No more slugs and snails

How does it feel to take the red pill?

It is like waking up after a bad dream; a dream in which boys and men are bad, and girls and women are good; a dream in which you can never escape the dark feelings of shame and self-disgust because you can never escape the fact that you are male.

I used to be ashamed to be a boy. I grew to be ashamed of being a man. How did this happen? How did my spirit get squashed by shame so that I felt lesser than the girls and women around me purely because I was born male? How did I wake up from this delusion? In telling my story, I hope to connect with other men who have grown up under the burden of such shame – and to celebrate and encourage what we are waking up to: the possibility of a new world in which men are valued as highly as women for who they are, not simply what they do.

“Slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails – that’s what little boys are made of. Sugar and spice and everything nice – that’s what little girls are made of.” This was my introduction to the shame of being a boy. I heard this rhyme repeated maybe a hundred times or more before I reached the age of 5. I took it in – deep inside me. I believed I was born dirty, disgusting and inferior to the colorful, giggling female creatures around me.

It probably didn’t help that I was sexually abused by a much older girl at the age of 3 or 4, although the damage that abuse did to my sense of having an inviolable, worthy self didn’t reach my conscious mind until much later.

But the message that boys and men were bad was repeated endlessly, all around me, throughout my childhood. Perhaps the most important early carrier of that message was my feminist mother, who used me as a therapist-type foil as she spent years listing the endless ways in which my Dad was supposedly making her life a living hell. I never heard his point of view. Dad bad, Mum good became Men bad, Women Good.

I didn’t want to grow up like him.

The fact that I was bullied by my brother at home and by mostly boys at school just served to reinforce what I had earlier absorbed – boys are bad. Teachers strengthened this message by disseminating feminism, blaming boys first for any trouble in class and coming down much harder on us in every way. Girls came first – in the lunch queue, when sweets were handed out. Girls were never asked to put the chairs away. Once, for making a joke in class, I was made by the female teacher to kneel outside the classroom door for the rest of the lesson. What an expert in shaming she was.

In books and films I learned, however, that a Bad Boy could become Good. How? By becoming a Hero. A hero was someone who was endlessly strong and brave and proved it by rescuing some damsel in distress. Though I grew up aspiring to be such a hero, and later tried to rescue a fair few damsels, underneath I knew I could never measure up to such an impossible masculine ideal and felt my secret shame growing stronger.

But since my childhood coincided with the massive growth of feminism from the late 60s to the early 80s, I also absorbed from every direction the message that boys and men were now supposed to be soft, sensitive and ever so aware of the myriad needs of girls and women. When I was 12 and the teacher asked the class ‘who is a feminist?’, I was the only boy to raise my hand. Much laugher followed. I felt shamed but also brave and right. I was fighting the good fight for my mother and all damsels everywhere.

But as I entered dating age I was deeply confused about what a boy or a man was – and how he was supposed to behave. The concept of the New Man had arrived and I was only half-aware that the New Man was simply The Man Who Did What Women Wanted. I embraced the concept. Mostly I would try to be a good friend to the girls I liked – whilst noticing that they tended to hook up – yes, you guessed it – with the bastards. I was covered in acne and I knew it was bullshit that girls did not judge boys on their looks. I started to realize that they were not as pure and superior as they were painted – but at such a hormonal age I still desperately wanted their approval. In all this rejection, my shame continued to grow.

In my late teens — as my spots subsided — and I acquired a measure of confidence, I began to have some success with girls. Eventually, quite a lot of it. I felt, however, a constant pressure to be amazing (I now understand this need to be an attempt to cover up shame), fabulous, to please them to the nth degree, to give them what they wanted including in bed (girls coming first indeed), whilst very often not getting what I wanted. I thought that their needs were more important that mine. I was the protector, the romancer, the initiator, the ravisher, the spender of course, of most of the date money. I had to prove myself as a man in many ways to get the girl. And what did she have to do? Be pretty – and preferably a good conversationalist.

Eventually I ‘won’ what seemed to be a great prize in my beautiful and clever wife. But I was so grateful to have ‘won’ her that I let her alienate my friends and family and make my life all and only about her and our child. In my shame of not being good enough, I felt fear of losing her and so I thought I must do what she wanted. I neglected my needs. When it all went to shit and we got divorced, I let her take my son to another country without a fight. Three reasons: first, fairy tale chivalry and its modern feminist proxy told me that her needs came before mine. Second, I had been indoctrinated in the belief that a child needs its mother more than its father. Third, I knew that if I fought her for custody I would lose.

It all fell apart. I lost my job, I became depressed, I spent years on the dole and I became intimate with the feeling of being at the bottom of society’s hierarchy: I was a man of limited utility to women.

My shame was complete.

I say ‘limited’ utility because in time I discovered that I could initiate quite a lot of casual relationships. I was close to being a Pick Up Artist – and in my behavior I see a cocktail of feelings about women; anger at past rejections and humiliations; fear of being ‘owned’ – confined as I had been through childhood abuse and in my marriage. Shame if they started to love me; I was not worth it.

This world of loneliness mixed with short-term sex and companionship was thin, pale and empty. I needed something solid, something I could trust. I discovered men’s work through The Mankind Project. I saw vulnerable, open, honest men trusting each other, supporting each other and getting in touch with what they really wanted beyond what society and women demanded of them. My feelings of competitiveness with ‘strange’ men (rooted of course in the desire to win women) began to dissolve, as did my fear of them.

I read Warren Farrell. My compassion for boys and men just grew and grew. I started to look at the men cleaning streets and repairing buildings differently. I began to see them as fully human, beyond their utility. I started to look at teenage boys with far more warmth than judgment. I was waking up. I began to munch red pills like the starving man I had been – starving for a true and whole picture of what it is to be a man. I discovered Girl Writes What and A Voice for Men. I woke up to the damage feminism has inflicted on men and on wider society. I began to spread the word.

When my last relationship ended, I made a resolution. I was not going to chase after women any more. I would no longer put their needs ahead of mine. I would no longer try to impress them. I would no longer settle for a woman who was only giving me half or less of what I need from a relationship. I would find my own definition of what it means to be a man. Since I allowed in the wisdom and support of the community of awakened men and women that is the Men’s Human Rights Movement, my male-shame has been dissolving faster and faster, like a snowball in the sun.

And here is what I say to anyone who would shame a little boy for the fact that he is male:

Skies and stars and infinite dreams. That’s what little boys are made of.

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