- To Be a Man by Robert Augustus Masters PhD
- Publisher: Sounds True
- Format: Paperback
Despite the softening in attitudes and growing acceptance by men of their feelings, the increased rights and freedoms of homosexuals and the growing domestic and nursing roles of men in society, there is still a powerful pressure within our culture for men to conform to the tribal blueprint of masculinity.
The old ‘Alpha Male’ archetype is still very much alive in our financial institutions and plays a prominent role in national politics. But it is perhaps the strongest in that religion of mass-drama that we more commonly refer to as sport.
In amongst this confusion of what a man is and should be, there is a new pattern of action emerging for men.
Sometimes, this expresses itself through activism and environmentalism but it is one that is increasingly finding expression through the self-development fields.
So what exactly does it mean to be a 21st century male? What duties, responsibilities and roles are we expected to perform as men in this increasingly homogenizing society?
In To Be a Man, psychotherapist Robert Augustus Masters approaches the subject of masculinity with a critical eye. He, tackles issues arising from the deep emotional pain and sense of isolation that many men feel today.
The book is divided into five parts, with each section exploring an aspect of the difficulties and confusion that surround a great deal of the modern interpretation of manhood.
For Masters, the core problem is that of shame—an affliction that he believes emaciates men from their ability to experience their core emotions and, as a consequence, separates them from their inherent power.
It is this sense of powerlessness that perhaps forces men into following patterns of behavior that are so damaging to others but in particular to those with whom they have a close relationship.
Masters defines masculine shame as the ‘painfully self-conscious sense of our behavior—or self—being exposed as defective’.
In part two, he examines several of the key factors that are prevalent in the masculine gene. These relate to the issues of power, anger, aggression and violence.
In a negative context, these features are aspects of our darkening world of war and tribalism. However, if we can resolve them, they can be harnessed into a positive context. They can be used to form an essential set of tools to be used along the path of the ‘Hero’, within which the refined dynamics of courage expresses itself in a self-nurturing and maturing process.
Part three of To Be a Man examines Relational Intimacy—one of the challenging and troublesome areas of modern masculinity.
Masters opens this section by acknowledging that the suppression by so many men of their emotional side—something that is so often acceptable in the workplace but so damaging in the home. This aspect of distorted masculinity forms the core of so many issues confronting modern man and presents him with the challenge of how to soften, but not emasculate, his central power structures.
For many men, sex is the underlying dynamic that expresses their sense of masculinity, their connection to females as well as their inherent power base.
Part four is dedicated to the subject of sex and the inherent dangers, as the author sees it, of men aligning themselves to this powerful erotic instinct at the cost of other aspects of manhood.
In his evaluation of this particular element of masculinity, Masters enters into a powerful and extensive critique on modern sexuality as it is played out through our societal structures. One particular aspect of the negative side of sexuality is pornography. The author comments at length about what he perceives to be a epidemic of a social disease that distorts and twists our perception of healthy sexuality.
In a pseudo-Freudian context, Masters then looks at the role that some physical body parts, such as the penis and female breasts, play in defining how men subconsciously determine their innate sexuality.
In the concluding part to his book, Masters sums up his ideas in how these varying elements of fractured and discarded maleness can be resolved and brought back into wholeness by working directly with the body, the mind, emotions and psyche.
To Be a Man is a book of strange contradictions. Whilst its title suggests that it offers a route back to masculine self-empowerment, it fails to achieve this.
What is most telling is that the author offers no particular vision of how a balanced and well integrated male should be.
The majority of the book forms a cutting criticism of modern masculinity with only a very small percentage of it actually about how men can reconnect with their true essence and so regain their innate personal power.
In this regard, the is somewhat unresolved in its arguments and incomplete in its guidance.
Where this book does work is in bringing to the surface aspects of the darker side of the Alpha Male and the assumptions, both social and personal, that true expression of masculinity is through sex, aggression and emotional suppression.
Masters challenges these notions with great authority and at times his insights into the male psyche is cutting and unequivocal. I enjoyed the book for this and feel that, although many men will find this unveiling of themselves and their deeper, darker motivations discomforting, many women will, quite rightly, see this book as a qualification of much that they perceive and dislike in their menfolk.
To Be a Man is a book for men who are on the cusp of responding to a need to redefine who they are as individuals. It will not be enjoyed by those who have yet to start that difficult journey into maturation. Nor will it be appreciated by those whose lives, careers and social standing are upheld by the old concepts of manliness that still prop up most sections of our crumbling society.
To Be a Man hits hard at the residual core of dark matter that defines ancient principles of masculine authority. It offers an insight to those in society—both men and women—who have been damaged, confused and rejected by such prehistoric attitudes.
Credit: Review copy kindly supplied by PGUK, London.