Men Who Take Baths

Joshua Seinen

Vancouver, 2019
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The first time I took mushrooms was a giant reset.

I love this. I need to do this more. I haven’t had a bath in 25 years.

What an epic way to reintroduce bathing. Being recorded, answering questions about masculinity, getting photographed.

It’s what we want.

Thanks for saying yes.

Thanks for offering me the chance to say yes.

Why did you say yes?

I said yes because I think this is an opportunity to stretch and grow. To see how I react in an uncomfortable scenario where I’m only just beginning to come into this set of eyes. Since we’ve known each other, you’ve sparked that light and it’s been a journey. How many months has it been since we met?

We had a phone call around Christmas, 2018?

Yeah. And since then, there have been two or three deaths of ego. I’ve been going through some demons the last little bit. Depression sneaking up and creating challenges. I looked at this opportunity and engagement as a way to be completely vulnerable because there are no walls. It’s a bookend. A chapter that’s both done and beginning.

[I'm] coming from a place where hyper-masculinity was a really big thing and trying to deal with what that looked like, and exploring my own sexuality. I thought it would be really interesting to put myself in a position where I know that people I love and care about will see this, and their view of me might change. I don’t fucking care. I want them to be uncomfortable, angry, or upset. Say that I’m faking it or trying to get attention. Say this is ridiculous! It’s about engaging in dialogue even if it’s coming from a place of disagreement. I can’t handle homophobia or sexism, but where I come from and the beginning guts of who I am were built on those principles, whether or not they’d admit it.

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What do you mean by that?

You wear tight pants in a small town up North and you’ll get called a faggot. That should say enough. Two males can’t have public displays of affection. Faggot. Gay. Homo. It makes it impossible for young men to be able to have proper engagement with each other with all that chest-pounding, whose truck is bigger, how many women have you fucked, how many beers can you slam bullshit. It’s meaningless. What is that going to do? That’s the stuff I’m trying to fight. I want people to wake up.

I called my friend and said: I think I’m about to do mushrooms for the first time.

What has had a profound impact on you that would get you here, in the bath?

The first time I took mushrooms was a giant reset and a complete “accident.” I put that in air-quotes because my best friend had given me some chocolate and I was a young kid who knew nothing about that type of stuff. I hadn’t even explored the idea of it. It was my best friend and a person I was seeing. After an hour, I was like, man I can’t feel anything. I took more and saw my first-ever tracer. That tracer got the hairs on my neck to stand up. I was suddenly very aware of what was going on.

Explain what a tracer is for people who might not have experienced something like that.

It’s light. It’s light following your eye motion. It’s like light is following the direction you’re looking and it streaks your vision. Doing that, and then having essentially all of these senses wake up that I didn’t know, was a big thing. My buddy kept saying, I think it’s weed chocolates? I asked what the guy had said to him when he bought them and he said, “Oompa-Loompa Chocolates.” I’m like, these are not weed chocolates. So, I called my friend and said: I think I’m about to do mushrooms for the first time and I’ve never done this.

And by “I think I’m about to do mushrooms” you meant, they were in your system already!?

They were in my system and I didn’t like doing things in the unknown. I’m a control freak. Well, I was a control freak. I remember making that call and my friend said I was going to have an awesome time and I just had to let it take me on a ride and not to overthink it. I put the phone down and then I became a wild animal.

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I could see the person I am now.

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It was the complete eradication of everything I had ever known of myself and the way the world works—at least, how we’re told it works.

I essentially started jumping on things and listening intently. Doing a half-sit as a dog would do in attention-mode. Looking at everything. Running. Sprinting for blocks. I climbed trees. I ended up in a park, sat down, and watched a pink cloud in the sky that carried every decision I have ever made. There was a relationship between everything. I could see the person I am now. I was able to travel backward and see the implications of the choices and people in my life. I could see why and what part they played. It was the complete eradication of everything I had ever known of myself and the way the world works—at least, how we’re told it works.

The next most profound moment was with the woman I had been seeing. She made a statement that she was really tired of men trying to look into her soul every time she walked down the street. And I asked what that meant. She told me people are constantly trying to eye-fuck her. She didn’t want it. It wasn’t invited. And I thought: I’m guilty of that. I’ve done that. 

From that moment on, I stopped. I think we’re all kind of conditioned to be awkward when we want something. I had been like, hey you, yeah you, I want you, don’t look away, acknowledge what I’m doing! Thinking about that now, it’s the most fucked up thing ever. I’m looking at you as a sexual object and somehow I think you should thank me for that attention? Wrong.

How are you navigating being a man now?

Call me a man or a woman, whatever. I’m trying to be good. I’m trying to understand that if anything I do needs justification, it’s probably not something I should be doing. I know you live by “fuck yes” or “fuck no,” but mine is: am I going to have to make excuses for why I did this? Am I going to be left trying to justify it to myself? 

Now, the things I’m trying to do and the conversations I’m trying to have are changing. I’ve gone on a couple of dates and I don’t want to make the first move. I’m trying to be a bringer of consent and sometimes that’s not what the other party is looking for. They want a violent kiss. Sometimes they want to be pushed up against a wall. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

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Consent is a tough conversation for a lot of people because you have to be confident in yourself.

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

A lot of the circles I’m in right now aren’t big on this whole idea.

What’s "this whole idea?"

They have been raised to think that women can’t have their cake and eat it too. The reprogramming I’m doing and the conversations that are happening are more along the lines of reshaping their masculinity rather than reshaping their view of femininity or women.

In my experience, I would like to think the people I’m around will reshape and rethink what’s going on. If someone says something inflammatory, like a comment I heard the other day that men have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to be big, strong protectors. So the man who has evolved in that way comes home from the hunt all pumped up and wants to fuck, and he’s not going to ask for permission? Are you kidding me? We’re better than that. We’re complex beings. You’re not crawling around in the mud to get something to feed your family. You’re not! You aren’t trying to survive. It’s time to change. Perform some god damn cognitive behavior therapy and think about what it means to be a person today. We are the masters of our own domain and we need to take responsibility and ownership of that.

I love the way you mentioned that men aren’t necessarily talking about reframing their views of women but instead reframing their views of masculinity. I often ask how women can include men in the feminist movement, which inspires a lot of varied answers and thoughts.

It’s about being included in the conversation, and women getting curious about what kind of conditions that man grew up in. Were they ever pulled aside by their father and asked, have you had sex yet? What’s your problem? Are you gay? All of a sudden there are traumatic experiences that stem from that one instance, like, the idea that being gay is a bad thing. The conversation comes back to the need to question what we’ve been taught. What was your question again? Did I answer it?

Yes. You did.

It’s a dialogue a lot of people have never thought about having. There needs to be a jolt. Some people, like myself, can handle a slap across the face. Other people need a little nudge or a little tap a couple of times to get them to see the full picture.

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How do we raise boys into men who view women as equal?

It’s seeing women in positions of leadership and equal partnerships. Conversations between people having children should be happening calmly, with critical thinking introduced at a young age. My mom made us really understand that if we got upset about something we needed to break it down so she could understand. My dad would be gone. He wasn’t around very much. She was in an alpha position until he got back. I was introduced to a very strong woman very early in my life. 

What happened when your dad came home?

He worked hard. He didn’t have a lot of energy and he would go to the couch. Love the guy but he just broke himself. He worked way too hard and did some silly things while out there. Drank a little too much, maybe. The typical man’s-man, but sensitive, and the youngest of seven. The best things I got from him was the sensitivity and respect for life.

As to how we get young boys to view women as equal? Don’t corner them into how to feel. Introduce them to things that require a softer touch. It will normalize it. Do you want to wear a dress? Sure! It’s airy. You’ll love it. 

The blue or pink baby showers have to go. Where is that coming from? Is pink love—a soft, approachable thing? Women aren’t always pink and soft. I know women who are deep red. They’re strong. They will fuck shit up. Set that free! Own that! Put them in positions—no, enable them to put themselves in positions of power. Did you hear that patriarchal bullshit that just came out of my mouth?

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The blue or pink baby showers have to go.

You caught yourself.

I caught myself. That’s all part of it. The way we speak, “let’s put them in positions.” We’re not better than you. We don’t think things through as much as we should. We’re reactionary. That’s a pretty big realization. When you pull yourself back and really get to it, it starts when the kids are born. Let’s go androgynous all the way. Be respectful. Don’t freak out. In the end, we’re stardust.

Finally, when you talk about sex, it’s not about asking her for something until she says no, and it’s not about getting in her face so she doesn’t forget you. If a person says no, you have no reason to get offended or butthurt. The world is a big place.

There are a lot of butts.

There are a lot of butts.