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Talking About Male Sexuality

vitruvian-man-da-vinciThere is no nudity at any regular ManKind Project men’s group.

There is some nudity on the New Warrior Training Adventure. It is about 5% of the total experience. About 2 hours out of 50. For all of this time, nudity is secondary to the primary intention, not the focus.

Facts: 

Nudity is not required. Any man may choose not to participate in any process. If a man chooses to opt out of a process, or to participate while clothed or wearing shorts, that’s fine. The vast majority of men choose to participate. Today, there are some training centers where there is no nudity on the weekend. 

By this time during the training, the participants have come to realize how safe the environment that we create is, that the men are trustworthy, and that such vulnerability will not be exploited. Most men find the experience to be liberating, and get over their initial discomfort quickly. But we know that it doesn’t fit for everybody, and that it’s a bit odd to imagine in today’s world. We are proud to offer men a chance, even for 48 hours, to break out of their shells.

Nudity is never sexual. The ManKind Project will take swift action in response to any report of sexual impropriety on our training weekends.

Why do we do this?

The male body, in its many forms, is beautiful, normal, ridiculous, natural. We use nudity on our training to reveal and confront shame about the male body and to challenge our negative self images. In North America, this is seen as controversial in some communities. At our trainings in Europe, this is almost never an issue.  Specifics of class, religious beliefs and ethnic culture play a large role, and we respect these differences. Training Leaders and staff will work with any man to honor physical, cultural, and religious differences. As we said above, nudity is not required.

We don’t pretend that our workshop is the be-all, end-all personal growth experience for men, or that it will match up with every man’s expectations of what it should be. We have enjoyed tremendous success over three decades of these weekends and we will keep on providing a place for men who want to step outside of their comfort zones and grow.

Talking about male sexuality

Honest and affirming dialog about male sexuality is still taboo. Today’s young men are raised in a stilted, secretive culture where their expectations of the male body may be almost exclusively formed by viewing pornography. This presents a deeply warped view the male body. (And we cannot help but also notice and confront the often harmful, degrading, warped and objectified view of the female form and female sexuality.)

We see men in the media who are either the ‘idealized’ athlete, soldier, comic book hero, or the ridiculed overweight slob. Neither of these are healthy or typical representations. Deeply ingrained homophobia, self-hatred, and fear of being ostracized or teased has fundamentally altered the fabric of male development. Many men carry painful memories of locker-room torment, self-consciousness and shame. As adult men, the preoccupation with sexual prowess, sexual function (E.D., penis enlargement) or sexual orientation forms a constant stream of meta information in our culture (not to mention spam!). And the message is usually that we’re not OK, not good enough, or not acceptable to society. Our intent is to create safety to re-imagine a man’s relationship to his own body and to his sexuality.

Men have the opportunity to begin constructing a sexuality that will help them deepen their relationship to themselves and their wives, husbands, or partners. This exercise helps men create the intimacy that they want in their lives.

Why a Phallus?

Men have unrealistic expectations and fears about their bodies, and especially their penises. The ManKind Project also recognizes that not all men have penises. A phallus can be a metaphorical representation of that fear and insecurity.

Some training centers use a representation of a phallus during a conversation about male sexuality. If a man is uncomfortable seeing or holding a wooden representation of the part of the anatomy that is usually connected to being male, what does that say about his relationship to his own body, or to his manhood? What does it say about male culture?

By the time a man reaches 21 in American culture, it is likely that he has seen hundreds of dildos, phallic representations and actual penises. He has heard thousands of masturbation, sex, homophobic, misogynist and misandrist jokes. He has probably been teased, harassed or even assaulted about his body or his sexuality.

The phallus has also come to represent the violence and oppression that men perpetrate against women, each other, children, and against the planet. The phallus is a weapon of war where rape and torture of women and girls occurs. The phallus is a deeply violent symbol of what men in prison face at the hands of other inmates or guards. It is a symbol of immature masculinity, a man ‘using his little head’ to do his thinking. All of these aspects of the male sex organs are hidden in popular culture. The ManKind Project is committed to facing both the positive and the negative associations, and helping men to form healthy relationships to themselves and others.

The fact that this is not talked about openly is symptomatic of a deeply rigid and restrictive culture of masculinity. Men deserve a safe place to deal with this. And we provide it.

The Phallus in Human Culture

In many of the earliest carvings and statues on the planet, both the male and female body were depicted in outrageous ways. The woman’s vagina was sometimes represented larger than her torso, her breasts huge and potent. The male phallus was a symbol of power, fertility, action and order in the world. It was represented in all kinds of ways, often ridiculously huge. Today, that same symbol is viewed as an object of perversion or fear. This isn’t true everywhere … in modern Japan there is still a national festival celebrating this older symbolism.

It is our intent to stir up the disquiet that comes from both of these metaphorical worlds – the sacred and the profane. You may think it’s odd, and many men find it uncomfortable to think about, but our experience is that men are tremendously grateful when they can, finally, stop running from and fearing their own sexuality.

The ManKind Project has helped tens of thousands of men look at this – a subject that is too rarely honestly confronted in our culture.

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