Recently I had the distinct displeasure of reading a piece in Harper’s Bazaar on why men have no friends.
I suppose I should be happy about the article.
Annoying rhetoric and condescension aside, it does bring awareness to the very real lack of male friendship these days.
Basically — it argues as a result of this tragedy, women have become emotional dumping grounds for men… a role which they hate.
And that accordingly men need to reestablish bonds with other men in spaces that don’t include women.
Those of you who follow me know this isn’t any news to me.
I create these “safe spaces” with my clients, and am doing my part to cultivate communities where men can talk about male issues, exploring their trauma as well as their masculinity (more on this later).
But as usual with these mainstream think pieces, it elides both the cause of this epidemic and the heart of the issue.
Let me explain why.
Women Bear The Burden of Friendless Males, But They Also Caused It
I consider the gender wars not only wrong-spirited, but pointless. Nobody wins when we fight each other.
But even my relative moderatism was irked by the theme of this article that women are the primary victims of the dearth of male camaraderie.
The truth is I have seen women police male-only gatherings in countless relationships.
They don’t like to be excluded, and will nag their boyfriends and husbands about going off and doing things with just other men.
How do I know?
Because unlike the vast majority of men I’ve met through normal channels, I make a distinct effort to do things only with guys.
Not because I don’t enjoy hanging out with women. I do things with mixed-groups too, and have so much fun at these events.
But there is special dynamic when only men are together, and when I want that dynamic I don’t want women involved.
Unfortunately, many of these guys — though they also would like to have this space — lack the fortitude to resist the nagging of their women.
Which means that even if these girlfriends and wives “allow” their men to go off, the periods are brief, and frequently interrupted by “check ins.”
(Often men only have this opportunity when the woman is otherwise occupied)
So sure… women are emotionally burdened by men who lack male friends today.
But it only becomes a “burden” for them when they’re no longer attracted to their male partner and don’t want to spend time with him.
Which — surprise, surprise — is because these men did exactly as they were socialized by women to be: excessively vulnerable and responsive to the every requirement of their partners.
So on a micro-level, I don’t want to hear it — women have brought about exactly the behavior they’ve come to resent.
And not only on a micro-level but a macro one.
Women at every turn these last few decades have tried to collectively invade and disintegrate male social spaces.
I am a member of The St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia — a society founded in the 1700s for individuals with Scottish heritage.
Like many similar organizations, there are branches around the country — including one where I currently live, in New York.
Sadly, like many similar organizations, most of these old-school communities are failing.
The Philadelphia branch.
It’s thriving — to the point where there is a waitlist for members to get in.
Unlike the others, it is a male-only organization.
Now, I know many of you (especially female) readers got a jolt upon seeing that.
How is it fair that this organization can restrict women? Isn’t that sexist?
That’s certainly the opinion of many women who have wanted to join the organization for years.
But pause and remember the theme of this article… and ask yourself why it is OK or even encouraged for there to be explicitly women-only groups, yet it is a problem for men to do the same.
I can tell you from experience within that there isn’t some conspiracy inside to keep women down.
We just don’t want you there.
It is refreshing as a man to be surrounded only by other men.
Men and women act differently when they are around each other.
There is a reason throughout history that spaces have been exclusive to both sexes… and while some of it undoubtably was gatekeeping or discrimination, this has never been the full picture.
Currently I can only think of two spaces today where men really have a male-only environment — sports teams and fraternities— and in the case of the former, it is only because of the physical differences between men and women make integration impossible.
Moreover, both are regularly under attack for their “toxic cultures” — especially the latter. There is a society-wide push to eliminate fraternities.
Meanwhile business, social, and even military organizations are being integrated.
Literally every space where “boys can be boys” is disappearing.
Now, you can say this is necessary in the name of “progress”… and certainly sexual integration is not a black and white issue.
(I am well aware that women not being included in some groups impedes their advancement)
But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t demand the removal of male spaces and then complain that men are weak and needy because they don’t have them.
And perhaps even more importantly, you can’t presume to police what goes on in those spaces — because if you are not a man, you don’t have a clue.
Male Spaces Aren’t Only About Vulnerability
Let me tell you a bit about what happens when men get together.
In big groups, there’s a lot of riffing and busting on each other.
Lewd and crude jokes, arguments… and usually at some point wrestling.
Oh, and drinking.
(Sometimes lots of drinking)
Only then, usually, deep talk. Conversations about ideas, things we’ve recently learned. Discussions about dreams, things we’d like to do.
And if the trust is there (usually in smaller and more intimate groups), sharing of emotions and fears — problems we’ve struggled with in our marriages, our work, and in our relationship with ourselves and God.
Vulnerability comes in male spaces. But the purpose of male space isn’t to be an emotional dumping ground — least of all so women can benefit.
Men rarely if ever dump emotions on each other and only share such things after other aspects of the dynamic have been solidified.
This is what the author and so many women (and even emasculated men) don’t get.
Men don’t bond through sharing emotions.
They bond through sharing experiences.
It’s why a trip out into the woods for a weekend between men, most of which is spent hunting, chopping wood, fucking around with each other, etc. leads to closeness.
And it’s only via this closeness that emotions can be openly expressed.
Look, I work with men who don’t have an outlet for those emotions. And I am happy to provide it — it is essential for men, especially men who don’t have many male friends (sadly common today) or who have suffered past trauma.
But the natural way this stuff comes out between men isn’t just going to a group and being vulnerable.
Sure, this is better than nothing… but it removes a prior step — a step we’ve seen removed on the society-wide level with men.
The spirit of masculinity — the testing of a man by his environment and by other men.
There’s a reason that the most intimate male friendships come from periods of trial — growing up, college, business and of course combat.
It’s because you are experiencing new, often intense and sometimes life-threatening things together… and thus trust each other… and can start talking about the buried emotional things.
Male friendship is based on trust, and trust can only truly be earned through trial.
It’s why male friendships have a reputation for being true and loyal, unlike female friendships, and why betrayal is a much more unforgivable offense for men than women.
Good war movies resonate with men far more so than women because at their core, they are about trust between men — emotional vulnerability through physical vulnerability. It’s why it is usually prior to a great battle that soldiers tell their deepest, darkest secrets.
Men love these movies not because they love to kill, but because they love to fight with and for other men — and war is the purest distillation of this connection. We don’t romanticize the battle so much as the bond.
But you need not go to war to get an inkling of this.
You can develop these friendships with more benign trials.
But you must at least mimic the ritual for the bond to be real — which is why the best men’s groups always have retreats, preferably in nature (the original and best tester of man).
For it is through these trials that men make other men stronger by testing each others’ boundaries, and ultimately raising each other up.
Bullying is a toxic form of this, since it lacks the proper intention — rather than challenge other men to make them a stronger part of the group, it is designed to isolate and break them, eliminating any weak members.
But “healthy masculinity” does not remove this implicit challenge… otherwise it ceases to be masculinity at all.
Which is important, because a man who isn’t masculine is useless — a burden not only to women, but other men.
A great example of this is Samwell Tarley from Game of Thrones — a weak link many of the men wanted to bully out of the Night’s Watch, since he was unreliable and fearful — traits that make a man untrustworthy to other men.
And yet Sam was redeemed — not by being coddled, but by a healthy masculine challenge from his friends and Lord Commander Mormont. They affirmed in him that he could be useful, that they wanted to trust him — they challenged him to be better.
The result was he went from being a fat, cerebral coward to being a brave fighter in spite of his physical limitations.
This is the sort of masculinity I and many others believe in — a masculinity both men and women need.
Conclusions: Male Friendships and Greatness
I am not here to make a push for the elimination of mixed male and female spaces. I think it’s been a great development that women are able to enter professional clubs that used to be explicitly only for men. Moreover, hanging out in groups with men and women is fun.
But within these organizations there needs to exist sub-groups that allow men and women their respective spaces to engage only with each other.
And if men want to create on their own social organizations that cater only to men, women need to back off from them. There is no reason at this point in society that women cannot create their own social groups; indeed, look at meetup.com and you will see these in droves.
Men don’t care about what women do with each other, which is why you never see men attempt to infiltrate women’s groups.
But women care very much about what men do amongst themselves.
That needs to change if women ever want to date real men again.
Male-only time makes men stronger, more masculine, and provides an energy that carries over into healthier relationships with women. I have never met a woman who isn’t more attracted to her man after he has spent time with other men.
This is not just due to the temporary restriction of his attention, but the transformation that occurs within him.
And better male-female relations are hardly the only result of these spaces.
Because it’s only when men are allowed to bond together that great ideas come to fruition. Ambitious men who trust each other tend to hatch great plots… plots which sometimes change the world.
(It might make you wonder if there were other reasons to eliminate these spaces…)
But I digress.
The Bazaar article did get one thing right.
If you feel the need to be vulnerable, do it with a man.
A man like me.
Because I’ll not only provide you with the space to do it — for you to feel truly accepted…
But I’ll challenge you, like a man, to make your life better; to become stronger and more reliable.
And show you how to cultivate friendships with other men that matter.
Yes, my work is focused on your relationships with women. But in order to achieve that, we must also address your relationship with yourself.
And a key part of your relationship with yourself is your masculinity, which is connected to your ability to bond with other men.
If you want to learn all this and more, apply to work with me here.
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