Male on Man

A Focus On Living by Calvin

What Roles Do You Play?

 

by photographer Damien Blottière

by photographer Damien Blottière

Single. Married. Husband. Father. Son. Friend. Student. Colleague (or boss). Have you ever thought about what it takes to succeed in the roles you play in life. 

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With pen and pad, you may want to list and count them. I did, and here are some of mine: Man. Brother. Business Entrepreneur. Client. Conscious Observer. Friend. Instructor. Neighbor. Teacher. Speaker. Writer.

I invite you to think about it for a few second—jot a few notes if you can regarding the many roles you play?

Now ask yourself,  with so many roles, have you been successful in your roles? Especially if you find yourself banging your head against the wall while  continually facing failures in some of those roles. 

Each of our roles require certain qualities to be successful, or effective. To be an effective student for instance takes certain things that we have to do; A self-discipline in attending class, doing assigned task, as well as learning through our own best methods. Conflict resolution with a particular teacher/ other student  through enacting diplomacy to bring about succees.

That definition of success or effectiveness will be entirely up to you;

If you define success as being happy in a certain role, then consider what are the attributes needed  for you to maintain  the place where you yourself  are happy? . We all come  wired with certain sets of qualities and abilities, other roles, we can develop by being trained or taught. Regardless of our unique strengths and weaknesses, our job then is to play out our roles, how well we do that is up to us based on the goals we have in mind. 

The Roles We’re Born Into vs Chosen Roles.

Self-Portraits by Alex Stoddard

Self-Portraits by Alex Stoddard

We have roles we’re born into  such as: homosapien, man, woman, son, daughter, brother, sister, etc. Then there are the roles we choose or resonate with such as: being a friend, a lover, a partner, a spouse, a parent, a student, an employee, a manager, a boss, an entrepreneur, etc.  These roles can also include defining ourself as having a particular occupation or mission such as: an actor, artist, blogger, a chef, a craftsman, an advocate, an activist or practicing a form of spirituality or religion.

Then there are Roles labels that we might take on, things we identify with such as Fighter, Nudist, Survivor. Conservationist, Green activist, Political party supporter, Sports fan, Ecologist.

In life, our personalities reflect abilities to be effective and successful in various Roles - through, integration, combing  and or overlapping of the various roles we can be -  

  • As a good Partner, qualities to cultivate: Caring, communication, empathy, boundaries, kindness,  being supportive, open,  patient, self-aware.

  • A good Manager or Boss -  skills to have or acquire: Being a good listener. Having visionary goals. Having a Strategy that is aware of  the bottom line as well as for care and support of  your employees.

  • As a Survivor, from disease or situation(abuse, etc.), attribute such as: Resilience, determination, faith and grit are needed.

  • Activist: Commitment to and for raising awareness, speaking about, writing about and participation in activities and fundraisers that actively promotes or eradicates something.

by Eduardo Mata Icaza

by Eduardo Mata Icaza

But what happens when the qualities that help us become successful in one area aren’t the same qualities needed to be effective in another?

If you aren’t sure, check yourself, ask:  “In all my situations am I playing, that is applying only the qualities of one role to everything I am doing? such as a Survivor to all my other roles?” Certainly grit is needed to make it through any ordeal, but a survivalist role suggest some type of constant struggle against something to survive,  and would you need or want struggle in every area of life? That would be an exhausting way to live.

 

Understanding the right role for the right situation and using qualities that are appropriate is a challenge. We have all seen examples of someone incredibly successful in business but can’t seem to get their personal life under control. Then again that person who is highly spiritual and wants to change the world but can’t get their business off the ground.  We have examples all the time where someone is successful in one role and essentially not in another. Perhaps it has happened to you?

I suggest questioning: what roles do you want to take on, and what attributes, qualities, or values, are needed for you to be successful and effective in each of those roles?  Check out your mental tool box, and if you don’t have those attributes, can you find a way to develop them?

 

Many of the people I’ve coached struggled in roles and relationships because they were unclear on what their healthy relationships would operate on, or what they needed from themselves to make it work.

Go over your list and check to see if the values and  qualities you are working with are in sync and required for each role you play in your life. Now if you find there are places that you are lacking, and that you’re willing to admit to lacking? Then comes the Big question, would you willing to seek out and get coaching, training or support you need in how to be more successful at the roles you’ve chosen to play? Then you are laying a path to success.

 

Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen... yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. - Bradley Whitford

Living Your Priorities

The Power of Consistency

How small habits repeated consistently turn into big things by Calvin Harris

Heracles battling the Lernaean Hydra, Rudolph Tegner.jpg



 The truth is, the process of success and achieving your wildest dreams is not a matter of Will-Power or positive thought, as much as the Simple habit of showing up day after day.

When you show up with focused attention day in, day out for a set period of time, no matter how small, it’s inevitable you will reach where you truly want to be. Opportunities will begin to present themselves.

Author, Ayodeji Awosika, says:

 “When you show up and keep putting your work out there, good things start to happen. You make new connections, people reach out to you, opportunities start to present themselves.”  

Steal Like an Artist.jpg

 But before we get there, Austin Kleon a writer and artist living in Austin, Texas who wrote the book “Steal Like An Artist”,  makes the observation - “Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work.”

The world seems to be facing an epidemic, and are in shock right now and that is because everyone wants to be successful, yet no one is willing to put in the work to be successful. You Can’t Be the Noun Without Doing the Verb.

We as a culture have become instant gratification seeking drones, that have been dumbed down and turned into dopamine seeking instant messaging, Facebook likes, and Netflix zombies at the expense of our dreams and desires.

For many, it is easier to simply talk about the work, rather than to actually do the work. What I mean by doing the work is to put into action the power of thinking, and comprehending, an orderly and rational way to carry out activities. While in the motion of carrying out those activities one arrives at a state of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Blogger Anthony Moore suggest:

“Most people will continue getting high on the dopamine of solely “dreaming” and journaling about their ideal life, without ever doing any meaningful work to make those goals happen.”

I go along with the idea that  ‘Its time’ that people start realizing you can’t be the noun without doing the verb.

You can’t be an athlete, if you never train.

You can’t be a writer, if you don’t write.

You can’t be a mathematician without using the principles of mathematics.

In what areas of your life, are you calling yourself the noun without doing the verb? It’s time to get consistent.

 

 

‘Consistency’, Anthony Moore puts it this way

 “Consistency is a bit like a million dollars. Everyone wants it, everyone knows it will make their life better, but it seems impossible to ever achieve it.”

Becoming consistent at anything you want is not elusive, it can be as simple as rethinking badly formed habits or finding how things are being put in the wrong order. To start forming new habits.

This does not mean, that this correction, or becoming the best version of yourself is likely to happen overnight, old behaviors don’t shake loose that easily.

Start with small steps. Focus on constancy and frequency, rather than intensity and allow the habit to slowly become a natural part of your Being. Become the Conscious builder of your life. Srinivas Rao wrote,

“Build the identity of the person you want to become.”

Blogger Reece Robertson tells us:

your renovation.jpg

 “This is preciously how I developed my morning journaling habit. I didn’t force myself to write an entry straight away. Rather, I would get up every morning, write the date in my journal, and then close it again.

Once that was a natural part of my morning routine, I began to journal for 15 minutes before getting into my reading and writing and haven’t stopped since.

Start small, learn the routine, and develop a process you can stick to.”

 

 

To recap, own the fact that you want to build the identity of the person you want to become. That you will cultivate the power of consistency. That you will make a pact with yourself to show up today, tomorrow, the day after that, and so on.

It will be a certainty that your life would be very different in a year.

Own that You are done holding yourself back, and you will be making more progress. having more joy and satisfaction from life. To develop more confidence, through self-discovery of being the Noun by your action as the Verb.

It starts now.

The majority of goals people pursue don’t require innate talent, or working a 12-hour a day — in most cases, they lack old-fashion consistency.” -Zdravko Cvijetic (content creator, entrepreneur and the founder of Zero to Skill).

A Challenge to Male Roles In U. S. Since 1937

Another Conversation on Masculinity, Society, and Change. by  Calvin Harris H.W., M.

 

man in the mirror.jpg

“Rationalization was much easier than recognizing the gravity of what was lost: an innocent, healthy childhood and an introduction to sexuality on my terms” - Concepción de León

This is a powerful quote from New York Times writer, Concepción de León.

I have spoken before about the necessity of sexuality, and  gender preference be defined by the individual, coming from their innate self, expressed outwardly decided by the  person in their own terms.   

I have mention before how this innate process has been derailed through  children’s storybooks, affecting  children’s gender and sexual behaviors from centuries past. So, today I would like us to look at a tenacious  twentieth century  American comic strip, that has speed seemed to act as an equalizer of bad behaviors (if for only one day), a chance for the young female adults of the last era to enact behaviors befitting their male counterparts. and  how this American folktale may have the underpinning for new sexual roles and yet again poor marks regarding Males and Masculinity in the twenty first century and beyond.

The Sadie Hawkins Day Race

The Sadie Hawkins Day Race

The Comic Strip was created by cartoonist Al Capp and called Li'l Abner. The Encyclopaedia Britannica reported that Li’l Abner, ran in American newspaper from 1934 until 1977, chronicling the absurdities of daily life in the fictional Appalachian town of Dogpatch.

The comic strip abounded in stereotypes of Appalachia. Its title character, Abner Yokum, was a handsome, muscle-bound hillbilly, as lazy as he was dull witted. Like Abner, most of the men of Dogpatch were cast as essentially useless to society; all the real work was done by the “wimmenfolk.” One such woman was the curvaceous and beautiful yet hard-working Daisy Mae Scragg, who was hopelessly in love with Abner and pursued him fruitlessly for years before they finally married in 1952; they produced a child, Honest Abe, in 1953. Another was Abner’s mother, Mammy [who to me looked like Popeye the Sailor], She was the unofficial mayor of Dogpatch, who smoked a corncob pipe and kept the Yokum household running while her lazy, illiterate husband, Pappy, did little more than lie about.

Capp used Li’l Abner to comment satirically on American life and politics, spoofing ruthless capitalists in the early years before turning his wit on hippies and antiwar activists as his views grew more conservative later in life. He retired his creation in 1977, two years before his death. Since then, Li’l Abner has been reprinted at various times.”

In its wake, this comic strip has had a profound influence on the way the world viewed the American South, Men’s  & Women’s roles. and a notable celebration in Dogpatch called, Sadie Hawkins Day, on which the women of the town were allowed to marry any bachelor they could chase down and capture; annual on that  day of role reversal. Females asked males to dances, have sex, or marry. The enormous popularity of the Sadie Hawkins Day  had Capp obligingly  making it a comic strip tradition every November, lasting four decades. The Sadie Hawkins Day phenomena went from being  a pseudo-holiday  November 15, 1937 to gaining in popularity in 1939, two years after its inauguration, the celebration warranted a two-page spread in Life Magazine, who reported that on “Sadie Hawkins Day, Girls Chase Boys in 201 Colleges." By the early 1940s the comic strip event had swept the nation's imagination and acquired a life of its own. By 1952, the event was reportedly celebrated in various venues around the world. It became a woman-empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence.

 

The practical side of Sadie Hawkins day was simply one of gender role-reversal. Women and girls take the initiative, make decisions in preparation to go out with their  invite  man or boy of choice — almost unheard of before 1937.

 

Yet the Male paradigm, the persona of the male counterpoint in Dogpatch  depicts a protagonist, “who is handsome, muscle-bound and as lazy as he was dull witted. A character essentially useless to himself, to his family and to society.  

A character, that we can only hope will not take hold in the American male psyche, as the roles of men and women begin to balance each other out, no longer  men vs women but equal in opportunity.

 

Book Unspeakable by Daum

Book Unspeakable by Daum

Meghan Daum, author of “The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion”,  an occasional, Los Angeles Times oped columnist. www.meghandaum.com

 

On a topic of women vs men causes and movements,  Meghan said [these movements] “will live or die by the degree to which it’s willing to let people in. Until it makes room for examinations not just of toxic masculinity but also toxic femininity—and, even better, dispatch with these meaningless terms—it will continue to tell only half the story. Until it admits that women can be as manipulative and creepy and generally awful as men, the movement will continue to send a message that we’re not really whole people.”

 

I’m wary of any language that defines people ‘only’ based on what was done to them, as opposed to an identity they chose.  I would not want people’s life story to be overshadowed by notions of popular culture.

Yet so many men have felt isolated and unresponsive by what was misread as to how they should act and be by their culture. Decisions in life and sexually counter to their nature, that they just freeze up, or succumb to that which can only be described as trauma.

“The Body Keeps the Score”.jpg

Dr. van der Kolk a psychiatrist specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder, working with  veterans to sexual assault survivors, wrote a book called: “The Body Keeps the Score”  which hinges on his idea that trauma is stored in the body and that, for therapy to be effective, it needs to take into account the physiological changes that occur. He says, “Many people also experience dissociation, which can manifest as literal desensitization in parts of the body or the inability to describe physical sensations.”

 

Men’s identities must change to be able to let go of painful isolation.  Let go of fragmented storylines,  images, sounds and emotion that must be processed as belonging to the past.

The Re-Imaging of Masculinity in the 21st Century and it’s role model for the coming youth, must be vigorously overhauled and fiercely optimistic of a person’s place in the world, for example:

Masculine youth needs to learn to be rigorously honest about what he knows and what he needs to know, and what he feels. To express constructive emotions that exposes the past and lets it go. He knows how to rage without hurting others. He knows how to fear and keep moving. He knows joy, and shares gratitude. He seeks self-mastery.

The 21st Century and beyond male youth has to learn to let go of childish shame. Feeling guilty when they have done nothing  wrong. He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children. He teaches others how to be kind.

He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain. He creates intimacy and trust with his actions. He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships. He stopped letting his libido run his life. He has learned self-respect comes from telling the truth. He has men who he trusts and turns to for support.

He confronts his limitations. He knows how to take conscious chances makes things happen. He knows how to learn from his mistakes and roll with it. When he falls, he gets back up. He practices compassion, for himself and others.  He is disciplined when he needs to be. He is flexible when he needs to be. He has high expectations for himself and those he connects with and finally He knows how to listen from the core of his being.

S. F. Pride 1986 Snake Man

S. F. Pride 1986 Snake Man

He knows he is an animal and part of nature. Yet he knows his spirit and the connection to something greater. As a whole person, he looks for ways to serve others. He knows he has a higher purpose. He loves with fierceness. He laughs with abandonment because he lives fully.

 

These are some descriptions of the Re-Imagined Masculinity, a reality that means a revolution/evolution of the holders of the future, that means a change in you, A call for a rethink of the stories you tell about yourself, a rethink of expectations of yourself and others, and a focus on tomorrow.

 

If these words speak to your heart, learn more  

mentoring and training that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life.

Calvin has been facilitating men’s work for over a decade.

A credo for the new masculine. a New Conversation with Men,

Reclaiming Male Role Models,

Advertising, Gender, and A New Masculinity

Man is comtemplation.jpg

A poem by a man, a mechanic by trade and  poet/writer  by vocation Jim Storm, his poem  says a lot about the month of October and the uncovering of the new masculinity within all people: “October is about leaves revealing colors they have hidden all year. People have an October as well.”

In a blog that I wrote (April 2018 - SOC) entitled “Masculinity Is It the Problem or A Programed Expectation?”   What is Masculinity? How is it measured? What are its demands? And how is that person meant to look, think, act, and feel? and should that be according to the mores of society?

This is a continuation of that conversation, and to somehow navigate  that  storm of debate on the subject of Masculinity successfully using a compass with an edge, and that edge is composed of paying attention, and preparation gathered from how the storms behaved in the past, there in is the edge.

 

We looked at how common nursery rhymes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Europe and America had negative descriptors of Masculinity, and the male gender described as slugs, snails, snips, and frogs depending on where in the world the rhyme was told.

In today’s society, Advertising has played one of the important roles of carving out either negative or positive representations of gender and masculinity of late. But with a focus on women’s empowerment dominating the  cultural landscape, Producers keen on selling their brand and products are forgetting their role in shaping male identity as a consequence.

Suzy Bashford, international journalist in her article for the online European business  marketing website called The Drum (July 2016) wrote:

“A growing global ‘boy crisis’ suggests that we could be, in fact, empowering the wrong sex…. The difference is that we are all now familiar with the narrative around [women’s issues] and tackling these issues, thanks in no small part to groundbreaking campaigns such as ‘Like A Girl’ by Always, Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ and Dove’s ‘Real Beauty ’ [ad campaigns]…..

We are much less equipped to talk about the issues affecting boys. There’s an unconscious bias that males should simply ‘man up’ and deal with any crisis of confidence themselves…Yet, the reality is that men commit suicide more than women, and are more likely to drop out of education and get involved in crime, drugs and binge-drinking. Moreover, as women are increasingly empowered, many men feel increasingly dis-empowered, accentuating these social problems.”

Vintage Advert remixed

Vintage Advert remixed


Unilever known as Lynx, owner of “[Axe] deodorant brand who wants to become the number one male grooming brand in the world. Had to realize that their marketing strategy failed when sales slowed dramatically from when they’d first entered the market with the “alpha-male” concept. Lynx/Axe admits it had been relying on assumptions before its repositioning. It was only when sales growth slowed that the brand decided to invest in some proper research, leading to a 10-country study of 3,500 men, and consultation of experts such as neuroscientists, to find out what men are really thinking. The results shocked the brand explained Stephanie Feeny, head of strategy at 72&Sunny Amsterdam’s An Advertising Agency used by Lynx to research and reform marketing strategies. “Ideas of masculinity had changed and it recognised it wasn’t quite keeping pace with culture. Lynx/Axe found men are craving a more diverse definition of what it means to be a ‘successful’ man.”

One of the sectors most impacted by this insight is FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer daily used Goods). With analyst from FMCG buying practices, gender role assumptions were most challenged. It was found the person who wins the bread and the person who buys the bread isn’t down to gender these days, for example,

It is often now that the advertiser discovers that in some country’s men are doing 40 per cent of the supermarket shopping. That in the US men have been running household budgets. If producers of goods don’t recognised this, they are going to lose out because they’re increasingly ignoring their potential biggest audience. We hear a lot about women’s voices needing to be heard, but when it comes to men, it becomes strangely silent.

Campaigner David Brockway, who manages the Great Initiative’s Great Men project, urges the industry to be “more revolutionary”,

The Lynx /Axe global brand repositioning had been a “difficult”, steep learning curve admits Fernando Desouches, brand development director, he argues that he learned “men are actually more emotional than women” and that they need more empowerment than women. Desouches says, “you’ve got to ‘set the platform’ before you explode the myth.”

the Argentinian’s voice is tangible when he says” “Women have feminism. But men don’t even know they are sick. This is why we need to put men alongside women, not move them to the side to give room to women. Both genders need to be in the center.”

The Gender divisive issues are certainly at the center of the storm, and will subside through guiding principals of compassion and compass points like attention, and preparation to steer you through the storm. At the end a truly equal future, when sex becomes a far less defining characteristic than it is today.

Suzy Bashford puts it this way:  “After all, you cannot fully empower either gender if by empowering one you are creating divisions and disempowering the other.

As Nobel peace prizewinner Malala Yousafzai puts it ‘we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.’ A statement that is equally true of women, as it is of men.”



Living Your Priorities

Prioritizing Your Life And The Work You Do In IT.

Photo Artist Jason Beamguard Working Metal

Photo Artist Jason Beamguard Working Metal

I was recently approached by one of my Clients, who said to me “I don’t know what to do, all of my time is going into putting out fires and these urgent situations keep happening. It's leaving me exhausted and frustrated.”

 

It became clear that he had forgotten how to know the difference between what is necessary and what is expendable according to his life plan. Which is not hard to do, when our lives go on autopilot under the pressures of being expected to be available 24/7.

 

We all have priorities. For some Identifying them is the place to start. However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Misdirected intentions, some disguised as urgent issues, can get in the way of what really matters to you, and in no time flat, you are wondering why you’re unfulfilled or sidetracked.

 

Melinda Kennedy, an organizational development consultant and trainer at Caliper, an employee assessment and talent development firm puts it this way. “Whether this is a product of our working environment, our own personality, or our home life, we may find ourselves struggling to prioritize what is most important and most urgent,” she says. “As a result, we feel overworked, undervalued, and completely exhausted.”  

 

Man of Black and Green eyes.jpg

To identify or re-acquaint yourself with your priorities, crave out some time to be alone with your thoughts.  Ask yourself if money was not an issue for you, you were in good health, and you did not need to work…What would you do to fulfill your dreams?

 

 From that list, if you can narrow it down to one or two items to accomplish, then compare those items with your daily activities, what of those daily activities are bring you in line with your planned goals? Here is one way you can know the difference between what is necessary and what is expendable.

 

Tim Elmore Book Marching Off the Map

Tim Elmore Book Marching Off the Map

Tim Elmore, author of Marching Off the Map and president of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit leadership training and development organization says. “Most leaders start well, but eventually just react to what others want,” he says. “We focus on getting through the week instead of planning ahead and reaching a goal.”  Knowing your priorities moves you from being reactive to proactive. A shift in Thinking, in Habits, enabling you  to Living Your Priorities.

What Does Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone Feel Like

One Man’s Experience Of Moving Out Of His Comfort Zone
Shared by Calvin Harris. H. W. M.

Model Dominique Claude Marneau,  by German Photo Artist Mario Dollinger  in Paris France

Model Dominique Claude Marneau,  by German Photo Artist Mario Dollinger  in Paris France

What is your comfort zone? Well, a simplistic answer would be anything that keeps us away from feeling or experiencing uncomfortable degrees of mental or physical stress or elevated levels of anxiety. 

Yet many mental health practitioners suggest being able to get out of your comfort zone is actually a healthy thing to do, it can increase your agility and  mental fitness.  That in turn can widens the perimeter of your comfort zone.  The Business world seems increasingly competitive, yet those with mental agility seem to survive and prosper in any economy. When we look at the world, in general, we see that the quality of life has an uncertainty about it thus causing fear and stress as an intricate part of modern life. those who have repeatedly step out of their comfort zone are in a better position to deal with sudden and unexpected change.

One way to expand your comfort zone is by taking controlled risks and doing things you normally would not do, such as a change of routine. Engaging change makes us flexible to new possibilities and to novelty. Novelty can stimulates those brain chemicals that make us feel happy and continues to motivates new discovery.

 

 Corey Levitan is the writer in this feature article for SOC,  in our section know as 'Other Voices.' 

Maxim 2018

Maxim 2018

Corey originally wrote this piece for Maxim magazine,  in January  2016, as a writer on assignment, but what he wrote was in a way, not the usual fare that Maxim magazine doles out to its readers.  Certainly not the usually representation on the concept of love.

He writes about himself and about an expanded concept called Love, but by his stepping out of his comfort zone he stepped into a Universal Truth about love and empathy, that would  takes on even a different spelling of the word Love - A G A P E.


Yes, Corey's story was somewhat dis-comfortable for him, but Corey’s experience also allowed him to slow down. Ponder, look around, observe, absorb and interpret everything he’d experience with a expanded vision. 

 
 “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.” - Aldous Huxley

I WAS A PROFESSIONAL MAN SNUGGLER

Our intrepid correspondent investigates the warm and fuzzy world of cuddling for cash. By COREY LEVITAN,  for Maxim Magazine JAN 27, 2016

Corey.jpg

The author pictured in mid-snuggle with his client.

I’m a straight man. I watch sports, surf Pornhub, and I’m married to a lovely woman who sometimes even agrees to have sex with me.

But recently, I agreed to the strangest intimate experience of my life: I was chosen to snuggle by a beefy dude who spotted my photo on a professional cuddling site.

Let me explain. I pitched this stunt to Maxim as an exploration of the weird world of professional cuddlers. Non-sexual cuddling was supposedly created in 2004 by two New York City relationship coaches as a way to reintroduce intimacy to young people living increasing percentages of their lives online.

Their “Cuddle Parties” were so successful, cuddle-preneurs began offering up stables of solo practitioners. Snuggle Buddies, run by 28-year-old Evan Carp out of his New Jersey home, advertises more than 230 cuddlers in 39 states, 99 percent of whom are female. But Carp agreed to list me as “Holden” — Get it? Holdin’? — his ninth male cuddler. The service costs $80 per hour, or $324 for an overnight, with a 50/50 Carp/cuddler split.

I was seriously hoping the first person to request Holden would be a woman. (Did I mention seriously?) But unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a big, gay dude.

“Just relax, it won’t hurt as much,” one friend commented on my Facebook update about the booking. Other helpful comments included: “Something seems seriously wrong about this” and “Dude, you’re gonna get fucked.” 

Steven (not his real name) is in his mid-40s and, like me, lives in Las Vegas. He works in advertising and his hobbies apparently include, judging by the size of his arms, hitting the gym way more than I do.

After he welcomed me into his apartment and poured two Chardonnays, we awkwardly tried getting to know each other. Steven had never professionally cuddled before, either, and we laughed nervously about the fact that both of us will be able to continue making this claim.

“I just saw the word snuggle and thought it was different,” he told me. “I could have called an escort if I wanted a fuck. I’ve had that before and I didn’t want that.”

Steven had an awful 2015. He lost his job and his shoulder to lean on about it because his boyfriend dumped him. He’s new to town and doesn’t know many people—certainly not anyone willing to serve up some no-strings-attached snuggling.

“I just wanted an emotional connection,” he explained.

He motioned me over to his leather living-room couch, where I sat down on the far end. Steven’s head fell onto my chest. It was heavier than it looked, and warmer. In fact, it quickly heated up the Arizona State football jersey I wore to telegraph my unwavering heterosexuality.

My hands rested on his chest, frozen. I admitted that I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to move them without indicating sexual interest. Steven laughed. 

“You don’t have to move them,” he said, looking up at me upside-down. “I just want you to hold me and talk to me.”

I asked Steven why he picked me for his first paid snugglefest. I braced myself for a compliment about my handsomeness, the kind I only hear from my wife when I wear a suit. 

“You were the only one local,” he replied. (Oh, I didn’t realize. I felt relieved that he wasn’t super attracted to me, although a little insulted, too.)

Sensing my anxiety, Steven then pointed at the lack of a bulge in his sweatpants.

“It’s nothing sexual, see?” he said. (In fact, Snuggle Buddies make all cuddle-ees sign a contract promising that no sexual activity of any kind will occur—even kissing.)

After about 10 minutes, I began to relax. It started to feel very safe and nice, actually—like that Friends episode where Joey and Ross accidentally take a nap together, freak out about it, then decide that they kind of like it. 

Science would seem to back them up. According to 350 studies published over the past 20 years, touching other humans delivers emotional and physiological benefits, including lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. The journal Psychological Science even reported that cuddling can boost the immune systems of people exposed to the common cold.

Steven and I chatted about the things we hate in serious relationships. Even with his ex-boyfriend, snuggling was a rarity because any touching was misconstrued for a sexual advance. He tells me some other things about his ex that suggest he was an abusive asshole, and when I use that description, my right knee receives a pat of appreciation.

Soon, strangely, it was me who needed this as much as Steven. I thought about all the guys I embrace in my life, including some of my best friends, who always pull away from a bro-hug after about two seconds --recoiling due to our society’s wrongheaded sexualization of the male embrace.

I realize that my first five minutes on Steven’s couch amounted to more physical intimacy than I’ve ever shared with my own father, the man I love more than anyone else on Earth. And I’m usually the one breaking off the hug when we greet each other. Why? (This saddens and angers me because he’s getting very old and we probably don’t have many greetings left.) 

My ringing iPhone interrupts this flood of insight. It’s the 45-minute mark and, as planned, my buddy Adam Brooks is calling to make sure I don’t say “kettle corn.” (That’s my safe word.)

The tough-guy star of TV’s Sin City Bounty Hunters has been waiting outside in the car, in case things got out of hand. You know, in the way they might when you’re inside a complete stranger’s house after posting a sketchy online ad, and you’re hoping not to get sexually molested or perhaps even cuddled to death.

Now that I know how harmless Steve is, I feel like a total dick for bringing along my own personal snuggle pimp. But, nice guy that Steve is, he pretends the phone call never happened and we wrap up the hour by uncuddling and saying our goodbyes. I tell him I hope he got what he wanted out of that. 

“I know you did,” he says.

Very true. My dad’s getting a bear hug when he visits next week.

Email him at coreylevitan@gmail.com

 

 

The (missed) Perceptions that Leads to Penis Envy in Men By Calvin Harris, H.W.,M.

It seems that sooner or later that within a conversation about masculinity the subject of the Penis will pop up and rear its head. Since all things Masculine has been a subject of conversations, reading, and writing with me lately I am not surprise the subject of Penis came up. Since this is a difficult subject to discuss, some levity has been added in this post as "puns" disguised as  "Freudian Slips." We learn through humor as much as through struggle. 

Neptunes Penis bologa, Italy

Neptunes Penis bologa, Italy


I am not new to the subject of men and their relationships to their penis, but in this context, of Penis envy, two situation occurred that tip the balance and moved me to write. One situation is a repeating occurrence that happens, and the second situation occurred in a relax few friends at lunch gathering. I was taken aback by the rise of emotion and  in heat of the conversation over the despair at the lost of foreskin and the possible pleasure missed as a result of that. At the time, I felt pieces were missing to the dialogue presented at the lunch conversation and needed to be put in a larger context along with Health, Love, Sexuality, Sensuality, and Relationship.  

I am not surprised with the notion about the penis and its importance in receiving pleasure in some men's lives (it is the most interesting thing they do), yet I am surprise as to the absence of any mention of other components to pleasuring oneself such as through other erogenous zones about the body, or to healthy relationships either with the self or anyone else? Well back to my story.

The latest instance for me in the Penis envy scenario occurred three weeks back at this pub, when an associate I don't know well, turns to me and says: “How" lucky I was to be born African American!, with that look of envy on his glassy eyed face, and you know that he didn't mean I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. As I looked at him, you could just picture, in his minds eye, him in that 1974 scene as the Monster with Madeline Kahn, from the  Young Frankenstein Movie – He sees himself toting an enormous schwanzstucker. You can hear Marty Feldman saying to him - “You are going to be very Popular.”  Unfortunately, I am looking at him and thinking maybe, He should sober up before meeting his date, that sexual encounter he describes he wants with such vigor ( upturn  shot glass after shot) and yet his fear of self prophecy of being dissipated, failing  his date, by being a rudely inebriated mess that has repeatedly fallen asleep mid coitus.  Personally I am thinking she declines sex with him, and considering an android companion that talks, learns and satisfies sexual desires on que.

Sizing each other up

Sizing each other up

The second instance of professed envy came during a lunch meet up of several friends, when  the discussion turned to an article by Van Barrett, an author and blog writer. He had written a blog on the envy of the uncircumcised penises.  One of the men felt a strong need to defend Barrett's  position, for it turn out, that he too longed for and desired foreskin.  A wish not to have been circumcised.

Van Barrett blog had come about due to one of his fictional book. his feeling  was so prevalent in the book that a reader wrote to question his sexual gender. The article he wrote in  response is found at the end of this blog. 

As to Mr. Barrett and the Lunch partner,  bemoaning lost of foreskin - It sounded like "the grass is always greener." To give the other side of the coin, we turn to - Hayley MacMillen, who did an article on the problems that Uncircumcised men face in the U. S. in her article in Cosmopolitan Magazine, Oct 5, 2016. The magazine titled - 9 Things Uncircumcised Guys Want You to Know.
Cosmopolitan quoted one interviewee, named only as Henry, as saying: “that while he’s open about not being circumcised with his partners, it’s a different story with his guy friends. "I never talk about it with other guys," he says, and even though "guys talk about their dicks all the time ... fear is absolutely a factor because being different is stigmatized."

 

What is key here is  'Perception' - "What are men focusing on when it comes to  pleasurable sex?"

Most times Male banter is about  “getting off,” not about having an experience that is a satisfying sensual-sexual experience.  This maybe due to Porn, or the speed of living life, or the unwillingness of men to make time for themselves to create an environment for true sexual pleasure. There is a large majority of men that  have concluded that all sexual pleasure is encapsulated in the manipulation of the skin that surrounds their penis, and they want to work it until, in the jargon of the day, you bust a nut - i.e. get off.

Given how much symbolic baggage this body part carries, it’s no wonder the misconceptions about it. To enlarge this conversation, as difficult as it is, it is  yet worthwhile.  Beginning with the misperception that your penis is '"The" Sex Organ', if you think that is so, you have completely missed out on your Biggest Sex Organ experience, which is the Skin that covers your entire body coupled with the creativity  of the Consciousness of the Mind …. roll that around for a while, you may find that statement to be correct. Now that being said, think then how much sense- satiable pleasure you have missed out on, if you are not activating your whole-body/mind experience? 

Dr. Debby Herbenick, a sex researcher, educator, and author as wells as the Co-Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington & the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.  From her research findings, she states: “Often when people think about the pleasures of sex, they think about genital arousal (e.g., erections or vaginal warmth or lubrication) or orgasm. While I certainly wouldn’t argue these, I would add that one of the most pleasurable parts of sexual intimacy is the experience of touching and being touched all over.

Decades of research have shown that humans.... need touch…. not only to survive, but to thrive. Touch can have a biological effect that releases oxytocin (which has often been referred to as the “Cuddle Effect”) Touch can have psychological effects of helping people to feel loved, happy, accepted, calm or reassured.

In sex, we have the uncommon opportunity to touch and be touched all over our bodies. ... press bodies against each other in a hug or, while kissing or in one of many possible sexual positions, they get to experience an enormous amount of skin closeness. They may touch cheeks, lips, chests, legs, and feel... hand along their back, thighs, or stomach. There is, after all, something qualitatively... intimate in the experience of being exposed – physically, and often emotionally.” [sexual dilation].

From that point of view then the almighty penis becomes just another body part, vital but still one among many body parts in a mind body- somatic sexual dilation.  I’d like you to entertain the notion of making time for the sex experience (or putting sex on maximum drive).  Think of sex as something you gift to yourself be it alone or with a partner. Permit yourself to be mindful of being naked, of touching all over as much you can. To relax into an exploration that promotes sensual enjoyment, an inner awareness of intimacy and dilation.  Have an experience of sexuality that does not start nor stop (uncircumcised or circumcised) with those few centimeters of skin that extends over an Erect Penile Length and Circumference but engages a full mind-body (somatic) experience.  Then and only then can the identity of Sexuality be disengaged from the notion that it is a control of genitals. You can begin then to stop comparing or lamenting about genitalia, what you have or do not have and start enjoying the mind-body (somatic) wholeness that you truly are.

I recommend the following four books, they can be helpful in your striving for control and perception of a healthier, loving, and more pleasurably experience during sex. 
 

The Penis Book Photo.jpg

The Penis Book: A Doctor's Complete Guide to the Penis―From Size to Function and Everything in Between” by Aaron Spitz MD


Manhood: The Rise and Fall of the Penis” by Mels van Driel, Paul Vincent (Translator)


 Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered—For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex” by Dr. Debby Herbenick.


Anal Pleasuring (A Good in Bed Guide)” by Dr. Debby Herbenick.
 

 

Now here is the article that created weeks of discussion, debate and finally my blog.  I would be interested on your take on this,  so jot me a note. 

Van Barrett, Are You Really A Man?

 An article by Van Barrett  July 28, 2016 vanbarrett.com

I had an e-mail recently from a reader of my book Seven Nights who was quite convinced that I am secretly a female, hiding behind a male pen name — and they were not too happy about it, either!

I must be a female, they wrote to me, because I write about men with circumcised cocks and men with uncut cocks — therefore, it’s a given that I’m writing about something I can’t possibly know or have firsthand experience of. Right? From there, it’s surely a small leap of logic to assume that I actually know nothing about what it is to have a cock, how they work and what they feel like, because I’m just a woman making crap up as I go. Insert eye roll here.

So? What say you, Van Barrett?

I’ll give you the answer to this burning question in a moment! But first I wanna share a personal anecdote.

I was in the seventh grade when I first had to take a ‘lifestyle’ class. I forget the exact name of it — something like “health and lifestyle” — but whatever, you get the gist. It’s the sort of course where you learn about balancing a checkbook and how to eat healthy and oh, oh gosh, (*cheeks blush*) human anatomy and sexuality. So that was the first time, age 13, that I’d had any sort of formal sex education.

And here’s where I should point out that some form of sex-ed probably should’ve come a lot sooner, as I remember riding the school bus home in the 4th grade with my best friend. Curious about sex, we looked up the word ‘sperm’ in the dictionary. We’d both heard this term, this magical sperm before, and we knew that it was related in some way to sex. When we read the definition, we looked at each other with puzzled expressions. Embarrassingly, I concluded that a sperm must be the head of your cock, and it detached from the shaft when the moment was right. Cough. We had trouble wrapping our brains around how there could possibly be some ~100 million more cock-head sperms just waiting around in our nuts to be ejaculated. Fun image, right? Clearly, something didn’t add up, and we still had no idea what a sperm was.

… Anyhow, I digress.

It was because of this lifestyle class in 7th grade that I first learned of the concept of circumcision. I’d never heard it before. I think we glanced over it and class and I didn’t give it much thought. It wasn’t until a couple days later, when I was hanging with a friend of mine, that it came up again.

My friend was uncircumcised. He gloated about being intact, he bragged about how uncut men statistically are said to have better orgasms and better sex and their partners report being more pleased. He asked me if I was uncircumcised. I had no idea! Again, I’d never heard this word before our class and even then, it didn’t seem like it applied to me. My penis seemed to work fine, and it didn’t look cut up, so why bother, right? But based on all the stats he told me, I sure hoped I hadn’t been cut!

greekwrestlers3.jpg

But I wasn’t sure. I asked my friend to describe what a circumcision looked like. There were no suitable pictures or illustrations in our textbook for me to get the idea. He kept saying something along the lines of, “c’mon, this isn’t hard — it either looks like a bell or like it has a turtleneck that can cover the whole thing up! Which one is it?”

And still I was truly stumped. But more than that, I was a little frazzled. This idea that I might have been altered as a baby … without my knowledge or consent … that resulted in a less fulfilling sex life?

“No way,” I protested. “It looks fine. It’s totally natural. It doesn’t look like it was hurt.”

He wanted to see it: he said he’d tell me if it was or not. A shy kid in my youth, I said no way. So we opted to look at my newborn baby pictures instead.

“Dude,” he laughed. “You’re circumcised, alright. See that? That’s the head of your dick and it’s not covered. That’s a circumcision, Van.”

So it was. The realization set in immediately: I had a circumcised penis.

Was I crushed? Was I disappointed?

I’m sure I was — on some level. But not a consciously-available level. That would probably require more self-awareness than a 13-year-old possessed. Instead, I adopted a psychological tool more fitting for a teen: indignant anger.

“Yeah, well, everyone says a circumcised penis looks better!” I gloated right back at him. “And it’s cleaner, too!”

Then we’d argue back and forth about who had the better and the best pleasure-giving penis. It got pretty heated — and we even wrestled and threw punches over the debate. Yeah … 13 year olds … what can you really say?

Okay, to give some perspective as to why I’m sharing this story with you — it took years for me to process the emotions I’ve had over the fact that I was circumcised. As I aged and became an adult, I thankfully dropped that self-defense mechanism of “nah nah nah boo boo, my cock is better than yours!” and I started to think of it differently.

It was kinda fucked up, after all, that I’d been robbed of some level of sensitivity down there to the tune of 20,000 nerve endings! I’d never asked for it and I probably wouldn’t have, if given the chance. I also began to see uncut cocks in a different light. Hell, they started to look kinda pretty — and that foreskin sure looked fun to play with. I was sad, angry, and depressed over what had been taken from me.

*Lifts needle from the record*

I just want to stop here and say that I don’t want to make any parents out there feel bad — that’s not my goal at all! I understand why my parents did it, and I don’t begrudge them for it at all. There’s just so much information out there, and societal customs and so on — it’s hard to make any sense of it sometimes.

But future parents, please do educate yourself about this topic before you make the decision! And if you still choose to circumcise your kids, that’s fine, that’s your choice and I wouldn’t give anyone a hard time for it. But just educate yourself because there’s a lot to learn and it’s one hell of an interesting area to research. E.g., did you know that John Harvey Kellogg, the doctor who pushed for circumcisions in the US [and yes, the cereal man], also wanted females to be circumcised? Yup — he wanted to pour carbolic acid on the clitorises of newborn girls. Lucky for all you ladies, that one didn’t catch on.

Thankfully, this story isn’t all sadness and depression. So, it was back in 2010 when I discovered that a man can actually restore his foreskin. It’s not a surgical procedure — it’s done through applied tension to the skin over a long period of time (2-5 years). It can be as simple as using your hands to tug and stretch the skin. Stretched to its physical limit, cellular mitosis takes over and the skin cells begin to duplicate. It takes a while, but you can absolutely grow your foreskin back.

Okay, so you’ll never be exactly the way you were prior to getting cut, of course. Some nerves endings are permanently lost. But it’s a big improvement, with a fuller spectrum of pleasures and sensations that simply weren’t available before.

So, yes, I write characters with cut and uncut dicks, because I’ve personally been both. I know what it’s like to be cut — the contrived sense of superiority over what is actually our natural form, the repressed anger, the jealousy, etc. I also know what it’s like to have a foreskin now — and it’s made me so much more sensitive. I also know how this topic is taboo, and a lot of people don’t like to think or talk about it at all. I’ve been called names just for going on this journey of restoring. Clearly, there’s a lot of emotional trauma swirling around this topic. It’s not an easy one for people to deal with. I get that.

So you’ve probably figured by now that in my book Seven Nights, Austin’s ‘jealousy’ and fawning over Cedar’s uncut cock comes from a deeply personal place for me. (Let’s just add an unofficial line to the epilogue: Austin, inspired by Cedar, began the journey of restoring his foreskin. Yay!)

If anyone wants more information about this, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. Obviously, it’s something I’m personally invested in and passionate about, and believe me, I have a lot more to say.

For any guys out there, who want to get started on the journey of restoring, I’d recommend starting with the Foreskin Restoration forum on reddit. I say journey because it takes time — and it will require you to be dedicated and patient. But it’s worth it, in my experience.

Sooo, to answer the original question that prompted this blog post — yes, I’m actually a man. Shocking plot twist, eh?

SiteofContact can be reached for comments, information, or appointments at calvin2talk@gmail.com