Men Who Take Baths

Ben Goresky

Vancouver, 2019
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Some guys never grow up. They stay stuck in boyhood and that is what we’re dealing with in society right now. 

What does being a man mean to you?

Being a man to me is definitely different than being an adult. This is a culture of uninitiated men. Boys in man bodies. In the last five years, I’ve really dug into this whole masculinity thing and what it means. One thing that I’ve noticed is that men are contributing to their community, they're producing something in the world, and they’re creating more than they consume. Boys are taking. They are in the world bumbling around and they aren’t producing a lot because they’re learning. But there comes a point for each boy when he starts being of service. Some stumble into that. Some are called in by elders. Very few of us are initiated into that by men who know what they’re doing and will put you through a set of challenges to test your character and then award you whatever manhood means, which honestly, a lot of the time is the respect of other men. 

Through all my twenties, I wondered if I was a man yet. Then in my thirties, I really started to feel like I figured out my inner world and to express that unabashedly. I felt I had the respect of men and women, and that I was contributing to the world. The day I hired my first employee, I felt, wow, we’re creating the ability to pay rent for another person! The mark of the initiated man is when he is in service to others and that he’s creating something. 

I also feel like being a man is being loyal to a code and having integrity, accountability, and honesty. Some guys never grow up. They stay stuck in boyhood and that is what we’re dealing with in society right now.

How do we teach that?

How do we not wait until those people have children and hope the behavior changes; how do we make the changes now?

Obviously, a multi-faceted approach is needed from both angles. We need boys who are actually raised by their fathers. Men need to do their work. They need to learn how to come together in circles with other men and—this is my mission in the world right now—stand on mountaintops preaching how men need to come together to be better. How do we support each other in being better men, openly and vulnerable? Let’s figure out relationships, guys! Let’s figure out how to be with women in a way where we’re not taking our anger out on them, where there is a balance and we’re honoring the feminine. Men need to understand what the masculine is, the grounded and healthy masculine, and not what my grandpa thought masculinity was. And they need to practice doing that work together and get into their masculine energy without being afraid of it. Out of those circles come healthy, grounded men who can be in a relationship and be good fathers. Men groups need to be as common as yoga studies but I think people are afraid of that.

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Why would people be afraid of that?

I think there are people who think that whenever men gather in groups it’s to take power in the world and to exploit it because many men have done that in the past. There’s nothing to be afraid of. And let’s be honest, men are gathering in hockey teams and pubs. A lot of the places they gather, it’s pretty surface level. It’s just a distraction. Guys are spending time together in a very diluted way. They spend time together but their relationships aren’t high-value.

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If you demonize men or masculinity, you can’t lead any men into your movement unless they’re super subservient.

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A guy who just says yes to everything, to me, isn’t a man.

How can women include men in the feminist movement?

Honor and uplift the men who are exemplary of what you want in the world. There are lots of good men. I know there is a faction of feminists who will say to my last comment: no, we won’t applaud men for doing what they should do. But what I’m speaking about is beyond basics. I want to talk about what a conscious warrior looks like? What is the ideal? What is the code of the samurai? What does it mean to be an honorable man? 

The feminist movement can empower those men to duplicate themselves and make other men like them. We need to look at each other and evolve together. In my men’s group, we’re constantly pushing each other up. We have to stop demonizing men, in general. If you demonize men or masculinity, you can’t lead any men into your movement unless they’re super subservient. A guy who just says yes to everything, to me, isn’t a man.

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When men are unhealed with the feminine, they do one of two things...

As we advocate for gender equality, what do you foresee as some challenges?

I think the main challenge is seeking equality of outcome in every way. Some outcomes should be equal, if you have a woman and a man in the same position in a job, they should be paid the same, and other extrapolations of that. But, not all things should be equal. I don’t believe in trying to level the playing field so all outcomes come out the same. That’s a social-engineering thing. You’re trying to take nature and stuff it into this perfect box. That can’t be the goal. We have to figure out what’s acceptable inequality. There needs to be some of that preserved in the system. Women should be allowed to choose certain careers or go places and not feel inhibited by some social structure that’s intrusive. I don’t have a specific way of saying this and I haven’t figured it out yet.

I don’t believe gender equality is about women doing the same as men. It means that women have the freedom and opportunity to do an exceptional job at being women, which means doing things differently. So, we can’t really weigh our scale of equality by what men do and what women do that’s similar, instead, it should be about examining whether or not they can fully express themselves as individuals within the thing they are doing. 

As much as women are now being set free from being “the other” in relation to man, man is also being set free from leaning against women as the opposition of his identity. In her book, The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir asks, what is a woman if simply not a man? Men must also begin to ask this question.

Yes. We definitely need more female CEOs. Leading people is not exclusively a man’s job. Let’s look at firemen, for instance. There should not be a 50/50 hiring policy at fire halls because we know that men are simply better at carrying bodies out of buildings than women are. The purpose of that job is to save people. Women need to be OK with that. 

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When you hear the term “toxic masculinity,” is that language serving to divide us or is it necessary to bring attention to behaviours specifically by men that need to be corrected?

I don’t know why we don’t just call it douchiness or douchebaggery. I’m curious about the origin of the word. Whoever created it, I’d like to ask, is it in reference to masculinity being toxic or is it rude, male behaviors and men feeling entitled to take what they want in the world or take advantage of women? 

I’m part of some men’s groups and whenever the term toxic masculinity comes up, the pushback is that being a man isn’t toxic. But that’s what everyone is hearing. People are asking if masculinity is toxic? That’s not the intention. It’s unhealthy, male behavior that is problematic. 

There is a point to be made, which is that when men are unhealed with the feminine, they do one of two things: worship women as goddesses or see them as whores to be fucked. It’s a product of being hurt by your mother and not being given what you wanted, whether proper attunement or not enough love. How that translates if that you get an asshole or you get a man who grovels to women like a constant apology. Women don’t like either.

What moment in your life has had a profound impact to shape the man sitting in the bath right now?

The reason I’m in this bathtub is because I joined a men’s group three years ago. Before that, I wouldn’t have known how to have this conversation with you. What is masculinity as opposed to femininity? Do only men have it? Some of those basic things I wouldn’t have known. Just to have the security to say these things with confidence with you and know what I believe, it’s such a simple thing. Three hours, once a week, consistently, the same group of guys and a high level of commitment to showing up. Loyalty. We go therapy-deep because we have a bond and that has totally changed how I operate in a relationship and how I’m going to be a father.

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Using someone for sex is never glorified among good men.

If you were to draw a line between the man you were before the men’s group and the man you are now, what is the biggest difference?

I know what I want now. I more directly claim what I want in life. I am more present and tuned into my body and other people. I’m able to look a woman in the eye and not be afraid of her, because I actually was. Women represent the divine feminine to men and the divine feminine is no joke. It will swallow you whole.

It is nature.

Exactly. Because I had this type of fear in me, when I looked into a woman’s eyes I was always thinking that I could be swallowed whole by her. It would be paralyzing and it would dictate how I behaved. Now, I just revere it. I enjoy being in that.

How do you speak to other men in your life about women?

It’s an interesting question and I get it. A lot of guys talk poorly about women and objectify them, and they do that when they aren’t healed. Now, I’m almost baffled at the question. I talk about women as I would any other person. In my men’s group, we won’t talk about women, though. We talk about relationships but we also point him back at his own work and not how to manipulate his partner. We will call a man to sort out what he really wants because a lot of time he will try to please her and hasn’t given himself the time and respect to figure it out himself.

It sounds like it’s all about circling back to working on self. Are there any misunderstandings between men as to what is appropriate to talk about?

Yeah. One of the things that I think is surprising to guys is that we talk about sex in a way that is part of life and relationship and that it should be celebrated. Using someone for sex is never glorified among good men. Many men have done that. We’ve all sold out. Men and women, we’ve all sold out in some capacity for sex. 

We do an exercise called sexual boasting. We get a guy to stand in front of the group and tell a glory story, and what you would assume happens in these circles is really raunchy, one-sided encounters where the guy is taking from the woman and it’s like porn. 

What actually comes out is very two-sided, hilarious stories of people being caught. There is equality in the stories. We do that because it’s healing. We’re also healing how we see sex. It gets shoved off to the side in our culture and we hear about all of these bad things happening in the shadows but the more we push it into the shadows, the more bad stuff happens. What we’re doing is bringing it out into the light and it’s healing to do that, to just tell your story and have people laugh with you.

Ducky

Healing seems to be a collaborative effort that begins with individual work.

My biggest fear was that this would be a fight rather than a collaboration. Between men and women, in general, as long as it’s a fight neither side will win. We’re just wasting time and energy fighting each other instead of focusing on where we would like to go. That’s my biggest problem with a lot of the dialogue around equality is that no one can really say where we’re going. We should want expressions of the divine masculine and the divine feminine flowing through people. Men and women standing together for truth and respect. Honoring each other. I don’t think it’s going to come from women screaming: HONOR US. If someone does that, my instinct is to run in the other direction. I’m not being called forward by that.

Why did you say yes to doing this?

Well, it’s different. I appreciate that. I saw what you’ve created so far and I like the angle. I really do like to take baths. I want the things that I said to be heard. I want to talk more about who we can be and where we are going rather than who we need to take down. And I want your voice to be heard so I wanted to support your project.

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