Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mark Greene - Five Terrors of Being a Man

Over at The Good Men Project, Mark Greene examines five common fears men experience around defining their own masculinity. The five "terrors" he identifies are (1) my sexual desire is wrong, (2) I will never earn enough, (3) other men will discover I am weak, (4) I'm getting old, and (5) I don't know who I am.

I can see all of these being issues for a lot of men, but I see one other that is fundamental to these that Greene did not include - nearly all men, at some level, have a fear of not being enough. This can show up in various ways, such as * not masculine enough, * not a good enough lover, * not smart enough, * not strong enough, * not successful enough, and so on. All of these can be reduced to shame at their deepest level - where shame is the sense that I am not enough, in whatever form that takes.

Anyway, this is a good article.

Five Terrors of Being a Man

FEBRUARY 24, 2013

Men’s wide ranging fears remain hidden behind a facade of false confidence.

We have all heard it said, over and over. That many men do not share their feelings. That these men can be good friends, husbands and lovers but that they remain, on some level, hidden. If this is so, it’s for a damn good reason. Men are taught early in life that hiding their emotions is a matter of practical survival. Men are taught that revealing feelings, especially feelings like grief, loneliness or uncertainty is not safe. It is dangerous. It will cost them. Male emotional withdrawal is the direct result of dominant cultural traditions which value toughness and stoicism over communication and emotional connection.

Millions of men are exploring ways to move beyond old ideas of what it is to be a man. This is a good thing. Because it means men will have more options, both new and old, of how they can choose to live in the world. But millions of others still see no alternative but to keep their emotions hidden. They feel trapped in archaic gender roles that are often brutally enforced by other men, women and sometimes, their own families and spouses. On some level, we are all impacted by these generations old rules of manhood which say: hide your fears or pay the price.

One result of the continuing emotional suppression of men, is an increasing level of anger in our public dialogues (that of both men and women). We see these angry public discourses everywhere, in the media, on Facebook and at the local bar. This is because the expression of anger as a mode of emphasizing one’s point of view is somehow considered socially acceptable while revealing “weaker” emotions is not. But ask anyone who knows. Anger is just fear talking. Fears unspoken and unexplored. Below is a list of some fears that men face. This list is by no means complete. But men’s fears, whatever they may be, must be acknowledged. Because when they are deeply rooted and well hidden, these isolating fears can determine the course of an entire lifetime. Hidden though they may be, they should never be taken lightly.

So what are men afraid of? Here are a few examples. (Please note, I am not suggesting that these fears are exclusive to men but I would suggest that they play out very differently in women’s lives.)

For many men, this central fear that sexual love doesn’t last can lead to a preemptive callousness about sex and relationships. “I want what I want and to hell with you.”

(1) What I Want Sexually is Wrong (In One Way or Another) 
Men carry the deep seated fear that their sexual needs are, in some way, just not right. Whether it’s something as complex as a fetish, or as simple as frequency, men carry the deep-seated fear that sexual love in relationships isn’t sustainable because what they want and need sexually is too much, is too selfish, is wrong.

This shame about their needs is compounded by a lack of emotional connectivity in their relationships; connectivity that can create a vibrant holding space for sexual exploration and generosity. For many men, this central fear that sexual love doesn’t last, can lead to a preemptive callousness about sex and relationships. “I want what I want and to hell with you.” Sexual expression can become intertwined with anger. This, coupled with underlying shame about their sexual appetites, creates a self-fulfilling fatalism, contributing to the collapse of their relationships, time and time again.

(2) I’m Never Going to Earn Enough

Being the financial provider is the central role that many men assign themselves in relationships. Although self-assigned, this role is also encouraged by our culture and sometimes by women. This emphasis on providing money is often taken on by men in lieu of the more challenging task of developing crucial interpersonal capacities like emotional connectivity, empathy, and child-raising skills, (emotional skill sets which can validate men in ways other than financially.)

Initially, being the breadwinner may seem like an easy way out for men. The implication is, “if you bring the money you can take a pass on the messy emotional side of your family relationships.” But this breadwinner mode tempts some men to compound their self induced isolation by leveraging the authority associated with economic control over other family members.

Some other relationship killing parts of this equation? When judged solely on their earning capacities, men can end up being relentlessly tested by a spiral of accelerating consumerism. And, when unemployment or retirement strikes, men have no alternative emotional resources or sources of validation to draw on. Game over.

(3) Other Men Will Find Out I’m Weak 
Men fear their worries and sadness are a sign of weakness; and that if they are found out, they will be rejected and condemned by their friends, family members and spouses.

Men are taught to hide their fears, collectively creating a cultural myth of male toughness. This culture of toughness is deeply isolating. When men have no way to share their stories of uncertainty, grief or fear, those fears can become overwhelming. The suppression of wider ranges of male emotional expression becomes a source of intense internal stress for men, which in turn is expressed as anger or authoritarianism. Although we don’t allow men to cry, we do allow them to express anger. It is this one-note anger mode of expression that can eventually result in alcoholism, addiction, depression and early death for many men. All in the effort to avoid appearing…human.

Because society does not typically encourage the development of soft skills in men, some must face old age without the emotional connectivity that will cushion the impact of aging.

(4) I’m Getting Old 
Men are often judged solely on their economic and physical vitality. Typically, men are not valued for their “feminine” soft skills, like diplomacy or emotional availability. This sets men up for an inevitable decline in value, tied directly to aging. Meanwhile, because society does not typically encourage the development of soft skills in men, some must face old age without the emotional connectivity that will cushion the impact of aging. And that makes aging terrifying.

(5) I Don’t Know Who I Am 
Often men spend their lives battling an uncertain world in order to provide for their families financially. Preoccupied with this struggle, men resist committing time for self examination or emotional growth. Eventually, men come to fear the person in the mirror looking back at them. After a lifetime of putting up a false front of confidence and authority, many men feel they are barely keeping a lid on their emotions. Absent the parallel journey of growing emotional connection with their families and friends, our fathers, brothers and sons are condemned to live lives of isolated desperation, ultimately unsure of who they are and what they might become.


Being strong and being confident are important parts of being healthy human beings, but strength and confidence comes from the rich and rewarding relationships we create with the people in our lives, not from the economic or physical power we wield, regardless of our gender. Only a rich network of relationships holds the power and flexibility to carry any of us through life’s challenges.

For men, openly sharing emotions like uncertainty or grief should be a socially acceptable way of being, just as keeping these things private is socially accepted. Some men (and women) will always prefer to keep their own counsel. This is perfectly fine. But no man should be forced to live alone with his fears because it is considered weak to admit them. We need a new cultural baseline for men that says sharing our fears is an act of courage; something to be admired and respected. Because doing so in a safe and supportive community can transform these fears into sources of strength, mutual support and ultimately, love. And that is an option that should be open to all of us, men and women alike. 

This article was written in conversation with Dr. Saliha Bava.

About Mark GreeneEmmy® winning animator, designer - Blogs THE BIG IDEAS on society, people and parenting for Good Men Project. You can follow him on Twitter @megaSAHD and Google.

Click here to read more GMP articles by Mark Greene. ALSO, please click here to download a free copy of Mark's fully illustrated children's book FLATMUNDER from iTunes about kid's fears and the power of play. For kids ages 4-8.

The Good Men Project is an unprecedented space for hosting conversations about what it is to be a good man. We hope you will explore the wide ranging dialogues here. The voices of both men and women are crucial to the success of these conversations. Join us, and together, we’ll create the dialogues that will make positive changes happen for us all. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What Makes a Man? - UTNE Reader

This is a cool article from the new UTNE Reader about the notion of What Makes a Man - and because it is written by an FtM transman it carries a lot of weight. How better to look toward for how to define manliness or masculinity than someone who was not rasied (embedded) in masculine culture from day one?

Having worked with several transmen, I am consistently amazed by their ability to grasp the deeper qualities of masculinity in ways most cis-men never even consider. Not only that, I am also struck by how they have always experienced themselves as men. These guys also express themselves in ways every man is familiar with, often even before beginning testosterone therapy.

The experience of transmen shows that masculinity and manhood are not defined by having a penis. These guys are guys - and they have always been guys, despite their biology suggesting otherwise.

What Makes a Man?

March/April 2013
By Thomas Page McBee, from The Rumpus

I didn’t want to be a real man if what was meant by it was the hypermasculine ideal or the reactionary response.

Illustration By Toby Thane Neighbors

If masculinity could be defined by a quick Google search or a drive down a billboard-studded highway, then a “real man” is a paradox, captured crudely at the uneasy intersections of faith, love, public service announcements, politics, and advertising. Real men love God, buy American, work hard, don’t hit women, have integrity, stay faithful, wear pink, don’t wear pink, are kind to animals, fight to the death.

What makes a man? When I started testosterone, I posed this winking refrain, but the notion of “real men” still stung, each joke T-shirt and black-and-white bus-stop admonishment a nick on my heart. No one’s a “real man,” I figured, but most definitely not me, with my weekly shot and unique plumbing.

What makes a man? As I grew stronger and more confident, the question remained the crux of my core anxiety. I didn’t want to be a “real man” if what was meant by it was the hypermasculine ideal or the reactionary response. I’d spent 29 years struggling against a bad translation. I wanted to be my own man, to comb my hair with Brylcreem, to tailor my jeans, grow a beard, wear a shirt: This is what a feminist looks like. 

We all get the message of what a man is meant to be but, unlike feminism’s unbraiding of the ideal feminine, hypermasculinity sits like an elephant on steroids, stinking up the living room. It’s complex to examine what being a man means because most of us, whether we realize it or not, are committed to a monolithic answer.

We might pretend we’re not all engaging with the mixed-message at the heart of our every interaction: we value masculinity in all bodies because we value men more than women. Conversely, those of us who’d like to disengage with patriarchal, problematic stereotypes of maleness, even a little bit, are undermined and satirized, bullied and belittled. Every man I care about is troubled by other men, but there’s still a Stockholm-syndrome-feel to the framing: a shrugging, “That’s just how guys are.”

That’s just how guys are. 

I’ve been on testosterone for 16 months. After the muscles bloomed, after my beard began to appear, after my calves widened and my jaw squared, after I mastered the politics of the men’s room, after I learned not to take personally the newly cool greetings of women strangers; a pattern began to emerge. The elephant was real, trumpeting its answer to what makes a man? Here I was, becoming one, forming at bars and backyard barbecues and work meetings; confronted at every turn with an expectation and whether or not I would meet it.

What makes a man? Here I was, not the question but the answer.

My brother and I grew up in a house where one man’s failure defined masculinity for both of us. Our father, who abused me, was domineering and manipulative, double-crossing and compulsive. Later I would come to see that he was also lonely, lost, and scared, a link in a chain of male violence that ended, turns out, with me.

“Men!” my mom would say, a single word that held the universe of her rage, everything we needed to know in the way it was bathed in acid. In elementary school, my little brother would sometimes tear up his room, blank-eyed and sleepwalking. After years of bullies, B went to the gym and grew chiseled, played varsity hockey, then American Dreamed his way into a dot-com. In college, he made a bronze sculpture of a grown man crouched with his arms around his knees. “You remember?” He asked me once, and it was the kind of man he became that allowed me to believe in something better than our father.

Now he’s sensitive and muscle-bound, successful and stylish and, like me, a little brooding. I told him last April, in a bar in the Mission, of my plans to take testosterone, back when I also lived in San Francisco. I couldn’t figure out why, but I was more nervous to tell him than anyone else. That’s a lie. I was nervous to tell him for the ways I’d grown up projecting my father onto his little-kid frame, seeing their similar grins as proof of something dark. We’d thrown around a baseball, beat each other up, gone to the movies, but we’d also fought bitterly. I sat in that bar waiting for his “I told you so.” He knew intimately the ways I’d misunderstood myself.

He smiled wide, shrugged. “I’ve been saying my whole life that you’re a guy,” he said.

That was that. We ordered another round, he reported some work trouble, and we were like the brothers we were meant to become, if I’d only been paying attention.

Last I saw him, this summer at our grandmother’s funeral, B looked at me meaningfully and said, “Don’t let anyone tell you you don’t look totally different.” I swear he was teary eyed.

Still, a sticking point for us is his interest in the destiny of biology, the reassuring, essentialist refrain of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Sometimes his understanding of me feels limited by hormones and science, the framework that helps him understand his maleness. But as he tells me how terrified he was of becoming a “monster” growing up, I begin to understand the comfort of biology. Being a boy, the strange rush of testosterone, the two-faced dad: he worried he was broken, much in the way I did. In his worldview, there’s room for me, and he’s eager always to compare lifting strategies. “You’re cut like a Band-Aid!” he joked on a recent picture I posted on Facebook.

I feel it, too, the need to make muscle to guard the pinkest, most scared parts of myself. I watched him spend hours at the Y and come home calmer. There’s something to pushing all that anger and confusion into a weight that can bear it.

“I felt this shame growing up,” B told me a couple weeks ago, when I told him I wanted to write about us. “I remember sitting in the van with you guys when you told me what Dad did to you, and I felt dirty. I felt, ‘That’s my father,’ one; and two, ‘I’m his son.’ It was the beginning of this whole thing for me when I felt ashamed.”

“I struggled with the fact that I was a guy. I think it’s been a lifetime struggle,” he said. It makes me curious how many men are fighting similar fights, shadowboxing the worst aspects of maleness, trying to grow something sweet from the toxic waste of inheritance.

I asked him how he feels about other men, if he’s suspicious of them in the way the world has taught us to be suspicious of ourselves.

“A guy that doesn’t show any emotion? That’s scary.” I think of our father, his silence, his far-off stare. I think of how, almost always, naming what scares you is the primary way to avoid becoming it.

“I’m very up front with people,” B said, as if an answer. “They know how I feel.”

Before I transitioned, the struggles of the men in my life felt gritty and strange to me, a little unwashed. They’d get uncomfortably vulnerable over beers, easily crushed about fathers and exes especially, like animals without shells. It was a little foreign and often so raw I’d leave wondering how it was possible that the young women I knew seemed so much more resilient in reclaiming their identities in a world of intense violence and inequity, while the men seemed genuinely baffled as to how to make it all add up to something meaningful.

How naïve, I see now, to think the crush of gender expectations only affects the most obviously oppressed.

My best friend in high school, a wiry eccentric whose religious parents didn’t know he was gay, was my first exposure to a man wrestling with masculine expectation. Late at night, stoned in his beat-up Camry, he said he felt alien next to his jock brother, afraid to disappoint his father. He was hilarious and well-liked, John Waters meets Robert Smith, but it was clear that a girl of a similar stripe would have an easier time finding a template through which to translate herself. Hell, even before I was on testosterone, I was treated by pretty much everyone as a dude without much issue, while the many interesting and sweet men who marched through my life, arriving on cue in Pittsburgh, Boston, San Francisco, seemed to always be head-butting masculinity’s brick-wall boundaries.

So the crushed-shell seemed to me, eventually, to be about claustrophobia, the way that the sexism underpinning hypermasculinity is a vice grip on even the most rebellious among us. To be your own man is to acknowledge that you’re not “real” unless everyone’s “real,” that all the power located in a monolithic masculinity is a house of cards built on your back and you, pulling yourself out of the stack, are helping to upend the whole foundation.

What makes a man? It’s not just my question then, but one for all of us, and the answer depends on how much one can extricate oneself from the war cry of a society intent on destroying femininity, enforcing a reductionist binary, and flattening complexity. Every man I’ve known well enough to get a little drunk with has eventually addressed the dilemma: how to be yourself in a world that expects a monster or a hero, but never a new dad struggling with how to raise his own child under the weight of a bad relationship to his own father, or an effeminate straight man struggling to accept himself for who he is when his own family can’t believe he’s not gay.

We eat peanuts, drink beer in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Boston. A guy tells me, upon his marriage, that his mother reminded him to be good to his wife. A real man respects women, says the ad campaign, which only exists to tell us exactly what real men have failed to do, a reminder of what isn’t expected.

A memory: in Napa for his birthday a few years ago, before I was on testosterone, I looked up my brother’s astrological chart. This is a thing I do, inevitably, at parties and birthdays and long car rides. Anyway, I told him he was a Cancer rising, started to read the description off my phone as we drank coffee near the French Laundry, surrounded by tourists despite the drizzle.

“What does that mean?” he asked, his aviators mirroring myself back to me.

“It says you’re imaginative,” I told him, “and sensitive, and nurturing.” He looked chiseled and young, a little out of place still, living in a city after so many years in wintery, industrial towns. I could see, in the months since he’d arrived, that he was becoming himself.

“I’m nurturing!” he echoed, his thick arms crossed across his chest. He turned to his girlfriend. 
“I’m nurturing,” he told her.

Since I’ve transitioned, I’ve revisited that moment: my surprise at his enthusiasm, the emphatic way he announced it, the pride in his voice. What a reward it must have seemed to him to be seen as the man he was, not the father he was afraid of becoming, but the person he’d grown out of thousands of reps and all those cracked-shell moments when the vice squeezed too hard. Here he was, the person he’d been all along. 
“I’m nurturing,” he said, shaking his head. “Did you know that about me?” We were leaning against a car, the two realest men you know, and of course I said yes.

Thomas Page McBee writes about gender and culture for TheAtlantic.comSalon, the San Francisco Weekly, and the Phoenix, where he is an editor. Reprinted from The Rumpus (October 12, 2012), a literary website with a focus on publishing good writing. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

LEO BABAUTA - Advice to My Kids: You Are Good Enough

There has been a lot of criticism of parents who never allow thier kids to experience failure, a tendency we also see in the schools and in youth sports, where no one loses and everyone is a winner just for showing up. To be perfectly honest, this is a white affluent problem - it's not a problem you will see in Compton (CA) or in Tucson's Barrio.

I work with the fall-out of a different kind of parenting - those who denigrate, ridicule, shame, and otherwise crush the spirit and individuality of their kids. These are the boys and girls who are molested as children and/or raped as adults. They makle bad choices because they have no sense of self-worth, no sense that they deserve better.

I like this article below because it offers a different take on parenting - it teaches self-worth and self-compassion. It is about teaching our children to have what psychologists call an internal locus of control (self-affirming and self-directed) rather than relying on others for a sense of worth or purpose (external locus of control). I also like that he talks about failure as a teacher, accpeting change as inevitable, and that becoming comfortable with discomfort is essential.

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer of Zen Habits (where this article originally appeared). He is married and has six kids. Zen Habits is one of the Top 25 blogs and Top 50 websites in the world.

Advice to My Kids: You Are Good Enough


Leo Babauta has some advice for his kids. And yes, it’s a little zen.

I have six lovely children — one of them now an adult, and a couple more almost there — and I give a lot of thought to what I think they should know as they grow up and go out into the world.

What could I best teach them to equip them for life?

This is what I’d like them to know:

You are good enough. Most people are afraid to do things because they are afraid they’re not good enough, afraid they’ll fail. But you are good enough — learn that and you won’t be afraid of new things, won’t be afraid to fail, won’t need the approval of others. You’ll be pre-approved — by yourself.

All you need to be happy is within you. Many people seek happiness in food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, partying, sex…because they’re seeking external happiness. They don’t realize the tools for happiness aren’t outside them. They’re right inside you: mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, thoughtfulness, the ability to create and do something meaningful, even in a small way.

You can start your own business. As a young man, I thought I needed to go to college and then be employed, and that owning a business is for rich people. That was all wrong. It’s possible for almost anyone to start their own business, and while you’ll probably do badly at first, you’ll learn quickly. It’s a much better education than college.

Everything useful I’ve learned I didn’t learn from college…I learned from doing.

That said, I’ve had some amazing teachers. They’re not always in school, though: they’re everywhere. A friend I met at work. My peers online. My mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts. My wife. My kids. Failure. Teachers are everywhere, if you’re willing to learn.

Spend less than you earn. Thirty percent less if you can manage. Most people get a job and immediately spend their income on a car loan, high rent or a large mortgage, buying possessions and eating out using credit cards. None of that is necessary. Don’t spend it if you don’t have it. Learn to go without, and be happy with less.

Put away some of your income to grow with the power of compound earnings. Your future self will thank you.

Learn to love healthy food. It’s all a matter of adjusting your tastebuds, slowly and gradually. Learn to cook for yourself. Try some healthy, delicious recipes.

Learn compassion. We start life with a very selfish outlook — we want what we want. But compassion is about realizing we are no more important than everyone else, and we aren’t at the center of the universe. Someone annoys you? Get outside of your little shell, and try to see how their day is going. How can you help them be less angry, less in pain?

Never stop learning. If you just learn something a little a day, it will add up over time immensely.

Have fun being active. Sure, there’s lots of fun to be had online, and in eating sweets and fried food, and in watching TV and movies and playing video games. But going outside and playing with friends, tossing a ball around, swimming, climbing something, challenging each other … that’s even more fun. And it leads to a healthy life, healthy heart, more focused and energetic mind.

Get good at discomfort. Avoiding discomfort is very common, but a big mistake. Learning to be OK with some discomfort will change your life.

The things that stress you out don’t matter. Take a larger perspective: will this matter in five years? Most likely the answer is no. If the answer is yes, attend to it.

Savor life. Not just the usual pleasures, but everything and everyone. The stranger you meet on the bus. The sunshine that hits your face as you walk. The quiet of the morning. Time with a loved one. Time alone. Your breath as you meditate.


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are some of the best teachers. Instead, learn to be OK with mistakes, and learn to learn from them, and learn to shrug them off so they don’t affect your profound confidence in who you are.

You need no one else to make you happy or validate you. You don’t need a boss to tell you that you’re great at what you do. You don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend to tell you that you’re lovable. You don’t need your friends’ approval. Having loved ones and friends in your life is amazing, but know who you are first.

Learn to be good at change. Change is the one constant in life. You will suffer by trying to hold onto things. Learn to let go (meditation helps with this skill), and learn to have a flexible mind. Don’t get stuck in what you’re comfortable with, don’t shut out what’s new and uncomfortable.

Open your heart. Life is amazing if you don’t shut it out. Other people are amazing. Open your heart, be willing to take the wounds that come with an open heart, and you will experience the best of life.

Let love be your rule. Success, selfishness, righteousness … these are not good rules to live by. Love family, friends, coworkers, strangers, your brothers and sisters in humanity. Love even those who think they’re your enemy. Love the animals we treat as food and objects. Most of all, love yourself.

And always know, no matter what: I love you with every particle of my being.

– Main photo: reallyterriblephotographer / flickr
Author image:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Is the Sex-Obsessed Male Stereotype True?

In a recent post at his Insight Is 20/20 blog hosted by Psychology Today, Seth Meyers took a look at some research about the male obsession with sex. In the study, young men were much more likely to have sexual thoughts about opposite sex friends as were young women.

As Meyers points out, however, and crucially, the sample in the study was undergraduate college students - 18-22 year-old men and women. Short of steroid use, there will never again be a time in a man's life where his testosterone levels are higher than they are at 18-22 years of age. High testosterone = thoughts about sex. If he has attractive female friends, he may well have sexual thoughts about them, even though he may never act on them.

Meyers also points out that there is peer pressure in college to be the Big Man on Campus and that part of that traditional gender role (stereotype) is the expectation that he will have as much sex as possible - a [foolish] measure of his masculinity. Add alcohol and binge drinking to the mix (which Meyers doesn't address) and you get the cliche you are looking for - a young man driven by hormones, peer pressure, masculinity norms, and fueled by weekend alcohol binges.

Thankfully, most young men are not caught up in this game (or at least fewer are now than was the case 20 or 30 years ago).

Big Man On Campus: The Sex-Obsessed Male Stereotype Is True?

The notion of men as sex-obsessed bodes poorly for male-female friendships.

Published on February 13, 2013 by Seth Meyers, Psy.D. in Insight Is 20/20

You think the theme of When Harry Met Sally is outdated, even archaic, in the modern times of 2013? Think again. Recent research from Breske-Rechek and colleagues (2012) suggests that, even when heterosexual men and women try to be ‘just friends,’ there is often an ulterior motive that lurks underneath the platonic surface.

The study included 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex friends, and the overall results show large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. (The study’s other findings – for example, that men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them, which betrayed the women’s true lack of interest – will not be the focus of this article.) What strikes me about this study is that it seems to regurgitate all those notions of the sex-obsessed male caricature.

I came upon this research when preparing for a seminar, and the findings that men and women have different motivations in friendship surprised me at first. The research brought me back to all the awful gender stereotypes about the differences between men and women, stereotypes I have wanted to believe have fallen by the wayside as society has become more open-minded and progressive. Apparently, I was a fool to believe that men’s and women’s gender roles have become less rigid when it comes to sex. In my clinical work, I focus on the similarities between men and women, rather than dissecting the differences because I believe that men and women are far more similar than dissimilar. What’s more, I believe it makes more sense for men and women to focus on what is shared between men and women because this approach can benefit their relationships. After all, in marriage, a man and a woman's relationship will be most successful if they each see each other as an ally, as opposed to someone another other team - or worse, world (John Gray, anyone?).

Much of the research on sex and gender differences shows a significant difference in the way men and women think about and engage in sexual experiences. For example, research has historically shown that men have a higher sex drive than women (Baumeister, Catanese, Vohs, 2001). Similarly, Fisher (2012) found that men had an average of 19 sexual thoughts per day, while women had only 10 sexual thoughts per day.

As I read through the details of Breske-Rechek’s study on male-female friendships more closely, I learned that the sample of male and female subjects in the study were pulled from a university, which means that these subjects were young (or “emerging,” as the authors label it) adults. Factoring the age into the equation, it really isn’t that surprising that men think about sex with their female friends more because this is the age when men’s behavior is largely driven by hormones and image consciousness. Aside from the obvious hormonal differences that may impact sexual interests during the college years, there are also psychological factors at work: University is a place where a man may feel more pressure by peers to live up to some ideal of the Big Man on Campus who can always 'get the girl.' In college, a young man’s interest in sex with a female friend may not even be so true to his actual feelings, but rather may reflect his engagement in behaviors that serve to boost his social status and his own sense of masculinity.

Though the reasons behind the sex differences in male-female friendships in college are not exactly clear, it is fairly clear that the research bodes poorly for the purity of plain ol' friendships between young men and women. While I don’t see such grand differences in my clinical work with middle age adults and believe that such differences diminish over the life span, I can understand the study’s assertion that gender differences in the college years are alive and well – no matter how hard we try to tell ourselves that sexual stereotypes aren’t valid in reality.

It’s unfortunate that sex plays a recurring role in the backdrop of male-female friendships because men and women could seriously benefit from the ability to forge more pure friendships. Friendship is supposed to be about mutual support and caring, not ulterior motives and sexual preoccupation. Part of what allows us to be so close to a good friend is the fact that we can trust that our friend will never take advantage of us when we’re vulnerable. It's during such vulnerable periods that the lines of friendship can be blurred and two people can find themselves in engaging sexual behaviors out of loneliness or confusion. So much for the safety of friendship, right?

As far as we have come as a society and as much as therapists might like to tell themselves otherwise, sexual differences between men and women continue to exist and play a role in how they interact with each other. Perhaps the more each sex can own and talk about such differences with each other, the less those differences will contaminate their friendships.

  • Baumeister, Catanese, and Vohs. (2001). Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive?  Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5 (3) 242-273.
  • Breske-Rechek et al. (2012). Benefit or Burden? Attraction in Cross-Sex Friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 29(5) 569–596.
  • Fisher, T. (2012, Jan). The Journal of Sex Research.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Marty Klein - Challenging the Myth of Sex Addiction (and My Reply)

Dr. Marty Klein is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist in Palo Alto, California - and he seems to think that the notion (diagnosis) of sex addiction is a load of crap. While there is a lot I agree with in this post (especially the repugnant cop-out of "sex addiction" for celebrities and politicians who get caught in affairs), there is even more that my experience tells me is simply wrong.

My girlfriend is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist and we both have worked with men (and in her case some women, I believe) who are, beyond a doubt, sex addicts. These people have lost homes, spouses, jobs, and all of their assets because of their addiction. This is a little different than being a womanizer or surfing too much internet porn.

The key factor for sex as an addiction, in my opinion, is that it is a compulsive form of self-medication. Sex addiction is a process addiction (a behavior rather than a substance), and its cycle looks like this:

Patrick Carnes, who Klein rightly acknowledges as the pioneer in sex addiction diagnosis and treatment, identifies four core beliefs held by most sex addicts in one form or another (and if you substitute something else for sex in the fourth one, like cocaine, heroin, or food, these may apply to all addicts).
  1. I am basically a bad, unworthy person
  2. No one would love me as I am
  3. My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others
  4. Sex is my most important need
Let's unpack these a little more (all of this material comes from Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction):
The first core belief of the addict is “I am basically a bad, unworthy person.” Abandonment means being unwanted. The child can only conclude that being unwanted means being unworthy and bad.

A second core belief comes from the first core belief about the child being a bad person. Because of personal unworthiness, the child believes, “No one would love me as I am.” Relationships with others become more tenuous the deeper this belief is. Children grow up believing that no one will accept them unconditionally. People will not be there; they cannot be trusted or depended on. If they do want a relationship, it is because they want something—not because they care. There will always be a price to pay. Minimally, there will be something that must be overlooked, ignored, or denied. To be close will mean to lose reality or integrity somehow. So intimacy is avoided.

[I]n the lonely search for something or someone to depend on—which has already excluded parents—a child can start to find those things which always comfort, which always feel good, which always are there, and which always do what they promise. For some, alcohol and drugs are the answer. For others it is food. And there is always sex, which usually costs nothing and nobody else can regulate.

This choice stems from the addict’s third core belief that is about needs: “My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others.” In healthy families, children have a deep sense that their parents care for them as opposed to abandoning them.

Healthy parenting includes touching, loving, affirming, and guiding. The child feels cared for even when struggling with rules and limits. Trust in one’s self, as well as trust of others, emerges in that relationship.

When a child’s exploration of sexuality goes beyond discovery to routine self-comforting because of the lack of human care, there is potential for addiction [emphasis added]. Sex becomes confused with comforting and nurturing. Moreover, the assumption is made that everyone else feels and acts the same. Therefore, to feel secure means to be sexual.

Consequently, the child’s relationships with people have the potential for being replaced with an addictive relationship with sexuality. Addiction is a relationship—a pathological relationship in which sexual obsession replaces people. And it can start very early. The final core belief of the addict emerges clearly: “Sex is my most important need.

The kinds of childhood situations described here are further complicated when the children are surrounded by negative rules, messages, and judgments about sex. When addicts and their spouses study their families of origin, they are flooded with memories of events where they were told that being sexual was bad or, worse, that they were bad for being sexual.

When children’s primary source of comfort is sex and yet they are told by those whose judgments count the most that to be sexual is perverse, the conclusions they make about themselves are clear. They are unlikable. They need to hide that central part of themselves, which others will despise. Rather than repressing the sexual behaviors, they hide them or keep them secret. Needing to keep that central part of themselves secret adds to the pain and loneliness—which, in turn, creates a need for comfort, making the sexual fix that much more necessary.
In my experience, the self-medicating aspect is a reply to the inner sense of worthlessness and feeling unlovable. Some kids who have this sense of shame discover alcohol or drugs (for me it was alcohol and marijuana), other kids discover sex or food - either way, what is a normal healthy behavior becomes pathological because it is used to numb, to dissociate, to medicate away the pain of living with shame.

The worst part of it is that the addict feels more shame when s/he tries to control or stop the behavior and can't - then they act out to numb that shame, and the cycle spirals downward until the person's life is out of control.

You’re Addicted to What?
Challenging the Myth of Sex Addiction

by: Marty Klein
Published in the July/August 2012 Humanist

Periodically, some famous politician, athlete, or entertainer gets caught with his or her pants down, damaging or even destroying their reputation, livelihood, and marriage. Within hours, my email starts buzzing, as media vultures circle the fresh carcass and want my expert opinion: Is Tiger Woods a sex addict? Was Katharine Hepburn? How about Eliot Spitzer, David Duchovny, Charlie Sheen, John Edwards?

The twenty-four-hour cable/Internet news cycle doesn’t want experts to talk seriously about this—they simply want people (Maury! Tyra! The ladies on The View!) who will announce, with just the right mix of scorn, smirk, gravity, and total confidence that so-and-so is a sex addict.

The schadenfreude is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Moralism stands in for sympathy. High dudgeon stands in for nuanced understanding. From all corners, we hear a Greek chorus of voices linking someone’s extramarital affairs to feminism, testosterone, the Internet, sadomasochism, consumerism, or even 9/11. And then they inevitably wheel in the heavy gun: “sex addiction.”

Most importantly, these public thrashings are a chance for the audience to condemn sexual acting out while vicariously enjoying it. America loves an excuse to sneakily enjoy unauthorized sex. The fall of the rich and famous is a bonus.

So when USA Today calls about Eliot Spitzer’s high-end escorts, or CNN emails about Anthony Weiner’s sexting, I’m usually pretty slow to respond to the ghoulish invitation.

I don’t diagnose people I haven’t met. More importantly, I don’t use the diagnosis of sex addiction. In thirty-one years as a sex therapist, marriage counselor, and psychotherapist, I’ve never seen sex addiction. I’ve heard about virtually every sexual variation, obsession, fantasy, trauma, and involvement with sex workers, but I’ve never seen sex addiction.

New patients tell me all the time how they can’t keep from doing self-destructive sexual things; still, I see no sex addiction. Instead, I see people regretting the sexual choices they make, often denying that these are decisions. I see people wanting to change, but not wanting to give up what makes them feel alive or young or loved or adequate; wanting the advantages of changing, but not wanting to give up what makes them feel they’re better or sexier or naughtier than other people. Most importantly, I see people wanting to stop doing what makes them feel powerful, attractive, or loved, but since they don’t want to stop feeling powerful, attractive or loved, they can’t seem to stop the repetitive sex clumsily designed to create those feelings.

The conflict over sex addiction is important to humanists for several reasons. “Sex addiction” is a special weapon now used by the religious right to combat perceived liberalism, to ignore science, and to ignite fear. It also helps legitimize anti-sex moralism and bigotry. And psychologists, judges, legislators, and the media are buying it.
When people refer to themselves or others as “sex addicts,” what are they actually talking about? More than anything, simple narcissistic character structure: the familiar “I guess I thought I could get away with it,” “Deep down, I don’t really believe the rules apply to me,” or “When I hurt, I want relief, and I don’t care so much about breaking promises or hurting others.”

If that sounds like normal people—if that sounds like you—it’s not surprising. Narcissism is a common human condition. So here’s my evaluation of almost everyone who is diagnosed as a sex addict—by themselves, their loved ones, or an addictionologist: it’s someone who is unhappy with the consequences of their sexual choices, but who finds it too emotionally painful to make different choices. You know, the way some of us are with cookies, new sweaters, or watching the Kardashians on TV.

Which is to say, it’s not about the sex. It’s about the immature decision-making.

The rest of the people who are in pain about their sexual decision-making are generally struggling with one or more of the following: compulsivity, impulsivity, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. An idiosyncratic response to medication can even be a factor.

So when people talk about sex addiction, they’re really talking about all of these, and more. When someone says, “sexually, I’m out of control,” that doesn’t tell us very much. When we know someone has affair after affair; or that someone regularly masturbates to the point of pain; or that someone constantly pressures his wife for sex regardless of how unrealistic it is (she’s post-partum, she has the flu, his parents are in the next room, they had a big fight just a few hours ago); or that someone is pursuing anonymous sex in public parks in a way that’s begging for jail time and loss of career; or that someone watches three hours of porn per night, we simply don’t know very much about the person.

On the other hand, anyone who says “sexually, I’m out of control” is automatically welcomed into the fellowship of sex addicts—without any attempt to evaluate that person’s mental state. Sex therapists generally don’t get distracted by the sexual part of patients’ stories. Those without training in sexuality—like so-called sex addiction counselors—often do.

Let’s examine this cultural phenomenon in more detail.
Read the whole article

Friday, February 22, 2013

Michael Kimmel and Christina Hoff Sommers - Do Boys Face More Sexism Than Girls?

What follows is the most recent edition of Huffington Post's "Let's Talk" series - and here we have masculinity expert Michael Kimmel and conservative (supports traditional models of masculinity) pundit Christina Hoff Sommers discussing the current plight of boys in our culture. They agree that boys are in trouble, but they see the issue in very different ways.

Sommers is the author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men (2000/2013), and Kimmel has authored Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (2009), Manhood in America: A Cultural History (2011), and many other books, as well as gender studies textbooks, including The Gendered Society (2009) and Men's Lives (8th Edition) with Michael Messner (2009).

Do Boys Face More Sexism Than Girls?

Michael Kimmel and Christina Hoff Sommers

When it comes to education, are boys the new girls? Are they facing more discrimination than their female peers, just because they are sexually different? According to recent studies, boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. We asked prominent gender warriors, Michael Kimmel and Christina Hoff Sommers, to hash this one through in HuffPost's latest "Let's Talk" feature.

Michael: Christina, I was really impressed with your recent op-ed in the Times.

The first edition of your book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men, came out in 2000. Maybe I've optimistically misread, but it seemed to me that the change in your subtitle from "misguided feminism" (2000) to "misguided policies" indicates a real shift in your thinking? Does it? What's changed for boys in the ensuing decade? Have things gotten worse? Why revise it now? And what's changed for feminism that it's no longer their fault that boys are continuing to fall behind?

Christina: Thank you Michael. I am delighted you liked the op-ed. Boys need allies these days, especially in the academy. Yes, I regret the subtitle of the first edition was "How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men." My emphasis was on misguided -- I did not intend to indict the historical feminist movement, which I have always seen as one of the great triumphs of our democracy. But some readers took the book to be an attack on feminism itself, and my message was lost on them. Indeed, many dismissed the book as culture war propaganda. In the new edition (to be published this summer), I have changed the subtitle and sought to make a clear distinction between the humane and progressive feminist movement and a few hard-line women's lobbying groups who have sometimes thwarted efforts to help boys. I have also softened the tone: the problem of male underachievement is too serious to get lost in stale cultural debates of the 1990s.

Groups like the American Association of University Women and the National Women's Law Center continue to promote a girls-are-victims narrative and sometimes advocate policies harmful to boys. But it is now my view that boys have been harmed by many different social trends and there is plenty of blame to go round These trends include the decline of recess, punitive zero-tolerance policies, myths about armies of juvenile "super-predators" and a misguided campaign against single-sex schooling. As our schools become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, competition-free and sedentary, they have moved further and further from the characteristic sensibilities of boys.

What has changed since 2000? Back then almost no one was talking about the problem of male disengagement from school. Today the facts are well-known and we are already witnessing the alarming social and economic consequences. (Have a look at a recent report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education -- "Pathways to Prosperity" -- about the bleak economic future of inadequately educated young men.) The problem of school disengagement is most serious among boys of color and white boys from poor backgrounds -- but even middle-class white boys have fallen behind their sisters. My new book focuses on solutions.

The recent advances of girls and young women in school, sports, and vocational opportunities are cause for deep satisfaction. But I am persuaded we can address the problems of boys without undermining the progress of women. This is not a zero-sum contest. Most women, including most feminist women, do not see the world as a Manichean struggle between Venus and Mars. We are all in this together. The current plight of boys and young men is, in fact, a women's issue. Those boys are our sons; they are the people with whom our daughters will build a future. If our boys are in trouble, so are we all.

Now I have a question for you, Michael. In the past, you seem to have sided with a group of gender scholars who think we should address the boy problem by raising boys to be more like girls. Maybe I am being overly optimistic, but does your praise for my New York Times op-ed indicate a shift in your own thinking?

Michael: Not at all. I'm not interested in raising boys to be more like girls any more than I want girls to be raised more like boys. The question itself assumes that there is a way to raise boys that is different from the way we raise girls. To me this is stereotypic thinking. I want to raise our children to be themselves, and I think that one of the more wonderful components of feminism was to critique that stereotype that all girls are supposed to act and dress in one way and one way only. Over the past several decades, girls have reduced the amount of gender policing they do to each other: for every "You are such a slut," a young woman is now equally likely to hear "You go girl!" (Note: I am not saying one has replaced the other; this is not some either/or, but a both/and.) The reforms initiated in the 1970s for girls -- Title IX, STEM programs -- have been an incontesible success. We agree there, I think -- and also that we need to pay attention also to boys, because many are falling behind (though not upper- and middle- class white boys as much, as you rightly point out.)

I think cultural definitions of masculinity are complex and often offer boys contradictory messages. Just as there are parts that may be unhealthy -- never crying or showing your feelings, winning at all costs, etc. -- there are also values associated with manhood such as integrity, honor, doing the right thing, speaking truth to power, that are not of "redeemable" but important virtues. I wouldn't want to get rid of them in some wholesale "Etch-a-Sketch" redefinition.

Our disagreement, I think, comes from what we see as the source of that falling behind. My interviews with over 400 young men, aged 6-26, in Guyland, showed me that young men and boys are constantly and relentlessly policed by other guys, and pressured to conform to a very narrow definition of masculinity by the constant spectre of being called a fag or gay. So if we're going to really intervene in schools to ensure that boys succeed, I believe that we have to empower boys' resilience in the face of this gender policing. What my interviews taught me is that many guys believe that academic disengagement is a sign of their masculinity. Therefore, re-engaging boys in school requires that we enable them to reconnect educational engagement with manhood.

My question to you: In your essay, you list a few reforms to benefit boys, that strike me as unproblematic, such as recess, and some that seem entirely regressive, like single-sex classes in public schools or single-sex public schools. Is your educational vision of the future -- a return to schools with separate entrances for boys and girls -- a return to the past?

Christina: I hereby declare myself opposed to separate entrances for boys and girls at school. And I agree that we should raise children to be themselves. But that will often mean respecting their gender. Increasingly, little boys are shamed and punished for the crime of being who they are. The typical, joyful play of young males is "rough and tumble" play. There is no known society where little boys fail to evince this behavior (girls do it too, but far less). In many schools, this characteristic play of little boys is no longer tolerated. Intrusive and intolerant adults are insisting "tug of war" be changed to "tug of peace"; games such as tag are being replaced with "circle of friends" -- in which no one is ever out. Just recently, a seven-year-old Colorado boy named Alex Evans was suspended from school for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at "bad guys" so he could "save the world." Play is the basis of learning. And boys' superhero play is no exception. Researchers have found that by allowing "bad guy" play, children's conversation and imaginative writing skills improved. Mary Ellin Logue (University of Maine) and Hattie Harvey (University of Denver) ask an important question: "If boys, due to their choices of dramatic play themes, are discouraged from dramatic play, how will this affect their early language and literacy development and their engagement in school?"

You seem to think that single-sex education is "regressive." This tells me that you may not have been keeping up with new developments. Take a close look at what is going on at the Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School and the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas. There are hundreds of similar programs in public schools around the country and they are working wonders with boys and girls. Far from representing a "return to the past," these schools are cutting edge.

An important new study by three University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at single-sex education in Seoul, Korea. In Seoul, until 2009, students were randomly assigned to single-sex and coeducational schools; parents had little choice on which schools their children attended. After controlling for other variables such as teacher quality, student-teacher ratio, and the proportion of students receiving lunch support, the study found significant advantages in single-sex education. The students earned higher scores on their college entrance exams and were more likely to attend four-year colleges. The authors describe the positive effects as "substantial." With so many boys languishing in our schools, it would be reckless not to pay attention to the Dallas academies and the Korean school study. No one is suggesting these schools be the norm -- but they may be an important part of the solution to male underachievement. For one thing, they seem to meet a challenge you identify: connecting male educational engagement with manhood.

Finally, a word about Title IX, which you call an "incontestable success." Tell that to all the young men who have watched their swimming, diving, wrestling, baseball and gymnastic teams eliminated. Title IX was a visionary and progressive law; but over the years it has devolved into a quota regime. If a college's student body is 60 percent female, then 60 percent of the athletes should be female -- even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college. Many athletic directors have been unable to attract the same proportions of women as men. To avoid government harassment, loss of funding, and lawsuits, they have simply eliminated men's teams.

Michael, I think you focus too much on vague and ponderous abstractions such as "cultural definitions of masculinity." Why not address the very real, concrete and harsh prejudice boys now face every day in our nation's schools? You speak of "empowering boys to resist gender policing." In my view, the most aggressive policing is being carried out by adults who seem to have ruled conventional masculinity out of order.

Michael: Well, my earlier optimism seems somewhat misplaced; it's clear that you changed the subtitle, and want to argue that it's not a zero sum game -- these give me hope. But then you characterize Title IX exactly as the zero sum game you say you no longer believe in.

I think some of the reforms you suggest -- increased recess, for example -- are good for both boys and girls. Others, like reading more science fiction, seem to touch the surface, and then only very lightly. Some others, like single-sex schools strike me as, to use your favorite word, misguided. (There is little empirical evidence that the sex of a teacher has a demonstrable independent effect on educational outcomes.) It seems to me you mistake form for content.

I'd rather my son go to a really great co-ed school than a really crappy single-sex one. (It happens that single sex schools, whether at the secondary or tertiary level, are very resource-rich, with more teacher training and lower student-teacher ratios. Those things actually do matter.) It's not the form, Christina, but the content.

And the content we need is to continue the reforms initiated by feminist women, reforms that suggested for the first time that one size doesn't fit all. They didn't change the "one size," and impose it on boys; they expanded the sizes. Those reforms would have us pay attention to differencesamong boys and differences among girls, which, it turns out, are far larger than any modest mean difference that you might find between males and females. You'd teach to the stereotype -- that rambunctious roll-in-the-mud "boys will be boys" boy of which you are so fond -- and not the mean, that is some center of the distribution. Teaching to the stereotype flattens the differences among boys, which will crush those boys who do not conform to that stereotype: the artistic ones, the musical ones, the soft-spoken ones, the ones who aren't into sports.

If you'd actually talked to boys in your research, instead of criticizing Bill Pollack or Carol Gilligan, I think you'd see this. The incredible research by Niobe Way, for example, in her book Deep Secrets, shows that prior to adolescence, boys are emotionally expressive and connected in ways that will surprise you. Something happens to those exuberant, expressive, emotional boys in middle school or so, and what happens to them is masculinity, the ideology of gender, which is relentlessly policed by other guys.

In my more than 400 interviews with boys this was made utterly clear to me. I've done workshops with literally thousands of boys, and asked them about the meaning of manhood and where they get those ideas they have. The answer is overwhelming: it is other guys who police them, with the ubiquitous "that's so gay" and other comments.

I've said this above, so I'll use my last word to reiterate. Boys learn that academic disengagement is a sign of their masculinity. If we want to re-engage boys in education, no amount of classroom tinkering and recess and science fiction reading is going to address that. We will need to enable boys to decouple the cultural definition of masculinity from academic disengagement. We need to acknowledge the vast differences among boys; their beauty lies in their diversity. We need to stop trying to force them into a stereotypic paradigm of rambunctiousness and let them be the individuals they are. And the really good research that talks to boys, all sorts of boys, suggests to me that they are waiting for us to do just that.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Authors@Google: Adam Mansbach and T Cooper

Adam Mansbach, author of Rage is Back: A Novel, and T Cooper, author of Real Man Adventures, spoke at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on February 5, 2013. They were introduced by Matt Werner.

On Rage Is Back:
In this mind-bending journey through a subterranean world of epic heroes, villains, and eccentrics, Adam Mansbach balances an intricately plot­ted, high-stakes caper with a wildly inventive tale of time travel and shamanism, prodigal fathers and sons, and the hilariously intertwined realms of art, crime, and spirituality. Moving throughout New York City’s unseen com­munities, from the tunnel camps of the Mole People to the drug dens of Crown Heights, Rage Is Back is a kaleidoscopic tour de force from a writer at the top of his game.

On Real Man Adventures:
Real Man Adventures is Cooper’s brash, wildly inventive, and often comic exploration of the paradoxes and pleasures of masculinity. He takes us through his transition into identifying as male, and how he went on to marry his wife and become an adoring stepfather of two children. Alternately bemused and exasperated when he feels compelled to explain all this, Cooper never loses his sense of humor. “Ten Things People Assume I Understand About Women But Actually Don’t,” reads one chapter title, while another proffers: “Sometimes I Think the Whole of Modern History Can Be Explained by Testosterone.”
An interesting couple of books.

Authors@Google: Adam Mansbach and T Cooper

About Adam Mansbach:

Adam Mansbach is author of Shackling Water (2003), Angry Black White Boy (2005), The End of the Jews (2009, winner of the California Book Award), and most recently Rage is Back (2013), and The Dead Run (forthcoming in 2013). He is best known for his children's book for adults titled Go the F**k to Sleep. It reached No. 1 on's bestseller list a month before its release, and was a national bestseller in 2011. The book is perhaps best known by its audio version read by Samuel L. Jackson, which went viral.

Mansbach lives in Berkeley, California and cohosts a weekly radio show called Father Figures on KPFA. Visit his website at

About T Cooper:

T Cooper's most recent book is "Real Man Adventures" (McSweeney's), a multi-genre meditation on the subject of masculinity. He is also the author of four other books, including the bestselling novels "Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes," and "The Beaufort Diaries," the latter of which Cooper adapted into an animated short film starring David Duchovny, which appeared at a variety of film festivals like South By Southwest and Tribeca. Cooper's other writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Believer, Poets and Writers, One Story, Bomb, and many others. For more information about T Cooper at:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Elana Millman - Interviews with Men on Sex and Sexuality

Interesting . . . this comes from the Good Men Project.

Elana Millman - Interviews with Men on Sex and Sexuality

What would the average man on the street when asked “Where did you learn about sex?” or “Do you think porn has changed men’s relationship to sex?” 
Elana Millman took to the streets to interview real guys to find out what they really think about sex in our society. 
Do you agree? Disagree? 
What would you tell Elana if she stopped you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Esther Perel: The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

Esther Perel is the author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, a book that "invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home." Sounds good to me.

Esther Perel: The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther Perel argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So how do you sustain desire? With wit and eloquence, Perel lets us in on the mystery of erotic intelligence.

Why you should listen to her:

Psychotherapist Esther Perel is changing the conversation on what it means to be in love and have a fulfilling sex life. For the first time in human history, couples aren't having sex just to have kids; there's room for sustained desire, for couples to cultivate long-term sexual relationships. But how? Perel, a licensed marriage and family therapist, travels the world to help people answer this question.

For her research Perel works across cultures and is herself fluent in nine languages. She coaches and consults organizations and families, holds a private psychotherapy practice in New York, and speaks regularly on erotic intelligence, trauma, conflict resolution, and infidelity. She is the author of
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence.