Head, Heart and Balls

Reflections on being a man

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Tell me, men, where do you feel most fulfilled? Down the bar with a group of men, joking and laughing about this and that, sharing a few drinks, playing pool or whatever, or in a social gathering with lots of relatives of both sexes? In the company of women or in the company of men? With the boys on a fishing trip or camping expedition, or on holiday with the family?

I don't ask these questions just to be provocative. If you feel more comfortable with men than women, more at home in a group of men, more understood, in fact, with no need to justify yourself, could it be that you are missing out on something in our society? And, conversely, if you feel uncomfortable in a group of men, could it be that you are frightened of maleness or masculinity in some way?

You might have guessed by now that I already have some strong opinions on these questions. I believe that genetically we have the potential to express our maleness in very important and profound ways, that there are necessary steps that we as human animals need to go through to develop into fulfilled men, and that our experience in the family and society does not generally give us what we need to become adult, mature men with a full sense of our deep masculine selves.

In fact, the older I get and the more I know about myself and life, the more convinced I am that we've had it all wrong all these years: we are the way we are in society because we're conditioned away from true masculinity - and what is left to us is a thing often derided, abused and shamed by feminists and even "new men".

A weak shadow of true masculinity, a weak masculine self, a swaggering John Wayne macho image of immature masculinity, a chaotic and confused adolescent maleness, the acting out of violence and aggression (often against women), a masculinity that is afraid to stand up and show itself in all its glory, a masculinity that is afraid of women, or seeks to placate them, or dominate them with physical and emotional manipulation.

Or, a masculinity which turns against itself, and abuses itself with drugs, addiction, violence, self-harm......and, at its worst, a feminized masculinity in which a man is ashamed of being a man. I tell you now, men, that in no way does any of this represent what I believe to be the true essence of masculinity.

I sum up true masculinity with words like strength, consistency, clarity, compassion, care, vulnerability, emotional literacy, gentleness, protectiveness, anger, joy, grief, fear, courage, excitement, adventure, risk-taking, providing for others, protecting others......and so on. Maybe you have a sense of what I mean.

And yes, it may well be that small boys, big boys, and men all want to have adventure, excitement, and take risks (even little ones), and that women are fearful of this: it may be that men are more interested in going out to work and bringing home the hunted animal (or a pay packet) than making a nest.

It may be that men are genetically programmed to be providers and women are programmed to be more nurturing: it may be that men have different ways of thinking to women, and that communication between the sexes will always be difficult: it may be that a woman wants stability and a man wants excitement - in many ways, including sex.

So dare we accept that men and women have evolved with different genetic programs to do different things, to feel different things, and to be moved by different things - and, most importantly, can we learn to accommodate our true differences as best we can, instead of pretending that actually we're all really the same regardless of our gender, and we could all get along nicely if only we men would be more like our womenfolk?

YES! We dare! And more, for the sake of our mental health, WE MUST! But if we do this, then along come the responsibilities: To learn what true masculinity means for ourselves and for our brothers (i.e. other men).

To care for our families instead of going off and fucking the next willing, attractive woman who comes along. To raise adolescent boys so that they know what true maleness is, and so that life is not ruined for all of us by leaderless gangs and undisciplined males acting out aggressively in our society.

To behave towards women with self-respect and other-respect. To stand up for ourselves with women assertively and not aggressively or abusively. To learn that the meeting of the true masculine and the true feminine is complementary. To understand that the sexes can be true to their own gender while still respecting the other. Not to fear or hate or be violent towards each other.

A romantic vision? Maybe, maybe not. The world changes each time one man sees a different way of being in it....and so change is possible. If any man reading this has sensed something in himself which stirs at the thought of the deep masculine coming alive, have a look at this book. The idea of archetypes - king, warrior, magician, lover - is deep in each of us.

Let me take you back to the development of the male fetus in the uterus. You might know that the default path of development is towards the female: that unless testosterone is produced under the influence of the Y chromosome at two specific stages of development, one very early and one rather later in pregnancy, the baby will develop into a female with a vagina, clitoris and labia.

It is the miracle of testosterone which turns the baby away from the female path and causes cock, balls and scrotum to develop instead. And the testosterone masculinizes the baby's brain as well: this infantile testosterone produces different connections in the brain which make it easier for men to display certain skills, and women to display other skills. There is little doubt that the different brain wiring patterns of men and women are in large part responsible for the different behavioral patterns of men and women.

If you want to read the best popular book on this subject, which includes a test for you to complete so you can judge the degree of masculinization/feminization of your own brain, click on this link: Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, by Alan and Barbara Pease. Here's what it says on the Amazon.com website: " Ever wonder why women can brush their teeth while walking and talking on various subjects while men generally find this very difficult to do? Why 99 percent of all patents are registered by men? Why stressed women talk? Why so many husbands hate shopping? According to Barbara and Allan Pease, science now confirms that 'the way our brains are wired and the hormones pulsing through our bodies are the two factors that largely dictate, long before we are born, how we will think and behave. Our instincts are simply our genes determining how our bodies will behave in given sets of circumstances.'

That's right: socialization, politics, or upbringing aside, men and women have profound brain differences and are intrinsically inclined to act in distinct - and consequently frustrating - ways. The premises behind Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps is that all too often these differences get in the way of fulfilling relationships and that understanding our basic urges can lead to greater self-awareness and improved relations between the sexes.

The Peases spent three years researching their book - traveling the globe, talking to experts, and studying the cutting-edge research of ethnologists, psychologists, biologists, and neuroscientists - yet their work does not read a bit like 'hard science.' In fact, the authors go to considerable lengths to point out that their book is intended to be funny, interesting, and easy to read in short, this is a book whose primary purpose is to talk about 'average men and women, that is, how most men and women behave most of the time, in most situations, and for most of the past.'" Yes, indeedy. It's a book worth reading.

But what does all this mean in practice? I think it means many things, but one of the worst is that we are shamed for being men in so many ways. Even those men who tried to accommodate women and became the so-called New Men of the 80's (or was it the 90's - I really can't remember) were rejected in some way by their women. As I understand it, these men became what women apparently wanted - soft, caring, generous, emotionally understanding, warm - and their women found this delightful to start with....until it became clear that actually it wasn't working. And really, why would it? If a woman is heterosexual, she doesn't want to live with a feminized male - a woman with a penis. She wants a real man. And there of course is the problem: there aren't many of those around.

Most of us men don't even know what a real man is. There may be plenty of wife-beaters, and weak men, and good men who don't know what they want from life, and many millions of men emasculated by being thrown out of the only work they knew by ruthless capitalistic systems, and adolescent gang members, and kind men with no vision or real purpose, but there aren't many real men around. And so we are brought up in families without much male emotional support or physical presence, mostly by women, in that chattering, gossipy, emotionally supportive, nurturing, safe way that women have, and we lose our sense of adventure, of risk, of self, of maleness. And for boys brought up in single parent families, without any male role models, no matter how wonderfully caring their mothers may be, one thing is certain: there will be a time when they need an adult older male to show them what it means to be a man.

I know by now some people reading this will be fuming with rage. But I'm not attacking single mothers. And I am certainly not attacking women. I think of all the sections of society single moms have just about the hardest job. It really may take a village to raise a child, as the old Indian proverb has it - and if it doesn't take a village, it might just take a bunch of relatives living near at hand. How then does a single mother cope? And why do right-wing, antisocial, reactionary governments pillory single moms with welfare cuts?

But this is not about women. It's about men. And the fact is that men have been shamed - maybe rightly, maybe not - for behaving in the way they do. But the feckless man who leaves his children, the adolescent gangster, the wife-beater, the man who uses abusive porn, the deceiver who seduces woman and abandons them: they have all got one thing in common - they are shamed by society without compassion. And yet, who ever taught them to be men? Whoever gave them the models they needed to respect, to look up to, and whoever taught them that a man needs a vision and, if not a vision, a role? Yes, that's right - no-one. And who cares? Well, I do. And so do millions of other men.

My own life has been about my recovery of my maleness. And it's my good fortune to have met a deeply feminine woman in whom the female Goddess archetype is strong. I met the Goddess first one day as we made love - unexpectedly, as something stirred in her, my soul opened up and a whole bunch of feelings that I never knew I had came out to meet her: a sense of dominance, of protectiveness, of possession perhaps, of intense sexual desire, of love, of having the whole world in my hands, of male power, of masculinity, of sexual energy moving around my body, out of my cock, deep into her body through her G-spot and up into her soul, up through her Chakras and down again into my body. An experience of not just being cock-centered and fucking, but of being caught in a maelstrom of sexual and spiritual energy where we polarized to masculine and feminine ends of the spectrum of gender. And in that moment, I tell you - I KNEW, with complete certainty, what it meant to be a man. This source of information has a section on the sexual positions which can make you feel more of a man!

Make no mistake about it, those positions where the woman is on top may be delightful, but they are also rather " castrating" for men (one of the reasons they are so often recommended is because it's supposed to be good for men to stop being dominant during sex once in a while!). Well, I agree, but only up to a point. After all, aren't men supposed to be dominant during sex? So try out woman on top and then man on top, with the woman on her back, lying on the bed and you, the man, on top, full length, supporting yourself in your arms and legs.....and tell me - doesn't that feel more masculine, more male, more powerful, as you thrust deeply into your partner's body? See how it feels when you ejaculate, too.....I think there would be few men who would not agree with me, that depth of penetration is important in feeling like a powerful man and a competent lover. (Or maybe there would be a lot of men who wouldn't agree: especially those who judge their success as a lover by their capacity to bring a woman to orgasm.)

There are many ways we are shamed. I remember as a boy going off into the woods on a little adventure of my own: collecting wood for the fire. I knew the woods well, and I knew what I was doing: I was enhancing my own sense of being a warrior - an adventurer, in control of his destiny and contributing to the family economy - or, at least, the fire. But I didn't tell anyone I was going, and panic ensued: eventually I was found by my father, happily collecting my bunch of firewood and roping it together - and as we marched back home, he grim-faced, silent, I knew that my adventure would end with my mother saying the usual things: those things, which, said to each of us a million times by well-meaning women (and misguided men who fail to support our maleness), quell our spirit of adventure, our fire, perhaps our desire to be truly alive, certainly our desire to get joy out of life and to stretch our boundaries, to learn what we can do without risk, and to get a sense of our own courage and maleness.

And we are shamed sexually: from the day we are discovered looking at the girl-next-door's smooth little fanny, or a friends' teeny cock, through the first deposit of male seed on the bed sheets in a wet dream, through the first fumblings in the back of a car, through the iniquitous comparison of cock size in the locker room (as if masculinity resided in our cocks!), through our first and every subsequent premature ejaculation, or failure to give a woman an orgasm .....yes, we are shamed sexually. And the irony is that maleness is actually so joyous - that being a man with a cock (of any size), or being a father or a family man, or being a young man plowing the furrow and spreading the seed, in short, just being male, is a cause for celebration and delight.

I recently attended a men's group, where I and another 29 or so men were given the chance, probably for most of us for the first time in our lives, to get up on our feet and talk openly, without judgment, about our sexual life. And the pain and pleasure that emerged were profoundly moving. Talk about being ruled by our cocks! (Well, probably our balls, actually.) In this complete cross-section of society, from the humblest and most disadvantaged guys, who had been injecting drugs for years, surviving on their wits on the edges of society, to the wealthiest white middle-class guys and the educated black classes - the experiences were the same. Every man's story was a part of every other man's story. We are indeed all brothers under the skin.

Between one third and one half of the men there had used a prostitute - either once or regularly, perhaps when their wife was pregnant, perhaps because their wife or partner was not interested in sex, perhaps in addition to having sex with a partner or girlfriend. Some men who had lost their virginity to prostitutes, sometimes because their father or an older uncle had taken it upon himself to initiate the lad in this way (As one guy said: " The bastard told me: 'I'll make a man of you.' Thanks a lot, Dad. Unfortunately you started 15 years too late." ) And the product of this was shame and guilt.

Nearly all the men had used porn - some obsessively, some for years, from adolescence onwards. Some had filmed themselves having sex with their girlfriends, either openly or secretly, and the women had often (reluctantly) gone along with this to please their man. All the men wanked regularly - some many times each day. They all had a million ways to wank. Many spoke of the lengths they went to, to get off. I can tell you that if you ever tried to suck your own cock - well, you aren't alone, that's for sure. And at least two thirds of the group, ranging from a man with a seven inch cock swinging thickly in front of him to a guy with nothing at all showing - just a half inch diameter hole from which, he said, his penis emerged when he was feeling horny - said they thought their cock was too small.

Many men spoke of their desire to last longer, and their experiences of embarrassment and inadequacy at shooting their load just about as soon as they entered their partner's vagina. Sometimes they lasted longer, sometimes shorter, but all the men who spoke out said they wanted to last longer during sex. And the irony is - we are biologically primed to shoot quickly. That's how it had to be when the world was not a safe place millions of years ago: spend too long fucking and you became someone else's meal! That's how it was for our ancestors, and that's the reason we have a challenge lasting a long time in bed now. But let's not feel ashamed about it - rather, let's work towards improving things. and learn how not to come the minute you see a vagina - or for a decent period after your penis is inside one.

About twenty per cent of the men in this group had had sex with men at least once. And many more had wondered if they were gay. Many spoke of having erections all the time, saying that they felt as if their cocks ruled their lives - of having to hide their hard cock in business meetings as they considered which woman would be the best fuck. And the fantasies of men as they masturbated were enlightening: animals featured less often than humans, but they were there! Schoolgirls seemed to be a big stimulant - the age old clichés of youth and fertility presumably at work here. What I think was very important was that among all of this heartfelt openness, there were no men who wanted to hurt women or who admitted fantasies of rape.

Indeed, the overriding desire, spoken again and again by men of all classes and colors and educational levels, was to have a real relationship from the heart - to be in an intimate, connected relationship of love, respect and sexual fulfillment. It seems we as men have two conflicting needs here: on the one hand a need to fulfill the dictates of our testosterone by fucking freely and liberally to spread our seed widely, and on the other hand a need to satisfy our very human desire to meet another human being from a soul connection, to love a woman and be understood by her, to have intimacy and love. Often the testosterone wins. There is no shame in that.

I don't tell you all this to shock, though I guess it may surprise some men to find out that they are actually no different to every other man, and it may shock some women who are unaware of the sexual life of their menfolk. But the point is this: we are men. We do what we can, and we can always do better. Go in peace, my fellow men. Celebrate your masculinity.

Other places to look for more on maleness: Menstuff.org. is a website with over 160 megabytes on men's issues. Now that is a big one. Men Web includes Men's Voices Magazine, with articles, stories and poems on men's growth and development. The Male Health Center has useful information on, well, male health, actually.





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