February 24, 2005

Lord of the Flies

I was recently reminded of a book I read a long time ago titled, Lord of the Flies. It’s a thought-provoking novel authored by William Golding in 1954. In great detail, this book describes the challenges of a band of young boys stranded on an island by a plane crash. In short order and without adult input, these boys establish a cruel hierarchy based on competition and power. Today we’d call them a gang. The book presents a tragic remainder and vivid description about how adolescent males left without adult male guidance have no choice but to invent their way into their own misguided notions of manhood.

Click here to order Lord of the Flies from Amazon

February 21, 2005

Brutal Rites of Passage for Boys

Poking around the net, I came across these scary descriptions of what some might call barbaric rite of passage rituals for boys. If you can imagine, these acts were performed by the men of the village who had watched these boys grow up, knew the boys and their parents. They were also the men whose sacred job it was to insure the young males became established in their manhood and stepped into new roles of responsibility in their community. The men knew that the survival of their tribe depended on the success of this critical rite of passage.

While my "modern" psyche has trouble with what was physically done to the boys (and I'm not recommending it), part of me wishes that like those boys, I had been surrounded by a group of adult men who cared enough about my future, that they would stop their lives and take the time required to teach me everything they knew about manhood. And then be strong enough to inflict the pain required to mark me as a male, clearly and without question, on the way to manhood.

"While boys do not experience such clear physiological markers of transition to adulthood as menstruation, their rites of passage to this new status in some cultures are more severe than for girls. Among the Barabaig of East Africa, the boys' heads are shaved and their foreheads are cut with three deep horizontal incisions that go down to the bone and extend from ear to ear. This scarification leaves permanent scars that identify a male as having received 'gar.' Sometimes, the incisions are deep enough to show up on the skulls of dead men.

Among the Luise Indians, boys had to undergo severe ordeals such as laying on red ant mounds and not crying out from pain as they were repeatedly bitten over long periods of time. They were also given toloache , a powerful hallucinogenic drug that made them ill and apparently sometimes caused their death.

Among some Australian Aborigine societies, a boy being initiated was expected to repeatedly hit his penis with a heavy rock until it was bruised and bloody. He also had several of his incisor teeth knocked out with a sharp rock by the adult men who were instructing him in the duties and obligations of manhood and the secrets of their religion.

All of these rite of passage rituals were intended to be painful in order to increase the importance of the transition to adulthood."

February 16, 2005

Men and Boys in Advertising

In the absence of solid, real life role models, boys learn about manhood from the media. In an era where kids see 20,000 to 40,000 commercials a year, the picture of manhood that's projected is a powerful influence. Here's what the people at Children Now say:

"In the last few years, much public attention has been focused on the issue of how boys are faring in America. In the search for answers, parents, public officials, academics, and child advocates have been looking more and more closely at the role of media in boys' development. Boys, in their daily media consumption, can see various types of men, from stay-at-home dads to professional wrestlers. But despite the broad range of images, boys get consistent messages that they must be strong and tough, and must never show their vulnerability. Advertising reinforces similar messages."

February 9, 2005

Urban Boat Builders

"Urban Boatbuilders, Inc. or (UBI) is a non-profit resource for youth to develop life skills through the building and use of small boats."

This group in St. Paul, MN, has put together a great boy-man organization. Boy intimacy is very much side-by-side, and if you mix in tools, building boats, and learning boating on water skills, you have a great formula for mentoring and positive role modeling for young guys.

"Since 1996, we have worked with more than 1,200 youth who have completed 100 boats. More than 300 youth have been introduced to an on-the-water experience in a boat built with their own hands." A big YES to this organization and other like it.

Do you have a hobby or interest like this you could use for mentoring the boys around you? I have little doubt that if you are passionate about your interest, there are a half-dozen boys with in 5 miles who would be too.

February 8, 2005

Why Men Don't

This is an article (downloadable PDF) I've written exploring the fears, concerns, and vulnerabilities men expressed in my research, that keep them from showing up for the many under-male-nourished boys around them.

Some of the fears are appropriate, such as their concern about the sick norm in our culture that causes people to raise an eyebrow when an adult male shows interest in mentoring boys. This is just one of the barriers to be overcome, and why courage will be necessary if men are going to ever show up for the boys.

I'd be interested in your feedback, here or on the website. If your an adult male and you're not mentoring a boy or boys, what are your fears and concerns.

February 6, 2005

Boy's & Men's Sexual Health

"Boys and men have been left out in our efforts to improve sexual and reproductive health."

Just one of the ways our boys are left ill-equipped for manhood is the lack of guidance around their sexuality. This article from bmj.com, a general medical journal website from the UK, is promoting the idea that in a world that largely focuses on women's fertility and sexual health, boys and men are terribly under-informed. They say, "the few services provided for boys seem not to help." One of the many studies they cite in this web article says, "Boys consulted by the Sex Education Forum said that their formal sex education is "too little, too late, too biological" and that it fails to prepare them to deal with sexual relationships, contraception, abortion, and their sexual identity."

They present a solid, 3-part answer to this problem. One small part of which is encouraging the, "practicing condom use during masturbation." You'll have to read the short article to figure that one out.

February 4, 2005

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man

In this interview at MotherJones.com, Susan Faludi, author of Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, paints a frightening vision of the brutal forces that have been, and are shaping masculinity today. Far from being an attack on men, Susan is on "our side," and calling men to awarnenss and positive action.

She talks about the "cultural betrayal" of men, "the ways men, like women, are imprisoned in cultural stereotypes," and why our boys, in the absence of clear path to positive manhood, turn angry and self-destructive. Here is a little taste of her interview.

"I don't see how you can be a feminist and not think about men. One of the gross misconceptions about feminism is that it's only about women. But in order for women to live freely, men have to live freely, too. Feminism has shown us that what we think of as feminine is actually defined by cultural messages and political agendas. The same holds true for men and for what constitutes masculinity. Being a feminist opens your eyes to the ways men, like women, are imprisoned in cultural stereotypes."

Like my book, Susan's book calls men to action. I own it and it's very much worth a read.

Click on the title below to order this book from Amazon:
Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man