Sunday, May 17, 2009

Okay. I Take it Back...

After delving a little deeper into , I will admit that it is not complete bullshit. Definitely worth searching the site. Found a lot of great articles (actually worth reading).

Off to drown myself into the cyber realm a little further. Holler.

The Mechanics of the Man Hug.

Srsly McKay? Really? I don't mean to drown our blog with articles from The Art of Manliness, but I just *cannot* help myself (It may be because it is 3 am and I have nothing better to do. I mean, who needs sleep, right?).

Just peep it:

Peace. Love. &. Feminism. <3.

Be a Modern Knight: Protecting Your Lady in the 21st Century

I'm kinda halfsies on this article. While he states for men to "Guard [women] against harmful media sources" and "steer her away from negative friends," he also reinforces "manly" traits/behaviors based on steretypical patterns of social conditioning. Not to mention that he writes from a *super* heterosexist perspective:


Although the gender lines in this modern age have become increasingly blurred, there is one male/female disparity that even the most ardent feminist cannot deny: men are physically stronger than women. As such, they have from the inception of the human race been called upon to be the community’s warriors, knights, and soldiers. Fending off would-be attackers and predators, these men took seriously the charge to protect and keep safe the women and children.

Of course these days, the danger of marauding enemies or ferocious beasts has all but waned. Sure, a man must be ready to protect his home should a villain invade it or protect his lady in a street fight. But the days of men universally being both citizen and solider have passed. Yet a man’s role in protecting the women in his life has not ceased. While men are no longer called to be warriors against physical attack, we now have the duty to protect our women from emotional harm, to keep safe the hearts and esteem of the ladies in our lives.

Newsflash: Men Like Women with Curves; Women Still Think Their Butts Look Too Big
I recently came across this interesting study (warning: nude ladies covering their lady parts with their hands) which showed that while women believe a thin figure is the female ideal, men actually prefer a more curvy lady. What was even more interesting is that this story made the front page of Digg, and while Digg users are known for their terribly disparaging and caustic comments, the vast majority agreed with the results. So what does such a story show us? First, men like women with curves. Second, women don’t believe this. Third, contrary to popular belief, men are not to blame for this disconnect. The blame lies instead with the media and the catty expectations of a woman’s female peers.

While men may not be at fault for women’s skewed body image problem, we can be part of the solution; we can support the women in our lives and help them feel better about themselves. I have been rather dismayed at the number of my female friends and family who on the surface appear confident and attractive, but inwardly are pained with acute insecurities. Even beautiful women often feel ugly, fat, and unattractive. True, some men also battle insecurities, but by and large we often feel fairly comfortable about ourselves. Just take a look at the beach at the shirtless men, their huge guts hanging over their Speedo, strolling along without a care in the world.

Let me be clear about something-at the end of the day, a man cannot make a woman feel good about herself; a woman’s self-esteem is under her control and something only she can fix and heal. But it would be most naive to not admit that we are all-men and women alike-influenced by those around us. To your lady, you are the most important and influential person in her life. And you must be valiant in protecting her heart and spirit.

Being a modern knight for your lady
Be generous with your compliments. Whenever your lady is looking luminous, let her know. I often fall into the trap of looking at my wife, thinking about how beautiful she is, but then not vocalizing that thought. I figure she already knows how pretty I think she is, so there is no need to repeat it. But I have come to realize that she can never hear it enough. Insecurities never completely go away, and my frequent and sincere compliments can buoy her up each day. Whenever your lady is experiencing self-doubt, be there with an earnest and encouraging word for her.

Don’t blatantly ogle other women. It’s natural for a man to look at other attractive women and women should understand this. But men should try to keep this impulse under control. If you’re at dinner with your lady and she sees you ogling some model-esque woman, even though she knows it’s a natural impulse, the message is still going to register as, “He wishes I looked more like that.” Feeling that you only have eyes for her will make your lady feel confident and secure.

Guard against harmful media sources. Women will admit that advertisements make them feel insecure, yet they keep on reading Cosmo and other trash that make them feel like crap. Try to steer your lady away from tabloidy rubbish. Buy her a subscription to a magazine that doesn’t set the standard of female beauty artificially high.

When magazines and television do present some fake, plastic surgery constructed stick of a woman as the female ideal, you may be thinking, “Yuck, she’s so gross,” but your lady may be thinking, “I wish I looked like that.” Interrupt these thoughts by vocalizing your distaste for women who look like they are strung out on heroin or are the result of a science experiment gone awry.

Quit watching porn. When you turn to porn to get aroused, you send this message to your lady: “You are cute, but when I really want to get excited I need to look at women with cantaloupe sized breasts” Your lady, and her alone, should do if for you. And she should know that in her heart.

Steer her away from negative friends. When a woman gets all gussied up, she’s not doing it just for you. She also wants to impress other women. And who can blame her when so many women are super judgmental and critical of their female peers. Steer your lady away from negative friends who obsess about their appearance, make comments about your lady’s appearance, and generally make your lady feel insecure.

The Problem With Porn

*While most of the time I happen to think that everything Brett McKay says is pretty much *BS* (for instance his post on "How to Ask for (and get) a Raise Like a Real Man." or how about "Ten Things Men Must Carry in Their Toolbox." or maybe it was the article on "How Real Men Fish"). Nevertheless, I continue to allow The Art of Manliness to overflow my inbox everyday hoping something *feminist* and topic relevant will come my way. While it isn't exactly how Adrienne Rich or Andrea Dworkin would put it, I figured it couldn't hurt to throw another perspective out there.

I also posted this because I myself have yet to "pick a side." While I do not condone the porn industry --(for obvious reasons: perpetuates patriarchal patterns in relationships, the media, corporate America, gender stereotypes, etc.)-- "making it rain" with dollar bills at the strip joint down the street while listening to "Back That Ass Up" doesn't really help the problem.*

Porn is everywhere today. It’s impossible to pinpoint when it happened, but some time in the last couple of decades, porn went mainstream. Before you had to go to the seedy part of town to pick up a magazine or order a stag film that came in a non-suspicous brown package. Now, you can find porn pretty much anywhere you look. On TV, at your local bookstore, and especially on the internet.

This movement of porn into the mainstream is generally viewed as a healthy liberation from the suffocating sexual mores of older generations. While it’s fantastic that society has gotten past its Puritan prudishness, I do think the pendulum has swung too far when it comes to the ubiquity of pornography in our culture. Unfortunately, the ill effects that porn can have on men and women often go unnoticed by the media. Many men are left with the impression that the proliferation of pornography is an entirely healthy phenomena. But what effect is porn having on men? When I look around at guys today, I would say without equivocation that it’s sapping their manliness.

A Level-headed Approach:

Pornography is such a polarizing issue, that it’s easy for people to take extreme sides when approaching it. Oftentimes, religious people, while very sincere in their beliefs, brand porn as vile filth that turns good men into sexual perverts and unclean lepers. I’ve sat through plenty of church sermons where porn is approached this way. However, such a approach hardly helps men rationally think through the issue. Rather it transforms porn into an even more desirable forbidden fruit, pushes porn consumption into a secretive underground fetish, and prevents men from being honest in their need for help.

The other extreme sees porn as just a healthy expression of sexuality. Pornography is heartily encouraged in order to help people discover what pleases them sexually, no matter how graphic or violent the material is. The people in this camp will argue that as long as consenting adults are involved and no one gets hurt, then anything goes. However, this approach fails to recognize the detrimental effects porn can have on an individual, on women, and on society.

Neither extreme is helpful. What I want to have today is a frank, rational, discussion about porn and it’s effects on men. I’ll lay my cards out on the table from the get-go. I don’t think porn is good in any setting. I’ve just seen too many people hurt from it. But I understand that reasonable people can disagree on this issue.

Porn Can Ruin Your Life:

Some people have argued that porn use can be as addictive as drugs. Personally, I don’t like the addiction label. It’s too easy to hide behind it as the reason you can’t help yourself. When I think of addiction, I think of people who suffer physical withdrawal symptoms when they finally quit. I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten the shakes when they go a week or two not looking at porn.

There is, however, no doubt that porn can be a full-blown compulsion. It’s more like food to a compulsive over-eater. Once you make those pleasure connections in your brain they can be very hard to break. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that porn can ruin your life. I know of a couple of marriages that broke up because of the guy’s insatiable addiction to porn. And I know of long-term boyfriends and girlfriends who have split up because of it. The stories out there are real and numerous. The man who gets out of bed at night and sneaks away from his wife to watch porn in his office. The man who keeps a secret stash of magazines in his car. The man who watches porn on the job and gets canned when he’s caught. I could go on.

I won’t deny that some men can consume porn and not suffer these kind of consequences. Just like I know men who have an occasional drink and aren’t alcoholics, I know men who dabble in porn and don’t become compulsive porn users. But even if you’re one of those men who can consume porn without becoming dependent on it, I still think there’s a case to be made that porn should be avoided. It simply won’t make you a better man in the least. And it can diminish your manliness for several reasons.

The Ways in Which Porn Saps Your Manliness:

1. It objectifies women.

A real man sees a woman for who she is. He respects her and her individuality. He sees her as his equal and as a person that deserves respect. It takes a lot of work and effort to interact with women, but a real man has the cajones to do it.
Porn, on the other hand, objectifies women. It turns women into “things” that are only there to gratify a man’s sexual urge. Porn eliminates any need to connect with a woman emotionally or intellectually.

If you want an idea of how insiders in the porn industry feel about women, just ask Bill Margold, a long time performer. For Margold, his “whole reason for being this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don’t care much for women and want to see men in [the porn] industry get even with the women they couldn’t have.” One writer for porn movies (they have writers?) said that pornography creates the illusion “that women are really in their rightful place and that there is no serious challenge to authority.”

If you have to view porn so you can feel like a man, you’ve got some problems. Real men don’t have to turn women into things to feel like a man.

2. It supports a filthy industry
Almost no man I know would hire a prostitute for sex. The idea of paying a stranger for sex violates their sense of propriety. But porn is basically prostitution, just a few steps removed. No matter how you slice it or rationalize it, you are paying a stranger to have sex. It’s pretty gross when you take a step back: you’re paying people to have sex so you can watch them do it. No man would ever want his sister to be a porn star, so why is it okay for someone’s else’s sister to do it? The more porn that is consumed, the more porn that is made. Even if you’re sitting in your den in Omaha, you have a hand in making the industry grow.

3. It will mess with your expectations of sex:

Porn creates unrealistic expectations in the minds of men about love and sex. In porn, the women are always hot and ready to go and have perfect airbrushed bodies. Best of all, the women don’t talk. Men don’t have to worry about nagging or having to interact with the women they view in magazines and videos. Men can just have their way them, and be done with it.

The reality is that women don’t want to have sex all the time, not all women have cantaloupe-sized tatas, and women like to talk. Sometimes a lot.

Porn-obsessed men thus have a hard time starting any type of meaningful relationship because the girls they meet don’t measure up to the women in their magazines and on their websites. And when a man does establish a loving sexual relationship, many sociologists have noted that men who have used porn view their partner through a “pornographic filter.” They’ll resort to impersonal fantasy of some porn scene when they’re having sex because the love for their partner isn’t enough to satisfy them.

The porn-brained man also pushes his woman into doing things she’s not very comfortable with, seeking to act out the exotic scenes he’s seen on film. And he’ll think women are all about it. On sites like Jezebel (the writers of which are far from prudish women) women complain that men of this generation will sometimes do things like ejaculate on their face the first time they have sex, thinking that every women thinks that’s really hot. What a sad commentary on today’s men.
If you want to have a good love life, avoid the porn.

4. It creates a cycle that diminishes your sexual pleasure:

While society says that more is always key to happiness, the truth is that moderation is. The pleasure receptors of our mind are sensitive mechanisms. When you first try something new, be it travel, food, or porn, the stimuli easily activate these receptors. But after repeated exposure to the stimuli, your pleasure plateaus. At this point, people often reach for more-more food, more sex, more porn, etc. in order to recover the initial pleasure they once took in the experience. But this only begins a vicious cycle in which you must seek ever greater and more intense stimulation to return to your initial pleasure level. Eventually you overwhelm and numb your pleasure receptors. Studies have shown that when looking at porn you get used to the level of graphics-ness that is portrayed and then need to ratchet up that level to get the same thrill from it. And where will that cycle end?

While society may sell you on the idea that the more sexual images you cram into your life, the happier you’ll be, the opposite is true. To quote Naomi Wolfe:
The reason to turn off the porn might become, to thoughtful people, not a moral one but, in a way, a physical- and emotional-health one; you might want to rethink your constant access to porn in the same way that, if you want to be an athlete, you rethink your smoking. The evidence is in: Greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity.

After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.

5. It saps your manly confidence

Porn saps a lot of confidence you have in yourself. Men usually turn to porn when they’re depressed and lonely. Instead of making the effort to get out and meet real women, many men take the easy way with porn. More often than not, after getting their fix, men feel even more depressed and lonely because the only intimacy they can get is with a magazine or a web video. It leaves them feeling empty inside. Even worse, pornography can become a crutch for a man, which in turn can sap even more of their confidence.

What do you all think? Is porn really a problem for men? Drop a line in the comment box. Again, this is a touchy issue, but I know we can have a frank discussion about this important topic with the civility and class Art of Manliness readers are known for.

Also, stay tuned for a future post on how to quit porn.

Further reading: The Number 1 Reason Why So Many Boys and Grown Men Surf Porn (and What to Do About It).
DownloadThe Art of Manliness Free Man Cookbook
DownloadThe Art of Manliness Guide to Being a Gentleman

Check Out These Related Posts:
The Virtuous Life: Chastity
There’s More to Life Than Six Pack Abs
Be a Modern Knight: Protecting Your Lady in the 21st Century
The Art of Manliness Weekly Roundup: I Love You, Man Edition
The Virtuous Life: Wrap Up

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Men: 10 Ways to "Tighten Up" & Step Up!


Marc writes:

I am far from perfect. As a male feminist, I've stumbled, picked myself back up, learned and stumbled some more, and I am still stumbling - that is, to say, I've been in feminist movement for quite a while now and believe that part of being a feminist is about growth. I came to the feminist movement five years ago as a freshman and I am still learning and making mistakes.As such, and in response to recent posts on this site about the involvement of men within feminism and whether they are "overrated," I'd like to make this post about how we, as men, can be better partners and allies to the feminist community.Please feel free to contribute and add your advice. It's the only way we'll learn to be better partners.

One: Look internally. To combat sexism, one has to first understand how, implicitly, one contributes to sexism. While we may feel the desire to point the finger and call out sexism, sometimes we must look within ourselves. Only by understand our own actions and how we interact with women can we engage the world in anti-sexist actions.

Two: Feminism is about the personal just as much as it is about the political. Being pro-choice and supporting gay marriage does not make one a feminist. Being an "activist" is simply not enough to call oneself a feminist. Feminism is also defined by how we interact with others, and especially women and our intimate partners. This goes back to point one of understanding ourselves. It also illustrates what MercurialGirl said in the "Overrated/Underrated" post about some progressive men still being "intimate terrorists."

Three: Don't expect a cookie. You don't get a pat on the back or more dates just because you're a feminist. To expect a reward for being a feminist is sort of like expecting accolades for being a good father, or paying your bills on time. You're a feminist because you see the injustices in the world, and have chosen to take actions because of it. This makes you a good person, and good people are everywhere, you're not special.

Four: Give up your male privilege. When I first entered this movement, I didn't understand what it really meant, but as I grew, I understood that we must give up our sense of entitlement. Unlike women, most of us have never faced the challenges of denied access, and when we are turned away by certain sects of feminism, the answer isn't to get upset, but to find other avenues that we are welcomed in, and can help. We don't deserve anything, other than being treated like human beings; and as human beings, we each have our own privileges, so there's no pouting when a less privileged group denies us access.

Five: Listen to women. By this, I don't simply mean following women's directions, but rather, critically listen to women's personal narratives and thoughts, and critically analyze what they say. This is not so that we can make a counter-argument or to dismiss their experiences, but rather, so that we can see things from their perspectives. Given that our experiences as males (and I am not inclined to say that all men have the same experiences - our sexual identities, education, color and class play a great part) are often much different than that of women, the only way we can be better allies is to listen and learn. While it's important to share our thoughts, it's more important to learn about theirs. Without such, we'll be doing feminism our ways and the way we see fit, rather than doing what women really need us to do.

Six: Put yourselves in women's shoes. Sometimes, as male feminists, we fail to be better partners because we see things from male perspectives. Our lens is a privileged one, and while I don't doubt that the majority of us mean well, even as feminists, we've grown into a male-centered culture in which we view the world through our privileges. Even when we think we mean well in what we're doing, we have to stop and ask, "Well, how would she feel about this?"

Seven: Remember that while we may be equals in feminism, our experiences will dictate that we, as men, as the privileged ones. This means that our gender does matter. While we may see ourselves as "just another guy in feminism," women may not see it as such. I look in the mirror and I see myself a man, but many women, based on experiences, will associate maleness with power, or intimidation, or pain. That said, be aware of your sex, and that you being a man within the feminist movement does matter and have all types of implications of power that can be used to thwart women's voices.

Eight: You don't take the lead. While there are areas in which men can certainly take the lead to combat sexism, being a leader of a feminist organization for women is not one of them. Feminism is about empowering women, and while men can gain a great deal from feminism as well, your involvement in leadership positions will firstly take power away from women; secondly, it will prevent some women from speaking up; and thirdly, from an epistemological perspective, brings nothing positive to the movement. Want to take the lead? You work with men to end sexism. Feminism belongs to you as much as it does to women, but until the violence stops; until one out of four women is no longer raped; when the rest of the world actually sees women as equals, it will always be women-centered. You belong behind and beside women, never in front of them.

Nine: Remember that you're not doing women any favors. You're doing this because you have a stake in it, too. Women are not damsels in distress and you're not a knight in shining armor. The feminist movement thrived without men in the past, and will continue to thrive with or without men. In feminism, we're partners and allies, and until we stop pounding our chests and acting as if we're some sort of heroes (a sign of unresolved masculinity and male privilege), we're still not being good allies.

Ten: Work with other men. Listen to male mentors. There are many out there, and while you (and I) may feel like they're of the "old school" and have nothing interesting to say, they've been through this before and can offer invaluable lessons as to how to be better male allies and partners. No one learns on their own, and just as it's important to learn from women about their experiences, we can learn from men who have come before us about our roles within feminism. Those men include Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel, George Marx, Jason Schultz and perhaps even your own father, and all the great folks over at the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.

Also, engage other men. You have male privilege; you can talk to other men. You don't have to appear preachy, but by just simply engaging other men in conversations about their relationships and views about women, you can influence them to be better men and better feminists. In the end, no matter where you are in life, you're valuable, too, because you've recognized the importance of feminism, and you can do a lot by reaching out to other men. There are millions of young men out there needing directions and waiting for answers, you can be that answer.

Good luck!
Posted by Marc - May 11, 2009, at 11:55AM in Analysis

Monday, May 11, 2009

Community Blog Round-up: Male feminists (from:

Courtney's post last week, and the subsequent comments, stirred up some thoughts that a few community bloggers added their opinions on. Since some of you suggested this in comments a few weeks back, here is a round-up of the community blog posts about male feminists.

First, the link to Courtney's original post where she stated that male feminists are underrated (and some commenters disagreed).

Next, Gular, added some thoughts in the post Can anyone be overrated?

I have been closely following the overrated/underrated post that Courtney put up a couple days ago. I find one of the trends rather confounding, and that's the pile on of "male feminists" as overrated. I think it highlights a problem that should be addressed within this, and the entire, community of feminists. It's this: male feminists are important and, more over, vital.

There are many men here on Feministing, especially as of late. They are a pretty vocal minority and I am admittedly one of them. I think it's first to start there and work into where the rest of this is going.

Moody Girl shared her thoughts in the post, Some More Thoughts on Men and Feminism.

I think the idea of male feminists as "overrated" which was lately expressed in the comments on the overrated/underrated post reflects less a desire for men to abstain from participating either on this site or in women's movements in general and more an acknowledgement of some of the problems of male participation. To say that something is overrated is not to say that it is bad or even that it is not important, but that too much attention is devoted to it. For instance, here we are, discussing the desirability of men's participation in feminism and the terms on which it ought or ought not to take place, rather than engaging in discourse that some of us might find ultimately more productive.

Last, Marc wrote the post, How men can be better feminists/allies/partners.

I am far from perfect. As a male feminist, I've stumbled, picked myself back up, learned and stumbled some more, and I am still stumbling - that is, to say, I've been in feminist movement for quite a while now and believe that part of being a feminist is about growth. I came to the feminist movement five years ago as a freshman and I am still learning and making mistakes.
As such, and in response to recent posts on this site about the involvement of men within feminism and whether they are "overrated," I'd like to make this post about how we, as men, can be better partners and allies to the feminist community.Please feel free to contribute and add your advice. It's the only way we'll learn to be better partners.

If you want to join the discussion, you can comment on any of the above threads. A reminder though: keep the comments clean and refrain from using personal attacks.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bullied to Death

This is the second incident this month (April 2009) of a young man of color that killed himself because of anti-gay bullying. The first was an 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. The second is eleven year old Jaheem Herrera hung himself last week and speculation suggests it was due to homophobic bullying.

Jaheem was bullied relentlessly, his family said. Keene said the family knew the boy was a target, but until his death they didn't understand the scope.

"We'd ask him, 'Jaheem, what's wrong with you?'" Keene recalled. "He'd never tell us." He didn't want his sister to tell, either. She witnessed much of the bullying, and many times rose to her brother's defense, Keene said.

"They called him gay and a snitch," his stepfather said. "All the time they'd call him this."
In an interview with WSB-TV, Bermudez also said her son was being bullied at school. She said she had complained to the school.

She said she asked him about the bullying Thursday when he came home from school and he denied it. She sent him to his room to calm down. It was the last time she would see him alive.
At what point do we start paying attention to kids that are being called "gay" as an epithet? It is never OK and no matter how much it is happening, it seems that our cultural fixation with masculinity and homophobia subsides. My heart goes out to his family, this is truly devastating.
Also check out GLSEN's 4-steps you can take to stop anti-LGBT bullying in your school.

The Masculinity Project

Check out this project exploring black masculinities. It includes a blog, links, videos, and other resources.

The Masculinity Project