Category: 2012 Spring

Playing Games with Gender Violence

Gaming by Fivel Rothberg   “Games can introduce a new paradigm of learning where students are producers, designers, innovators and masters of content to solve problems and deal with complexity.” —James Gee, educator and game advocate   Can playing games help to prevent gender violence? They certainly have “significant potential” to do so, according to the Population Media Center, the UN Population Fund and the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College. “When the GAME is your life, will you… BREAKAWAY?” is the opening title sequence to the educational game Breakaway which reveals little about the game’s intent. Part of a burgeoning trend in social issue games, Breakaway aims “to engage, educate, and change attitudes of boys between 8 and 15 to help end violence against girls and women” ( A worthwhile goal that misses the mark. Players begin gameplay with about 20 minutes worth of strictly guided instruction “click this button or that one, move this way or that way” and make very basic A or B choices. The story line is clear—you, the player, are trying out for a local soccer team, and there are clues that your sister wants in on the action. Yet, there is no sense that this is a game geared for either fun or to address gender until the player is asked to make a decision regarding the younger sister—who wants to stay...

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A Practical Guide to Yes Means Yes

Books by Jane Fleishman What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety by Jaclyn Friedman is a wonderful antidote to all the magazines that try to convince young, straight women that their “Six Tips to Please Your Man” will actually work. Friedman’s book takes a radically different tack: encouraging young women of all sexual orientations to discover and communicate their own sexual desires. Going far beyond most popular sex ed books, the book invites readers to dig deep to contemplate and articulate her feelings about her body, presenting numerous exercises. In the chapter “Shame, Blame, and Fear,” Friedman asks readers to list five things that are sexually taboo and five that they enjoy. Then, she urges, write a letter to someone who put you down and another to someone who valued you for who you are. She is most concerned about allowing women to be who they are without hurting anyone or allowing anyone to hurt them. As coeditor of the groundbreaking anthology, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (with Jessica Valenti), Friedman offers a sexual violence prevention perspective. The genesis of the new book came from a journalist who asked her: Given all the conflicting messages from the media, religion, school, family, friends, among others, how would any woman know what she wants to say...

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The Guy’s Guide to Feminism

S is for Sports, Not for Men Only by Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel The Guys Guide to Feminism (Seal Press, 2011) is a witty, politically savvy, entertaining primer on a topic many men still struggle with—how accepting feminism actually can improve guys’ lives. An A-Z guide, the book features facts, faux interviews, and history. The authors, both Voice Male national advisory board members, have been addressing issues related to men and masculinity for decades. Each has spoken at scores of colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada and are the authors of a number of books including The Possibility of Dreaming on a Night Without Stars (Kaufman) and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (Kimmel). Michael: I’m here today with Michael K. Michael: Hey man, great to be on your show again. Michael: You got pretty roughed up last week. Michael: (Grins) Just a scratch, man, just a scratch. (Cut to slow motion of Michael K getting totally creamed so audience can be dazzled by his toughness.) Michael: You’re one tough dude. Michael: Which is why you don’t see no women playing football. Michael: Wait a minute now, Michael. Where’re you coming from, dude? Michael: Planet Earth, man. I mean, why do men make more money playing sports than women? It’s because we’re more athletic. Michael: What would you say if I told you it’s...

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Living and Loving with Erectile Dysfunction

by “George” The issue of erectile dysfunction (ED) is too often an under-discussed topic among men. Men with erectile dysfunction often are ashamed, isolated and silent. In this brave first-person account of his decades-long experience with ED, “George” offers a moving story and pragmatic advice for both men and women. He notes that while “my article speaks solely of my experience in heterosexual relationships” he hopes others will share with Voice Male—and the greater men’s community—how ED affects gay and bi men. Twenty-five years ago I sought other “pregnant men” to share our hopes and fears about impending fatherhood. While there may have been some interested dads-to-be out there, I never found them. Fathering wasn’t “hot” then. It also wasn’t taboo. A decade later, though, when erectile dysfunction (ED) gradually began affecting me, I was totally on my own. I didn’t know anyone with the condition, had nowhere to go, and no one to ask for help. In retrospect my ED clues started at age 44, though I wasn’t sure then that something was wrong. Occasionally, I wondered – but was scared to do anything. Fortunately, I had learned from feminism—so central to my earlier men’s movement activism—to remember I wasn’t ruled by my penis. Sex should be holistic, I believed, not primarily defined by intercourse, or by my genitals. Emotionally, though, it was totally different. I wasn’t crushed,...

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What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest

“I see a time when the silence around childhood sexual abuse has ended. When everyone, whether unaware, touched, or ravaged by this devastation, can speak and be heard. A time where all victims, survivors, bystanders, abusers, families, communities and whole societies will find a way through this cycle of violence—a way through to a time when every child is protected from sexual harm and is nurtured into wholeness.” —Donna Jenson The power of healing trumps the anguish of pain. Although playwright-performer Donna Jenson might say it differently, her one-woman play, What She Knows—based on her experience surviving incest—does just that, shaping the raw clay of a childhood violated by a broken father and firing it in the white-hot oven of art. Her finished piece glows with the heat of injustice, cooled by a mountain stream of tears. Finally, it is polished smooth by love, self care and healing. Jenson’s hour-long play, which she has been performing for the last three years at conferences, colleges, and correctional facilities—even a school for young male sex offenders—is a dramatic doorway into a topic most people would rather keep shut. Jenson’s textured performance is all the more captivating because of its music: master guitarist John Sheldon, whose songs have been recorded by James Taylor, composed and sensitively performs a heart-stirring original score. What She Knows recounts the story of Francie, a young girl...

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Why Are Some Men Still Afraid of Feminism?

Men & Feminism by Michael Kaufman Giving Up is Hard to Do I am a strong believer that men gain a huge amount from feminism. It’s been a theme of my writing and public speaking for thirty years (including in my new book, co-written with Michael Kimmel, The Guy’s Guide to Feminism, see page 27). But, let’s face it, you don’t make omelets without cracking a few eggs. In this case, the eggs are the forms of power and privilege men have traditionally enjoyed: • In the past, we men only had to compete with half of humanity for most jobs. Now, we have to compete with all of humanity. • At night, men got to relax, go out with friends, or pursue our careers, sports or hobbies while our wives (even if they worked outside the home) did most childcare and domestic work. Now, we’re expected to do our fair share. • Some workplaces were straight out of locker rooms. Now, with sexist behavior challenged, for some men, work just isn’t as much fun. • No matter our personal abilities, society automatically valued us. Some religions said we were closer to God. We were automatically seen as stronger, more rational, and leaders. • In relationships we got cooked for, shopped for, cleaned up after, and emotionally stroked. • We could (if we so chose) have power in getting...

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The Invisible War: Exposing Rape in U.S. Military

Film by Sharon Waxman Rape in the American armed forces is an issue that has quietly been gathering attention over the past decade. But it exploded with the power of suppressed fury at the Sundance Film Festival in late January at a screening of the documentary The Invisible War, a devastating indictment of the government’s inaction on the issue. Director Kirby Dick brought a powerful weapon to his film: victim after eloquent victim, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, Army and Air Force veterans who were assaulted by fellow officers, supervisors or recruits. They tell their stories in courageous detail, and it quickly becomes clear that these are not isolated incidents but a pattern reflective of a widespread rot within America’s military institution, one that betrays its essential values. The film, which won the Audience Choice award for documentaries, has as principal characters, individuals who were among the best of their class. There were many to choose from. Although in some cases men, they were primarily women who joined the military out of devotion to country and a desire to serve. One Marine, Ariana Klay, was raped in Washington, D.C. by a fellow officer who was in the elite Marine Barracks. A Navy officer, Trina McDonald, was drugged and raped repeatedly by fellow officers on a remote base in Alaska. Coast Guard recruit Kori Cioca was raped and then assaulted— smacked...

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Sexual Assault: It’s War

Randy Ellison Not long ago I read an article headlined “Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped.” Victim blaming and offensive, it set up the equation ass backwards. If we make women responsible for not getting raped, must we then think they’re responsible for getting raped? It is high time we focus efforts on young men and boys, teaching respect of others and holding men accountable for their actions. The next night NBC Nightly News reported on a press conference by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on rape in the military. According to the story there were 3,191 reported cases of sexual assault in the military last year. Of those, only eight percent were prosecuted and two percent resulted in convictions. Based on their own studies they believe the number of sexual assaults in the military last year was closer to 19,000—more than 15,000 more! The numbers suggest a woman in the military is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than attacked by the enemy. It makes me wonder who the real enemy is. Secretary Panetta said he finds the situation unacceptable, and says he has a moral duty to keep people safe from attack by their fellow soldiers. What is his solution to alleviate the situation? A new policy, outlined below: • The military will allow the victim to transfer to another location •...

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What Kind of Man Am I?

Jason Sperber   The following is a list of stereotypical traits, interests, preoccupations, aptitudes, abilities, and roles, both silly and serious, trivial and not, historically associated and correlated with masculinity, manhood, and maleness via both societal mores and popular culture, which I, in my 37 years of life as a straight male, have totally and utterly failed to adopt, incorporate into myself, and live up to: I do not enjoy playing, either physically or via virtual statistics-based fantasy league, or watching, via televised broadcast or in person, sports, including but not limited to: football; basketball; golf; wrestling; boxing; hockey; bowling; NASCAR; tennis; bull riding; ultimate frisbee; curling; street luge; competitive rowing; and squash. I am not, and have never been, a “handy” or “D.I.Y.”-type person. I did not do my own kitchen remodeling or snake my own sewer line to unblock the tree roots which used to cause my toilet to overflow every winter. I will not be building my kids a handmade playhouse or wiring my own surround-sound system so as to avoid nail punctures and self electrocution. The last time I worked with tools to craft something with my own hands was my Pinewood Derby car when I was a Boy Scout, and even that was with my dad’s help. (Did I mention that he has a garage full of tools and table saws and whatnot and...

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Donna Jenson

Speaking Out about Staying Silent   When I was eight years old, I never knew which night my father would come into my room. When he was done with me, he’d always say, “You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.” Petrified and ashamed, believing his threat, I never told anybody. This secret stayed buried in a dirt pile at the back of my brain. For 40 years. But now I tell. I started telling a few years before each of my parents died. My silence had layers. The first layer was fear. The second got formed from believing it was somehow my fault; this wouldn’t happen to a “good” child. Another was shame for having come from a family that would abuse and not protect its children. In sexual assaults, there are victims, offenders and bystanders. Bystanders are those who know or suspect something is wrong. The late Coach Joe Paterno was our nation’s most famous bystander. If I could have spoken directly to him, I would have said, “Carpe diem, Coach Paterno! Seize the day. One hell of an opportunity lies before you. Step up to the microphones and the cameras; face those thousands of adoring Penn State students who are outraged at your being fired and say, ‘Stop worrying about me. I got fired because I didn’t do everything I could have to protect those boys. Because...

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Breaking the Silence on Sex Abuse

Interview with Randy Ellison The statistics are hard to ignore: one in six boys and one in three or four girls are sexually abused before they turn 18. An estimated 20 million male and 30 million females are victims of child sexual abuse; 80 percent of people being treated in residential alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers were abused as children; more than 90 percent of perpetrators are known by their victims and 30 percent are family members. Child sexual abuse is pervasive in our society, yet it’s often swept under the rug, hidden and ignored. Randy Ellison, an advocate for victims of child sex abuse, and himself a victim as a teenager, is trying to do something about it. “We can’t stop the cycle,” Ellison believes, “unless the abuse is acknowledged, talked about, understood and prevented.” Author of the new book, Boys Don’t Tell, he was interviewed by Best of You Today ( not long ago in an effort to shed some light on a topic still under-examined in society. A version of the interview appears below. Ellison, a victim’s advocate and activist for cultural change in the child sexual abuse arena, works with several organizations on abuse prevention and awareness in his home state of Oregon. BEST OF YOU TODAY: You say sexual abuse of children is actually accepted by the majority, the government and our institutions....

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White Ribbon Campaign

Men and Boys Creating a Culture of Nonviolence “From this day forward, I promise to be part of the solution in ending violence against women.” It was December 6, 1989. Angry that he’d failed to get into engineering school, a lone gunman strode into a lecture hall at the University of Montréal and murdered 14 women whom he blamed for his academic failure. A shock wave pulsed through every segment of Canadian society—from the classroom to the barroom. Two years later, challenged by the women in their lives to respond to all forms of men’s violence against women, three men—the late Jack Layton (see sidebar), Michael Kaufman, and Ron Sluser (with others)—launched the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) as a way for men to begin to take a stand against men’s violence against women. That first year, 1991, 100,000 wore ribbons across Canada. Today, the campaign has spread to at least 70 countries and several million men have signed pledges not to commit, condone, or remain silent in the face of domestic or sexual violence. At its heart an educational campaign, WRC is politically nonpartisan, seeking to reach a wide swath of men. Some serve as informal ambassadors spreading the word. In the U.S., the campaign has been growing in recent years in, among other places, Massachusetts. It is spearheaded there by the Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe Inc. (JDI),...

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“I Wish I Had Done More”

By Joe Ehrmann   The reflective and regretful six words uttered by the late Penn State Coach Joe Paterno—“I wish I had done more”—could very well summarize what each of the men indicted or fired at Penn State must be feeling for their role in not stopping a predatory coach from sexually victimizing young boys. Arguably, each of these men is a “good man.” But that’s part of the problem—it’s not enough to just be a “good man”—you have to engage in what is around you and become a man of action. An involved man’s voice and actions are in alignment with his moral and ethical beliefs. Moral courage enables us to stand up for what is right even if it means standing alone or risking rejection or negative consequences. As Edmund Burke stated—and the shameful inaction at Penn State illustrate—“all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Evil prevailed at Penn State due to an extreme lapse in moral courage. What keeps us from being conscious and courageous enough to protect the hearts, souls and bodies of children? How could it be that for more than 15 years, at least nine boys were sexually abused? I want to suggest three steps to demand accountability for the safety and protection of every child everywhere and to help good men and women become...

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Women Supporting Men Supporting Men

By Frederick Marx   I believe men need to enroll women in the work of supporting men’s growth. Men also need to help women understand how growing and healing men—how empathizing with and understanding men—better serves them. In fact, it better serves women and children and other men, too; it serves all of us. Consequently, nothing frustrates me more than hearing women deride the work that men do to heal themselves. It’s completely self-defeating. I served for a year as unpaid center director for the Northern California ManKind Project community in 1999 ( I took a call once from a woman who was concerned about her husband coming to our weekend workshop. It was bad enough the man hadn’t made an empowered decision on his own to do—or not do—the weekend. He referred his wife to me so I could convince her that it was okay for him to do it. (That alone, I thought, was enough to make him a prime candidate for our work.) But instead of talking with him I spent about a half hour on the phone with his wife. I answered every question she had, addressing her every concern about the weekend. But rather than be relieved and grow calmer, she seemed to become more agitated. Finally, I realized she was going to find some reason to object to our work no matter what....

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Spring 2012 Edition

Breaking the Silence on Sex Abuse Manhood After Penn State White Ribbon’s Culture of Peace Living and Loving with E.D. What Kind of Man Am I? Still Afraid of Feminism?   Features White Ribbon Campaign: Men and Boys Creating a Culture of Nonviolence Rob Okun I Wish I Had Done More Joe Ehrmann Breaking the Silence on Sex Abuse Interview with Randy Ellison Redefining Manhood After Penn State Rob Okun Speaking Out about Staying Silent Donna Jenson What Kind of Man Am I? Jason Sperber Women Supporting Men Supporting Men Frederick Marx Sexual Assault: It’s War Randy Ellison Columns...

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Where Are Men’s Voices in the Fight for Women’s Health?

Now that the public outcry has died down over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s ill-advised decision to defund Planned Parenthood (within days they reversed themselves after a blistering protest) there’s time to consider men’s role in the controversy. As a group, caring men were silent, ceding public discourse to the same intrusive men who have long tried to control women’s reproductive lives; men who, in seeking to destroy Planned Parenthood, politicized breast health. Yes, women were major actors in this story, especially including senior management at the Komen Foundation. But men’s fingerprints have long been all over women’s health issues. To me it’s manly to speak out on behalf of our sisters and mothers, wives and daughters. Too much is at stake for men to stand mute while sideline blowhards go after the women in our lives—first their ovaries, then their mammary glands. Consider the politics of the situation—right, left, center, who isn’t in favor of breast health? In case anyone thinks men are immune: we get breast cancer, too. My wife’s cousin, David, was diagnosed three years ago. (See “My Father’s Breast Cancer,” Fall 2011.) It’s in men’s interest to acknowledge these are community issues, not women’s issues. Last summer my wife and I joined our cousin for seven of the 60 miles he walked into Boston to raise money for the Komen foundation. It was...

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Redefining Manhood After Penn State  

Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach who died in January just three months after a child rape scandal had stained his reputation, left behind more than a flock of adoring fans and a growing band of critics. His legacy now includes inadvertently energizing the movement to stop the sexual abuse of children. There’s more. That the heinous actions that came to light took place in the athletic world also offers a rare, national opportunity to raise questions about the culture of sports and the silence of men. Paterno did the bare minimum, reporting only one rung up the chain of command what was reported to him about his longtime assistant, Jerry Sandusky—seen raping a 10-year-old boy in a university athletic department shower. While legally in the clear, morally Paterno missed the goal by a wide margin. No points scored and a lifetime penalty. His silence was deafening. How much more did that eat at him than did the lung cancer officially cited as the cause of his death? Although officials could have done much more, by firing Coach “JoePa” (who, it was reported, planned to retire at the end of the season), the university changed the rules of the game: No longer would hush-hush trump sound the alarm. Going forward, the precedent now is: a bystander who doesn’t try to intervene, who doesn’t try to stop an act...

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