Through the conversations during the session, I gained insight into how some people perceive the role of ‘Eldership’ in forming, reinforcing and perpetuating ideas of a collection of behaviours, traits and qualities often labelled as ‘masculine’, the impact of porn (often the elephant-in-the-room) and about our language, its power, its limiting about how we can talk about the wider and deeper realities and collections of experiences and behaviours than that which is currently described by the word ‘masculinity’. The conversation helped me lift further the veil on my own prejudices, assumptions and expectations.

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in this session, for the mutually respectful creative and constructive nature of the conversation and for your openness and honesty. If I’ve missed your name below, please do add it to the comments for this report. Also, please do feel to suggest amendments, additions or corrections to the report in the comments. Thank also to those who gave their details and expressed and interest in being part of the R&D for My Man and Me - we will be in touch!

Here follows some of the things that were said/came up during the session (which, as it turns out, didn’t finish till after I got home - ‘when it’s not over, it’s not over’) n.b. Please note, this is a record of what was discussed and does not in all cases necessarily reflect my own views or that of the group as a whole:

We don’t talk about this.
“‘Toxic’ [as the context] is the only interesting conversion to have about it [masculinity]” one person said.

Pornography and ‘digital toxicity’: the elephant in the room
Part of creating definitions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’
The impact of ‘Frontier’ Swipe Apps
It affects ALL of us, whether we or not we watch porn or use the apps.

We do it to ourselves?
Bumblebee’d conversation from Lloyds previous session about pre-90’s actors training, which relayed stories of emotional brutalisation and harm segued into the workplace, apprenticeships and patterns of behaviours that a passed-down from the Elder as they had received them themselves. We discussed how perhaps the cultural behaviours of masculinity that we brought as the subordinates in these roles, prompted the perpetuation of culturally masculine behaviours in our seniors/elders/teachers.

The Elder
In our formative years, we can consciously or unconsciously entrust, imbue and perhaps worship our ‘Elder’ with the zeal of a disciple for their acolyte.

‘Masculinity is fluid’
The Language of Masculinity is imbued with
Loaded associations
Queer language is helpful in that it disrupts the language of masculinity because it is not defined/definable in the same way.
The language of masculinity separates ourselves from the words we use to describe ourselves.
‘How we talk about things? E.g. not “the problem”’ unfortunately, I don’t recall the context of this but am fascinated by what it may be referring-to. If you were in the session and recall it, I would be very grateful if you could put something in the comments about it.

Constructs of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ help create a toxic system. For example in which ‘masculinity’ can be used be blamed for behaviours and as a defense for expressions of anger and harm. By perpetuating ideas of what is ‘masculine’ and what is ‘feminine’ we put ourselves and others into boxes, find ourselves identifying with them and finally limit ourselves as human beings.

We Need Different…
Ways for men to be
Ways for men to feel proud of being men
Roles models of masculinity to celebrate.
‘I don’t know how to be feminist and to celebrate my masculinity!!’ - This was an impassioned declaration that I found very moving.

The Qualities of Masculinity
Masculinity as a term is defined Culturally. It does not describe a truth in itself.
Implied physical strength that can be used to hurt without contact.
Being right.

Men’s rights movements have led to internalised misogyny

In stories, the expression of emotion is portrayed as a positive trait of masculinity, in life it can be regarded as a negative trait.

There is a difference between how men typically to each other and how women relate to each other. ‘My male friend is able to talk to me [a woman] with an openness that he feels he can never do with his male friends’.
‘When listening to someone describe their challenges/problems/struggle, I will be asking myself “what is the problem that I am being asked to solve”’

‘There is an unconscious doctrine of ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’’

‘There were signs of who and how I was in other people’s reactions to me’


‘What can I change?’

‘Boys behave better when a female is present’

Rage and anger - That feeling in your hands, tingling, to make fist.
‘Violence was the furthest thing from my mind but my body communicated threat’

I was pleased to discover that you don’t need a twitter account to read the messages at:
Cried some good, hot, happy tears at some of the posts. I am going to stop-by there more often.

Somebody mentioned a reference to Nurturing the Gender Creative Child. In googling this, I came across the Exhibition of Masculinities at The Barbican: Looks like a golden R&D resource (also feels zeitgeisty and like a nudge to keep going with developing our play).

Masculine Spaces
Where we don’t want to be, but often are:
Fight or Fuck. ‘I don’t want to be part of the Fight-It-or-Fuck-It mentality or to perpetuate it’.
‘Make me feel defensive, like I am shrinking and for which I need a shield to protect myself’.
A feeling of danger.
Men take the space, vie for dominance
‘Male exclusivity = mental illness’

The Oppressed and Oppressors
Men are also oppressed by current definitions of masculinity.
The men’s rights movements arose out of a reaction to feminism but some over-reacted.

The Work needed:
Look at our shadow-selves
Make amends through:
Emotional expression
Making work that illuminates the reality of masculinity

Porn (the elephant in the room?)
‘If man doesn’t enjoy watching porn then he is considered to be “not a man”’
Presents masculinity as being synonymous with sexual power/dominance.
‘[My female partner] is curious about why whe seeks ‘masculine’ dominance during sex whilst being a powerful, independent and strong feminist’.
‘There is a need [for the other/outsider] to experience what we define as masculine sexuality’

The session continues, apparently...
When I got home, I found myself discussing the session with a member of my family who is 18 years old. When I relayed the conversation about porn, she relayed that porn has positive associations between her and her peers and that it is an open topic, shared and discussed without shame and is ambivalent about whether it has a positive or negative impact with regard to expressions of or defining masculinity saying: ‘some people believe it may lead to more violent sexual behaviour, but some people like that. As long as you like what’s happening, that’s okay’. She also agreed with the views above regarding the limitations of the language we currently have available to describe behaviours, beliefs and values and, also as described in the earlier discussion, that, while we are still stuck with using it, we all need to acknowledge its limitations and insufficiencies in order to not further perpetuate its power in maintaining the status quo.

Paul contributed two of his poems and two newspaper articles. These can be found at:

Mike Bernardin
Stacia Saint-Owens
Tom Wright
Lloyd Davis
Paul Whitlock
Miriam Gould
Lucy Sherratt
Annabel Wood

Also, just to say THANK YOU to EVERYONE that came to D&D and was part of creating the amazing and inspiring spirit of warm, generous, tolerant, exciting and stimulating energy, including all of the wonderful organisers, access workers, volunteers and everyone who helped make the opening of the space possible and as open as possible.

A HUGE thank you for your experience in the closing circle Andy. I found it deeply moving.

A HUGE thank you, too, to Mike for the poem. It broke my heart (in the best way) and gave me words to articulate what I wanted to express to someone very close to me that I needed to hear that, too.