A Personal Perspective: The importance of men finding male community.


  • Most men are hungry for physical contact with other men.
  • Homophobia keeps men from touching each other in any but a few socially sanctioned ways.
  • Men who are direct while losing their boorishness and competitiveness are good medicine for other men.


Recently, I took part in a three-day men’s retreat. It was the first time in many years that I spent that much time in male-only company. It reinforced what I’ve long known but too rarely practiced: men need time with other men.

Two minor incidents stand out that illustrate the point. Upon arriving at a rural retreat center, my car nearly got stuck in the thick, loose gravel on the shoulder of the road leading to the location. A man in a pickup truck, also obviously on the way to the same place, stopped and offered to pull me out with a strap attached to his truck. It felt nice to have a competent stranger with a “can do” attitude available to help me. The second incident was on the last night there when the chef tending to our stomachs put out a plate of freshly baked bread. Watching the men grab for it, rather than politely pass it around the table, sent me into gales of belly. It was like being back in elementary school with a bunch of 8-year-old boys. It felt wonderful.

I understand the impetus to integrate the sexes in all walks of life and I think the positives of this probably outweigh whatever is lost. But something still is lost when the sexes are mixed and each side has to act on its better behavior for  of what the other side might think. I can’t speak for women but with men, something very natural and very necessary occurs when we’re on our own. Things are less pretty but more direct. There is an ease in communication, with less focus on how we’re supposed to talk and more freedom to say what we actually feel.

Perhaps the most important thing I witnessed was the importance of male touch. I think most men crave physical contact with other men and don’t get enough of it. I blame homophobia for much of the reason men don’t touch other men unless it’s in the very few socially sanctioned ways, such as huddling in sports or getting drunk together. I believe there is a difference in the touch a man can offer to another man that is different than the touch of a woman. It is the equivalent of the man offering to pull me out of the gravel or the men grabbing for the freshly baked bread: there is something unyielding that feels reassuring.

I was lucky to be with a group of highly educated, conscious men who kept their masculinity while losing the boorishness that wounded many of us in high school locker rooms. When the competitiveness and strutting that characterize early male development are replaced by consciousness and a desire to connect male to male, the result is an intoxicating elixir that feels like a much-needed medicine in today’s world. I can’t recommend it highly enough to other men.

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