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1- Faking it
2- Man Kind
3- Separation grief is the number one men’s health
4- The Last Time I hit a Woman
By Peter Vogel
Having been involved with
men's support groups for a number of years, I have become accustomed to people
asking me what on earth men find to talk about – "I know they talk about
sex all the time, but what else?", they ask. But the truth is that men
rarely talk about sex, even in the privacy of a men's group where there is a
high level of trust.
My experience is that sex is still a taboo subject for most men. When they do
get onto the subject, it is often turned into a joke, to ward off the
possibility of the conversation getting too personal or too serious.
Why do men have so much trouble talking about what such an important part of
I think one major factor is that male sexuality is portayed as inferior to that
of females. We grow up feeling at least a little bit ashamed of our sexual
feelings. As children we are told that that males are driven by an animal
instinct to inseminate as many females as quickly as possible – that they get
their pleasure from the act of inserting their penis into another's body and
ejaculating as quickly as they can. "Boys only want one thing", we are
told. Girls, on the other hand, want many things; intimacy, cuddles and kisses,
a loving relationship and more. "Good" sex is largely the male's
responsibility; since he is so one-dimensional and easily satisfied it is up to
him to fulfill his partner's superior, more complex desires.
That was certainly the picture when I was growing up. Seeing how repressed most
men still seem to be, I wondered if this picture had changed in a post-feminist
world. I paid a visit to the library and sampled some of the hundreds of books
It was immediately apparent that little has changed, except that the books
seemed to have become much more strident about the man's responsibility for the
woman's satisfaction and much more explicit about how he might meet this
Most books were about couples or about women's sexuality. Very few books
focussed on men, and those that did usually turned out to be "how to be a
great lover" manuals which invariably focus on techniques for pleasing your
woman. Of course there was the Kinsey classic Sexual behaviour in the Human
Male. Even this major work, which goes into great detail about the
physiology of sex, there was no mention of the spiritual or emotional aspects of
men's sexual experiences.
Sex: a man's guide
more contemporary – it was published in 1996 it claims to have sold over
500,000 copies. An exceptionally confusing chapter on orgasm tries to explain
the difference between orgasm and ejaculation but left me none the wiser. Again,
the discussion is in purely physical terms; nerves, tubes and muscles.
My attention was drawn to one or two notable exceptions. The New Male
Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld talks about male sexuality in a way I hadn't
seen before; from a male-centred perspective. In thes pages I found a lot of
good news – men are not actually sexually inferior to women. Men too long for
deep contact, says Zilbergeld, and sex can be just as multi-dimensional for them
as it is for women. Men are not interested in "only one thing"
– although in some cases they don’t know what they other things are that
they're missing, or know but can't achieve it.
Steve Biddulph's Manhood
and Raising boys echo this theme. According to Biddulph, many men stay
trapped in the fast-and-furtive pattern of sex they learned as adolescents.
What really stopped me in my tracks was the claim, by these two authors and
subsequently several others, that many men are non-orgasmic. This flies
in the face of the fundamental "truth" that defines the difference
between male and female sexuality – that men reach orgasm quickly and easily,
whereas women take longer and need just the right conditions.
Reading this confirmed what I had begun to suspect myself: just because a man
ejaculates it cannot be assumed that he has experienced orgasm. As Zilbergeld
"Although many people use ejaculation and orgasm synonymously, I find it
useful to draw a distinction between them. Ejaculation is the physical part, the
propulsion of seminal fluid. Orgasm is the peak feeling in sex".
If this is true, some men have been deliberately "faking it" –
saying they have experienced orgasm when they have not – and some have been
mistaking orgasm for ejaculation.
The most interesting work I found was Love and Orgasm by psychiatrist
Alexander Lowen. Published in 1965, this book is based on Lowen's clinical
observation that "having a penis that can ejaculate [the man] is almost
always assumed to have some kind of climax" however "in terms of full
satisfaction, the male suffers from orgastic impotence as much as the female
"Faking it" has always been assumed to be a woman's prerogative. A
woman's disclosure that she has been faking it can be extremely distressing to
her partner because it shatters many illusions and indicates a lack of trust and
openess in the relationship.
I was curious to find out more about men's experience of orgasm, ejaculation and
how this might relate to their sexual satisfaction.
The last issue of
Certified Male included a survey which asked a number of questions about men's
sexual satisfaction. The survey was also posted on an website. I continued
collecting data until I had obtained 100 responses.
The survey asked a number of questions about men's experience of orgasm and
ejaculation. Some were multiple choice, others requested a detailed response.
The main objective was to discover what the respondent understood by the words
"ejaculation" and "orgasm" and to elicit the feelings
associated with each. I also hoped to discover their image of a satisfying
sexual relationship and what factors help them realise that vision.
The respondents ranged in age from 16 to 73, the average age was 43 years.
85% said their responses applied to sex with women, 5% to sex with men, 10% to
Here are the main findings
of the survey.
To the question Do you
consider "male orgasm" and "ejaculation" to be the same
thing? 70% of respondents answered "NO". 50% said that they have
experienced orgasm without ejaculation – these men were very clear that they
are not the same thing.
Respondents were also asked to describe the feelings associated with orgasm and
those associated with ejaculation.
Very definite trends emerged from these descriptions. The feelings reported fell
into two clear clusters – the feelings accompanying ejaculation are
predominantly physical feelings localised to the genitals, whereas the feelings
of orgasm are emotional, spiritual and physical, and they involve the whole
Here are the themes which recurred time and time again when describing orgasm:
A whole body experience. Esctasy. Feelings of love, closeness, union with my
partner Waves of bliss. Transcendence. Momentary transportation to another
dimension. Oneness with the universe. An emotional, spiritual experience beyond
And for ejaculation:
More physical than emotional. Relief, release, emptying. pumping, automatic
pressure release. Disappointment, unfinished, depressed, frustration. Centred on
It's clear from these descriptions that for these men orgasm and ejaculation
are two very different experiences. Notably, orgasm seems to be a much more
positive experience than ejaculation.
26% of respondents seem to never experience orgasm as defined by the majority.
They described a purely physical, somewhat disappointing sexual climax.
Another indicator of the difference between orgasm and ejaculation is the
response to questions about the type of climax reached through masturbation. 60%
of respondents achieve ejaculation "often" or "always"
through masturbation, but only 45% achieve orgasm that way.
There seemed to be a strong correlation between being in a "long term"
relationship and experiencing orgasm as a distinct event. About half of men who
are not in a long-term relationship reported orgasm as being the same as
ejaculation, whereas for men in a long-term relationship, the number of men who
described orgasm and ejaculation as being different experiences was three times
the number who said they are the same.
The survey also asked whether the man's partner believed that there is a
difference between orgasm and ejaculation. About a quarter of men replied
"yes" a quarter "no" and the rest "don’t know".
This indicates that about half the men had never discussed orgasm with their
The survey asked "Do
you find that some sexual experiences leave you satisfied for longer than
others, and others leave you wanting sex again quite soon?". 92% of
respondents answered "Yes" and most went on to explain in some detail
Although answers were quite varied, some obvious trends emerged. 14 men said
that sex with orgasm leaves them satisfied for much longer than if there is
ejaculation but no orgasm. A typical comment: When I have orgasm, I am
satisfied. When I just ejaculate or fake it, I want sex again soon.
Participants were also asked how their partner helps them reach orgasm. The most
common responses were (in order, starting with most popular): oral sex; by
hand; talking/sounds/squeals; by being there; touching; kissing; muscular
control and positioning; prolonged foreplay.
They were also asked how their partner could make sex more satisfying.
9% of the men said "nothing". Here is an example: I dont think we
could have a better sex life. We are totaly into each others needs and wants and
know how to achieve them and keep in contact with each others needs.For
those men who did see an opportunity for a better sex life, the most commonly
expressed wish was that their partner be more adventurous, more funloving:
it go wild; being more adventurous and in particular finding out her own needs
and expressing them; more overt, more active, less passive; interested in sex as
fun; could be a little less inhibited, more open minded to try new
The men were also asked whether they envy women's orgasm. They were evenly
divided on this question: 46% said "yes", 47% said "no", the
remainder being undecided.
The survey asked whether external factors such as stress or money worries affect
sexual satisfaction. 56 men replied "yes" and 29 "no". Some
of the common responses were: "Stress really affects my ability to be
present for my lover. Stress and tiredness drastically reduces my libido, if I'm
tired I don't feel sexual at all".
For some men the the effect of external stess was positive. Some quotes:
a hard day's work I'm driven to sex; great stress relief; don’t let externals
affect sex; none as far as I am aware - I can put that in the background!
Although the survey did not specifically ask about effects of aging, several men
remarked that their sex life has improved with age.
As I get older my orgasms are very much more intense and far more protracted
i.e. the older I get the better they are. Sex, satisfaction, pleasure, love do
not decrease with age. Attitude, cultural expectations influence this process.
Good sex is mostly a state of mind. I also notice that the older I get the
intimacy I share is the thing that enhances the sensuality and sexuality of our
the popular belief that men "always reach orgasm" during sex, the
survey revealed that only 38% of respondents always ejaculate during sex with a
partner, and only 26% report always having an orgasm.
6% said they rarely have
orgasms, although from looking at the descriptions of orgasm, it appears that
26% of respondents never experience what would generally be accepted by other
respondents as orgasm.
37% of the men said they have faked orgasm at some time, and 30% have faked
Further challenging the
stereotypical view of men as "only wanting one thing", responses to
the question "What does a quality sexual relationship mean to you?"
revealed a strong concensus that good sex is far more than a physical act.
The recurrent themes were mutuality and love: Open and honest communication;
mutual trust; the physical expression of profound love; a mutually sensuous and
satisfying give and take union; if you are in love, the sex is a 1000 times
better; where both people share the responsibilities, joy and satisfaction of
the experience; sex is much more satisfying if I take my heart to bed along with
There were also several men who stressed the importance of fun in their sex
life: let it rip, no boundaries, fun, friendly, close, wild; lack of
inhibition, freedom to express yourself sexually.
Only 10 respondents spoke of a quality sexual relationship in purely
physical terms. All said that "quality" is important, none
Men are from earth,
women are from earth
The survey confirmed very
clearly that male orgasm and ejaculation are two quite distinct experiences, and
that either can occur without the other. Ejaculation is largely a physical act,
like scratching an itch, and is sometimes experienced as disappointing. Orgasm
is mainly an emotional or spiritual event, and is almost always deeply
Alexander Lowen pulls no punches in his assessment that:
"the full feeling of satisfaction escapes the man because his whole body
does not take part in the sexual response. He is not moved".
About one in four men never experience orgasm. One in three have faked orgasm,
and a similar number have faked ejaculation.
Many women are unaware that ejaculation is not a sure sign of male orgasm, in
fact many do not know there is a difference.
Most men are not satisfied by mechanical sex without emotional connection with
their partner. Many men long for more intimacy, more foreplay, more caressing
and kissing in their sex life.
Lowen describes orgasm as a process of surrender based in love:
"Surrender to the woman, surrender to the unconscious, surrender to the
aniumal nauture of man. It is precisely the fear of surrendering that inhibits
the average male from experiencing the full orgasm in the sexual act… it is
possible to surrender only if one is in love with one's sexual partner"
In short, men and women are much more alike sexually than we have been led
It's possible that
participants in this survey, mostly Certified Male readers, are not
typical of the entire population. They are probably more self-reflective than
the average male, otherwise they would probably not be reading this magazine.
The survey's value lies in taking what these men have learned, and using it to
help other men achieve greater sexual liberation.
It seems that many men are "faking it". By this I mean not only
misleading their partner, but also that many men are deceiving themselves about
the degree of fulfilment they expreience through sex. My guess is that a large
and growing number of men are realising that their frustration arises not so
much from the quantity but the quality of sex. As women did
decades ago, men are starting to compare notes, and they are discovering a
shared, uneasy feeling that "there's got to be more to it than this".
35 years ago Lowen wrote that he finds it hard to answer patients who demand
that he show them a happy marriage. "They are so rare I would feel foolish
to argue on the basis of tehir number that marriage is a happy state.. my
patients are exceptional only in that they have come for help and have revealed
their difficulties". Ignorance of what "making love" is really
about is the problem, he says, and "the knowledge of the nature of orgasm
is a light that illuminates the darkness".
Relationships are still far from harmonious. But more and more men seem to be
voicing their dissatisfaction with "faking it"; in their sex lives,
their work, their societal and family relations.
Men's sexuality is deeper, more emotionally alive, and more spiritually oriented
than our culture admits. Liberation of men's sexuality from its narrow cultural
prison, into a more whole and open-hearted form of being, has enormous benefits
for men, women, and their shared capacity for closeness and trust.
At the end of the survey,
respondents were asked "Anything else you would like to add?" Here is
a sampling of the diverse thoughts expressed.
The overriding issue for
my satisfaction is how my partner feels. It is especially important that she
takes responsibility for her own sexual fulfillment, participates at least
equally with me, and enjoys sex. I refuse to "do all the work"
I still have a problem identifying wherther I have achieved orgasm or just
ejaculation. How can I learn how to tell the difference? How can I achieve
orgasm on my own?
I am currently using condoms for birth control, but find that orgasm is more
intense but I do not find the non-release of ejaculate into the woman
I've just learned the great gift of treating one another's fantasies as some
kind of sacred element. Make it happen for each other - no ridicule. In this
space orgasm is awesome - hers too.
For the first time in my life I have fears related to myself as a sexual being.
I can no longer ejaculate with the same force I had as a young man. I can come
maybe 2 times a day. And I question if I will be able to keep up with my
partner's growing sexual appetite, especially of it keeps increasing as it has
I think that sexual pleasure for a lot of men has been adversely affected by
circumcision. I think that male circumcision is one of the greatest sexual abuse
issues of our time.
Why the interest in implying that somehow orgasm without ejaculation is a higher
or purer experience? Ejaculation is a core part of male sexual experience and
identity which should not be diminished by suggestion that other forms of
activity are better. By all means have fun trying other things and seeing what
enjoyment you can get from your body but let's not suggest sex sans ejaculation
is to be somehow preferred. To think so is to avoid maleness.
All my life my sexual expression has been been curbed, or the limits have been
set, by my partner, not hers by me. Only once have I met a woman who I would
call sexually liberated and who I could "open up" to. Sexually, women
aren't particuarly interesting. It's a pity I'm hetereosexual.
I have been married for 12 years and still learning about my sexuality every day
- becoming more comfortable with myself as normal.
Some of the participants
in the survey commented specifically on sex with men.
I was married for 20
years and now have a male partner. I feel there is a definite difference between
M/W and M/M sexual intimacy. With another man, there may be an initial
tenderness and exploration; almost treading forbidden territory....after all it
isn't "natural". But that soon seems to transform into an intimacy of
male strength and power that is awesome to experience. Not strength in the
"muscle" relativity, but an innate strength that is shared between two
males. Very difficult to describe!
I think, in my experience, gay sex is more accurate in understanding each
other's needs/desires. And I find it much more adaptable, much more fun, and far
Sex with male partners tends to be more a matter of "getting you rocks
off" - not so emotionally charged. Often I will have sex with a man just to
oblige him and it seems a "matey" thing to do and because it is
nevertheless very enjoyable.
I have only had male partners for the last 5 years. Prior to that I was married
for 15 years. Even though I was able to go through the motions of a heterosexual
relationship I always fantasised and longed for a loving man to make love with.
I have experienced many partners and now I realise I was always gay, but
couldn't accept it myself so I repressed these desires for a long time. I am
totally blissful when passionately embracing a naked muscular man!
Two points about gay
sex. 1. No all gay men do not role play (ie female role vs male role only in
sex). Most of us mix and match. 2. Most straight guys nearly faint when I tell
them I really enjoy it when I take the passive role. Some have confessed to me
that they enjoy if girlfriends/wives tickling their prostate with a finger. Well
guys another man's dick is just a "bigger finger" and if he's banging
your prostate while you're wanking and you cum, it lifts your skull off from the
rest of your body!
Being bi-sexual, and
having a partner who is also bi-sexual, has allowed me to be open about my many
desires and fantasies, without having to hide a part of me that is important to
my sexualality and sexual desires.
I would just like to
say that I think that, I like many other men, have a good marriage, and a
satisfying sexual relationship. However, I have also experienced sex with men,
and I feel that that is perfecty normal.. It is not accepted by western culture,
however, and I have not experienced it since my marriage, but I continue to be
attracted to men, and fantasise about it often
Jennifer Campbell writes about the kindness of men.
I am puzzled by the bad
press that men seem to be getting. I listen to women complaining about the bad
things men do, and wonder to myself, don’t these women also notice the
kindness of men? I can’t believe that men have never been kind to them –
maybe they just don’t recognise the male way of kindness for what it is. One
of my earliest memories is taking Grandad his lunch; a two-hour walk through the
back hills to where he was working on the farm. He would share his lunch with me
and talk from his heart. He was no new-age man - he was a "man’s
man" – but he made me feel so honoured; this wild Scotsman man opening
his heart to this little girl
Grandad’s brand of male
kindness was typified by being taken out late at night to go flat-fishing.
Grandma would be calling from the bedroom "you’re not to take her
Hector!" and Grandad would wink and motion to me to just "get your
wellies on". Grandad showed me how to walk silently in the water with a
spear and a torch, and be cold and wet knowing that I was safe with him and his
cronies, that I would soon be warm and dry.
As I approached womanhood
I remember Grandad telling me that I was growing into a beautiful and loving
woman, and I wasn’t embarrassed as most girls are, because I was so
comfortable hearing him talk from the heart.
My father was forty when I
was born and a wild man in his inner being. He rode his life fast and was not a
"good husband" but he taught me a reverence for life in all its forms.
The spider, which I did
not like, we had to collect safely and spend time finding a suitable home for
it. If I kill a spider now, I always think of my father and apologise to him.
The feeling of utter safety with us in a little boat on top of this great
heaving, awesome ocean: "Look and feel the beauty of this Jenny". I
did. Roaring around the city on his motorbike, the chrome tank warm on my legs,
his arms protecting me (I thought). "Clifford!" Grandmother would say,
"You’re not to take Jenny on that bike again!". Waiting for that
wink, I would look up as he responded "Yes Mum".
He would take me up in a little Cessna for fun – if I threw up he’d say
OOPS! And make me laugh. He always made me feel special, it was as if he just
couldn’t have so much fun without me around.
My dad died recently. I wish him well and lots of fun. I always told him how
much I loved him and how much he enriched my life as a young girl.
Grandad and my father were the first men in my life and they taught me what male
kindness looks like, feels like, smells like. As a result, I have been able to
recognise masculine kindness on the many occasions it has been extended to me
during my life in several countries. Of course there have been unkind acts as
well, but this hasn’t prevented me from noticing that most men I come into
contact with are very kind.
The paradox is that these
men, who I am told are the dangerous sex, are the ones who allowed me to walk
the line between safety and danger with them. Men seem to understand the value
of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. To me this was the particularly
3- Separation grief is the number one men’s health issue
by Peter Vogel
The greatest health issue
facing the general male population is a syndrome I shall refer to as
"separation grief". This is the constellation of health problems
commonly experienced by men following relationship breakdown, including
sleeplessness, crying, reduced energy, poor appetite, depression, unemployment,
alienation from children, suicide and many other classic symptoms. A corollary
of this is that separated men – men whose intimate relationship has ended –
constitute a target group which is numerically large and suffers from high
excess morbidity and mortality.
Separation grief is
men’s number one health issue. It will adversely affect the wellbeing of more
men than any of the currently recognised health priority areas, and must be
central to any policy initiatives.
Grief : Quantifying the Problem
A man getting
married in Australia today and having children faces the following risks:
33% risk that his marriage will end before his children are reared (1)
20% risk that his marriage will end against his will (2)
30% risk that his children will not be living with him until they are reared (3)
22% risk that he will be separated from his children be against his wishes (4)
10% risk that he will have no contact with his children by the time they are
Compare these figures with other health problems:
man’s lifetime risk of losing contact with his children is twice that of
contracting lung cancer (6)
Young separated men are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than through
road accident (7)
The suicide rate among separated men is more than double the rate of
contracting AIDS for all men and 35 times higher than the risk of
contracting AIDS through heterosexual contact (8)
In Australia, each day:
fathers separate from their child’s mother (9)
71 of these 77 fathers will not be living with their children five years
52 of these 71 fathers are denied the amount of contact with their children
than they desire (11)
On average, at least one separated man suicides every day (12)
In Australia today:
There are 558,000
non-custodial fathers who are denied as much contact with their children as they
would like (13)
amongst separated fathers is roughly triple the national average(14)
children do not live with both parents. Only 2.6% of these children are cared
for by both parents. 300,000 children see their father less than once a year.
Suicide is only the tip of
the iceberg of separation grief consequnces. For every suicide there are many,
many other serious though less fatal health consequences. For example, a Family
Court of Australia study (16) reports that two thirds of men
at the time of separation suffered from stress-related symptoms such as sleep
problems, crying, reduced energy, and poor appetite. Many separated men suffer
unrelenting grief over loss of regular contact with their children. This is
compounded by financial difficulties due to property settlement, child support
payments and legal bills at a time when most separated men report that they are
struggling to concentrate at work.
The depression which
typically afflicts separated men is also associated with cardiovascular disease (17).
There is an increased risk of heart disease and hypertension. An increase in
tobacco and other drug abuse, an unhealthy diet and decreased activity are also
found in this group. Psychological symptoms such as anger or anxiety often
Many commentators have
observed that loss of frequent contact with children – the eventual fate of
76% of fathers post-separation (3) – can be more devastating
than loss of a child through illness or accident. The trauma suffered by a
"contact father" is doubly damning because it is typically repeated
every two weeks. For fathers who are totally denied contact, the child is not
gone forever, as in death. The child remains alive, and the father is aware of
its existence, but powerless to have contact.
Although loss of
meaningful contact with children is a major contributor to separation grief,
relationship breakdown is often traumatic for other reasons. The typical male
breadwinner often finds himself at a disadvantage if the relationship ends. He
is likely to have little or no emotional support and it is unlikely that his
employer will be willing or able to accommodate him through this difficult time.
The transition from having a well-defined place in the world to suddenly being
on his own combined with lack of personal and institutional support often
results in feelings of intense alienation. Clinical psychologist Owen Pershouse
describes the alienation experience of separated men he encounters in his
clinical practice (18). The common elements are:
The separation came as a shock to the man
with adversarial court proceedings
drop in their standard of living and quality of accommodation
hostility and sense of injustice relating to reported negative experiences
with the Family Court and Child Support Agency
of anxiety and depression
in articulating their total experience
The man’s situation,
Pershouse says, is exacerbated by the failure of the prevailing therapeutic
model to address the core issues of identity, depersonalisation and devaluation
and also to acknowledge the immensity and complexity of the required adjustment.
The pervasiveness of
separation grief is further underscored by reports from those few services which
exist to help men in times of crisis. There are several Men’s phone lines
around the country, operated by volunteers, which function as referral or
counseling services for men. Analyses of calls to these services consistently
show that relationship breakdown is the subject of the majority of calls.
crisis is also a major theme of the few contacts men make with community health
services, counselors, and neighbourhood centres. Counselors at agencies such as
Lifeline and the Samaritans have also told me that separation grief is the major
issue precipitating men’s calls for help.
From time to time I
receive calls from crisis intervention agencies having difficulty finding
suitable referrals for recently separated men. Rather than being supported
through the most difficult time of their life, many of these men are further
besieged by demands for child and spouse support and legal proceedings. In many
cases these men have left the family home and are living in cheap hotels or, not
infrequently, sleeping in their cars by the roadside. While there are some
suitable counselors and legal advisors available, these men are almost always
unable to afford the cost. Free services such as community health often have a
long waiting list, have few if any male staff, and are generally not trained to
deal effectively with the man’s issues. There is an urgent requirement for
free legal and health services for separated men. Suitable crisis accommodation
for men is also required. Support groups would also provide very cost-effective
Separated men run a very
high risk of losing their jobs (16). Separation is as
devastating as losing a close family member, yet unlike when a loved one dies,
no provision is made for grieving, there is no allotted time off work to grieve
the loss of spouse or children. Employers must be alert to the difficulties
faced by separated men and be prepared to allow time off and provide support
through workplace health initiatives and employee assistance programs.
As noted in the NSW Health
Discussion paper, there is a clear correlation between low socio-economic status
and poor health outcomes. The health impact of separation grief is often
compounded by financial devastation due to the combination of reduced income due
to loss of work or reduced work performance and increased expenditure. After
separation the man is often faced with funding two households, paying child
support and possibly spousal maintenance. Legal costs in even an out-of-court
settlement are typically several thousand dollars. If the ex-spouse was employed
her departure also means loss of her contribution to household expenses. As well
as the indirect health impact of these financial stresses, he is often unable to
afford any medical or psychological care for himself. Financially well-off men
are not as severely impacted in these respects as those with poor financial
It has been noted that
men, even in times of crisis, are reluctant to utilise health services. Many
explanations have been put forward, the most popular being men’s reluctance to
admit they need help. While that may be part of the reason, recent research for
the Attorney General’s department found that "contrary to popular belief,
men are willing to talk about their relationships in the right circumstances,
especially within a group of men with similar backgrounds" (19).
It is important to ensure that services provide "the right
circumstances" for men who do use them.
It is clear to me, from
reports by separated men and also from practitioners themselves, that health
agencies need to improve their skills in working with men. One complaint I hear
time and time again is that services are not "male friendly" – in
some cases they are actively male hostile. For example, a man who recently
enlisted in an alcohol detoxification program reported that "the whole
atmosphere was anti-male. All the staff are women and some of them made no
attempt to hide their contempt for men. The last straw was when I saw that one
of them had a sticker on her filing cabinet saying ‘Grow your own dope –
plant a man’."
Another reason some men
come away from counseling disappointed is that they expected the counselor to
give them advice. Counselors typically state that their role is to support the
client in whatever they are trying to do, not to tell them what they should do.
This no-direction edict may be appropriate in some cases, but it can also be
very harmful, especially when dealing with men going through separation. When a
man seeks counseling because his relationship is breaking down, he is in a
highly distressed state and has not been able to find the path forward on his
own; he needs appropriate information and advice.
This problem is
particularly serious in the case of separation counseling when the man has
children. It is not good enough for the counselor, or mediator, to ask
"what arrangements do you want to make for the children?" and to then
proceed on that assumption. When a marriage ends, most men find themselves in a
situation they had never anticipated. They have little understanding of the
ramifications of the choices they make, and in most cases haven’t considered
the range of options available to them. Most men will not have realistically
considered the possibility of changing their lifestyle to enable shared
parenting. They need to be fully informed of the full implications of each
option. They need to consider part-time work options, child support obligations,
social security entitlements, opportunity for learning new skills, and most
importantly the way their choice will affect their relationship with their
children. If a counselor can help the man do whatever is required to take on a
shared parenting role, much of the grief of separation can be averted.
Appropriate and affordable
counseling for men is not widely available. In the short term the most practical
course might be for agencies to outsource this work to counselors with
demonstrated expertise in working with men. The precedent for this is well
established, for example when dealing with war veterans or rehabilitation
clients. There are also a number of men’s organisations, notably the Men’s
Health and Wellbeing Association, which can provide links to suitable resources.
In spite of the huge
numbers of men affected, and devastating health outcomes, separation grief
remains invisible in our society. Many more young men will die as a result of
separation-related suicide than lung cancer, AIDS or road accidents. This
invisibility is all the more astonishing since the problem is clearly visible to
health professionals who work with men, especially those in the
psychotherapeutic community. Those who are closest to the "coalface"
of separation grief are most acutely aware of the health impact of separation
men: "the experience of [Family Court] counselors is that fathers do not
reduce or eliminate contact with their children easily." (16) The
police and judiciary have no problem identifying the link between separation
grief and violence to oneself or others. Even Attorney General Darryl Williams,
the man responsible for administration of the Family Law Act, acknowledges that
"many men find [separation] the most stressful time of their lives.
Evidence points to health problems, high levels of suicide around this period
and continuing trauma for many years."
Yet separation grief does
not even rate a category in health policies, let alone attract the status of
being a recognised priority area. The NSW Health Department’s Men’s Health
initiative must correct this oversight.
men must be identified as a group with extremely high risk of psychological
and consequential physical health problems
practitioners and agencies must be alerted to the special needs of these men
and provided with information and best-practice models
action is required to minimise the grief caused by separation and its
sequelae. For example, community health services must identify supporting
men in the early days of separation as a priority
must be recognised as a mental health crisis
health policies and employee assistance programs must recognise separation
grief as a critical issue
must be provided to provide resources for separated men including
information, assistance and support in all aspects of separation, such as
emotional and legal support groups, crisis accommodation, child and
education and support for men wishing to improve their relationship and
that deal with separated men need to audit their practices to ensure that
they are meeting the men’s needs
Data sources used to
obtain the figures in this submission:
third of marriages end in divorce before the children are reared (Justice
Fogarty, speech to Student Welfare Conference 11 June 1998)
62% of cases the husband did not want the separation (The Effects of
Marital Separation 10 years on, Family Court of Australia Research
Report no. 14.) so risk of marriage ending against the man’s will is 33% x
62% or 20%.
years after separation, in 92% of cases at least one child of the marriage
is not living with the father (Remaking Families, AIFS 1996) so risk
of marriage ending and children not living with the father is 33% x 92% or
of separated fathers want increases in contact (Non-custodial fathers and
Access Patterns Jan Gibson 1992 Research Report #10 Family Court of
of children see their non-resident parent less than once per year (Family
Characteristics ABS report 4442.0 1997)
risk of contracting lung cancer for males is 1 in 19 (Australian
Institute of Health and Welfare, 1998), compared to 1 in 10 risk as per
ref. 5 above.
rate for transport-related injuries for males 15-24 is 31.5 per 100,000
population (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1998).
Varying rates of suicide associated with relationship breakdown have been
estimated by a number of researchers. The rate ranges from 54 per 100,000 (Suicides
Australia ABS Publication No 3309.0) for divorced men to 110 per 100,000
(Marital breakdown, parenthood and suicide, Cantor and Slater,
Journal of Family Studies, Oct 1995.) for separated men.
recent Australian study found that in 73% of suicides for which data was
available, a relationship breakdown occurred less than one month before the
death (Suicides in Queensland: A comprehensive study 1990-1995
Australian Institute for Suicide Research & Prevention 1998). There
were a total of 1931 male suicides in 1996 (Causes of Death, ABS
publication 3303.0 1996). Using these figures, a total of 1409 male suicides
in 1996 were associated with relationship breakdown. During the same period,
there were 555 new cases of AIDS reported, 7.2% of which were through
heterosexual contact (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare,
are 52,000 divorces per annum 28,000 involving children or 77 per day (Marriages
and divorces, ABS publication no. 3310.0 1996)
= 77 x 92% - see ref. 3 above.
= 71 x 73% - see ref. 3 and 4 above.
figures cited in ref 8 above the rate is 1409/365 = 3.8 per day.
estimates of the population of separated men:
are 448,000 CSA clients plus an estimated 121,000 private arrangements or
569,000 total (Taxation Statistics 1995-96, ATO). In 1996 there were
423,500 divorced men and 27% of births were ex-nuptial. (Marriages and
divorces, ABS publication 3310.0 1996). It can be assumed that as well as
the 423,000 divorced men there are at least another 27% separated men or
these population figures, and the suicide rate for separated men as per ref. 7
above, the suicide range is 110 x 5.38 p.a. to 110 x 5.69 p.a. or 1.6 to 1.7 per
Child Support Agency has 574,000 non-custodial parents on their books (CSA
Client Profile Series No 1) which represents 69% of
non-custodial parents, the balance being private agreements. This equates to
832,000 total non-custodial parents. 92% of these are male, or 765,000. 73%
of these are dissatisfied with their limited contact with their children
(ref 4 above) giving a total of 765,000 x 73% or 558,000.
of men separated in the early 1980's as per ref 17 below, had changed their
jobs and 22% had been unemployed for more than a year in the past 10 years.
30% of CSA cases show "no liability" which means income less than
$9,006 per annum (CSA Client Profile Series No 1).
children live in the sole care of one parent. 29.8% or 291,000 of these
children see their non-resident parent less than once per year. 2.6% of
children with separated parents are cared for in shared arrangements. (Family
Characteristics ABS report 4442.0 1997)
effects of marital separation on men – 10 years on
Family Court of Australia Research Report No. 14 1996.
American Journal of Cardiology
to the Australian Association of Family Lawyers and Conciliators at the
Family Court, Sydney 15th October 1998
General Darryl Williams, opening speech to Men and Family Relationships
forum, Canberra 10 June 1998
The Last Time I hit a Woman
Sent by Peter Vogel
I will never forget the
intensity and range of emotions I experienced the last time that I hit a woman.
I know now, as I knew
then, that it doesn't matter:
That she had attacked me first, verbally and emotionally;
That she was the first to begin shouting and intimidating;
That she was much bigger and much stronger that I;
That she she hit me first; or,
That I only hit her once, with an open hand rather than with a clenched fist,
and that my blow probably struck her on the arm though she had hit me in the
face with great force.
I remember immediately feeling intense shame for what I had done. And I remember
feeling very anxious. I loved that woman very much and I was dependent on her
love and care. I remember the terrifying dread that went with the thought that
she would withdraw her love completely because of what I had done, that she
might even abandon me because of my violence.
I remember the shocked look on her face. It was the first time I had hit her in
spite of her many provocations during previous arguments, and in spite of her
other acts of violence toward me.
I knew that I had crossed a line and that it would be very difficult, and
perhaps impossible, to ever return to the other side.
And then she said the words which I most feared hearing:
"You go to you room and stay there until your father comes home!"
I was only seven years old at the time and I had struck my mother.
I sat in my room for hours, waiting anxiously. I did not think that my father
would hit me because of what I had done to my mother. I expected that he and I
would talk through what had happened, and I knew that I could not defend or
justify what I had done.
I was anxious because I could not think of a way to resolve the situation which
had developed and because I could not think of a way to effectively make amends.
I also knew that my mother would probably be expecting him to physically punish
me and that she would be pressuring him to 'teach me a lesson I would never
forget", but I trusted my father to be fair and reasonable, and not to use
violence to try to teach me not to be violent.
What I feared most about the conversation I would have with my father is that I
would have lost his respect because of what I had done. And, even at the age of
seven, it was very important to me to be respected and loved by both of my
parents, and my mother's love and respect had always been very conditional, even
before I had hit her this one and only time.
My father came to my room soon after he arrived home from work. We talked. We
reasoned. We analysed.
One outcome of our long talk was that I never hit my mother again, in spite of
ongoing and repeated provocations, and I have also never hit any other woman.
My father did not attempt
to shame me for my part in what had happened. My father did not attempt to
intimidate me or terrorise me.
My father talked with me about his view of the differences between men and
women. And, because much of what he told me does not conform to politically
correct thinking, I will not report all of what we discussed.
I will relate the part of our conversation which dealt with what I would have to
do to resolve the situation that had developed.
He made it clear that I would have to apologise to my mother for hitting her. I
already knew that, but I wanted to know if she would have to apologise to me for
My father explained that the world requires men only to be responsible and
accountable for their thoughts, their feelings and their actions. Women, he
suggested, are always permitted to blame others for what they think and feel and
do. My mother, he explained, would maintain her belief that I had "made her
hit me first" and would insist that I needed to change so that "she
wouldn't have to yell at me or hit me ever again."
I remember saying that I did not think that was fair. My father explained that
fairness is a male value which most women do not understand or appreciate.
During my apology to my mother, as my father had predicted, she demanded that I
acknowledge that I had caused her to hit me, that her violence was my fault. My
father had advised me not to argue that point even though, objectively speaking,
it is not true.
He explained I could use logic and rationality to devise an acceptable response
to her demand without having to lie to her by falsely admitting that I thought
her violence was my fault. He advised me to keep my logic to myself, explaining
that women do not highly value logic at the best of times and that they detest
it when they are emotionally upset. (I told you that much of our discussion was
not politically correct.)
Knowing that I had not been responsible for her violence and that, except in
very special circumstances, I could not be responsible for any future acts of
violence she might commit against me, it was acceptable for me to promise that:
"I will never again do anything which will cause you to hit me."
My mother seemed to infer that this promise contained some acknowledgement that
I felt responsible for what had already occurred and, after telling me how much
I had disappointed her, and after telling me what a "bad little boy" I
had been, she allowed that I might one day again earn her respect and her trust.
My father then bore the brunt of her unresolved rage. That night she threatened
to leave him because she thought that he should have disciplined me physically
and that he had let me off too easily.
In my life I have found that my father's politically incorrect perspective
does not only apply to intimate relationships.
I remember an incident with a teacher when I was 11 years old. My female math(s)
teacher had graded a test the whole class had taken and had distributed our test
papers with our scores. It was a 20 question test. My grade was 95%. It appeared
that I had got one of the answers wrong.
I was a child prodigy in math(s) and it was unusual for me to get a wrong answer
when doing tests with students my own age. I rechecked the answer that had been
marked wrong. I found that my answer was correct.
I brought this to the attention of the teacher. I asked her to re-grade my paper
and credit me with a score of 100%.
She checked her scoring sheet and it showed an answer different than mine. I
said that the answer sheet had to be wrong and that I would do the problem on
the black board to show why my answer was correct.
She flew into a rage. She started yelling at me in front of the class and
attacked me for even suggesting that the answer sheet could possibly be wrong.
She said that every teacher who used the same text book we used would be using
the same answer sheets we were using and that "they" would never allow
an error on an answer sheet which is so widely used in schools.
I calmly offered again to do the problem on the black board so that I could show
the correct answer.
Then, to my amazement, she began to argue that there could be more than one
correct answer to a math problem and that the answer given on the answer sheet
was probably more correct than the answer I had got.
We were working with numerical calculations, not with the math of quantum
physics, and I told her there was only one correct answer in this case and that
it was different that what was shown on the answer sheet. I offered again to
work it out on the board.
Her response was to send me to the principals office for discipline.
As fate would have it, this particular principal was a gifted math teacher. He
allowed me to do the problem on paper and acknowledged that my answer was
correct and that the answer given on the answer sheet was incorrect.
He and I agreed that many students would have been given a grade 5% lower than
they had earned.
He then explained to me that he was not going to require, or even ask, the
teacher to regrade the test papers. He said that the rightness or wrongness of
the answer had now become a side issue and that the central issue was that I had
challenged the authority of the teacher in the classroom.
The resolution was to be that I would be required to apologise to the teacher
for disrupting her class and no mention was to be made of the correct answer to
the disputed question. If I did not want to apologise I would be suspended from
school and would only be allowed to return when I was ready to apologise
This betrayal by a trusted adult male was a valuable and important lesson for
me. As well as being a math teacher, the man was the coach of the school
football team and a referee for senior football matches involving other schools
in our region, and I still think that he should have had a better understanding
of what constitutes fairness and objectivity in resolving disputes.
He had his own problems. He had to supervise and support a female math teacher
who, unlike the many competent female math teachers I have known, did not
actually understand math.
It was the first time in my life I had witnessed a man in a position of
authority willingly disregarding matters of fact in order to take a position
favourable to a female in a subordinate position.
Though he had acknowledged that the answer on the answer sheet was incorrect he
was wholly unwilling to acknowledge the error. For him, a 5% error on just one
math test which would corrupt the scores of both male and female students
equally was unimportant when compared to the need of the teacher to maintain
control in her classroom. He actively reinforced her determination to remain in
error at the expense of all of her students lest acknowledging that I had been
right about the error might undermine the other students confidence in the
I cannot say that he would not have done the same thing to protect an
incompetent male math teacher. It may or may not have been a gender issue. It
is, however, a pattern of behaviour I have observed in many males when gender is
a possible factor in disputes they are asked or required to mediate.
In spite of lessons
learned early in my life, I still managed to marry a woman who during our ten
years together was frequently violent, both emotionally and physically. I never
responded to her violence by becoming violent myself. As I stated near the
beginning of this, I have not hit a woman since I was 7 years old.
When I finally accepted that my partner was not going to acknowledge that her
violence was a problem, and that she was not going to make any efforts to
change, I left the marriage.
During the "sorting out" process over the next several months, we
disagreed about something and she flew into a rage. She made a comment which
helped me to finalise the distancing process. She screamed:
"I have never forgiven you for the way you looked at me the first time I
"How did I look?" I asked.
"You looked hurt and shocked and angry and disgusted."
"How should I have looked after you hit me?" I asked.
"I needed for you to understand how I was feeling at that time. I needed
your support, not your anger," she said.
I understood then why she had never apologised for that act of violence or for
any of her many other violent assaults.
She never knew that she had a problem. No one could tell her that she had a
problem. No one could help her with a problem she does not know about and cannot
be told about.
The answer on the answer sheet says that men are most often the perpetrators of
violence, so there are very few programmes for women who act out violently, and
very little acknowledgement of the extent or women's violence.
The answer on the answer sheet is wrong. Ample evidence exists to show that the
answer is wrong.
I didn't go looking for the evidence until I started trying to come to terms
with my own experiences. I was aware of all the propaganda about male violence.
Like many males who have been in relationships with violence prone women, I
thought I was an exception to the rule. Like most males who experience women's
violence, I did not report her behaviour to anyone, officially or unofficially.
The vast majority of women's violence toward men is not reported, except to
researchers who ask in an environment which protects men and women from any
immediate consequences resulting from their violence. In those situations both
men and women admit the extent to which women perpetrate violence in
Men's Movement From Wikipedia, the