The Good Men Project

6 Ways to Talk to Boys About Violence

It’s pretty common for us to worry about how women, especially our own daughters, are put into gender boxes and encouraged to engage in behavior that hurts them, simply because they’re female.

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How Trump Sold Us His Brand of Misogyny

This article originally appeared in The Good Men Project.

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Stop Comparing Trump and Sanders: The Two Candidates Aren't Equal and Opposite Radicals

This piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

As the 2016 presidential election gathers steam, it’s tempting to compare the Bernie Sanders surge among Democrats with the Donald Trump phenomenon among Republicans. After all, both candidates are marshalling support from the ideological grassroots in their respective parties (the left in Sanders’ case, the right for Trump), and both have successfully tapped into a deeper anger that animates their campaigns.

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3 Relationship Killers That May Be Even Worse Than Having an Affair

Pretty much everyone who is in a committed relationship agrees that if they found out their partner had sex, even once, with someone else, it would be a challenge to move past it and stay together. That’s the big one-event shakeup most people assume is the beginning of the end, if not the mile marker for the end itself.

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8 Ways Porn Can Strengthen Your Relationship

Yesterday I shared information gleaned from new research showing that not only does porn not cause sex addiction, depression, anger, anxiety, or stress, but the self-acceptance of the label of “sex addict” does in and of itself lead to depression, anger, anxiety and stress.

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This Just In: Men Watch Porn

As a woman working in the divorce arena, I am privy to lots of direct information on the private feelings of spouses as they relate to porn usage by one or the other. Several female clients have come to me, I believe expecting that as a woman myself I will take their side, to share that their husband has most certainly wandered into the desolate path known as sex addiction. I ask why they believe so, and the answer is the same each time — they found him watching porn.

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11 Secrets of Irresistible People

Some people, regardless of what they lack—money, looks, or social connections—always radiate with energy and confidence. Even the most skeptical individuals find themselves enamored with these charming personalities.

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11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility for its Racism

I am white. I write and teach about what it means to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet remains deeply divided by race. A fundamental but very challenging part of my work is moving white people from an individual understanding of racism—i.e. only some people are racist and those people are bad—to a structural understanding. A structural understanding recognizes racism as a default system that institutionalizes an unequal distribution of resources and power between white people and people of color. This system is historic, taken for granted, deeply embedded, and it works to the benefit of whites.

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11 Words You Need to Teach Your Son Before He Turns 6

The following story first appeared on the Good Men Project. 

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What About the Men? Why Our Gender System Sucks for Them Too

If you are anything like us, you spent some time when you were younger playing with optical illusions: the vase that, if you looked at it differently, was two faces; the fish that were also birds; the old woman who was also a young lady.

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There Are Now More Slaves Than at Any Point in Human History

“My very first survivor was a boy. How many of us are looking for boys?”
--Sandra Morgan, Director, Global Center for Women & Justice at Vanguard University
His legs were thin as faded whispers and dangled like twisted ropes from his wheelchair, and his walk was a drag as he pulled himself along with worn-out school erasers clutched in each hand. Nadu was born this way and despite being 13 years old, he had just received his first wheelchair the day prior to my arrival. He hadn’t needed one for the past seven years. When he was five his family bent to the weight of foresight, tradition and circumstance. They sold him.
For seven years Nadu was stored like luggage in the back of a nondescript van and was taken from community to community for the sole purpose of being raped by anybody willing to pay enough to cover the driver’s fuel and food expenses. It’s called a mobile brothel and Nadu’s story is only one of countless many. He fought back the first week, but after being beaten nearly to death on two different occasions, he learned that living meant succumbing. And so it went day after day—when days felt like years and years like thick fog. When I met him he smiled but I couldn’t tell if it was a smile of courtesy, relief or something else altogether.
Like many Americans, I once lived under the impression that large-scale slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation (and the Civil War) in 1863. My travels both domestic and abroad have coupled with my attendance at conferences by organizations like  Not For Sale and Slavery No More to show a truer picture, one that forced me to confront my Americentric worldviews and my absolute naiveté.
There are more slaves today than at any point in human history – 27 million worldwide. The best numbers on the subject reflect that 1-1.2 million children are trafficked every year, and 100,000 human trafficking victims are currently in the United States. After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it’s the fastest growing. 80% of trafficking victims are women and girls.
These are huge numbers, but numbers rarely arouse emotion like personal stories. Of the personal stories we hear in the news or elsewhere, I’d guess 98% of them represent the 80%. This is not a complaint but an observation – human trafficking awareness is essential regardless of where it comes from.
What might be the reason for this discrepancy? Some have posited that children are the most vulnerable people in our community and as women are the more physically vulnerable sex their stories cut deeper and therefore make better media. Some have said that our world is still entirely uncomfortable with same-sex sex, especially with men.
Another person I spoke to said it could be the result of people being ignorant, willfully or otherwise, when it involves the possibility of men raping boys. This made me think of Joe Paterno’s quote in January 2012, “I never heard of… of… rape and a man.” We’ve thought on this quote plenty as it relates to the Penn State crimes and Paterno’s personal honesty, but what of its general validity? If true, it shows a total lack of awareness. If false, it shows a climate of blindness suggesting that it’s actually a valid excuse for some people to be unaware of the possibilities of the sexual abuse of boys. Either way is terribly sad.
On the taboo of man-on-boy rape, I’ve talked to several authors and filmmakers who address sex trafficking and they echoed similar sentiments in different words. It should be noted that though their goal is one of awareness it is also one of sales. The two are often intertwined. The more their book or film is talked about, the more buzz. And the more buzz, the more there is awareness and the money to help. That said, these are artists whose work is often shaped by their perception of the general public. Their art isn’t merely for art’s sake and as a result they often have their fingers as close to the public’s pulse as possible. One went so far as to say the following:
“Society can barely stomach the raping of young girls. I feared they couldn’t handle it if my story was about the sex trafficking of young boys. How comfortable would people be with telling others to check out the work? In one sense they could just say it involves rape and most people would assume it meant of a girl or woman. But if it were about a boy or a man could they just say rape and let it stand without adding any extra details? I’m not sure, but I felt that’s where discomfort would come in and I didn’t want to chance it. Great works involve some level of discomfort, but maybe that would be too much.”
Some of the best projects about sex trafficking include Her Story, a film produced by Aaron Au, whom we interviewed last October. Her Story shows how sex trafficking takes place not just in foreign lands, but right next door. It features a young girl enslaved in a brothel.
I recently screened the feature film Not Today by Brent Martz. Debuting in 2013, the movie follows an Orange County trust-fund college student whose travels unexpectedly show him the story of a young Indian girl sold into the sex trade.
Investigative journalist Julian Sher received much-deserved praise for his book, Somebody’s Daughter, which tells the stories of American teens caught in the sex trade.
While all of these pieces are exceptional and will surely combat trafficking in a way that helps all genders, they are all primarily, if not entirely, about the sex trafficking of girls. As the market becomes saturated with similar works, there’s a fear it may continue feeding into the machine that paints only in black and white: Men are monsters. Women are victims. This concept, in part, was addressed by Chris Anderson, Executive Director of MaleSurvivor.org, who explains:
“Ignoring the truth that millions of males are victims of abuse and violence alienates us, and effectively tells us that we have no right to hope, healing, and support for the harms we have suffered. The lasting message of this attitude is that men are the problem. This makes it far less likely that males who have been harmed will ask for the help they need to heal. Further, this attitude has focused our communal attention and directed the bulk of resources to programs and studies that focus primarily on women…”
Yes, men are the primary engines behind sex trafficking. We are the primary pimps and johns. As pastor Eddie Buyn said at the Not For Sale conference in Manila, “There are many slaves in the sex trafficking battle: The pimps who are slaves to greed, the johns who are slaves to lust, and those who are physically enslaved.” But when it comes to victimization, we make up an astounding 20% and that’s on the low end compared to other studies I’ve read. Yet all of this so far has addressed only sex trafficking, a branch off of the overall entity of human trafficking.
In many circles, the term “human trafficking” is believed to be a euphemism for modern-day slavery. The definition given by the U.N. Trafficking Protocol: “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, or fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.” This exploitation is typically in the form of sex or labor, but as survivor Ima Matul recently pointed out, “It doesn’t matter which type. The sex side makes the news but all forms are inhumane. Trafficking is trafficking.”
From my travels and research I’d guess that men are trafficked far more than women. Still, because my mind and emotions are most crushed by the sex trafficking of children, I have been surprised when I visit rescue shelters and, when I ask how many survivors are men, the staff members look at me and say, “They all are men.”
Labor trafficking is a brutal business that offers a low risk for the criminals. The story of boys and men being tricked or forced into slave labor camps and then beat mercilessly once there doesn’t  capture many headlines. Many still confuse it with separate issues. Make no mistake about it: These slavery rings are not synonymous with typical migrant worker rings whereby foreign workers enter a new country and are employed seasonally and paid meagerly.
We’re talking about the type of slavery most of our history books exposed us to, the stuff of movies, the stuff we think has passed, the stuff that can cripple cultures for generations or longer. I met one boy of 12 who was blindfolded and beat daily for three weeks so that he was sufficiently brainwashed by his “master” and would devote the rest of his healthy life to working for free. And it’s not all boys either. Most of the survivors I met are grown men – ranging from 25-45 – who, in an effort to better support their families, were sold a fake promise and then were sold into slavery rings. Many expressed embarrassment. Many said they could never tell their families what happened for fear of being regarded as weak, stupid and/or unmanly. Our soldiers (and men in general) have become notorious for not being able or wanting to open up about their mental disorders. The same can be assumed for male trafficking survivors.
Most of us are privileged enough to live only among the remnants, tasting it through museums or family photo albums or stories or by driving past the abandoned slave shacks, as I have, on my way to a vacation getaway in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Sure having the beach to myself all day and falling asleep to the ocean’s lullaby stick in my mind, but so too do the images of the journey there: the rotting wood warped and rotting black, the unmown grass. It looks so long ago, and it is, but like any good business it has morphed and evolved to meet the times. I’ve learned a few lessons about its evolution throughout my recent research. Here are the two that come to mind:
History paints not in the bold brush strokes of Van Gogh but in the curving and often circular pencil sketches of Klimt.
If eyes could touch, the male survivors I’ve met would have reached out for a hug.

Why Do Men Have Such Trouble With Intimacy?

Real intimacy, unlike sex or hanging out, requires a vulnerability the man code prohibits.
The other night while at dinner with some friends (all married or with someone) something occurred that is so common I barely took notice of it. One of the women popped up and went to the restroom and four other women jumped up and went with her. We’ve seen this a million times. They go off to the restroom, fix their hair, adjust something, and talk about EVERYTHING. If men meet up in the restroom, if they speak at all, it would be a very neutral topic like golf or baseball. I think to myself that if a man got up and went to the restroom NO ONE would go with him. This is of course a generalization but in this small vignette, it tells the story of the difference between men and women. So why do men have such a difficult time with intimacy?
The answer is that most men are taught from an early age to be competitive, that feelings are a sign of weakness, and to avoid vulnerability and dependency at all costs. The ideal for men is fierce independence and strength. Herb Goldberg writes in The Hazards of Being Male that 85% of the men in this country have no friends. We see beer ads that proffer an image of the American male as having tons of friends but nothing could be further from the truth. According to Goldberg, men have “buddies” like golf or bowling buddies, but not real friends because they don’t open up. Intimacy is based on being able to show ourselves to another person, warts and all. Men are very reluctant to do this because they fear that they might be judged or put down.
Dr. Kal Heller, a licensed psychologist specializing in child and family services, writes that “Intimacy is very risky because it requires making such a serious commitment to the relationship that each person will experience a sense of dependency on the other. To admit to needing someone else is to risk loss and deep hurt.” This is difficult for all of us. Dependency is a negative concept in our society. Men, especially, are taught to strive for independence. Like that ad says, “Never let them see you sweat.” This could be our national anthem.
Some of the messages men get early on are:
“Big boys don’t cry”
“No pain, no gain. Tough it out.”
“Only sissies get hurt feelings.”
“It’s a sign of weakness to let people know you’re hurting.”
Men are cautioned to not discuss their feelings, to avoid feelings altogether and to not discuss love, sorrow, or pain. Men will often make a joke out of a difficult situation rather than face it directly. Men are taught to be checked out toward the emotions of others, and keep their true feelings inside. Women frequently complain that their partner wants to have sex even though they don’t feel connected emotionally. Men want to have sex to feel connected and women want to feel connected to feel comfortable having sex. Because some men want to skip over feelings and go straight to sex, porn and prostitution has taken off since the advent of the Internet. Men who find themselves avoiding confrontations and intimacy will find anonymous intimacy in Internet chat rooms, porn, or prostitutes.
Susan Johnson, the author of Hold Me Tight, once said that “In conflict, women swim and men sink.” Men do not do as well as women in the clinches. Men have a harder time with stress reduction, and anxiety around conflict. Women have gears inside built for childbirth where they can tolerate pain. This internal mechanism to withstand anxiety and pain allows women to deal with emotional stress way better than men. Men usually avoid conflict and make every effort to make peace. For this reason they do not tend to resolve conflicts well, which creates distance in their relationships. This avoidance of confrontation, pain and anxiety can build up over time and cause the eventual breakup of a marriage. John Gottman, who wrote The 7 Principles of A Happy Marriage, writes that 80% of divorce is based on men not accepting the influence of the woman. What this means is that men avoid contact and don’t tend to listen because they don’t want to be seen as tied to the woman’s proverbial apron strings or be “hen pecked.” Because men must be fearless and strong, they dread appearing weak or inadequate.
Because men are taught to be competitive, strong, never cry, and not show emotion, they may either buy into this wholeheartedly or consider all intimacy-creating activities as weak and stupid, or they may feel like a fraud for having feelings and sensitivity at all. Men will carry feelings of inadequacy to the grave rather than admit how they really feel. Because men are so competitive, they may also try to win arguments rather than work them out. To lose in a spat would legitimize their feelings of weakness and inadequacy. So they will fight to the death to triumph not realizing that even if they succeed in winning these battles they will end up losing their partner. They may develop a macho persona while secretly feeling helpless or like they don’t measure up. I frequently hear men complain that they are “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” Men feel like they have to fix things and don’t like it when they are made to feel helpless. Men aren’t supposed to feel helpless.
All this is not to say that men are incapable of intimacy, dependency, or vulnerability. They are quite able, but our culture does not support it. One of the main reasons for drug and alcohol use is for medicating pain, and that would include emotional pain. Men, who feel bottled up, sad, angry, and depressed will often become workaholics, drink, or do drugs to avoid feelings. For men to understand how to be intimate, they must first learn more about who they are, what they want, and what is truly important to them. Feelings tell us what we want and what we need, so without them, we are like a ship without a rudder. So many men lead lives of quiet desperation, never letting anyone in or themselves out. A man who takes a look at who he really is and allows his essence to be known is far stronger than the burly, silent type who lives his life in utter isolation.

Addicted to Beauty? How My Obsession With Looking Hot Screwed Up My Life

 Here we go again, I think, as I impatiently wait for the hair straighter to warm up. I’ve washed my hair, deep conditioned it, shaved my legs, tweezed my eyebrows. I’ve blown dry my hair, but it’s still a wreck. It’s always a wreck. It’s thin, so thin that when I put it into a ponytail, a pencil is thicker. I plaster down the worst of the flyaways with a hair product that promises something it can’t deliver.

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