaxing for men, and it often helps ejaculatory control.
  • Make some noise. Love moans help men (and women) relax, and they often help men last longer.
  • It's important to understand that learning ejaculatory control takes time and practice. You may feel a little awkward along the way. Try to maintain a sense of humor about any accidental spills.
  • Some penile skin creams advertise that they help a man last longer. These products contain topical anesthetics that dull sensation in the penis. If you like to play with penile sensation, there's no harm in using them. But they're not a good idea for learning to last longer. They dull sensation. But the key to lasting longer is for the man to become more familiar with what he feels so he can back off from his point of no return while still remaining highly aroused.
  • Finally, the program we recommend for learning ejaculatory control is very likely to provide your lover with greater sexual enjoyment -- but not just because you last longer. Women generally prefer leisurely, playful, whole-body, massage-oriented sensuality that includes the genitals but is not limited to them. Women's main complaints about men's sexual style are that it's too rushed, too mechanical, too eager for intercourse, and that it focuses only on the breasts and genitals. Women generally feel that the whole body is a sensual playground and can't understand why so many men explore only a few corners of it. Like women, penises generally prefer leisurely, playful, whole-body, massage-oriented lovemaking. The rushed, penis-centered, intercourse-fixated sex style puts a lot of pressure on the penis, and leads to premature ejaculation. But when men make love the way women prefer, whole-body arousal takes the pressure off your penis and you last longer. Basically, if men would make love the way women prefer, women would have fewer complaints, and men would have fewer sex problems.

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Do Real Men Do Therapy? Metallica Did, So Can You

The other day I posted some of Dr. David Wexler's article (and upcoming telecourse) on men in therapy - why they don't go, how to work with them once they do go, and how working with men is different than working with women.

I've recently found an article by Jerry Magaro - Real Men Do Therapy - from the July, 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine, now posted at MenWeb. Below this article is one from Psychology Today, Carl Sherman's Therapy: Man's Last Stand.

Interestingly, Sherman suggests that the documentary about Metallica - Metallica: Some Kind of Monster - may have made it more acceptable for men to do therapy. That's cool. The guys who listen to Metallica are the guys who would rather be dead than go to therapy. So seeing their heroes doing therapy on film, for millions to see, probably changed their perspective.

Real Men Do Therapy

Copyright © 1996 by Jerry Magaro, J.D., M.A.

After several years of working as a therapist, I ave noticed noticed some significant differences between women and men in why they choose to be in therapy or participate in a support group. One major difference is that women generally enter into therapy for the first time at an earlier age than men. It is not unusual for a woman in her twenties to have been in therapy at least for a brief period of time, whereas most men tend to be in their thirties or forties before seeing a therapist for the first time. With respect to couples counseling, women generally initiate the idea of seeing a counselor and make the first contact with the therapist. Moreover, her male partner is frequently reluctant or unwilling to participate in couples therapy. Finally, ! more women than men enter into individual therapy, and there are far more women who join support groups than men.

Traditional models of masculinity
What accounts for these differences? Do women have more emotional and psychological problems than men? Are men better adjusted and less likely to need the help of a therapist? While many men would like to think so, I doubt this is true. I believe the answer can be traced back to men’s genetic dispositions and to the roles and coping styles that men learn during childhood. From very early childhood, boys are conditioned to be strong, brave, independent, even fearless. Such traits are considered virtuous.

Boys grow up learning to identify with ideal images of men in the form of the masculine hero. The hero is strong and alone. In times of trouble, he can conquer all odds and rescue and save others from devastation. Clearly, living up to this image prevents a man from being real and authentic. He expends his time and energy trying to live up to an idealized self-image that requires him to sacrifice his own inner needs. In his efforts to save and rescue others, he forgets who he really is.

Any display of pain can quickly be interpreted as a sign of weakness. "Big boys don’t cry." A boy risks being shamed as a "sissy" by his male playmates if he shows he is afraid or in pain. To compound matters, most of us had fathers who were emotionally distant, incapable of showing affection or tender feelings toward us. Our model of how to be masculine was to be like Dad: suppress softer feelings, deny emotional needs and be invulnerable.

What is the price that men pay for such conditioning? Not surprisingly, most of us lose touch with our deeper feelings and needs. Having learned to deny much of our inner life, we look for fulfillment outside ourselves. We put our energy into developing a career, making a living, engaging in sports or other leisure activities. We also seek to find the right woman to marry and have a family with. Hopefully, she will be able to provide for our sexual and emotional needs and otherwise make us happy.

Competition and homophobia
Boys are predisposed to competition and learn to be highly competitive with each other. Losing in a sporting activity or game can easily result in being ridiculed or shamed. While competition may have the positive effect of bringing out the best in us, it also leads to hiding our vulnerability, thereby creating mistrust and emotional distance. A common myth is that men bond with their drinking buddies or with male friends while they engage in sporting activities. However, most of these relationships do not result in deep emotional attachment, and can be almost superficial or businesslike in nature.

Not only does our competitiveness prevent us from being close, but there is the additional factor of homophobia. Men generally are afraid that being physically close or emotionally vulnerable with another man will be construed as a message that they are gay. We do all we can to convince our male friends that we are strong and in control. There is shame in revealing vulnerability or in asking for emotional help from another man. In addition, there is the added fear that expressing deeper feelings and needs to another man will be interpreted as homosexual. Thus, to maintain our manhood, we withdraw emotionally, deny our emotional needs, and attempt to appear to be invincible.

Given our past conditioning, how do we men get our emotional needs met? Since we have not learned to satisfy such needs in relationships with other men, we turn to relationships with women. It is not unusual for men to rely exclusively on a primary relationship with a woman for this need, thereby placing an added strain on the couple’s relationship. Furthermore, men have a tendency to place a greater value on the sexual aspect of the relationship without realizing how important the emotional connection is to the woman in this dynamic. These differences in emotional styles and communication skills quite naturally result in conflict. In our relationships with other men, we tend to equate being close emotionally or physically with being sexual. Thus, men tend to sexualize their emotional con! nection with both men and women.

Crisis is opportunity for change
What finally causes a man to decide to enter into therapy or join a men’s group? In my experience it takes a crisis of some kind, usually a failed relationship or a series of failed relationships, career burnout, or some other traumatic event which leads to depression, anxiety, isolation or loneliness. For many men this happens in mid-life, when a man approaches the age of forty. It is a time when a man looks at his life and asks, " Is this all there is?" Until then, he has been able to hang on to the hope that he will find his dream somewhere out there in this big, wide, wonderful world. At mid-life, something mysterious causes him to look back and realize that life is half over and "it" still hasn’t happened. His dream has not yet been realized. Having spent half his life! trying to find fulfillment outside himself, he awakens to discover that it has not worked. For the first time in his life, a man may turn inward for answers. He may begin to realize that his unhappiness is not caused by his failure to find the right woman or the right career, but by who he is and the way he is living his life. Rather than blame others, he may ask, "How have I caused this to happen? Perhaps I need to change and develop greater self-awareness before I can have a healthy relationship or a satisfying career."

This is a very difficult and courageous step for a man to take. Having successfully mastered his life on the outside, he is now forced to acknowledge that he needs help to explore difficulties encountered in his inner life. As difficult as his crisis may be, it also presents an enormous opportunity for him to go to a therapist. A good therapist can provide guidance, support and a safe and trusting relationship to help a man heal from his past wounds. The therapeutic process provides a safe environment where a man can explore and open to deeper hidden aspects of himself. In discovering the full range of his emotional and spiritual nature, he is able to learn to express his own authentic masculinity.

Ultimately, a man is unable to save others if he cannot first save himself. In order to be fully human, a man must realize his deeper needs and limitations. He can learn to acknowledge his weaknesses as well as his strengths. As men we have tremendous emotional capacity, which is largely sacrificed in our quest to live up to the hero image. In truth, the strong, lonesome hero who denies his own inner needs is not fully authentic. Authentic masculinity is not only being strong and brave, it includes being warm, caring and loving. Men are more real when they are able to give as well as receive, to feel pain and experience fear, as well as act with courage and strength.

Joining a men’s group
While individual therapy is important, it alone may not be sufficient to help a man realize his true nature. Interpersonal interaction with other men is also a vital step in this process. In the company of like-minded men, perhaps in a men’s group, men are provided with a unique opportunity to break their isolation from other men. They are able to confront their fears, open their hearts, and express deeper feelings in the presence of other caring men. In the intimacy created by allowing ourselves to connect and be vulnerable in this way, we learn to nurture each other and experience all of our authentic masculinity. At last, a man has opened the doorway to his soul. He has come home to a safe place where he can discover his true nature. He is relieved that he need not expend so much energ! y hiding his disowned parts trying to look good on the outside, while feeling empty and alone inside. He finds that there is strength in his vulnerability. In learning to be fully real and authentic, he discovers his wholeness. Finally, he is liberated from old male stereotypes. He is free to be himself.

Jerry Magaro, J.D., M.A., is a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor in private practice in San Francisco and Marin County. After nearly 20 years as a practicing attorney, Jerry underwent a life transition to become a therapist. He focuses primarily on men’s issues, and has been leading men’s groups and workshops for over eight years. He also works with individuals and couples, and leads relationship groups for men and women.

This article is also from a couple of years ago at Psychology Today, but it's still useful. Men still avoid therapy until someone convinces them to go - and once there, may have a hard time talking about their feelings.

Therapy: Man's Last Stand

Never quick to ask others for help, men often don't seek out much-needed therapy.

By Carl Sherman, published on July 01, 2004

The woods are burning. The roof is falling in. The guy can't sleep, can't think and now he's having panic attacks.

Maybe it's time to consider therapy.

Then again, maybe not. The men of Metallica, it seems, broke new ground. "The average man is as likely to ask for help with a psychological problem as he is to ask for directions," says Terrence Real, executive director of the Relational Recovery Institute in Watertown, Massachusetts, and author of How Can I Get Through to You? Reconnecting Men and Women. The reluctance is always the same: Therapy is not "manly."

"We teach men to be almost the opposite of what's required for therapy," says Gary Brooks, professor of psychology at Baylor University in Texas and author of A New Psychotherapy for Traditional Men. "By the time they're in elementary school, boys have gotten the message that showing sadness or fear is a sign of weakness," says Ronald F. Levant, dean of the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Decades after the much trumpeted rise of the "sensitive" guy, most men continue to keep their feelings hidden—even from themselves. For many men, negative emotions arouse such shame and discomfort that they cease to experience them altogether. "The four words men most dread hearing from women are 'We have to talk,' as that invariably means talking about emotions," says Levant.

Yet somehow men do find themselves in therapy in increasing numbers. Twenty-two percent of men sought mental health treatment from 2002 to 2004, according to Therapy in America, a poll sponsored by Psychology Today and PacifiCare Behavioral Health, Inc. The survey found that men constitute 37 percent of the total number of patients in treatment. "More people are going into treatment overall, but the proportion of men to women has not changed," says Jerome Vaccaro, president and CEO of PacifiCare.

Granted, both men and women often opt for medication over talk therapy, but seek therapy men do. What makes them ink the appointment? More often than not, the impetus is a woman. A typical male patient has been sent—usually by his wife, girlfriend or children, sometimes by his employer. Behind the command performance is a threat: "You change, or it's all over."

"I call them 'wife-mandated referrals,'" says Real.

Although depression, anxiety and shame may lurk beneath the surface, what's on the table is usually relationship problems. To defend against unwelcome feelings, many men adopt an attitude of superiority, entitlement and contempt for others. "They're not in pain," says Real. "The people around them are in pain."

The men who enter therapy of their own volition have often hit rock bottom, says Levant. The despair they've denied or stifled with alcohol or overwork has spiraled until they can't fake it anymore. Often, it's the collapse of a marriage—unexpected, because months or years of warning signs have been ignored. "These men are in a daze," Levant says. "They don't know what hit them."

Then there's the matter of stigma. More than one in five men in the Therapy in America survey said they didn't trust therapists and wouldn't want to be associated with the type of person who receives therapy. Only one in 10 women held these views. But such stigma appears to be in decline, thanks in part to Dr. Phil and Tony Soprano, who have eclipsed the uptight, cerebral Frasier and Woody Allen as exemplars of male therapist and client, respectively.

More good news: Once men get down to business, opening up often brings a rapid sense of relief. "They've admitted something they were ashamed of, gotten it off their chest, and the world hasn't collapsed," says Levant. Indeed, the survey found that men and women were equally satisfied with their treatment experience.

For men, the biggest hurdle, whether you're a world-class rocker or a certified public accountant, is getting in the door.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

These are five minute previews of each section of the film - you can watch the whole thing for free at the Veoh site by downloading their media plate

Part one:

Watch Metallica-Some Kind Of A Monster-Parte 1 in Music | View More Free Videos Online at

Part two:

Watch Metallica-Some Kind Of A Monster-Parte 2 in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at

Part three:

Watch Metallica-Some Kind Of A Monster-Parte 3 in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thoughts Toward a Developmental Model of Masculine Identity, Part Eight: The Multiplicity Model of Masculine Identity

This is the latest installment in my ongoing effort to create a comprehensive model of masculine identity development.

[Part one looked at some racial identity models as a foundation for how to construct a gender identity model, part two looked at the existing literature of male development (and the lack of anything comprehensive), and part three looked at how attachment styles might impact masculine identity. Most recently, part four looked at horizontal and vertical dimensions of individualism and collectivism. Part five looked at development and nature. Part Six looks at modern, postmodern, and integral versions of masculinity. Part Seven looked at why it is so challenging to transcend the existing traditionalist masculine stereotype.]

In part two of this series, I offered two existing models of masculine develop, one specific to men and one more general in nature. What follows is that part of the previous post, for use as reference in terms of what I want to present here.
David A. Scott and Tracy L. Robinson offer a more complex model - The Key Model - based on racial identity models: "White Male Identity Development: The Key Model" (2001).
Type I : Noncontact - Status quo; denies racism; seeks power and privilege
Type II: Claustrophobic - Other races are “closing in” on him; disillusionment with the American dream; feels power and privilege are going to other races
Type III: Conscious Identity - Dissonance between existing belief system and reality
Type IV: Empirical - Questioning their role in racism and oppression and their struggle for unrealistic power from oppression
Type V: Optimal - Person understands how his struggle for power and privilege has caused racism and oppression Component Description (Scott & Robinson, 2001, p. 418)
There is much to like in this model - but it is limited to white men, and as such, it focuses on race as an element of identity that a more comprehensive model of masculinity would not. On the other hand, it follows in the tradition of the various racial development models, and it does so from the position of the dominant population (in terms of power and status), white males.

A more general model (Social Identity Development Theory, 1992) proposed by Rita Hardiman and Bailey W. Jackson, is based on the race models I mentioned in part one. What follows is my summary of their model.

It's important to note that agents are generally white, male, Christian, heterosexual, abled, middle class, middle age; while targets are non-white, female, atheist or non-Christian, GLBT, disabled, poor and working class, and/or young or aged.
1. Naive/No social consciousness: Both agents and targets are essentially unconscious of their social role or status. They are egocentric, oblivious to others' needs or concerns. In the transition from naive to Acceptance, they become aware of differences between themselves and others. They discover that they are an agent or a target. Belief systems about one's in-group and various out-groups begin to develop.

2. Acceptance (passive and active): Internalization, either consciously or unconsciously, of the dominant culture's logic and values systems. Acceptance of cultural messages about agents and targets. Agents in passive acceptance have successfully internalized beliefs and behaviors and no longer require reinforcement. Agents in active acceptance still require direct instruction on why out-groups (targets) are inferior. Agents in the acceptance stage generally are not aware of their status as agents, and tend to believe, "This is just how things are done." Targets in passive acceptance are not aware that they have internalized the beliefs of the dominant culture about their supposed inferiority. There may be self-hate, and there may also be cognitive dissonance as their unconscious beliefs bump up against more positive messages from within their own in-group. Targets in active acceptance are more overt in their acceptance of derogatory images of their group. As an example, many black people oppose affirmative action or social programs because they believe people of color are unsuccessful due to their own laziness and pathology. Those leaving this stage have been exposed to the harm and damage these beliefs can produce for the target groups.

3. Resistance (passive and active): At this stage there is increased awareness of oppression and the harm it causes to both agents and targets. Agents in this stage begin to see their own group as oppressive and their worldview begins to shift. They will often begin to examine their own role in perpetuating the oppression. There is may be anger at this stage, and some will see themselves as an outsider in relation to their own previous in-group(s). Targets have begun to question the previously accepted truths about their group, and they begin to identify the oppressive premises that are part of the social fabric. As a result of anger, pain, hurt, and rage, they may develop an identity based on opposition to the agent group. In doing so, targets begin to regain some lost power. Both agents and targets can express these roles as active (requiring direction and education) or passive (internalized and unconscious).

4. Redefinition: The goal of this stage is to create an identity that is free from the hierarchical inferiority and superiority dynamic. Agents/men who create groups to examine their socialization and critically explore the definitions of masculinity they had previously accepted, seeking a more affirming model that is not based in oppression, are representative of this stage. Agents in this stage begin to develop pride in their identity and an acceptance of all groups as intrinsically valuable. Embracing diversity and relativism are essential. Targets focus more on their group and in defining it without the input of the agent group. Targets at this stage may prefer to avoid the agent group and spend time with their own in-group, mostly as a way to affirm their identity in positive ways. Support groups are one important tool, as is renaming to reframe the group identity. One example of renaming/reframing is to redefine being "disabled" as being "differently abled."

5. Internalization: At this point the task is to incorporate the progress made in the Redefinition stage into every facet of their lives. This is a context dependent stage (or fluid) in some ways, in that targets in particular may revisit earlier stages (especially redefinition) in some situations that are new or unfamiliar. Agents at this stage are aware of the past problems and want to create a better future, while simultaneously trying to integrate this new awareness into other areas of their lives. The new beliefs and behaviors are expressed spontaneously. Targets at this stage engage in a process of renegotiating social roles and contracts with others, asserting their new-found pride and identity outside of the safety of the in-group. Previously identified targets may now express sympathy with and for other targeted groups and work to help them begin their own process of identity formation. However, targets who are members or more than one group (ex: a Muslim, black lesbian) will still have work to do in other areas most times. (adapted from Hardiman & Jackson, 1997, p. 23-29)
This model comes closest to what I want to propose. In fact, Dr. Raúl Quiñones-Rosado has already used this model to deconstruct Warren Farrell's version of masculinity (as presented in a talk with Ken Wilber and, separately, with Corey W. deVos at Integral Life) in his recent article, A Developmental View of “Men’s Liberation” (February 27, 2010).

Quiñones-Rosado addresses Farrell's main agenda, which is to show how men have been victimized both by the messages about masculinity with which they have been raised and by the feminist movement and it's efforts in the Resistance and Redefinition stages from above. He rightly suggests that Farrell is mining the Resistance stage for men - although Farrell also seems to be arguing for men to enter the Redefinition stage (although with a very resistant tone).
I am grateful to these authors for their pioneering work in this realm (and also to Michael J. Diamond for his work on masculinity from a psychoanalytic perspective).

What I am about to present is a model I "created" this morning on a piece of scratch paper during a break at work, but the ideas have been percolating for several months now. I doubt that this will be the final version, so please consider this an in-process working model.

Let's begin with a few definitions for those who are not versed in the terminology of gender studies.
Sex: This is the basic biological sexual identity at birth, male, female, or intersex (many possible variations).

Gender: Often used interchangeably with "sex," this term is more often associated with social constructions of sexual identity. Often generalized into "gender roles," though gender studies tends to make the distinction.

Gender Role: These roles are socio-cultural constructs referring to a set of psycho-social and behavioral norms considered appropriate for a given gender. My contention is that an individual often assumes a variety of gender roles that are situationally determined - a form of multiplicity.

Gender Identity: A person's relative sense of his or her own masculine or feminine identity, was first used in 1965 by John Money (Money, 1965). Also, "a person's Gender identity is the combination of one's outer sex, as represented by one's genitalia, and one's inner sex, i.e. the inner sense of being a male or a female" (Wikipedia). This is psycho-social experience that may have little to do with one's biological sex.

Core Gender Identity: Robert Stoller (1968), a psychoanalytic theorist, wanted to distinguish differences between the psychological and biological dimensions of sex. He generated three qualities of one's core gender identity: "1) Biological and hormonal influences; 2) Sex assignment at birth; 3) Environmental and psychological influences with effects similar to imprinting" (Gelber, 2010). Essentially, the innermost experience of oneself as a male (or female), and this can be at odds with both biological sex, and outer sexual identity.
Clearly, this can be a confusing field for new-comers, and even among those who inhabit this field, there can be significant disagreement about definitions.

So, with that foundation, here is my preliminary stage model of masculine development.

I want to be clear here, many men never consciously look at their gender identity in any serious way. They are biological men, and that is enough. Furthermore, some men will move a step or two, or more, along the development ladder, but can stop at any point, regress a stage or two, or progress a stage or two at any time. The cultural and psychological conditions of a man's life will dictate if or when this happens.

For example, the rise of feminism and gay studies propelled the first exploration of masculinity studies. Now, thirty or forty years later, the same process is happening in a different way - women, the GLBT community, and cultural "others" are all working on understanding their identities separate from "hegemonic" masculinity - defining themselves rather than being defined by white, male, middle class, middle aged holders of power.

Finally, how these stages manifest will be different in an individualist society vs a communal society (see part four). The (a) stages are temporary or permanent "dead ends," the system is closed at that point and unless new information or experience creates dissonance, the stage is stable. The (b) stages are open systems, willing to accept new experience and/or information, still evolving as human beings.

No stage is static, of course, and men may regress or progress as situations change, although this is much less true of the (a) stages.

Stage 1: Pre-conscious or Non-differentiated. At this point there is no real awareness of one's gender roles or identity as an object of consciousness. It's fair to say one is embedded in their biological sex identity.

Stage 2: Sex Identity Awareness. "I am male, therefore I am a man." There is no consciousness of gender roles separate from sexual identity. Identity is boy vs. girl, man vs. woman, male vs. female. Because masculine identity is binary at this stage ("normal"), bisexuality, homosexuality, or transgendered are often seen as other, as "abnormal." While these people are "seen," in a very limited way, their enactment of masculinity is not seen as part of a set of options. Feminism - radical or otherwise - is "evil" to men at this stage because it undermines "traditional family values."

Stage 3: Primary Exposure. For the first time there is a conscious recognition that some men enact their masculinity in ways different than I do. Exposure comes from family members, community, culture, and media, to name a few sources. While the person may not embrace these roles, they are seen for the first time as different ways that men are in the world, and that the variations among male expression of "transgressive" masculinity does not make them un-male.

Stage 4a: Entrenchment. Primary exposure may challenge the person enough that he becomes entrenched in his biological sex role. This person is essentially a "closed system," and he is not open to accepting alternative ways of being masculine.

OR . . . following secondary exposure . . .

Stage 4b: Differentiation. On the other hand, this person is an open system, willing to allow that there is more than one way to be masculine. The person begins to think about what it is that constitutes masculinity or being a man, not from a simple biological level, but in terms of values and behaviors. A person at this stage may also come out as gay or bisexual.

Stage 5a: Conscious Traditional Masculinity. A man at this point accepts the dominant hegemonic masculine model as his gender identity. However, he accepts that others do it differently than he does - different but equal. Some men at this stage will see feminism as either harmful to women or destructive to men. Different cultures will embrace their own unique definition of what traditional masculinity looks like to them.

OR . . . following further exposure . . .

Stage 5b: Gender Styles: "I am a man, but I can be masculine, feminine, androgynous, or something else." Men at this stage can try out different styles until they find the one that fits for them. They may begin to read about masculinities, accepting that there are many ways to enact masculinity. Men at this stage may see feminist studies and/or queer studies as tools toward exploring their own identity.

Stage 6a: Adopted Gender Role: "I am . . . androgynous, a manly man, a metrosexual, a gay man, a feminine man, and on and on." There are many options, but the individual finds one role that feels comfortable internally and in social enactment. Any cognitive dissonance that existed previously has been resolved. There tends to be no further development at this stage, barring a change in life conditions.

OR . . . following further exposure to other perspectives . . .

Stage 6b: Pluralism. Recognition and acceptance of masculinities, that there are many ways to be masculine and that I can embody more than one style of masculinity. There may in fact be an understanding that each person contains various subpersonalities, each of which will enact a unique form of masculinity, or even be feminine or female. It is accepted that this is true in other men, and possibly even women.

Stage 7: Fluidity. "I have different parts/selves/roles and each one may manifest sex/gender role/gender identity in different ways at different times and in different situations.A person at this stage accepts his multiplicity and does not cling to any one manner of being in the world.

That is the model for now. I am very open to comments and criticisms - so drop me a note if you have any thoughts.


Diamond, M. J. (2006)Masculinity unraveled: the roots of male gender identity and the shifting of male ego ideals throughout life J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2006 Fall;54(4):1131-8.

Farrell, W. & Wilber, K. (2010). The Need for Men's Liberation. Integral Life. Retrieved from

Gelber , C. (2010). Gender Identity. International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis.

Hardiman, R. & Jackson, B. W. (1997) Conceptual Foundations for Social Justice Courses. In L. A. Bell and P. Griffin, eds. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. (1st ed.) New York: Routledge.

Money, John (Ed.). (1965). Sex research: New developments. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Quiñones-Rosado, R. (2010). A Developmental View of “Men’s Liberation”. Consciousness in Action Blog. Retrieved from

Scott, D. A. & Robinson, T. L. (2001) White Male Identity Development: The Key Model. Journal of Counseling & Development. Fall; 79:4.

Stoller, Robert. (1968). Sex and gender: On the development of masculinity and femininity. New York: Science House.