Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Myth of the Alpha Male (The Art of Manliness)

This is a nice little article dispelling the myth of the alpha male - men and masculinity is far more complex than a polarity between alpha male and beta male. The "Manly Guest Contributor" of this article is Scott Barry Kaufman.

The Myth of the Alpha Male

A Manly Guest Contributor
July 7, 2014 

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Scott Barry Kaufman.

There are a lot of false dichotomies out there — left brain vs. right brain, nature vs. nurture, etc. But one really persistent myth, that is literally costing human lives, is the distinction between “alpha” and “beta” males.

As the story typically goes, there are two types of men.

“Alpha” males are those at the top of the social status hierarchy. They have greater access to power, money, and mates, which they gain through physical prowess, intimidation, and domination. Alphas are typically described as the “real men.” In contrast are the “Beta” males: the weak, submissive, subordinate guys who are low status, and only get access to mates once women decide to settle down and go searching for a “nice guy.”

This distinction, which is often based on observations among other social animals (such as chimpanzees and wolves) paints a very black and white picture of masculinity. Not only does it greatly simplify the multi-dimensionality of masculinity, and grossly underestimate what a man is capable of becoming, but it also doesn’t even get at the heart of what is really attractive to women.

As the expression goes, when all you have is a hammer, all you see are nails. When we impose just two categories of male on the world, we unnecessarily mislead young men into acting in certain predefined ways that aren’t actually conducive to attracting and sustaining healthy and enjoyable relationships with women, or finding success in other areas of life. So it’s really worth examining the link between so-called “alpha” behaviors (such as dominance) and attractiveness, respect, and status.

The Science of Dominance

Consider one of the earliest sets of studies on the relationship between dominance and attractiveness. The researchers presented their participants with videotaped and written scenarios depicting two men interacting with each other. The scenarios varied on whether the male acted “dominant” or “nondominant.” For instance, here’s an excerpt of a scenario in which the male was depicted as dominant:

John is 5’10” tall, 165 lbs. He has been playing tennis for one year and is currently enrolled in an intermediate tennis class. Despite his limited amount of training he is a very coordinated tennis player, who has won 60% of his matches. His serve is very strong and his returns are extremely powerful. In addition to his physical abilities, he has the mental qualities that lead to success in tennis. He is extremely competitive, refusing to yield against opponents who have been playing much longer. All of his movements tend to communicate dominance and authority. He tends to psychologically dominate his opponents, forcing them off their games and into mental mistakes.

In contrast, here’s an excerpt of a scenario in which the same tennis player is instead depicted as “nondominant” (the first three lines, in italics above, were kept the same across conditions):

. . . His serve and his returns are consistent and well placed. Although he plays well, he prefers to play for fun rather than to win. He is not particularly competitive and tends to yield to opponents who have been playing tennis much longer. He is easily thrown off his game by opponents who play with great authority. Strong opponents are able to psychologically dominate him, sometimes forcing him off his game. He enjoys the game of tennis but avoids highly competitive situations.

Across four studies, the researchers found that the dominance scenarios were considered more sexually attractive, although dominant John was regarded as less likeable and not desired as a spouse. Taken at face value, this study seems to support the sexual attractiveness of the dominant alpha male over the submissive beta male.

But not so fast.

In a follow up study, the researchers isolated various adjectives to pinpoint which descriptors were actually considered sexually attractive. While they found that “dominance” was considered sexually attractive, “aggressive” and “domineering” tendencies did not increase the sexual attractiveness of either males or females. There seemed to be more to the story than just mere dominance vs. submissiveness.

Enter a study by Jerry Burger and Mica Cosby. The researchers had 118 female undergraduates read the same descriptions of John the tennis player (dominant vs. submissive), but they added a crucial control condition in which some participants only read the first three sentences of the description (see italics above). Consistent with the prior study, women found dominant John more sexually appealing than submissive John. However, the John depicted in the control condition had the highest ratings of sexiness of them all!

What’s going on? Well, this most certainly doesn’t mean that the extremely brief three-sentence description of the John depicted in the control condition was sexually appealing. Rather, it’s more probable that hearing about either dominant or nondominant behavior, in isolation of other information about him, made him less sexually attractive. The researchers conclude: “In short, a simple dominant-nondominant dimension may be of limited value when predicting mate preferences for women.”

Next, the researchers fiddled with the descriptors of John. In the “dominant” condition, participants read a short description of John and were told that a recent personality test found that his five most prominent traits were aggressive, assertive, confident, demanding, and dominant. Those in the “nondominant” condition read the same paragraph but were told that John’s five most prominent personality characteristics were easygoing, quiet, sensitive, shy, and submissive. Those in the control condition only read the short paragraph but were not told anything about John’s personality.

The researchers then asked women to indicate which of the adjectives used to describe John were ideal for a date as well as for a long-term romantic partner. They found that only 1 woman out of the 50 undergraduates in their sample actually identified “dominant” as one of the traits she sought in either an ideal date or a romantic partner. For the rest of the dominant adjectives, the two big winners were confident (72% sought this trait for an ideal date; 74% sought this trait for an ideal romantic partner) and assertive (48% sought this trait for an ideal date; 36% sought this trait for an ideal romantic partner). Not one woman wanted a demanding male, and only 12% wanted an aggressive person for a date and romantic partner.

In terms of the nondominant adjectives, the big winners were easygoing (68% sought this trait for an ideal date; 64% sought this trait for an ideal romantic partner) and sensitive (76% sought this trait for an ideal date and ideal romantic partner). Not one woman wanted a submissive male for either a date or romance. Other low-ranked nondominant adjectives were shy (2% for dating; 0% for romantic) and quiet (4% for ideal; 2% for romantic).

This analysis was revealing because it suggests that dominance can take many forms. The dominant male who is demanding, violent, and self-centered is not considered attractive to most women, whereas the dominant male who is assertive and confident is considered attractive. As the researchers suggest, “Men who dominate others because of leadership qualities and other superior abilities and who therefore are able and willing to provide for their families quite possibly will be preferred to potential partners who lack these attributes.”

Their results also suggest that sensitivity and assertiveness are not opposites. In fact, further research suggests that the combination of kindness and assertiveness might just be the most attractive pairing. Across three studies, Lauri Jensen-Campbell and colleagues found that it wasn’t dominance alone, but rather the interaction of dominance and pro-social behaviors, that women reported were particularly sexually attractive. In other words, dominance only increased sexual attraction when the person was already high in agreeableness and altruism.

Along similar lines, Jeffrey Snyder and colleagues reported that dominance was only attractive to females (for both a short-term affair and a long-term relationship) in the context of male-male competitions. Tellingly, women did not find men attractive who used aggressive dominance (force or threat of force) while competing for leadership in informal decision making among peers. This suggests that women are attuned to cues that indicate that the male might direct his aggression toward her, with dominance toward competitors considered more attractive than dominance toward friends or coalition members. To put this study in a real-world context, the guy in high school that all the girls go for is the guy who can dominate a player from a rival school on the football field on Friday night, but who’s likeable and friendly to his own classmates during the week.

Distinguishing between the different shades of dominance, and how they interact with kindness, is not just important for understanding sexual attraction among humans. It also has deep implications for the evolution of social status.

“But wait…don’t some women go for the Bad Boy? I’ve seen it happen!”

While studies show that most women find prestigious men more attractive than dominant men for both short-term affairs and long-term relationships, the research also suggests that, when given the choice, some types of women will still pick the dominant asshole over the upstanding prestigious man. Women with a “fast life” history (meaning they grew up in an insecure and unstable environment with little or no parental support), insecure attachment, and who hold hostile, sexist attitudes about their fellow females typically prefer a short-term mating strategy and engage in frequent, uncommitted sexual activity (Olderbak & Figueredo, 2010; Bohner et al, 2010; Kirkpatrick & Davis 1994). These sorts of women typically prefer the stereotypical dominant and aggressive “alpha” male to the more pro-social, prestigious male (Hall & Canterberry, 2011).
While it is possible to pick up some types of women by acting “alpha,” because of the kind of women this seduction method attracts, the flings you successfully land can become messier than you bargained for. It’s for this reason that men who go for the alpha male ideology often fall victim to a selection bias in regards to their perception of women: because the women who are attracted to them are less stable and more promiscuous, they come to believe that all women are “skanky” and “crazy.”
At the same time, when these men try their dominant pick-up techniques on more well-adjusted women, their hostility and narcissism creep the women out, and cause them to turn these guys down. This rejection makes these would-be “pick-up artists” more hostile to women, and they figure the problem is that they’re still too much of a “nice guy.” They then try to up their alpha quotient even further, which makes even more women turn away from them. And the cycle continues.

Dominance vs. Prestige

In our species, the attainment of social status, and the mating benefits that come along with it, can be accomplished through compassion and cooperation just as much (if not more so) as through aggression and intimidation. Scholars across ethnography, ethology, sociology, and sociolinguistics believe that at least two routes to social status – dominance and prestige – arose in evolutionary history at different times and for different purposes.

The dominance route is paved with intimidation, threats, and coercion, and is fueled by hubristic pride. Hubristic pride is associated with arrogance, conceit, anti-social behaviors, unstable relationships, low levels of conscientiousness and high levels of disagreeableness, neuroticism, narcissism, and poor mental health outcomes. Hubristic pride, along with its associated feelings of superiority and arrogance, facilitates dominance by motivating behaviors such as aggression, hostility, and manipulation.

In contrast, prestige is paved with the emotional rush of accomplishment, confidence, and success, and is fueled by authentic pride. Authentic pride is associated with pro-social and achievement-oriented behaviors, agreeableness, conscientiousness, satisfying interpersonal relationships, and positive mental health. Critically, authentic pride is associated with genuine self-esteem (considering yourself a person of value, not considering yourself superior to others). Authentic pride, along with its associated feelings of confidence and accomplishment, facilitates behaviors that are associated with attaining prestige. People who are confident, agreeable, hard-working, energetic, kind, empathic, nondogmatic, and high in genuine self-esteem inspire others and cause others to want to emulate them.

These two routes to male social status have also been observed among the Tsimané (a small-scale Amazonian society). In this society, dominance (as ranked by peers) was positively related to physical size, whereas peer-ranked prestige was positively associated with hunting ability, generosity, and number of allies.

Interestingly, while advocates for acting dominant often point to chimps as proof of the exclusivity of this route to male status, recent research has shown that even among primates, alpha male status can be achieved not only through size and strength but through adept sociability and the grooming of others as well.

Flexibility and Adaptability: The Advantages of Prestige

While it’s tempting from the above descriptions to decide that dominance is “bad” and prestige is “good,” that’s a bit too simplistic. What too often goes missing in discussions about being “alpha” or “beta” is that status is context specific. A CEO of a Fortune 500 company has a high level of status in our society, but if he was thrown into the general population at Sing Sing Prison, he’d find himself at the very bottom of the pecking order. You can be an alpha amongst one group, and a beta in another.

In the context of a harsh, dangerous environment, the dominant male is valued because he can get what he wants, and provide resources to those who will submit to and follow him. He doesn’t need to employ skills beyond strength and intimidation. But outside of pure barbarian society (i.e., most of human history), it’s the prestigious man who rules. He’s primed to have the most success in the widest variety of circumstances.

In one set of studies conducted on university-level varsity athletes, dominant individuals were found to have lower levels of genuine self-esteem, social acceptance, and agreeableness and higher levels of narcissism, aggression, agency, disagreeableness, and conscientiousness. Dominant individuals were rated by their peers as higher in athleticism and leadership, but lower in altruism, cooperativeness, helpfulness, ethicality, and morality.

In contrast, prestigious individuals had lower levels of aggression and neuroticism, and higher levels of genuine self-esteem, social acceptance, agreeableness, and even GPA. What’s more, prestige was weakly related to self-aggrandizing narcissism. Just like their dominant peers, prestigious individuals were rated as being better leaders and more athletic, but they were also considered more intellectual, socially skilled, altruistic, cooperative, helpful, ethical, and moral.

These results clearly show that dominance and prestige represent very different ways of attaining and maintaining status. But it’s also worth once again reiterating the overlap: qualities like strength, leadership, kindness, and morality can exist in the same person; strict categories of “alpha” and “beta” truly set up a false dichotomy that obscures what a man is capable of becoming. While dominance may be advantageous in a narrow set of circumstances, prestige is far more valued in nearly every context. Due to their authentic pride, prestigious individuals are more likely to be respected, socially accepted, and thus successful. Who would you rather have on your team — Kevin Durant or Dennis Rodman?

Here’s another way of looking at the difference between the two routes to status: Dominance is a short-term strategy for success; prestige is a long-term one. Dominance is a quality that can help you conquer, but it lacks the ability to govern what you’ve won. Amongst chimps, once a male has fought his way to the top, and becomes the alpha, his enjoyment of that status is short-lived; another dominant male will soon come along to challenge him and knock him off his throne. On a cultural level, peoples like the Mongols or Vikings dominated others and were the alphas in their time, but were unable to adapt, and died off. Prestigious men — like the Founding Fathers — were able to create a legacy that continues on today.


It is neither the alpha nor the beta male that is most desired by women.

Taken together, the research suggests that the ideal man (for a date or romantic partner) is one who is assertive, confident, easygoing, and sensitive, without being aggressive, demanding, dominant, quiet, shy, or submissive. In other words, a prestigious man, not a dominant man.

In fact, it appears that the prestigious man who is high in both assertiveness and kindness is considered the most attractive to women for both short-term affairs and long-term relationships. This research should offer some assurance that the genuinely nice, passionate kid who learns a culturally valued skill can be immensely attractive.

Further, seeking to become a prestigious man is not only the surest route to success with women, but achievement in any area of life.

Thus, I think a much more effective and healthier route for men having difficulty attracting women is not to attempt to cultivate the traits of the stereotypical, dominant “alpha,” but to cultivate the traits of the prestigious man. This means developing a skill that brings value to society, and cultivating a stable sense of identity. Such a route will not only make you more attractive to women, but will also create the most satisfying life for yourself in general. In my view, attempting to don the persona of the “alpha” is analogous to building a house of cards. There’s no stable foundation supporting your worth.

It’s time we shed these black and white categories, and embrace a much more multidimensional concept of masculinity. The most attractive male is really a blend of characteristics, including assertiveness, kindness, cultivated skills, and a genuine sense of value in this world. The true alpha is fuller, deeper, and richer.

Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author of Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love and author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The 3 Scariest Words A Boy Can Hear

So what are those three scariest words? "Be a man."

This wisdom comes from Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL defensive lineman and now a pastor. He was interviewed recently for NPR's Utah Public Radio, and the transcript is below. This story is part of All Things Considered's "Men in America" series.

Interesting quote:
CORNISH: For you, what is masculinity? What does it mean to be a man?
EHRMANN: I think it could be only defined by two things. One, it's your capacity to love and to be loved. Masculinity ought to be defined in terms of relationships. Second thing, it ought to be defined by commitment to a cause - that all of us have a responsibility to give back - to make the world more fair, more just, more hospitable for every human being. So I think it's about relationships and commitment to a cause. That's the underlying of all humanity - men and women.
Cool interview.

The 3 Scariest Words A Boy Can Hear

By NPR Staff
Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 

Listen  - 7:25

Joe Ehrmann, shown in 1975, was a defensive lineman with the Baltimore Colts for much of the '70s. He says that as a child, he was taught that being a man meant dominating people and circumstances — a lesson that served him well on the football field, but less so in real life.   Neil Leifer Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
This story is part of All Things Considered's "Men in America" series.

It's rare that a man makes it through life without being told, at least once, "Be a man." To Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL defensive lineman and now a pastor, those are the three scariest words that a boy can hear.

Ehrmann — who played with the Baltimore Colts for much of the 1970s and was a lineman at Syracuse University before that — confronted many models of masculinity in his life. But, as with many boys, his first instructor on manhood was his father, who was an amateur boxer.

Ehrmann says of his father: "I think his definition, which was very old in this country, was: Men don't need. Men don't want. Men don't touch. Men don't feel. If you're going to be a man in this world, you better learn how to dominate and control people and circumstances."

On the football field, those lessons served Ehrmann well. But, as he tells NPR's Audie Cornish, it was not the same case in the pediatric oncology ward. In 1978, Ehrmann's teenage brother was diagnosed with cancer. However tough Joe was on the field, he did not feel equipped to help his brother or himself.

Interview Highlights

On how his brother's death affected him

When he died, that was devastating to me. And I started to ask all the questions about what is the role, the meaning, the purpose of life. I was 29 years old, I was six years into my NFL career, and I had no concept — no concept what life was about, and no concept what I was about. And on this journey, I ended up asking the question: What does it mean to be a man? ...

I recognized that everything I had invested my life in — all my accomplishments, my achievements, the stuff I had accumulated — I recognized at that moment they offered no hope or help to my 19-year-old brother — 18-year-old brother — lying on his deathbed. ...

All I had was these old "man up" kind of things — "suck it up, we'll get through this together" — when he really needed the emotional, the nurturing, the love. And I had to really struggle to pull that out of my heart.

On the roles a coach can play in his players' lives

There's two kinds of coaches in America: You're either transactional or you're transformational. Transactional coaches basically use young people for their own identity, their own validation, their own ends. It's always about them — the team first, players' needs down the road.

And then you have transformational coaches. They understand the power, the platform, the position they have in the lives of young people, and they're going to use that to change the arc of every young person's life. I think football is an ideal place — sports in general — team sports are an ideal place to help boys become men. And the great myth in America today is that sports builds character. That's not true in a win-at-all-costs culture. Sports doesn't build character unless the coach models it, nurtures it and teaches it.

On what those philosophies look like on the field

I think there's a lot of screamers, there's a lot of shouters, there's a lot of shamers. My approach is this: Boy, you're in the middle of the game, and some kid's having a tough time. They get beat. ... I tell all my players, "Come on over to me during the game and I'll give you a hug." And you think about the power of a hug versus swearing, shouting, shaming at some kid.

When I played football, I hated [when] some kid would get a knee injury, your teammate would go down and that coach would say move the practice down 20 yards and leave that kid laying there. ... As coaches, we can kneel down next to that kid, you affirm the tears, the pain, the emotions, and you bring all the team around to say, "How can we help Bobby? He's one of us; he's done so much. He had so many dreams." So, you teach them how to build authentic community as men caring for and loving each other.

On the changes he's seen in ideas of masculinity

I think those three lies of masculinity — athletic ability, sexual conquest, economic success — in many ways, those things have been heightened. You have this increase in social media. You have young boys coming into this world, and they are hit 24/7. They're given all kinds of negative messages about their masculinity. They've been conditioned, and they have way more messaging out of this culture than I ever had as a young boy. I think in many respects, it's more difficult. There's more negative messaging out there and less positive.

On what it means to be a man

It think it can only be defined by two things: One, it's your capacity to love and to be loved. Masculinity ought to be defined in terms of relationships. Second thing, it ought to be defined by commitment to a cause. All of us have a responsibility to give back, to make the world more fair, more just, more hospitable for every human being. So I think it's about relationships and commitments to a cause. That's the underline of all humanity — men and women.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. We've been hearing about men this summer - how their roles have changed, what their lives are like. And one thing most men are told at some point in their early lives is this - be a man.

JOE EHRMANN: Yeah, I think every boy at a very early age is given this mandate to be a man. They're actually the three scariest words every boy receives.

CORNISH: That's former NFL defenseman Joe Ehrmann. He played in the 1970s, mostly for the Baltimore Colts. As with many boys, his first instructor on manhood was his father.

EHRMANN: I think in many ways my father gave me all the wrong concepts about being a man. I think his definition, which was very old-school in this country, was men don't need. Men don't want. Men don't touch. Men don't feel. If you're going to be a man in this world, you better learn how to dominate and control people and circumstances.

CORNISH: And, of course, men don't cry. On the football field, those lessons served Joe Ehrmann well, but not in the pediatric oncology ward. In 1978 Ehrmann's teenage brother was diagnosed with cancer, and however tough Joe Ehrmann was on the field, he did not feel equipped to help his dying brother or himself.

EHRMANN: When he died, that was devastating to me. And I started to ask all the questions about what is the role, the meaning, the purpose of life. I was 29 years old. I was six years in my NFL career, and I had no concept - no concept what life was about and no concept what I was about. And on this journey I ended up asking the question what does it mean to be a man?

CORNISH: Why that question for this particular really very emotionally wrenching part of life?

EHRMANN: Well, 'cause I think I recognized that when my brother was diagnosed and began his dying process - I recognized that everything I had invested my life in - all my accomplishments, my achievements, stuff I had accumulated - I recognized at that moment they offered no hope or help to my 19-year-old brother - 18-year-old brother lying on his deathbed. I was a socialized male that had separated my heart from my head, trying to live life from the neck up.

CORNISH: You were saying all you had were the locker room speeches basically.

EHRMANN: Yeah. All I had was these old man up kind of things. Suck it up. We'll get through this thing together. When he really needed the emotional - the nurturing, the love. Boy, and I had to really struggle to pull that of my heart.

CORNISH: You went on to seminary and to become a pastor. And you also went on to coach high school football. Now, can you talk about what it is in particular you think coaches can do to shift this ideology and whether you really have encountered coaches who are interested in doing that?

EHRMANN: Well, there's two kinds of coaches in America. You're either transactional or you're transformational. Transactional coaches basically use young people for their own identity, their own validation, their own ends. It's always about them - the team first, players' needs down the road. And then you have transformational coaches. They understand the power, the platform, the position they have in the lives of young people, and they're going to use that to change the arc of every young person's life. I think football is an ideal place - sports in general - team sports are an ideal place to help boys become men. And the great myth in America today is that sports builds character. That's not true in a win-at-all-costs culture. Sports doesn't build character unless a coach models it, nurtures it and teaches it.

CORNISH: You mentioned that coaches are either transactional - what can you do for me - or transformational. On the field, how does that play out? Are you basically talking about the screamers here?

EHRMANN: The screamers, yeah. I think there's a lot of screamers. There's a lot of shouters. There's a lot of shamers. My approach is this - boy, you're in the middle of the game and some kid's having a tough time. They get beat. I tell all my players, come on over to me during the game and I'll give you a hug. And you think about the power of a hug versus swearing, shouting, shaming at some kid. Boy, you know, when I played ball I hated - some kid would get a knee injury. Your teammate would go down and that coach would say move the practice down 20 yards and leave that kid laying there. Boy, as coaches, we get kneeled down next to the kid. You affirm the tears, the pain, the emotions, and then you bring all the team around to say how can we help Bobby? He's one of us. He's done so much. He had so many dreams. So you teach them how to build authentic community as men caring and loving for each other.

CORNISH: I'm speaking with Joe Ehrmann. He's founder of Coach for America. And so you've actually been doing this work for decades. And has the average boy changed in some way or are there changes you've seen in how they approach masculinity than when you were growing up?

EHRMANN: Not too much. Boy, I think there's different nuances and stuff, but we have a real crisis when it comes to what it means to be a man.

CORNISH: Not too much, really?

EHRMANN: I don't think so. I think those three lies of masculinity - athletic ability, sexual conquest, economic success. In many ways those things have been heightened. You have this increase in social media. You have young boys coming into this world and they are - 24/7 they're given all kinds of negative messages about their masculinity. They've been conditioned, and they have way more messaging out of this culture than I ever had as a young boy. So I think in many respects it's more difficult. There's more negative messaging out there and less positive.

CORNISH: Can you talk about a particular incident that really drives that home for you?

EHRMANN: Well, I think the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case - two high school boys - 16-year-old girl - drunk, passed out - hundreds of pictures taken - tweets. And that one person had the moral clarity or moral courage to intervene in the midst of that. Two boys sentenced to prison - had no idea about consent. They weren't taught this stuff. A community tried to cover it up. Boy, I think that thing is played out and could play out at any high school. Boys have to be taught about - they have to have the moral clarity and the moral courage to speak up. That's not going to end. Women can't end it. It's not going to end until we raise up a generation of men that have the courage to call out other men on behalf of women in this country.

CORNISH: For you, what is masculinity? What does it mean to be a man?

EHRMANN: I think it could be only defined by two things. One, it's your capacity to love and to be loved. Masculinity ought to be defined in terms of relationships. Second thing, it ought to be defined by commitment to a cause - that all of us have a responsibility to give back - to make the world more fair, more just, more hospitable for every human being. So I think it's about relationships and commitment to a cause. That's the underlying of all humanity - men and women.

CORNISH: Joe Ehrmann - he's founder of Coach for America. Thank you so much for speaking with us. EHRMANN: Great to be with you, Audie. Thank you.
Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Peg Streep - What Porn Does to Intimacy

Disclaimer - Not all porn is evil, but frequent use of porn can pose serious issues.

This post from Peg Streep's Psychology Today blog, Tech Support, looks at three recent studies on how pornography impacts intimacy in relationships.

What Porn Does to Intimacy

3 studies find that explicit material can do more harm than most people think.

Published on July 16, 2014 by Peg Streep in Tech Support
The rapid proliferation of pornography is one of the digital age’s legacies; some 40 million people in the United States visit porn websites regularly, many of them emerging or young adults. Popular media have capitalized on cautionary tales about porn addiction and stories of boyfriends objectifying their girlfriends and wanting them to behave like porn stars. But studies confirm that the preponderance of young men—and slightly less than half of women—thinks that watching sexually explicit material is okay.

That’s what Spencer B. Olmstead and his colleagues found when they asked college students about the use of pornography in future romantic relationships: 70.8 percent of men and 45.5 percent of women thought they would watch. In contrast, only 22.3 percent of men and 26.3 percent of women thought pornography had no role in a romantic partnership. Men and women tend to disagree on two issues: How porn is watched (alone, in groups, with a sexual partner); and how often it is watched. As Michael Kimmel reported in his 2008 book Guyland, young men often watch porn with their peers and for different reasons than older men. Kimmel writes that “guys tend to like the extreme stuff, the double penetrations and humiliating scenes. They watch it together with guys and they make fun of the women in the scene.” In contrast, older men with more experience either watch by themselves or with a partner, and with what Kimmel calls “wistfulness” about their younger selves; they tend to prefer material “where the women look like they are filled with desire and experience pleasure.”

The Olmstead study found that women’s concerns had more to do with whether consumption of porn was limited than whom it was watched with. Men tend to think that watching porn has only positive consequences.

As reported by Nathaniel Lambert and others in a review of studies, women whose partners watched porn regularly thought less of those partners and saw porn as more of a threat to the stability of their relationship. On the other hand, other studies have shown that young men and women alike think that sexually explicit material can help them explore their sexuality and adds “spice” to what they do in bed.

Is watching pornography really as benign as people think? The following three studies reveal that it has a greater effect on relationships than those we usually discuss.

1. Porn-free relationships are stronger, with a lower rate of infidelity.

That’s what Amanda Maddox and her colleagues found in a study of men and women, ages 18 to 34, who were in romantic relationships. The researchers measured the levels of negative communication, relationship adjustment, dedication or interpersonal commitment, sexual satisfaction, and infidelity. In their study, 76.8 percent of men and 34.6 percent of women looked at sexually explicit material alone; 44.8 percent reported viewing it with partners. They found that people who didn’t view any porn had lower levels of negative communication, were more committed to the relationship, and had higher sexual satisfaction and relationship adjustment. Their rate of infidelity was at least half of those who had watched sexual material alone and with their partners. But people who only watched porn with their partners were more dedicated to the relationship and more sexually satisfied than those who watched alone.

2. Watching porn diminishes relationship commitment.

What these researchers discovered is that watching porn reminds you of all the potential sexual partners out there, which in turn lowers your dedication to the person you’re actually involved with. It also leads you to swap out the person who’s actually lying in bed with you for some fantasy person you’ve never met (and probably never will).

Does that sound healthy?

Nathaniel Lambert, Sesen Negash and others conducted five separate experiments to find out. In the first, they asked participants, age 17 to 26, who were in relationships (as long as three years and as brief as two months) about their porn consumption and measured levels of commitment. They found that porn consumption lowered commitment in both men and women, but with a stronger effect on men.

In their second study, they had independent observers watch videos of couples performing an interactive task—one partner was blind-folded and had to draw something while the other gave instructions. Among the observers, lower commitment was observed among porn users.

The third study only tested participants who had consumed porn. They had half the group give up porn for three weeks. The other half was asked to give up their favorite food, but were allowed to watch porn. The result? Those who had abstained from sexually explicit material showed increased commitment to the relationship at the end of the three weeks.

The last two studies focused on the effect of greater attentiveness to alternatives on potential infidelity and infidelity itself. And yes, people who watched porn were more likely to engage in flirting (and more) outside their relationships in one experiment; and more likely to cheat and hook-up in the other.

3. The fantasy alternative leads to real-world cheating.

In another study, Andrea Mariea Gwinn, Nathaniel Lambert, and others further explored the nature of the other alternatives imaginatively offered up by pornography. They suggested two possibilities: First, that seeing physically attractive and sexually available partners on screen may heighten a person’s perceptions of his own possible partners. And second, that porn may make the idea of multiple sexual partners more appealing—another wound to a committed relationship.

And that’s exactly what they found.

In one study, the researchers found that people who thought about porn they’d watched reported having better alternatives to their current relationship than those who didn’t. A second study showed that, over time, exposure to porn was a robust predictor of infidelity.

More strikingly, the team found that both thinking about possible partners and acting on the impulse to find those alternatives operated separately from dissatisfaction with one's current relationship and partner. In other words, even though one's own pasture may be plenty green enough, just the thought of a greener one can be enough to send one roving.

You might want to keep that in mind if you’ve been watching the hard stuff or if you've become inured to seeing your partner just flip open his laptop "just for fun.”

Pornography is not as benign as you think, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.

1. Olmstead,Spenser B., Sesen N Negash, Kay Pasley, and Frank D. Fincham, “Emerging Adults’ Expectations for Pornography Use in the Context of Future Committed Relationships: A Qualitative Study,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2013), 42, 625-635.
2. Kimmel, Michael. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
3. Maddox, Amanda, Galena K, Rhoades, and Howard J.Markman,” Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone and Together: Associations with Relationship Quality,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (April 2011), 40, no. 2, 441-448.
4. Lambert, Nathaniel M. and Sesen Negash, Tyler F.Stillman, Spencer B. Olmstead, and Frank M. Fincham, “A Love That Doesn’t Last: Pornography Consumption and Weakened Commitment to One’s Romantic Partner,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (2012), vol.31, no.4, 410-438.
5. Gwinn, Andrea Mariea, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Frank D. Fincham, and Jon K,Maner, “Pornography, Relationship Alternatives, and Intimate Extradyadic Behavior,” Social Psychological and Personality Science, (2013), vol.4, no. 6, 699-704.
Copyright© Peg Streep 2014
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Men, Power, Money, and Sex - An Interview with Warren Farrell, Men's Rights Advocate

Marty Nemko is a life coach, author, and he blogs at his self-named site. He often blogs on topics related to men and boys, so it seems appropriate that he interview men's rights activist Warren Farrel for his Psychology Today blog, How to Do Life. Yes, I wrote activist and not advocate - he is the former, not the later.

First, my disclaimer: I do not like Farrell. His claims on the frequency of false rape accusations are totally ignorant of the reality "on the ground." For example, he claims below that we need to do away with the guilty/not-guilty binary because sexual encounters are far too nuanced for such a binary (this has been Marc Gafni's defense of his sexual predation on students, on whose board of directors Farrell sits). And besides, he adds, sometimes there are false reports, so we should never assume guilt.

WRONG - 92% (at least) to 98% of rape claims or true, and this doesn't even acknowledge the true claims that are not investigated by police.

Farrell has repeated made insanely stupid comments on date rape. Like this one:
We have forgotten that before we began calling this date rape and date fraud, we called it exciting. (Myth of Male Power, p. 314-15)
Or this one:
Evenings of paying to be rejected can feel like a male version of date rape. (MoMP, p. 314)
Really? Paying for dinner and not getting laid is the same as date rape? So the price of sex with a woman is dinner? Are we talking a nice restaurant here, or will Taco Bell due? Isn't that prostitution?

Oh, and by the way, have you been raped, Warren? Do you know how it feels to have your autonomy and physical body, not to mention your psychological self, sexually violated by another person? To have your trust in other human beings destroyed? To believe, despite the evidence, that somehow it was your fault? To have the nightmares, the hypervigilance, the self-loathing that comes with rape? Yeah, thought not.

Or this:
Almost all single women acknowledge they have agreed to go back to a guy’s place “just to talk” but were nevertheless responsive to his first kiss. Almost all acknowledge they’ve recently said something like “That’s far enough for now,” even as her lips are still kissing and her tongue is still touching his. (MoMP, p. 314)
Okay, so if you kiss somebody, that is tacit consent to sex? Wrong again, Warren.

And he always goes back to his straw man about false reports. Most studies put the false report rate at 2%. Even the FBI (1996), only put it at 8%:
As with all other Crime Index offenses, complaints of forcible rape made to law enforcement agencies are sometimes found to be false or baseless. In such cases, law enforcement agencies “unfound” the offenses and exclude them from crime counts. The “unfounded” rate, or percentage of complaints determined through investigation to be false, is higher for forcible rape than for any other Index crime. Eight percent of forcible rape complaints in 1996 were “unfounded,” while the average for all Index crimes was 2 percent.
What that section fails to mention, however, and Farrell has never acknowledged, is that local law enforcement will often decide a case is unfounded when drugs or alcohol are involved, or when there is previous sexual activity between the rapist and the victim.

Roughly a third to a full half of the clients I see have reported their rapist and the police/sheriff decided not to file charges or even pursue an investigation. This is seldom acknowledged aside from claims that reported rapes are far less than total rapes.

* * * *

One place Farrell is right is that this needs to be something we talk about with kids long before college or when they become sexual (high school, in general). Education is always the best prevention.

Where Farrell tends to be most relevant is in his discussions of the disposable nature of men in most societies. However, the answer is not to put more women in those jobs to make the risk more equal - it's to remove that safety issues that make those jobs so deadly (mining, oil fields, etc, where the corporations repeatedly avoid, undermine, or lobby against safety regulations). And the exception here is combat - let women be in combat military roles if they can do it.

Anyway, here is the brief interview.

Men, Power, Money, and Sex

An interview with men's advocate, Warren Farrell

Published on July 17, 2014 by Marty Nemko, Ph.D. in How To Do Life

Warren Farrell is a leading expert on men’s issues. He is the author of seven books and chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. He served on the board of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City and is an advocate for both sexes having the full range of options, professionally and personally. 

I interviewed him about gender roles, power, why men earn more, and campus rape.

Marty Nemko: You're most well-known for your book The Myth of Male Power, just out in a new e-book edition. Many people think men have the power: Look at the Senate and CEO rosters. How would you respond?

Warren Farrell: A small percentage of men have major institutional power but across the full population, real power is about having choices. The women’s movement has made it socially acceptable for a mom to work full-time, stay home with the child full-time, or work part-time. That’s as it should be. Alas, it’s not as acceptable for a man to work part-time, let alone be a full-time parent. Mr. Mom is still a term of derision.

Marty Nemko: But men earn more. Isn’t that power?

Warren Farrell: Many men still buy into a false definition of power: feeling obligated to earn money that someone else spends while we die sooner—5.2 years sooner. That’s not power. That’s being a prisoner of the need for love and approval.

Marty Nemko: In your book, Why Men Earn More, you report that the statistic that women earn 77 cents for each dollar a man earns for the same work is very misleading. Can you give an example as to why? 

Warren Farrell: Women who have never been married and never had children earn 17% more than never-married men that have never had children, even when education and years worked are equal. Men don’t earn more than women. Dads earn more than moms. Why? When a child is born, a mom is more likely to divide her labor between work and home, earning less at work. A dad is more likely to increase his hours at work—or work two jobs—often taking jobs he likes less that pay more. 

Marty Nemko: In Why Men Earn More, you write, “The road to high pay is a toll road.” Are you suggesting that high pay and power can be inversely correlated?

Warren Farrell: Yes. For many dads, the road to high pay is not about power; it’s about his hope to make his children’s life better than his. It’s about giving his wife a better life. And to get that higher pay, he often has to forgo work he'd rather do. For example, he might prefer to be a teacher or a creative but to better support his family, he accepts a long-hours, high-stress, technical, travel-intensive, often soulless management position.

Marty Nemko: In your recent Reddit Highlighted Conversation, you cite statistics so startling that some would question their veracity. Would you provide the source for:
  • This is the first time in U.S. history that our sons will have less education than their dads.
  • Boys' suicide rate goes from equal to girls at age 9 to five times(!) girls' in their twenties.
  • More U.S. male military were killed by suicide in one year than were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in all years combined.
Warren Farrell: Yes. Boys having less education than their dads is from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), “Education at a Glance,” 2010, Table A1.3a

The boy-girl suicide rate is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 58,1, 2009, and Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2010.

The U.S. military suicide rate data is from the DOD, uncovered by CBS, in Armen Keteyian, “Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans.” CBS News, November 13, 2007.

Marty Nemko: The subtitle of your book The Myth of Male Power is: Why Men are the Disposable Sex. How are men the disposable sex?

Warren Farrell: Virtually all societies that survived did so based on their ability to train their sons to be disposable—disposable in war, disposable at work.

Marty Nemko: That’s a strong statement. What’s your evidence?

Warren Farrell: The evidence is ubiquitous. 92 percent of workplace deaths occur to men, jobs few women would take: oil rig workers, long-haul truckers, roofers, coal miners. Yet there isn't the political will to create regulations that would afford them more protection for these workers. Meanwhile, when women have a less life-threatening deficit, for example, underrepresentation of women in engineering, there's massive expenditure to redress. Although male-only draft registration is a violation of both the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause and the 5th Amendment’s due process clause, it is so unconsciously accepted it isn’t even questioned. Only men can serve in direct combat so 98 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan deaths were men.

Marty Nemko: Is the fact that men die 5.2 years younger than women another example of male disposability?

Warren Farrell: It is the combination of facts like men dying 5.2 years younger than women—or men dying sooner from all ten of the ten leading causes of death, plus the fact that we nevertheless have seven federal offices of women’s health and none of men’s health that together reflect the psychology of indifference toward male disposability. Similarly, men over the age of 85 commit suicide 1350 percent as frequently as women over 85. Virtually no one knows this. If women over 85 committed suicide 1350 percent as often than men, it would be used as the quintessential example of our undervaluing of women. We seem to care more about saving whales than saving males.

Marty Nemko: You said men are indirectly disposable as dads. How do you mean?

Warren Farrell: In a divorce, if the mother doesn’t want the father to be equally involved, the apriori assumption is that she's right. Men have to fight in court for that right, and that's expensive.Unless he’s rich, he’s disposable. 

Marty Nemko: What are your thoughts about the current focus on campus rape?

Warren Farrell: The issue first should be addressed before kids get to college. For example, we may need to encourage our daughters to take the initiative when they do want physical intimacy, not just to say when they don’t. Our society strives for equality but few experts are asking women to share the responsibility for taking the initiative in sex, thereby risking rejection. During adolescence, women are the more mature sex. It’s unfair to expect guys to assume 90 percent of the burden of sexual rejection.

Marty Nemko: What should happen at college?

Warren Farrell: First, make the law the last resort. The law is binary: guilty/not guilty. Sex is nuanced and more nonverbal than verbal. Those nuances have evolved over millennia. A slight change in eye contact means everything in a male-female encounter but would be laughed at in court. And if a grievance is filed, we should not presume guilt. Alas, some accusations are false.

Marty Nemko: What about workshops at college?

Warren Farrell: Yes but both sexes should be walking a mile in each other’s moccasins.

Marty Nemko: You’ve done such trainings, right?

Warren Farrell: Yes. I used to tell college audiences, “Every woman is in a beauty contest every day of her life.” I then invited all the guys on stage to experience that. I had those guys wear bathing suits and had the women be the judges. The guys were stunned at being unseen for their integrity, intelligence, or values. They felt objectified.

Marty Nemko: What did you do to help the young women walk a mile in the guys’ moccasins?

Warren Farrell: I had the women “ask-out” the guys they were most attracted to on a 20-minute “date.” Some did what they criticize men for, for example, lying to get an attractive guy to go out with them. Others went after a less attractive guy to reduce the chance of getting rejected. The guys totally identified with that.

Marty Nemko: What was the outcome of those workshops?

Warren Farrell: Greater compassion for the other sex’s vulnerability, and I formed hundreds of men and women’s groups so they would continue to deepen their compassion after I left campus. 

Marty Nemko: Was there any concrete evidence it reduced campus rape?

Warren Farrell: I asked campus sponsors to let me know if any of the workshop participants later were involved in a date rape accusation. Although I had worked with 20,000 students in hundreds of colleges, not one incident was reported.

Marty Nemko: Do you still do those workshops?

Warren Farrell: As political correctness set into the colleges’ psyches, college programs shifted to emphasizing only men understanding women. It would be wiser for programs to help both sexes better understand each other. We don’t need a women’s movement blaming men, nor a men’s movement blaming women. We need a gender liberation movement. We need both sexes walking a mile in each other’s moccasins.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News and Information You Can Use

Welcome to another Fitness Friday. I was on vacation last week and did not post the usual Fitness Friday link collection, so this week there is some catching up to do.

That noted, we begin today with two posts from the last two days at T-Nation, the first being a general article by Charles Staley on how to be sure your training program is organized correctly, and the second being a specific style of training (total-reps) by Kyle Arsenault. For what it's worth, Charles knows his stuff (he trains my girlfriend), so give it a good read. 

I am also a fan of the training style Arsenault outlines in his article. By using his technique, you assured of getting enough reps in to build muscle, but because you are using a weight that is essentially 5-6 rep max, you will also be building strength.

10 Principles For Better Programming

by Charles Staley   

Here's what you need to know...
  • There are thousands of training programs out there, but the most effective ones share similar principles.
  • Check out the list below and make sure your training program puts most of these principles into action.
There are as many theories about programming as there are coaches who apply them. But in my 30-plus years in the field I've found that all successful training programs have common themes. Here are the top 10 most important principles for creating programs that work.
* * * * *

Total-Rep Training

by Kyle Arsenault   

Here's what you need to know...
  • This method uses high intensities, greater volume, and involves working close to muscular failure.
  • Determine your 5-6RM for one of the big lifts. Then do as many sets as necessary for you to hit a total of 25 reps. In addition to allowing you to work close to failure on each set, the system allows for auto-regulation.
  • Once the total amount of reps is completed, you'll do a drop set where you immediately drop the resistance by 5-10% and complete one more set close to failure.
When it comes to making strength and size gains, a training program that utilizes higher intensities (percent of RM), a greater overall volume, and a closer proximity to muscular failure produces superior results. The issue with this approach is the increased risk of injury and burnout, as well as the consistent mental toughness and discipline it takes to continuously complete these sessions. Over time, crushing 8-10 sets of singles or triples or consistently smashing through a 5x5 routine will take its toll.

While de-load weeks have their place, I'm suggesting we find a way to complete the bulk of our training using a system that not only uses a higher intensity and volume, but also matches our physical and mental preparedness for that day. That's where this new method comes in.
* * * * *

From Jason Ferruggia's blog, a guest post by Yuri Elkaim.

Why Dudes Should Do Yoga

Guest Post By Yuri Elkaim
July 15th, 2014

Think Downward Dog and Cat Pose is stuff for sissies? Think again. You may be hitting the gym hard, spending hours on the court, but skimp on the stretching and you’ll never reach your A-game.

Yoga hasn’t been used for thousands of years by women only. It’s not just for old people that live in Asia. It’s actually a tool that’s helped millions of men, monks, and—yes—even elite athletes find their focus, get strong, and discover their ultimate ability.

Tap into the age-old wisdom of yoga, and you’ll find a whole new level of strength, conditioning, and power that you didn’t know you had. Here are five reasons to give yoga a try. Once you add it to your weekly workouts, you’ll discover a dozen other benefits.
* * * * *

From Eric Cressey's blog:

My Top 5 Powerlifting Mistakes

Written on July 15, 2014, by Eric Cressey


With this week's release of Greg Robins and my new resource, The Specialization Success Guide, I got to thinking about some of my biggest mistakes with respect to developing the Big 3 (squat, bench press, and deadlift). Here are the top five mistakes I made in my powerlifting career....

* * * * *

From Brett Contreras' blog:

A Simple System for Progression: 3 Set Total Reps

We all want to be making progress in the gym, but unfortunately, many lifters remain stagnant. In general, you want to make sure you’re getting stronger over time. Getting stronger means using more load or achieving more repetitions with the same weight. This is the essence of progressive overload, which I discussed in great detail HERE. While there are a million ways to progressively overload, I’m going to outline a very simple system I use in my own training and with my clients.

3 Set Total Reps

When I prescribe an exercise, quite often I will use the same load with all 3 sets, and I’ll simply note the total number of reps they achieve (this is in contrast to pyramids, which I wrote about HERE). Once they reach a particular total, I’ll increase the load. I first learned about this method from a Joe DeFranco DVD that I purchased many years ago, and it’s something that I’ve consistently sprinkled into my training since then.
* * * * *

And back to T-Nation for some heresy from TC, as well as other good stuff.

8 Reasons You're Still Weak or Fat

by TC   

Here's what you need to know...
  • If after several years of training you're still weak, there's a good chance you need to rethink your ideas about squats and deadlifts; that you've got no love for the upper body squat; that steroids misled you about a basic training principle; and that you work muscles instead of movements.
  • If after several years of training you're still fat, there's a good chance you need to rethink your ideas about eating 6 meals a day and doing fasted cardio.
  • If you're still skinny, there's a good chance your ideas about post-workout nutrition are 10 years old and your definition of recovery days needs an adjustment.
Convention dictates that I write an intro to this article, but this article is about defenestrating convention and tweaking your strength-building or fat-burning or bodybuilding perspective a little to the left or to the right, so screw a drawn-out intro. The title says it all.
* * * * *

Break 3 Rules, Build More Muscle

by Christian Thibaudeau   

Here's what you need to know...
  • For hypertrophy, it doesn't really matter what the exercise looks like as long as it puts the muscle under an optimal load/tension. Accordingly, some of the biggest bodybuilders on the planet rely heavily on partial reps.
  • If you can't feel a muscle working in an exercise, you can't stimulate it or grow it optimally. Isolation work will fix this problem and even improve your compound lifts.
  • You can build muscle with almost any kind of rep range. If you train consistently and try to gradually become stronger in the rep ranges you're doing, you'll grow muscle with 3 reps or 20 reps.
Despite my focus on performance, I also want to look muscular and lean, as do my clients. I've even competed in bodybuilding myself to see what it was like and to understand it better. I also had the opportunity to work with a lot of great bodybuilders, amateurs and pros. I worked with Amit Sapir for a few years, starting when he was an amateur and up to when he won his pro card. I also was involved in the Darryl Gee project that was documented on T Nation. Currently, I'm training Patrick Bernard, a new IFBB pro in the 212-pound class, as well as a young woman who won her class in figure at a recent contest. I've definitely learned a thing or two in the process.

You can learn from anyone who's training hard and making progress - bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, CrossFitters, Olympic lifters, etc. Close your mind to any of these training modalities because of pre-conceived ideas and you'll miss out on a lot. That said, here are three things I learned from working with bodybuilders.
* * * * *

How to Increase Your Pull-Up Power

by Dan John   

Here's what you need to know...

  • The pull-up has been beaten to death by lifters and athletes who try at all costs to get their rep total higher and higher. They should be adding load instead.
  • Simply hanging from the bar is an important form of loading. If you want to do 25 strict pull-ups, can you even hang from the bar long enough to do them?
  • The ab wheel mimics many of the keys to proper pull-ups.
  • Pavel's Russian Fighter Pull-up Program allows you to "sneak up" on a higher number of reps.
I pity the pull-up. In the past decade, this wonderful movement has been trashed and beaten by enthusiasts who try at all costs to up their rep total higher and higher. Sure, high reps have their place, but many of us need a smarter, more rational approach.

After a certain age, pull-ups start "bugging" people. For most of us, there's a pain in the elbow that only goes away when we avoid pull-ups. A few weeks or months later, it seems to cure itself and the only way we reinjure it is by doing more high-rep pull-ups and... we succeed! We have a name for this in my gym. We call it Middle Age Pull-Up Syndrome, or MAPS. "You too can help us cure this disease. Please send money now to..."

Improving your pull-up numbers, either with more reps or more load - which I tend to recommend over more reps - is going to be a study in balance. If you force the reps up with more and more volume, you might eventually hit your new personal record in the movement but never again throw a ball or comb your hair. You could keep your hair really short, or you could train the pull-up using a few contrarian ideas.

Big Think - The Power of Vulnerability

Vulnerability is one of those things men tend to struggle with in relationships, primarily because so many of us were raised never to show vulnerability. I suspect women also deal with this issue, but it's often men who get the bad rap for it.

In this article from Big Think, the author offers some short but useful insights on the necessity of vulnerability in healthy relationships.

The Power of Vulnerability

July 17, 2014

Years ago I read an article by Harvard business professor Chris Argyris whose message stuck with me. “Good Communication that Blocks Learning” was about the mental models we develop early in life for dealing with emotional and threatening issues. These “defensive routines,” as Argyris termed them, exist to prevent human beings from experiencing embarrassment or threat. At the same time, however, they prevent examination of the nature and causes of both. In short, they prevent learning and thereby perpetuate bad choices.

Breaking free of defensive communication routines requires a willingness to be vulnerable. Only while bringing down our guard are we able to effectively examine why certain unsavory situations occur repeatedly in our lives. Ironically, this kind of vulnerability requires courage.

Doing the unexpected, as hard as it may be, often brings rewards. We know that apologizing, when defensiveness or retaliation is expected, can lead to calmer communication. The unexpected causes most of us to reflect. Indeed, it is often how young children learn new things.

Moreover, the rule of reciprocity in human interaction calls for a civil response to a civil offering. Ignoring this rule has its consequences, but here again breaking free of defensive routines can enable us to change the communication options of others. If we move beyond defensiveness, the rule of reciprocity encourages others to do so as well.

It would be naïve to suggest that antagonistic relationships around the world would disappear were the key players to reflect more on their defensive routines. But it wouldn’t hurt, either.

To the extent we stick with routines, we cease to learn other communication options. Perhaps worse, we become predictable -- and thereby manageable -- by others, many of whom we’d prefer not to give such power if we had our wits about us. They are able to provoke us to and corner us within our own defensiveness because it’s so easy to do.

Unblocking defensive communication routines starts with recognizing their existence and realizing what can be said in their place. “This is where I usually become defensive...” or “Rather than escalate this into an argument neither of us wants, let me suggest...” are two phrases that may prove useful the next time you feel yourself becoming defensive, and there are many others. Their use opens us up to learning, and so makes us more skillful at communication.

Sure, there is risk in relinquishing defensiveness. The greater risk, though, is that of becoming stuck in routines that repeatedly take us to the same unhappy and unproductive place.

photo: PathDoc/

by Kathleen Kelley Reardon

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Michael Sam's Powerful, Show-Stopping Speech at the ESPYs

Michael Sam was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPYs on Wednesday night. His acceptance speech was incredibly powerful. Enjoy!

Michael Sam's Powerful, Show-Stopping Speech at the ESPYs

By Scott Gleeson

LOS ANGELES — Michael Sam delivered an incredibly powerful speech after accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPYs on Wednesday night.

There weren’t many dry eyes in the room following the words of Sam, who was honored for his decision to publicly come out and become the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL.

Sam emotionally quoted Ashe’s words of wisdom, that included: Start Where You Are, Use What You Have and Do What You Can.

“Those were words to live by,” Sam said. “Whether you’re white or black. Young or old. Straight or gay.”

Sam fought back tears on stage, and he ended his speech by telling the story of a gay woman who told him she never again consider committing suicide after he came out as gay.

Sam’s powerful message: “To anyone out there, especially young people feeling like you don’t fit in, or are not accepted, great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”

Sam brought boyfriend Vito Cammisano on the red carpet and specifically thanked him.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presented the award. Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete in the NBA, was shown cheering in the audience.