Fathers Who Are Redefining Manhood

Real men don't cry
Real men don't express their feelings
Real men show power, not fear
Real men get over on women, many many women

Are these the type of men that fathers would want for their daughters? Probably not. No, I'm not a father myself, nor am I a man. But as a daughter, wife, mother, sister and aunt of men and boys, I frequently read books written by men in a quest to better understand the social world of my loved ones. What has disheartened me the most in my readings it the reoccurring observation that among some men, a man's ability to dominate, trick or seduce women is the most important determinant of his standing among his peers. At worst, this pressure manifests into unspeakable acts of physical and sexual abuse of women, but more commonly, it manifests into serial deception of women in the attempt to sleep with as many as possible. I am thankful that a male renaissance is occurring in which male activists, who are often fathers, are asserting an improved definition of manhood and thereby creating a better world for their daughters.

A train was when a bunch of guys got together and jammed the same girl... I think that few guys thought of it as rape. It was viewed as a social thing among hanging partners, like passing a joint. The dude who set up the train got pats on the back. He was considered a real player whose rap game was strong.

These are some words from Nathan's McCall's 1995 memoir Makes Me Wanna Holler. McCall goes on to describe in detail how he and his friends would routinely lure individual girls to a seemingly empty house ostensibly to talk and then multiple, sometimes dozens of men, would appear from under the bed, closets and other hiding places and then through pressure and threats get the girl to have sex with at least one of them and then before she knew it each of them was taking their turn. McCall observed that the female victim would sometimes have to be hospitalized and would always seem emotionally fractured afterwards.

I wanted to believe that this heinous ritual was unique to McCall's adolescence in the 1960's and 1970's, but news reports didn't support this hope. There is the 2006 Milwaukee, Wisconsin case of as many of 20 boys and men ranging from 13 to 40 years old raping an 11-year-old girl and one of the family members of the perpetrators told the court that the behavior was not uncommon. There is also the 2010 Cleveland,Texas case of a 19-year-old man inviting an 11-year-old girl to take a ride in his car and then driving her to an abandoned trailer where about 18 boys ranging from middle schoolers to 27-years-old raped her and then spread a recording of the act via cell phone. The issue of trains hit closer to home when my younger sister told me that she knew both a young man from our South East Queens neighborhood in New York City who admitted to routinely participating in trains and a young woman who had been a victim.

In Armond E. Mosley's memoir Rededication: A Story of Sex, Repentance and Restoration, Mosley never describes feeling pressure to engage in such sexual attacks. Perhaps he was shielded because of his neighborhood, the engagement of his parents and his participation in church. But even still, Mosley describes immense pressure to "get over" on women. He tells readers that he and his college friends discussed sex very candidly after parties and the conversation often shifted to who "perved" (engaged in sexual activity excluding sex) versus who actually had sex. He says that he began to feel uncomfortable because he knew that he would soon run out of passes for "perving" and his favor with the fellas would fail. He wanted to be part of the crew and felt that if he could not deliver true stories of scoring sexually he would be "exiled." It is partly because of this pressure that he engaged in sex without commitment and if he had to deceive women to seal sexual deals, then he was willing to do so.

Courtesy of Armond Mosley.

I find this climate of gender relations very disturbing. That said, I am very excited that a new generation of male leadership is emerging with respect to this issue. Tony Porter of A Call to Men uses his own personal experiences as an adolescent and father to reach millions of people with his message about men's responsibility to end violence against women. His 2010 TED Talk has touched the core of hundreds of thousands of men. Christian activist Armond Mosley founded Kingdom Workshops in 2007 to activate young men to fulfill the purposes that God has planted in them. He gives workshops to young men regarding sexual purity before marriage. Both of these men are particularly inspired to be change-makers because they are fathers of girls.

Courtesy of Tony Porter.

Tony Porter, Armond Mosley and others are doing phenomenal work in leading men towards a more holistic definition of manhood. I hope that the vast majority of women will support this. I was saddened to learn that in both of the aforementioned cases of 11-year-old girls being gang-raped, female family members and friends of the male perpetrators blamed the young girl victims for "dressing too grown" or being "too fast" instead of demanding male accountability. I was similarly surprised when one of my girlfriends told me that when she complained to relatives about her 4-year-old son's habit of looking up girls' skirts, many of her female kin told not to reprimand him, but rather, she should praise God that her son is not gay. Is it possible that many women also expect boys and men to be stoic and aggressive sexual predators of girls and women? Surely, both fathers and mothers can work towards a better definition of manhood in order to create a safer society for both our sons and daughters.