I was struck by the black demon of depression and anxiety in my late teens and early twenties, a time when many men are, with iron like determination, trying to forge their destiny and make sense of themselves now that they have transitioned from a boy to a man. In these fragile years of transition I had lost two men, two men who meant the world to me – my father and grandfather – I was 18 when they both died in quick succession, and their deaths caused an emotional cataclysm that only in this past year I was able, after many years of pondering and endless internal conversations, to lay to rest.
I have always been an affectionate man, atavistically demonstrative, something also encouraged and nurtured by my immediate family. I found it a benefit and a curse during my years of struggle with the black demon. These years were fraught in many ways, due increasingly to a merry-go-round of gaining and then losing friends, as a man of warmth and affection, I have always, and will forever, value friendship with such passion, and for the most part, this facet of my personality helped me come out of the darkness. As a younger man, my failing was to be too open with too many people, too quickly, and lack that ability to judge characters precisely. Now, I feel that I have steadily gained that ability to judge a character, maybe not fully, but certainly in the immediate.
Tragically, in the feminised environment that the Western world has created for itself in the last forty to fifty years, many boys and men alike are suffering from an onset of emotional retardation, fuelling the fires of alienation and all the psychological destruction that goes with that, with the disruption of the harmonious balance between the masculine and the feminine, they are either becoming too emotional and thus feminine, or lacking emotion so much that they become the worst parodies of a masculine man, the type of men that third-wave feminists fantasise about.
In a culture that has set about on a course of nihilistic and hyper-individualistic destruction, a good understanding of affection, particularly between each other, is what many men lack today. Men need to get back to seeing their male friends as brothers, who can help each other with all manner of things, as our ancestors did, and as many men throughout the world still do. With my father’s family hailing from a culture where men, to this day, understand the positive properties of affection with their friends, I was able to see first hand that this behaviour was quite natural. It was an everyday occurrence to see male relatives and their friends embrace one another, have their arms around each other and kiss each other on the cheek. Of course, all were and are manly men, salt of the earth, hard-working fighters, so there was no sexual connotations in their actions, it was simply pure unadulterated love.
Writing in The Art of Manliness, Brett McKay, touched upon the subject of male affection in its historical context. A rich photographic essay with nearly 100 photos of male bonding, Brett said – “As you make your way through the photos, many of you will undoubtedly feel a keen sense of surprise — some of you may even recoil a bit as you think, “Holy smokes! That’s so gay!” The poses, facial expressions, and body language of the men will strike the modern viewer as very gay indeed. But it is crucial to understand that you cannot view these photographs through the prism of our modern culture and current conception of homosexuality. The term “homosexuality” was in fact not coined until 1869, and before that time, the strict dichotomy between “gay” and “straight” did not yet exist. Attraction to and sexual activity with other men was thought of as something you did, not something you were. It was a behaviour — accepted by some cultures and considered sinful by others.”
This contemporary confusion over male affection and its, fairly new, correlation with homosexuality has proved a detriment to men’s well-being. The photos I and Brett McKay sourced are now looked at through sexualised modern eyes as some kind of secret gay history. Of course, one or two of these men in the photos may have been gay, but I can say with confidence that if these men could see what “journalists” are writing in dire digital rags like BuzzFeed about them, being part of some pre-1960’s gay culture, they would give these dim wits a swift punch in the face. In my research I found that entire books had been published by intellectual ne’er do wells, who have spent too much time reading Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, and have absolutely no understanding of history or male psychology. These books further the lie that male affection, indeed affection of any kind, goes hand-in-hand with sexuality.
We see that with homosexuality becoming mainstream, a society will come to its conclusions on what is and is not “gay behaviour”. Take England as an example, during the Sodomy Trial of Oscar Wilde, revelations of his sexual exploits began circulating, and as the news became a national sensation, soldiers who used to walk around the parks of London holding hands stopped immediately. Now, this may be seen as insignificant, but it kick started the decline of male affection as it had always been.
In a society that no longer cares for men’s well-being, for example with male suicide rates reaching epidemic proportions, affection among our friends, as men, should be discussed, as the benefits of physical affection are numerous. As Dr Kory Floyd articulated in his article for Psychology Today, affection releases positive hormones and reduces stress hormones. Scientific studies have also shown that affection lowers fears of mortality and helps us reinforce our bonds with each other.
At no other time in history have men needed to look at themselves and their brothers for support, and affection is something that will help in bringing us closer.
Ben is our main writing guy at Dons Den, a freelance writer, editor and photographer, he covers many subjects relating to men’s issues.