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An evolutionary perspective on opposition to the BPS Male Psychology Section

by Dr Rebecca Owens & Dr Helen Driscoll, University of Sunderland

[Editor’s note: in our support of men and masculinity, the Male Psychology Section has occasionally been criticised for not being feminist enough e.g. a website discussed in a previous blog].

 

We find that a lot of people do not really understand evolutionary approaches to studying human behaviour – often people are absolutely against it. Evolutionary psychology is an approach to understanding human behaviour – not an area of study, therefore it does not take away anything from any other area of study – it only seeks to enlighten that area.

We believe that the crux of some of the points raised by those who opposed the Male Psychology Section comes from a failure to consider the ultimate (evolutionary) perspective, leading to a skewed perspective on the relative importance of the Section, and its potential impact.

The benefit of incorporating evolutionary approaches has been seen in research on aggression. Typically, men are seen as more aggressive than women. However, an evolutionary perspective allows us to see that sex differences in aggression depend on the form of aggression and the target. For example, decades of research from a family conflict perspective suggests sex symmetry in perpetration of intimate partner violence, and some research indicates that women are more likely to engage in indirect aggression, whereas men are more likely to engage in direct aggression. This is not to say that all women engage in indirect aggression, and all men engage in direct aggression, but an evolutionary perspective has enabled us to understand sex differences in aggression in terms of selection for the male taste for risk (enabling competition for reproductive resources) and female desistance from direct aggression due to the risk posed to offspring in the ancestral environment as a result of maternal injury or death.

Another comment made by the opponents of a Male Psychology Section is that a feminist approach to masculinity will help men more, and therefore the Male Psychology Section is not needed. To us, this seems to entirely overlook an evolutionary perspective. We have evolved cognitive architecture that predisposes us to act in certain ways, directs our attention to certain things and promotes us to behave in particular ways. That is not to say that we are biologically determined to behave in these ways – only that we are influenced to in culturally sensitive ways. A feminist approach may well be helpful, but it seems to us that it would be like fighting against the tide in many ways. Men and women, generally, show some differences in the way we think and behave, therefore any solutions or interventions cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ for men and women. Undoubtedly for some people a feminist approach will work best – but for many others the approach advocated by the Male Psychology Section will work best, and these people are no less deserving or in need of help and intervention. People are diverse, and we need diverse approaches to helping them.

Another complaint raised is the concern that women have been disproportionately disadvantaged in comparison to men throughout history. Again, we would encourage  consideration of this claim through an evolutionary lens. History is told by ‘the winners’ – those who are dominant at the time. We think back through history and we think of powerful male rulers, and the sometimes despicable ways women have been treated throughout history, often in times of male monarchs. However, if we dig a little deeper, we see that, consistent with an evolutionary perspective, it is actually a minority of men who have ruled this way, and a lot of men have also been treated despicably. Throughout history, it is men who have fought in wars, usually under the orders of ruling men, and men still outnumber women in the army.

A related point here is gender stereotypes. Undoubtedly, sociocultural factors have contributed to gender stereotypical roles, for example, strong, dominant men and weak, passive women. However, we rarely stop to consider the origin of these stereotypes. If we look at gender stereotypes through an evolutionary lens, we can see their origins in terms of the sex-specific selection pressures acting on men and women – even if they have been impacted by sociocultural factors. However, what we must avoid is the assumption that areas where sex differences exist must be made equal – this is a fallacy. Should we prevent men who want to join the army from doing so and force women to join who do not want to do so? Do we stop incarcerating men and push the incarceration of women, just to even up the numbers? These are proximate solutions to ultimate problems, which need to be managed equitably – not equally. Acknowledging and understanding sex differences does not divert resources away from helping women, or undermine their suffering – highlighting the sex difference and adjusting the base point of enquiry so it is equitable can only serve to enhance the research, support, and interventions put in place.

Thirty years ago the Psychology of Women Section was founded. Promoting research into and awareness of male psychology in no way deflects resources or attention from women’s psychology – both areas deserve to be fully explored. We are all essentially a community of researchers chipping away at our own little sections to try and understand the bigger picture of the human condition. We could never incorporate all of the variation and perspectives into every piece of research completely – that is research design basics – but we can be mindful of the bigger picture. Stepping back and appreciating the ultimate perspective will help all of us.

 

About the authors

Dr Becci Owens is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland, a Chartered Psychologist, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is an evolutionary psychologist with a research focus on male psychology and mental health, sex differences in mating behaviours and mating strategies, and body image and modifications.
Email: rebecca.owens@sunderland.ac.uk ; Twitter: @DrBecciOwens
Becci’s chapter in the Handbook of Male Psychology was published recently: Barry JA and Owens B (2019). From fetuses to boys to men: the impact of testosterone on male lifespan development, in Barry JA, Kingerlee R, Seager MJ and Sullivan L (Eds.) (2019). The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. London: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

Dr Helen Driscoll is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland. She gained her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree from Newcastle University and PhD in Psychology from Durham University. Helen is a Chartered Psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her PhD examined sex differences in intrasexual aggression and intimate partner violence from an evolutionary perspective. Helen’s current research interests include sexual behaviour and sexuality, male psychology, dark personality and adult play.

Email: helen.driscoll@sunderland.ac.uk ; Twitter: @mirapiform

 

 

Open post

Who is best placed to help male victims of domestic violence?

By Paul Apreda, Manager of Both Parents Matter.

According to new data from the Mankind Initiative charity, 41% of men who experience domestic violence suffer from mental or emotional problems as a result. Male victims of domestic violence have been largely invisible of the years, but a change is in the air: finally there is recognition that not only do men experience abuse, but also that their needs should be supported. The BBC documentary about the life of Alex Skeel cannot be underestimated in terms of its impact in the corridors of power and on the frontline in Police and Local Authority offices. Real investment in developing services for men is on the agenda, yet the favoured groups to secure this new cash are perhaps surprising, because they hold the view that domestic violence is caused mainly by patriarchy, and that the most important victims are female.

The past 10 years have been a roller-coaster experience for male victims of domestic violence. Back in 2007/8 the British Crime survey found that as many as 15% of victims of abuse were men. Ten years on that has grown to more than 37% in the latest Crime Survey of England and Wales.  The Mankind Initiative – the UK’s leading specialist support service for male victims remind us that for every 3 victims of DV – 2 will be women and 1 will be a man.

In a survey of 728 male victims of abuse undertaken by our charity we asked ‘How important is it that services for male victims should be grounded in the experience of men and separated from services primarily designed for women?’ More than 84% though it essential or important. We agree.

You might be forgiven for assuming that support services, strategies and funding would have mirrored this meteoric rise in the number of men suffering abuse. But that wouldn’t be entirely true.

In Wales new legislation to combat domestic abuse was introduced in 2015. It’s called the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act. There is a clue in the title. It has spawned a range of programmes, initiatives and strategies such as Ask & Act – delivered by Welsh Women’s Aid – where public sector workers are trained to understand the ‘Violence against Women’ agenda. Welsh Government also fund a helpline for ALL victims of abuse called ‘Live Fear Free’ – also delivered by Welsh Women’s Aid. Sadly just 2% of callers to the service are men.

The Welsh Government’s National Strategy emphasizes that:

’…violence against women is a violation of human rights and both a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, and it happens to women because they are women and that women are disproportionately impacted by all forms of violence.’

Male victims get a somewhat less significant statement about their experience

‘Whilst it is important that this Strategy acknowledges and communicates the disproportionate experience of women and girls this does not negate violence and abuse directed towards men and boys or perpetrated by women’

That will be little comfort to the 1 in 3 victims who experience abuse and have the misfortune of being male.

In terms of practical help there is a chasm between need and provision for men. In Gwent, the official data shows that 36% of victims – over 8,000 in total – recorded by the Police were male – yet support services helped just 69 men compared to 2678 women in 2015/16 across the five local authorities. In North Wales it’s even worse –2,401 women were supported and just 32 men.

There have been some important changes, and surprising ones at that. You’ll struggle to find many organisations called ‘Women’s Aid’ across huge swathes of Wales. Whilst some have retained the clue in the title many have changed their name – Cyfannol, Threshold, Calan, Atal Y Fro, DASU, Thrive and many more.  Almost all are still member organisations of Welsh Women’s Aid and retain their commitment to a gendered view of domestic abuse that emphasizes the role of the patriarchy, and mirrors the Welsh Government strategy’s statement about this happening to women BECAUSE they are women.  To be clear, these organisations are powerful advocates for the women who experience domestic violence and abuse, who undeniably make up a majority by all ways of calculation in the UK.  If you were a woman you’d want these people on your side. But what if you’re a man?

The question that will come before local politicians in 2019 will be – ‘Should ‘Women’s Aid’ organisations receive public funding to provide support to men as well?’ There is also a question about potential conflicts of interest where both parties are supposedly being supported by ‘women’s aid’ as victims / survivors of abuse? We think that’s another important reason for separate services delivered by separate organisations.

It has never been more important for men’s voices to be heard.

 

About the author

Paul Apreda is National Manager of Both Parents Matter (BPM) in Wales. BPM is a service of FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru – a registered charity that provides information, advice and assistance to parents and grandparents with child contact problems. Since 2017 the charity has responded to the growing number of service users who identified as male victims of domestic violence and has developed a service to provide drop-in support as well as helping men (and some women) to access Legal Aid for Family Court proceedings.

Website www.fnf-bpm.org.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Families-Need-Fathers-Both-Parents-Matter-Cymru-263187500387675/

Twitter:  @fnf_bpm_cymru

Paul Apreda
National Manager – 07947 135864

Open post

Men’s Mental Health in South Korea

by Alaric Naudé EdD PhD

In the third of our occasional series of blogs about views of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world, Professor of linguistics, Alaric Naudé, tells us about men’s mental health in the South Korea today.

Korea is a land of contrasts and beauty in many ways. However, just as many beautiful creatures have harsh toxins, Korea has several elements that can make it a harsh environment for men. Many of the difficulties that surround males are driven by the recent events in history including the Korean War and the hyper-military dictatorships that followed. These difficulties in pressure on men have also translated into unhappiness for the family unit.

The hierarchical structure of Korean society is based on Neo-Confucianism principles and this is reflected in the built in honorifics system of the Korean language. Korean grammar structure changes depending on the hierarchical position of the speaker relative to the person being addressed. Both men and women are under strict social pressure to behave to a certain standard and while this can be beneficial to social harmony, an unbalanced approach can lead to friction and disadvantage.

Fortunately in Korea the concept of feminism is not taken very seriously, ironically, strongest opposition come from women who view the movement as an affront to tradition, patronising and their extreme behaviour to be against the greater social good. With that said, there are specific inequalities that men have faced and are facing in Korea.

The hyper-militaristic dictatorship under Chung Hee Park forced conscription of men onto the whole country. His personal ideology was highly influenced by Bushido philosophy and he spearheaded his own particular brand. Men were to behave in the predefined manner as stipulated by the party policy. Unfortunately for groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, their men were specifically targeted. Their refusal of military conscription and desire to do non-military alternative service was viewed with great ire and many were beaten, tortured and killed.  Collectively they served prison sentences amounting to 37,800 years and this human rights abuse was only recently rectified.

Men in general have pressure to be of a certain socio-economic status before marriage and to have elaborate weddings, this has resulted in the marriage rate plummeting, the birth rate plummeting and the suicide rate significantly increasing. Many of my male students worry about their future work and possibility of marriage with several expressing a desire to search for work abroad.

Mental health in Korea is somewhat of a taboo subject and the stigma attached to men is significant. Having been diagnosed with a mental health issue may affect the type of work that can be gained and the ability to move up the socio-economic ranks, which in turn leads to more unhappiness and more suicide.

The Korean suicide rate is of special concern because the inability to access counselling in correlation to the stigma attached for even receiving counselling means that there is no easy remedy to the problem. Culturally men may also be hesitant to turn to their friends for assistance lest they be viewed as weak.

In school, boys are being out performed by girls. Demographically, teaching is a female dominated field and some of my female student teachers have commented that they feel unfair focus is given by other female teachers to their female students. Male students are becoming less motivated due to disinterest in studying based on the pressure of future expectations. This is likely to cause a large shift in future demographics. Females generally marry across the same socioeconomic level or upwards. Men generally marry on the same socioeconomic level or downwards. However, the current flip in academic results and the ever widening gap means that the future marriage rate will likely only continue to decrease, to the detriment of society and a catastrophe for population levels.

Like any other country, the issues facing Korea are highly complex and compounded by biological factors as well as the cultural damage caused by the Korean War. There are no easy answers, yet, psychological outreach and awareness of male mental health issues are an imperative beginning to resolving many of these conundrums.

 

About the author

Alaric Naudé EdD PhD is Professor of Linguistics at the Department of Nursing, Suwon Science College & Seoul National University of Education, South Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

The psychological impact of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in prostate cancer

By Dr Kenneth Gannon and Dr John Barry

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men and has become the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, with almost 12,000 men dying from it every year (Prostate Cancer UK, 2018), slightly more than the number of women who die from breast cancer. Compared to White men, African Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop the disease and tend to do so at a younger age and in a more aggressive form.

Similarly to estrogen in some types of breast cancer, testosterone is associated with the development and course of prostate cancer. Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT) is a commonly used treatment for advanced prostate cancer, although it may also be used to treat disease confined to the prostate. Up to 50% of men being treated for prostate cancer may receive ADT.  It reduces symptoms and increases survival times by stopping testosterone production (Connolly et al, 2012). However this causes a range of serious side effects, including erectile dysfunction, genital shrinkage, loss of libido, hot flashes, osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass, breast enlargement, anaemia, fatigue, risk of diabetes, risk of cardiovascular disease and of potentially fatal cardiac events (Holzbeierlein, Castle & Thrasherl, 2004; Thompson, Shanafelt, Loprinzi 2003). ADT has also been linked with an increased risk of developing some types of dementias, though findings are inconsistent and the increased risk appears to be small.

ADT can impact mental health too. For example, it may increase mood swings (Cary, Singla, Cowan, Carroll, Cooperberg, 2014) and tearfulness (Ng, Woo, Turner, Leong, Jackson and Spry, 2012).  Depression may also occur as a result of testosterone reduction and the associated problems (Lee, Jim, Fishman, et al., 2015).

Understandably, some of these physical and mental symptoms can impact a man’s sense of his masculinity (Oliffe, 2006). Compared to patients having what might sound like more radical treatments (e.g. prostatectomy or radiotherapy), patients on therapy with hormones have relatively low HRQoL scores (Bacon et al, 2001).

Not all studies are in agreement (perhaps due to differences in methodology), but there is evidence that ADT is also linked to impairment to executive cognitive functioning, causing problems in planning, initiating and sequencing goal-directed behaviours, and memory issues. Further research is required on this issue. There is also some evidence that because of the reduction in testosterone, men on ADT perform less well in spatial cognitive abilities (Cherrier, Aubin & Higano, 2009).

In conclusion, prostate cancer treatment with ADT has a range of psychological implications for men and their partners. Some of these implications are in need of further research, especially treatment-related decision making, survivorship and the experiences of men from ethnic and sexual minorities.

If you have concerns about prostate cancer, contact https://www.prostatecanceruk.org/

About the authors

Dr Kenneth Gannon is the Clinical Research Director and Research Degree Leader at the University of East London. His chapter ‘Men’s Health and Cancer—The Case of Prostate Cancer’ covers various topics, including sexuality and ethnicity, and appears in the new book The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health

Dr John Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is one of the editors of, and contributors to, The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

From the back cover of the Handbook of Male Psychology:

“This handbook brings together experts from across the world to discuss men’s mental health, from prenatal development, through childhood, adolescence, and fatherhood. Men and masculinity are explored from multiple perspectives including evolutionary, cross-cultural, cognitive, biological, developmental, and existential viewpoints, with a focus on practical suggestions and demonstrations of successful clinical work with men”.

References
Bacon, C. G., Giovannucci, E., Testa, M., & Kawachi, I. (2001). The impact of cancer treatment on quality of life outcomes for patients with localized prostate cancer. The Journal of urology, 166(5), 1804-1810.

Cary, K.C., Singla, N., Cowan, J.E., Carroll, P.R., and Cooperberg, M.R. (2014). Impact of androgen deprivation therapy on mental and emotional well being in men with prostate cancer: analysis from the CaPSURE registry. Journal of Urology, 191, 964-970.

Cherrier, M. M., Aubin, S., & Higano, C. S. (2009). Cognitive and mood changes in men undergoing intermittent combined androgen blockade for non‐metastatic prostate cancer. Psycho‐Oncology, 18(3), 237-247.

Connolly, R.M, Carducci, M.A. & Antonarakis, E.S., (2012) Use of androgen deprivation therapy in prostate cancer: indications and prevalence. Asian Journal of Andrology 14:2, 177-186

Holzbeierlein, J.M., Castle, E. & Thrasher, J.B. (2004). Complications of androgen

Lee, M., Jim, H.S., Fishman, M., et al. (2015). Depressive symptomatology in
men receiving androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer: a controlled comparison. Psychooncology, 24, 472-477.

Ng, E., Woo, H.H., Turner, S., Leong, E., Jackson, M. and Spry N. (2012). The influence of testosterone suppression and recovery on sexual function in men with prostate cancer: observations from a prospective study in men undergoing intermittent androgen suppression. Journal of Urology, 187, 2162-2166.

Oliffe, J. (2006). Embodied masculinity and androgen deprivation therapy. Sociology of Health and Illness, 28, 410-432.

Prostate Cancer UK (2018). We call on UK to step up as new figures show prostate cancer now a bigger killer than breast cancer. Accessed online 7th May 2018 on the internet [here]

Soloway, C. T., Soloway, M. S., Kim, S. S., & Kava, B. R. (2005). Sexual, psychological and dyadic qualities of the prostate cancer ‘couple’. BJU international, 95(6), 780-785.

Thompson CA, Shanafelt TD, Loprinzi CL (2003) Andropause: symptom management for prostate cancer patients treated with hormonal ablation. Oncologist, 8, 474-487

 

Open post

The provider role indicates that masculinity is prosocial

by Belinda Brown

For decades now, masculinity has been under assault – largely by visionaries who anticipate a new gender-free social order. Creation of the new involves destruction of the old, so ‘new man’ can arise phoenix like from the patriarchal dust.

And masculinity is, after all, an easy target. Men appear to be more physically violent than women, they are more likely to kill themselves and they are much more likely to commit crime. All this has provided ballast for the concept of toxic masculinity, and has had potentially damaging consequences for male self-understanding by drawing attention to stereotypes of dysfunctional male behaviour and treating them as if they are the true nature of all men

My chapter From Hegemonic to Responsive Masculinity; the transformative power of the provider role  for The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental health takes a different approach.

In the chapter I ask why it is that since the beginning of recorded history men have, by and large, done the hardest most gruelling labour, given the proceeds of their labour to women and children, usually deriving little benefit for themselves. I also ask why it is that, despite earning less than men, women have extensive control over resources and, why even welfare is largely spent on women and children while the taxes to pay it are earned by men.

All this points to extraordinarily altruistic behaviour by men and this, I argue, is mystery which we should explore.

A clue to male motivations lies in men’s family role. A rich seam of data has shown that partnered men earn more than unpartnered men, married men earn more than those who are cohabiting and married men living with their own children trump the lot. And this is not simply a case of female selectivity. The data show that men appear to be responding to female preferences and need.

In order to understand why men should do this I turn to the vineyards of evolutionary psychology. This field explores how our psychological adaptations are rooted in genetic and neuroendocrine systems, which have evolved in ways that help to ensure that our descendants survive.

One of the mysteries for evolutionary psychologists is paternal investment – why do human males invest so much time and effort in women and children, when the majority of primate males do little for their own offspring. This has spawned a great deal of creative thinking about the benefits of paternal investment to evolutionary fitness, and theories have focussed on mechanisms which have brought this investment about.

My own explanation is that males have evolved to be responsive to human females. As human females choose mates who can provide for them, the corresponding desire to provide may have become biologically embedded in males. Males then become deeply attached to those infants, who they help to socialise and provide with food. The result is that men are in hock to potentially self-sacrificial behaviour because this is what ensures the survival of their genes.

If men are impelled to be responsive to females and possibly to provide for and even become attached to their children, we would expect some accompanying biological scaffolding to have evolved. My paper is only exploratory but some clues point us in directions to look.

Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that little boys start out in life more sensitive and responsive than little girls. Later, men and women experience emotion to the same depth and in similar ways. So why is it that when it comes to emotional literacy or emotional awareness women tend to assume men are second best?

The key difference is emotional expressiveness; this is the domain in which women have the upper hand. When we think of men as stoical this is only in contrast to female emotional expressivity – the other side of the coin. Female emotional expressiveness is ultimately evolutionarily adaptive. It involves the rapid translation of cognitive information into a form of behaviour which will spur others into a response.

It is not just that this female emotional expressiveness appears inbuilt. So does the male capacity to respond. Men have been found to have higher levels of empathy for women than they do for other men. If male empathic responsiveness is particularly honed to female need, then males are likely to be vulnerable to female emotional expressiveness in ways that elicit altruistic behaviour. Even where this incurs a cost.

If masculinity is essentially responsive, what underlies male providing is not the desire for status or dominance but rather to be desired by women themselves.

And this too is supported by the data. Some of the most extensive studies conducted in the social sciences are on mating preferences. And what these incontrovertibly show is that women are looking for men who will be a good financial prospect. Men respond to female cues by providing them with resources because this will further their own genetic fitness.

But what I suggest is that the value of male provisioning does not necessarily lie in its nutritional content. Male provisioning stimulates paternal attachment in the same way maternal attachment is stimulated; through the experience of having others dependent on you. Male provisioning is the cornerstone on which fathering work is built. It is linked with paternal care and having a father in the home.

That men are primed to develop paternal attachment is again suggested by the male physiological response. As men marry and have children their levels of testosterone drop which is thought to facilitate a nurturant behaviour. Research on couvade has shown that men experience many of the symptoms of pregnancy as well. Men are primed to respond to infants. Not only is there evidence they experience hormonal changes in response to the cries of their infant but they can also recognise their infant by touch.

Research from the animal kingdom has found links between provisioning behaviour and reductions in testosterone. If this was found in humans, it would provide a biological link between the act of provisioning and a nurturant response. Although such evidence may not yet exist,  there is evidence to show that when it comes to childcare it is those men who have more traditional attitudes, or those men who are actually engaged in providing for their families, who are more likely to be involved.

There are a number of hypotheses in my handbook chapter which need to be explored further and tested. They raise the possibililty that the male provider role is not simply a social construction belonging to a bygone age. Rather the provider role may be not only socially, but psychologically acting as a trigger for nurturing behaviour. It may even, as I suggest in my chapter, play a vital role in transforming a more immature and potentially ‘hegemonic’ dimension of masculinity into a more socially responsible, co-operative and nurturing form.

For these reasons, the provider role – as an important dimension of masculinity – deserves further investigation. If it emerges that it is not only socially but also psychologically salient, then perhaps we need to start encouraging provisioning in men.

 

About the author

Belinda Brown is a Social Anthropologist who writes about family and gender issues.

Belinda’s chapter, From Hegemonic to Responsive Masculinity; the transformative power of the provider role, appears in The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental health, is available here https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030043834#aboutBook

DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

 

Open post

Myths of Manhood: Breaking Dad, Fracking Fatherhood

by Dr Robin Hadley, author of the ‘Breaking Dad’ chapter in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

“Men can have children at any time in their lives.”

“Men aren’t bothered about being a dad.”

 

These statements are often made, without really considering how much truth there is in them.

These statements are often overheard by myself and many other men who are childless-but-wanted-to-be-dads.

Unfortunately, the belief that men are not interested in reproduction is widely held in the public and across the social sciences.  Marcia Inhorn et al (2009) argue that men have become the ‘second sex’, in all areas of scholarship because of the ‘widely held but largely untested assumption’ that men are not interested and disengaged from, reproductive intentions and outcomes’ (Inhorn 2012: 6).

The reality for men who don’t conform to the ideal of fatherhood is very different than many people realise.

The majority of men are fertile from puberty onwards typically with sperm in constant production. However, there is increasing evidence that sperm is affected by the day-to-day environment – diet, heat, and stress all adversely affect sperm  (Li, Lin et al. 2011). Moreover, sperm declines in efficacy from about the age of 35 years onward with a positive correlation between age and genetic issues (Yatsenko and Turek 2018).

In addition to biological pressures, there are socio-cultural normatives to contend with. Most societies have expectations of when the most appropriate time to be a parent is. In Europe the maximum age to become a parent is commonly thought to be 40 for women and 45 for men (Billari, Goisis et al. 2011). When an older rock star or famous actor becomes a father there is widespread media praise. However, few men become older fathers, with less than 2% of men in England and Wales, registered as fathers aged 50 or over (Office for National Statistics 2017).

Men have reported a ‘biological urge’ or ‘societal duty’ or ‘personal desire’ as factors in their wanting to be a dad (Hadley 2009). Childless men indicate a sense of time running out to become a father deepened from their mid-30s onwards (Hadley and Hanley 2011). Consequently, men described feeling being ‘off-track’ compared to peers and anxious with regards how age would affect the quality of their interactions with their (potential) future children (Hadley and Hanley 2011, Goldberg 2014, Hadley 2018).

The concept that men are unaffected and not interested in reproduction are ‘false and reflect out-dated and unhelpful gender stereotypes (Fisher and Hammarberg 2017: 1307). Moreover, the psychological impact of male infertility is on a par with suffering from heart complaints and cancer (Saleh, Ranga et al. 2003). . Fathers feel more happiness (Nelson-Coffey, Killingsworth et al. 2019) and less isolation (Hadley, 2009) than men who want children, but don’t have any.

Some men and some women do not want to be parents. However, to label all men as ‘not interested’ is to do a disservice to both men and women. In addition to ‘missing out’ in an important element of their identity, involuntary childless men are ‘missing’ from narratives about children and parenting.  Being a dad is rewarding for men, children and families, so maybe let’s think twice before we glibly say that men don’t care about having children.

 

About the author

Dr Robin Hadley specialises in understanding the experiences of involuntarily childless older men. Rob is author of the ‘Breaking Dad’ chapter in the Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health and will be speaking at UCL on this topic on 25th April 2019 at 6.30pm

Open post

How can you help men who are falsely accused of sexual abuse? Notes from the FASO helpline.

by Margaret Gardener

Picture: Margaret delivering a talk at University College London (UCL) on 28th Feb 2019 for the Male Psychology Network.

 

Let me ask you to do a thought experiment:

Have you ever considered the possibility that you could be arrested in your own home in front of your family and friends and neighbours, held in a police cell, interviewed under caution, charged and bailed or remanded to appear in court, when you haven’t actually done anything?

and

That your photograph, name and address, might appear in the local and national press and on TV, insinuating what an evil monster you are?

and

That having been released without charge or with all charges dropped, with your good name and integrity still intact (at least in the eyes of the law) you might be subjected to additional investigation by the social services and other agencies, where you may have no right of representation or comment?

and

That social services could force you to break off contact with your family and children?

and

Without proof, evidence, witnesses, or corroboration you could be convicted and sentenced to several years in prison when you haven’t actually done anything?

Having thought about, how would you feel now if one or more of the above scenarios really happened to you?

 

Empathy is key

When trying to understand the psychology of what the falsely accused feel, you have to firstly put yourself in their position. The first step to helping them is to try to understand how people that seek our support feel.

Some contact FASO regularly; others just occasionally. Some understandably feel they cannot cope and sadly feel suicidal. They tell us that sharing their stories with people who understand what they are going through can be cathartic, and they generally feel better because we know what they are going through.

Families who phone for support for those in this situation feel helpless. They tell us that their loved ones withdraw and won’t speak to anyone. They won’t go out, see a doctor, or take up opportunities for support.  The family member is often scared for the sanity of themselves and their loved ones, including children of course.  Children cry. They can’t understand why they can’t see the accused person. We all feel the huge stress that false accusations bring.

The accused person can experience a huge range of emotions and mental health issues: extreme stress; feeling that no-one will listen despite having to repeat themselves constantly; often having a shaky voice which leads to tears of anger, frustration. Crucially they feel utter disbelief: why would someone make such heinous yet untrue accusations?  Some of the thoughts we hear about are:

  • What made them make an allegation that I am such a monster? Where did such a thought come from?
  • My head is whirling; I feel sick; cannot concentrate; I can’t eat or sleep. I am collapsing and feel suicidal!
  • Where do I go? I won’t go out as friends might believe the allegations. Where/who do I turn to? I am isolated from everyone. I have nowhere to live!
  • My family is destroyed. My partner and children are crying for me as I am for them. 
  • Why is it taking so long to be investigated? How am I to manage in the court – what is it like? I don’t understand what the barrister and solicitor are saying. I can’t even get a lawyer as I can’t afford it. Why can’t all my evidence be used in court – I am told it is not allowed?

 

There is no euphoric feeling if a not guilty vote by the jury is returned

It often takes months/years of heartache, maybe losing the family, costing the earth, losing a job forever with the trauma still within the individual. “No, I cannot get on with life”, they say; “it will never be the same again”.

Note that the above issues are the reactions of those who are newly accused. The reactions of the falsely accused who are in prison is another matter. They have ongoing issues to deal with and more to come when they are released from prison.

FASO has been operating now for 17 years. We are volunteers without any funding. We can offer a sympathetic ear, but we can’t give desperate people the answers or practical support they want or need. We are not lawyers and cannot offer legal or counselling services. We can only perform a “sticking plaster” service of being a friendly, supportive ear and try to signpost people to other services that may be able to help. But those services are in very short supply in a broken criminal justice system. The UK government in 2000 estimated that there were around 120,000 false accusations annually. FASO sees just the tip of this very large iceberg, and the number of people who we cannot help is too overwhelming to contemplate.

 

About the author

Margaret Gardener is the founder of the False Allegations Support Organisation (FASO). Her presentation at UCL on this topic will be on the Male Psychology Youtube channel in early March 2019.

Margaret has a background in voluntary emergency nursing and prior to this a career in the civil service, serving abroad during this time, which helped to improve her communication skills. She was a registered foster carer for special needs teenagers and was catapulted through a family experience, as a volunteer, into the False Allegations Support Organisation in 2001. Her fist role at FASO was Secretarial, she then progressed to the helpline (using her empathy skills, and supporting callers in their distress). As the Director of FASO (UK) she addresses parliament and agencies both criminal and family through the medium of consultations and meetings, whilst liaising with Academia and like-minded groups. She addresses in part the issues of the hidden victims, both children/vulnerable adults and the accused parent/individual on safeguarding issues.

The FASO website, with helpline details, is http://www.false-allegations.org.uk/

Email: support@false-allegations.org.uk

Phone: 0844 335 1992

Monday to Friday, 18:00 to 22:00.

 

Open post

Why we need to change the attitude that ‘men are the criminals, women are the victims’

Recently, Justice Secretary David Gauke MP announced community services supporting vulnerable women have been awarded £1.6 million funding as part of the government’s commitment to reduce the number of women entering the criminal justice system. Further, the government has committed to investing £5 million over two years in community provision for women in the justice system & those at risk of offending and an initial allocation saw £3.3 million awarded to 12 organisations providing a range of specialist support. The funding follows the publication of the government’s Female Offender Strategy in June last year. As it stands, no such strategy exists for male offenders save for the announcement further prisons are to be built.

The current UK prison population is not a diverse mix of men and women; for every 1 woman in prison there are approximately 22 men and this has been the case for over the past decade. Do men commit 22 times as many offences than women? Is our offending behaviour 22 times as bad as that of women’s?

No.

As an analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) shows, men are not committing 22x as many offences, nor are men’s offences 22x as bad as women’s. In fact, men are arrested, prosecuted & sentenced around 3-4x more often as women despite the fact that the offending behaviours of men and women are largely the same.

So, why are so many more men in prison and why are government strategies being employed to lower the female prison population but not the male? Well, it’s to do with gamma bias, the cognitive distortion that impacts our perception of gender.

In terms of crime, when if a criminal is male the fact of their gender typically is magnified, and if a criminal is a women the fact of their gender typically is minimised. Conversely, when a person is a victim of crime this pattern is typically reversed. In short, men are typically seen as perpetrators and women as victims.

This template receives support from research by Dr Tania Reynolds, discussed on the podcast Heterodoxy. Using vignettes of shapes ‘harming’ each other, Dr Reynolds found “participants more often assume that the harmed target was female but especially when we used the terms ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’… Moreover, what we also found is that when people assumed the harmed target was a woman, they responded more positively towards her… So they were forced to choose male or female and we found that on average, people assume a female victim. So about 76 percent of the time. But this likelihood was even stronger when we used the terms ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’.” People automatically assume a victim to be female and, when they do, will be much more supportive of her – this does not happen for men. Instead, they are perceived as the cause of the harm because, according to the template, men are the perpetrators.

This template of men as perpetrators and women as victims manifests quite noticeably in the criminal justice system, as found by Dr Samantha Jeffries in her 2002 paper. She notes, of female offenders, they “challenge appropriate ideas of “femininity” through their criminality and involvement in the criminal justice system, both of which are traditionally the domain of men. Thus, when confronted with criminal women, it was found that the justice system tended to see them as either “not women” or “not criminals”. Women were constructed within dominant ideals of femininity in relation to the family and mental illness, and this provided a way to reposition offending women as “real” women and not really criminal after all.” When female offenders are passing through the criminal justice system, those processing them cannot reconcile the gender of the offender with their criminality, thus minimize their perception of the perpetration. Women cannot be perpetrators and perpetrators cannot be women. Instead, they are victims because they have to be.

For men, however, Dr Jeffries found there is another story, that of maximizing perpetration. She writes “[A]n analysis of judicial discourses surrounding male offenders revealed discussions bound by dominant masculine assumptions which usually made punitive sanctions more, rather than less, likely. Dominant judicial discourses of masculinity were focussed on badness, disruption, and criminality. There was no need to reconcile men within dominant gender ideology because criminality is consistent with “manliness”. Thus, judicial sympathy was rarely extended to men because most were seen as a threat to the social order and in need of state-controlled regulation.” The very nature of men being men means they must be criminal, the aspect of their gender is maximized and they are, inherently, perpetrators.

This psychological template is why government policy is to treat women as victims (thus, not criminals) whereas men are discarded and treated as criminals (thus, not victims). Various guidelines (The Female Offender Strategy, Corston Report, President of the Supreme Court Baroness Brenda Hale OBE’s influential 2005 Longford Trust Lecture and the Equal Treatment Bench Book) all say that female offenders’ life histories must be considered when they are passing through the criminal justice system. Have they endured abuse? Do they suffer from adverse mental health? Ultimately, are they victims? This line of enquiry is not extended to men. By considering the negative aspects of their life histories, female offenders are awarded softer sentences and treatments to support & accommodate them. The template of women as victims and men as perpetrators is applied, leading to a massive sex discrepancy in the prison population.

This template is why, at every step of the way, men are treated far more harshly than women in the criminal justice system. The idea of perceiving women as criminals or men as victims is alien to those whose jobs it is to administer justice. They work with a sex-discriminating template which places men & women onto different paths through the criminal justice system, causing this massive sex discrepancy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine the Criminal Justice System did treat men and women the same. Let’s fantasise, just for a moment, that male life histories and extraneous variables were considered by the Justice System as they are for women. They could start with the fact men and women process mental distress differently, ergo, will behave differently in times of mental distress.

Men and women typically process distress differently. Men are more likely to externalise their feelings, become aggressive, abuse substances and become prone to suicide; women show classic signs of anxiety or depression. No surprise then that distressed men are more likely to be dealt with by the prison services, where any therapy is likely to be directed towards the need for behavioural change rather than emotional distress. In these conditions, men might be less inclined to seek help if they fear that their anger might be interpreted as a sign of criminality.

Because male psychology is so poorly understood and misrepresented, men can find themselves falling through the criminal justice system when, in fact all they require is therapeutic attention. Thus, I find myself asking some serious questions. How many men are in prison when they should have been given help for adverse mental health? I do not know. How many men have suffered adverse mental health (or, mental distress) and have acted out, only to be sent to prison? How many men have suffered mental distress (lost their children because of the family courts, lost their jobs, are feeling suicidal) and, in acts of desperation & loss of control, find themselves involved with the Police and Justice System and are imprisoned because they are seen as a ‘bad man’ when, really, they just need help?

But how many men in the Criminal Justice System should be receiving psychological help instead of punishment? At the Male Psychology Conference 2017, Dr Naomi Murphy from the Fens Offender Personality Disorder Pathway Service at HMP Whitemoor spoke of her work with offenders in her care. She found:

• 66.1% reported childhood sexual abuse
• 72.6% reported childhood physical abuse
• 80.6% reported childhood neglect
• 66.1% reported childhood emotional abuse
• 59.7% reported parental antipathy
• 43.5% reported parental domestic violence
• 54% of the men who were sexually abused were victimized by a woman

Thus around 65% of the men she worked with had suffered some form of childhood abuse which, if it had been caught sooner by the system, could have resulted in these men being directed away from incarceration and towards the help they need.

It’s not just emotional trauma but, physical as well which can set a man on a dark path. A review in Lancet Psychiatry suggests that bumps to the head from accidents, road traffic collisions, assaults/violence, etc – things guys suffer from more than women – can lead to neural injuries which affect how the brain operates, and may increase the risk of violent offending. The authors show that of people in the criminal justice system, around 20% have had a moderate to serious Traumatic Brain Injury and another 30-40% had something less serious. Thus at least half of the prison population (around 40,000 inmates) have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. When we compare this to the 0.5% of TBI in the general public, we see a vast discrepancy.

Speaking of the effects of identifying these injuries early, lead author Professor Huw Williams of the University of Exeter said “[A]ddressing traumatic brain injury offers a means to not only improve the lives of those who offend, but also to reduce crime. A range of measures could reduce the risk of crime following traumatic brain injury. These could include any form of neurorehabilitation, and better links between emergency departments, community mental health services, GPs and school systems that might lead to early identification and management.” Imagine that: if their head injuries had been properly addressed both by the Criminal Justice System and the Health System, up to and beyond 40,000 men today could potentially not be in prison.

These are not numbers to be trifling with. Around 65% of men seen by Dr Murphy suffered some form of childhood abuse which, if extrapolated to the whole prison population, is over 50,000 people and an estimated 40,000 have suffered some form of Traumatic Brain Injury.

How many men would not be in prison today if these factors were considered? How many men could instead be receiving the help they need and be healing their injuries (both physical and psychological) rather than being behind bars? How many lives could truly be turned around if male life histories were considered rather than dismissed?

Remember, because of the psychological template applied: at conviction, women are more likely to be awarded a community sentence, they are more likely to be awarded a suspended sentence, yet men are far more likely to be subject to immediate custody – and, their sentences will be longer. Also, mitigating factors will be more accepted for women than men and aggravating factors will be accepted more for men than women, despite them being present. Think how much better the system would work if all the measures which have been introduced for women were also made available for men.

This serves the interests of not only the men in the Criminal Justice System but society at large as the cost per year per prisoner in England and Wales in 2016/17 was £22,933. Let’s say the prison population was halved because these men were correctly redirected to therapeutic measures rather than punitive, such a reduction in prison population could save the Criminal Justice System an estimated £917,320,000 every year in prison costs alone. Yet, because of the template of ‘perpetrators are men and victims are women’, this prospect seems far off in the horizon.

The prognosis, however, is not all doom-and-gloom. For example, as a preventative measure, the charity JourneymanUK helps troubled young boys & men pass through a rites-of-passage, teaching them how to be good men who will contribute positively to society. They provide therapeutic measures to help craft them into healthy men and fathers of the future. The charity A Band of Brothers works with young men & boys in the criminal justice system, providing for them guidance and support as they transition into manhood. Both of these charities recognize men & boys have their own methods of emoting and behaving which requires care and attention, not scorn and contempt. If only the Criminal Justice System could see this too.

 

About the author

Jordan Holbrook is an Honorary Research Assistant with the Male Psychology Network. His key area of interest in the sex-of-target empathy gap, how it evolved, why it did so and how it manifests in today’s society. He is also interested in sex differences and male mental health.

 

Open post

Psychological treatments for erectile dysfunction

By Dr John Barry

About a third of men experience difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection, and this percentage increases in older men. Around 85% of men find that sildenifal (Viagra) improves their erections. This is a good success rate, but it doesn’t address any underlying psychological issues the man might have in relation to sex or relationships. In fact the success of Viagra has led researchers to focus almost entirely on organic factors in erectile dysfunction (ED) rather than psychological factors.

Research shows about 40% of cases of ED are caused by psychological (psychogenic) factors alone, though psychological and physiological (organic) causes can interact. If you can achieve an erection through masturbation but not with a partner, then the cause is probably psychogenic. If you can’t achieve an erection at all, the cause is probably organic.

The main causes of psychogenic ED are depressed mood, low self-esteem, anxiety, and stress. The causes can be grouped into three categories: performance anxiety, recent stressful life events, and vulnerabilities from childhood and adolescence.

The main organic causes of ED are: cardiovascular disease (blood pressure, cholesterol), diabetes, surgery to prostate (prostatectomy), loss of T (e.g. due to ADT androgen deprivation therapy in prostate Ca), drug & alcohol intoxication or side effects.

We know that Viagra has a good success rate, but how well does ED respond to psychological therapies? Well, hypnotherapy has been found to be successful in 70% of cases of ED. A meta-analysis of 11 randomised controlled trails (RCTs) of 398 men found that group therapy improves ED compared to no-treatment, and combining Viagra with group treatment caused a significant improvement in ED compared to those who received Viagra alone. Psychological interventions also compared well to local injection and vacuum devices for ED. The success of group interventions echos evidence that group therapy and educational (information-sharing) interventions a sometimes more successful in ED than more traditional one-to-one psychological approaches, and this would be in line with other research on gender differences in preferences for therapy.

So what should you do if you experience ED? First of all, try not to worry about it because effective therapies are available, and worry can become a vicious cycle. Try to establish the cause by asking yourself questions such as: can you achieve and erection by yourself but not with a partner? Do you have an undiagnosed medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes? Are you under a lot of stress at work? If in any doubt visit your GP. And remember that although most men don’t exactly brag about it, ED is a pretty common condition, and one that can be successfully treated.

 

About the author

Dr John Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is one of the editors of, and contributors to, The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health

 

The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health will be released in April 2019.

From the back cover:

“This handbook brings together experts from across the world to discuss men’s mental health, from prenatal development, through childhood, adolescence, and fatherhood. Men and masculinity are explored from multiple perspectives including evolutionary, cross-cultural, cognitive, biological, developmental, and existential viewpoints, with a focus on practical suggestions and demonstrations of successful clinical work with men”.

 

Open post

Ambivalent Men? Male Experiences of Eating Disorders

by Dr Russell Delderfield.

When health inequalities abound, someone, somewhere, is always falling by the wayside. In some respects, I feel that eating disorders represent the conditions where men are routinely getting a raw deal (that’s not to say there aren’t many others). The successful vote for the Male Psychology section is an opportunity to highlight the needs of men, and in my case, that means drawing attention to our lack of understanding around the needs of men with eating disorders.

Almost a decade ago, a senior clinician, who is incidentally the only other UK author of a book1 tackling the issue of male eating disorders, affirmed that something was stunting the expansion of our understanding. Referring to the tradition of feminist research, he suggested that this had enriched our knowledge.

This work has involved women sharing experiences in a way that challenges or humanises the information obtained through anonymised clinical, medical research. This type of research has focused on the women’s stories, trying to foreground their voices, rather than those of the professionals involved. As such, what can be gleaned often lies beyond the bounds of what can be known through clinical case reports, assessments, questionnaires or surveys.

It was Morgan’s contention2 that we were suffering from a lack of similar work by, with and for men. In short, we were working into an experiential vacuum. Without knowing what men endured and survived how could we ascertain their medical or psychological needs in their totality? How we could transform existing or design new services to meet those needs?

I’ve attempted to contribute to the growing endeavour of sharing men’s experiences. I asked a small group of men to share their stories with me, and rather than try to map them on to existing medical criteria, I tried to work qualitatively with each story on its own merits, exploring what they had to teach us about our society and culture, and how these in turn impacted on the men’s lives. This resulted in the book Male Eating Disorders: Experiences of Food, Body and Self.

I examine prevalent psych understanding, exploring concepts such as:

  • the part that bullying, trauma, and control have to play
  • the pervasiveness of stigma
  • gender role conflict
  • muscularity-oriented disordered

However, woven into this are ideas from critical men’s studies, drawing on masculinities and embodiment:

  • ‘fugliness’
  • what it means to be a fat man (through bingeing)
  • pro-Anorexia website use
  • male ideals of muscularity versus desire for slenderness
  • compulsive exercise
  • food and exercise configured as crime and punishment
  • the self as a site of battle
  • Men’s desire to pass as ‘normal’.

I also further Matthew Campling’s work on the eating disorder-as-coloniser of the man’s body/self. What we discover is that these men experience ambivalent masculinities.

Last but not least, I am a man with an eating disorder. My work is reflexive and unapologetically interpretive. I am part of our social world, trying to make sense of others’ meaning-making of it. This means that there is a personal element that drives my desire to know more, that feeds the scholarly work.

I do not want to end without a word about the men who got in touch with me. I’m truly thankful to the men who came forward. They are part of a change I’ve seen in the last ten years, where more men are willing to add their voices to a small-but-growing throng of those willing to speak out to help others know they are not alone.

 

About the author

Dr Russell Delderfield

@MaleEDResearch

 

References

1 Morgan, J. F. (2008). The invisible man: A self-help guide for men with eating disorders, compulsive exercise and bigorexia. Routledge.

2 Jones, W., & Morgan, J. (2010). Eating disorders in men: A review of the literature. Journal of public mental health, 9(2), 23-31.

 

 

 

 

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