I’ve long liked the idea of men getting together and helping each other get by in life. As far as I can tell from reading history, it used to be a lot more common for men to do this years ago than it is today. Fraternal organizations, labor unions, VFW halls, sports leagues and at the extreme monasteries come to mind. I wonder sometimes what it is that finally broke these institutions.
Could it be mass media and home entertainment? Too many hours at work?
It’s probably a combination of factors, but I tend to think women’s presence has had a disruptive influence in male organizations, and the trend for the last 40 years has been to invite women into every male space. Today, just about the only places left that are “male-only” are gay organizations and some clubs run by the super rich, who have always been able to pay off feminists (it must seem pretty cheap to buy them off when you’re a billionaire — Forbes does it).
So for those of us who are neither gay nor rich, there’s nothing left to speak of, and that’s unfortunate, because “brotherly” organizations have been a great boon to many men. They help men network, teach them skills, and give them a place to “get away” from the rat race, and sometimes the home. They have arguably been good for wives, too; men who can spend some time with the boys are probably less likely to be thinking about spending time with another woman.
The rising consciousness pertaining to men’s issues may give us an opportunity to reverse the disappearance of men’s spaces. There are enough of us now that the ridicule and insults that would inevitably surround such an effort wouldn’t seem to matter much any longer. Women have their own spaces, often publicly funded, and there’s no law that says we cannot create our own. Furthermore, “hooking up” is so easy for young men these days that I don’t think the idea of getting away from the meat market for a while would bother them. Perhaps they would relish the chance to relax, drop the game and just enjoy some company in a brotherly environment before heading back out into the world.
For married men it would also be a great way to unwind, and singles might enjoy the company.
I think it’s time for those of us who have the time and inclination to start thinking about putting together some organizations along these lines. And rather than make them overly political or ideologically based, I think the first order of business should be to simply offer men a sanctuary — a place where they can get away from the world for a bit and calm their nerves. No competition over women, no workplace stress: just friendship, some understanding and a little R&R.
Although most readers here won’t need to ask why men sometimes need a female-free space, I’ll explain for newcomers and those who may still adhere to contemporary convention:
Women are a lot of work. Even if you’re not married to one, finding sex partners and dating is, as Game proponents demonstrate, a pretty demanding task (unless you pay for it). And even if you’re a single guy with no interest in dating, simply working with them is hard. Women are very demanding and they expect a lot of attention — they admit as much themselves all the time. Having men run around for them is immensely satisfying to women, but it can be exhausting for men. After my divorce, I deliberately avoided dating because I knew there was no way I could handle women and my then toddler children at the same time — it would have broken me. I had to choose one or the other, and naturally I chose my kids. It all worked out fine for me; it turns out that even if you don’t date women will find you anyway. But even if women may sometimes make your life more enjoyable, they very seldom make it easier.
Sometimes, people need psychological rest, a little space for the spirit to rise and lower pressure. For most men, an absence of sexual tension is essential for achieving the kind of peace necessary for this. It can be as simple as a game in the gym, fishing, some time in the field, or maybe an extended retreat. It’s important for mental health and a sense of well-being. Having other men around doesn’t always help in this regard, but it certainly doesn’t always sabotage it, and sometimes men want some company. Most important, though, is that other men with the same goal can work together to create the kind of environment they need. They can also defend it from incursions, organize, and keep each other covered when needed. Working together with other men to create this kind of place is simply more practical than doing it alone.
However, throw women in the mix and it suddenly gets a lot more complicated. A sexual undertone emerges, jealousies arise for all sorts of petty reasons, the woman demands changes to accommodate her tastes and “needs,” and next thing you know she’s recreated a home, a singles bar, a nursery, a spa or whatever it is that suits her desires at the time. The men then start avoiding the place, and it all goes back to square one.
So I’d propose that men who like this idea start thinking about how it could be made into a practical reality. I like the name “sanctuary,” but perhaps someone has a better term in mind. We all have our interests and personal preferences, so I’d recommend keeping it pretty basic. The most important thing is restoring our space. When we have that, we’ll find ways to make it work for us just like we always have.