Saturday, April 30, 2011

Daniel Goleman - Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent Than Men?

This post from Daniel Goleman at his Psychology Today blog, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, is useful, if for no other reason, because it distinguishes between emotional empathy (what women excel at, and which men are seen not to possess) and action empathy (where men excel, after registering the affective aspect) - too often men are seen not to possess empathy when in reality there is only a difference in how it is expressed.
Here's where women differ form men. If the other person is upset, or the emotions are disturbing, women's brains tend to stay with those feelings. But men's brains do something else: they sense the feelings for a moment, then tune out of the emotions and switch to other brain areas that try to solve the problem that's creating the disturbance.
Goleman uses different terms and doesn't name the male performance of empathy as action empathy, but that is the proper term as offered by Dr. Ron Levant. More than likely, this is a learned behavior in young boys who are taught that feelings are "girlie," but doing something to fix the problem is "manly." There is probably some hard-wiring around this too, in that men served to protect the group evolutionarily - so acting takes precedence over feeling.

But, as I often suggest, we are not bound by biology - learning and experience re-wires the brain.

Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent Than Men?

Yes, and Yes and No.

Emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skill. There are many tests of emotional intelligence, and most seem to show that women tend to have an edge over men when it comes to these basic skills for a happy and successful life. That edge may matter more than ever in the workplace, as more companies are starting to recognize the advantages of high EI when it comes to positions like sales, teams, and leadership.

On the other hand, it's not that simple. For instance, some measures suggest women are on average better than men at some forms of empathy, and men do better than women when it comes to managing distressing emotions. Whenever you talk about such gender differences in behavior, your are referring to two different Bell Curves, one for men and one for women, that largely overlap. What this means is that any given man might be as good or better as any woman at empathy, and a woman as good as or better than a specific man at handling upsets.

Let's look at empathy. There are three kinds: cognitive empathy, being able to know how the other person sees things; emotional empathy, feeling what the other person feels; and empathic concern, or sympathy -being ready to help someone in need.

Women tend to be better at emotional empathy than men, in general. This kind of empathy fosters rapport and chemistry. People who excel in emotional empathy make good counselors, teachers, and group leaders because of this ability to sense in the moment how others are reacting.

Neuroscientists tell us one key to empathy is a brain region called the insula, which senses signals from our whole body. When we're empathizing with someone, our brain mimics what that person feels, and the insula reads that pattern and tells us what that feeling is.

Here's where women differ form men. If the other person is upset, or the emotions are disturbing, women's brains tend to stay with those feelings. But men's brains do something else: they sense the feelings for a moment, then tune out of the emotions and switch to other brain areas that try to solve the problem that's creating the disturbance.

Thus women's complaint that men are tuned out emotionally, and men's that women are too emotional - it's a brain difference.

Neither is better - both have advantages. The male tune-out works well when there's a need to insulate yourself against distress so you can stay calm while others around you are falling apart - and focus on finding a solution to an urgent problem. And the female tendency to stay tuned in helps enormously to nurture and support others in emotional trying circumstances. It's part of the "tend-and-befriend" response to stress.

There's another way of looking at male-female differences in EI: Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, says that there's an extreme "female brain" which is high in emotional empathy -- but not so good at systems analysis. By contrast, the extreme "male brain" excels in systems thinking and is poor at emotional empathy (he does not mean that all men have the "male brain", nor all women the "female brain" of course; many women are skilled at systems thinking, and many men at emotional empathy).

Psychologist Ruth Malloy at the HayGroup Boston studies excellence in leaders. She finds when you only look at the stars -- leaders in the top ten percent of business performance -- gender differences in emotional intelligence abilities wash out: The men are as good as the women, the women as good as the men, across the board.

That echoes a discovery by scientists who study primates. When a chimp sees another chimp who is upset, say from an injury, she mimics the distress, a way of showing empathy. Some chimps will then go over and give some solace to the upset chimp, for example, stroking the other to help it calm down. Female chimps do this more often than male chimps do - with one intriguing exception: The alpha males, the troupe leaders, give solace even more often than do female chimps. In nature's design, leaders, it seems, need a large dose of empathic concern.

Satire - Man Raised By Parents Struggling To Adjust To Human Society

In all satire, there is an often painful truth. Much is being of late of how young men (and young women, too, but no one seems upset of their status as perpetual adolescents) are not growing up and acting like adults. This piece from The Onion satirizes that partial truth - in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "It's funny because it's true."

Man Raised By Parents Struggling To Adjust To Human Society

April 30, 2011 | ISSUE 47•17

MINNEAPOLIS—Two years after his discovery by a team of developmental psychologists, David Sullivan, a man raised by a pair of mated parents, is still struggling to adapt to normal human society, sources confirmed Friday.

According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, Sullivan, 25, has made significant progress since moving into his own apartment in 2009, but the decades he spent being reared by parents has made joining civilization a desperately difficult task.

"The chances of David ever becoming socialized to the point where he can function normally among humans is very slim," said Dr. Lisa Reynolds, a psychologist who has observed Sullivan since he was first introduced into the real world. "The sheltered, isolated environment in which he spent his adolescence has left him completely unequipped to deal with modern life. Tasks that may seem simple to us, such as doing laundry or grocery shopping, completely baffle David."

Reynolds explained Sullivan's assimilation into society had been hindered to a large extent by his extremely limited communication abilities. Though he has learned basic takeout-ordering commands, he will often relapse into the grunts and mumbles he is believed to have learned from the male parent, and will occasionally emit a high-pitched whine when he does not receive something he wants.

Sullivan reportedly has trouble navigating even the most simple situations, often becoming frustrated to the point of tears by an attempt to mail a letter at the post office, or shutting down completely when forced to have a conversation with a person he doesn't feel comfortable with.

"Whenever David enters a social gathering, for example, he quickly becomes fearful and anxious," Reynolds said. "He'll back himself into a corner, rapidly consume alcohol and snack foods, avoid eye contact, and, in some cases, lash out with sarcasm in reaction to perceived threats. Within an hour, he invariably becomes spooked and flees."

When he feels especially threatened or overwhelmed, Sullivan returns to the place where he was raised, sometimes spending an entire weekend in the habitat to which he is still best adapted. According to Reynolds it is, in many ways, the only world Sullivan understands.

"David's lack of acculturation is particularly evident when he attempts to interact with women, even in the most innocuous of circumstances," Reynolds said. "Most likely he was fiercely protected and coddled by the female parent during his teen years instead of gradually learning to interact with girls as a normal child of that age would."

"Sadly, David remains so off-putting to members of the opposite sex that he will probably never procreate," Reynolds added.

Though Sullivan continues to struggle, experts who have observed him were quick to point out that the parent-reared man has made tremendous progress considering how much of his life he spent in an environment where his every need was anticipated and met.

"In the beginning, he could barely sit down in a restaurant and use a knife and a fork," said behavioral psychologist Peter Erskine, adding that it took Sullivan months to finally stop wearing the same tattered, foul-smelling Minnesota Vikings sweatpants every day. "He was only interested in foods covered in ranch dressing or barbecue sauce, and if there was a buffet involved, he would walk up to it and begin eating right out of the trays."

"He still sometimes loudly chews with his mouth open, and he spills on his shirt more often than we'd like, but it's now possible to get through dinner with David without being completely revolted by his presence," he continued.

Erskine added that in therapeutic settings, Sullivan has been extremely useful in helping those suffering from difficulties similar to his own, such as 28-year-old Brian Werner, a man who was raised by television.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poem - "Dark Matter" by Jack Myers

Dark Matter
by Jack Myers
I've lived my life as if I were my wife packing for a trip—I'll need this and that and I can't possibly do without that!
But now I'm about what can be done without. I just need a thin valise.
There's no place on earth where I can't unpack in a flash down to a final spark of consciousness.
No place where I can't enter the joyless rapture of almost remembering
I'll need this and I'll need that, hoping to weigh less than silence, lighter than light.

TEDxIsfeld Bill Pozzobon Breaking the Boys Code of Masculinity

Great talk . . . . Pozzobon works with preventing violence, especially by young men. In doing so, he helps them reveal and refute the "guy code." He helps young men construct their own "guy code," one that is healthy and feels good to them. Admirable work.

TEDxIsfeld Bill Pozzobon Breaking the Boys Code of Masculinity

Bill has worked on gender and violence issues with youth and educators for over a decade. In his role as Director of the SafeTeen Boy's Program, he trains the new SafeTeen Agents for Change and co-leads Educator Trainings locally, nationally and internationally. With humour and skill Bill invites the boys and men he works with to step into their full humanity with dignity and courage.

"I am a strong believer in the power of personal choice and heart centered action. My own personal journey and the undeniable impact on the thousands of young men I have worked with, give me an enduring passion for this work."

Bill is also an actor, director, acting teacher and inspirational public speaker who brings powerful personal narrative and a vision for a better world to his work.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unblocking the Ally - Habitual Anger

For many years of my life, anger was my only emotion. It took a lot of thawing to get past that, in part because I was "trained" to behave that way, as are many men.

We can't repress anger - that's also destructive - so getting to know our anger and the emotions it is covering over is important to our becoming whole healthy men. This is one area of my life where meditation has been essential to my personal growth.

Becoming mindful of the ways and the whys I became (and still become) angry helped me learn what was real anger (and this Daily Om points out, anger is a powerful ally when it's "clean") and when the anger was just the easier, habitual emotion (often covering fear or anxiety for me).

The blocking of anger often results in rage - out-of-control, violent, pathological anger. We damage ourselves and risk hurting others if we allow her anger to get pushed down until it becomes rage.

Unblocking the Ally
Habitual Anger

Anger can easily become our go-to emotion; to remedy, start noticing when and why you get angry.

Sometimes when we feel anger, it is coming from a deep place that demands acknowledgment and expression. At these times, it is important that we find healthy ways to honor our anger, remembering how dangerous it is to repress it. However, anger can also become a habit, our go-to emotion whenever things go wrong. Often this is because, for whatever reason, we feel more comfortable expressing anger than we do other emotions, like sadness. It can also be that getting angry gives us the impression that we’ve done something about our problem. In these cases, our habitual anger is inhibiting both our ability to express our other emotions and to take action in our lives.

If it’s true that anger is functioning this way in your life, the first thing you might want to try is to notice when you get angry. You might begin to see a pattern of some kind. For example, you could notice that it is always your first response or that it comes up a lot in one particular situation. If the pattern doesn’t become clear right away, you could try keeping a journal about when you get angry and see if you can find any underlying meaning. The good thing about keeping a journal is that you can explore your anger more deeply in it—from examining who in your family of origin expressed a lot of anger to how you feel when you encounter anger in others. This kind of awareness can be a formidable agent of transformation.

Anger can be a powerful ally, since it is filled with energy that we can harness and use to create change in the world. It is one of the most cathartic emotions, and it can also be a very effective cleanser of the emotional system. However, when it becomes a habit, it actually loses its power to transform and becomes an obstacle to growth. Identifying the role anger plays in your life and restoring it to its proper function can bring new energy and expansiveness to your emotional life.

Scientific American - A $125-million program to boost soldiers' "fitness" raises ethical questions

I'm all for teaching resiliency skills to our soldiers - if we are going to put them in a position of constant, inescapable stress from months at a time, we should at least provide them with some tools to cope.

As John Horgan reports for Scientific American, the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program was developed by no less a figure than martin Seligman (author of Learned Optimism and one of the principal founders of Positive Psychology).

But is this all it's cracked up to be? Sounds like it's a half-baked program based on sketchy theories that have only proved mildly effective in civilians.

Yet another example of we are screwing the kids we send to defend our right to drive gas-guzzling SUVs.

Beware the military-psychological complex: A $125-million program to boost soldiers' "fitness" raises ethical questions

Apr 18, 2011

Fifty years ago, in the same farewell speech in which he warned about the "unwarranted influence" of the "military-industrial complex" on American politics, President Dwight Eisenhower also deplored the growing dependence of scientists on federal funding. "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by federal employment, project allocations and the power of money is ever present—and is gravely to be regarded."

Eisenhower's speech comes to mind as I gravely regard the latest example of the militarization of science, a $125 million collaboration between psychologists and the U.S. Army called "Comprehensive Soldier Fitness," or CSF. The program calls for giving "resilience training" to more than one million Army soldiers and civilian employees to help them cope with the stress of military life. A U.S. Army Web site calls the CSF "a long term strategy that better prepares the Army community—including all soldiers, family members, and the Department of the Army civilian workforce—to not only survive, but also thrive at a cognitive and behavioral level in the face of protracted warfare and everyday challenges of Army life that are common in the 21st century."

The program is the brainchild of one of the most powerful figures in American psychology, Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. A former president of the American Psychological Association (APA), Seligman is best-known for founding the enormously popular positive psychology, or "happiness," movement, which emphasizes positive rather than negative personality traits and emotions.

The APA's main journal, American Psychologist, devoted its January 2011 issue, co-edited by Seligman, to explaining and extolling the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. No articles in the issue questioned the program's scientific or ethical soundness, but the psychologists Roy Eidelson, Marc Pilisuk and Stephen Soldz did just that in "The Dark Side of 'Comprehensive Soldier Fitness,'" a hard-hitting article published in the newsletter Counterpunch. (Scientific American's Gary Stix also critiqued the methods underpinning the CSF in this incisive recent article.)

Is it ethical for psychologists to help soldiers to participate in what may be unethical behavior? This is the toughest question raised by Eidelson et al. "Helping people who have already been harmed by trauma is essential," they wrote. "But should we be involved in helping an institution prepare to place more people in harm's way without careful and ongoing questioning and review of the rationale for doing so?"

The trio also charged that the CSF is based on "resiliency techniques," developed by Seligman and others, that have been shown to be "only modestly and inconsistently effective" in studies of civilians. Indeed, according to Eidelson et al., the techniques are still so experimental that the CSF may violate the Nuremberg Code of ethics, which prohibits research on people without their consent. Eidelson et al. noted that soldiers "apparently have no informed consent protections—they are required to participate." According to TIME blogger Mark Benjamin, the Army dismisses the issue of informed consent as an "academic tiff"—or, as an Army spokesman put it, "an academic discussion and debate between the psychologist and behavioral health communities." The spokesman said the CSF "continues to move forward" despite these concerns.

The Army's own description of the CSF sounds like psychobabble: "Conceptually, while CSF is largely focused on training skill sets, it also delves into root causes of emotion, thought and action—what psychologists refer to as 'meta-cognition'. With this in mind, CSF serves as a programmatic first step towards training members of the Army community to understand how and why they think a certain way. Once people begin to understand this, they are best postured to change their thoughts and actions to strategies that are positive, adaptive and desirable for both the person and the Army."

Even in the face of declines in non-military funding, some scientific fields have resisted militarization. In 2009 the American Anthropological Association declared that a program to embed anthropologists with troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones violated the profession's code of ethics, which one article described as "a sort of Hippocratic oath in which anthropologists vow to do no harm."

But as I pointed out in a column last year, neuroscience is chasing after defense dollars. In 2009 the National Academy of Sciences published a 136-page report, "Opportunities in Neuroscience for Future Army Applications," that advised brain scientists on how to get on board the military gravy train. The authors included two leading brain scientists: Floyd Bloom of the Scripps Research Institute and Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, both former members of The President's Council on Bioethics. Potential applications of neuroscience include drugs and electromagnetic devices that can boost or degrade soldiers' capacities.

The APA is capable of taking a stand. In 2007, after reports that psychologists were helping the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency refine their interrogation techniques, the APA condemned the involvement of its members in "planning, designing, assisting in or participating in any activities including interrogations which involve the use of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." But the APA leadership should be ashamed by its uncritical promotion of the CSF program. The association should encourage a debate among its members over whether the CSF represents a genuinely beneficial, ethical program or just another sordid example of what Eisenhower called the "the power of money."

Logo for the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program from U.S. Army via Aaronwayneodonahue/Wikimedia Commons

Please be sure to check out the links Horgan provided to the articles that are critical of this program:

Gary Stix - The Neuroscience of True Grit
Roy Eidelson, Marc Pilisuk & Stephen Soldz: The Dark Side of 'Comprehensive Soldier Fitness

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blixa Scott - Working Class Men are Fun and Sexy

My friend Sage posted this story at his blog, The Whole World in a Single Flower (via Alternet), and suggested I have a look at it. This is good - and it says something important about relationships.

I might be biased, however, since this could be me and my girlfriend. She's a psychotherapist shifting from a well-known and respected in-patient facility to private practice, while I, on the other hand, am a personal trainer in a corporate gym (and a freelance writer/editor, coach, etc.). Granted, I am also a graduate student, but her income is considerably more than mine right now (although I earn more per hour, which says a lot about how we value looking good physically more than our mental health).

I am not one of the men who feel somehow "less than" because I earn less than my girlfriend, and I think she enjoys that I am incredibly fit for an "older guy." The author of this article has a similar preference.

3 Huge Reasons I'd Rather Be With My Working-Class Boyfriend Than a Rich Guy

I'm a lawyer. Society (and my mom) tells me I should be desperately trying to snag another well-off, white-collar professional. But there are plenty of reasons I don't want to.

Photo Credit: hipposrunsuperfast

If I were inclined to listen to conventional wisdom, I would be forced to conclude that I’m doing terribly in the mating market. Apparently, women universally and immutably prefer to “marry up.” We want men who are more educated and earn more money, and this is the single most important trait we seek in a man.

Accordingly, I’m a real loser in the game of love. My boyfriend of four years—even though he is undeniably gorgeous, kind, and honest—falls much farther down the ladder of social prestige than me. I’m an attorney. I earned six figures my first year of practice and work in a firm whose letterhead is populated with Ivy League graduates. He gets paid by the hour to work a physically demanding job that doesn’t require a college degree. In other words, he’s working-class.

Which means, according to the evolutionary psychologists, that I should find him roughly as attractive as a serial killer. Either that or I must be so hopelessly undesirable myself that I’m forced to scrape the bottom of the relationship barrel.

The problem is, in my own immodest opinion, I’m a solid competitor in the mating game. I’ve always had an easy rapport with men and have never had any particular trouble attracting or holding their interest. And I’ve received plenty of offers for dates from eligible men with the educational pedigree and earning power I’m supposed to swoon over. But I’ve no interest in trading up.

This perplexes many people, including my own mother. I’ve been offered a variety of theories to explain my behavior. One is that I’m a contrarian who enjoys going against the grain for the immature thrill of being defiant. One is that I’m a sex fiend and my man is more boy-toy than boyfriend. Another is that deep down I have low self-esteem and don’t think I deserve better. And I was once quiet memorably informed by some colleagues that the explanation was that “you’re not really a woman, you’re a dude in a woman’s body.”

All of these people believe that my relationship is a passing fancy and that eventually, when I’m done playing games, I’ll take the mature route and settle down with a man deemed socioeconomically appropriate. What they can’t seem to wrap their heads around is the fact that my guy’s working-class job is not some detriment or novelty that I’m temporarily willing to indulge.

To the contrary, it’s a distinct benefit, and one of the key reasons our relationship works so well. There are enduring, rational reasons why my guy’s blue-collar job makes him desirable. Here are three of the big ones.

Read the rest of the article to see her three reasons.

Marco Fanara - Cultural Relativism Versus Sexual Rights as a Coherent Set of Human Rights

At one point in his discussion, Fanara offers this quote:
The notion that there are two and only two genders is one of the most basic ideas in our binary Western way of thinking. Transgender people challenge our very understanding of the world. And we make them pay the cost of our confusion by their suffering. (O’Flaherty, Michael & John Fisher (2008) Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law: Contextualising the Yogyakarta Principles)
We label anyone who transgresses the accepted gender binary as ‘different’ or weird or even ‘abnormal’ - we make them 'other' and exclude them from most communities - forcing them to live "on the fringes, or outside the periphery of society in regards to enjoying human and/or sexual rights."

These exclusionary structures - the process of "othering" - Fanara argues, "cultivate and permit symbolic and even physical violence against any form of sexual difference or ‘deviance’ that may be perceived as a possible threat to sexual ‘normalness’."

Good article.

Marco Fanara
United Nations Mandated University for Peace

May 24, 2010

Proponents in favour of sexual rights as a coherent set of human rights argue sexuality is a fundamental component of one’s self and are therefore universal. Opponents of such views suggest sexual rights are not in fact universal mainly due to cultural relativism, which includes, but are by no means limited to religion, cultural beliefs, social systems, and politics must be taken into account when discussing ‘universal sexual rights’. This paper aims to address and attempt to answer one question: Do various ideological differences undermine sexual rights as a coherent set of claims within human rights?
This is a short but interesting article - here is the first part of his argument:
Sexuality is an evolving concept at best, fluid and ever changing.1 It is a concept that transcends, but nevertheless includes, notions of sexual activity to encompass gender identities, sexual orientation, and reproduction, to name a few. There are many aspects that interact and contribute to one’s sexuality, such as cultural, social, economic, ethical, legal, historical, religious, biological, psychological, and spiritual factors.2 Sexuality is expressed through one’s desires, attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, values, fantasies, practices, and relationships.3 Many argue sexuality is a fundamental component of the personality of every human being, and as such are universal and entitled to protection through sexual rights.4 Miller (2008) concurs, “sexual rights make a strong claim to universality, since they relate to an element of the self which is common to all humans: their sexuality.” As is the case with universal human rights, universal sexual rights are based on the inherent freedom, dignity and equality of all human beings.5 Others argue cultural relativism and various ideological differences (be they political, religious, cultural, social or otherwise) must be taken into account when discussing ‘universal sexual rights’.

Herein, for the purposes of this paper, we will now discuss the various issues surrounding sexual rights. Albeit this paper covers an extensive array of issues, note it is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, rather allow this paper serve as a mere introduction into the vastly complex issues surrounding sexual rights. More specifically, we will address and attempt to answer one essential question: Do various ideological differences undermine sexual rights as a coherent set of claims within human rights?

So what exactly are sexual rights? As noted by Richardson (2000), there are “competing claims for what are defined as sexual rights and lack of rights, reflecting not only differences in how sexuality is conceptualized but also the fact that there is no singular agreed definition of sexual rights.” O’Flaherty and Fisher (2008) state sexual rights are those rights relating to one’s perceived or actual gender identity and/or sexual orientation. The World Health Organization cites sexual rights as those that are:
human rights that are already in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. The include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to: (1) the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services; (2) seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality; (3) sexuality education; (4) respect for bodily integrity; (5) choose their partner; (6) decide to be sexually active or not; (7) consensual sexual relations; (8) consensual marriage; (9) decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and (10) pursue a satisfying safe and pleasurable sexual life. The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others.
Similarly, the Yogyakarta Principles are a set of principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Principles affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply.6 Said rights include: The right to universal enjoyment of human rights, non-discrimination and recognition before the law; The right to human and personal security; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; The right to expression, opinion and association ; The right to freedom of movement and asylum; The right of participation in cultural and family life; The right of human rights defenders; and last but not least the right of redress and accountability. Alternatively, Miller (2008) argues there does not exist a universally, politically or substantively accepted set of sexual rights standards in the world today. She further asserts international human rights law, contrary to popular belief, actually facilitates the state’s repressive role in regulating sexual activity and expression as it says very little about the national regulation of sexuality.

The question now becomes, can states relegate the above noted sexual rights on cultural or ideological grounds? As Miller (2009) notes, “attacks on sexual rights are linked to the emergence of an amalgam of political interests that draw together justifications based on religious, culture and nation to undermine human rights.” Many academics argue a number of states restrictive and discriminatory regulation of sexuality is interrelated to power relations between heterosexuality and any ‘other’ form of sexuality and that there is little moral justification for such oppressive regulation.7 “Means to control sexuality are institutionalized not only in cultural and social norms and customs, but also in legal policy and practice.”8 What is often deemed as ‘normal’ sexuality (hegemonically masculine heterosexuality) by cultural and social expressions leaves little space for social recognition of sexual diversity and as such often times defines ‘other’ forms of sexuality as deviant.9
Full citation:
Marco, F. (2010, May 24). Cultural Relativism Versus Sexual Rights as a Coherent Set of Human Rights. Available at SSRN:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Safe Space Radio - Frank Brooks on Gender Role Non-Conformity

Interesting discussion. I was just talking with a friend this evening on how we might be different as people if there were not an either/or binary requirement for gender identity. What would it be like to be born with whatever genitalia we have but not have that shape who we become as individuals? If there were not a binary, there would be nothing to which we are not conforming. Yes?

Gender Role Non-Conformity

An interview with doctor of clinical social work, Frank Brooks about gender role non-conformity. Frank described his own experiences of feeling different and facing prejudice as he grew up. He then went on to study the powerful link between gender role non-conformity in boys and the risk of suicide. He works now with families with gender role non-conforming kids to help them protect their kids from bullying, threats, and shunning. Frank uses the term Gender role instead of gender to highlight that these roles are social constructions and are changing. He sees hope for transgender and gender role non-conforming kids as social awareness and acceptance grows.

This show aired on April 20th, 2011.

The Art of Manliness - Men’s Reading List: 34 Books About Being a Man

Brett at The Art of Manliness offers a list of 34 books about being a man. Some of these are useful, some are terrible (especially Robert Glover's No More Mr. Nice Guy), and some are just unremarkable.

The majority of these books, in my opinion, promote business as usual - the same old tired, traditional, stereotypes about how to be a man. I guess maybe I need to make my own list of books that I feel are useful in helping men explore their options as men - and not feel trapped in traditional roles and behaviors.

Please use your own discrimination skills in choosing which of these books might be useful for you giver your current values and life conditions.

Since starting the Art of Manliness, I’ve read a boatload of books about masculinity, manliness, and simply being a man. There are books out there on every aspect of the male experience from practical skills like carving a turkey and dressing well to sociological studies on what it means to be a man in history and modern society to more poetic examinations of the male experience. If you’re a fan of the Art of Manliness, then you’re probably interested in all of these different elements of being a man, so today I’d like to share a list of books that I’ve found useful and thought-provoking in my own life and journey in trying to understand what it means to be a man. Many of them can be a mixed bag both in terms of quality and content that jives with my own beliefs. But you’ll never grow as a man only reading things that flatter your pre-existing notions! So if you’re a man who’s looking to learn more about both the fun and serious sides of manliness, I hope this list can be a resource for books to pick up, study, and enjoy.

The Inner Man and Improving Relationships

Iron John: A Book About Men

The book that launched a thousand naked drumming circles. Iron John kick-started the mythopoetic men’s movement and inspired many of the people doing men’s only counseling and retreats. Poet Robert Bly uses an old Grimm’s fairytale to explain a man’s growth into the mature masculine.

You’re not going to find a lot of practical tips on improving yourself as a man, but Iron John certainly gives you a lot to think about. It’s a book you really need to read a couple times and meditate on.

Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man

Keen argues that men today need to rekindle their “fire in the belly” or what the ancient Greeks called thumos. It’s that manly spiritedness that drives men to do great deeds. I really like some of the questions Keen suggests using for personal evaluation as a man. Keen does argue that we need to redefine what it means to be a man and his idea of manliness is pretty granola, eco-conscience, feminist, etc. He also advocates the noble savage myth popular with many New Age gurus, arguing that we need to emulate our peaceful, goddess worshiping ancestors and give up our modern, violent ways. If that sort thing makes your blood boil, then this probably isn’t the book for you. But if it only mildly annoys you, then read it. There are some bits and pieces of insight that any man from any worldview can use.

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

Written by Jungian pyschologist Robert Moore and mythologist Douglas Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover looks at male development through the lens of Jungian archetypes. According to Moore, masculinity is made up of four archetypal male energies which serve different purposes. The authors argue that to become a complete man, a man must work to develop all four energies.

Moore describes the characteristics of the four archetypes and provides suggestions on how to develop them through meditation and ritual rites of passage. KWML has inspired many of the men’s groups existing today. Personally, I thought the very heavy Jungian-laden rhetoric made the book a bit of a slog to get through. I like Jung, but the way Moore presented it made it hard to get your mind around.

The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire

I had several AoM readers suggest this book to me, so I bought it and read it. David Deida concentrates on what he sees as the different polarities of men and women, and the way these polarities create attraction. There are a few interesting insights on becoming a man, but overall I found the book filled with pop-psychology fluff. The author is pretty popular in New Age/pick-up artist circles. While many see him as a spiritual guru for men, he’s admitted that he considers himself more of an entertainer than a teacher. Don’t know if I’d trust a guy with my spiritual development who thinks he’s just a jester.

No More Mr. Nice Guy!

Do your women friends tell you you’d be a great catch, yet you’re always dateless on Friday night? Do you feel like a doormat in your marriage and at work? According to Dr. Robert Glover, you have “Nice Guy Syndrome.” In this book, Dr. Glover explains why men with Nice Guy Syndrome have proliferated in the West during the past 30 years. Even better, he lays out specific, concrete things a man can do to get over his Nice Guy Syndrome.

I thought this was a great book for guys who feel like they’re getting pushed around in life. Many AoM readers have emailed me to say how much this book has helped them. But if things are going pretty well for you in life, then the book probably won’t do too much for you.

Listen to my podcast interview with Dr. Glover.

Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man

This is a quick read packed with some good insights on being a strong man for the woman in your life. The book is actually a story about a young man who’s recently married and is having marital problems. He visits Grandpa for a day hike and along the way he gets some sage advice on how to be a leader in a family.

I thought this book was okay. The authors choice of using a story to convey advice was creative, but it came off a little cheesy. I had to look past the schmaltz in order to take anything away from the book.

Listen to my podcast interview with the author, Elliot Katz.

Hold on to Your NUTs: The Relationship Manual for Men

Men’s counselor and founder of BetterMen, Wayne Levine, helps men improve their relationships and become the men they want to be. In Hold on to Your NUTs (NUTs=Non-negotiable, unalterable, terms) Wayne gives men the tools they need to become confident and self-assured. What I particularly like about this book is how practical it is. Wayne has written posts for AoM before, and the comments are always very divided; some people like his kick-in-the-pants, no nonsense approach and some chafe at his tone. Personally, I’m a fan. Wayne’s not much for hand-holding and sitting around talking about your problems, but instead advocates taking action to improve your situation. You’ll find that same approach in this book. I also appreciate the fact that the book is useful for men who are in different places in life. So many of the relationship/inner man books are written for men who have big time problems. Even if you’re a well-adjusted adult man, you’ll find something useful in Hold on to Your NUTs.

The King Within: Accessing the King in the Male Psyche

The Lover Within: Accessing the Lover in the Male Psyche

The Magician Within: Accessing the Shaman in the Male Psyche

The Warrior Within: Accessing the Knight in the Male Psyche

These four books are an expansion on the ideas found in King, Warrior, Magian, Lover. Each book goes into more depth about each archetype. If you’re a fan of Jungian psychology and enjoyed KWML, I definitely recommend these books. The books are pretty rare and can be expensive on, but I found copies for $5 a pop at my local used bookstore.

What Is a Man? 3,000 Years of Wisdom on the Art of Manly Virtue

Philosophy and political science professor Waller Newell combed through the annals of Western thought to find literature on the subject of manhood. The book is broken up into sections like “The Chivalrous Man,” “The Gentleman,” and “The Statesman.” Within each section you’ll find excerpts from the likes of Shakespeare, Homer, and Locke on what it means to be a man. The result is a 560 page behemoth of an anthology.

I really like the idea behind What is a Man? Newell’s vision of encouraging manly virtue is right in line with what we’re doing here at the Art of Manliness. When I read the fantastic introduction in What is Man? I had great expectations for the book. But I quickly found myself disappointed. First, many of the selections really don’t have anything to do with manliness or even about the virtue the selection was supposed to highlight. Also, most of the selections weren’t very stirring. My other criticism is that Newell could have done a better job editing his selections. Several of the selections go on and on and are pretty dense. Consequently, the main point that he’s trying to convey from the selection gets lost. It’s a book that ends up sitting on the shelf instead of being read.

Our upcoming book, Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the Seven Manly Virtues, is in some ways a response to What Is a Man? I tried to make up for the deficiencies I found in What is a Man? by selecting excerpts that were on point, packed with wisdom, and readable. The result is an anthology that’s inspiring, educational, and enjoyable to read. Can’t wait to share the book with you.

The Code of Man: Love, Courage, Pride, Family, Country

The Code of Man is Waller Newell’s follow-up to his first book What is a Man? In The Code of Man Newell argues that modern men have lost touch with values and virtues that have defined manliness for thousands of years. Consequently, many men (particularly young men) are lost, confused, and angry. Newell believes that the road to recovery is taken along the five paths to manliness: love, courage, pride, family, and country. Using Western writers and thinkers like Aristotle and Hemingway, among others, Newell attempts to guide men down the path to achieving a “manly heart.”

I really enjoyed The Code of Man, and I thought it was a much better book than What Is a Man?. The great introduction makes checking out the book worthwhile in and of itself. Newell’s idea of honorable and virtuous manliness is much more clear in The Code of Man than in What Is a Man? I think if you enjoy the idea of manliness that we espouse on AoM, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul

The best way to describe this bestselling book is that it’s the Christian version of Iron John. John Eldredge, leader of Ransomed Heart Ministries, criticizes how many modern Christian churches have made Christian men soft and wimpy. Wild at Heart is a call to Christian men to get in touch with their Wild Man. Eldredge uses Biblical figures like Jesus and John the Baptist as archetypal Wild Men that Christian men should emulate. He also uses the story of Adam and Eve as way to explore masculine development, much like Bly did with the Iron John myth in his book.

This is a favorite book among AoM readers. I can’t count the number of times readers have recommended this book to me. Overall, I thought it was a decent book that offered solid food for thought, but it doesn’t top my personal list of favorites. If you’re a Christian man who feels like there is a “wound” in your soul, this book will likely really resonate with you (although some Christians criticize the book because Eldredge’s theology does not align with their own). If you’re looking for practical advice and/or are not a theist, it won’t likely hit the sweet spot.

No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice–Instead of Good–Hurts Men, Women And Children

This is another book written by a Christian minister who focuses his ministry on men. Like Eldredge, Paul Coughlin laments the passivity and wussiness of Christian men. He also criticizes how modern Christianity has effemenized Christ into a character who pats children on the head and spends his days petting lambs.

Coughlin sort of picks up where Eldredge left off. While Eldredge does a good job explaining the spiritual angst of Christian men, Coughlin gives a concrete roadmap on how to improve things.

Go read the whole list.

Monday, April 25, 2011

High Omega-3 Blood Levels May Boost Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Wow, seriously weird news. The general assumption is that anything that reduces inflammation is good for preventing prostate cancer. But this study shows that high levels of DHA, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat, increases risk of the most aggressive prostate cancer 2.5 times, while trans fats, linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other forms of cancer, lower risk of the most aggressive prostate cancers by 50%.

The article ends on the perspective I would take (and will take, since my HDL is about 90 [much of which is fueled by omega-3 fats] and my LDL is about 45):
"Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk," said Theodore M. Brasky (author of the study).
Still, this is a sobering.

High percentage of omega-3s in the blood may boost risk of aggressive prostate cancer

Posted On: April 25, 2011 - 5:30pm

SEATTLE – The largest study ever to examine the association of dietary fats and prostate cancer risk has found what's good for the heart may not be good for the prostate.

Analyzing data from a nationwide study involving more than 3,400 men, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that men with the highest blood percentages of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an inflammation-lowering omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fatty fish, have two-and-a-half-times the risk of developing aggressive, high-grade prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest DHA levels.

Conversely, the study also found that men with the highest blood ratios of trans-fatty acids – which are linked to inflammation and heart disease and abundant in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils – had a 50 percent reduction in the risk of high-grade prostate cancer. In addition, neither of these fats was associated with the risk of low-grade prostate cancer risk. The researchers also found that omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in most vegetable oils and are linked to inflammation and heart disease, were not associated with prostate cancer risk. They also found that none of the fats were associated with the risk of low-grade prostate cancer.

These findings by Theodore M. Brasky, Ph.D., and colleagues in the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division were published online April 25 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"We were stunned to see these results and we spent a lot of time making sure the analyses were correct," said Brasky, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Hutchinson Center's Cancer Prevention Program. "Our findings turn what we know – or rather what we think we know – about diet, inflammation and the development of prostate cancer on its head and shine a light on the complexity of studying the association between nutrition and the risk of various chronic diseases."

The researchers undertook the study because chronic inflammation is known to increase the risk of several cancers, and the omega-3 fatty acids found primarily in fish and fish oil supplements have anti-inflammatory effects. In contrast, other fats, such as the omega-6 fats in vegetable oil and trans-fats found in fast foods, may promote inflammation. "We wanted to test the hypothesis that the concentrations of these fats in blood would be associated with prostate cancer risk," Brasky said. "Specifically, we thought that omega-3 fatty acids would reduce and omega-6 and trans-fatty acids would increase prostate cancer risk."

The mechanisms behind the impact of omega-3s on risk of high-grade prostate cancer are unknown. "Besides inflammation, omega-3 fats affect other biologic processes. It may be that these mechanisms play a greater role in the development of certain prostate cancers," Brasky said. "This is certainly an area that needs more research."

Currently there is no official recommended daily allowance for omega-3 fats for adults or children, although many nutrition experts and physicians recommend 450 milligrams of omega-3 DHA per day as part of a healthy diet.

The study was based on data from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, a nationwide randomized clinical trial that tested the efficacy of the drug finasteride to prevent prostate cancer. While the trial involved nearly 19,000 men age 55 and older, the data in this analysis came from a subset of more than 3,000 of the study participants, half of whom developed prostate cancer during the course of the study and half of whom did not. The clinical trial was unique in that prostate biopsy was used to confirm the presence or absence of prostate cancer in all study participants.

Among the study participants, very few took fish oil supplements – the most common non-food source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to prevent heart disease and other inflammatory conditions. The majority got omega 3s from eating fish.

So based on these findings, should men concerned about heart disease eschew fish oil supplements or grilled salmon in the interest of reducing their risk of aggressive prostate cancer? Brasky and colleagues don't think so.

"Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk," Brasky said. "What this study shows is the complexity of nutrition and its impact on disease risk, and that we should study such associations rigorously rather than make assumptions," Brasky said.

Brendan Tapley - The guy code: Deciphering the mysteries of male friendship [updated]

[When I first posted this, early this morning, I somehow missed the 2nd page . . . it's now included - sorry about that.]

This is a revealing little first-person explication of the "guy code," the unspoken rules that define how men relate to and with each other. For most straight men, this "scene" looks familiar, give or take a few details, right down to the use of alcohol to facilitate bonding.

Whole books have been written about this process - but the best explanation is recognition of a scene that could be from our own lives. Tapley, however, reveals his own sense of knowing how the game is played, knowing that Sean's image is a pose.

The guy code


Deciphering the mysteries of male friendship.

April 24, 2011|By Brendan Tapley

The downward nod (a male gesture of respect) had taken a year to become the upward nod (a male gesture of friendship), so I wasn’t surprised when, six years after meeting, Sean and I hung out for the first time. “Anne’s away for the weekend. Come over, have some beers,” he said, pronouncing “over” and “beer” as New Englanders do. “Sounds good,” I said.

Sean and I worked out at the same gym; like clockwork, we showed up at 5:35 a.m., parked our trucks in our usual spaces, and descended the staircase to the locker rooms. For a while, the nod was all, but thanks to the occasional good joke or well-timed silence, we began pausing at the bench or leg press to exchange small talk. It was months before those conversations got around to each other’s work; years before we spoke about family or relationships.

Sean always wore the New Hampshire uniform: Carhartt’s, baseball cap, and fleece vest. He was solidly built with dare-me facial hair, but his kind eyes softened his potentially menacing impression. His reserve didn’t bother me; I knew it belonged to a variety shared by most men: Having once been teased for revealing something, we pursue an aloofness that defies being made the punch line again.

I had grown up in a matriarchal family where revelation reigned supreme, but in the eight years I’d worked in this stalwart town, I’d found that masculinity’s protocols required an “earning” that made any breakthrough (a nod, a playful punch) more meaningful. Such moments were analogous to those 19th-century novels where subtle gestures belie the feelings behind them. Men, by their very Victorianism, offered an old-fashioned sincerity that these days was dismissed as sentimental.

I arrived at Sean’s around 6. He had recently moved in with his girlfriend, and the house reflected that – the considered paint colors, the careful appointments in the dining room. But he made a point of showing me the roofing he had installed over the kitchen and the bathroom he had renovated for Anne.

After the tour, we started drinking, alternating tequila and beer. We grilled venison, the freezer burn indicating it was not Sean, but one of his Puritan ancestors who had made the kill. We played ping-pong until sweaty, and half-watched episodes of a television show that, in my inebriated state, seemed to consist of only one shouted line: “Hey, you – hold it!”

While Sean was retrieving more venison from the grill, I spied a single photograph of his on the wall. He was pictured with three other guys on a beach. They were shirtless, their arms over one another’s shoulders. Impervious.

“That’s when I looked halfway decent,” he slurred, coming up behind me.

“What are you talking about?” I shoved him.

“Oh, I don’t know …”

I waited for him to finish, but nothing came. He was still staring at the photo. “It’s just …” he cleared his throat. “Well, what do you think – you think I still look OK?”

From a guy whose every deliberate silence projected authority, the vulnerable look that had come over him was unsettling. Intimate. I looked back to the photograph.

Make a joke, I thought. Something predictable, defusing, along the lines of “Well, man, you’re not my type, but Anne’s not kicking you out of bed, so no worries.” But as much as my joke would return to Sean his – well, his “guyness” – I thought there might be something else worth returning more.

“Listen to me,” I said. “She’s very lucky to have you.” Sean scanned my expression, looking for the trapdoor. “Very lucky.”

His hand found my shoulder. He gripped it. Then he walked back outside.

We passed out in the living room. I woke around 4 a.m. My arm, flung over the couch, had fallen asleep, my hand nearly touching Sean’s on the floor. I rose, found a blanket to lay over him, and left.

We never got together again.

Recently, I picked up the phone in my new office at my new job; it was Sean. He had called to say he was engaged to Anne. I was pleased for him and decided to write him a note. In it, I described the qualities I admired about him, what kind of man I believed he was. On the way to the post office, I considered whether this was a breach of protocol, an aberrant gesture. But I recalled that night and slid the envelope across the counter, nodding (downward) toward the postman. He postmarked it, tossed it into the mail bin, and nodded back.

Brendan Tapley is writing a book on masculinity. He lives in Northampton. Send comments to

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Men Tend To Leap To Judgement Where Women See More Shades Of Grey

Please note that these are tendencies - this is not how it has to be for men or women. As broad generalizations, these statements might be true for the traditional form of masculinity. And for women, well, I don't know - not my field.

More importantly, they refer to sex differences, which implies a biological distinction. But there is no evidence that this is truly a sex difference and not a gender difference, i.e., a learned behavior. Maybe there is a sex difference, but we will never know that by studying adults - we'd need to look at infants and follow them over many years.

Men Tend To Leap To Judgement Where Women See More Shades Of Grey - New Study

An experiment by researchers at the University of Warwick has found the first real evidence that men tend to make black-or-white judgements when women are more prone to see shades of grey in choices and decisions.

The research paper, entitled Sex Differences in Semantic Categorization, is about to be published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Authors Vickie Pasterski, Karolina Zwierzynska, and Zachary Estes are all from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

The researchers asked 113 people whether each of 50 objects fitted partially, fully, or not at all into certain categories. The 50 objects were ones likely to stimulate debate or disagreement about which category they fitted into. For instance:

Is a tomato a fruit?

Is paint a tool?

The researchers found that men were more likely to make absolute category judgments (e.g., a tomato is either a fruit or not), whereas women made less certain category judgments (e.g., a tomato can "sort of" belong in the fruit category). The women surveyed tended to be much more nuanced in their responses and were 23% more likely to assign an object to the "partial" category.

While it has been a popular belief that such a male/female split exists, as far as the researchers are aware, this is the first time such a sex difference in categorization has been shown experimentally.

University of Warwick psychologist Dr Zachary Estes says:

"Of course, simply because we have found a significant sex difference in how men and women categorize does not mean that one method is intrinsically better than the other. For instance, male doctors may be more likely to quickly and confidently diagnose a set of symptoms as a disease. Although this brings great advantages in treating diseases early, it obviously has massive disadvantages if the diagnosis is actually wrong. In many cases, a more open approach to categorizing or diagnosing would be more effective."

The bibliographic reference:
Pasterski V et al (2011). Sex differences in semantic categorization. Archives of Sexual Behavior; DOI 10.1007/s10508-011-9764-y