December 27, 2015

Year-End Man-Making Blog Survey

So now it's your turn to give back. Once a year I ask for a little guidance, feedback, input, or observations from you. So the annual Man-Making Blog survey is at the end of this post, just below. Mostly, I want to know how to make it better. I want to learn how I can do a better job of getting men like you interested in the important work of being a man-maker.

The survey is only FIVE easy questions
and will take less than five minutes.

Anything you're willing to offer by way of comments or suggestions will be very much appreciated.

IDEA SHARING: I feel the challenge of getting good men to show up for young males is too big and too important for me to be the only voice being heard. There are over a thousand of you out there who have subscribed to the blog, and lots of other viewers. I know from your emails there is a mountain of passion and lots of experience in the ranks of my readers. We really do need to be sharing ideas. On the survey you can let me know if you're interested in idea sharing and which topics would get your attention.

THANKS: Thanks so much for your support and thank you in advance for your feedback. But mostly, thanks for your interest in Man-Making and in supporting young males on their journey toward a positive and successful manhood.

HERE'S THE SURVEY. 
You can enter your responses by clicking in the area just under each question.

DON'T FORGET TO HIT THE "SUBMIT" BUTTON AT THE END!


NOTE: If you’re an email subscriber, the survey may not show up in the message below. If this is the case, simply use this link to go directly to the online survey form.





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December 16, 2015

Gifts for Men in Working with Boys


This is the time of year when the idea of gifts, in my opinion, gets overly commercialized and a little out of control. That said, there are lots of different kinds of gifts. I'm partial to the experiential gifts, the ones that engage you and maybe even change you in some way. Those are the kinds of gifts men get when they get connected to young guys.

The subtitle of my Man-Making book reads, "Men Helping Boys on Their Journey to Manhood." The initial, and obvious assumption, is always that it's men helping BOYS on their journey to manhood. That is true, and it's what the book is largely about. However, the subtitle could also read, "Men Helping Boys on THE MEN'S Journey to Manhood." The secret of the Man-Making book, and in man making work, is men who show up for young guys are always made much better men in the process. Now that's quite a gift.

. . . men who show up for young guys are always
made much better men in the process.


In the trainings we do to prepare men for working with young guys, one of many things we do is to create a safe place where they can go back into their history to remember some of the joys, confusion, and the pain of their adolescence. Some of what's shared is really fun. In addition, there are usually some difficult memories from that time in their lives. The gifts for men in this training are having the time, safety, support, and the intimacy with other men to talk about it all. Revisiting the old feelings, challenges, and the bruises one took as a teen is healing for the male soul. It's also the perfect preparation for sitting across a room or circle from a hurting young guy.

Then there's the reality of sitting in weekly groups with boys and young men. Once the young guys really trust you, the masks of teen male bravado slowly come off and real truth is spoken. Regularly witnessing young boy vulnerability, pain, courage, laughter, confusion, foolishness, naiveté, and raw truth, is a force that works on all the males in the circle. It bonds them together on the quest to be better than they were. This is true for all the males in the circle regardless of age. It's this water-on-stone, regular application of boy truth that softens a man's heart and give him the gifts of increased vulnerability, compassion, and caring.

It's this water-on-stone,
regular application of boy truth
that softens a man's heart. . .

In addition to all the gifts described above, in the Man-Making book there is a short list of other gifts for men in this work. They come in two varieties. First, there are the gifts of letting go of what's working against you being the best man you can be. Then there are all the gifts that naturally come from ongoing involvement with boys. Here is a short list of both:

The first set of gifts might be described as what men are relieved from experiencing. Men who work with young men typically feel less:
  • shame of ignored responsibility.
  • isolation across the generations.
  • confusion about the job description for being a "man."
  • detachment from the life of his community.
  • lost on his journey to manhood.
The second set of gifts is about what men get. Men get:
  • to see boys grow and become better young men.
  • reconnect with youthful (teen) energy and spirit.
  • to fill in some of their own boyhood “blanks” by supporting boys.
  • to develop an increased trust in “masculinity” and other men.
  • a connection to a positive male tribe.
  • the satisfactions of directly giving back to their community.

All these gifts are just the beginning, there's many more. Sadly, this is just a two-dimensional description of experiential gifts that are much bigger, deeper, and wonderful. There is just no substitute for the real thing.

My wish for you is that you come get the gifts in man-making that are waiting for you. If you're at all interested, send me a message and let's talk about what might be possible. I can promise you it won't be hard, you ARE the man for this work, and the young men are waiting for you to show up.

Also, I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization. If you'd like to start a Man-Making initiative, large or small, I'd be happy to help.



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November 23, 2015

Men, Boys, and Masculine Emotional Intelligence

A while back I put up a Man-Making Blog post titled, “Teaching Boys to Have Feelings? ” The question mark at the end of the title was there because I don’t believe we have to teach boys to have feelings. So many of our young men are already emotionally pressurized and what the world mostly sees is anger. What we do need to do is help our young men to develop a broad emotional vocabulary, the language of feelings, to help them get access to and understand their complex and rich emotional life.

I don’t believe we have to teach boys to have feelings . . .

In response to that post, I heard from Owen Marcus, the author of, Grow Up: A Man’s Guide to Masculine Emotional Intelligence. The current model of a man’s emotional life is called “Masculine Emotional Intelligence” or MEI. Owen feels MEI is not really masculine at all, but a feminine concept. Here’s how he explained it:

Two hundred years ago, when the men left the farm for the factory, the mothers were left to raise the kids. Women did what they had to do: they stepped up to fill the gap of not having men around. In doing so they modeled and taught both the girls and boys how to be emotional.

Without balanced masculine and feminine role models, young men took on what they were taught. That meant for a few hundred years, the definition of masculine emotional intelligence slowly moved towards the feminine. It wasn’t a conspiracy; it was simply women doing what they had to do. Today, men and women assume that the key to a man’s emotional success, and relationship bliss, comes from men mastering a feminized emotional framework.

In my twenty years of leading men’s groups, I learned the best, and possibly only way out of this, is through men teaching men about feelings. You may ask, how can men teach men about feelings when they weren’t given guidance themselves? Good question. But the truth is men do have their own brand of emotionality, and know it instinctually. When you put men in a group with other men, over time, they naturally begin teaching each other about feelings through their personal expressions and interactions. What eventually emerges is a true and decidedly more male style of emotional expression.


I believe all feelings are gender neutral. That said, when, how, what, and how intensely feelings are expressed has indeed been shaped differently by culture for men and women. Of course this is not a male/female, either/or discussion, and there is a range of emotional capacity spread across all genders/people. But in my experience of being in men’s groups and working with young guys, I do agree that with time spent together in safe venues, males do indeed cross-train each other in how to express a wider range of emotional expression than is seen in the public sphere. I’ve witnessed how, over time in group, the depth, range, spontaneity, and acceptance of feelings and intimate expressions do ramp up.

. . . as a man you are the book on manhood
for the young men around you . . .

There is one really important point to hold on to in this discussion. As our boys and young men are building their vision of the good man they want to become, they need to see emotionally literate and vulnerable adult men as role models. I believe the most powerful gift a man can give himself, his loved ones, and the young men in his world, is to develop his own brand of masculine emotional intelligence. Whether you know or even care, as a man you are the book on manhood for the young men around you. You can be sure they are watching and learning from you!

If you’re interested in learning more about Owen’s work on MEI, his company, Free to Win, offers men training in MEI and in how to start their own free men’s group. Owen is also looking for men interested in participating in an online pilot course with the theme of developing your own MEI. If you’re interested, you can contact him directly.



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November 9, 2015

Mo-ing for Movember and Men's Health


The word Movember is a combination of Mustache + November. It's also the name of a global campaign to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, men's mental health, and the deaths associated with physical inactivity. The idea is in November, men grow mustaches which become the "ribbon" men wear to show their support of the Movember goals. Men become walking, talking billboards about men's health for the 30 days of November. As they say, the idea is to grow, show, and connect with your fellow Mo's to spread the word about men's health.


To support the Movember initiative, you can simply grow a "Mo." You can also go to the Movember website in your respective country and register. You can register as an individual and start collecting donations on your Mo Space, or you can create a team of brothers from your workplace, neighborhood, or campus and fund-raise together. Here is the link to the U.S. Movember website where you can learn more about getting started.

Not only do I really like the idea of men taking a highly visible stand for male health issues, but it's great role modeling for young men. It's good for our young guys to witness adult men in active service to an important cause.

Of course I support all those pink events. They are great examples of how to create awareness and raise much needed funds for women's health issues. That said, I do feel considerable masculine pride seeing my male friends and relatives growing Mo's. My hope is that men will really like the feeling of being united around an important and very masculine cause and being in service to their communities. My wish is the next cause that gets their attention will be doing something about the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys around the globe who desperately need men's support.

Just below is a fun video clip tracking the growth of the Movember movement from the start when 30 Mo Bros launched the initiative in Melbourne, Australia in 2003, to the 854,288 registered Mo's in 2011. On the U.S. Movember website you can continue to track the evolution of the movement through 2014. Today there are over 5 million Mo Bros and supportive Mo Sistas across the globe!


If the clip isn't visible use this link.

The initial Mo Bros didn't raise much more than awareness, but today the campaign they started changing the world. In addition to the enormous difference they continue to make in men's lives, they are yet another shining example of what a few good men, working together with intention, can create.

As they say, Movember is changing the face of men's health. It's never too late for you to get started. Even a shadow of a mustache in November makes you a visible advocate for men's health. Remember, in the challenge to raise awareness about men's health and well-being, every mustache makes a difference.



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October 6, 2015

Father Hunger, Son Hunger, Two Songs, and the Father Wound

NOTE: I'm still recovering from traveling in Spain. So here is one more post from the archive.



I was in a men's circle last night. It was a meeting for men interested in working with young males. To help men get anchored in the teenage male experience, they were asked, "As a teen, who were the men who were, or were not, there to support you?" It was a rich conversation and, as is always the case, men learned that when we speak our "truth," when we are real with each other, we are all way more alike than different.

As a teen, who were the men
who were, or were not,
there to support you?

One of the common themes that showed up in the conversation was about the father who was physically present but emotionally distant: workaholic, alcoholic, womanizing, angry, sometimes abusive, and/or a man without any skills for intimate connection. One man labelled him a ghost father, visible, but was not really there. For some men, it felt more confusing, painful and damaging than having a father who just left, leaving a fatherless boy.

These men, sometimes teary, talked about the profound longing for time and connection with their dad, the most important male in a young man's life. They described how, without this man's guidance and direction, it was so easy for a life to take a wrong turn. Each man, in different ways, and for different reasons, spoke to deep father hunger that was never satisfied, and the wound they have carried into adulthood as a result.

Daddy, where are you?

The film clip below is titled Papaoutai and performed by a Belgian singer named Stromae. It was sent to me by a brother in mission, Andrew MacDonald, who lives near Ottawa, Canada. Loosely translated, Papaoutai means, Daddy, where are you? I don't speak the language of the song, but no matter, its message is painfully clear.

In countless young guy circles, I've heard "Daddy, where are you?" asked many times by so many young men . . . too many young men. It's at the literal heart of what I often call "the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys." Men and young men carrying this kind of father wound may find Papaoutai hard to watch, especially the ending.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.


As almost a direct counterpoint to Papaoutai, I want to offer up another song. This one comes from the other direction, a song about a father hungry for time with his son. Mark Chandler, in his song Making A Man, is speaking out for so many good men cut off from their sons by life's circumstances. Mark is a military officer approaching retirement. It's been difficult to get time with his son because for three of the last eight years, Mark has been deployed. On top of that, he's been divorced for the last four years.

Mark feels the core message of the song is it takes a man to make a man, and it's what "poured out of him" when he was longing for time with his son. Again, for men and young men carrying a father wound, Mark's longing, love, and commitment, as expressed in this song, may dampen your eyes.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

To connect with Mark Chandler, visit his Facebook page.

These songs represent two very different and profoundly deep calls for connection between fathers and sons. When that bond is broken, everyone suffers. What's left for us to do is to support men and young men who've been damaged in that unique way. Today, in so many ways, we're paying the social costs of not offering that support. We can do better and we must.



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September 28, 2015

Boys, Boobs, and Saying "Yes!"

NOTE: I'll be traveling in Spain for the month of September. Here is a popular (and timely) post from the archive.


I still remember my first touch of a naked female breast. It was in the back row of a dark movie theatre when I was maybe twelve. I was on an early adolescent date of sorts and I didn't really have a clue about what I was doing. I remember it took all the courage I had to make my way through a long run up of incremental steps to get to the object of my desire . . . that breast. I was with a girl just a little older than me who somehow managed to pretend none of it was happening, didn't say "no," and seemed to like the attention.

The breast, . . . was indeed
wonderful and otherworldly for me . . .

The breast, while it was indeed wonderful and otherworldly for me, was really just another player in the drama. I was already being propelled by my young male biology and in the grip of an ancient gender dance. Up to that moment in my life, I had NO actual experience with breasts or any other element of female anatomy. I also had no real understanding of what was going on in my body. In short, I didn’t know what I was doing or even why I was so magnetized by those breasts. I was simply operating on pure male instinct and loving it.

In my young male world at that time, there were early rumblings about girls' body parts, "scoring," and things vaguely sexual. Those ideas were mostly joked about in my young boy pack. The fact the guys a little older than us were very focused on girls wasn't lost on us, but no one in our age group really had a clue why. We knew something was going on but it was all a vague and exciting mystery.

The internet has changed everything. Today, kids with even a little sexual curiosity can go online and find all the information on the topic they can handle. An unsupervised adolescent male today can easily find enough information to become an amateur gynecologist. The good and the very bad information is all easily available. Because of how much questionable and blatantly bad information about sexuality is out there, adult guidance is even more important now than ever.


Sadly, too many parents are not having "the talk" with their kids . . . in time. A recent survey of parents and their 13 to 17 year-old kids published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (as reported in U.S. News and World Report), speaks directly to the need for an ongoing conversation about sexuality with kids. In the Talking Parent, Healthy Teens survey, just some of what they discovered included:
  • Almost half of teens had intercourse before their parents got around to talking with them about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.
  • More than half of the teenagers had engaged in genital touching before discussing birth control effectiveness, resisting pressure for sex, and the importance of condom use with their parents.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to have had talks with parents about sex.
We all know someone has to talk with our young guys about these issues. Mark Schuster is one of the authors of the Talking Parents, Healthy Teens survey and is a co-author of a helpful book titled, Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid They'd Ask). It's perfect for parents trying to gear up for having "the talk" with their kids. If you're a parent of a young male, read a book, if necessary, and start the conversation with your young man. There is just too much at risk to pretend our young guys aren't going to be sexual.

When considering these conversations with young males, the questions of how to talk about sex, when to bring up the topic, who should be having the conversations, and what the content about sexuality should include, combine to create an extremity complicated matter. These questions are beyond the scope of this post, but I do feel those of us working with young males should be talking among ourselves and with the parents of young guys about how to raise the topic.

That all said, there may be a conversation parents and those of us working with the young dudes can have right now.

The California legislature has passed a bill that clarifies what it means to have consensual sexual activity. “Activity" means not just the act of intercourse, but all the steps that lead up to two people getting it on. Here is a lot of information on that legal initiative.


This legislation begins to move the discussion out of the realm of someone having to say “no” and instead now requires both parties to say "yes," and keep saying yes as things progress! That means, "continuous, affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement by each party to engage in sexual activity.” Now that kind of agreement would have made my approach of a long run of incremental steps to get to the object of my desire, unacceptable. I’m thinking that would also be true of a lot of the strategies used by young guys these days.

. . . our young guys will need to know
how to have a
sexually intimate and very personal conversation.

Adolescent male sex impulses can be a lot like a snowball rolling downhill, gaining mass and momentum along the way. Given that fact, it’s going to take considerable guidance to make sure our young guys and women are safe in this new day of positive consent. In addition to managing powerful personal biological drives, our young guys will need to know how to have a sexually intimate and very personal conversation. We can and do need to teach them how to do that.

In our school-based and other circles with young men, personal truths are often spoken. When trust has been formed, there is a level of personal honesty, emotion, and real vulnerability that is often shared. The challenge will be to get young guys to bring this form of intimate exchange into their relationships with women . . . and to do so in the heat of a sexual moment.

There is plenty of grey area remaining between the California law’s legal consent requirements and the reality of human sexuality. But requiring a series of yes's along the way is a good start. Laws regarding consent won't stop someone intent on dominance, manipulating a partner, or committing sexual assault. Just having this issue in the public view can be a good reason to bring up the topic with our young men.

If all the barriers to having these intimate conversations can be overcome, discussions about having a healthy, mutually respectful, and positive relationship with a sexual (or any) partner can be launched with our young men. I say "Yes" to that!



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CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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September 18, 2015

4 Reasons Young Men Hear The Call To Jihad

NOTE: I'll be traveling in Spain for the month of September. In the meantime, here is a popular post from the archive.


There is a lot of talk in the news today about how young men are being "radicalized" by religious extremists and being seduced into going off to fight wars in foreign lands. It's a sad story to be sure, but it's a very powerful call for young men.

The call to Jihad, at its core, is really the same call young guys hear to join street gangs, to join our military, or even to be on a school sports team. These organizations put out a call to action that matches up perfectly with the psychology and physiology of our adolescent males. What our young guys hear is a call to be a warrior. The surprising thing for me is not that some young men are answering that call, but that even more young men aren't responding to that message.

If we want to prevent our young men from being lost in tragic ways to the warrior call, we have to learn a little about the adolescent male experience, and then come up with alternative activities that really speak to them. Here's a four-item, short course in what I've learned about why our young men are vulnerable to extremist messages or any call to become a warrior.

. . . why our young men are vulnerable
to extremist messages
or any call to become a warrior.

1. The Biological Imperative: From adolescence to around the mid-twenties, young males are biologically vulnerable in at least two ways that set them up for a warrior call to action.

They are experiencing something like seven to ten surges of testosterone a day. Testosterone has been referred to as an aggression hormone, and it causes young males to feel powerful as their muscles are getting stronger and their sexuality is emerging. Testosterone drives a combative nature and hungers for physical activity, testing through competition and physical challenges, to demonstrate skills and prowess. You can see all this working on neighborhood basketball courts or skateboard parks.

The second biological issue is a young male's well researched and poorly wired prefrontal cortex. Simply stated, it's the part of the brain that helps them to think through the consequences of their choices. Sadly, up until the mid-twenties (and possibly beyond), this part of the brain is still under construction and is marginally functional.

If you take this biological picture as a whole, you come up with a very restless young guy, who is feeling powerful beyond reason, who is naturally combative, ready for action, and who isn't thinking clearly about his choices. This combination makes the perfect young warrior.

2. Tribal Nature: Simply stated, guys need a tribe. Men have operated in packs for eons. Look at the fans in any sports stadium. You'll find mostly men, wearing similar colors, and cheering on "their" team. This sense of belonging, membership, and being part of a pack, is very masculine behavior. For the young guys, being part of a tribe, having an identity as a member, is pretty important.


Males also like hierarchies, think of a military or bureaucratic structure. In a hierarchy, the pecking order is clear and a guy's place in the order of things is laid out. Beyond just belonging in a pack, you know your place in the masculine order of things.

Being in a male tribe gives a young man access to the book on manhood. A tribe gives a young man a smorgasbord of men he can look up to for guidance. He's surrounded by masculine role models and men who may teach him important life skills. There may even be a path of testing or ordeals necessary to achieve full membership and acceptance into the group. This is a perfect match with a young man's need for challenges and proving his worthiness.

Tribe = the book on manhood!

Getting blessings from older men and ultimately acceptance into the adult male club, getting a place around the fire, or honored status in the pack, is a big hunger in young men. A Jihadist group, street gang, or football team all meet the young guy hunger for a tribe.

3. Honor, Respect and Contribution: What our young males want is to be seen (at all) and then respected for who they are and for their unique gifts. They want to stand for something, and if it's a good or noble thing all the better. And though you might find it odd, young guys want to contribute, to make a difference, to be in service. After a community service project, I've see young men smile and stand straighter in the sunshine of gratitude expressed by the food shelf staff, habitat house owner, or elder food delivery service.

They want to stand for something. . .

What too many young guys get in our communities today is pressure for invisibility and often no young guy park or guy place to hang out. Their graffiti "art" is criminalized and over-painted as soon as possible. Their appearance is ridiculed and their music often disrespected. They slink around in alleys, the woods, or at the mall trying not to attract negative attention. So if someone offers them honor, respect, and an opportunity to contribute to an important cause, why wouldn't they say "yes."


4. Hope: Too many young men simply don't see any kind of a desirable future. There is little hope for good work, advanced education, or any legal economic success. Without those things, the idea of being a family man, father, provider, husband, are all just distant concepts for other people. So many young men have been fatherless or under-male parented and don't have good role models for any life but the street. Living with chronic hopelessness as the background to your life is sad business and makes angry and resentful young men. If someone shows them a quick path out of that place, and offers some hope of reclaiming self-respect with a few goodies attached, why wouldn't a lost young man choose that path?

There are lots more reasons many of our young men are vulnerable to the call to become a warrior. Whether or not they make good choices is really up to us. What is clear is that our young men need our support, intentional guidance, positive community, and especially good men around them.

When it comes to Jihad, like Ebola, we don't have to wait till the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys is at our door and starts taking even more of our young men from us. We can start acting now. It's not really that hard to do, we just have to be willing.

If you want to talk about what you, your group, or your community can do four young men, give me a shout and let's talk about what we can create. The young guys are waiting and the time is now!



SHARE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the Facebook "Share" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page! (The button is only on the MM Blog, and not in subscription posts delivered by email.)


CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, use this link for a free subscription.

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September 11, 2015

Farting, Fellowship, and Forgiveness

NOTE: I'll be traveling in Spain for the month of September. Here is a popular post from the archive.


Let's just start with the forgiveness. For those of you easily offended, please forgive me. In my world, this topic just seems to float by every so often. After all, this is a blog about men and boys, and while it's awkward to admit, occasionally taking pleasure in, or laughing at, the passing gas seems to be embedded in the male DNA. So this post is about using information about flatulence to connect with boys . . . OK, males.

 © motivatedphotos.com
Women have a more dignified relationship with this part of the human experience, and are most often offended by any attention focused on the passing of gas. Males however, especially the young dudes, clearly have a more celebratory relationship with this bodily function.

This time the topic was brought to my attention by a mom who had been transporting a car full of young guys, when one of them passed some Serious Gas. Of course, this sent the other guys into fits of laughter, and vain attempts of the boys to match the original “call.” The mom said it was just gross and the last straw. She was offended, really was frustrated, tired of the joke, and just didn't get it. Not all moms feel that way, however.

On The Stir is a blog especially for moms. A recent edition had an article about a young boy who was actually given detention for farting on a school bus and causing a major ruckus. The mom in the article did express some boy-literacy when she said, You know, I don't like anyone smelling up an enclosed space any more than the next gal, but farting is practically an art form for a pre-teen boy. She also allowed that the young man, in his gaseous statement, had . . . just bought himself a one-way ticket to popularity-ville. At least until he starts getting really interested in what the girls think.

I have a theory about male farting. Perhaps we can attribute the joy our young guys (males) take in creative flatulence to our cave dwelling ancestors? Think about it. These guys, prior to football on TV, would spend a lot of time just sitting around the fire with not much to do or say. I can imagine them relaxing after chowing down on a big meal of mastodon, or kangaroo, or venison, and being a little groggy with the digestive process. With nothing else to do and zero social constraints, I'm sure the passing of gas was a major source of entertainment. Because they were guys, I’m also pretty sure competition would eventually commence. From my experience with men, and as a man, I just know this did happen down through time and all around the world. Ancient history there.
When farting is outlawed, only outlaws will fart!
I liked another explanation of why boys fart from a blog actually dedicated to that particular art form. The author of Farting for Boys, I suspect a young male, responded to the question, Why do boys like farting? He said, Because it's gross, unkempt, from the body, and discouraged by society. When farting is outlawed, only outlaws fart, and boys like to be outlaws. If enjoying "dumb humor" is criticized, boys would rather be dumb. The more it's hated by others, the funnier it is to do, and the more they enjoy doing it. If you visit Farting for Boys - (UPDATE! Since the publication of this post, the Farting for Boys blog has been taken down by Blogger. In doing so they obliterated another creative, but boyish expression of the truth. 

When I describe the draft of this post to a couple of my men friends, the response was a smile, an “of course,” and encouragement to let it fly. Having also been through the gaseous part of boyhood and adolescence, they nostalgically remembered the strange form of fragrant bonding that comes from that particular form of male “sharing.” The simultaneously occurring feelings are disgust, compassion, humor, jealousy, and occasionally awe, that unites males in a pack. If you want to endear yourself to a group of young guys, tell a fart joke, or better yet, offer them the real thing. You'll endear yourself to them forever.

If you really want to impress the young dudes (and some of your men friends), here are some fun facts about farting from OnlineEducation.net:
The average person will fart 14 times per day and produce a half liter of fart gas. These farts can travel as fast as 7 mph and due to their composition (largely methane), are quite flammable. The top ten farting animals from most to less, are as follows: Termites, Camels, Zebras, Sheep, Cows, Elephants, Labradors - Retrievers, Humans (Vegetarians), Humans (non-Vegetarians), and Gerbils. And finally, did you know even dead people can still fart?
I’m resisting putting a “fart button” on this post because I really do have my limits. But I am including the edgy video below which I guarantee will bring peals of laughter from any group of adolescent males . . . and a fair number of men. Like I said, it’s in our DNA. If you’re not a fan of flatulence, don’t watch.



If the video doesn't show up, use this link
.


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September 2, 2015

Guys - Check Your Balls!

NOTE: I'll be traveling in Spain for the month of September. Here is a timely and popular post from the archive.

Among other places, this poster appeared in the women's toilet in a Hobart (Tasmania) pub. Do you think this is this going too far?
Click to Enlarge Poster
We seem to live in a very pink world these days, where so much (important) attention is given to women's breast cancer awareness. Yet it seems odd to me that a poster using the word "balls" and suggesting men (and their partners) should be checking them, might be seen as more than a little provocative. Given the data on testicular and other cancers for men, maybe not!

. . . men are 33% more likely
to be diagnosed
with cancer
than women. . .

One in 268 men will be diagnosed with cancer of the testes during their lifetime. While we often think of this as an older man's disease, while rare, it's the most common cancer in males between 15 and 45. It peaks in males in their mid-twenties. Other cancers causing death in guys include lung, prostate, bowel, and melanoma. As the poster states, men are 33% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than women, and 30% more men will die of the disease than women! Given these numbers, it seems to me we should have more loud and bold approaches to men's balls and this aspect of men's health directed at both teem males and men.

Blue September (blueseptember.org) is a global awareness and fundraising initiative for all men’s cancers. Blue was chosen as a men's color as pink is the preferred color for women's breast cancer awareness. Since starting in New Zealand, the Blue September movement has migrated to Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The Blue September blokes in Australia, who created the poster, are supporting Australian Prostate Cancer Research and The Australian Cancer Research Foundation. They say each year, more than 22,000* Australian men die of cancer. For the record, the number for annual male deaths in the US is 33,000.

GO NUTS! Just one of many campaigns across the globe included a Blue September event in the US, prior to the Oakland Raiders/Pittsburgh Steelers game, September 23, 2012. It turns out research says walnuts can improve prostate heath. In order to raise awareness about testicular and other cancers for men, prior to the game, fans were given a package of California walnuts, blue wrist bands, and health information. The jumbo screens also showed a pre-game video on the topic. What a great way to bring this topic to a male audience.

Are you willing to help get the word out to young men and adult males? It would be a sad thing to lose a guy at any age to testicular cancer just because we can't comfortably talk about gonads, nads, nuts, testicles, rocks, bollocks, sack nuggets, groin, the acorns, cracker jacks, stones, kerbangers, marbles, the yam bag, your junk, tenders, cullions, the dangly bits, pelotas, nutsack, doo-dahs, bollocks, huevos, kiwis, clappers, family jewels, cojones, the package, knackers, cods, love spuds, and yes, balls.

Here are some links to great videos and information on Blue September, testicular cancer, and Testicular Self-Exam (TSE) for men and young males:

  • A clip of Ireland's Munster Rugby Team getting painted blue for the cause.

  • A really great website, checkemlads.com, is run by men who are cancer survivors. You'll hear them tell moving personal stories, see a very informative video clip, and get some TSE instruction from straight talking men.

  • A great teen health website, kidshealth.org, with some very straight forward instructions on how to do Testicular Self-Exam (TSE).



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August 26, 2015

One Woman's Experience of Manhood

It's such a rare opportunity to get a woman's view of man's world, so when my friend and subscriber, John Richards sent along this example, I thought there was good reason to share it. It's about how Norah Vincent, a lesbian feminist, spent a year and a half disguised as a man.

John said, "While I don't necessarily agree with her view of men, her piece is one of those that works against the common notions of men as perpetrators, women as victims, and seeing traditional forms of masculinity as dangerous or destructive. I also like it because argues for equality between genders – not an easy thing at all. I think this would be great discussion material for a young men's group."

In 2006, Norah Vincent disguised herself as a man. By going undercover, she got access to man's world. She was doing immersion journalism, and to do so, she went through an extensive makeover and appeared as the male "Ned." The disguise included taking acting lessons, clothing, fake facial hair, and some strategically placed padding in a jockstrap!

With her Ned identity, she joined a bowling team, took on a high pressure sales job, visited strip clubs, and even spent time in a men’s therapy group. In doing so, Vincent got a view of manhood that hardly women don't normally get to see. In the process, she went a little crazy, and learned that being a man isn't as easy as she thought.


As you'll hear her explain in the video clip, she discovered that whatever male privileges and natural camaraderie between men may exist, guys pay a big price in their own battle with male sexual stereotypes. She learned about how men are supposed to embody masculine strength, endure pain, be competitive, be athletic, and the importance of competency in typically masculine skills. In addition, she felt men had to deal with being socialized against vulnerability and compassion, and had to struggle with learned, limited emotional expression. One of her realizations which resonated for me is when she said, "There's a tremendous potential for more tenderness between men."

"There is a time in a boy’s life
when the sweetness is pounded out of him;
and tenderness, and the ability
to show what he feels,
is gone."

Norah Vincent.

For a more in-depth understanding of Norah Vincent's experience, you can read her book, Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man. In the book as well as in the video, she goes into more detail about the guilt she still feels about having deceived the men who so readily welcomed her into their circle of friendship. I'll be curious about what gets stirred up for you in this clip.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

What are our boys learning about masculinity,
femininity, and all the other gender options
showing up in today's world?

By way of disclaimer, let’s be very clear, this is only one woman's perspective on manhood. It is full of her judgments, misconceptions, and sweeping generalizations about men. You and I both know lots of men who do not fit her model of what constitutes manhood today. But her story is still an oddly informative experiment. In addition to her observations about men, for better and worse, her experiment invites us all to ask hard questions about what our boys are learning about being a "man," femininity, and all the other gender options showing up in today's world.



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August 17, 2015

Men Holding Space for Young Guys


In my work with young men, I often hear the term, “holding space.” It means a lot of things really. For me it’s primarily about keeping a place in my heart and mind for the multitude of sad, angry, brave, lonely, and under-male-supported young men I know who are out there and lost on their journey to manhood.

The most common use of the expression, “holding space,” refers to the creation of a safe, gentle, and non-judgmental environment for young guys on our events, outings and in our school and other group circles. We refer to it as creating a safe container that can hold the hard questions, expressions of deep wounds, joys, anger and anything else that's found behind the brave, “I’m Okay” boy mask. It's the space inside that container, where deep truths can be spoken, that we hold and protect.

“holding space” refers to
the creation of a safe, gentle, and
non-judgmental environment for young guys

One way of teaching men to hold space and to keep the container strong is by teaching them our basic group-mentor’s job description. While it may be slightly altered in different places in our network, basically it’s to LAMP and not to FRAP young males! LAMP means to Listen, Accept, Model, and Praise. These behaviors are gifts people can give each other in any relationship and which increase trust and connection. FRAP is what we try not to do. Fix, Rescue, Advise, and Project. FRAP-ing behavior quickly reduces and erodes the trust that is the glue in any container. You can read more about these skills in this past Man-Making Blog post on the topic.

Matt Zavadil, a true brother in mission and the program director for Boys to Men - Georgia, came across the term “holding space” in an article he was reading. He sent the following contribution for your consideration.



Earl, I recently read a great blog post from a woman who learned how to support her mother's dying process. It's full of tremendous insight and the wisdom she gained going through the experience. The term she uses is "holding space" and it perfectly describes what we do for the boys in our programs.

Holding space seems so passive on one hand, and yet, OMG, it is not! For me, to really hold safe space for a young guy, I need constant vigilance to corral my every impulse to look smart, anticipate a kid’s meaning, push for a specific outcome, feed my own ego, or somehow make it about me. After reading this post, I realize holding space, at its core, is one of the strongest acts of love there is.

Here are lessons the author learned from her experience of holding space for her mother in that most difficult time:
  • Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.
  • Don’t take their power away.
  • Keep your own ego out of it.
  • Make them feel safe enough to fail.
  • Give guidance and help cautiously, with humility and thoughtfulness.
  • Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc.
  • Give people only as much information as they can handle.
  • Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.
The author goes into more detail about each of these themes in her article. Let’s share these ideas with people who are working with young guys.



How would you feel if you were able to sit with a group of good men who were committed to holding space for you? What would it be like for you to be in a place where you felt safe because trust in each other was high, and where your real, unedited, truth-speaking self was welcomed and honored? It’s in that environment where real man-making takes place and where all the participants move along on their journey to manhood.



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July 24, 2015

Helping Potentially Lethal Young Men

I often speak about severely under-male-nourished young men who are lost, imprisoned, or even dying for lack of adult male blessing and guidance. Very often, these are young males who have nothing positive to say about a father or adult man. I'm talking ZERO positive connection to good men and often lots of damage from a bad dad or the other men who are in their lives. The result is an emotionally damaged kid full of anger and teen bravado. The mask of, "I'm fine and I don't need anybody" is hard set on these guys, and they can put the whole community in danger.

Because of their predictable deficits, these young men are at high risk for making very bad life choices. But IF a man or group of men can connect with them while being very patient and working gently, many young men can have their life's trajectory altered and many can be saved. It often takes a long time to connect with these guys and a lot of courage on the part of these young men to risk trusting men again.

So I was not surprised when one of you sent along this great article from Mother Jones describing how a combination of mentoring by good men and cash incentives are being combined to reduce violence and homicides in Richmond, California. The article states in 2007 Richmond, "had the dubious distinction of being the ninth most dangerous in America." They had 47 homicides that year which meant in some places, gunfire was almost a daily event. Research into those numbers in 2009 revealed a rather surprising fact: "An estimated 70 percent of shootings and homicides in Richmond in 2009 were caused by just a few individuals . . . between the ages of 16 and 25." With the city's "potentially most lethal young men" identified, in combinations with other interventions, they set up Operation Peacemaker Fellowship (OPF), now known nationally as "the Richmond Model.”

The most innovative aspect of Operation Peacemaker Fellowship was the bait. The deal was if the young men, called Fellows, maintained their program commitment for six months — attending meetings, staying out of trouble, and connecting with their mentors, they became eligible to earn up to $1,000 a month for a maximum of nine months and to go on big trips to see the world. With gun violence in the U.S. costing an estimated $229 billion dollars a year, the average cost to taxpayers of every gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. With only about half the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship participants getting payments at all (usually in the $300 to $700 range) meant the cost of the initiative was a bargain given the results.

As a result of OPF and its other initiatives, by 2014 Richmond recorded a 76 percent reduction in homicides and a 69 percent reduction in firearm assaults from the 2007 data. That's the lowest number of firearm assaults and homicides in their community in more than four decades. Of the 68 OPF Fellows who participated over the past 43 month period: 65 are alive (95%); 64 have not been injured by firearm (94%); and 57 (84%) have not been involved in any gun activity. These are huge victories given the scope and scale of the challenge!

. . . the benefits of connecting with these young guys
are much bigger than just fewer shootings.

The OPF men doing the mentoring are called Neighborhood Change Agents, and together they now work with about 150 young guys a year. While saving lives and reducing gang activity is impressive, they've learned the benefits of connecting with these young guys are much bigger than just fewer shootings. Many of the "potentially most lethal" young men in the OFP program are now in school or in jobs. These young men are doing more parenting, less drug use, and causing less violence in general. They have moved on from predictable criminal dead ends to involvement in programs that have changed the trajectory of their lives and are improving their neighborhoods in the process.

Check out this video from Richmond TV station KCBS for more of the story!
"They have to be willing to get on a plane with someone who is trying to kill you!"

The good men of Operation Peacemaker Fellowship are my heroes working on the front lines of the struggle to reclaim our lost boys and our communities. We need to honor them and learn from their experience. But to be very clear, ALL young men, even those with great families and engaged fathers, can use the objectivity and support of solid adult men. If teen males of any background can find their way to a place where there is support from good men, they will gradually open up and let you see the truth behind the mask they wear (and they all do). In those circles you can actually witness the effect of the group support, good information, personal feedback, and the positive attention working on them. You can watch as they become more confident, smile more often, and, most importantly, make better life choices.

That is what's at the heart of man-making!



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July 9, 2015

Groups for men and young men . . . EVERYWHERE?

Some of you know about the gifts of transformation that occur when men gather in a circle to speak their personal truths. I've spent over thirty years in men's support groups of one kind or another and I can say from experience, when the bond of trust has been formed in a group, regardless of the group member's age, magic happens and better men are the result. It's one place where real man-making occurs.

I've seen this magic in countless men's circles, in school groups of young males, and even on weekend passage adventures. If you make a safe place for guys to show up un-masked, you will eventually hear profound honesty about the fears, joys, pain, hopes, anger, longings, and all the parts of males that otherwise lie hidden in confusion behind the face they show the world.

Because of the power of these circles to improve lives, I'm of the opinion that more groups should be available to men and young males. Sadly, in addition to the fears so many males carry about the risks of real intimacy and vulnerability, there are other real world barriers to group attendance. Finding a group at all, or one close enough geographically to be practical, is an issue for many. Then you have to find a group that meets at a time that fits into your busy life. For some, especially the young guys, finding transportation to get to a group can make regular attendance difficult or impossible. For these reasons (and many others), I really like the idea of digital, on-line support groups!

. . . for me, meeting on-line
is far better than not meeting at all.

While I'll admit I have a large bias in favor of being in a face-to-face circle of males as opposed to looking at them on a screen, there is no question for me that meeting on-line is far better than not meeting at all. I have been exploring different platforms for holding on-line, topic-focused meetings. In a conversation with my friend, Luis Oliveira, he mentioned he was a member of an on-line support group. His group was started by Graham Reid Phoenix, the author of the e-book, Journey to the Core of the Masculine. Graham launched the on-line support group two years ago, and it's now called, "The Virtual Men's Gathering." Graham lives in Spain, Luis is in Portugal, and the other men in the group are scattered across the globe. This group is proof that geography doesn't count for much anymore when it comes to man-making.

. . . geography doesn't count for much anymore
when it comes to man-making.


Because The Virtual Men's Gathering is such a good example of how an on-line group for men works, I interviewed Graham and Luis in a Google Hangout to see what we all can learn about this digital approach to man-making. In the video below you'll hear about the benefits of a digital support group, some nuts and bolts about how they work, how they differ from face-to-face groups, and there's even some help if you're thinking of starting an on-line group of your own.

Check out the video and then either contact Graham or send me a quick note and let's see how we can use these amazing digital tools to enhance the lives of men and young males . . . everywhere!


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.



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June 21, 2015

The Truth about Our Teen Boys

With the current news full of the story of yet another young man gone tragically wrong, it’s the perfect time for me to bring you a story about some really great young men. The guys that star in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl are good examples of what I've found to be true and deeply good about the teenage guys I've met, and I've met a lot of them. I think it's time we all hear more about what's right about our young men and less about the few lost and angry guys who get so much media attention.

At the start of the movie, we meet Greg (played by Thomas Mann), a high school senior, shy, and full of the pretty standard young male insecurities. He manages to stay socially hidden in background at high school as a way of coping with the complicated worlds of relationships. He subtly moves between all the cliques, like the jocks, stoners, goths, and theatre geeks, being a dabbler but not a member of any. Mostly, he remains a loner. Mostly.

Greg does have one main dude in his life named Earl (R.J. Cyler) who he’s known since childhood. Earl is from the (stereotypical) other side of town and is really Greg’s only true friend. Sadly, Greg is so afraid of what it means to have a real friend, he refers to Earl as his “co-worker.” In addition to their history, the two pals share a common interest in odd European art films. They work together making terrible but really funny amateur movies.


Friendships are a complicated business for young guys Greg and Earl's age. Sitting with teen males in groups, I’ve heard many of them talk about having what’s up friends. Those are the guys they hang out with between classes, at lunch, and sometimes after school. However, few of them say they have any got-your-back-no-matter-what, real friends.

. . . few of them say they have any
got-your-back-no-matter-what, real friends.


The movie really gets started when Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) insists that he check in on Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a distant acquaintance from school who has been diagnosed with leukemia. As his relationship with Rachel develops, a true friendship is born, and Greg begins to truly, but cautiously, care for her. You'll be able to pinpoint the moment in the film when Greg’s heart cracks open and he’s overwhelmed with the flood of feelings he has for Rachel he's been holding back.

As I've witnessed many times, when the I'm Okay Mask comes off, so many young men have amazing capacity to face the very hard parts of their lives, speak deep truths, and express big feelings. You’ll see a lot of that in this film. I’m here to tell you it’s not Hollywood, but a really honest depiction of what's alive behind teen male bravado.

There are tons of great laughs and sub-characters. Greg’s strange, sociology professor father (Nick Offerman), is a riot in weird clothing, odd behavior, and a love for exotic foods. In a non-funny way, it speaks to how so many young guys feel they come from embarrassing or sometimes shameful family situations.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, so it has great credentials. But for me, so much of what I saw was just flat out true about my own adolescence, and true about the good young men who sit across from me in school circles.

This film is both very funny and sad at the same time, but the laughs outweigh the tears. The film is worth seeing if you want to touch the angst of your own teen history, increase your young male-literacy, and have your heart lightly squeezed.

Here’s a little taste:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.



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