The Man Files

We know about the gendered wage gaps in the workplace. It’s old news that women are wildly underrepresented in top leadership positions at companies across the nation. And it’s clear that men need to be on board in order to for women to achieve equity in the workplace. Men have a central role in improving the workplace as we move into the future. But to be effective in accomplishing productive solutions, we need to scratch beneath the surface and look beyond salary and the corner office.

Most men believe that all people should have the same opportunities based on qualifications, not gender. What about that guy at the conference table — you know, the one who means well but still puts a sexist foot in his mouth.

Allow me to suggest a few tips to share with co-workers about why gender equity matters and what men can do in taking a lead.

As I explain in my book Men and Feminism, masculine privilege is the idea that society awards certain unearned perks and advantages on men simply because they are male. Sometimes this privilege is really obvious, like the fact that Congress remains overwhelmingly male. But masculine privilege also flies under the radar. Institutional practices and ideological beliefs about masculine superiority seem so normal or natural that we’ve learned not to notice when a man’s opinion is taken more seriously than a woman’s.

And, let’s face it. The workplace is nothing if not an institution.

As Michael Welp explains, it’s to men’s individual advantage to inquire more about others and step back a bit from chronic self-advocacy and self-promotion. Listening more and speaking less can “collectively shift the culture in organizations toward more inclusion.”

If it’s a hard sell to convince folks with power and privilege to step aside and share a bit of that pie, then it helps to remember that gender equity improves a company’s bottom line. Michael Kimmel points out that equality “increases a company’s profitability, enhances its reputation in the outside world, and boosts employee morale.”

Exposing invisible patterns and practices allows us to think critically about the links between gender privilege and sexism. One way masculine privilege operates is in how men (and women) are taught to see sexism as “individual acts of meanness,” says scholar Peggy McIntosh. What’s really going on, though, is that sexism is supported by invisible systems that perpetuate and maintain dominance for men as a group.

What Men Can Do (and Encourage Other Men to Do):

1.    Engage don’t interrupt. Be quiet. Don’t talk-over others. Communication is a two-way street, and some people have been socialized to cross that street more slowly than others. Research shows that women speak less when they’re outnumbered while men are groomed for assertiveness. Simply put: talk less; listen more.

2.    Wait for a response before continuing. Ask more questions and don’t assume you know more than the person you’re speaking to.

3.    Remember: authority, expertise and strength come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and wardrobes. A hot manicure does not preclude a hot IQ as 16-year-old Mensa-member Lauren Marbe can attest.

In my recent book Men Speak Out, a collection of first-person perspectives on gender, sex, and power, Ian Breckenridge-Jackson sums up the issues of privilege in the workplace really well. Ian was part of a mixed-gender volunteer crew working to rebuild homes in the Lower Ninth Ward in post-Katrina New Orleans. “Men would often challenge women’s competence on the worksite, particularly women in leadership positions. For instance, men often assumed women were ignorant about using tools, leading men to inappropriately offer unsolicited advice to women about how they should do their work,” Breckenridge-Jackson explains. And even though he was tempted to step in, take over, do the job himself, and explain to the women how things get done, he had to check himself. “All men owe this both to the women in their lives and to themselves.”

There might not be a perfect solution, but we can certainly start the process, and we can easily commit earnestly to change. Men have a crucial role in promoting this workplace change by refusing to be bystanders to the problem.

First published on

Recent events inspired this guest post authored by sociologist Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, The Guy’s Guide to Feminism, and Manhood in America. Kimmel teaches sociology at SUNY Stony Brook and is one of the most influential researchers and writers on topics of men and masculinities . Reprinted with Kimmel’s permission from today’s Huffington Post, the author calls out not only Todd Akin but also Daniel Tosh for their recent misogynistic actions, as well as offers readers a larger critique of how rape is discussed in our culture.


You have to pinch yourself sometimes to remind yourself that it’s 2012 and we still don’t know how to talk about rape in this country. Who would have thought that after half a century of feminist activism — and millennia of trying to understand the horrifying personal trauma of rape — we’d be discussing it as if we hadn’t a clue.

Okay, that’s a not quite true. When I say “we” — as in “we haven’t a clue” — that’s a little vague. So let me clarify. When I say “we,” I mean the half of the population to which I happen to belong. My gender. Men. Just consider the gender of each of these recent examples:

• In recent days, we’ve had a U.S. Congressman candidate draw distinctions that are so mind-numbingly wrongheaded and so politically reprehensible that even his own party is calling for him to drop out of his U.S. Senate race (where he is leading);

• In recent weeks, we’ve had one of the more curious debates about whether rape jokes can be funny;

• And over the past couple of years, the word “rape” has entered our vocabulary as a metaphor.

Each one reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about the singular horror of rape.

Todd Akin and “legitimate rape”

In trying to explain his opposition to abortion — even in cases of rape — Rep. Todd Akin observed that victims of “legitimate rape” cannot get pregnant because their bodies will shut down and prevent the sperm from fertilizing her egg. That is, he seems to believe that women’s bodies have a kind of magical, or God-given, ability to distinguish lovers’ sperm from rapists’ sperm, and to “know” which ones should be allowed to fertilize the egg.

Of course, this reveals a spectacular ignorance of women’s bodies — but what else did you expect from a right-wing anti-woman legislator? (The fertility rate for rape victims is exactly the same 5 percent that it is for women who have consensual sex.) But what is so offensive is less what he says about women’s bodies, and more what it implies about rape in the first place. By drawing attention to “legitimate” rape, Akin implies that “other” rapes are not legitimate — i.e., not rapes at all. Legitimate rapes are the equivalent of what others call “real” rape — a stranger, using force, preferably with a weapon, surprises the victim. All “other” rapes — like date rape, marital rape, acquaintance rape, child rape, systematic rape by soldiers, rape as a form of ethnic cleansing (where the actual purpose is to impregnate) — aren’t really rapes at all. This would exclude, what, about 95 percent of all rapes worldwide?

By linking the criteria for labeling some assault as rape to the possibility of pregnancy, Akin in effect blames impregnated women’s bodies for failing to slam that cervix door shut on those illegitimate sperm. Their bodies having failed them, why, then, he asks, should the state sanction a “murder” (abortion) that their own bodies didn’t sanction? This isn’t just lunacy on the scale ofMonty Python’s famous inquiry into the identity of witches, it’s a consistent ideological position against women’s conscious and deliberate ability to make conscious decisions about her body. The body speaks; women’s voices are silenced.

Rape as Humor

Last month, the comedian Daniel Tosh attempted to silence a heckler at the Laugh Factory, saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?” This has been a standard theme at comedy clubs for a while now. Hordes of fellow comedians jumped in to defend Tosh. Comedy, they argued, is designed to push the envelope, to make really tragic and horrible things funny.

Such claims are, of course, disingenuous. Have you heard the German comedian’s “Two Jews walk into a bar” joke? Neither have I. How about the racist comedian joke about lynching? Only on White Supremacist websites (and never in a public club). The question isn’t whether or not rape jokes “push the envelope.” It’s which envelope it’s pushing, and in which direction.

Humor has often been a weapon of the weak, a way for those who are marginalized to get even with those who are in power. This is the standard explanation for the large number of Jewish and black comedians. And their takedowns of the rich, white, Christian are seen as evening the score: “they” get all the power and wealth, and we get to make fun of them.

But when the powerful make fun of the less powerful, the tables are not turned; inequality is magnified. While it’s still not acceptable for white comedians to use racist humor (and when they do, they are instantly sanctioned, as was Michael Richards), but it’s suddenly open season on women and gay people. Ask Tracy Morgan.

In a sense, though, Tosh’s casual misogyny offered a rare glimpse inside the male-supremacist mind. Tosh doesn’t defend rape as just a “date gone wrong” or a “girl who changed her mind afterwards,” equally vile and pernicious framings. No, he is clear: rape is punishment. Punishment for what? For heckling him. That is: for having a voice.

Rape as Metaphor

Recently, my adolescent son told me he’s started hearing the word “rape: as a synonym for defeating your opponent badly in sports, or besting them in a rap competition. As in, “The Yankees raped the Red Sox” or, “Dude, that guy totally raped you” in the high school debate.

Using rape as a metaphor dilutes its power, distracts us from the specificity of the actual act. You got raped? Me too! I totally got raped in that math quiz.

In an interview some years ago, Elie Wiesel cringed at the use of the word “Holocaust” as a metaphor for hatred, or for murder in general. This was not hatred, not just murder, Wiesel argues.

“Hate means a pogrom, it’s an explosion, but during the War it was scientific, it was a kind of industry. They had industries and all they produced was death. Had there been hate, the laboratories would have exploded.”

Wiesel made clear that it’s not a metaphor: it is in its specificity that its power resides.

Rape is not a verbal put-down; it’s a corporeal invasion. It’s not an athletic defeat; it’s the violation of a body’s integrity, the death of a self. All equivalences are false equivalences.

It’s not a metaphor, it’s not a joke, and it’s not to be parsed as legitimate. It’s an individual act of violence. To believe that you can change the meaning of a word by turning it into a metaphor or a joke is the essence of male entitlement. It is an act of silencing, both the individual and all women. The arrogance of turning it into a metaphor, making it a joke — this is how that silencing happens.

And the good news — if any is to be taken here — is, of course, that it hasn’t worked. Women have responded, noisily and angrily, to these efforts at silencing.

Maybe “we” ought to shut up and just listen?

On this historic day, the US Supreme Court’s ruling on health care is being hailed as “a victory for all Americans” – but will all Americans benefit equally from the new health care law signed into law by President Barack Obama? No, not those, like Obama, who are male.

File:Barack Obama reacts to the passing of Healthcare bill.jpg

While I believe that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will improve the overall health of the nation, particularly for women and the underserved, some health care disparities remain. June is Men’s Health Month, so I dedicate this month’s column to an under-recognized inequity which seems likely to continue under the ACA: insurance coverage for men’s annual sexual and reproductive health exams. While typical insurance coverage addresses annual general health exams for both male and female patients, the norm is that only female patients are offered coverage for annual gynecological exams. In addition, there is yet to be a national standard for what a men’s annual sexual health exam should include, let alone a social norm for teen boys and men to seek out this type of exam. This may help explain why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “Less than half of people who should be screened receive recommended STD screening services.”

The ACA’s list of “Covered Preventive Services for Adults” includes screenings for only two sexually transmitted infections (STIs): “HIV screening for all adults at higher risk” and “Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk.” They do include “Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling for adults at higher risk,” and “Immunization” for the STIs Hepatitis B, Herpes and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). All sexually active boys and men are potentially at risk for contracting a wide range of STIs, including HIV: the interpretation of “higher risk” could keep many from receiving necessary care.

If you scroll down this page, you’ll find the longer list of “Covered Preventive Services for Women” which includes additional sexual and reproductive health care screenings related to breast cancer, cervical cancer, chlamydia, contraception, gonorrhea, plus extra screenings HIV and HPV.  This laudable list is capped off by “Well-woman visits” described as, “preventive care visit annually for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services that are age and developmentally appropriate….” Why would a man not benefit from these types of services?

A google search for “well-man visits” turns up nothing on U.S. government websites and only one company’s description of their “Well Man Examination” policy: it includes only “Digital rectal exam; and Screening PSA test (age 40 or older).” Younger men could benefit from an examination for testicular cancer, “the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34.” None of these tests are mandated under the ACA.

Looking again at government resources, the inequity jarring. In addition to having a website devoted to National Women’s Health Week in May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also sponsors an Office on Women’s Health website.  If you’re on the homepage of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and search for “men’s health” you will not find a men’s health website.  However, their Office on Women’s Health website (somewhat ironically) features the U.S. government’s only resource webpage for men’s health, including a link to men’s sexual health. On this page, it focuses more on aging and sexual dysfunction, with only one small link to sexually transmitted infections. This “sexual health” page seems to patronize and condescend to men, doubting their abilities to care about and seek sexual health care:

“Sexual health is a source of concern for many men. Yet some men are not comfortable talking to their doctors about sex.” And, later on, “Remember that problems with sexual health are medical problems, and your doctor can help.”

If you live in King County, WA, then you might be in luck: their Public Health website features a fairly detailed description of “physical examinations for men.”  If you don’t feel comfortable seeking these examinations from your regular doctor, then check out Planned Parenthood: a national organization that provides men’s sexual health exams. While I’m not sure how many U.S. teen boys and men would think of Planned Parenthood clinics as their home base for sexual health care, U.S. health policymakers should look to them for guidance. Depending on the specific PP clinic, their services might include:

  • checkups for reproductive or sexual health problems
  • colon cancer screening
  • erectile dysfunction services, including education, exams, treatment, and referral
  • jock itch exam and treatment
  • male infertility screening and referral
  • premature ejaculation services, including education, exams, treatment, and referral
  • routine physical exams
  • testicular cancer screenings
  • prostate cancer screenings
  • urinary tract infections testing and treatment
  • vasectomy

U.S. men, where is your outrage? Where are the protests demanding equality in sexual and reproductive health services? Why is there no U.S. Office on Men’s Health? A little digging online unearthed the failed “Men’s Health Act of 2001” which articulated the need for an Office of Men’s Health. If this act is not a priority for today’s politicians, then I encourage you to do your part to raise awareness about the need for accessible, affordable and comprehensive men’s sexual and reproductive health care. All of us — men, women and children — will benefit from better men’s sexual health.

In January, tragedy struck the Los Angeles suburb of Manhattan Beach.

Investigators believe that 24-year-old Michael Nolin killed his girlfriend, 22-year-old Danielle Hagbery, because Hagbery was breaking up with him. Apparently, Nolin then committed suicide.

This murder-suicide story is tragic all the way around. We hear about situations like this all the time. But while the details of this case might still be fuzzy, one thing is for sure: The report published in The Daily Breeze perpetuates the worst of victim-blaming and misguidedly frames the issues.

The story headline reads:

Police believe romantic break-up fueled Manhattan Beach killings.

But romance and break-ups don’t cause murder. Violence and aggression do. Let’s revise and edit, shall we?

An accurate story headline would read:

Police believe violent aggression fueled Manhattan Beach killings.

But the problem doesn’t end with the headline. The article quotes Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Lt. Dan Rosenberg who provides so-called tips to women on preventing their own assault.

I would insert a snarky “yawn” if the issue wasn’t so absolutely critical!

Daily Breeze reporters Larry Altman and Andrea Woodhouse quote Los Angeles Sheriff Department’s Lt. Dan Rosenberg as saying:

“Danielle Hagbery’s death should serve as a warning to other young women that they need to look out for themselves — such as not going to the boyfriend’s home — when a relationship goes sour.

“This is one more tragic end of a dating relationship where these young women should be aware of it,” Rosenberg said. “Ladies need to be vigilant when things go sideways with boyfriends.”

Seriously. Really?

I’m willing to accept that Lt. Rosenberg was well-intentioned but seriously misguided. And, if so, then Altman and Woodhouse are complicit in their equally misguided decision to include these “tips” in their article.

Badly informed comments such as Rosenberg’s perpetuate a serious problem: Blaming the victim for her own death. This profoundly shifts the attention from the real issue. Presuming it’s true that boyfriend Michael Nolin killed Hagbery before turning a gun on himself, the warning must not be directed toward victims.

Ladies don’t need to be vigilant. Murderers need to not kill.

If this was in fact an instance of “one more tragic end of a dating relationship,” then men need to be aware of their own potential for violence and prevent it from happening. The best way to end violence is for the violent person to stop. Prevention is the real solution.

On February 1, 2010 I sent a letter of concern to eight Daily Breeze editors and reporters, and to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. This letter called out the newspaper and the sheriff for what violence-prevention educator Jackson Katz calls linguistic shape shifting, where language obscures men’s responsibility for violence.

The letter of concern includes signatures from authors, professors, public speakers, advocates, and community activists, experts across the country who work in preventing gender-based violence and sexual assault.

The letter concludes by offering support: “There are plenty of community-based resources and educational materials on the subject of preventing male violence against women. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you would like to avail yourself to our services and resources.”

To date, not one of the individuals or agencies receiving this letter have replied. The silence is deafening.

This month The Man Files welcomes Sam Bullock writing his first guest post for Girl With Pen. In this personal account, Sam explains what happened when his Mormon religion collided with feminist politics.

My professor assured us there was no reason to fear The F-Word.

I was taking Intro to Ethics at a community college where we were assigned to read An Invitation to Feminist Ethics by Hilde Lindemann. It was my first experience with feminist theory.

The book is a basic overview about sexism, gender roles, homophobia, neo-liberal globalization, and stories about gas lighting and rape. Unlike other books, I couldn’t dismiss this one as “just another philosophy.” I couldn’t toss this book aside as I went about my daily life. It was consciousness-raising. Life-changing.

From reading this book I realized I wanted the freedom to choose what made me happy. I didn’t want to be constrained by psychological factors that may have been the product of early—and intense—gender socialization. And I knew that women deserved the same freedom.

Unfortunately, these feminist arguments clashed with my worldview: I was raised Mormon. For Mormons, gender roles are divinely instituted (for the most part) and homosexuality is always a moral evil.

In the Mormon Church, only men are allowed to have the priesthood. Women are effectively barred from positions of authority. No women bishops, no women apostles, no women prophets. Women can fill positions of leadership that are in line with traditional gender roles like young-women leaders, children’s group leaders, and relief society leaders (an exclusively female group).

I was told that priesthood, the power to act in God’s name, depends on individual worthiness. Every man can have it. The traditional Mormon rejoinder to any sort of criticism of this unjust stratification is that “women can bear children.” So … women can’t become priests because babies gestate inside of them? This argument is sheer nonsense.

The sexism of the Mormon Church became more and more apparent. In one discussion about parenthood, I dared to suggest that I was willing to be a stay-at-home dad. I was instantly assaulted by thoroughly archaic views about women. I was told that women were more virtuous than men and this virtue would be lost in the cut-throat business world. Working women were destroying the fabric of society (I actually heard this more than once). Needless to say, I was horrified.

At a different meeting, the discussion topic was female modesty and appearance. The bishop leading the group suggested that women needed to dress modestly because men couldn’t control themselves—or something to that effect. Really? Huh.

The bishop continued, saying that women should wear make-up because even an old barn could use a paint-job. The huge double standard leaped out at me. Male “barns” were not expected to paint themselves, so why should female “barns?”

As the sexism became crystal-clear, I attempted to reconcile my two conflicting worldviews. I tried to rationalize away the sexism, making arguments like, “the Church isn’t ready for gender-equality yet“ or “this sexist doctrine is not of God.” I looked for support online and found it at various feminist Mormon blogs including Feminist Mormon Housewives and The Exponent.

Enter California’s Proposition 8. Here, the second of the big offenders came into focus: homosexuality. In the Mormon Church, homosexuality is a sin. One can be an openly gay, but must remain celibate or enter a heterosexual marriage. Neither is a particularly happy option.

When Proposition 8 (opposing gay marriage) was on the California ballot, Mormon Church leadership endorsed it, and encouraged members to aid in its passing. This led to call centers, special meetings, and Photoshopped pictures of Book of Mormon prophets holding “Yes on Prop 8” signs. Most disturbing was the rhetoric. We were told that homosexuals were like drug-users. Homosexuals were destroying society. They were corrupting our children, our freedom of religion, and our schools. Homosexual-equality was Satan’s idea, an attempt to lure people down the path of destruction.

I am ashamed to admit that in high school I believed this nonsense. I distinctly remember telling a friend that I voted for Bush because he was against gay-marriage. I even wrote a letter to Bush celebrating his wise choice.

But fast-forward and feminism allowed me to see the Church rhetoric for what it was: homophobic, fear-mongering attempts to maintain a cultural hegemony. I still rationalized away the homophobia as yet another doctrine “not of God.” That is, until I read about Stuart Matis, a gay Mormon who committed suicide because of homophobic Mormon doctrine.

I could see the suffering so clearly. I could no longer rationalize away the Church homophobia. A crack had formed in the edifice of my beliefs. Mormons were not inspired by God to pass Prop 8. There was no Satan, no tempter out there trying to trick me into believing evil things. This was merely the ultimate fear-mongering device, a tool designed to silence dissent.

Into this small crack rushed my entire philosophical training, all of my religion classes, my ethics classes, and my critical thinking classes. I no longer saw any reason to believe that Joseph Smith saw God when he founded the Mormon Church. I no longer believed that Jesus was the son of God, or that God even existed at all. My beliefs were gone. I was an Atheist.

I guess the message of this story is that feminism is undeniably powerful. It can alter consciousness. It can foster equality. It can even dismantle an entire worldview. And I would say these changes are for the better.

Sam Bullock aspires to be an attorney with hip jazz-piano chops, and is a self-proclaimed feminist atheist.

erich hagan is a writing performer from a dead-end street in a part of Boston its many fine institutions advise visitors to avoid. He’s honed his direct style of communication and obscenely sincere subject matter in bars, coffee shops, theaters, residences, warehouses and classrooms across the nation. The Boston Globe calls erich “tender, yet violent.” He was a member of the 2007 Providence Poetry Slam Team and represented Boston’s Cantab Lounge at the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam.

Presently, erich is consumed by a project called The Analog/Digital Debate; a production team and stage show that blurs the intersection of independent music, performance poetry and noise art. In his spare time, he is a freelance audio workhorse and a volunteer sexual assault outreach advocate with no dietary restrictions, no pets, no advanced degree in any of the liberal arts and no idea what his living situation will be by the time you read this.

As long as rape and sexual violence continue, we have to keep talking about it out loud. We need to keep talking so we can figure out how to take action. And, anyway, talking with each other is action.

Click here for what erich has to say—in his own voice—about men and sexual assault.

And you can read it here:

i am here to facilitate a discussion of sexual assault

this is not what i do for a living
i hold no degree in any of the social sciences
yes, i am a man
no, i’m not sure what that means, either

and like many of you
i worry about giving the wrong impression
this is a difficult topic
but i believe that rape is not inevitable

the crazy stranger in the bushes
accounts for a minority of incidences
survivors are mostly acquainted with attackers

the predatory relative
the nice guy who has a hard time hearing no
the abusive partners of every gender, race and orientation

it is not an act of sex
nor a matter of miscommunication
it is a planned exertion of power

exploiting trust, confusion
and silence, relying on society’s
inclination to discredit victims of explicit crimes

what were they wearing?
what were they doing that late at night?
how could they have put themselves in that situation?

truthfully, it’s an understandable reaction
if the mistake was theirs, then the world is fair
we want to believe that it could not happen to us

but it does: one in four, one in seven,
one in thirty-three, nine out of ten times
rapists identify as straight males

statistics are not my expertise
i just recognize a threat when i see it
i can not let this remain a touchy subject

there are boys
taught consent is women’s fault
there are places where forcible intercourse is a military maneuver

i am here
because i believe there is a difference
between risk reduction and prevention

everyone takes precautions
clutches cellphones on the subway
avoids specific colors of clothing on certain streets

it solves nothing
personal awareness is important
but it does not address the source of violence

drunk driving used to be
something we were warned to watch out for
stay off the roads at night, after holidays

later, the issue was reframed
friends didnt let friends, and it was effective
less people were endangered, no one stopped drinking

it just wasn’t an excuse
it became an individual obligation
to stop violators from operating

each of us can intervene
in any way we are comfortable
but someone you know will almost definitely be affected
and it is not funny
that is unacceptable

all a perpetrator needs
is a target no one believes
should’ve known, had it coming, naive

there are dozens of ways to shift blame
none of them excuse the one person responsible
nobody asks for this, lost control is not an explanation

it is the effect, whether or not
she goes silent or fights, whether or not
he can call it assault or explain to his friends

this is not a women’s issue: men, this is one war
you will not be glorified for waging
we can end it

Catch erich performing live:

•Friday 10/16 @ Nuyorican Poets Cafe, NYC (236 East 3rd Street Between Ave B & C)

•Monday 11/2 @ LouderArts, Bar 13 (E 13th St & University Pl, New York, NY)

•Monday 11/16 @ Emerson College, Boston, MA

•Friday 11/17 @ The Bridge Cafe (1117 Elm St, Manchester, NH)

•Thursday 11/19 @ The Inkwell (665, 2nd Ave. Long Branch NJ)

For more contact:

Photo Credit: @ The Mercury Cafe — Denver, CO

This month, The Man Files brings you Jessica Pauline — a writer and feminist with experience working in some of the dicey-er Los Angeles strip clubs. Lots of ink has been spilled on the sex worker debates. Are women oppressed by sex work? Liberated? Both? How is trafficking distinct from, say, dancing one’s way through law school? In this entry, Jessica leaves those debates for another day and instead turns a keen eye to her observations of the men who make it rain. (—verb: to throw wads of cash in the air for dancers to retrieve as tips.)

Like Jane Goodall and her chimps, I spent a good deal of time during my tenure as a stripper in some of L.A.’s seediest nightclubs observing the behavior of the primates. Not the dancers, mind you — the men who came to watch them.

Based on my humble observations, I came to discover that certain behaviors are both predictable and categorical, and that most hetero men, when confronted with a pair of boobs in a semi-public setting, fall into a few choice archetypes.

Let’s start with what I imagine to be the most common breed of American strip club patron: white, middle-aged men who golf and vote Republican. They swagger in to the club with an air of ownership, their masculinity stuffed into their wallets and tucked neatly into their pressed khaki pants. Observing the dancers with the same level of detached interest that one might imagine they’d use in selecting a prime rib-eye, they pick a girl, begin to talk to her in their most sensual voice while rubbing her back and her leg, and shortly thereafter are ushered back to the VIP room with very little to-do. This is the kind of easy sell around which strip clubs were designed, and for that reason, we’ll call this breed Strip Club Men (SCM).

Now, strip clubs have been around long enough for a type of strip club rebellion to brew amongst men. So imagine, if you will, if the SCM had a son. This son desires nothing more than to be the antithesis to his stuffy, conservative father, and so he becomes sensitive, wears ironic t-shirts to demonstrate the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and quite possibly sports artistic, sentimental facial hair. Let’s call this breed Feminist Men (FM).

When forced into a strip club, maybe because of a bachelor party, or maybe in search of a place to talk quietly on a Tuesday night, the FM immediately seeks to set himself apart. Rather than sexualize the dancers, he opens with a nice conversation, carefully keeping his eyes above the neck. But as the FM gets less and less guarded, a strange thing begins to happen. He becomes more willing to let his eyes wander down. His friendly conversation becomes more imbued with sexual innuendo. And finally, often after spending copious amounts of money on what he has come to believe is a “real connection,” he tries to get the dancer to go on a date with him. (This, as an aside, is both insulting and never going to happen.)

The final subcategory of men falls deeper into FM territory, and warrants mention simply because of the unique validation that they seek. They’re easy to recognize, because no sooner does some indie chick start swaying her hips to Tom Waits, the King of Melancholy himself, then the Tom Waits Man (TWM) begins nodding in recognition. Before long, he’s dug a crumpled dollar bill out of his pocket and walked up to the stage where he will deposit it, but not until he’s made sure that the dancer sees him so he can compliment her taste to her face and thereby secure his place as profound, mysterious and, of course, different.

Maybe you’ll read this and think that I oversimplify. But since the most honest interaction in sex work is based on a respectful, fun partaking of the service provided, it can’t hurt for men to examine their own behavior with at least as much gusto as I examined it (don’t worry, I took some long, hard looks at myself, too). Without that, gentlemen, you are really just entertainment.

Jessica Pauline is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. An NYU graduate with a degree in music, her writing appears regularly on, and has appeared in $pread Magazine, The Printed Blog, the Ventura County Star, and a number of other websites and local papers. She is currently working on a book about her experiences as a feminist stripper, and lives in Silver Lake with her fiance and their dog, Molly.

Chest hair, growth spurts, voice changes, lust! In this edition of The Man Files, Rebekah Spicuglia writes about the challenges of feminist parenting when boys start coming of age.

My 11-½-year-old son recently announced that he is going through puberty.

My usually obsessive preparations for Oscar’s visits now have a new urgency. I find myself planning discussions I somehow never thought I would need to have. When kids grow up it’s an exciting — but scary — time for any parent. And as a noncustodial, long-distance mom, the challenges and opportunities for me are unique. Over the years, lots of conversations with my son have been held over the phone. Lately, we’ve had some incredible talks about more adult things (you know … coffee, sex ed). more...

In the spirit of Father’s Day on June 21 — and in honor of fathers everywhere — this edition of The Man Files features a guest post by Dani Meier. Dani writes about his experience as both a custodial and non-custodial parent. This stuff doesn’t fit neatly on a Hallmark card, but it should! It comes from the heart and speaks to so many, whether we are fathers, have fathers, or watch our children’s relationships with their own dads unfold.

One in three children in America — 24 million kids — do not have their father in the home. Forty percent of them have not seen their dad during the past year. Half of them have never set foot in their father’s home. And then there are the fathers who live under the same roof, but are absent in other ways. Just plain MIA. Many dads leave.

I was one of them.

When my daughter was three, her mother and I separated. When she was six, though I’d shared equally in parenting till then, I moved out of state, 650 miles away.

In my case, however, I came back. Again and again, I came back.

I committed myself to staying in my daughter’s life. I got a second job to pay for flights and for the next twelve years, we alternated every other weekend, sometimes more, between my going to her and her coming to me — a schedule that she and I maintained till she graduated from high school. A unique father-daughter bond evolved between us, emotional closeness despite geographical distance. But two roundtrip flights a month for twelve years adds up to nearly 300 flights that she or I took back and forth to see each other. That’s a lot of goodbyes to start logging at age six.

She’s now 21. Totally legal. No fake IDs.

I recently visited her in Rome where she spent part of her junior year of college. More than the Eternal City’s sweeping arc of history and culture, however, small moments stand out: ambling around Piazza Navonna after midnight, sipping Limoncello, strolling aimlessly. We bar-hopped in Trastevere where, in one café, a phenomenal swing jazz trio accompanied us as we danced for the first time ever as two adults. On my last day, we took a train to the Umbria hillside village of Orvieto, a medieval town with winding alleyways and cobblestone streets, sitting on a chunk of volcanic rock overlooking a valley.

Hugging my daughter goodbye the next day was wrenching. It was as if all our goodbyes were distilled into this single hug: twelve years of goodbyes, hugs that bridged childhood, adolescence, and, now, adulthood.

I’m also father to a six-year-old son. As I look into his beautiful eyes today, I see the eyes of my daughter. My mind frequently jumps involuntarily to how confusing it would be for him if I moved away. Yet I know that’s what my daughter lived through at his age.

Goodbyes can cause a lot of heartache. The problem for many children, however, is that they don’t get to say goodbye to their fathers on a regular basis. That would imply that they actually see their dads in the first place. As a therapist, many of the youth and adults I work with have never met their fathers or they see them rarely if at all. Other fathers lived with their kids but were invisible, buried in their work or a bottle or some other distraction.

There’s a paradox of contradictory trends in Daddy Land. Lots of fathers are rewriting what it means to be a dad: They are more involved in their children’s lives than any fathers in American history. They not only play catch or coach Little League, they also change diapers, make meals, help with school work, and are emotionally open with their children. This coincides, however, with the fact that from 1947 to 2007, single-parent households — predominantly mother-headed homes — jumped from 12 percent to over 25 percent. And whether those fathers remarried or not, too many of them don’t maintain consistent ties to their biological children from previous relationships.

Some men claim that divorced mothers block access. But in my experience that’s the exception, not the rule. Fathers who aren’t involved with their children nowadays are usually disengaged by choice. Many don’t even meet their legal obligation for child support while others do so only under threat of legal sanction or garnished wages.

As a father and a husband — and as a therapist — I try to allow for the fact that shit happens. Divorce, breakups, new loves, new jobs, new opportunities. We each must sort through what makes sense as we move through life. And sometimes as we muddle through, we hurt others on our path. Hopefully, we learn, grow, and try to make it right.

My hope is that other fathers who’ve left can still learn, grow, and make it right. Perhaps by next Father’s Day, some of those fathers who’ve said goodbye will realize the importance of coming back. And then they’ll make it right, they’ll come back, and they’ll stay involved, being fathers their kids can count on, dads worthy of the Hallmark card.

Dani Meier, PhD, MSW, is a psychotherapist, school social worker, community activist, lecturer, and writer. He is a founder of The Real MEN’s Project: Men Embracing Non-Violence, which seeks to place men at the center of the battle against domestic violence and sexual assault. He’s one of a small handful of men who’ve been awarded the Susan B. Anthony Award for efforts on behalf of girls and women in his community, and he is a faculty advisor for his school’s gay-straight alliance. He’s lectured to a range of audiences, from mental health professionals to parent groups on raising strong and gentle sons. He is currently involved in state-wide suicide prevention and intervention initiatives. He is a proud father and a lucky husband.

This month’s guest post to The Man Files comes at us from Jonathan Felix — college student, drummer, sports fan, and astute social critic. In Jonathan’s words, “Me and my dad sarcastically laugh at the sequence of commercials during ‘guy’ shows on TV: beer, burgers, military. Beer, cars, televisions, military …” Here Jonathan takes on Carl’s Jr. ads asking why they portray guys as kind of stupid.

Masculine, Jr.

In true corporate marketing fashion, Carl’s Jr. depicts demoralizing stereotypes of men and women in efforts to attract consumers.

The fast-food chain’s current commercial shows a beautiful skinny blonde girl wearing make-up and a nice blue dress. She enters her boyfriend’s apartment expecting a classy night out, and finds him on the couch playing video games. The couple talks about a steak dinner, and the guy implies they are going to Carl’s Jr. for their new steak sandwich. The motto after the commercial is that Carl’s Jr. is “How guys do fancy.”

This is NOT how I do fancy.

Commercials like this give good guys a bad reputation. Hey Carl’s Jr. — Listen up! A lot of us actually have our lives together and enjoy taking women out to nice places and good dinners.

Or what about the ad with the guy and the avocado? It makes men look like total barbaric meatheads, who can’t even use a spoon to eat an avocado, and we somehow need Carl’s Jr. to make guacamole for us because we’re too stupid to figure it out.

Now I happen to like Carl’s Jr. But for them to portray guys as that lazy and ignorant is offensive. I can only hope my peers would agree that we have to do better than a #4 Combo if we plan on making good boyfriends and future husbands.

These commercials project a message to the world that men are lame and losers and unable to appreciate even the smallest bit of romantic effort. Far too often our society depicts “real” men as barbarians who love sports and beer and total sexual dominance. And although plenty of men have some of these traits, pop culture insists on exploiting our more obtuse characteristics to sell their products.

These ads completely ignore a man’s intellectual or emotional capabilities. This hurts men who actually have their lives somewhat together. It perpetuates negative stereotypes and affects women’s future opinions about men, be they Prince Charmings or Ronald McDonalds.

Show Jonathan some love and welcome him to Girl With Pen by posting your comments here. Or reach him directly at johnnylbeach at Until next month! -Shira