The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture: men* increasing their capacity to nurture, and becoming whole.

The Ghomeshi trial is back in the news, and it brings violent sexual assault back into people’s minds and daily conversations. Of course violence is wrong, even when the court system for handling it is a disaster. That part seems evident. Triggering, but evident.

But there is a bigger picture here. I am struggling to see the full shape emerging in the pencil rubbing, when only parts are visible at a time.

A meme going around says ‘Rape is about violence, not sex. If someone were to hit you with a spade, you wouldn’t call it gardening.’ And this is true. But it is just the surface of the truth. The depths say something more, something about violence.

Violence is nurturance turned backwards.

These things are connected, they must be connected. Violence and nurturance are two sides of the same coin. I struggle to understand this even as I write it.

Compassion for self and compassion for others grow together and are connected; this means that men finding and recuperating the lost parts of themselves will heal everyone. If a lot of men grow up learning not to love their true selves, learning that their own healthy attachment needs (emotional safety, nurturance, connection, love, trust) are weak and wrong – that anyone’s attachment, or emotional safety, needs are weak and wrong – this can lead to two things.

1. They may be less able to experience women as whole people with intelligible needs and feelings (for autonomy, for emotional safety, for attunement, for trust).

2. They may be less able to make sense of their own needs for connection, transmuting them instead into distorted but more socially mirrored forms.

To heal rape culture, then, men build masculine nurturance skills: nurturance and recuperation of their true selves, and nurturance of the people of all genders around them.

I am discovering a secret, slowly: the men I know who are exceptionally nurturing lovers, fathers, coworkers, close friends to their friends, who know how to make people feel safe, have almost no outlets through which to learn or share this hardwon skill with other men. They may have had a role model at home, if they are lucky, in the form of an exceptionally nurturing father, but if they do not have this model they have had to figure everything out through trial and error, alone, or by learning with women rather than men. This knowledge shapes everything: assumptions about the significance of needs, how one ought to respond to them, what closeness feels like, how to love your own soul, and what kind of nurturance is actually meant to happen in intimate space.

Meanwhile, the men I know who are kind, goodhearted people, but who are earlier on in growing into their own models for self-love and learning how to comfort and nurture others, have no men to ask. Growing entails growing pains, certainly, but the way can be smoothed when one does not have to learn everything alone.

Men do not talk to one another about nurturance skills: doing so feels too intimate, or the codes of masculinity make doing so too frightening. If they can’t ask and teach each other – if they can’t even find out which other men in their lives would welcome these conversations – then how do they learn?

Men have capacities to heal that are particularly masculine and particularly healing. They often are not fully aware of this deep gift and how helpful it can be for those close to them, whether family or close friends.

To completely transform this culture of misogyny, then, men must do more than ‘not assault.’ We must call on masculinity to become whole and nurturing of self and others, to recognize that attachment needs are healthy and normal and not ‘female,’ and thus to expect of men to heal themselves and others the same way we expect women to ‘be nurturers.’ It is time men recognize and nurture their own healing gifts.

In Ursula K. Leguin’s book Gifts, an entire culture lives by the rule of what they call ‘gifts’ – powers to do harm – possessed by certain of its members. Some families possess gifts of Unmaking, where they can turn a farmer’s field into a blackened waste or a puppy into a sack of dissolved flesh. Some possess the ability to create a wasting illness, or blindness, or the gift of calling animals to the hunt.

By the book’s end, the child at its centre has struggled, against all signs in his culture, to realize something profound and fundamental. The gift they call Unmaking is actually a gift of Making, turned backwards upon itself and rendered unthinkingly into a weapon. The gift of calling animals is turned into a way to hunt them, when it is meant to let humans understand animals and live in balance with them. The wasting disease is the backwards use of a gift of healing illness and old age. He finally asks his best friend and closest confidant: what if we are using our gifts backwards? To harm instead of to help? What if they were meant to be used the other way around?

Nothing in the boy’s culture would tell him this is so. His entire society has been built around fear of these gifts used as weapons. Yet he has seen his father use the gift of Unmaking ‘in reverse’ to gently undo a knot or mend a creaking gate. His best friend’s gift of calling animals also gives her an aversion to hunting them, an aversion she must overrule in herself to meet her culture’s expectations. These images knock on the door of his mind until he makes sense of them; he has to struggle to see the truth without a single signpost or mentor to help him find this knowledge. Nothing in his world reflects this reality back to him, and yet it is real. He at first can hardly believe it or understand it.

Something odd happens when you google ‘man comforting a woman.’ Many of the top hits, as I write this, are about women comforting men. The ‘suggested search’ terms too: ‘how to comfort a guy, how to comfort a man when he’s stressed, how to comfort a guy when he’s upset.’ Apparently lots and lots of people on planet earth are googling how to comfort men… and fewer are googling how to comfort women. Strange, isn’t it, since this culture views women as ‘the emotional ones’ and men as the strong ones. Perhaps something is a bit backwards here.

I tried to find an image that would capture the way men have actually comforted me, which for me is the most intimate image of holding me in their arms, skin on skin like a young baby, rocking or singing, letting me be at my most vulnerable, held safe. There when needed, when it matters. I could find only one image that looked remotely like the real thing.

Could it be that a lot of men have no models for how to nurture, comfort, soothe, and thus strengthen people they care about? If you happen to not have a highly nurturing model at home, where would you learn how to nurture? A top search hit is a bewildered humour piece about how utterly terrifying and confusing it is when a woman cries and about how men have no idea what to do. Could it be that the things that come naturally to many of us – hold the person, look at them with loving, accepting eyes, bring them food, hot tea, or medicine – that these are unfamiliar terrain for some, can’t even be imagined, let alone acted on consistently?

These things seem connected to me. And here is where my friend Rebekah, a drama therapist, comes in, who one day handed me the books Hold Me Tight and A General Theory of Love, and blew my mind. This is where attachment theory comes in. Bear with me, as this takes a little background knowledge – a quick summary of these books – before I can go on.

Attachment theory: cutting edge neuroscience

According to Hold Me Tight and A General Theory of Love, current advancements in neuroscience have completely transformed understandings of human relationships, from birth to death. What used to be called Freud’s ‘unconscious’ is actually located in the body, in a knowable place. Specific understandings of how the limbic brain work have replaced old ideas about love as a ‘mystery.’

Apparently about 50 percent of the population, people of all genders, have a secure attachment style: they were raised by responsive, attuned parents, who recognized their need to go out and explore as well as their need to come back and be comforted, and responded in a timely, attuned way to both. According to A General Theory of Love, this experience of attunement – having all their developmental needs met by attuned parents – literally shapes their limbic brain.

These folks as adults find closeness comfortable and enjoyable, they easily desire intimacy, and they know how to create a secure attachment bond in which autonomy naturally emerges and daily nurturance is the norm. This shapes the brain in material, physiological ways. This is how you build secure attachment: through daily attunement to the subtle cues of other people, and lavishing love and care while letting them come and go as needed. In this kind of connection, you know your home base is always there for you, so you feel comfortable going out into the world, taking risks, trying new or scary things, because you can return to safe arms when you need to.

Securely attached people know how to comfort and be there for one another when they need each other, and so they naturally know how to create healthy autonomy and healthy intimacy, which emerge in balance as they get comfortable with one another and create trust. Securely attached people are comfortable being vulnerable; they have had positive experiences of trust. There can be no joy of trust without the risk of vulnerability, letting your true self show and experiencing others catching you, mirroring you, liking you, and letting you go, when you are all there, visible, open.

Just like the first time you walk on ice or sit on a new chair, at first your muscles are clenched, waiting to see if the ground under you is secure or about to fall away. If the ice has always been solid, or you have never had a chair break under your weight, you may assume that you can relax quickly into your seat, or head out onto the ice and skate. You have no reason to think otherwise. If, however, you have had a chair break under you, you may think hard about sitting down again, and may take longer to relax into the secure base. If the chair has never been there for you at all, you may decide you simply don’t need chairs and prefer to stand. These are insecure attachment styles.

Secure, Anxious, Avoidant 

Attachment science also has learned that about 50% of the population has an insecure attachment style; this breaks down into about 23% anxious and 25% avoidant styles, which are apparently both physiologically insecure styles, but look and feel different on the surface. The avoidant style breaks down further, into anxious-avoidant and dismissive-avoidant styles. A very small percent of the population, around 3%, has a style called ‘disorganized‘ which is a mix of the other styles.

People with an anxious attachment style actively seek closeness and are afraid of losing it, and have a harder time trusting and knowing their partner will be there for them. The chair may have broken for them many times, or in a formative early relationship that was significant. Their limbic brains and entire autonomic nervous system is built differently than those with secure styles. They need extra reassurance and comfort to get secure and enjoy lots of closeness, especially with a new trust figure – though they have the same need for autonomy as anyone else, and it emerges as they become secure. They engage in ‘protest behaviour,’ i.e become upset, to try to seek closeness if they cannot receive it by asking directly. However, once they are secure and feel safe, they become exceptionally loyal and loving nurturers and feel immense gratitude and loyalty to those who give them this safety.

People with a preoccupied-avoidant style crave closeness but are afraid to show it, and will show it instead through sulking or silence, hoping their partner will guess. They can come to name their needs with a secure loving partner, but will struggle to do so.

People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style also have a need for intimacy – every mammal has this need hardwired in our limbic brains – but at a very early age they complete a transition to a belief that they are autonomous and do not feel their need for intimacy. They decide if the chair isn’t going to be there, they will just stand, thank you very much. They can come to open up and become secure as they come to recognize their distorted beliefs about intimacy, but they need lots of time, space, and compassion about how difficult this is for them.

Having thoroughly repressed their attachment needs, these folks may have learned to act ‘fine’ at a very young age in order to keep a dismissive attachment figure close, or may have learned to create constant nonverbal barriers in order to keep an unattuned, invasive or dismissive attachment figure at arm’s length. They may feel suffocated or trapped when people get too close, and will unconsciously and involuntarily use ‘deactivating strategies’ – body language and facial expressions – to tell even their most intimate people to ‘back up’ even in the most intimate moments.

In other words, the nonverbal cues that other people use with strangers on the subway to maintain distance are the daily communication that dismissive-avoidant attachers use with their closest family members, often without even understanding they are doing it, which may feel very confusing both to them and to those close to them. They may feel that no matter how hard they try, those who depend on them never get reassured. They may blame this on the other person and call them ‘needy’ without ever realizing the nonverbal distancing cues preventing secure attachment that are leading to the signs of ‘neediness’ in the other person.

Nurturance, the literature teaches us, recognizes and responds appropriately, in an alive, moving dance, to the other person’s need for intimacy and need for space, learning how to engage in nonverbal limbic communication that comforts, reassures, and breathes. In addition to talking openly and honestly, the quality of care that creates a feeling of safety happens in a moment-by-moment way through mainly nonverbal cues. The limbic brain does not use language but reads the small muscles around the eyes, the set of shoulders, the breathing, the posture, of other people.

‘Earned Secure’ attachment: where nurturance creates growth

It is possible to change your attachment style by creating an ‘earned secure’ attachment as an adult. It is possible to create an ‘earned secure’ attachment between two insecure attachers, but it takes a lot more time, effort, and compassion: both have to recognize nurturance is entirely good and expected.

Of course, nothing can replace talking things over and calibrating with people you are close to. No one should be a mind reader. But it takes more than talking to change these patterns. The avoider has to risk opening up and letting their true self show in order to give and receive nurturance, and the anxious attacher has to trust and let go more, knowing the avoider will be back. Both of these changes are difficult; limbic responses happen very, very fast, below the conscious level and often outside of language.

The easiest way to form an ‘earned secure’ attachment is by being in a relationship with a secure attacher, and learning healthy intimacy from them, in which needs are responded to as they arise. However, secure attachers usually date a few people, then pick one and settle down early. They know how to create a big warm home bond. Avoidant attachers tend to prefer anxious attachers, and anxious attachers tend to be drawn to avoidant attachers, because each reinforces the early ‘rules’ about ‘reality’ – actually just haphazard chance, what happened to be going on between them and their caregivers at the time – laid down in their limbic brains before the age of three.

Shame and guilt over which kind of attachment style you have are completely not appropriate or called for, as one’s attachment style is wired in from an age when we are much too young to choose. It is no one’s fault. However, shame and guilt can be quite convincing even when completely uneccessary, as is the nature of shame. It can be incredibly convincing to the person experiencing it even when it is completely absurd.

What does all this have to do with assault?

That summary – above – is what the books say. But like the boy in Gifts, many of us are fumbling into an even bigger picture, trying to see a pattern that is just coming clear. Our culture does not give us many signposts. I’m trying to put things together.

Fundamentally, a healthy, secure attachment style is what lets people effectively protect and care for the wellbeing of others. It allows for the skill of attunement: recognizing when someone wants to come close and when they want space, not only by asking but also by reading subtle nonverbal cues.

Attachment styles can land in any gender, of course, and people can combine in any combination.

However, when attachment styles land in particularly gendered ways, we see certain patterns emerge that are all part of the bigger pattern, and, maybe, they can be understood as part of the ‘answer’ to the question of violence.

People with secure attachment styles are better at recognizing and being comfortable with this dance of approach-and-retreat, better at supporting others while letting others do what they need to do. They know deep down they are loved and loveable, and thus are more likely to be loving and nurturing towards others, both to be there for them when needed as sources of strength and solace, and to be able to recognize and honour when someone does or does not want to be touched. Shame prevents this skill from emerging.

We misunderstand shame

Attachment science tells us that human beings need mirroring and containers in others. Whatever is in us that does not get mirrored, or held in a larger container of acceptance by others, becomes a source of shame, simply for not being accepted. And if you have shamed something in yourself – like a normal need for intimacy – so early and so completely that you don’t even notice you are doing it, you will interpret that same need as shameful when you see it in others. Shame is entirely subjective, in this sense. This is all happening in the body, below the conscious level, not in a vague ‘unconscious’ but in a recognizable region of the brain: the limbic brain, which does not have language.

Shame and guilt unhealed and unaddressed remain powerful and, like a volcano, rise up in surprising ways. For instance, shame can lead men to shut down and run or blame women or act defensive instead of offering comfort and nurturance when someone they care about needs them. It can, alternately, lead men to ignore signs that someone does not want them close.

These are two sides of the same system, and must be understood together, because in a culture that does not expect men to show up for their own emotions, women get blamed for unaddressed male shame. 

In other words, it seems possible that shame and guilt, left subterranean, interrupt attunement, and can lead to an inability or unwillingness to properly respond to the needs of others, whether for nurturance or for space. I mean the really deep, structural kind of shame, that is so old and convincing, it doesn’t even appear as anything in particular. It just appears as ‘the way the world is,’ laid down in patterns in the limbic brain. This kind of shame hides, appears as nothing in particular, until questioned with compassion and curiosity, deeply, in safe company.

Anxious attachment styles and the mystery of human relating

In a patriarchal, misogynist culture, both of these imbalances (which are common to all humans), when they appear in men, are laid in women’s laps as blame and misogyny when men do not do their own emotional healing.

I am making sense of this, bit by bit, seeing the pattern emerge. For instance: men with anxious attachment styles may feel distress when an attachment figure seeks to back up a little, or a lot, and may not develop a healthy capacity to recognize and respond appropriately to someone’s nonverbal cues communicating the need for space.

They may come closer or become upset as the other person signals their need to disengage. If a man who happens to have an anxious attachment style does not know how to understand and accept his own needs for nurturance, he may attack a woman for rejecting him. The typical ‘hello, cutie,’ on the street followed almost instantly with ‘fine, be that way, bitch’ is an example many of us will be familiar with.

They may not notice or register or in extreme cases be concerned that someone they want to touch has frozen up, is giving off signals of paralysis or distress. Thus we sometimes find men who don’t think of themselves as ‘bad men’ who nonetheless rape and assault: their partners, girlfriends, wives, or women on a first or second date. (This is how the majority of assaults happen, of course: the ‘man jumping out of the bushes’ while more spectacular is much more rare.) They may resort to seeking power-over and dominance, because normal intimacy needs, when distorted and denied, come out in distorted ways. They are caught up in their own pain and can’t name it, or find appropriate avenues for it, and given the larger social norms that centre men’s experiences, this imbalance doesn’t get addressed as an imbalance but instead gets projected out into the world. A society that actively, financially, politically, socially, privileges traits it deems ‘masculine’ – nonemotionality, strength, independence – and actively disparages traits it deems ‘feminine’ – interdependence, nurturance – has few ways for these patterns to be openly loved, addressed, and changed.

In another example, those with a preocuppied-avoidant style – who feel the need for closeness but have a hard time asking and do not expect others to be there for them – may sulk if they feel rejected, putting silent pressure on women they are with to meet their demands. Perhaps the sulking partner who turns away in anger when sexual desires aren’t met may be having a limbic attachment experience that needs to be addressed as such, in a mature way, a way that takes ownership of the experience and works to heal it rather than project it outwards onto women.

Avoidant attachment styles: holding trust

Those with a dismissive-avoidant style may simply need to develop attunement in order to hold the trust they are given. They may want women to get close to them at first, and begin to build trust, but not actually know how to maintain trust once it begins, which can create destabilizing and confusing experiences for everyone involved.

When men happen to have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, they may simply not know how nurturance and comfort looks and feels. They may have a very difficult time recognizing and loving their own deepest selves, and not even be aware of what they have lost. Thus they may blame women for being ‘too needy’ out of not recognizing their own needs for closeness and nurturance of self and others, having learned early that closeness is suffocating and that needs are to be denied.

They may not recognize their own body’s needs for comfort and connection, which result in elevated heart rate and changes in neurochemicals just as it does for anxious attachers, but in a way the avoidant attacher does not understand or recognize as they learned early on to repress these needs completely in themselves and others. They may not know how to meet their own and other people’s needs simultaneously, a highly developed nurturance capacity.

Even if they do not act in invasive ways, their style may inadvertently interrupt the creation of deep, honest, nurturing relationships, in which women they sleep with or get close to can feel emotionally safe with them.

In striving to be good people they may make ‘rules’ (like ‘a good man doesn’t touch,’) and have a very logical approach to checking if a woman wants to be touched, but have a harder time responding to her nonverbal cues or even sometimes responding to verbal cues for comfort and reassurance, creating an odd gap feeling.

The attachment needs are still there, but they may transmute into other more recognizeable things: instead of giving and receiving nurturance they may seek sexual connections while feeling utterly bewildered about how physical love relates to intimate or consummate love. They may experience immense, paralyzing guilt and shame when someone needs them to be comforting, and lash out, freeze up, or run. They may hurt people they care about by having sex with them in a strangely cold or distant way, without even knowing why they are doing it.

If a man with an avoidant attachment style experiences internal distress when someone he cares about expresses nurturance needs (such as the need for trust, reliability, availability, closeness, responsiveness, attunement) he may blame the woman for ‘being too needy’ instead of dealing with those intensely confusing feelings of shame.

Men with avoidant attachment styles may not notice the confusing nonverbal signalling they are actively doing very early on that prevents safety from happening with women they want to nurture and support, who may become more and more imbalanced towards them in response.

Since ‘absence of nurturance’ is just an absence, it can be hard to recognize early. When early avoidant responses to requests for closeness are not noticed as such, attachment science teaches us, ‘protest behaviour’ – the distress when needs aren’t met – may get louder over time, in ways both people are contributing to and neither understand. It becomes all too easy in a patriarchal culture that values rugged individualism over interdependence to call an anxiously-attached woman ‘crazy’ without noticing the parallel avoidant responses that are contributing, that are ‘crazymaking’. In other words, it takes two to enter into the avoidant-anxious trap, but patriarchal culture normalizes an avoidant style and stigmatizes an anxious style, wherever it appears.

None of this is worthy of shame; fundamentally, all of the insecure styles are based in an unquestioned belief that people will not be there for them and that nurturance is somehow a problem rather than wholly desireable and good. Avoidant attachers ‘know’ from an early age that the ice will break, the chair will collapse, best not to try. Insecure attachment styles are not chosen, are not conscious or intentional, and it is an understatement to say they are not easy to change. They deserve understanding, compassion, and empathy.

And yet living without loving, secure attachment bonds is the loneliest experience in the human repertoire.

Community care and cultural transformation

The solution to this is not to pile on more shame and guilt. This is really tricky, because insecure attachers have limbic brains structured by shame and guilt and may hear accusations where there are none. The solution is not to shame people for feeling shame. Instead, the solution is a complete transformation of social relations to allow wholeness back into our world. Yes, models of healthy interdependence exist if we know where to find them and how to recognize them. But no one stands in a shining circle of light and no one lives in the dark abyss; it is time we finally abandon these Eurocentric, western dichotomies.

What we need is a model for slow self-love that brings the shame up into the light, and reality checks with others who accept you unconditionally, hold you accountable, and aren’t going anywhere. We need a model of justice that recognizes the lived reality of interdependence and learns to do it well, not a justice of shame that frightens us all out of looking at our shadow sides or weakest selves in a world in which most men are expected to cut off parts of themselves from the time they are quite young.

The solution, in tangible terms, is community care and a great deal of awareness of how most of us did not get our needs met at key developmental stages, which means we did not move out of those stages and must do so now. Collective healing is possible. We can heal when we can finally be our whole, unguarded selves, in human community, without shields or guards, and be liked, accepted, seen, held. This is systemic change, spiritual change, at the core levels of our culture, lived each day.

Once shame can be reduced to more manageable levels, both personally and culturally, people can become more able to openly expose their raw spots trusting they will be accepted, and can respond to the needs of others rather than freeze and become defensive, invasive, or paralyzed.

Turning the gifts around: masculine nurturance culture

The answer to all of these difficulties is to openly discuss nurturance: how it looks, how it feels, how men can learn to practice it from the men who already know how in addition to communicating through women or fumbling around for years learning by trial and error.

Simplistic answers gleaned through this fumbling do not help: for instance, some men may actually avoid nurturing or protecting women out of fear of ‘white knighting.’ But ‘white knighting’ isn’t synonymous with ‘all forms of protection.’ White knighting means acting ‘protective’ in ways that aren’t attuned. Paternalistically telling her what she needs instead of listening to what she says is white knighting. To stop white knighting, don’t stop protecting; just protect while you also listen and believe. Protect her, actively, in the ways she actually wants protecting, and not in the ways she does not. Protecting people you care about – in ways that are attuned and responsive to their actual needs – is a normal, needed, and healthy part of nurturance. Only in the wasteland of guessing and fumbling alone would this confusion even be possible.

Why is there no high-profile institute for men teaching nurturance skills to men?

Men need to do this work with other men – not alone, not instead of doing it with women, but in addition, in accountable relationship with and to women. In other words, keep learning in the ways learning is happening now – but then share that learning with one another. Our institutions need to count this work as valuable, rewardable labour: fund it, give it high prestige, give it speaking tours and jobs in teaching nurturance. Read that line a few times. It sounds so impossible, doesn’t it?

The absurdity of that line suggests it may be a long time before a nurturing masculinity is recognized and rewarded socially the same way an abstract intellectual masculinity currently is.

In the meantime, men need to do this healing work every day, behind the scenes, reaping the rewards of having women and people of all genders feel safe with them, and of growing their own self-love and love of one another.

The wonderful reward of creating safe bonds is that in these places of trust, a warm glow of meaning and purpose emerges.  An inner circle of trust and vulnerability allows movement and rest: it lets the bees come and go from the hive. It creates shelters of chosen family and beloved community from which action, challenges to racism, sexism, institutional violence, can arise, a safety net to catch each other’s bodies and souls, the foundation that allows risk.

The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture. This is men’s work to do, and yet it is needed by people of all genders who have men in their lives. The rewards are waiting.

Are you a nurturing man? Do the women in your life – partner, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, parent – tell you or show you that you make them feel unusually safe and close and cared for? If so, how did you learn? How do you open up spaces for men who want these conversations to begin to have them?

Every single man I asked this of said, “both men would need to want it.” Fear of closeness, masculine codes of interaction, the lower-level lizard-brain signals that men send one another, are real and are part of the picture. But many men are struggling with these questions, locked alone in their own little boxes.

Men have to do this with other men, despite the difficulties in doing so, for three reasons. For one, men understand what it is like to be a man much better than women do, and they can teach one another while understanding what it actually feels like and having compassion for one another. Men must also do this with other men because, frankly, women cannot be responsible for healing men while they also protect themselves from male violence and neglect, which is still endemic and thus a daily part of women’s lives. Finally, one of the great distortions of the human spirit in our culture is that each man lives in solitary confinement, thinking they can and should solve problems alone, that they shouldn’t need others. Jumping the barriers that keep men from talking about emotions with other men is itself a fundamental change, one that reduces shame and confusion.

So how do you know when men around you – the friend you just met for drinks, the colleague you have collaborated with on projects for years, the hockey buddy – may actually be quietly confused and thirsty for this kind of learning?

How can you signal your availability, to let men in your life know you are doing this yourself, so that those men who want to learn about nurturance can find each other? It’s as simple as starting a men’s discussion group based on this article.

It can be as simple as sharing this piece, and asking, “does this ever come up for you?”

It can be as simple as sending someone you know this piece, and saying “I’m available.”

It can be as simple as posting this piece, and saying “I’m here.”

More by the same author:

Own, Apologize, Repair: Coming Back to Integrity

“When disorganizing relationships occur within organizations that people are structurally required to rely on for income, health care, or other forms of safety, the attachment system can be affected in underestimated ways. When the institutions that speak of themselves as protector are in fact the source of danger, the effect can be that society itself is a disorganizing, traumatic experience. When institutions structured with a monopoly on violence, such as police and prisons, are a source of danger, the effect can be disconnection from the attachment and belonging that human beings need within society.”
From: Coercive Persuasion and the Alignment of the Everyday

The book!
Turn This World Inside Out: the Emergence of Nurturance Culture

yellow book cover with orange writing that reads: Turn This World Inside Out: the Emergence of Nurturance Culture. Pale dappled green ivy grows up from the bottom of the image and in the background in reverse colour are the shoulders of two people standing side by side just visible with a brown earthy gritty colour behind them

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Additional Resources:
Hold me Tight, Sue Johnson
Wired for Love, Stan Tatkin
A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon
Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller
The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, bell hooks

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I love this Bay Area Transformative Justice pod mapping worksheet so much that big, dramatic, hyperbole feels called for. ie I wanna shout it from the rooftops and say it again and again: if you consider yourself a feminist man, or you allow others around you to let you walk around with this identity and you enjoy having that reputation, or if you find you get laid or get dates or partners because of this reputation, and if you have not yet mapped out your pod of people who you would want to call you on it when you act in abusive ways, then do this right now. like today. like right away. Because it is everything, it is wonderful:

For a world in which everyone can feel safer, including those who harm and those who cause harm. Thank you.

*men: I want to be clear here that I mean this term in a trans-inclusive way, referring to both cis and trans men, and to masculine-identified people.

Also feel free to join the Nurturance Culture and Masculinity Discussion Space online to connect with other (cis and trans) men and people of all genders doing this work.

I’m working on a speculative fiction project. Are you a literary agent? Learn more about Cipher here.


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487 thoughts on “The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

    1. This article hits the mark and summarizes a lot of the conversations we’ve been having lately.

      We started a group a year ago for this, Men’s Vulnerability Group we called it.

      Also, some other friends started a podcast in a similar vein.

      Thanks for this article. It will be added to our growing list of resources around this.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Because ghomeshi trial is back in the news, he may be innocent. If he is not, .0000001% of men are guilty of anything like that. This is not a reason for 50 pages of misandry and fuelling resentment in men, telling us we are rapists. Good luck getting your non manspreading knees together emasculated white knight male feminists to turn you on more than red pilled red state men who are not ashamed of our sex. We, not you define what white knighting is: Male feminists who would continue contorting themself into something acceptable to you, industinguishable from transgender.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. WELL, Well, well; a rant, abuse and violence…. the rebuttal of your statement lies between the lines of your ill -fitting sentences, syntax and punctuation.


  1. If you want men to be more nurturing, why not encourage more men to go through the Stepping Up program? It’s a great way for men to learn from each other in groups and talk about responsibility and hard things – to stop being narcissistic and ego driven to living life and making hard choices for purposes bigger than himself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really depends on the background, but in this increasingly secular world, many men are not interested in forging a stronger relationship with a deity. If you’re religious, fine. it’s not for everyone.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, powerful work you are doing here. I so appreciate your clear and open approach. As a man working to understand my own hurt and how to nurture myself and others I know we can take strides towards the nurturance culture you describe.
    For me the Mankind Project has been a huge help:
    I sit in circle to support myself and others around issues of emotional intelligence, personal accountability and integrity and leadership. Because first I need to love myself. Then I can love my partner. Then I can love my community and in turn the whole world.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hello 🙂 thank you for your interest and for the work you do. Several friends and many readers have brought the Good Men project to my attention since the post went viral, and I appreciate the project. My preference is to have a snippet or the first few paragraphs posted there with a link to read the full article here. It would be wonderful to reach your audience as I know many men doing this learning look to you. I’m honoured; let me know if that would sound ok. thanks – n

      Liked by 2 people

    2. As a psychotherapist at a Rape Crisis centre I often offer GoodMen project links and material to the men I work with.


  3. i am what you people may call a real man. the things i read that you and others write about men is a misinformed lie. I have many male friends and female. i have never seen rape culture. ALL the men i know would protect any female from rape if they could. The views of so many women have been tampered with, so that they think all sorts of ridiculous things. I take care of so many women, and do it for no gain of my own. I do not ask for sex from them, i have a wife. This bagging men thing is destroying women too. One woman that needs me to survive is my sister in law, and no a man did not ever do anything bad to her. It was her mother(whom I also look after). She will not even go outside for the mail. She can but thinks that there is no need when she has all these people that owe her (somehow) a living. Many would throw her to the street, to sink or swim. She is not “under my authority”, but her constant inaction and laziness makes decisions from her never coming even over trivial things. So if she will not choose someone must, all women in my family come to me. All men in my family are products of feminism, and just as much pussys as the women. I hear so much the lament of women “there are no real men”. I hear “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” well can you please tell that to the countless women who cross my path that want me to look after them, and please tell them to stop the lie of telling me just how much they need me. I am yet to find a woman that doesn’t want to be provided for for free. They don’t care that i am married. They don’t care that i don’t love them like that. Also they all don’t even care that we have 7 children. Now if I was eliminated with all the other men like me, there would not be food to eat, houses to live in. etc
    And a hell of a lot of women would die from inaction and “its scary”. I will just say here that I do not rule them. I force nothing. I even do not want to do it. But if i didn’t take care of my whole family, and all my wife’s sisters and their husbands, their parents cannot keep up and need help too. Why spend so much time talking about what you don’t like? Why not go and help people? If some men are doing bad stop them. Women can do anything men can so go out directly and stop them as men do.
    If the old world is dead then please tell all these fantastic women around me, so that I can stop this terrible abuse, abuse like consoling all hurts, providing free food and counseling, and other terrible crimes like fatherly love, helping them to be closer to each other by mediating ridiculous arguments that have been going for decades. If women are so dam great at all things man, then what the hell is going on with the lists of crap that their man must do and have? Why do they have these lists? When all real men like me are gone, who will protect you from invasion from countries that think women are a commodity? We are already completely out numbered. And years of feminizing men has made most men girls. Not even a quarter of us men would be man enough to fight knowing we will lose, how many women can a few men save? Look for yourself at the men around you. If militants were all of a sudden shooting everyone in the area you were in could you fight them? Would you even try knowing you would likely fail? That is why men like me would do it. Not for glory, not for fame, not for vanity. And not for all the other stupid reasons i have read in my life. The real reason is simply that “I would do it for these gentle ones, who will never be able to it.” And with the exact same terror and grief as the fleeing, the good man will walk to his doom. There is no greater love than this in the world. So as a matter of fact men can show the greatest love. There are women who may do this. But if given a get out of jail free card would run, but there may still be some. Many men will run too.
    The point is why throw away assets? proven ones at that? I have had bad things happen to me too. All people have. But hate and destruction, unfairness etc. Is not helping is it? Banning all manly things has not helped has it? Making men girls has not helped has it? Taking away men’s rights has not helped has it? Lamenting and gossiping and hate mongering has not helped has it? Sooner or later you will have nothing left to complain about, because all will be lost. why not cut the silly crying and act at least like someone trying to be grown up. The problems are easy fixed. But most will never know because they are too busy destroying those who do, out of unfounded fears.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. This guy gets the perfect specimen award. We can all stop worrying now. He has got everything under control.

        Way to make this all about you.

        Liked by 5 people

    1. So, because you’ve never seen rape culture means it doesn’t exist?

      Dude, take a few breaths, no one is attacking you. If you take the article for yourself, you may realize that you’re lashing out in accordsnce with the avoidant attachment style. You don’t understand why everyone has these problems and you are frustrated by their neediness and inability to understand your way of doing things. its a beautiful illustration of the concept, really. So I invite you to soften a little and see how this conversation could benefit you.

      Liked by 10 people

    2. I am lucky to have a father just like you! I admire you and cherish you because I found out for myself that real men like you are hard to find. It is my dream to find someday a man to marry just like you. And I wish all of the things I’ve mislearned from society won’t prevent me from being the woman that he needs.
      As I completely agree that men cannot learn manliness from women, they need to learn it from other men, in their own style, time etc, and in it’s own mysterious ways that us women will never be able to understand haha, unfortunately not all of them were as lucky as you to have a role model or as smart to figure it out by themselves. I think this is what the author is trying to address.


  4. I only have one gripe with this article, and it’s that it starts with the premise that rape is not about sex, but about violence/control, which is half not true.…/is-rape-about-control…

    Ignoring that very minor issue, I agree with everything else this article put forth. Whether or not it is about sex or control, it starts with a need that supersedes the freedom and well-being of someone else, and a lack of sympathetic role models is the clearest systemic cause of this. The assessment that men are in a position to teach these skills that women are not articulates an argument I’ve been fumbling to make with women that swear that accountability and justice is needed over teaching men how to nurture. I feel like, for the east empowered of those rallying to this cry, they feel like doing so would instead nurture the ‘entitlement’ of men.

    This is somewhat contrary to the self-empowering message that says that ‘women can stop men from assaulting them if we stick together and support each other.’ and that’s true, but it doesn’t heal the problem of ‘most relationally incompetent men still need a healer/teacher/role model, and women cannot serve that role without endangering themselves or starting with an antagonistic precedence.’ Bingo. Correct. The solution they provide, support groups headed by men is so phenomenally accurate.


    1. i’d nuance this – i do believe that men focussing on nurturing themselves – when those men are high in narcissistic and/or sociopathic traits – as a significant percentage maybe 8-10 percent are? – does just lead to men centring themselves more rather than less. i’ve seen it in even the response to this article – part of why this piece has done so well is that it continues to centre men, especially men who harm. the truth is i was in love with an abuser when i wrote this, and i was having lots and lots and lots of empathy for him – i was watching him begin to get just the first tiny inkling of awareness that his attachment beliefs were completely fucked up and were leading him to dismantle women’s minds. he had no idea or was in denial, and the insight that men project their unaddressed shame onto women was his insight, straight up. the problem is he was doing this to me for a year before that and i had no protection and was incredibly vulnerable to it. and when those around me finally got through to me that his behaviour towards me was not acceptable and we began accountabilyt work, he felt fully entitled to tell us to go fuck ourselves, walk away, and threaten to sue.

      so the very person this post was written for took it to mean men are entitled to abuse with impunity as long as they are ‘good guys’ ™.

      many readers who are dudes have also taken it to mean men ought to have male-only spaces not accountable to any of the women in their lives. i never meant it to mean that.

      there is emotion, and there is entitlement. they both work together. I’ve had my thinking challenged on this by many friends and colleagues since this post went out into the world, and i believe the middle ground is what is most true here. many men have to reconnect with their empathy and compassion, not only for themselves but also *for women*. this is where the problem lies. only reconnecting with thier own empathy for themselves will lead to more abuse, in the case of people who are high in narcissistic traits. not less. in addition to increasing empathy we need to reduce entitlement – both, together. and men who have these issues need to be deeply, deeply accountable in a way our culture currently does not teach or expect them to be.


    2. I’ve talked with 4 women in the last few days about the #metoo and my takeway is that “stick together and support each other” is on the right track. More importantly, women need to get comfortable with talking about sexual assault, and speaking up when they feel uncomfortable. It took a long time for everyone to get comfortable talking about consensual sex, but I feel like non-consensual still makes people squirm, and that’s not going to get us anywhere.


  5. Hi! I’m from Brazil. I’m not sure if you heard, but we’ve been through a scandal recently, when some guys shared a video online in which they show a raped girl. There were 33 men against a 16 year old girl. This fact led to a great deal of discussion in social media, regarding the girl’s “guilt” (she lived in the poor suburbs, she was a mother at the age of 13 and she dated one of the guys. There have been a lot of comments online, coming primarily, but not only, from men, who tried their best to find ways to dismiss the existence of a rape culture in Brazil. Media coverage didn’t help much, neither did the people who first dealt with the case legally. But there has also been a rise of self-counsciousness from some men regarding rape culture, and what they can do to fight it. I think that this article serves us – Brazilian men – well. Do you know of any official and author-approved translation in Brazilian Portuguese? It would be great to share this with older family members and friends who don’t speak English.

    Thank you for writing this. I saw myself in every line.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello, thank you so much for being in touch. It is very helpful to hear the context in which the Portuguese article has suddenly gone viral. I only learned of the story after I saw the numbers shoot up, because it has not been as prominent in the news here (I am in Canada). It sounds like both a terrible moment and a powerful moment for possible change.

      This is a translation that a reader offered to do for me of the piece. I don’t speak Portuguese well enough to know how to decide if it captures the original perfectly but so far it seems to be resonating for people. I actually did think it was written in Brasilian Portuguese – though of course I cannot tell, myself! The translator generously volunteered and was very open to suggestions and feedback, so if you have any ideas or edits you would propose I would be pleased to pass them along. Beyond that – this is the official author-approved one. if you would like to know what I wrote and had direct say in please feel free to see the English one 🙂 – if you notice any gaps in translation let me know and I’ll pass them along to the translator!
      also if anyone would like to write about the local context, I would love to post a piece talking about your analysis or understanding of events and how the piece might help move things in a good direction.
      thank you so much for being in touch and feel free to let me know how things develop. my thoughts are with you.


  6. Men becoming nurturing is dangerous. Both sexes are capable of both, but Nurture is women’s biological role in life, not men’s. Violence is men’s biological role in life.

    Violence is essential for man to navigate the world. Before civilization, man needed to use violence to survive; to defend himself and his tribe from danger and to kill and keep his tribe alive. Or because he and his tribe needed/wanted to take something. Without violence or the courage to use it, man would not be where he is today.

    Nurturing is predominately a female role (more on this below). Women are just as valuable to the tribe as man, but in a different sense. Women become vulnerable and less capable of violence during pregnancy. During this time, and shortly after, women become nurturers of children.

    Men can also nurture, but nurturing in tribes became beta male role. No, I don’t use beta male as a pejorative. Men who are incapable of demonstrating strength or courage are beta males in the socio-sexual hierarchy. Men who aren’t able or willing to use violence to take care of their tribe or themselves are relegated to beta male status.

    Rape is bad no matter what, but rape happens. There is no culture in our civilized world that promotes rape. “Rape culture” is something that will always exist because rapists will always exist because deranged humans will always exist.

    To promote a nurturance culture is to promote a beta male society. That is, a castrated society that is unable or unwilling to use violence in times of need. Ask yourself this: In times of warfare or struggle for survival, would you look to an alpha male or beta male for survival?


    1. Please give your writing careful and thorough examination and after each sentence ask yourself the honest question if what you say is absolute truth, or just the product of your beliefs and values and fears rather than natural facts. Is there really a reason we should perpetually follow these beliefs and not evolve beyond our self-imposed social constructs?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Now imagine all males become nurturing, where would the violence be needed for then? Violence is an absolute last resort when nothing else is available.
      We don’t live in pre historic times anymore. I don’t need to use violence to ‘defend’ myself unless I am physically attacked. This has happened once in my life.
      These times of warfare and struggle for survival are a consequence of the idea that man needs to be violent. If man was to become nurturing those wars would stop. You are mixing up cause and effect.
      Violence is a choice, not a force of nature.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. >Violence is a choice, not a force of nature
        Texas and Florida just proved you wrong. There will always be threats to the species, and when there are, people will look to Alphas to lead them. Trump is in because people are in distress and feel that hey need a ‘strong’ leader. Women will always prefer to mate with Alphas “because evolution”. (disclaimer – I am not an Alpha)


    3. a perfectly indoctrinated patriarchal male. The opening line was enough for me to know that there is not going to be much dialogue without a consolidation of what the facts really are. Handmaid’s Tale is ready for your perusal


  7. “Why is there no high-profile institute for men teaching nurturance skills to men?” Well there is: The ManKind Project. MKP does a very good job at initiating men in to lives of mission, service and emotional maturity, and providing training and community to support the growth and transformation. Please help spread the word about the ManKind Project

    I do want to say that there is more of a two-way street to these issues than this article suggests. There are many men who, as boys, and even as men, suffer emotional, physical and sexual abuse by women. It is likely many more men suffer this than we can know, because of social norms of not being seen as “weak,” not expressing pain or fear, etc. Absolutely men have healing work to do, especially within circles of conscious and trained men, women do as well. Women need to address each other about how they are raising boys, what they are modeling, how they are subtly and overtly abusing. Women need to ask men (partners, husbands, siblings, friends) what their experience of “woman” and “mother” is. They may be surprised by what comes out, but both genders need for women to hear this, be open about it, and be willing to understand and work on the things they are doing that harm boys and men. If you think this isn’t so, then consider that a study in Britain revealed that 40% of reported domestic violence cases are woman against man. So, that’s nearly half, which is not such a great disparity as one might assume or claim. And that is only reported cases. How many men are hiding the abuse they get out of fear and shame? This issue is real, and needs to be address in tandem with men learning to be emotionally conscious and nurturing.

    Praise to all doing this difficult and essential work!


    1. ok, so basically somebody from the mankind project is getting in touch on a page about gendered violence and masculinity to say ‘what about the menz’? hullo? is this what they’re teaching over there?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why is it wrong for someone to acknowledge that these issues apply to women as well as men? They did not say that men did not need to become nurturing. They did not say, “yes, but we need to worry about what women are doing to men first — ”

        They simply pointed out — quite rightly — that men can suffer from abuse at the hands of women, and that this is not something you addressed. They didn’t say that you were wrong for not mentioning it.

        Why is it okay to see they are concerned about the well-being of men and immediately go on the attack, dismissing a project that for decades has been attempting to address the very issues you have discussed in this article?

        Think again on their third-party line. Someone has opened up to you about how shame and fear over being emotional and vulnerable can cause men to hide their abuse. Shame and fear over being emotional and vulnerable, the belief that all chairs are unstable and that anyone who tries to sit on one is an idiot, is exactly what you have argued is an integral part of what makes rape culture happen. It isn’t irrelevant. Addressing it helps all of us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think there’s a point being missed here. It has taken me a long time to finish reading the full article, and I know that’s just the first reading – it’s very dense. It’s the second one I’ve made it through, and pretty much every paragraph rings so true that

          I’m intrigued as to why Seedman has felt the need to invoke a “two way street” and pluck out statistics the he feels provideds a balancing emphasis of women as (equal, or possibly major) perpetrators of violence.

          Perhaps I missed something, but the original article refers to our formative influences without pointing the finger at either male or female role models.

          Furthermore, the distinction the author makes between traits deemed ‘masculine’ (nonemotionality, strength, independence), and traits deemed ‘feminine’ (interdependence, nurturance) specifically disassociates these from the sex of those acting out these traits.

          It rather reads as though Seedman has imposed his own agenda on the piece, rather than reading what Nora Samaran has actually written. As such, his analysis, and comments, completely disregard the point of the article. And miss the point entirely – he simply does not address the article, but addresses a topic of his own focus.

          Most of his post seems to be arguing the case that women need to listen to men.

          If I felt any need whatsoever to hear men pointing out that some women are abusive to men, there’s plenty of places that provide that. Sadly, most of them are pretty unhinged.

          I find this ironic, when there are a heck of a lot of men who are not finding *healthy* articulations of what men can do to heal *from men*. Seedman’s rant is a perfect example of a shouty man not doing any hearing. It’s not that I don’t get the messages I need because he’s not shouty enough – it’s because he offers no analysis that remotely explains my experience and confusion.

          I, amongst many, many others, have needed exactly the sort of well articulated, and calmly articulated, non-judgemental analysis that Nora Samaran offers here.

          But there’s no need to expect her to work miracles, and placate every Tom, Dick, or Harry who turn up to shout “what about teh menz!?”.

          Liked by 3 people

      2. To clarify, I think this post says a lot of very important things, and I’m glad I read it (as is seedman, based on their comment, and they even linked to a project that addresses these things in an attempt to help the cause).

        But I also see some of the problems mentioned here in myself (and though I am still working out my gender identity and have more masculine days, I am certainly not a man all of the time… even if I was, everyone treats me like a woman anyways, so I’d think that’s the “gender culture” I’ve been exposed to morr). I’m pretty sure I’ll never rape anyone, but certainly I’ve hurt people when I’ve felt betrayed by them. I’ve felt deep shame over my loneliness and vulnerability. For many years I even told myself that love was something disgusting that only idiots engaged in. Despite your article not being about that, it still moved me precisely because of that personal connection to myself, and I am thankful for that.

        If it is wrong for seedman to mention — without dismissing what you have said — that women also abuse men, would it also be wrong for me to mention my own experiences with hurting people because of my anxiety, because “no, this is an article about rape culture, not about how how confused and distrustful genderfluid people sometimes lash out at others when they feel unsafe”?

        Am I just saying “what about the lgbtq folkz?” hullo, what are they teaching at my school?

        Perhaps they are teaching the right for me to make wider connections based on what has been presented to me without my opinions being immediately disparaged.


  8. Women suffer from all the good and bad attachment styles you mention. Why be so binary about it when you write this article? The author of the book you base your information on never says the attachment styles only pertain to men. So why do you?


    1. Reginald – I’ve only read the last half of the article tonight (there’s a lot in it, it’s taken me a while to finish!!!), but I don’t share your reading of it at all.

      What I have read out of it, is that there is a quite a variety, and complex combinations thereof, of attachment styles. Furthermore, the author of this post addresses *combinations* of these attachment styles between two people, and the behaviours that can manifest within these combinations.

      At no point do I see her even remotely suggesting that this analysis pertains to male or female protagonists, or male/ female antagonists.

      As I read it, thinking about it now, it is left to the reader to identify with any of the actors described in any of the scenarios – and to ascribe sex/ gender characteristics to them (sorry – I don’t fully have the language there…).

      As far as I can tell, the points you’re opposing are simply not points that the author has made.


    2. In the statistics regarding violence, men are the highest number of perpetrators. Males dominate the realm of violence. Intervene at this point, and any benefit flows ‘down stream’ in a reparative manner. I look forward to, then, being able to see how the numbers of female perpetrators of violence rise or, actually, fall. I know where I am going to place my bet!!


  9. It’s not that that these avoidant attachment styles are specific to men. And it’s not that women with avoidant attachment styles should not also work to heal. (I say this as a woman who has devoted a great deal of time and energy to addressing these underlying beliefs in myself.) And it is not that this author has created a binary in which she says that these attachment styles pertain only to men. *It is that this piece is an application of attachment theory to rape culture.*

    What is being offered here is not simply attachment theory. There is a lot of really fantastic writing on attachment theory. Some of it is referenced–and it sounds like you’re familiar with it. I believe what this piece is attempting to do–and I think it is eloquent and successful–is to take that theory a step further. To lay it onto our world and use it to try to better understand the dynamics at play.

    We should all work toward healing. Women included. We should work to heal because the world is a very lonely place otherwise. But that’s not what is being talked about here. This article is specifically meant to address rape culture and the tremendous impact that men doing this work can have.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Of course men need as individuals to value their emotional self – sex stereotypes often lead to men developing a hyper-masculine and non-empathetic personna – not healthy. But something in this idea of nurturance bothers me. It is paternalistic. He needs to take care of people…. paternalism can be kind, but it is still control and dominance. Men really need to understand how patriarchy hurts them, but also how it benefits and privileges them. Benevolent paternalism, chivalrous patriarchy,is still dominance and control. This won’t end rape or violence against women, or misogyny and women’s social and economic subordination – without a shift of power – and as Frederick Douglass said “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”


  11. About finley’s post. There is something here that may be important. And that has to do with fixing things. I would like to separate that part out from the rest..

    Long ago, we men ran a farm, or mill, or other trade that supported our families.

    Then that shifted to having a home around a city with a job. Where we became the handyman. We fixed things from cars, to roofs, to leaky facuets, to tolets. What ever needed to be done.

    Now no one fixes anything. What repairs that are done, are done by companies.

    I see that there are fewer and fewer people that can fix things. And I do think that is a real problem. It may seem like we don’t need to that skill. But I think that is only a temporary sign of affluence. It is possible that climate change, resource depletion, soil depletion, ocean acification, sea level rise, or war could knock us off this priveleged peak of affluence and ease. We could fall back down to a level were people will have to do a lot more work to make it. And the ability to build things, fix things, make do with what is available may again be important.

    In the meantime, there does seem to be an interesting conversation going on.
    Women don’t need us for much of anything anymore.
    They are much more interested in making it on their own.
    Yet, when something breaks, the few of us who know how to fix things get called in.
    And its like, “Oh we don’t need you, but can you fix this for me”

    I had this happen to me just the other day.
    My ex-wife of a dozen years let me know they were looking at a house that needed work, and she was just assuming that she could hire me to fix it up. Like I don’t already have 2 houses I’m already working on.

    I would like to see society, expecially women, have a little more respect and appreciation for men who believe in getting dirty, messy and sweaty and get dirty, messy and sweaty jobs done. You need people like us to keep everything running: power, water, sewers, transportation, computers, networks, etc… more than you realize.


  12. As many have noted, this post is wonderful and necessary. But there’s a piece of it that I see frequently in these discussions that I want to untangle/discuss/think about more, and that’s the reinforcing of ‘things associated with men’ = masculinity. I strongly agree in the need for nurturance models of masculinity, and I also feel that we strongly need to support men in being feminine, or not masculine, and not reinforcing the paradigm that whatever men are doing are just different models of masculinity. I say this as a femme/feminine queer cis man who has trouble locating myself in this post, and who sees the erasure of feminine men (and the violence we experience in society) reinforced here. How can we develop different, non-toxic models of masculinity, and also create ways for men to deattach themselves from masculinity, and uphold/support the non-masculine ways of being that femme and queer men have long embodied?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I found this via He For She. What a wonderful article. I love it. You have articulated a lot of what I have been feeling. I have definitely felt the loneliness and isolation. I have so wanted to reach out but felt ashamed, awkward, worried that I was expressing unwanted emotion and intimacy. It has taken me a long time to overcome that (and I’m far from done). I credit two primary influences for my progress: my wife and daughters and the gay male community. The gay male community has done wonders in breaking down barriers to emotion and intimacy. They have shown that it is ok for men to “lower their shields”. This has nothing to do with sexual preference or affectations. It is all about connection and being open those connections. It turns out that some of my male friends growing up were gay. I was totally unaware of this at the time. But I obviously picked up queues about a different way of experiencing relationships with others. That put me in a receptive state of mind. I desperately wanted to “cross the divide” but still didn’t have the tools to do so. There was no path.

    My wife met me halfway. She has been guiding me as I make my way to an engaged, intimate connection to others. She helped me blazed the path. My daughters have fined tuned my understanding of the signals. I have enjoyed seeing them grow, their personalities evolve and their “coming and going”. I see how the “save landing pad” works. I see them testing their wings and engaging the world. It makes me so happy.

    Having learned these skills, I have been able to apply them to my relationships with female friends, coworkers and associates. The connection feels wonderful. I am thrilled to have come this far. So much better than the cold, isolating, macho, chest-thumping that usually defines “manhood” in our culture.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. so beautiful! thank you for sharing this 🙂 I love hearing it and especially how it has grown to create the concentric circles of healthy human relations: partner, children, family, intimates, friends, coworkers, humanity

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great article. My thoughts are that we cannot heal toxic masculinity//patriatchy//rape culture while still participating in a capitalist economy…. ooopsie.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is well thought out and makes some valid points, however, I would like to point out some issues I see with it:

    I was irritated by this article in the second paragraph where it says violence is wrong. To clarify, unnecessary violence is wrong. Violence is sometimes a necessity though in defending the lives and rights of others. I will defend my wife, my girlfriend, my daughter and any other man or woman in my life, with my life if needed. Not because I have authority over them, or because of misogyny or “rape culture,” but because I love them and care about the people in my life. Anyone who is willing to lay a blanket statement that all violence is wrong does not have a firm grasp of the realities of this world.

    I would consider myself a natural nurturer; mostly because of the way I was raised: to care about the people around me. I still enjoy “manly” activities though and I have a man’s brain. There needs to be a balance in life. As the author says, Yes, men can comfort women and still be masculine. Yes men can be nurturing, but a man’s brain and a woman’s brain work differently. The author seems to imply, as do many feminists, that men need to think more like women. It’s not going to happen. The chemistry is actually different. Men don’t communicate with other men in the way they communicate with women or in the way women communicate with other women. She calls it masculine code, I call it chemical differences in the brain. Now, she is right in that men do need to learn to be nurturing positive men, but I think learning it in adulthood is too late. I will touch on that more in a couple paragraphs.

    While she hits on one aspect of rape being about violence the author misses the aspect that it is also about trying to control another person. Men who realize that the only person they can control is themselves, and then work to develop that self-control, will be the nurturing fathers, husbands, brothers etc. the world needs. Still manly, not emasculated, but balanced, healthy and ready to care for the people in their lives. That level of self control gives comfort to the people around the man because he is emotionally stable and emotionally predictable. He is able to respond to situations calmly. His handle on his emotions allows him to choose how he is going to react instead of letting his emotions dictate his reactions. This is in no way saying men shouldn’t feel; instead, men should acknowledge those emotions, ask themselves why they are feeling that way and react appropriately based on the answer to that question. For example: I feel angry. Why? because she said something that upset me. Anger is a valid emotion, but in taking that moment to stop and ask why I am feeling angry I can then decide how or if I am going to act on that anger, instead of letting that anger dictate my actions and behavior.

    The author also touches on “attachment styles.” I prefer Dr. Gary Chapman’s take on it as the “five love languages” and learning how to show love to your partner. The attachment styles she talks about are descriptive of certain behaviors, but fail to address the underlying issue that different people communicate love and attraction in different ways. It is learning to communicate in a way your partner understands that leads to a nurturing relationship. Nurturing in this case is synonymous with love and can be communicated in different ways, whether through acts of service, kind words, gifts, physical touch or quality time.

    When she begins to talk about men needing to learn these things from other men, the main thought that comes to my mind is that men learn how to be men from the father figures in their lives. By the time they are “men” it is too late to learn how to be a man. The breakdown of families through divorce and single mothers (who are some amazing women) has left boys without fathers, and without that role model to teach them how to be men. In place of that many boys turn to older boys to learn how to be a man. It is a failing proposition. The institution she is looking for is the family. It is the home. It is the community or the polycule where a boy has positive male figures who teach him how to nurture, how to listen, how to properly treat a lady and how to find that self-control so many “men” are lacking today.


    1. hey dude, you are having a ‘forest for the trees’ thing going on here. yes, protective use of force is appropriate. that line about violence you picked out of its context is directly connected to the sentence before it and the paragraph about ghomeshi. context in writing is relevant, yeah? it is not this piece that disagrees with you it is some other piece in your head. the piece says that masculinity is not the same as the way quote unquote women act think experience etc. It says something else, that men (including parts of the self for those who only partially identify with masculinity and including cis and trans dudes who do strongly identify with masculinity) have particular gifts that are particular to them and are particularly healing. you are having an argument with yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. The author acknowledges attachment theory and it’s effect on child development in children ages 0-3, but then advocates the healing of damaged men (without going into detail of how to accomplish that), instead of exploring better child rearing practices for children ages 0-3.

    Broken attachment styles (in the context of relationships) are better explored in “How We Love”, a book by Yerkovich which also provides concrete advice, tools, and techniques for coping, addressing, and healing broken love styles, for both the secure attacher and the broken attacher.

    There’s some acknowledgement of the barriers to progress that exist due to shame, but additional resources like those from Brené Brown are not referenced.

    I get the impression that the author would like to see changes put in place that will yield changes for adult men in her lifetime. However, that goal diverts from addressing the problem at the root cause, which is how we as a culture rear our young children. Educating young adults with a knowledge of attachment theory and its effect on children ages 0-3 may yield a better long-term solution, by breaking the cycle of brown attachment styles, and providing those new tools to those children for when they become parents themselves.


    1. nobody is broken. what a horrible thing to say. these are all normal reactions to adverse experiences or inherited trauma that may go back generations and is no one’s fault. we have these styles because they had an evolutionary purpose – they may just no longer help in our actual relationships where we need to create trust to get to an optimal connected style.

      also in a grouchy mood about mansplainers today but I think my readers will pick up on this and I will leave it to others.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. i think there are people who have lived through horrible things. and there are people who have cracks in their spirit, or who have been hobbling along under the weight of tremendous harm. I don’t think that human beings, inherently, are other than whole and in some ways elements of something bigger that can never break, that is indestructible. We can lose connection with ourselves, and we can fragment, and we can carry nervous system injury – but for me the focus is on that external force that causes fracturing of the spirit, not on a quality of the self. To ‘be’ broken can be read either way: as a quality of the self, or as an action taken externally, a kind of blunt force to the spirit. If you mean the second, yes indeed. If you mean the first – no.


  17. Wow, best article I’ve read in a long time.

    “What we need is a model for slow self-love that brings the shame up into the light, and reality checks with others who accept you unconditionally, hold you accountable, and aren’t going anywhere. We need a model of justice that recognizes the lived reality of interdependence and learns to do it well, not a justice of shame that frightens us all out of looking at our shadow sides or weakest selves in a world in which most men are expected to cut off parts of themselves from the time they are quite young.”

    It’s ironic because this is exactly what a religion like Christianity is supposed to be doing and yet in reality, it does the exact opposite and has become one of the largest driving forces of shame in society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d guess that what Jason means by Christianity bringing shame, is that once we look at what we are by our nature, we are ashamed by what we see. There is nothing shameful about recognizing that we are deeply flawed and imperfect. We are all born as barbarians—uncivilized and self-centered—potential rapists. The really weird thing about Christianity is that it seems completely illogical, and yet, once you are a Christian, everything makes sense. Neither of the two Great Commandments Jesus left us have anything to do with shame:


  18. But not everyone women has an absolute right to autonomy all the time. Absolute autonomy isn’t always a good thing because it isn’t always healthy and helpful for her and other people. Men do have partial right to a woman’s body at certain times but he must balance this right with her right.


  19. Have you looked into Dr. Marshall Rosenburg’s work with nonviolent communication? He talks about addressing each other’s needs instead of using evaluating language in order to emphatically connect. His organization provides coursework to allow work on oneself and provides role models. It focuses on the fact that violence expressed outward is simply a display of pain being felt inward. It also addresses how society has pressured the different genders to suppress connecting with themselves such as you have, and then provides various methods to help one help oneself to de-condition and eventually heal.


  20. Hi Nora…. Thank you for this brilliant article. It is incredibly inspiring to have your words connect so deeply with my heart.

    I am in the midst of tackling the deep work necessary to heal the deep pain I have carried inside of me for too long, and growing to become a more nurturing man. I am lucky enough to have a male coach helping me engage with this, and to have several male friends who have stepped up to work with me on becoming our better selves.

    This work is so needed, so necessary. It is amazing how many “nice” guys are actually carrying a lot of unresolved pain and anger deep inside, with no way, or limited ways, of expressing or healing it.

    Thank you for sharing your work so far on this subject and all of the resources you included. I look forward to learning more about this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ps I’d be happy to learn of the work you are doing where you are – I’m putting together a book proposal, and hearing endorsements like this is helpful! If you or the men you are working with (your coach and friends) would be comfortable with it, I’d love to include a line or two about how you’re using the essay to do this work. Let me know what you/they think! and thanks again for reading 🙂


  21. Reblogged this on syrens and commented:
    Also this (suuuuuuuuch a big deal, go read it all): “If you have shamed something in yourself – like a normal need for intimacy – so early and so completely that you don’t even notice you are doing it, you will interpret that same need as shameful when you see it in others.”

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Nora, these “mansplainers” above are as weak as rapists…and as warped in their ideas. I thank you for the “follow.” I shall endeavor to inform and amuse…and, above all, always try to be interesting. continue…. ,


  23. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you.

    I identified which Insecure type I am and it makes so much sense, knowledge is half the battle, knowing this is going to equip me to learn and grow while being helped by and helping other men in which I identify these types of men such as the friends and family i am luck to have in my life., as well as giving the closure i was searching for and not getting (we weren’t equipped to handle our issues with each other). I see now how to take that responsibility and become more of a person that nurtures. with no shame or any form of shaming

    Thank you, this is life changing stuff I’m inspired


  24. Man, white people are somethin else…seriously, this is the one of the most whitest blogs I’ve ever read. Why are white people so weird?


    1. fair…
      happy to hear any other input if you would like.
      generally I’ve been trying to balance writing from where i am / what i know / what i can honestly speak to with widening what i know / listening when i hear what i do not yet know. happy to do that.
      thanks for reading –


      1. Ok….

        Why is it that when many of the posts and the comments identify people as cis/trans, male/female, gay/straight/bi/other but omit race? Seems like the implicit idea is that race is irrelevant in these discussions (which is not the case). TBH I think most of what’s on your blog has little applicability outside white, middle class, liberal leaning bubbles. When you’re speaking of “feminist men” it’s really “white feminist men” you’re speaking of, and so on. It’s not “feminism” as much as “white feminism”. Promoting white culture as “universal culture” is the issue here, aka “what works for white people should work for everyone else”.

        This blog reminded me of an essay I ready just the other day:


        1. hi. i am a cis white man and i am coming back to this article after a year or so. i am extremely grateful for the insights and gentleness in it. it continues to be very helpful for me in my own emotional growth. thank you so much, Nora. i just want to offer an observation. from my view, what just happened here in this comment exchange is that a woman of color pointed out that the article doesnt grapple with race, and therefore is missing a lot of the power that it could have if it were more intersectional…and you responded with self-defense. assuring them and us that you really do understand the failures of white feminism even though you didnt address them in the piece, listing things you are doing in your personal life to be a better white person, and explaining that you didnt include race in the article because you aren’t qualified to write about POC experience. in my experience, these are three of the most common white responses to straightforward “what about race?” invitations from POC to enrich the dialogue….and unfortunately not one of them makes a contribution to that enrichment. i know what it feels like to be called in/out for the whiteness in my work or words, or my lack of racial analysis. it’s not a good feeling. for me it brings up layers of shame and guilt, similar to those you touch on in the piece here. and i know what it feels like to instinctively respond with the 3 tactics of self-defense that you also employed. ive done it many times. but as with gendered socialization, so too is change possible with our racial socialization. so i guess im reaching out to offer a couple ideas on how you could instead respond to the critique in a way that moves this conversation forward and builds on the incredible insights in the piece by also incorporating considerations of race. forgive me if you have already done this elsewhere and i have missed it. i think one low-hanging fruit would be to include in the piece some reflections on how, for those of us socialized as white, the dynamics of attachment and nurturance are shaped in very particular ways by the ways we are taught and learn whiteness. in my experience this is the easiest way to explore racial intersections and it requires no attempt to write a POC experience. so for example, we could talk about how our needs for interpersonal connection in our romantic relationships are amplified by the profound lack of connection available to us in relationships with other members of our community, due to the collapse of social structure that our ancestors suffered during Christian colonization in Europe and then accepted further in North America in order to receive the wages of whiteness, etc. or we could talk about how receipt of those ongoing wages of whiteness demands an ongoing suppression of our own vulnerability and true selves, including our emotional needs (a form of assimilation), which makes secure attachment and open communication so much harder. or we could talk about how gendered violence by white men is also driven by the white supremacist teaching that white bodies have a right to own, possess, and control bodies of color, not just the patriarchal teaching that men have a right to own, possess, and control women’s bodies. im sure if we put our heads together, we could make a very very long list of potential intersections to explore and new insights to glean. i would love to see and participate in that evolution. (and then we could bring in class, and sexuality, and ability, etc!). again, thank you again for all your generous and thoughtful work here. i think it has already had a huge impact. best wishes to you.


        2. i’ll have convos that have layers of this sort (cis dude coming into a personal space on gendered harm to give advice to women about how to work with other women) in good, open, humanizing, f2f contexts, where people can find out who one another are, and do more than perform what they know in public. genuinely open to chat and think together if you’d like. I’ve written about why that – speaking rather than using media for layered and complex convos – matters to me. It is explained here and in several other places.
          If you decide to respect that clearly expressed boundary on my personal blog where I’m writing doing healing work around invasion by dudes, feel free to get in touch. In the meantime, thanks for the tip, I’ve taken your advice and appreciate being able to rethink the original response. be well – n


    2. I’m not really sure how relevant your comment is to this article? I understand that people of different cultures and racial backgrounds experience life differently but i feel that everything mentioned in this article can be applied to aspects of all cultures, and does not necessarily apply to just white people.


  25. Hi – found this very interesting, but stared to get a bit repetitive and I gave up about 1/3rd the way in – maybe due to reading on a screen, or my attention span isn’t what it was – not your fault. Have you, or would you even be able to reduce the content down to a couple of screens worth of bullet points, possibly with hyperlinks to the main article so it can be read in chunks – or could that introduce the possibility of things being taken out of context. Just a though as the more readable the article is, the more that will read it!? – Please do not take this as a criticism of your article – which I do hope to get through in time, and found very informative, just a suggestion as to how to get it ‘out there’ more!


  26. Hi Nora! I really love your work and so appreciate that you put it up on the internet for all to read and apply in their lives. I’m currently searching for an article that I thought used to be on your website (or maybe it was linked to through your website?). It specifically talked about breaking up and a healthy way to break up with a partner while fulfilling commitments and emotional needs, I remember specifically that it named a parting ceremony/ritual on top of a mountain, I think.

    I’m wondering if you can point me in the direction of that piece? I’ve looked all over your site for it and can’t find it, although I apologize if I’m missing something right in front of me.


    1. oh, thanks! i think that would be the autonomy one. how we broke up after a long relationship in a way that was loving. the ritual idea came actually from a friend, who gave me a book on ritual from a reclaiming tradition. i can’t recall the book now though… it had a full ritual that included everyone close to and connected to the couple being there, like you would at a wedding, and there being a circle drawn around the couple like in sand or rice or another temporary thing, and if there are kids they also are in the circle. and the community and family is with them as they tell one another what they are continuing to give one another, what they are no longer giving one another, and what they hope for one another. and in the original ritual they step out of the circle and the loved ones come in with brooms and sweep it away. incredibly powerful when i read it and we did only a very reduced version with that recognition that a closed relationship is not a rupture, it is a letting go.


  27. Thank you for this deep and inspiring post! It has really hit me at an opportune moment and opened a lot of venues I can pursue to work on myself!


    1. I like the piece and found the discussion of attachment styles and their implications in relationships really interesting. I really do hope that men can step up and teach each other how to be more nurturing. But I don’t see how it ties into rape culture?


  28. Hi,
    thanks for the article. I found the part about the different ways we attach really interesting and useful. I identified mostly with the anxious type, although like any model it is limited and I also identified to a lesser degree with the others too – including the secure one.
    That said, reading about those ideas has shed light on the current point of my journey and I’m grateful for that. I’ve shared the article on facebook.

    I really like that you invite nurturing to be a masculine trait. I sometimes get confused about the whole feminine/masculine dichotomy. Men can love and nurture (and knit and cook ;)) and listen and express their feelings and do [i]almost[/i] anything women can, as can women perform any traditionally male assigned roles. A culture that labels nurture as a feminine trait, then reinforces gender differences will find men less open to offer nurturing, so thanks again for helping redefine who can do what.

    To a better future,


    1. Male nurturing. It comes simply from growing up with that in the home. This isn’t rocket scientist. Men who didn’t grow up with it become impoverished as a result and lost. It behooves women to seek men who grew up with it. Again, it isn’t rocket science.


  29. This has been so incredibly enlightening. I’ve always been more attuned to women than men due to my father figures being what they were, so I’ve always kind of played the role of telling men that feelings a part of their being and such. But to hear it explained like this! I feel like my IQ and EQ both went up a notch. Thank you so much for sharing your work.


  30. hi! i wrote you a PM instead – did that get to you? I was having a crap day and realized my first response wasn’t great. I offered to just talk instead of doing things on a thread. let me know if that got to you. 🙂 I replied to your blog contact form.


  31. (not saying any of that – that haven’t had assimilation etc. – hence recognizing that hard things are done better when humans know each other and just talk to each other).


  32. (honestly, you deal with so much crap agro mail from dudes having a blog like this, i had gotten hit with a few other seriously crap things all one day and was just like ‘fuck it, it’s my blog, i’m not making room for agro dude things today.’ and was like ‘nope not today’ around not just yours. and then at the same time registered that your comment wasn’t actually one of those, it was thoughtful and caring and questioning, just the kind of thing that I like to hear and engage in, and had some good things worth me noticing. i wasn’t in a good place to engage and this week i’ve been slammed with too many things piling on. so i wrote a note saying ‘let’s just talk.’
    a la, you brought up something good, i’m slammed and grouchy right now and not welcoming more dudes telling me what to do today, but my automatic posture when greeted with ‘hey something you did bothered me’ is to turn towards, and talk, assuming good intent on both sides, which you clearly expressed. so in this spirit – – and because these things are complex (layers that may not be visible to you immediately, i’d ask that you believe me about that) – i’m open to exploring this convo, in a human way with discussion. seemed like a good handling of ‘hey you have a thing i want you to notice’ while still having core edges around being able to say fuck it not today about dudes stepping into my blog – given how this blog began and what it began for. (which may or may not be apparent). i liked the way you wrote, and the reflectiveness of your post. I’m in the midle of many different convos, and curious to and willing to open up one here. feel free to ping me at my email addy – thanks again – n


  33. i’m clearly expressing a very important boundary around how i do complex layered conversations. this is a blog about gendered violence that i began to do healing work. for the reasons i have expressed clearly in o a list – i do not do emotionally complex discussion with people in writing. i do it in person, when the goodwill and good heart isthere (as it clearly is here). the blog was begun as a way to reclaim my sanity and bodily integrity after many violations. that means that it feels to me like an extension of my body, my mind, my inner world. i get to determine literally everything about how it gets shaped within the space. if that means nothing from
    where you are standing, we are having an empathy gap here. i value what you’re drawing to my attention, and i appreciate it, and i’m genuinely interested i engsgingc and i do not do these kinds of convos in writing, or on social media, or on comment threads. that is a very fundamental boundary for me. i get people into a cccle and we humanize one another and we connect, and we talk. that’s always open any time you want it.
    best – n


  34. (i wasn’t just ‘having a bad day’ – i was specifically having a ‘men telling me what to do’ day, and had been violated by an older dude while i was seeing his house for rent thinking about whether i would want him to be the only human with keys to my house whose he constantly flicked his eyes all over my boobs and gave me invasive advice bout everything from my professional life to my love life. i got home and got this. i was not in the mood. so i did what i do, which is say ‘ok, you’re clearly coming from a good place, and there is helpful content in what younre saying, so let’s circle ulz i get to decide how that happens here in ny own space, as i would in my body or in my bedroom. i’m genuinely interested in a convo, in a way that i feel good about. you can do what you wish with that.


  35. if you genuinely feel good about coming into a woman’s blog on gendered violence with your ‘i’m going to teach you about this’ hat on, we are beginning from very different places. and if your post was not about talking with me, but about performing for a bigger audience, we’re working with different goals. i’m open to your post because it was written in a thoughtful way and was helpful in content. but i’m asking of you that you also perceive what you
    re choosing to do in coming in insisting that you get to decide how the convo happens, given where we are and who we are. writing in a calm reasonable way and even sharing helpful insights does not give you knowledge of who you’re speaking with, what i do – it doesn’t speak very well to ‘i’m here to learn’ which is what I’d hope would be the basic starting position. is it possible, maybe possible, that there are parts of what is happening here that aren’t apparent from your perspective. or are we here so that you get to feel like you’ve taught me something and can be patted on the back for how mucjv you see and get. because i’m really not up for more of that this week in my own private space.


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