Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chris Blazina Speaks with David Shen-Miller about Their Book - An International Psychology of Men

The Secret Lives of Men wraps up the August focus on men around (featuring authors from the book) the world with a discussion of the book that prompted the month's episodes, An International Psychology of Men: Theoretical Advances, Case Studies, and Clinical Innovations, which just arrived here yesterday - I look forward to reading it.
Secret Lives of Men: DAVID SHEN-MILLER

August programs are dedicated to the exploration of men and masculinity on the worldwide level; this approach is in conjunction with the release of the new book, An International Psychology of Men: Theoretical Advances, Case Studies, and Clinical Innovations (The Routledge Series on Counseling and Psychotherapy with Boys and Men). This month’s guests, each a contributor to the book, discusses their research and clinical work with men. Today’s guest is DAVID SHEN-MILLER. Our topic is the international psychology of men.

Listen to internet radio with Secret Lives of Men on Blog Talk Radio

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

Katherine Bouton (for the New York Times) reviews Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, by cognitive neuroscientist, Cordelia Fine, PhD. Apparently, she takes no prisoners in her rejection of more popular explanations of gender differences. This looks like a must-read for anyone interested in this material.

Fine rejects what she calls "neurosexism" - the belief that differences are all in the brain: “Nonexistent sex differences in language lateralization, mediated by nonexistent sex differences in corpus callosum structure, are widely believed to explain nonexistent sex differences in language skills.” Well, then, that changes things a bit if she is correct. Her position is that much more gender difference is attributable to socialization than to biological brain differences - it's more in the mind than in the brain.

Peeling Away Theories on Gender and the Brain

Delusions of Gender” takes on that tricky question, Why exactly are men from Mars and women from Venus?, and eviscerates both the neuroscientists who claim to have found the answers and the popularizers who take their findings and run with them.

The author, Cordelia Fine, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from University College London, is an acerbic critic, mincing no words when it comes to those she disagrees with. But her sharp tongue is tempered with humor and linguistic playfulness, as the title itself suggests. Academics like Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr. Louann Brizendine will want to come to this volume well armed. So would Norman Geschwind if he were still alive. Popular authors like John Gray (“Men are from Mars”), Michael Gurian (“What Could He Be Thinking?”) and Dr. Leonard Sax (“Why Gender Matters”) may want to read something else.

Sometimes all it takes is their own words, as in this example from Dr. Brizendine’s 2007 book “The Female Brain”: “Maneuvering like an F-15, Sarah’s female brain is a high-performance emotion machine — geared to tracking, moment by moment, the nonverbal signals of the innermost feelings of others.” Is Sarah some kind of psychic? Dr. Fine clarifies: “She is simply a woman who enjoys the extraordinary gift of mind reading that, apparently, is bestowed on all owners of a female brain.”

Experts used to attribute gender inequality to the “delicacy of the brain fibers” in women ; then to the smaller dimensions of the female brain (the “missing five ounces,” the Victorians called it); then to the ratio of skull length to skull breadth. In 1915 the neurologist Dr. Charles L. Dana wrote in this newspaper that because a woman’s upper spinal cord is smaller than a man’s it affects women’s “efficiency” in the evaluation of “political initiative or of judicial authority in a community’s organization” — and thus compromises their ability to vote.

These days gender inequality is commonly explained by neurological differences, most popularly the notion that the surge of testosterone that occurs in the eighth week of fetal development affects the relative size of the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and of the corpus callosum, the bundle of neurons that connects the two. In the 1980s Norman Geschwind proposed that the surge results in a smaller left hemisphere for males, leaving them with greater potential for right-hemisphere development, which, as he put it, results in “superior right-hemisphere talents, such as artistic, musical, or mathematical talent.” In female brains the hemispheres are more collaborative, explaining women’s superior verbalizing skills.

There are two problems here, Dr. Fine says. First is that several studies have found no difference in hemispheric size in neonates. The supposedly larger female corpus callosum is also in dispute. But even if size difference does exist (as it does in rats), she says, “getting from brain to behavior has proved a challenge.” Given that there may be sex differences in the brain, “what do they actually mean for differences in the mind?”

Dr. Baron-Cohen builds on this theory, suggesting that low levels of testosterone result in a female, “E type” brain (for empathy); medium levels yield a balanced brain; and high levels a male, “S type” brain (for systemizing). Medium levels account for the fact that some girls are systemizers and some boys are empathizers.

Dr. Baron-Cohen’s lab conducted research on infants who averaged a day and a half old, before any unconscious parental gender priming. Jennifer Connellan, one of Dr. Baron-Cohen’s graduate students, who conducted the study, showed mobiles and then her own face to the infants. The results showed that among the newborns the boys tended to look longer at mobiles, the girls at faces.

Dr. Fine dismantles the study, citing, among other design flaws, the fact that Ms. Connellan knew the sex of some of the babies. Because it was her face they were looking at and she was holding up the mobile, Dr. Fine says, she may have “inadvertently moved the mobile more when she held it up for boys, or looked more directly, or with wider eyes, for the girls.”

The study could be redone to eliminate these flaws, of course. And the results might be the same. But, Dr. Fine asks, “Why think that what a newborn prefers to look at provides any kind of window, however grimy, into their future abilities and interests?”

Summarizing the research, she writes, “Nonexistent sex differences in language lateralization, mediated by nonexistent sex differences in corpus callosum structure, are widely believed to explain nonexistent sex differences in language skills.”

What all this adds up to, she says, is neurosexism. It’s all in the brain.

But Dr. Fine persuasively argues that it is, in fact, all in the mind. Jan Morris, the historian, travel writer and male-to-female transsexual, saw this implicit stereotyping firsthand: “The more I was treated as a woman, the more woman I became. ”

Dr. Fine’s research is well documented, with 82 pages of footnotes. Surely Dr. Baron-Cohen can marshal a spirited defense of his position, as well might Ms. Connellan. I’d like to hear their response. The closest we get is Dr. Fine’s quotation of Dr. Baron-Cohen cautioning that we should be “careful not to overstate what can be concluded” from these studies.

It’s too late to tell that to Dr. Sax, a proponent of single-sex education, who cited the Connellan study as evidence that “girls are born prewired to be interested in faces while boys are prewired to be more interested in moving objects.”

But it’s not too late to read this book and see how complex and fascinating the whole issue is. It’s really not just a few steps from looking longer at moving objects to aptitude in math, from gazing at faces to mind reading.

Monday, August 30, 2010

MensNewsDaily Set to Cease Publication

The online men's magazine, Men's News Daily, is ceasing publication after nearly nine years of daily posts. I'm not a huge fan of the site - much of the material is anti-feminist and politically conservative - but there are not many online places for men, so it's sad to see them go.

Here is the beginning of founder and editor Mike LaSalle's statement:

MND to Retire

Saturday, August 28, 2010
By Mike LaSalle

Simulacra or Simulation?

Since its inception, MensNewsDaily.com has offered global views for a general audience.

In almost 9 years of continuous operation, MND has operated as a realty-check on the Culture of Misandry, but it has never been a “men’s club” — which is whaMND, t (not surprisingly) many men still want and need.

Some years ago, Angry Harry wrote about this in his article, “Gaea and the Men’s Movement”.

The idea goes like this: the Internet now makes it possible to capture and channel all of those millions of men across continents who become interested in the Men’s Movement as a direct result of their personal encounters with some form of Governance Feminism.

Over time, groups of these men would coalesce around one website or forum, which would then become a vital concern. Tensions would eventually split that group like a dividing cell, thereby producing two or more separate and independent groups. These would subdivide again and again, until MRA groups of all kinds were represented everywhere.

So it is that the Internet has been the driving force bringing men together in online groups and to learn about the problem of Governance Feminism.

MND started 9 years ago under the sheer impetus of all of those disenfranchised men who had no where else to go on the Internet. MND was the only game in town for many years.

For almost a decade, this website has conveyed ideas and information that is specifically critical of the Culture of Misandry and other postmodernist assumptions du jour. In 9 years of operation, I would estimate conservatively that 20 million people have visited MensNewsDaily.com at one time or another.

MND has always covered all topics, for all people. This has been intentional: uncommon ideas can be introduced to the general population through general interest media.

Read the whole post.

Delia Lloyd - 5 Signs You Think Like a Man


Really? According to her list of five traits, I am not at all male in my thinking. So I took the quiz she links to at the BBC, and it seems I do think more like a female brain, whatever that means. Yet, if you asked Jami, she would tell you that my brain is distinctly male, while I feel I am pretty balanced.

Anyway, I tend to agree more with the Guardian article Lloyd cites - that much more of the differences in male and female brains is socialization, not biology (while acknowledging that biology does play a role).

5 Signs You Think Like a Man

Delia Lloyd

Posted: August 30, 2010

A few weeks ago, I posted a link on my blog to a quiz on the BBC website called Sex ID that purported to let you know whether you think like a man or a woman. (Warning to those who have yet to take it: the quiz lasts about 20 minutes.)

If you managed to make it through this quiz, you'll know that a lot of the tasks that they have you do boil down to whether you're good at reading maps and judging the angle of parallel lines (more typically male traits) vs. whether you can read people's expressions and identify with them (more typically female traits.)

I've since been informed via The Guardian that a new study is out showing that behavioral differences between the sexes are not, in fact the result of fundamentally different wiring in the brain, but rather the result of societal expectations.

Be that as it may (and I'm sure that this is one of those debates that will rage into eternity and beyond), I've been giving the whole male vs. female thing some more thought since taking that quiz, where I scored (huge sigh of relief?) as a prototypical-thinking woman. Here are some further indicators I've come up with that shed light on whether or not you think like a man:

1. You like reading instruction manuals. While I'm quite sympathetic to Gretchen Rubin's admonition over on The Happiness Project to read the instruction manual, there's a distinction between doing something because you *ought* to do it and doing something because you enjoy it. I hereby submit that I absolutely hate reading instruction manuals and -- as a result -- have spent many a frustrated moment by either failing to consult them ex ante or failing to save them somewhere useful ex post. My husband, in contrast, has an entire file full of instruction manuals for virtually every single appliance in our house. Not only does he consult them regularly, he actually seems to enjoys it! And instruction manuals in video form are even better, as with this video on how to take apart and reassemble my new Brompton folding bicycle. Hey, it's your funeral, as they say...

b. You like to talk about gadgets. I've posted many times on this blog about my husband's penchant for gadgetry. I don't think that's an inherently male trait -- many of the things he's bought for us have been hugely useful and I like them as much as he does. But there's using them and then there's talking about using them. And I've noticed lately that guys like to spend an inordinate amount of time cataloging, describing and comparing gadgets in a way that women don't.

c. You read David Pogue's column in The New York Times religiously. Which brings us to a corollary of (b) -- David Pogue's technology column in The New York Times, Pogue's Posts. Don't get me wrong. If I'm in the market for a new cell phone or a digital camera, I turn to Pogue first. The guy is unbelievably knowledgeable about technology and a terrific writer to boot. But as generic reading material on the order of "Here's how I'm going to spend my breakfast?" Not so much. Whereas my husband is glued for hours.

d. You like playing strategy games. This may have actually been one of the questions on the BBC quiz; I can no longer remember. But since taking that quiz, my son and I happened to open up Othello, a game that one of his friends gave him for his birthday last year. It's one of those deceptively simple games that actually requires an enormous amount of strategy on the part of the players. If you're like me, you take the easy route on this game, maximize your winnings as you go, and ultimately lose. If you're like my son or my husband, you look like you're losing all the way along but at the very last minute you win because you've been thinking like six moves ahead the whole time. (Ditto Settlers of Catan, the greatest game of all time.)

e. You (still) like assembling Legos. Someone recently gave my husband one of those adult Lego kits. It was a model of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Falling Water home, a painting of which is hung in our living room. I think Legos are really cool, especially this new architectural series. But, much like gadgetry, it's something I'd rather admire than actually build. So if this had been given to me as a present, it probably would have languished somewhere in a closet, taking up space on my never-ending "should" list. Whereas my husband spent weeks with the kids building this house, which now adorns the mantle in our living room right in front of our picture. (He's in good company, btw. Apparently, to kill time during a recent trip abroad, English football legend David Beckham confessed that he spent a night in a hotel constructing The Taj Majal.)

As I read this over, I realize that it may provide more of an insight into my marriage than it does into generic male/female brain differences. Then again, I do think that having a division of labor is key to a happy marriage, so maybe that's a good thing!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

BPA and Testosterone Levels: First Evidence for Small Changes in Men

I've been talking about this for years on this site and at Integral Options Cafe - xenoestrogens like BPA are harmful and DO cause disease. There has been evidence of this for decades, but it seems they just now have decided that they have "first evidence." Whatever - at least now scientists might take it more seriously.

BPA and Testosterone Levels: First Evidence for Small Changes in Men

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2010) — An international group of researchers led by the Peninsula Medical School and the University of Exeter have for the first time identified changes in sex hormones associated with exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) in men, in a large population study.

The study results are published in the latest issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Researchers analysed data from the InCHIANTI study, an Italian population sample. The team measured the amount of BPA excreted per day in urine samples. 715 adults aged between 20 and 74 years were studied. The study aimed to measure the daily BPA loads excreted by adults, and to examine statistical associations between the amount of BPA exposure and serum estrogen and testosterone concentrations.

The average BPA daily exposure level in this European study population (over 5 micrograms per day) was slightly higher than recent comparable estimates for the USA population. The study found that higher BPA exposure was statistically associated with endocrine changes in men, specifically small increases in levels of testosterone in the blood.

BPA has a similar molecular structure to estrogen and does cause some disruption of sex hormone signalling in laboratory animals, but this is the first large human study to suggest that it may have similar effects in adults at 'background' exposure levels.

Professor David Melzer, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Peninsula Medical School (Exeter, UK), commented: "This is the first big study of BPA from a European country and confirms that 'routine' exposures in the population are not negligible. It also shows that higher exposure to BPA is statistically associated with modest changes in levels of testosterone in men. This finding is consistent with the evidence from laboratory experiments. However, this is just the first step in proving that at 'ordinary' exposure levels, BPA might be active in the human body. This new evidence does justify proper human safety studies to clarify the effects of BPA in people."

BPA is a controversial chemical commonly used in food and drink containers. It has previously caused concerns over health risks to babies, as it is present in some baby's bottles. Several nations have moved to ban BPA from the manufacture of baby's bottles and other feeding equipment. The US Food and Drug administration has committed itself to reducing BPA residues in food. BPA has never undergone formal human safety studies: nearly all the safety experiments have been on laboratory mice or rats, and these may be misleading as BPA is metabolised differently in the human body.

The main source of BPA in people is thought to be from residues in food, leaching out of certain types of polycarbonate and resin packaging. The new study therefore used statistical models adjusted for factors including measures of obesity, to exclude misleading associations in people who consume more food.

BPA has also been associated with thyroid hormone disruption, altered pancreatic beta-cell function, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

BPA is used in polycarbonate plastic products such as refillable drinks containers, some plastic eating utensils and many other products in everyday use. It is one of the world's highest production volume chemicals, with over 2.2 million tonnes (6.4 billion pounds) produced annually. It is detectable in the bodies of more than 90% of the population.

Journal Reference:

Tamara Galloway, Riccardo Cipelli, Jack Guralnick, Luigi Ferrucci, Stefania Bandinelli, Anna Maria Corsi, Cathryn Money, Paul McCormack, David Melzer. Daily Bisphenol A Excretion and Associations with Sex Hormone Concentrations: Results from the InCHIANTI Adult Population Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1002367

Saturday, August 28, 2010

5 False Myths About Male Sexuality

A quick little post from a site called Island Crisis - from Mauritius (an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 560 miles east of Madagascar) - YES, I had to look that up.

Useful reminders than men are not simply brainless sex machines. Pay special attention to #4 - if your man fails in this one (not referring to the occasional times when this is the point), he's probably too self-absorbed to be a good partner in other areas of life.

5 False Myths About Male Sexuality

Myths about male sexuality and what men think sex is all about has amazed women and everyone since a long time. The myths affect even the most educated and well informed in one way or the other. Here we debunk five of the most commonly encountered myths regarding male sexuality.

male sexuality

1. Myth: Men are always ready for sex

Fact: This is a very individual reaction. Men who absolutely love sex, are also never in the mood all the time. They also have other things on their mind! Just the way sex is a satisfying activity for men, so are other things in life. Lack of interest is also seen in overworked men.

2. Myth: The “size” is all what matters

Fact: Most men refer to their p0rn collection for comparison regarding the penis size and when they see electronically enhanced examples, it leaves them feeling inadequate as they have been fed with another myth that the size is directly proportional to pleasure for the partner. The fact is that the sizes are varied and the size really has no bearing on the pleasure level.

3. Myth: Ejaculating always indicates orgasm

Fact: Ejaculation and orgasm are considered to be the same by most people. This is not true. Orgasm does not always accompany ejaculation. At times, there is orgasm without any ejaculation and is known as dry orgasm.

4. Myth: Men are not much interested in foreplay

Fact: Most women believe that men are only interested in fornicating as soon as possible and reaching orgasm. But most men have started looking beyond just ejaculating and achieving orgasm, and tend to relish foreplay which puts both partners at ease before the act. The foreplay takes off any performance pressure from their minds.

5. Myth: Sex ends with ejaculation

Fact: Almost everyone does have this myth that as soon as man ejaculates, the act is over. Far from the truth, the actual fact is that couples need not end it at just that. They can slow down for a while and then resume the speed all over again reaching orgasm over and over again.

Most of these false perceptions regarding male sexuality have been a resultant of ignorance regarding the subject of sex and lack of formal sex education even among the educated lot. Anything you want to add to this small list? Share with us below.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Invisible Presence, by Michael Gurian (My Review at Wildmind Buddhist Meditation)

 The Invisible Presence: How a Man's Relationship with His Mother Affects All His Relationships with Women

I recently reviewed the re-issue of Michael Gurian's Mothers, Sons, and Lovers for Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, under it's new name The Invisible Presence: How a Man's Relationship with His Mother Affects All His Relationships with Women.

Here's a taste:

Now boys live at home until college, and often they return when school is finished until they can find a job and their own apartment. Mothers make this separation process even more difficult in trying to maintain their early attachment to their child, which is the opposite of what a young man needs. An adolescent boy is beginning the individuation process, moving away from the mother and into the world of men, and going to college should finalize this separation. Yet this is not happening for a lot of young men.

So what happens to the son when the mother has been dismissing the role of the father, or dismissing the roles of men in general — or worse, disparaging the father with put-downs or insults? How is a boy to find his place in the male world when his mother has negated what he is destined to become, an adult man?

As Gurian demonstrates, that boy does not become an adult man — he remains stuck in an in-between place where he needs the approval of women and men to feel of value, in essence, because there has not been any internalized male ideal (since men are bad, abusive, or useless: “all men are pigs,” “men suck!” “all men want is sex,” or “men have ruined the world”). While this does not happen in the majority of young men’s lives, it does happen much more than we would like to believe.

Read the whole, lengthy review.

Atomic Dog: It's Okay to be a Man by TC Luoma

TC is the editor at T-Nation, a weight training and nutrition site aimed at hard-core guys. T-Nation stands for Testosterone Nation, so you get the idea. I've posted some Atomic Dog columns here in the past in which TC waxed poetic (or raunchy) on all things manly and masculine.

TC is a dude - he likes to lift weights, digs cool cars, likes to watch football (or better, play it), and he loves pretty women. But he is also intelligent, educated, and a little more emotionally aware than he might like to admit. So when he writes about masculinity issues, which he does frequently, beneath the raunchiness, mock sexism, crude jokes, and so on, he generally makes some good sense.

This new article is one of those times - I'm cutting to the chase, so go check out the whole column (link below) if you are not easily offended. I like this rant (he calls for substance over style), and for what it's worth, I am in total agreement on the issue of Crocs.

ATOMIC DOG: It's Okay to be a Man

If you spend any amount of time on YouTube, you're no doubt familiar with Isiah Mustafah, the Old Spice body wash spokesperson and alleged avatar of manhood.

Isiah and his "Smell like a man, man" campaign was introduced in February. It featured a shirtless Mustafah extolling ladies to, "Look at your man. Now back at me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn't me, but if he stopped using ladies' scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like me."

Smell like a man.

The commercial has drawn more than 13 million views, but never mind what that says about the way we choose to spend our time. The popularity of the campaign has spawned another commercial and 185 quickly produced video clips where Isiah responds to Twitter and Facebook questions.

The chutzpah behind this campaign is breathtaking. For those of you lacking in history of cologne studies, Old Spice cologne was your grandpa's cologne, the stuff they stocked between the condoms and hemorrhoid cream at the local drug store. Old Spice is what I used to put on my socks when I was in college to nullify odors and eke another day out of them (I saved the good stuff for my body).

But now Old Spice is taking a marketing ax to the popularity of Axe Body Wash (another olfactory offense). Yes, the Old Spice ads are partly targeted to women, who presumably pile their grocery carts up with shit they think their men should use, but it's also targeted to men.

The campaign "touches on a very subtle but powerful sentiment that is bubbling under the surface of American culture now, and that is that it's O.K. to be a man," said marketing author Rob Frankel.

"Axe turns women into scent-sniffing bimbos and nymphomaniacs and is more about, 'Use our product and it will enhance your sex appeal,' but Old Spice goes to your character, and they're really reaffirming masculinity."

Using Old Spice says it's "okay to be a man"? Using Old Spice "reaffirms masculinity"?

Oh Faddah, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Are You Fucking Stupid or Something?

Body wash sales have since skyrocketed, overcoming two main obstacles to its acceptance, 1) It leaves a film on you and you don't feel like it got you clean, and 2) You need a "pouf" (one of those webby things on a string that looks like a fishing net with a clenched asshole).

Wash Me

The problem was that guys felt wussy using something called a pouf, but Axe and Old Spice fixed that real quick. Old Spice slapped a rubber grip on it and renamed it a "Deck Scrubber," while Axe called its version the "Detailer."

Suddenly, it was okay to use poufs and it was okay to use body wash.

American men, I offer the slightly modified Gumpian interrogative:

Are you fucking stupid or something?

Is our sense of masculinity so muddled and befuddled that we need advertisers or Hollywood to tell us what it means to be a man? And make no mistake about it, they are the ones writing all the definitions of masculinity, the definitions that are transmitted through commercials, movies, and songs that trickle down into the primitive consciousness of the adolescent bloggers, the sneering frat boys chugging down beers, and the Cro-Magnons leaning against the lockers in your high school.

But what the advertisers are dictating is just style masquerading as masculinity.

Is wearing pink unmanly? Only because you've been told that it was since the day you were born. If you'd been raised thinking pink was manly, your underwear drawer would resemble the bargain panty bin at Victoria's Secret.

Is trimming your eyebrows unmanly? Evidence suggests that George Bush and Adam Corolla might think so, but if you want to look like you just learned to walk upright this past Thursday, be my guest and don't trim them.

It's just that you can't picture your movie-cowboy heroes doing that sort of thing, or for that matter any of the Hollywood action heroes, when in reality their careers depend on such things, lest a forest of nasal hair in 30-foot high cinematic glory scare the bejesus out of all the women and children in the audience.

Hell, to the majority of the population, bodybuilding is unmanly; all that attention to how the muscles look and how little body fat they have and all that shaving and oiling up and looking in the mirror.

How do you feel about that, bunky? You going to quit because a bunch of confused, brainwashed assholes think your passion is suspect?

How about being smart? Is that unmanly? Nerds are still being persecuted in high school because, unlike their brethren, they have interests outside cars, girls, and sports.

Is using moisturizer unmanly? Sure, better to have skin like a lava lizard of the Galapagos. How about being gay? I've seen bull queers who look like WWE wrestlers who could rip your head off. Are they unmanly?

Is wearing Crocs unmanly? Hell yes. A guy's got to draw the line somewhere.

Anyhow, we could go on all day, but all those examples are questions of style and not substance.

The substance of masculinity has do with things that appeal to a masculine nature, things that tug hormonally at your soul, and those are things that represent power, strength, courage, confidence, conviction, and integrity of soul and purpose. It's part of the masculine nature to abhor security and seek risk. It's part of the masculine nature to be authoritative; to take charge in a bad situation.

This is why you might like the idea of war, or at the very least, Mixed Martial arts. This is why you might find a muscle car appealing, or music with a driving beat. This is why you might like sports. That is why you might like lifting heavy things and the visual appeal of muscle.

These are things that are intrinsic to the nature of man (and many women). All the rest is fashion, and fashion is determined by businessmen who want to play, play, play you.

If you think using a pouf is unmanly, so is using a "deck scrubber." A man with confidence and integrity would look at the item, assess its functionality, and use it or discard it based on his reasoning.

If you want to use a body wash and smell like a high school kid who broke into grandpa's medicine cabinet, use body wash. No problem. If you want to use a pouf, use one. Shit, I've been using poufs with bar soap as long as I can remember and amazingly, I still can get my newly exfoliated penis up to service them-there women-folk.

Strong Silent Types: Seeing the Masculinity in Depressed Men


The blogger behind Strong Silent Types - Stuff About Men, ultimo167, is a therapist who works with men, which provides him with a useful perspective to review research on men and mental health, such as this post that looks at Men and Depression: Current Perspectives for Health Care Professionals.

Like most issues, depression in men is much more complicated than the simple "suck it up" assumption that most use to reason out why men do not seek help.

Fields, A., & Cochran, S. (2010). Men and Depression: Current Perspectives for Health Care Professionals American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine DOI: 10.1177/1559827610378347

There is a theory out there that depression in men is much more common than we can currently ascertain and that the personal, interpersonal, social and economic costs of this hidden epidemic are astronomical (Fields & Cochran, 2010, n.pag.). The massive gap between theory and fact is indeed largely occupied by the presumed reluctance of most men to seek help for any health-related problem, physical but more especially emotional, since to so cede to another person’s wisdom is an affront to masculine ideals. Further, fessing up to feeling a bit fagged out is what women and pewfs do, and so should be avoided at all costs. The script goes that ‘real men’ silently tough out their troubles with gall, gusto and a pint or two of Guinness, for good measure (2010).

Yes, we all know that ‘[m]en are expected to be stoic, independent, and capable of handling their own problems’ (2010). We also know that men are supposed to suck up any emotions that might make them appear ‘unmanly’ (2010), seemingly vulnerable emotions that include the textbook symptoms of depression: sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Moreover, at an even more fundamental level, too many men are incapable of finding comfort in the arms of someone who can love and care for them when they most desperately need it. How many men I have counselled whose depression remained a closely guarded secret from the one person who might best respond to their suffering. That is, their partner…

Fields and Cochran (2010) concede here that yet another reason why men might be so reluctant to fess up to feeling depressed is that the standard, pharmacological treatment is so often much worse than the disease. After all, so-called ‘second generation’ anti-depressants come with some pretty hardcore baggage (weight gain, hair loss, impotence, etc.) (2010). Telling a man who is already feeling like total shite that he might soon be bald, fat and no longer able to get a stiffy is, I would suggest, hardly conducive to treatment uptake, let alone compliance…

…expectations on men to perform sexually raise serious considerations for the use of many antidepressant medications…which have side effects impairing sexual functioning’ (2010).

Where the authors (2010) flourish is in challenging health service providers to question their own practice orthodoxy when working with men who might be depressed…

Read the whole post.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Men's Health - The Playground Workout

Nice series of exercises you can do on any playground. The only thing I might add is doing pull-ups on the monkey bars, or muscle ups (see below) on a higher bar.

Muscle ups:

Use a lower bar if needed and jump to get yourself started. These are hard, but a great upper body exercise.

David Loy - What Are You Really Afraid Of?


Some Buddhist wisdom, and a tough question, to kick off the weekend. Not existing in the first place is easy - hell, even death is easy. Being ALIVE is what is hard.

But he is talking about the doctrine of "no-self" - that's a little harder. How do we reconcile being in the world, taking roles, holding perspectives - and at the same time holding that we do not exist as a separate being?

From the Tricycle archives.

What Are You Really Afraid Of?

David R. Loy argues that our true fear is not of dying but of not existing in the first place.

By David R. Loy

Louis Faurer/VagaFor the most part, we experience ourselves as stable and persistent beings, apparently immortal; yet there is also a sneaking awareness of our impermanence, the fact that “I” am growing older and will die. The tension between these two conflicting perceptions is essentially the same one Shakyamuni Buddha himself felt when, as the myth has it, he ventured out of his father’s palace to encounter for the first time an ill man, an aged man, and finally, a corpse. While most traditional religions resolve this tension by claiming that the soul is immortal, Buddhism does the opposite. Not only does it accept our mortality in the usual sense, but it also emphasizes the doctrine of anatta, or “no-self.”

Anatta is central to Buddhism, and is closely connected to another fundamental Buddhist idea: dukkha. Dukkha is usually translated as “suffering,” and is understood more broadly as frustration or unhappiness. Although psychotherapy today has more specific insight into the dynamics of our mental dukkha (repression, transference, etc.), Buddhism points more directly to the root of the problem: it is not death that underlies our deepest fears and mental suffering, but the more immediate and terrifying suspicion that anatta gives rise to—that “I” am not real right now. This suspicion appears in us as a sense of lack and motivates our compulsive but usually futile attempts to ground ourselves with a fixed, unchanging identity. Traditionally, religious institutions reassured us that this sense of lack will be resolved, and local communities provided a social home and role that made us feel more comfortable with ourselves. Today, our more individualistic culture means it is my own responsibility to ground myself—hence the ferocious competition for fame, money, sex appeal, and other things that, it is believed, will make me “more real.”

How is it, then, that we make this mistake, and where does it lead us? Buddhism, it turns out, both describes the problem and offers a solution.

According to buddhist teachings, the sense-of-self breaks down into sets of impersonal mental and physical processes, whose interaction creates the illusion of self-consciousness—leading us to believe that consciousness is characteristic of a self.

But consciousness is like the surface of the sea, dependent on unfathomed depths that it cannot grasp because it is a manifestation of them. The problem arises when this conditioned consciousness wants to ground itself—to make itself real; it cannot succeed, however, any more than a hand can grasp itself, or an eye see itself. Its perpetually unsuccessful effort is shadowed by a sense of lack, which we experience as the feeling that “there is something wrong with me.” In its purer forms, lack appears as what might be called a generalized guilt or anxiety that gnaws on one’s very core. For that reason such guilt tends to become guilt for something, because at least then we know how to atone for it. And free-floating anxiety becomes a fear of something, because that way, we have something to defend ourselves against. Often, we look for objects—material wealth, status—in the outside world to protect ourselves against the invented causes of our distress.

But the problem is that no object can ever satisfy us if it is not really an object that we want. When we do not understand what is actually motivating us—according to Buddhism, our desire to become real, which is essentially a spiritual yearning—we end up compulsive, grasping repeatedly at what cannot fulfill us. According to Nietzsche, someone who follows the biblical admonition literally, and plucks out his own eye, does not kill his sensuality, for “it lives on in an uncanny vampire form and torments him in repulsive disguises.” Yet the opposite is also true: those of us who think we have escaped such a spiritual drive are deceiving ourselves, for the drive to escape our lack and become real still lives on in uncanny secular forms that obsess us as long as we do not know what motivates us. Even fear of death and desire for immortality symbolize something else: they become symptomatic of our vague intuition that the ego-self is not a hard core of consciousness but a mental construction, the axis of a protective web spun to hide the void. Thus, those whose constructions are badly damaged, the insane, are uncomfortable to be with because they remind us of that fact. We turn away from what is in front of us.

As Ernest Becker wrote, “The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation [lack]; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”

According to otto rank, contemporary man is neurotic because he suffers from a consciousness of sin just as much as premodern man did, but without believing in the religious conception of sin, which leaves us without a means to expiate our sense of guilt. Why do we need to feel guilty, and accept suffering, sickness, and death as condign punishment? What role does that guilt play in determining the meaning of our lives? As Norman O. Brown remarks in Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History, “The ultimate problem is not guilt but the incapacity to live. The illusion of guilt is necessary for an animal that cannot enjoy life, in order to organize a life of nonenjoyment.” Even a feeling of wrongdoing gives us some sense of control over our own destinies because an explanation has been provided for our sense of lack. We need to project our lack onto something because only in that way can we get a handle on it.

In contrast to the Abrahamic religions, Buddhism does not turn the sense of lack into an original sin. The Buddha declared that he was not interested in the metaphysical issue of origins, and emphasized that he had one thing only to teach: how to end dukkha. This suggests that Buddhism is best understood as a way to resolve our sense of lack. Since there was no primeval offense and no divine expulsion from the Garden, our situation turns out to be paradoxical: what ails us is the deeply repressed fear that our groundlessness, or no-thing-ness, is a problem. But when I stop trying to fill up that hole at my core by making myself real in some symbolic way, something happens to it—and therefore to me.

This is easy to misunderstand, for the letting go that is necessary is not something consciousness can simply do. The ego cannot absolve its own lack, because the ego is the flipside of that lack. When generalized guilt is experienced as the feeling that “something is wrong with me,” there seems to be no way to cope with it, and usually we become conscious of it as the neurotic guilt of “not being good enough” in this or that particular way. The Buddhist path challenges us to respond differently. The guilt expended in these situations is converted back into the simple feeling of guilt, and rather than find an object for it, we simply endure it, and do not invent stories about ourselves to protect ourselves from it. The method for doing this is simple awareness, which meditation cultivates.

Letting go of the mental devices that sustain my self-esteem, “I” become more vulnerable. In that state, there is nothing one can do with the guilt except be conscious of it and bear it and let it burn itself out, like a fire that exhausts its fuel, which in this case is the false sense of self. If we cultivate the ability to dwell in it, then ontological guilt, finding nothing else to be guilty for, consumes the sense of self and thereby itself, too. From this Buddhist perspective, our most problematic duality is not life against death but self versus nonself, or being versus nonbeing. As in psychotherapy, the Buddhist response to such dualisms involves recognizing the side that has been denied. If death is what the sense of self fears, the solution is for the sense of self to die. If it is no-thing-ness (the repressed intuition that the self is a fiction) that I am afraid of, the best way to resolve that fear is to become nothing. The thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Dogen sums up this process in a well-known passage from Genjo-koan:

To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

“Forgetting” ourselves is how we lose our sense of separation and realize that we are not other than the world.

This type of meditation is learning how to become nothing by learning to forget the sense of self, which happens when I become absorbed in my meditation exercise. If the sense of self is an effect of self-reflection—of consciousness attempting to grasp itself—such meditation practice makes sense as an exercise in de-reflection. Consciousness unlearns trying to grasp itself, real-ize itself, objectify itself. Liberating awareness occurs when the usual reflexivity of consciousness ceases, which is experienced as a letting go and falling into the void. The ninth-century Zen master Huang-po wrote, “Men are afraid to forget their minds, fearing to fall through the Void with nothing to stay their fall. They do not know that the Void is not really void, but the realm of the real dharma.” Then, when I no longer strive to make myself real through things, I find myself “actualized” by them, says Dogen.

This process implies that what we fear as nothingness is not really nothingness, for that is the perspective of a sense of self anxious about losing its grip on itself. According to Buddhism, letting go of myself into that no-thing-ness leads to something else: when consciousness stops trying to catch its own tail, I become no-thing, and discover that I am everything—or, more precisely, that I can be anything. With that conflation, the no-thing at my core is transformed from a sense-of-lack into a serenity that is imperturbable because there is nothing to be perturbed.

David R. Loy, a professor in the faculty of International Studies at Bunkyo University in Japan, is the author of the forthcoming book The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory (Wisdom Publications, July 2003). This essay is an adaptation of material that originally appeared in his book A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack.

Image: The Estate of Louis Faurer/Licensed by Vaga, New York, NY

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Barbara Walters developing manlier version of The View

WTF?! My Buddhist blogging compatriot Rev. Danny Fisher sent me this link on Facebook - probably thought I could use a laugh.

I quite like the snark of the reviewer, however, which comes courtesy of The Onion's A/V Club, so it makes sense. This being a product of The Onion and all, I checked the link and damn if it's not true - and reported by The New York Post.

Barbara Walters developing manlier version of The View

Barbara Walters, who recently sat with 'The View' ladies during an episode with President Obama, is trying to develop a similar show for men too.
Fenn/ABC -Barbara Walters, who recently sat with 'The View' ladies during an episode with President Obama, is trying to develop a similar show for men too.

by Sean O'Neal August 25, 2010

Because there is no better forum for breaking down current events than a roundtable full of people with opposing, equally shallow viewpoints, Barbara Walters is said to be working on another version of The View, this time a “unisex” version geared toward men. Currently her dream cast includes former Today Show host Bryant Gumbel, who will use his “Meredith Vieira vibe” to captain a troupe of manly men who will “inject a male perspective into the topics of the day,” and other vaguely phallic metaphors.

Also on that list: former BET news anchor Jacque Reid—who is not a man, but who will fill the all-important Sherri Shepherd role—and also-not-a-man and former Fox And Friends /The O’Reilly Factor co-host E.D. Hill, who will be the show’s token screeching conservative in the Elisabeth Hasselbeck mold. (You may remember Hill as the woman who asked whether a fist bump between Barack and Michelle Obama was a “terrorist fist jab,” which even Fox News thought was ridiculous, and fired her soon after.) If things go according to plan, expect Hill to spar daily with Filipino-American comedian and Ugly Betty star Alec Mapa, who will “balance Gumbel’s reserve with a splash of flamboyance.” It’s like they carved a window into the American male mind and framed it with some tasteful curtains.

I'm trying to think about who I would want to see on a show like this, just on the off-chance someone asks me.

I would want it to actually be all men, not unisex (seems they think people would not watch an all male show, and they are probably correct - it's been tried and failed a couple of times). So no women as regular hosts.

I'm going to throw out an odd assortment of names for the five slots, all of which will be regulars but there will be a guest spot that rotates regularly, depending on who is busy that week.

So, the five starters: Howie Long (of Fox NFL Sunday), Chris Rock (comedian), Dan Savage (of Savage Love, the sex advice column), Iggy Pop (the musician, and a very smart guy, too), and Ted Koppel (as moderator and resident Elder).

The fifth, rotating chair could be filled by actors, musicians, politicians, authors, the occasional woman, and so on. Some guys I would want to see regularly in that spot: Sebastian Junger, Van Jones, Sam Harris, Mike Ditka, Cornel West, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Jesse Ventura, Colin Powell, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and the list could go on for days.

Who would you actually watch, or DVR/Tivo, if the show could be made?

Should 'Male Menopause' Be Treated? Maybe Not

Damn it, the correct term is ANDROPAUSE. And until quiet recently, I have been a strong proponent of testosterone replacement therapy for aging men who need it - low testosterone has some serious health issues including heart disease, depression, and loss of sex drive.

A new study note posted in JAMA this week (granted, these men are much older) brings that approach into question.

First the article - from Health and reposted at Huffington Post.
Should 'Male Menopause' Be Treated?

Sweaty, sleepless nights. Inexplicable grouchiness. Weight gain, headaches, and no sex drive. Many women approaching menopause can relate--and so can Mike Coleman.

Last year, a string of restless nights sent the 46-year-old insurance agent from Lineville, Ala., to his doctor. After a blood workup, Coleman was informed that his testosterone levels were below normal, and were likely to blame for the symptoms he'd been experiencing.

"It made sense," he says. "My energy levels were not what they used to be. But you kind of think, 'How could this happen to me?'


Coleman's condition isn't all that rare. Quite a few men--up to 25 percent--have testosterone levels that fall below normal in middle age, and in some cases this transition causes a collection of symptoms that has come to be known as "male menopause" (or "manopause").

"Testosterone levels gradually decline with aging, usually around age 40," says Alvin Matsumoto, MD, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle. Although the decline is natural, Dr. Matsumoto adds, "that doesn't mean it has no physiological or clinical consequences or shouldn't be treated."

More and more doctors seem to agree. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of prescriptions filled in the U.S. for testosterone gels, shots, and patches--the first-line treatment for most men--increased by more than 400 percent, to 3.3 million.

Testosterone treatments in men of middle age and older are largely unproven, however, and they carry a risk of serious side effects. The sharp increase in their use has led some experts to wonder whether testosterone is being over-prescribed--and whether the so-called male menopause needs to be treated at all.

How common is it?

Male menopause--or late-onset hypogonadism, as the condition is officially known--earned its nickname for a reason. It resembles the changes fortysomething women undergo, and the most common symptoms include a flagging libido, hot flashes, fatigue, weakness, insomnia, moodiness, and weight gain, all of which are also well-known symptoms of (female) menopause.

But the comparison only goes so far. Unlike the relatively swift changes that occur during menopause, testosterone in men tends to decline slowly over many years and isn't always noticeable. Only a fraction of men with low testosterone develop problematic symptoms, whereas most menopausal women experience at least a few hot flashes.

While as many as 25 percent of men 30 and older have low testosterone levels, only about 5 percent experience symptoms severe enough to warrant testosterone therapy. Although the symptoms are rare, many doctors have begun testing more middle-age men for low testosterone. This trend has led to wide-ranging--and perhaps inflated--estimates of how common male menopause is, says David Zahaluk, MD, a family medicine physician at Baylor Medical Center, in Carrollton, Texas.

And it's not always clear that low testosterone is to blame for the symptoms that plague the 5 percent of men being treated, because they can be easily confused with those stemming from other health problems, such as stress, depression, or heart disease. "When you come in and say, 'I'm tired,' there are so many [potential] causes," says Dr. Zahaluk, who recommends a testosterone test as part of an annual physical. "It may well not be low testosterone, but it won't be checked unless there's awareness of it."

Earlier this year, for the first time, researchers in Britain tried to pinpoint the symptoms that are most closely linked to low testosterone. Only three--erectile dysfunction, fewer morning erections, and fewer sexual thoughts--were reliably connected to testosterone levels, the researchers found. Six others--including low energy, fatigue, and difficulty engaging in physical activity--were linked less closely or not at all to low testosterone. The study concluded that far fewer men than previously thought--only about 2 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 80--are actually experiencing something that can be called male menopause.

This and other research suggests that treatment is called for only when low testosterone and menopause-like symptoms occur together, says Dr. Matsumoto. "For a long period of time, people have treated individuals with only a low testosterone level," he says. "Only more recently has it been appreciated that treatment should only be considered in men with symptoms and signs of low testosterone as well as consistently low levels."

To treat or not to treat

The FDA first approved testosterone treatments for men with very low levels of testosterone caused by specific medical problems, such as testicular cancer. Studies over the years have concluded that testosterone therapy is effective for these--typically younger--men, but the value of treating men with age-related testosterone loss is still uncertain. The few studies that have been conducted in older men have yielded mixed results about the benefits and risks of this treatment.

That hasn't stopped older men from wanting to be treated--or doctors from treating them. A man with very low testosterone and numerous symptoms--he's lost his libido, can't have sex, is tired all the time, and has no strength--fits the bill for treatment regardless of age, says Dr. Matsumoto. "There isn't any evidence to treat older men like this, but from what we know about younger individuals who have been treated with a combination of these symptoms and signs and very low testosterone levels, we would expect some benefits," he says.

Dr. Matsumoto helped draft a set of updated guidelines for testosterone therapy that were released in June by the Endocrine Society, a professional organization focused on hormone research. He and his colleagues discouraged the general use of testosterone therapy in older men with low testosterone levels unless their levels were consistently low and they complained of significant physical and sexual symptoms.

It's important for patients to discuss the risks and benefits of therapy with their doctors before making a decision, Dr. Matsumoto says. Monthly testosterone treatment can range from $50 to $200, depending on the method used and how frequently treatment is required, so men with relatively mild sexual and physical symptoms may be better off saving their money.

Side effects, big and small

The cost didn't deter Coleman, who first tried a daily testosterone patch (which he found annoying), and then monthly shots (which he found uncomfortable). Discomfort aside, Coleman did start to feel better on the shots. He slept better, was less grouchy, and also noticed an increase in his libido--at least at first. But after about four to six months, he started to get mild headaches and noticed a spike in his weight after each shot.

"I was dieting, so I'd get down to about 190. And then after I'd have my shot, I might put on 4 to 6 pounds in a week or two, for no apparent reason," he says.

These reactions aren't uncommon and can be a nuisance, but there are graver potential side effects. Testosterone therapy can cause the body to ramp up red blood cell production, throwing off circulation and increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. And although a link hasn't been proven, it may even up the risk of prostate cancer. "Even in the absence of any evidence, you have to inform patients that's a potential risk because of the experience in women with estrogen replacement and breast cancer," says Dr. Matsumoto.

Because of these potential risks, doctors closely monitor the patients receiving treatment. If their bodies don't absorb testosterone or maintain the effects of treatment, some are even advised to stop replacement therapy. "That's not the majority of cases, but it does happen," says Dr. Zahaluk.

It's far more common for men to stop testosterone therapy because it's just not working for them. That was true in Coleman's case. He ultimately abandoned his treatment when it failed to boost his testosterone levels into the average range. "I didn't see that I was getting so much benefit as opposed to what I was having to put up with," he says.

A note in the new issue of JAMA brings treatment into question, especially for older men.
Testosterone Trial Halted

Bridget M. Kuehn

JAMA. 2010;304(8):846. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1196

A data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) halted the treatment portion of a clinical trial of testosterone therapy after preliminary data identified adverse cardiovascular effects in the treatment group. The trial was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

The Testosterone in Older Men (TOM) trial randomized 209 men (average age, 74 years) with low testosterone levels and limited mobility to 6 months of therapy with either a testosterone gel or placebo to determine whether the therapy increased strength and the ability to walk and climb stairs (Basaria S et al. N Engl J Med. 2010;363[2]:109-122). The DSMB stopped the treatment phase of the TOM trial on December 31, 2009, after reviewing preliminary data that revealed that 23 of the 106 men who received testosterone experienced cardiovascular events (the risk was constant during the treatment period), including myocardial infarction, heart rhythm disturbances, and elevated blood pressure; only 5 of the 103 men in the placebo group experienced such events.

It's unclear if this same outcome would apply to older men, or if the dosage was too high for that age group, or what other factors may be involved.

For now, older men should avoid testosterone replacement and stick with herbal approaches (tribulus terrestris and eurycoma longifolia - you'll need to spend the $$ to get the high potency stuff, the cheaper formulations do not work).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Secret Lives of Men - Gilles Tremblay: Therapeutic Work with More Traditional Men

Interesting episode - most men in therapy are going to be traditional men, so it's important to know what they need and how best to work with them.

Secret Lives of Men - Gilles Tremblay: Therapeutic Work with More Traditional Men

August programs are dedicated to the exploration of men and masculinity on the worldwide level; this approach is in conjunction with the release of the new book, “An International Psychology of Men: Theoretical Advances, Case Studies, and Clinical Innovations" (The Routledge Series on Counseling and Psychotherapy with Boys and Men. This month’s guests, each a contributor to the book, discusses their research and clinical work with men. Today’s guest is Gilles Tremblay (École de service social Université Laval, Canada. Our topic is Therapeutic Work with More Traditional Men.

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