Sunday, September 30, 2012

Andy Hinds on His Experience in Hanna Rosin's The End of Men

In an interview with in The Guardian (UK), Hanna Rosin says she feels miscast in the gender wars, despite the incendiary title of her book, The End of Men. O'Kelly asks her about the stereotyping she employs in the book (men as lazy, women as achievers), and Rosin confesses that it's a fair criticism, but she also defends it:

How do you respond to critics who accuse you of 21st-century stereotyping in your portrayal of women as organised go-getters and men as lazy, unambitious couch potatoes?

I actually think that is a fair criticism. I was trying to capture a certain little slice of society, so I was intentionally looking for couples who exemplified the changing dynamic and it was only when I put the whole thing together that I realised there was an echo in couple after couple. At the very end of the book, I do talk about men's capacity for flexibility, especially at key moments in history, such as the end of both world wars. But it's true that as a series of portraits it does emit certain stereotypes and I don't know what to say about that. I'll have to fix that in my next book.
Someone who no doubt agrees that he was stereotyped - and even caricatured - is Andy Hines, one of the subjects for her research who feels he was misrepresented in the book. He writes about it in a recent column at The Daily Beast. Hines writes at his personal blog, Beta Dad, as well as DadCentric, Aiming Low.

Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men Turned Me Into a Caricature

I’m a happy and satisfied stay-at-home dad. So why did Hannah Rosin turn my story upside down for her bestselling polemic? Andy Hinds calls the author and asks her.

Last year, I responded to a survey on Slate that asked readers in marriages where the wife earned more money about their relationships with their spouses. The survey was conducted by Hannah Rosin, in connection with an article she was writing about “breadwinning wives.” The survey results were eventually incorporated into her bestselling book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women.

If you haven’t read it already, The End of Men essentially argues that men in the United States (and pretty much everywhere else) are falling behind women in all facets of life. In school and in the workplace, women have made huge strides over the past few decades, while men have failed to adapt to the new economic and social realities that have obliterated “a power arrangement that’s prevailed for most of history.” Furthermore, according to Rosin, even as we men quickly ebb into marketplace obsolescence, those of us with families continue to be slacker manchildren in the home, unable to overcome sloppy parenting, haphazard home economics, and fealty to bro culture.

After I took her survey last year, Rosin contacted me directly, which led to an email exchange and then a long telephone interview in which I spilled my guts about my experience as a stay-at-home dad to toddler twins.

We spoke for over an hour about the joys and challenges of parenting, about perceptions of masculinity, about my relationship with my wife, and about my and my wife’s backgrounds. Among other topics, we discussed the fact that, despite growing up in a military family, I have parents who enthusiastically support the decisions my wife and I have made regarding our parenting roles. Likewise, my very traditional Vietnamese immigrant in-laws have no qualms with our domestic arrangements.

Rosin seemed surprised and impressed at this, yet she continued to press me for evidence to support her theory: marital tensions, awkward encounters with moms on the playground, feelings of shame at my own gender betrayal, and so on.

The reality: As I told Rosin, I’ve never been happier or more comfortable in my own skin than I have during my three-year stint staying home with my kids. I said there are moments of frustration and fatigue, of course, but when I consider how I feel about my place in the “new gender landscape,” I feel my life is a tremendous success.

Then I saw the book. Here’s how Rosin characterized our talk (as well as in a more recent Slate piece, “I Ain’t Sayin’ He’s a Gold Digger”): 
... It was clear from my dozens of interviews that there are tensions under the surface. A power arrangement that’s prevailed for most of history does not fade without a ripple. In many cases I heard the same old marriage anxieties, only they showed up in the reverse gender. Andy, a stay-at-home dad in San Jose, Calif., had to cancel several appointments with me because he couldn’t get his twins to sleep. Before he stayed home with his kids, he was a carpenter. His wife is a physician, and because she makes so much more money it made sense for him to take the parenting lead. Andy likes watching the toddlers, but he is wistful about his old life, and somewhat defensive about his new one.

The feelings flood over him when he passes construction crews while taking the twins on a walk: What would it be like to work with a group of guys up on a roof again? What adventures is his wife having while he’s wiping off bibs? When his wife and her doctor friends rib him about staying home, he over-aggressively pulls the manual labor card: “How about I come over and help you put that Ikea furniture together, Mr. Doctor?” It’s the old Betty Friedan identity crisis, only in masculine form. These days when his wife suggests that he should go back to work, Andy feels “terrified.” It’s been a long time, and he’s lost the stomach for the outside world.
I laughed out loud when I read this description of me. Despite our wide-ranging conversation about the richness of my life since I became a father and a fulltime caregiver, Rosin had rendered me as a hapless stock character in her tableau of post-masculine despair.

Let me make a few clarifications.
Read the whole article, including his conversation with Rosin about her portrayal of him in the book.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chad Waterbury - Building Muslce with High Reps

Lifting heavy weights for moderate reps (3-6) is one of the best ways to build muscle. In fact, one of the best programs I have ever done featured one core lift in each of four sessions (Monday: deadlift, Tuesday: bench press or weighted dips, Thursday: front squats, Friday: bent rows or weighted pull ups) at the beginning of the session, for 10 sets of 3 reps. The other two or three exercises in each session were assistance work.

But lifting heavy is hard on the joints, and it's also hard on the neurological system - it takes a lot of energy to make the nerves fire all of the muscle fibers needed to lift heavy weights. Too much fatigue leads to injury. We can't work out if we are injured - the goal is health and fitness.

So sometimes it's a god idea to lift lighter weights for higher reps. In this post from his blog, Chad Waterbury offers some good guidelines for using higher reps and still building muscle.

Can You Build Muscle with High Reps?

What’s the best rep range to build muscle? That’s a question many of you have probably pondered over the years, especially if you’re wanting to know how to get ripped. Most people do 8-12 reps per set for maximum growth. However, heavier weights can build just as much muscle, if there’s enough volume. Three sets of three reps (3×3) won’t add much mass, but 10 sets of three reps (10×3) definitely will.

So what about high rep training? Can it build just as much muscle?

I love heavy lifting as much as the next guy, but there are times when your joints need a break and your muscles need a different type of stimulus to accelerate growth. High rep training can be the path to new muscle, if you adhere to the following four steps:

1. Take each set to failure: I’m not a big fan of training to failure; however, when training with light weights it’s necessary to take each set to the point of exhaustion. With heavier loads (eg, 4-6 rep max) you can get away with avoiding failure because the load is heavy enough to recruit your largest motor units, even if you don’t reach failure.

For muscle growth, the motor units must be fatigued. If you can do 25 push-ups but you stop that set at 19 or 20 reps, there won’t be enough fatigue to stimulate growth through an increase in protein synthesis. Research by Burd, et al (2010) shows that training with light loads (30% of max) can result in the same level of increased protein synthesis as heavy loads (90% of max), provided you take those high rep sets to failure.

Training to “failure” can mean different things to different people. My definition: when you can no longer achieve a full range of motion rep with perfect form you’ve reached failure. Don’t push beyond that point.

2. Choose the right exercises for high rep training: There are certain strength exercises that should never be taken to failure: squat, deadlift, and Olympic lifts. The risk of taking any of those exercises to failure far outweighs the potential benefit, and this is especially true with high rep sets that accumulate a huge amount of fatigue. As a rule, stick to high rep training to failure for upper body lifts and single leg lower body exercises.

A few of my favorite exercises to train to failure with high reps are: push-up, pull-up, handstand push-up, lunge, standing calf raise, and single-leg hip thrust.

3. Don’t go too light: You could curl a soup can all day long and it won’t add muscle to your biceps. When the load is too light it’s impossible to recruit and fatigue the motor units that are large enough to result in visible growth.

As a general rule, stick to loads that allow 20-30 reps for your first set for your high rep workouts. If you can any more than that, the load isn’t ideal for growth. From there, keep cranking out sets of as many reps as you can with that same load until you reach a target number of total reps (eg, 50 reps for that muscle group).

4. Get the most out of each rep: When training with light loads, the speed and tension you develop in each rep becomes paramount. If you purposely slow down the concentric (muscle shortening) phase, you’ll leave the larger motor units untapped. And when the muscle group is maximally shortened, that peak contraction should be squeezed briefly to build extra tension. With that extra tension comes extra muscle growth because you’ll recruit more motor units.

Bottom line for tempo: the shortening (concentric) phase should be fast, followed by a brief but intense squeeze of the muscle, and then do the lengthening (eccentric) phase under control.

When you do high rep training the right way, you can build new muscle and train more frequently because it’s less stressful to the central nervous system (CNS) and joints. That’s why there are many body weight exercises in my new book, High Frequency Training. Coming October 16!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Issues of Masculinity in AMC's Breaking Bad

A few weeks ago, Derek Johnson (who blogs at Thoughts of a Wandering Mind), wrote a brief post about the search for "true manhood" as depicted in AMC's Breaking Bad. It got me to thinking about this topic as I caught up on season four and the first half of season five.

[Spoiler Alert: I will be revealing details of the show that you may not want to know is you have not seen the show. I am assuming readers have seen most or all episodes.] 

If you have never seen this show (you're missing out on intriguing television, which is rare), the premise is that high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, is diagnosed with lung cancer the day after his 50th birthday. Being essentially broke, like most high school teachers supporting a family, he decides to enlist a former student who was making meth in upgrading the quality of the product and getting into the distribution business. Everything escalates from there, including the need to elude his DEA agent brother-in-law, his wife's increasing suspicions and infidelity, and various criminals whose turf Walter encroaches on.

Johnson (at the link below) sees Walter as an everyman, "the trapped and constantly marginalized American family man." He sees Walter's struggle in terms of the relationship with his wife, Skyler. Over the course of the four and half seasons aired so far, Walter becomes increasingly cold, calculating, and violent. He asserts his power and dominance over his wife, bonds with his teenage son, and rises through the ranks of the meth manufacturing underground.

There are a lot contexts of masculinity in this show. There's the hyper-masculinity of the Mexican drug cartels, the traditional masculinity of DEA agent and brother-in-law, Hank, and the ambivalent masculinity of the emotionally-wounded former student and low-level meth cook, Jesse Pinkman. There's also the spineless weasel lawyer, Saul Goodman, and the quiet, deadly, and loyal "mechanic," Mike Ehrmantraut.

As Walter and Jesse get further into the drug world, and are forced to do things they never would have imagined themselves capable, the interesting thing is that Walt, the dedicated family man and father is the one who seems to lose his moral sense and conscience. For him, money, power, and respect become foundations of his identity as a man and as a husband and father.

On the other hand, the street thug and addict, Jesse, is the one who is troubled by what he is becoming. He cries when he is forced to kill (video below). He stands up to his sociopath boss when kids are used to deal the drugs he cooks, and is devastated when one of them is killed.

In the 4th season, Walt poisons the son of Jesse's girlfriend to get him on board with killing their boss (blames it on Gus, their boss). Jesse is crushed when he initially believes it was his fault the child was poisoned. Unknown to Jesse, Walt had earlier allowed Jesse's previous girlfriend to drown in her own vomit (heroin overdose) when he could have turned her on her side and saved her life.

Walt loses his conscience, but Jesse never does - he holds onto his humanity and empathy, despite all the horrors and losses he experiences.

Walt is in most ways the (anti-)hero of the show, but Jesse (in his own wounded way) offers the most human depiction of masculinity - still manly, but also in touch with his broken heart.

Breaking Bad and the Search for True Manhood

Posted by on September 4, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lynn Parramore Dismisses Hanna Rosin's Myopic Vision of the End of Men

Over at AlterNetLynn Parramore offers a fun and appropriately dismissive review of Hanna Rosin's recent book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. I've already shared several less-than-favorable reviews here, but this one is exceptionally well-written and entertaining.

Definitely go check out the whole review, but I am only sharing the part where she gets a little more serious.

Hanna Rosin’s new book "The End of Men" bears tidings of a gender apocalypse.

Rosin conjures up comic-book archetypes for the new world order. We have “Plastic Woman,” who adapts to the new service economy with ease. Her sad counterpart is “Cardboard Man” – too stuck in his outdated ways to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In Rosin’s “new androgenous world at the top,” better educated urban men may adapt relatively well to the new role fluidity and may find relief in not having to worry so much about being The Provider. They may flourish in what she calls the “seesaw marriage,” where partners trade off on who brings home the bacon. But for the less well-off, things look grim. Working-class men may well continue to have trouble earning enough money to contribute to the support of a family, even one of meager means. Downsized and laid off, when they do find a job, the pay is likely to be inadequate and the benefits shoddy. Working-class women, who have also been hit hard by the Recession, particularly in the public sector, will take a long, hard look at Dad. If he isn’t pulling his weight, Dad may be very well get kicked to the curb.

Rosin’s book falls into the category of pop sociology, so there’s not much analysis of the political and economic forces that are driving these recent changes, which is a little bit like seeing a giant iceberg fall off a glacier and only talking about the temperature for the last season. In The End of Men, trends like globalization seem as inevitable as the weather, and we’re left assuming that men and women will have to adjust or be swept away in its wake.

But beyond the construct of gender lies a system of global capitalism as rapacious as any the world has yet seen. It is beyond masculine and feminine categories because it is ultimately not human. Rosin sees a matriarchy forming in the wake of its violent displacements – something that sounds vaguely like the just restoration of some primeval order. Maybe so, but it is also easy to imagine that if something matriarchal rises in the context of this brutal capitalist climate, it will look more like a landscape ravaged by those nasty devouring female lizards in the film Jurassic Park – a pop culture anxiety dream of something natural made monstrous by technology and greed. The world’s richest woman, Australian tycoon Gina Rinehart, is just now poised to blow past the likes of Bill Gates with her multi-billion-dollar mining fortune. She expresses her contempt for humanity by insulting working people as "whineging," calling for $2-a-day labor and denying climate change.

The demise of old-style masculinity is inevitable, and, in many ways, welcome. It would be great if we got a more sexually diversified culture in its place and women could finally bid adieu to subordination by men. But until we humanize the economic and political systems we’ve got, men -- and women -- who are not at the top will likely find that adaptation to constant predation is not a recipe for happiness. Oppression will perhaps be more equitably distributed, but that’s hardly cause for celebration.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Robert Augustus Masters - Boundaries Make Freedom Possible

The September 24th, 2012 Integral Post at Integral Life features an excerpt from Robert Augustus Masters' fantastic book, Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters. You can read my very favorable review of the book at the Amazon page.

Boundaries Make Freedom Possible

September 24th, 2012

Boundaries are an essential part of life. They delineate and maintain needed borders and separations, making differentiation possible at every level. Boundaries both contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding, be that physical, psychological, emotional, social, or spiritual. Without them there is no relationship and therefore no development, no evolution. But despite this clear truth, we often fall into the trap of believing that boundaries hold us back, preventing us from being free or realizing nondual consciousness — whatever untroubled, idealized state we may aspire to. If we thus equate having boundaries with being limited and if being limitless is a cherished goal for us, we will tend to view boundaries as a problem, an obstruction to freedom, something to overcome.

Real freedom, however, is not about having no limitations; rather it is about finding liberation within—and also through—limitation (as when the apparent constraints of committed monogamous relationship actually enrich and deepen the relationship). Real freedom does not mind limitations and in fact is not limited by them.

Boundaries make freedom possible by clarifying what must be worked with, not just personally and transpersonally, but also interpersonally. Since everything — everything! — exists through relationship, it is crucial that we learn to work well within relationship, both with others and with our own needs, states, and identity. This work is not possible if our boundaries are not clearly delineated and skillfully maintained.

Whether our boundaries are collapsed, blurred, abandoned, trampled, disregarded, nurtured, overpoliced, cemented, or honored, they determine our edges, limits, borders. Boundaries may be overdefined, underdefined, or ambiguously defined. What really matters is what we do with our boundaries: Do we use them to fortify our ego or to illuminate it? Do we lose ourselves in them or hold them in healthy perspective? Do we use them to keep ourselves from love or to deepen our capacity to love? Do we concretize them or do we keep them flexible? Do we allow them to be overly permeable or do we allow them to be as solid as circumstances require? Do we use our boundaries to isolate ourselves or to create and deepen connection?

Without healthy boundaries, we cannot have healthy relationships.

Without healthy boundaries, we stunt our growth.

So what are healthy boundaries? They are steadfast guardians, serving both to contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding. Boundaries don’t just hold space; they make and honor space by keeping it appropriately compartmentalized. They keep particular aspects of us enclosed until they are sufficiently developed. A premature rupturing of self-encapsulation (as when we are forced into adult responsibilities when we are young children) interferes with our development, leaving us with leaky or otherwise dysfunctional boundaries.

A healthy boundary is a psychophysical presence — a kind of energetic membrane — possessing the necessary firmness to protect us from invasion, intrusion, violation, and other dehumanizing or life-negating forces, as well as the resiliency to soften and open to what is beneficial for us.  

Healthy boundaries serve our highest good. They are akin to the loving parental hand that holds our hand as we take our first child-steps along a seaside wall or a playground ramp, gripping us neither too tightly nor too loosely. That touch, so reassuringly solid and steady, gives us the courage to venture farther afoot. 

Read the whole excerpt from Spiritual Bypassing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Authors@Google Presents Larry Tye: Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero

Nearly every boy who grew up watching Superman cartoons and movies, or reading Man of Steel comic books probably wanted to be Superman at one point or another. He was the strongest, fastest, most honest man on the planet (although not from this planet), and his only weakness was a green rock from Krypton, his home planet.

Author Larry Tie has written a history of Superman, Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero, and recently spoke about his book at Google (Cambridge).

You can read a short excerpt over at WBUR's Here and Now site.

Authors@Google Presents Larry Tye

Larry Tye comes to Google Cambridge to talk about his book: Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero. Seventy five years ago Superman was created and he has been an American icon since. Larry Tye talks about how the Man of Steel has changed along the way as well as his own journeys in pursuit of Superman.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Therese J. Borchard - 12 Depression Busters for Men

This article comes from Psych Central's World of Psychology blog, written by . In general, this is all good advice, even if some of the reasoning is flawed - the one that bothers me the most is the false belief that women speak three times as many words per day as men. 

Louann Brizendine has perpetuated the myth in her book, The Female Brain. But when researchers actually performed the experiment, it turned out to be completely wrong (as reported in July 6, 2007, in Scientific American). 
In most of the samples, the average number of words spoken by men and women were about the same. Men showed a slightly wider variability in words uttered, and boasted both the most economical speaker (roughly 500 words daily) and the most verbose yapping at a whopping 47,000 words a day. But in the end, the sexes came out just about even in the daily averages: women at 16,215 words and men at 15,669. In terms of statistical significance, Pennebaker says, "It's not even remotely close to different." He does point out that women tend to jaw more about other people, whereas men are apt to hold forth on more concrete objects—so the stereotypes of ladies as gossips and guys engaging in car talk can live on.
Okay, now that I have cleared that up, I'll be able to sleep tonight. 

Oh, one other note, in that list of famous men with depression, add Jim Carey, who has been open about his struggles and about turning to spirituality to deal with it. That is one "depression buster" missing from the list below, and one that I think is important for a lot of people, a lot of men.

male depression3.jpg 

In the spring of 2006, the depression of two very successful men made newspaper headlines in Maryland.

Phil Merrill, a renowned publisher, entrepreneur and diplomat in the Washington area took his own life. Eleven days later Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan withdrew his candidacy for governor of Maryland because of his struggle with depression. For weeks, newspapers covered male depression, including the stories of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Archbishop Raymond Roussin, Mike Wallace, William Styron, Art Buchwald, and Robin Williams.

That was unusual. Because, in the majority of media stories and infomercials, depression is regarded as a feminine thing … a result of all of the hormonal shifts and baby-making stuff.

The reality? Six million men, or seven percent of American men, suffer from depression, and millions more suffer silently because they either don’t recognize the symptoms, which can vary from women’s, or they are too ashamed to get help for what they see as a woman’s disease. 

These 12 techniques were written for men to address the hidden desperation so many feel, and to expose the truth about mood disorders and gender.

1. Get a male perspective.
When I hit bottom after the birth of my second baby, I was lucky enough to see Brook Sheild’s beautiful face on “Oprah” describing how I felt. In her book, and in Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind” and Tracy Thompson’s “The Ghost in the House,” I found female companionship, as they articulated what was happening to me. That alone made me less scared.

There are some wonderful books tackling the male perspective of depression. Among them: “I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression” by Terrence Real, “Unmasking Male Depression” by Archibald Halt, and, of course, the classic, “Darkness Visible” by William Styron. 

There are also an array of blogs by men on the topic of depression and mental health. For example, check out “Storied Mind,” “,” “Knowledge Is Necessity,” “Lawyers with Depression,” “,” “Finding Optimism,” and “A Splintered Mind.”

2. Identify the symptoms.
Part of what makes male depression so misunderstood is that a depressed guy doesn’t act the way a depressed lady does, and the feminine symptoms are the ones most often presented in pharmaceutical ads and in glossy brochures you pick up at your doctor’s office . For example, it is not uncommon for a man to complain to his primary care physician about sleep problems, headaches, fatigue and other unspecified pain, some or all of which may be related to untreated depression. 

In her Newsweek article, “Men & Depression,” Julie Scelfo writes, “Depressed women often weep and talk about feeling bad; depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy service at a restaurant.”

3. Limit the alcohol.
An interesting study by Yale University discovered that men and women respond to stress differently. According to lead scientist Tara Chaplin, women are much more likely to feel sad or anxious as a result of stress, whereas men turn to alcohol. “Men’s tendency to crave alcohol when upset may be a learned behavior or may be related to known gender differences in reward pathways in the brain,” she said. The tendency, however, puts men at more risk for alcohol-use disorders. And since alcohol is, itself, a depressive, you really don’t want a lot of it in your system. Trust me on this one.

4. Watch the stress.
You can’t drink away your worries, so what DO you do? I offer ten stress busters. But I imagine the most important way to manage stress for men is to work in a job and environment that isn’t … well … toxic. Unfortunately, the more impressive your title, the more stress brewing underneath your skin. Dr. Charles Nemeroff, a psychiatrist who treated both Tom Johnson (president of CNN during the 90s) and philanthropist J.B. Fuqua says stress is a major factor in male depression and a CEO’s (or any executive’s) higher stress level makes them more vulnerable to the illness. The pressure can become unbearable. Unfortunately, some men will have to choose between good mental health and the corner office.

5. Help another dude.
At age 46 Philip Burguieres was running a Fortune 500 company. Now he lends a hand to CEOs who are living lives of quiet desperation and have nowhere to turn. In an interview with PBS, Burguieres said, “I am open about my own experience, and I share my story with other CEOs in lecture settings several times a year [because] I have found that helping other people helps me, and keeps me healthier.” Art Buchwald, another very successful depressive, said in a “Psychology Today” interview some years back that talking about his depression helped him as much as the people he was talking to. It seems to me that the more misunderstood the illness, the greater the need to reach out and help each other.

6. Find an outlet.
A man cave may help a man retreat in order to do his own thing.

One of my male friends who is a tad depressed right now says all he needs to feel better is 18 holes of golf. I’m not sure that chasing the little white ball has the same therapeutic faculties as a high-impact hour of counseling, but I trust that he knows himself better than I know him. What I do know without a doubt is that men are much happier when they can retreat into a “man cave” or a safe corner of the world and do their thing. Some might need a little assistance finding that happy place. So keep trying on those pastimes until one fits and lets you take a deep breath.

7. Tend to the marriage.
Depression leads women into affairs and divorce. But I suspect there are even more casualties with men’s depression. In a poignant blog post, John A. discusses his longing to leave a good marriage as the “active” face of the illness. He writes, “We often focus on the passive symptoms, the inactivity, the isolation, sense of worthlessness, disruption of focused thought, lack of will to do anything.
But paradoxically the inner loss and need can drive depressed people to frenzied action to fill the great emptiness in the center of their lives. They may long to replace that inadequate self with an imagined new one that makes up for every loss.” Yet, by loving the partner beside you, even though it can feel counterintuitive and unnatural, you can protect yourself (to a certain extent) from the blows of depression and make yourself more resilient to future episodes.

8. Know the numbers.
Because men aren’t diagnosed with depression as often as women, we tend to downplay the wreckage this illness makes in their lives. Crying mothers makes for better footage on the evening news. So here’s a refresher on some sobering statistics you need to know:
  • 80 percent of all suicides in the US are men; the male suicide rate at midlife is three times higher than women and for men over 65 seven times higher
  • More than four times as many men as women die of suicide in the United States
  • Even though women make more suicide attempts during their lives, men attempt suicide using methods that are generally more lethal than those used by women
  • Suicide accounts for 1 in 100 deaths, and, as noted above, the majority of those are men
  • The suicide rate among young men is increasing (not so among young women), and the majority of these men have not asked for help before their deaths.
9. Tune into the body.
According to the “Real Men, Real Depression” public education campaign of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 12 percent of the patients seen by a primary care physician have major depression. Depression has been linked to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes, which all affect men at higher rates and at earlier ages than women. Men with depression and heart disease are two or three times more likely to die than men who are not depressed. Moreover, because men’s depression symptoms often begin with fatigue, sleep problems, stomach aches, joint pain, headaches, or other pains, it is crucial for guys to tune into the body and to hear what it’s saying.

10. Exercise.
All I can say is “Run, Forrest, run!” This is especially true for moody men. How does a jog kill the pain? The technical answer is that all aerobic activity stimulates brain chemicals that foster the growth of nerve cells; exercise also affects neurotransmitters such as serotonin that influence mood and produces ANP, a stress-reducing hormone, which helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. I realize the last thing you want to do when you’re depressed is hop on an exercise bike or lift weights. Getting a gym buddy who makes you accountable for your attendance might help, or, if you can afford it, hire a physical trainer to motivate you. Registering with a circuit-training program, or doing some other form of group exercise, is even better because you have the fellowship built in.

11. Start talking.
Women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman using up to 20,000 words a day, which is 13,000 more than a typical man uses. [NOTE: This is bullshit that has been disproved time and again - it comes from one source that cited no research - see the beginning of this post.] In her book, “The Female Brain,” Dr. Louann Brizendine explains that women devote more brain cells to talking than men [More bullshit], and that the chit chat triggers brain chemicals that assist with their emotions. So the more communication and jibber jab, the more sanity. Which is why depressed men need to learn the art of talking. Consider these words by Abe Lincoln: “The inclination to exchange thoughts with one another is probably an original impulse of our nature. If I be in pain I wish to let you know it, and to ask your sympathy and assistance; and my pleasurable emotions also, I wish to communicate to, and share with you.”

12. Become useful.
Being that the suicide rate has been shown to rise and fall with unemployment in a number of countries, I think it’s safe to say that losing a job can be a strong trigger for depression, especially in men. They are born with a need to be needed. Women, too. But that seems to be even more of a primitive trait in men. So, a huge depression buster is to become needed. A job is only one way to accomplish that. Contributing to society, or to a family, or both doesn’t necessarily have to come with a paycheck. Whatever gives you sense of purpose can bolster mental health and keep you more resilient.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sexual abuse raises heart attack risk for men

This research finding is not surprising, childhood trauma raises the risks for a whole host of illnesses in adult survivors. This might be the first time I have seen a study look at the longitudinal impact of childhood sexual abuse in men.

Sexual abuse raises heart attack risk for men

Men who were sexually abused as children are three times more likely to have a heart attack, even after accounting for factors like age, obesity, smoking, education level, and household income.
U. TORONTO (CAN) — Men who were sexually abused as children are three times more likely to have a heart attack than men who weren’t, a new study shows.

The study did not find similar results for women.

For a paper published online this week in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, researchers examined gender-specific differences in a representative sample of 5.095 men and 7,768 women aged 18 and over, drawn from the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey.

A total of 57 men and 154 women reported being sexually abused by someone close to them before they turned 18 and 377 men and 285 women said that a doctor, nurse or other health professional had diagnosed them with a heart attack or myocardial infarction.

Straight from the Source

DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.06.001
“Men who reported they were sexually abused during childhood were particularly vulnerable to having a heart attack later in life,” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

“We had expected that the abuse-heart attack link would be due to unhealthy behaviors in sexual abuse survivors, such as higher rates of alcohol use or smoking, or increased levels of general stress and poverty in adulthood when compared to non-abused males.

“However, we adjusted statistically for 15 potential risk factors for heart attack, including age, race, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, education level, and household income, and still found a three-fold risk of heart attack.”

Co-author and PhD candidate Sarah Brennenstuhl notes that, “It is unclear why sexually abused men, but not women, experienced higher odds of heart attack; however, the results suggest that the pathways linking childhood sexual abuse to physical health outcomes in later life may be gender-specific.

“For example, it is possible that females adopt different coping strategies than males as women are more likely to get the support and counseling needed to deal with their sexual abuse.”

“These findings need to be replicated in future scientific studies before we can say anything definitive about this link,” says Fuller-Thomson. “But if other researchers find a similar association, one possible explanation is that adverse child experiences become biologically embedded in the way individuals react to stress throughout their life, particularly with respect to the production of cortisol, the hormone associated with the “fight-or-flight” response. Cortisol is also implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases.”

Source: University of Toronto

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Good Men Project - Boys, Men, and Suicide

The Good Men Project posted this article by Thomas Golden back in August, and I have been wanting to share it here and kept forgetting. This is a serious issue - twice as many females as males attempt suicide, but males succeed more often, accounting for 80% of completed suicides in the U.S.

This post was written specifically for the state of Maryland, but it no doubt applies to every other state as well; and the recommendations are universally applicable.

Boys, Men, and Suicide


Although 80% of completed suicides are by males, there are no national programs specifically aimed at men or boys. Tom Golden wants to change that.

This was previously published on Proposal for a White House Council on Boys & Men.
A report written for the Maryland Men’s Health Commission by Tom Golden, LCSW.

Men and boys comprise nearly 80% of all completed suicides in the United States.[1] With this sort of number one would assume that there would be services that focus specifically on suicidal males. Surprisingly, there are almost no programs that focus on helping men and boys who might be suicidal. Sadly, Maryland is no exception to this rule. Maryland traditionally has very active programs to address the issues of suicide but does not seem to have any programs specifically addressing men or boys.

Even more surprising is how difficult it is to secure funding to study this disparity. Lanny Berman, the Executive Director of the American Association for Suicidology, made the following statement in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006: “As much as I would love to lead the charge [in finding out why boys kill themselves], try to go out and get funding for it.”[2] Berman’s statement expresses his frustration that funders aren’t interested in studying boys and men. Berman is not alone; organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) have voiced similar sentiments. NASW ran a study on suicidal girls in 2008. When asked about their reasons for studying girls rather than boys, Elizabeth Clarke, the NASW Executive Director, stated that the funder specified the money was dedicated to studying girls.[3] In the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 200+ page document titled “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action,” they only mention men and boys once: in a sidebar that indicates: “Over half of all suicides occur in adult men ages 25-65.”[4] Even this important document seems to negate the stark reality of the 80% of suicides completed by males; there simply seems to be very little interest in learning about men and boys and why they are more prone to kill themselves or how we can help them.

There is a common misconception that men die from suicide much more frequently than women do due to their choice of more lethal means. At first this seems to be a reasonable assumption. In 2004, 20,500 men committed suicide using the lethal means of fireams and hanging, but that same year, only 3,583 women used the same lethal means in completing suicide.[5] At first glance, this data seems to indicate that men must choose more lethal means and therefore are more likely to commit suicide. Looking a little bit closer, one finds that men choose lethal means to end their own lives in 79% of male suicides. However, what most people seem to miss is that women choose the same lethal means to end their own lives in 51% of female suicides. While the difference between 79% and 51% is significant, it in no way is a strong enough difference to account for the four to one ratio for overall suicide rates. There is obviously something else at work and we are simply not aware of this difference, nor is anyone making any efforts to examine what it might be.

Maryland has been hosting an annual conference on issues of suicide for many years. From my observations, the conference hasn’t had workshops that focused on men and boys and their unique issues related to suicide with the exception of one recent workshop that focused on veterans. This seems very perplexing since men and boys are the overwhelming majority of competed suicides. In fact, Maryland boys comprise 86% of the suicides between the ages 15-24 and yet there are no programs or resources that directly address their needs.

Why do men die more often from suicide?

Why could it be that boys and men comprise such a large percentage of completed suicides? Some, as we have heard, assume that the reasons are related to men being more violent. Others speak of men’s reluctance to seek help. These are likely partial answers, but if we want to better understand this question, we will need to start thinking outside the box. One of the boxes we are in is our assumption that men and women heal in the same way. There is a good deal of information becoming available that suggests the possibility that men and women have markedly different ways of healing and this difference may play a major role in the reasons that men predominate in completed suicides. Below are some very brief ideas about these differences.

Emotional Processing—Scientists are uncovering some fascinating differences between the strategies men and women typically use when under stress. According to the research of Shelly Taylor, Ph.D., of UCLA, when women are stressed, they are more likely to move towards interaction and being with other people. This movement obviously puts women into a position of sharing their problems with others, which then increases the likelihood that one of these people will help a woman connect with therapeutic emergency services. Men, on the other hand, have been shown to move less towards interaction and more toward action or to inaction. Both of these tendencies, action and inaction, move men away from others who might connect them with services and move them toward a more solitary solution. This is a much more dangerous position if you are feeling hopeless and helpless and likely plays into men’s tendency to avoid treatment and to see suicide as an alternative.

Societal Roles—No one is mandated to care for men. Men have been responsible for the safety and care of women and children for thousands of years. However, there is no third sex that is held responsible to care for the safety of men! Men are keenly aware of this and have developed a strong sense of independence and self-reliance. Both independence and self reliance will hamper the likelihood of a man seeking “help” for suicidal urges.

Harsh consequences for dependent males—A dependent male is a male that is judged harshly. Men are in a double bind. If they say they are not in need of services then they are held in high esteem but forfeit the help they need. If men admit they are in need of services, they are seen as worth less. Peter Marin, in an article titled “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare–Jack Becomes Homeless,” states:
To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it.[7]
A depressed and suicidal man is a dependent man. When we are hopeless and helpless we are far from being independent. Hopelessness and helplessness are the cornerstones of what underlies suicidal ideology. A man who feels hopeless and helpless will likely avoid letting others know his dependency and will avoid exposing his need by asking for help.

Mental Health System—Our mental health system is based on a face to face mode which favors the interactive nature of most women. Men more frequently move to a “shoulder to shoulder” mode when feeling vulnerable which is profoundly different from the norms of most mental health services which rely on interaction and a face to face environment.[8]

Dominance Hierarchy—Fascinating research is showing it is likely that human males live within a dominance hierarchy. Most of us are aware of the male big horn sheep that charge each other and ram heads until one of the males backs down. By butting heads they are forming the dominance hierarchy for their flock. The male who comes out on top of this hierarchy will have access to the top ranked females in their group. Evidence is now pointing towards human males having a dominance hierarchy based on status with males competing for status and access to the highest ranked females.[9] This helps explain men’s tendency to compete for higher status and their reluctance to disclose information that might negatively impact their status rank. If this is correct, it helps explain a man’s reluctance to discuss his suicidality and his attempts to disguise his vulnerability, which would obviously lower his status.

Culture—Our culture is harsh on men who emote publicly. Men know there is huge judgment placed on them for displaying emotion, and will avoid public emoting at all costs. The fact is that men are placed into a double bind: If they do emote publicly, they are labelled as wimps; if they don’t emote publicly they are labelled as cold and unfeeling. It’s a lose/lose for men. This impacts a man’s reluctance to discuss his suicidality and his tender and vulnerable feelings.[8]

Hormones – We are beginning to understand that testosterone is a powerful force when it comes to processing emotions. Females who take very large doses of testosterone are reporting that their access to emotional tears becomes markedly diminished and their ability to articulate their emotional state dwindles.[10,11] It’s a small jump to assume that testosterone in males will have a similar impact. Men have at least ten times more testosterone than women and would therefore be less likely to access emotional tears and less apt to articulate their emotions as they are feeling them. Both of these qualities have been the standard fare for therapy and may be one more reason that men avoid seeking treatment. This would help explain why women are more likely to seek out therapy than men.

Valuing female lives over male lives—As hard as it is to believe, we tend to value female lives more than male lives. Why else would we allow men to commit suicide 4 times as often as women and take no action? Why would we allow men to be 93% of the workplace deaths? Why would we allow men to be over 97% of the deaths in wartime and not show any concern? Just imagine that the US Government decided that only females would be allowed on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the sudden over 32 times as many women start dying than men? People would be outraged that so many women were dying. Why are they not outraged now that so many men are dying? Because we value female life more than that of the male.


1. Dedicate next year’s Maryland Suicide Conference to the topic of men, boys and suicide. Call in experts from around the country on the topic, and work towards bringing together numerous clinicians and researchers who will be able to share information and ideas on the reasons for men dominating the suicide numbers and ways to start to solve the problem.

2. Designate one interested staff member to investigate the latest treatment ideas and programs for males and suicide around the world. Finland is the first country to have focused on men and suicide and is ahead of most others in this respect. They have been one of the most successful countries in bringing their numbers of suicides down and would likely be a wealth of information. Australia would also be worth checking since they have recently instituted numerous programs specifically for boys, men and suicide. Some are for Indigenous men, others for boys, others for men in general. Lastly, Colorado’s Men and Suicide Campaign would be another place to check. This innovative program is the only program to my knowledge in the U.S. that focuses on males and suicide. Unfortunately, the program lost its funding only days before it was to open. There remains a core group of passionate clinicians and administrators who are working to carry the program forward without funding, and I know they would be happy to talk to someone from Maryland about their work and ideas.

3. Provide for the staff member conducting the research outlined above to present this material at the Maryland Suicide Conference. A podcast of the presentation could be available for download.

4. Create interest in the health department around the issue of males and suicide. Send informal notices for voluntary gatherings to discuss this issue in hopes of attracting interested professionals. Gauge the response and determine whether the next step may be to form a group of interested professionals who might facilitate the gathering of information and dissemination of information to interested parties.

5. Create PSAs on this issue that confer a male friendly message that states clearly that men are good and that each man is valuable. Develop podcasts that can be downloaded that offer information and ways to connect to supports.

6. Develop new avenues that men might be more likely to use in reporting possible suicide ideation and severe depression such as email, twitter and texting. Consider alternate arenas to connect with men including barber shops, sports teams, workout facilities and sports events.

7. Work in conjunction with the Maryland Suicide Prevention Commission.

1. (2006) National Vital Statistics Reports, Deaths: Final Data 2006, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Volume 57, Number 14, April 17, 2009
2. Ryan, Joan. “Sorting Out Puzzle of Male Suicide.” San Francisco Chronicle 26 Jan. 2006: b-1. Print.
3. Personal correspondence 2009 with Elizabeth Clarke, Executive Director NASW.
4. (2001 )National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action. Rockville, MD : U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2001. Includes index.
5. “Suicide Statistics at” Suicide Prevention, Suicide Awareness, Suicide Support—!!!. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009.
6.Taylor, Shelley E.. The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships. new york: Owl Books, 2003. Print.
7. “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare, Jack Becomes Homeless.” Alicia Patterson Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009..
8. Golden, Thomas R.. Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing. 2nd ed. Gaithersburg: Golden Healing Publishing Llc, 1996. Print.
9. Moxon, Steve. The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How the Sexes Relate at Work, at Play and in Society. Charlottesvile: Imprint Academic, 2008. Print.
10. Valerio, Max Wolf. The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2006. Print.
11. “Testosterone.” This American Life. National Public Radio, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2008.

In Canada and the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Read more on Suicide.

Image of happy man, father and son, courtesy of Shutterstock

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sexuality as a Spiritual Practice (plus Five Sex Tips for Men About Women)

From Dr. Marilyn Mitchell's Heart and Soul Healing blog at Psychology Today, here is an article on making sexuality a spiritual experience or practice. As an added bonus, guys, I'm also including Laurie Watson's post on sex tips for men about women, from her Psychology Today blog, Married and Still Doing It.


Sex is a common way that people connect with their spiritual selves

Believe it or not, sex is one of the most common ways that people connect with their spiritual selves. Our deepest desire and motivation as human beings is to connect with our expansive spirit. We long for experiences that are uplifting, pleasurable, expansive, and that bring life force (spirit) into our otherwise mundane existence. We feel most alive when this life force is flowing through us. 

Not only do we enjoy or even crave this connection to life force, it is vital to our health. Every illness, injury, depression, anxiety or health concern stems from a diminishment or blockage of the flow of life in some way. In working with patients, it is important to help them not only on the physical level, but on the mental and energetic/spiritual levels as well in order to have optimal recovery and health.

In our culture we have been taught to identify with our minds, and what they say to us. When we listen to our minds only, we believe that the key to life and happiness is following the rules, working hard, making money, and staying safe. When our minds run the show, we can experience worry, anxiety and boredom, and may block our ability to connect with our spiritual self. Pleasurable and sensual experiences are outside the boundaries of the mind, and are key in connecting with vitality and life force.

We seek this connection to our energy/ spirit/ life force in various ways, healthy and unhealthy. The use of alcohol, drugs, smoking, or even a daily café latte represent attempts to loosen the mind, and have a sensual experience, but don’t lead us to the connection we seek. Many people will directly pursue spiritual practices that connect them with their expanded self. Meditation, yoga, prayer, and energy healing all have the potential to open the door to connection with something greater.

And then there is sex.

During a healthy sexual encounter, the world falls away, thought are suspended, and pleasurable energy connects heart, body, and spirit. Sexual energy provides a complete experience of body/ spirit merger and is possibly the most accessible avenue to spiritual connection for most people.

It is interesting that spiritual practices such as chakra- opening meditations (e.g. Dolphin Breath) and some yoga practices connect life force through the body and energy field in a way that is experienced as orgasmic pleasure. Certain religious ecstatic experiences are experienced as orgasmic.

Identifying sexuality as a spiritual practice tends to run counter to our cultural conditioning. Sex in our culture tends to be a secret matter, and most people carry some baggage with them about sex from conflicting messages they have received. 

Typically, young people who are awakening sexually are viewed as “going through that phase” and we expect that as they mature, the interest and preoccupation with sex will lessen as they put their minds and energies to “more important” life matters. Sexuality does tend to wane through life for most people to the point that in midlife, sexuality becomes a major issue, overt or buried – hardly a source of spiritual connection. 

What if we were to re-identify sex as a healthy, vibrant, important part of life, and celebrate it as an avenue for spiritual practice that can be integrated into our ongoing lives? What would unfold if we were to examine our sexual lives and recreate something that is nurturing and vibrant? Consider opening to sexuality with a new mindset.

* * * * * * *
How to get her interested and keep her coming back for more 
I asked my husband what men would like to hear about. He responded that men wanted to know the bra trick and probably how to get her interested and how to make it good for her—they wanted someone with a manual to share the important secrets. Here are five tips to help.

1. Romance opens her heart and eventually her legs.

When you think about a Thanksgiving feast, you probably think about snitching crisp turkey skin right off the bird straight out the oven, creamy mashed potatoes dripping with gravy, luscious spicy pumpkin pie mounded with whipped cream, and eating so much you have to loosen the belt. 

Chances are your wife has already started to plan that delicious menu. She likes to eat, too. But she’s also thinking about her guest list — how to keep Aunt Suzie from dominating poor nephew Allen. She’s wondering about which single woman she can invite to the growing table that might make a match for her single brother. Pottery Barn catalogs are being poured over as she plans her own table settings. This year’s centerpiece will be the piece de resistance. Candles have already made the shopping list so everything will be perfect. 

My point is while you may be thinking about eating, your wife is thinking about the whole ritual of the day, the romance of the gathering—connection, beauty, and light. You’ve heard it a million times: be romantic. It's tired advice. Tired but true. But you don’t know why anyone would bother with the trimmings when there’s a feast ahead; doesn’t matter to you if it’s on china or a paper plate.

Women like to feel deeply connected before they turn on sexually. The setting, the build-up, the relationship all work together to make the moment work for her. These things do matter to her.

Women complain to me in therapy that their husbands never call when they’re at work. Right, I tell them as I defend you. That’s because he’s thinking of work. Men compartmentalize to the task at hand. Women think more like the web—everything links to everything. It works against us when the task at hand is sex and we can’t let go of the cares of the day. Compartmentalizing works for you when it comes to sex because you can focus and enjoy, but it works against you when it comes to providing some forethought to the moment.

Flowers sitting on the counter provide relational constancy for a woman. Object constancy is a developmental milestone. When you hide the ball behind your back and your baby remembers and tries to find it; he has achieved object constancy. He remembers the ball when it disappears.  Relational constancy means we feel secure even if our partner is absent or preoccupied. Gifts and flowers are like transitional objects standing in for your presence. You go to work, travel, get busy, and she remembers you still love her. “He does think of me when he’s away from me.” You get points when you’re not even there. Romance proves forethought.   

Romance is like exercise. If you jog in the morning it doesn’t mean you won’t have a heart attack that night. Romance doesn’t mean: I brought you flowers, so I should get sex tonight. Exercise creates a healthy body. Romance creates a healthy romantic backdrop for a woman’s responsiveness. It’s a tactical, practical thing you can do that adds to her feelings of connection.

2. Personalize the ask.

Make it about her, not about being horny. Forget the bump and cup. If she likes to be touched first, start generic. As far as verbal suggestions, “Do you want to have sex?” leaves women cold.  “Mmmm,” they think, “do I want to have sex…uh, no.” It’s the wrong question. If fact, initiation shouldn’t be a question, it should be a statement of what you want. 

Look her in the eyes. Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her you want to make love to her. It’s so much more personal than, “what about tonight?” or “are you in the mood?” or “wanna do it?” Women can think that all men want is sex. Show her that all you want is her. Be vulnerable instead of nonchalant. 
Maybe this seems like splitting hairs. You think she should know you want her. Seemingly no matter what you do, initiation results in the same answer—no. But all things have to work together. You can’t only concentrate on the turn of your golf swing. You’ve also to have the right grip and keep your eye on the ball. Marshal all these sex tips for a coordinated effort. Think about creating a climate verses an event.

3. She’ll be coming ‘round (or up) the mountain when she comes.

From a dead start (i.e. weeknight sex), women take about 40 minutes to get to the peak sexually.  They take about 20 minutes of very general caressing to change from willing to have sex to wanting to have sex. Then, they take another 20 minutes of genital stimulation to reach orgasm. If you rush her, she’ll conclude it’s not her night and tell you to go ahead. Usually this is unsatisfying to men because they want a responsive partner. Almost every woman I’ve ever talked to thinks she takes too long. Compared to you she takes a very long time. 

Her hormonal funding of testosterone, a hormone in both men and women that governs physiological craving for sex, can be as low as 100th of yours. Think about weightlifting with and without steroids.  You can do everything that your buddy does curl for curl, but if he’s on steroids his rate of build is going to be much higher. A man’s normal testosterone levels are 300-1,000 ng/dL serum blood.  Parents of teenage girls are afraid of the 1,000 level, and at 300, a guy often seeks a sex therapist for low desire. At 300, he won’t have morning erections, he struggles even with Viagra, will think about sex about once a week, and if he has a fight with his wife he won’t want it. A woman’s testosterone level is about 70 ng/dL when she is 18 and half that when she is 40 if she’s lucky. Her experience in her body is markedly different that your experience. While we may process testosterone differently and there are also measurements that are even more sensitive, this is the primary reason you crave sex and she doesn’t. She likes it, she needs it but she only knows that once she’s having it. Testosterone also governs her rate of arousal.

4. Suggest new techniques, positions, and fantasies when she’s halfway up the mountain.
 If you’re a sexual pursuer, you like to improve things. You probably have fantastic ideas about how to spice sex up. And you’ve probably been shot down a time or two (or hundred). The best time to suggest something new is not on the car ride home but after she is very aroused. At that point her modesty is lower, her inhibition has dropped, and she is the most open to your suggestion. 

You can help by not lording it over her in the morning debrief. Don’t say, “Wow, I knew you’d really like x if I could ever talk you into it.” Instead, be reassuring. Say, “That was fantastic last night.”  Leave the details until the next time she’s halfway up the mountain. For some reason, some women experience shame when their vulnerable experimentation if recounted. You’d be wise to get her to talk about it only when she’s aroused.

Women are often socialized to be the brakes, not the engine, of sexual desire.1 My female clients often tell me about their spouses' ideas. Many of your ideas include acts, positions, or fantasies about things they would be willing to try. Unfortunately, they are afraid that one thing might lead to another—meaning one deviation from the norm might lead to deviancy.

Reassure her of your own boundaries so that she will relax. If you want to tell her your fantasies but know that they will always remain in fantasy only (i.e., they are things you would never do)—say so.  If you know you have fantasies that she would never consent to, prove you know her and say that.  Tell her you respectfully submit the ideas for exploration in fantasy only. The exception to my above advice: don’t push against known sensibilities or moral views at a time when she’s aroused. She will stop trusting to let down her guard and become aroused with you. Those discussions should take place outside the bedroom.

5. Know 20 different touch techniques.

The difference between a professional massage and a husband’s in-front-of-the-TV-back-rub are pretty stark. The masseuse works each side of the back with perfect symmetry. Every muscle is kneaded. Touches are measured and planned to deepen relaxation. There is enough repetition for the recipient to rest and enough change to keep it interesting. 

Similarly, a man needs to know and be able to stimulate a woman’s genitals with knowledge and intention. He should know each part with lights on and with a reach in the dark. Because the woman’s genitals change during arousal, he should know the particulars for those changes: color, engorgement, erectile tissue, lubrication. A good lover has at least 20 different touches to use. The two primary variants are pressure and friction and a combination of the two.

Because 19 of them may not work on a particular night given her menstrual cycle, level or tiredness or alertness, bloating or not—your wife should guide you with lots of feedback about what works and doesn’t. Ask her to give you a number on a scale of one to five rather than “that feels good.” You may find that one touch that took her to the moon one night never works again. Not your fault. You may find that she only wants the same ole' touch over and over. Not your fault. You may find that you are almost out of options. Not your fault. She is the only one who can know what feels good at any given moment. Know only two or three touches or rush the process? Then, the lack of progress might be your fault.

Gentle encouragement to tell you her preferences will help. Don’t think you know what works. You can’t know. You shouldn’t feel criticized if she redirects you. If you have many touches in your repertoire, the odds increase that you can please her even when she is having a tough night relaxing. Do research different touches orally and manually in sex books. Do research live on her with a night set aside for learning. Tell her you want nothing in return that night—only to learn how to please her. Porn is an unrealistic teacher of technique often emphasizing intercourse. As I’ve said in many previous blogs: most women don’t climax from intercourse. Only 15 to 20 percent do; but 100 percent of ambulatory disease-free women can climax from adequate clitoral stimulation (read: at least 20 minutes once aroused) Please do see fellow PT bloggers Michael Castleman’s excellent book Great Sex or Paul Joannides' Guide to Getting It On!

1Deborah Tolman, Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk About Sexuality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002)

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