Male Lust Arrives in Happy Valley

If we can’t talk about male lust honestly, argues Tom Matlack, how can we deal with the consequences?

Not long ago I wrote a column about male lust that caused quite a stir. I wasn’t trying to define masculine sexuality, only ask that perhaps coming clean about the topic of male lust would help both genders. I pointed out simple examples where I observed men hiding their true desires and the unfortunate consequences that followed. I said, as I have many times before, that a population of men secretly jerking off to porn or frequenting strip clubs really doesn’t accomplish much for men or women.

Well, the news this week conspired to take my point and magnify it about a billion times over. I really never thought I would get in my car to drive my son to 1st grade, turn on sports radio, and then quickly have to turn it off because the non-stop discussion had turned to pedophilia.

I was proud of our story “We Are?” by a Penn State professor heartbroken by the first shot across the bow of his fabled sports program. But that was the first day. Now we are on day three and the thing has spiraled completely out of control. Paterno is stepping down. The talk is of dozens if not hundreds of children who were abused. The guys on the sports talk radio are saying no other sports scandal—not the Black Sox, not Miami hookers, not O.J. Simpson—comes close to the magnitude of this one.

That may or may not be true. But my question is: what does the scandal say about us as men and our inability to get honest about lust?



Pedophilia is obviously male lust turned completely inside out in the most vile and destructive manner possible. I don’t pretend to understand it. I can only report what I have learned by talking to those who have been involved first hand in those situations and the works of art that attempt to get at what it is all about.

The most profound of those experiences was spending countless hours with a close friend who came forward early on as a victim naming names to the Boston Globe spotlight team that was the first to report the pattern of pedophilia in the Catholic Church. (“The First to Come Forward”).

Here is a recent conversation I had with my friend, who I affectionately call “Princess”:

What is a good man?

A good man is compassionate, strong, empathetic, smart, non-judgmental.

What inspired you at the very beginning to confront this?

Anger. I was really tired of carrying it; it felt really heavy. And anger at the institution that protected my perpetrator. Anger at him. Anger at myself, maybe, that I had allowed it to go on for so long. Anger that I had never done anything about it. The other reason was that this is continuing today with other children. I think that every time one person speaks up, it’s more difficult for that crime to happen and for someone to get away with it. So I think every voice counts. 

In terms of your capacity to love and connect? Do you feel like that’s been repaired?

No. I don’t. (Laughter.) Since you asked. I think it’s better. I don’t think I’m fixed. (Laughter.) I think that I have good days and bad days, more good days. It’s a process. I certainly don’t feel like I’m falling apart like I did when I started doing the work on this. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve got this big secret weighing me down that I’m carrying around like I did for so many years before I dealt with it.

As far as my ability to trust or love, it’s better. But it’s not perfect, and I’m not as afraid of being hurt, exploited. I don’t see myself as a victim. I think—and I never thought this consciously, but—I think I saw myself as this scared kid my whole life, or I was a scared kid. And I don’t see myself that way.

How has all this changed how you view men’s capacity for evil? Do you think you’re more critical of human nature at this point, or more hopeful?

Sometimes I think of the man who exploited me and divorce myself from the situation and think of all the different things he did to all these different children. And I’m amazed that one person could do so many evil actions. But now I feel much more hopeful because I did something. I also saw a lot of good things in my journey—people who helped me, people who did kind things for other people going through this. I feel more hopeful about the human race.



The other experience which informs whatever limited view I have on pedophilia is the book and film Little Children. I happened to be fortunate enough to see the film prior to its general release and attend a talk by author Tom Perrotta. The film is about a stay-at-home dad who ends up cheating on his wife with a mom from the playground. But it is also is at its heart about pedophilia.

Ronnie, played by Jackie Earle Haley, returns to the neighborhood to live with his mom and try to “be good.”  That struggle was the most riveting part of the film to me, for the brutal honesty of the portrayal. When I asked Perrotta about the actor who played Ronnie, he explained that Haley had made a name for himself in Breaking Away and Bad News Bears and then gotten sick with Chromes Disease (which accounts for his strange appearance) and struggled with addiction before they tracked him down for the role. A few months later he was nominated for the Oscar for best supporting actor.

What was so chilling to me was the abject fear in the parents upon realizing there is a pedophile in their midst, and the abject fear in Ronnie himself as he struggles with his own demons. It’s hard to feel any compassion for a pedophile but the film makes the viewer at least consider the possibility.



In light of what has happened at Penn State, I can’t help but wonder if this horrible case isn’t somehow connected to our inability to tell the truth about male lust. The male urge to have sex is suppose to be put in a box and hidden in a closet somewhere—whether you are gay or straight. There is a cost to pay for that dishonesty.

A man in his 70s–who been married three times and divorced three times and had taken to frequenting massage parlors—once told me with regard to male sexuality, “Nature abhors of a vacuum.”

By that I think he meant that you can try to deny who you really are sexually but it will end up coming out sideways in some perverse and unintended way. Maybe if you can’t talk openly to your wife about sex, you end up at a strip club. Maybe if your faith requires you to remain celibate, you end up raping boys. Or maybe if you run a football program steeped in tradition, when someone tells you a kid has been raped in your locker room shower by a retired coach you look the other way.


The GMP on Penn State:

We Are?

Paterno and Pedestals, Julie Gillis

When the Game Becomes Religion, Gary Percesepe

Destroying a Young Boy’s Soul, Ken Solin

Power Is at the Core of Sexual Harassment, Mervyn Kaufman

The Tragic Lionization of Joe Paterno, Tom Ley

Men, Monsters, and the Media, Nicole Johnson

Loyalty and Responsibility at Penn State, Andrew Smiler

Jerry Sandusky and Penn State: A Familiar Story, Sophia Sadinsky

Beware the Legacy You Are Protecting: Winning Isn’t Everything, Eli Kaplan

Institutional Injustice: Why Rooting For Universities Breeds Immorality, Aaron Gordon

I Failed, Rick Morris

Sandusky-ed, Tim Green

About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. Dr. Benway says:

    Folks, there’s a huge presumption that’s not being addressed here: the view that pedophilia – a recognized and fairly well understood mental disorder – is somehow the result of normative sexual functioning.

    Lust is a normal sensation, one which is completely natural and healthy. The compulsion to have sex with prepubescent shildren is neither normal, natural, nor healthy.

    NOTHING in the medical sciences, as far as I’ve seen, indicates that there’s a connection between pedophilia and lust.

    Furthermore, it’s frightening to me how badly people seem to need the allegation against Sandusky to be proven true. At this point, a Grand Jury has found the accusation “credible”. Now correct me if I’m wrong here, but haven’t other grand juries found other accusations of the sexual abuse of minors to be “credible” in the past? And haven’t those accusations been proven to be unfounded? I’m thinking in particular here of the accusations of massive satanic ritual abuse that rocked the U.S. in the 1980s, which put dozens of people behind bars for years and which were later shown to be fraudulent.

    Shouldn’t there be at least some show of formal skepticism, given the way this sort of accusation has been abused in the past?

    Maybe Sandusky is indeed guilty. As far as I know, this has not yet been proven in a court of law, however. Perhaps we should down the pitchforks and torches until it is…?

    Just a wild suggestion.

  2. Tom asked: “..what does the scandal say about us as men and our inability to get honest about lust?”

    The Penn state situation is particularly interesting because the big game players are infact men. It shows a social dynamic about how men, in this case, interacted with each other when confronted with the perverted lust of one of their own.

    Baring that in mind, I don’t think the Penn state situation is a commentary on male lust from the perspective of Sandusky. I don’t think most men, even in their own struggles with lust, would all the sudden turn pedophile if they weren’t give a chance to express or talk about their lust openly.

    However, I do think this situation says something regarding all the men involved that kept the situation secret. It was more important to them to maintain a facade because the importance they placed on the sport team and reputation, then it was to be honest about Sandusky’s lustful crimes. So while this situation doesn’t say much of anything about how most men handle their personal sexuality in their own lives, because most men are not pedophiles, it does say something about how a group of men decidedly tried to hide the truth of the lustful actions of one of their own. And maybe that’s what Tom’s question is really about. Not just a man’s inability to talk to his wife about his lust, but a man’s inability to not stand up against other men and where their lustful actions lead them. Because you have several men in this situation that allowed this to fall through the cracks. And that’s just as much as a problem as it is when we can’t be open about our own lust. When we sit on our hands when confronted with the wrongful actions of other’s lust. It leads me to think a lot about this “old boys club” and how much of that is still in practice socially today. And how that ties into how men conduct themselves within that in combination with issues of lust.

    • It’s every bit as much of an old and YOUNG girls club as it is an old man/young man’s club. Notice Sue Paterno and all those babes fanatically crying buckets for their deluded old goat. Football players/coaches everywhere and always play for the adoration of women…women who hold that almighty weapon of war between their legs. Sandusky’s boys were easily seduced because they too hoped to be ‘big guys’ someday so they could get some ‘love’ from women. Before you show ‘social dynamics’ I suggest you do some serious research on who drives men.

      • I’m sorry but did I read this wrong or did you just imply that the young children that were raped by Sandusky “allowed” a grown man to do such things to them in the hopes that they could get “love” from women? You really couldn’t have just said that right?

        I am not saying that if a woman had been involved in the situation, it would have turned out different. My guess would be that it wouldn’t have. I am also not talking about the people that are so blinded by the legend of a team and a coach, that it over rides their good sense to what happened to the children in this case. Both men and women clearly were rallying for the team and crying for Paterno. Implying that everything a man does is just get laid, is pretty demeaning to men. Not women. I am talking about the actions the men in the situation made and the obvious reflection that has in an “old boys club” mentality. Not all things are always equal. And not everything is women’s fault John Doe. The choices men make are the choices they should own. Just as the choices a woman makes are the choices she should own.

      • John Doe, if women have all that power between their legs, why are they only 17% of congress? Why are only like 4 of them in the fortune 500?

  3. Perhaps this has already been said, but all these comments are too wordy–I want to get right to it. This sounds an awful lot like the same old excuses as always. “Men commit sexual assault because SOCIETY TRIES TO CONTROL THEIR WILD SEXUAL NATURE!” So the man is controlled either by society OR his sexual nature, but he certainly isn’t responsible. Look, I’m a sex-positive person who believes that people should feel more free to talk about sexuality and not feel sexual shame. However, as I said above in another thread, men are statistically more likely to commit EVERY TYPE OF VIOLENT OFFENSE, not just the sexual ones, and women’s sexuality is more guarded and shamed than men’s (at least society lets you guys have sexual agency–we’re just bikini-clad objects in beer commercials). So…I seriously do not even know WHAT you are talking about, Tom Matlack. I mean, the only part of male sexuality that I find society as a whole shunning is the part where they force unwilling individuals to participate in sex acts with them, and, well…even then, the victims get blamed half the time.

    • I agree absolutely. It’s a self hating guy who says his lust controls him unless it has an outlet (of his choosing, I presume?) And men blame feminists for depicting them as beasts? Men aren’t any less in control of their lust than women. It is about power and control.

  4. All human cultures come up with ways to control expression of sexuality. The ways they do that vary greatly. Some cultures are quite open sexually, others are quite repressed, but it does seem that unbridled expression of lust is seen as dangerous in some way. Rules, it seems, are always needed for who people have sex with, when, where and how – even in societies where people are fairly open to having a variety of sexual relationships. I’m also curious about what Tom envisions as a society where male lust is “free” (i.e. without rules or constraints). Would it be like the gay bathhouse culture in the late 1970’s before AIDS? Would it be like a war torn country where men can forcibly take any woman they want for sex because no one can stop them? Would it mean the end of laws against sexual harassment? Would it mean porn can
    be shown on network TV at prime time? Would it mean the end of monogamy? What if women don’t want to put up with unconstrained expressions of male lust? Would unrepressed male lust free women to express their own lust or the opposite – would it create a society where women are afraid to leave the house? (One justification in Islamic countries for the burka is that men can be expected to control their lusts, so women must be covered up)

  5. I have a problem with the idea that it’s male (sexual) lust that becomes misdirected and perverted. Abuse happens when someone is seeking dominance, power, and control; not sexual release. Institutions of power strip people of their empathy.

    Another problem I have is about being open about strictly male lust. What about female lust? There is such a wide spectrum of lust, can we say we know absolutely what male lust is? Can we say we know absolutely what female lust is? I don’t even know what it is you’re talking about, Tom. Does it mean that we need to be open about men wanting sexual variety? Has it occurred to you that women can want the same thing? Maybe I don’t work the way women are “supposed” to work. Are you saying that monogamy is not a natural state for men? Can’t the same also be true for women? Are you saying that men should be able to have open sexual encounters with whomever they desire, without fear of prosecution? Can’t women also do the same? Are men entitled to having their sexual needs fulfilled? What about women? Are you saying that we should be polygamous? What about the natural reaction of jealousy? Can a man really expect to have all the casual sexual encounters he wants, but expect his main squeeze to remain faithful, when maybe she wants the same thing?

    I don’t know where your point lies, Tom. I am confused by this. What exactly do you mean by we should be open about male lust? What is male lust?

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Steph you are reading a lot more into my question than I intend. I of course believe that female lust is every bit as important as male lust, and has been twisted in equally damaging ways. I am not saying that male lust should free men to act with no moral compass. I am saying that in fact many men are acting in ways now that beyond being morally wrong if you want to look at it that way are also just self destructive at best and destructive to others at worst. My point is that perhaps if we actually talked openly about male desire in a way that wasn’t threatening or shameful or underground we might make progress towards more healthy relationships. Maybe not. But I think its at least worth trying.

  6. Pedophilia is obviously male lust turned completely inside out in the most vile and destructive manner possible. I don’t pretend to understand it.

    No, it is not. Pedophilia is the sexual attraction to prepubescent children, and it has nothing to do with being male, nor it is a uniquely male behavior. I understand that people here have a hard time accepting that women rape children and will search for every chance to excuse, downplay, ignore or condone it. I also understand that people here love to treat me as a collective unit that thinks the same thing. But at this point it is getting ridiculous.  Do not blame all men for what a handful of men do, and stop denying that women rape children.

    In light of what has happened at Penn State, I can’t help but wonder if this horrible case isn’t somehow connected to our inability to tell the truth about male lust.

    No, it is not. The problem is power, money and greed. We see this in every situation like this, including when women run things. Anytime there is money involved, people with power have to decide whether they will do the right thing and potentially lose that power and money or whether they will do the wrong thing and keep their prestige. More often than not, greed wins. People would rather let someone they suspect rapes boys continue to do that than risk losing their position.

    The way you solve this problem is by confronting the greed and apathy, not scapegoating all men.

    • Good catch, Jacob. That absurd claim slipped right by me when I read the article the first time… even though I already knew that most child abuse is committed by women.

      It just goes to show how customary and unqestioned man-blaming has become in our media.

      • Sexual child abuse or physical abuse?

        In a way, I’d say they come from the same root issue. Men commit more sexual abuse. Women, physical? Are the actual stats even on both? Regardless, It’s about power and dominance and a lack of empathy that both men and women can participate in.

        That being said, I cannot see how this issue, or say the issues with the Church are connected to lust. I see them as being connected to a closed and insular system which is driven by greed and a need for subservience in it’s members, often lead by a charismatic leader. Abuse, bribes, threats, instilling fear. Yes, there is sexual expression, and maybe maaaaabye Sandusky’s sexuality was twisted up on a personal level, but the system was complicit on a much much larger scale, unless you are positing that systems of dominance (church, nazi germany, rwanda, North Vietnam, political scandals) are all connected to a suppression of male lust.

        If so….

        One thing I have as a thought experiment for you Tom, since you have brought up the question of what would happen if we were honest about male lust…

        Well, what would happen? What would the world of that look like? Steph has some good questions below that I’d like to hear your thoughts on, personally. How would the world change if men were able to be open about their lust. I’d like specifics.

        Do men get to grab a woman’s breasts when they find them appealing even if she doesn’t like it? Or instead, would he say to her, “I won’t grab them, but I want to.” Or would men be able to access more sex acts without commitment? Or more commitment from more women? Do women get to say no? Do gay males? Do straight men get to say no if they don’t want to have sex?

        How do you think the world would change because of this? Would there be less sexual abuse if more men were able to access more sex from women? Or if they were able to have more bisexual experiences? Would people walk around naked and have sex intermittently during board meetings?
        Would men enjoy bathroom encounters at the work place?

        Would women and men have french farce level relationships of bed hopping and comparing notes at the end of a day?

        What is this freedom of lustful expression and what would it look like? I’m serious.

        How is lust being turned inside out? How is the systematic rape of children, the lending of them to donors (allegedly), the cover ups and more, related to lust? Because I don’t see it.

        I’m not asking to be snarky or combative, but I’m really and truly curious about your thoughts on this.

        Well, I suppose I’m being a little combative. But I’m frustrated, Tom. I’m frustrated that boys and girls are being sexually abused and I don’t want to believe that child abuse of that nature is “human nature.”

        I don’t want to believe that the sexual harassment that boys and girls suffer at the hands of bullies is human nature related to sex.

        I don’t want to believe that female bloggers getting death threats and horrible language on them is just “trolling.”

        If acts of dominance and aggression are human nature, then is it connected to the sex drive or not?

        And if exploring male lust to it’s fullest will somehow decrease all those things, how does it work in your mind? Cause I’m all for hearing it. And can it work while maintaining a level of consensuality and respect for everyone’s physical and emotional boundaries?

        Cause that’s what I”m seeing as the biggest problem. A complete and utter lack of respect for the boundaries of the children in the case, the underling staff, the system of ethics, of the very idea of consensual sexual behavior. I don’t see lust for anything other than power.

        • No, sex and love are not primarily about power and dominance (‘male’) or control and subjugation (‘female’). The are about SEX or LOVE. For god sakes, Sandusky kissed his boys victims on the mouth. That represents some sort of twisted need to give or receive love…and likewise his sex crimes. Feminist nonsense about (‘patriarchal’) power and dominance seem to have confused whole generations. We need to start over, toss feminists bigots to the dogs or cats as the case may be and start with fresh slates. These topics are confusing enough without having ‘activist’ frauds cooking the books for perverted political power.

        • “Do men get to grab a woman’s breasts when they find them appealing even if she doesn’t like it? Or instead, would he say to her, “I won’t grab them, but I want to.”

          Do women get to ‘slab’ their breasts in public to cock tease men even if men don’t like it? Or instead would she say to him, ” I won’t show em, but I want to”.

          • Women’s breasts don’t exist to cock tease you. Should I ask the question, why were those 10 year old boys in shorts, cock teasing Sandusky? Or girl infants in diapers cock teasing their incestuous fathers? Gay men could say the same about you if you wear tight jeans or take off your shirt. Is being sexually aroused and not getting to do anything about it THAT painful to you? Do you really, cognitively, see it as a crime? I doubt it. Or you need to be locked up.

  7. The more I read about this scandal, including new allegations that the coaches were offering boys out to donors, ( the less I can connect this to male lust for sexuality in any way and only to power, to money, to an entire system of such toxicity that it boggles the mind.
    Trading children for donor dollars? Buying and selling kids? If this is true it is such a breach of human ethics I don’t have words. That Paterno was considered untouchable…of course the regents have been trying to take him down for 10 years. Clearly they knew what he was doing. Sandusky was the one next in line in the 90’s yes? People knew, people covered it up for power for money, out of fear, out of shame. And wasn’t there a reporter mysteriously gone missing over this??
    But does this seem like male lust turned inside out? How is that possible? This isn’t one man, repressed and finding an outlet. Or one man with some kind of OCD paraphila and seeking release. This is akin to the Church, yes?
    A systemic process of grooming boys, using boys, connected with the highest levels of power, money and worship of a charismatic leader who apparently can do no wrong, only he’s doing everything totally wrong.
    I don’t know. I just don’t know. They all should be fired, in jail, in counseling, dismantled…
    My guess is though that it will happen again in some other school or some other church or political system, because the lust? To me? seems to be about dominance not about sex. And I have no earthly idea what we do to break ourselves as a species from leader-worship, dominance and closed, shame filled systems.
    To be sure, I don’t necessarily see this as a male thing at all. A human thing. And something we need to solve before we ruin ourselves with love of money, power and greed over human beings.

    • I couldn’t agree more.

    • It was a District Attorney investigating the case. They found his laptop and car but his body has never been found.

    • This discussion is interesting, but it leaves out a strong possibility – that as long as our society is male-dominated, men will commit most of these acts of sexual perversion.

      I’d like to believe the The Good Men Project believes in equal rights for women and respects feminism, but I don’t see much evidence of it. I’ve read several of your articles, Tom, and you use a lot of sexist language. Terms like balls, man and wife, macho, and mankind privilege men over women. They are very demeaning.

      So before we talk about male lust, we need to talk about how our culture equates masculinity with a lust for power and denigrates the men who refuse to “go for it.” And then, we need to do something about it.

  8. You really need to get educated on this topic. Your website at times is really off the mark, I’m disappointed in this piece. Before you try to write about sexual violence, you should speak to experts in the field, as well as survivors, so that you can understand it from all sides. There is a wealth of knowledge in the field that you’re missing, and therefore by writing like this, you’re actually perpetuating myths and not doing any justice to anyone on this topic.

  9. I saw the film awhile ago as well, and adored it’s honesty. It was beautiful and challenging to watch the pedophile character – but his story was not ‘the story’. Lust and what it can do to us, whether it is sickness or desire, were the themes. The female lead found it/herself in the pedophile: bored and alone in suburbia, she slowly opens to the idea of desire for a man-who-is-not-her-husband. This is liberating, exciting, a rebirth of desire healthy sexuality. Eventually, that builds, it’s consummated. She discusses Madame Bovary in her suburban wive’s book club and is surprised to realize she now considers Bovary a kind of feminist, acting on her desire. There is anal sex, there is a willingness to let herself be ‘humiliated’. Good and good. But her desire leads her to decide to run away with the guy, and eventually she comes head on with pedophile who’s castrated himself in an effort to ‘be good’.

    Then, there was the male character of anger and rage: the one who so abhorred the idea of a pedophile in the neighborhood he engaged in his own militia stye terrorism. His rage paralleled the ‘lust’ of the others. He was clearly ill. But it ends up being this man who saves the bleeding pedophile in the end.

    Sorry to ruin the movie – but the point I’m trying to make was that it was not clear that pedophilia was the ‘crime’. It was not clear who was committing wrongs, when desire became perversion, nor what a community’s responsibility should be. It was never clear if the pedophile was sick, emotionally, which may or may not have anything to do with sexuality/lust….or if it IS sexuality so repressed it comes out sickly.

    The movie was gorgeous. And discomfiting as it may have been – I found it somehow soothing.

    I needed that honesty so badly.

    As a young woman I came, with much struggle and furious looking, to understand sexual deviation as not sex. I worked with feminists, I read all the women’s studies literature. Rape, in that world, is not about sex, because sex is love and connection. Sex is natural, healthy, human.

    Rape, deviation, is about illness and power. Usually, deviancy is ‘serial’. Most men are not abusive, but the minority who are abuse again and again. Most convicted rapists have ‘serial’ rapes behind them. And most pedophiles, well…

    the repetition, and the psychology of these people, has shown that it is emotional/psychotic… it is often not ‘sexual’ at all: it is pathological. It is obsessive.

    ‘Sex’ is probably the most frequent expression of violence. By this logic, deviation is almost ‘unnatural’.

    This makes profound sense. It helps to understand that porn industry, and pedophilia, and the gamut of objectifying women’s bodies. It isn’t about sex. It’s about hurt. The object is hurt.

    This is what I have tried to believe, most of my life.


    I have continued to meet men, healthy , not mentally ill men, who participate in the sex industry. I know women who participate in the sex industry. I have, too. I know those shadows between what we say we want (love! connection! equality!) and what we really want, what, sometimes, we will admit we want. There are strange lines of hurt. Women I consider feminists admit to me their fantasy is very nearly sexual assault. Men who do, actually, want to pull your hair. Let alone have you shaved clean or come only in your mouth, or anus. Honesty about dating and sex recognizes how much sex happens without ‘love or connection’. What do we like to watch, and what do we like to touch? What is homosexual? What part of us is aroused by being able to be vulnerable, or by having vulnerability opened to us?

    Can we say that sex is about love or connection? Or is there a darkness, an inherent violence, to lust? Or are we all so sick that the perverse has begun to look arousing?

    I was reading about apes. Genetically- historically they are our closest kin. For 30 years of studying these apes, we were amazed and thrilled to see how gentle and loving they were (democratic and feminist were actually used).

    But in 30 years methodology improved, our study was more ‘honest’, and we began to see that apes are actually not terribly gentle. And it isn’t that they fight like dogs over territory or food or simply male on male competition. The violence they do is premeditated, intended to maim or send messages, psychological. They rape, and they commit gang violence. They are cruel. I didn’t finish the book. It made me vomit.

    I want to believe in good men. Men who would never hurt another, sexually. I am still unsure whether these men exist. I still don’t know if violence is ‘natural’, or what ‘honesty about sexuality’ would be. I resist the idea that we all have to control baser instincts. I want to believe that violence and deviance are failures of culture, ways the abusers themselves were hurt, that most of us would never do such things.

    But I don’t know who we are, really.

    Two days ago I talked with one of my best friends, a guy I love to death. He’s a player, has always been, and doesn’t believe we are monogamous by nature. But he talked to me and said things that actually struck me dumb and silent. He was angry and frustrated. He is in love. The woman he loves was abused by her father and her brothers. He said, over and over again, that he loved her and wanted her and wanted to go through this with her.

    I was amazed. I love him. I respect him.

    But I realized, listening, that my heart-of-hearts never believed a man would ever say such things. Not really. My heart of hearts thinks men are cruel.

    The proof of love was so rare it left me silent.

    Love, I think, ‘sex is an expression of love and connection’, is natural. But very, very hard. And it exists alongside pain, which is also natural. Somehow, we live. The film didn’t portray a sick man, but how quickly we must admit our own sickness.

    • Karin what a beautiful comment. I agree with you about the film. It lays bare desire on all sides without resolution or moral conclusion. I too think sex which is love is difficult and being a good man is to stand in the face of cruelty. But I’m an optimist by nature or I never would have started GMP.

    • Karin, about apes.
      Yes. I said below what i didn’t want to believe about human beings. But I’m also aware that we do share traits with some of our closest relatives.
      I can’t recall if we are closer to actual chimps (very violent, intentional about violence etc) or Bonobos (more pleasure seeking, less violent) or if was an equal split.
      Maybe we received traits from both and that’s the struggle inside us. Maybe every few hundred years we decide to lift up a bit from our baser instincts and reach a fulcrum and grow more towards peace, altruism, empathy and so forth. Maybe we slide back again.
      This case is depressing as all heck, and I’ve found it hard to have light in my heart about humanity. I’m going to put these posts aside for the night and, ironically, go and host a show I produce on human sexuality. It’s comedic, kind and weirdly wholesome, with artists and writers sharing amazing stories on love, lust, desire, foibles, gay/straight etc. I’m not entirely up for it after these discussions and I find it strange that both darkness and light, despair and hope can exist in the same world.
      But, off to the show I go to encourage everyone to seek pleasure, frolic, fun and love. Peace is what we are after, and I think human sexuality is a place to explore that.

  10. Tom, I’m very grateful to have discovered your writing, and I love the overall topic of finding a more honest space for conversation about male lust and male sexuality. There is so much to explore and discuss about healthy men searching for the most healthy ways to express desire, longing, etc. But as you do, I would suggest that the topic above would be better categorized some other way. More like, see under male mental health, or male abnormal psychology. It muddies the waters to try to have a conversation about healthy sexual desire among which men who seem fairly obviously sick (I mean that in the clinical sense, not just as a ‘diss). I mean, I’m not a neuroscientist, but I would love to ask one to compare the character in the film above to this famous study and see if there are any common patterns among men who end up with this, essentially, illness that probably physically prevents any *chance* of a real meaningful connection with a partner. That’s where I would draw the line– if a person is suffering from such a debilitating condition, whether brought on by a brain tumor or genes or just really awful shaping experiences, that prevents his lust from having any realistic chance whatsoever of generating meaningful intimate connection, that is probably in a clinically abnormal state and requires a different kind of discussion. (Psychiatrists, neuroscientists, correct me if I’m wrong!)

    For the rest of us, the issue is different and more interesting because our lusts, desires, longings and drives *may* produce real, satisfying connections, or they *may not*. Which way it will turn out depends on a combination of our honesty with ourselves and others, our choices, our circumstances, and of course a little luck…

    You also say, “that which we deny about ourselves grows stronger in the shadows than it ever would in the light. In modern society, that is nowhere more true than sexuality.” …I would add from my work experience that this is true not just about sexuality but about our need for love and connection in general. There’s no question sex drives are incredibly powerful but we sometimes forget to acknowledge that sex is one part of the human need to connect to one another; there are multiple ways to do that, and sometimes it can actually be easier, ironically, to talk and think about needing to connect with women (or other men, as the case may be) through sex than it is to admit to feelings of loneliness and just wanting general connection. But we’re social animals just as much as we are sexual ones. And today’s society can make it pretty tough just to be social, too. A lot of people find connection in religious congregations still, but there you often really can’t talk about sex and lust, so it’s incomplete at best, and then more secular people who would want a place to go to talk more honestly often don’t feel like they have one. So we’re out on our own trying to find connections with one another and we’re increasingly socialized to believe that sex and pair-bonding are the *only* ways to do that, post college-dorm. Again, not that any of this diminishes the importance of your topic! Looking forward to more.

    • Tom Matlack says:


      There is a difference between being honest about lust and being mentally ill, true enough. But I think how we all respond to the sexual deviant is still influenced by how attuned we are to healthy sexuality in the first place. I certainly agree that sex drive is connected to the need for love and connection in general. But because we twist and hide, it gets all messed up. Sex is an expression of love and connection. Yet, porn and the sex trade is exploding. There is no love or connection in that, obviously. But yet the market is booming. We as men must be missing something fundamental.

      • Well, I do think there’s a continuum in terms of how much love and connection can be found in things like porn and the sex trade. I was one of the signers on the NYTimes letter calling for the Village Voice to take down its adult ads section because it may encourage or at least fail to prevent child sex trafficking, so I’m with you there ( But I did have a very thoughtful trans-identified young woman write to me arguing that trans and queer individuals may not actually benefit so much as we think from shutting down all forms of prostitution…I didn’t quite buy her argument but she made a good case! In any case pornography seems to be at a different place on the continuum, one where I’m not sure one can make the blanket statement that it has *nothing* to do with connection. Maybe you’re right that it doesn’t, or maybe it is part of an exploration process for people who genuinely want to connect and are trying to figure out how. And that could potentially be true for someone at any age or place in life, couldn’t it? I don’t have the answers either. But this is more the kind of discussion I would hope to have in terms of figuring out what lust is all about and how opening it up to the light might change our lives/society.

        I am curious whether there has ever been an event at Harvard where you talk to a group of male students or others about some of the issues in the blog? Or to a mixed audience as well, though I’m sure you’ve done that. We would certainly be interested in hosting you sometime– am sure you’re very busy though!

        • Tom Matlack says:

          Would be happy to Greg. Was at the Boston Book festival a few weeks ago with Tom Ashbrook talking about men and that was very interesting:'s%20Up%20with%20Men.mp3

          We also did a full book tour when our anthology came out, starting inside Sing Sing and ending in LA showing our film with a panel discussion with Shep Fairy and Matt Weiner (Mad Men creator).

          Shoot me an email at thomasmatlack at gmail with an idea.

      • “Sex is an expression of love and connection. Yet, porn and the sex trade is exploding…. We as men must be missing something fundamental.”

        Have you considered that you have it backwards? Love is one possible consequence of sex, but it’s not automatic. Sex is necessary; love is occasional.

        • CL you really don’t think that human connection, affinity, love, compassion etc are all occasional? I’m using love in a broad way here.
          Do you? Why is this always an either/or with you guys.
          Sex? Seems pretty necessary. Love, connection as part of sex and also not part of sex, also seems to be a pretty common theme throughout group development and most of humanity. We aren’t like pandas who live completely isolated lives. We seek groups and connection. Sex can and is a part of that. Love is a part of sex sometimes.
          Sex is a part of love sometimes. Both are parts of human development.
          You make it sound like you’ll die without sex. We die without food, water and air.
          Babies die and/or fail to thrive without touch=love. Not sex.
          We don’t thrive without companionship, love, touch, sex, self esteem building all of those things.
          Look, I am all for men and women getting more sex, pleasure, joy, love connection from their partners. I’m all for more sensuality and less violence in our culture.
          But I have no idea where you’d get the idea that love is occasional when you can look around and see throughout history that we all live in groups, all grieve over death and feel joyous at births, that we seek connection with others in many ways.
          That connection is part of sex. Sex is not an isolated act, unless you are only with yourself.
          And if people are just having sex with someone’s body and they have NO connection with the person inside that body? None? that seems….broken to me, I’ll admit it, no matter if its a woman using a woman or a woman using a man or whatever combination you can come up with. That using a body with person attached to it for your own wants and that seems like the antithesis of what connection should be.
          I guess I’m biased, though, towards relationships and connection in general. And yes, with sex.

          • The simplest answer (I’m short on time) would be that you have a solid grasp on the female experience, but the male experience is different.

            “Love is a part of sex sometimes. Sex is a part of love sometimes. Both are parts of human development.”

            _That_ I’d agree with.

        • Sex is not “necessary.” I enjoy sex, but it is perfectly possible to live without it. No one ever died from lack of sex.

          • I subscribe to the theory that sex, love, power, freedom, and fun are all essential needs that every normal human is ALWAYS working to fulfill in one way or another. To get and to beget are the primary motivations that all humans share. Women generally have lower sex drives than men (especially as they age into sexless old crones) but for men sex often seems impossible to live without. That means that for women sex is the PRIMARY power they wield over men since the NO person in the relationship commands the relationship. What men need to do is balance that power by forcing women to do more dirty, dangerous, and difficult work so that women are more ‘equal’ and less sexy. Men also need to do less risky, hard or unpleasant work so that men can replenish their natural internal stores of sexual power and be less dependent on female sexual power. Men will never completely win this battle because we will always be hungrier for sex but we can balance things to the point that we are less desperate, more thoughtful, and less likely to be led around like donkeys by our lower ‘heads.’

            • I disagree. You will die without food, you won’t die without sex. You are claiming that men are helpless against their sexual drives. That is only true if you believe it. Tired of beautiful women having all the power? Stop giving them power.

              • Men may not die without sex but plenty of em sure do kill other men FOR (female) sex.

                I’m not claiming anything of the sort. I’m merely stating the obvious which is that men desire sex more than women do thanks to the biological realities. It’s true because the evidence everywhere supports it.

                I’m all for stopping beautiful women from having all the power but one solution which involves forcing beautiful woman to do the dangerous, dirty and UGLY work so that men CAN become more powerful is ‘problematic’ for the female supremacists. No beautiful woman I know dreams of being a garbage-woman, a coal miner or a plumber. Beautiful women do work that enhances their beauty/health which IS power for females.

                An attractive office mate told me today that she just met the man of her dreams. He’s 89 with a Maserati, tons of money and nice. She told me all she has to do is travel around the world with him till he dies, then take his money and probably never even have offer him sex. That’s very ugly female power which is so commonplace that we don’t even consider the rape of men by women.

            • Re making women less sexy and more equal: would you ever want to date an unsexy woman who worked on a sewer crew? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m really curious. I keep asking this question when the topic comes up, and I never get an answer. In the abstract, you may argue that women should work hazardous, dirty jobs that are now primarily held by men. But in reality, I suspect you (assuming you are a typical guy) would continue to be attracted only to women who are stereotypically “soft” and feminine. Preschool teacher -yes; hazmat specialist – big no.

        • It isn’t sexual VIOLENCE. It is sexual robbery, robbery which sometimes employs violence or vice as a means to the end. Most low status men and some ugly women suffer from sex deficits relative to the high status men and beautiful women who can easily get all the sex they desire. SOME males and females who suffer from sex deficits choose to steal sex from others. Nothing complicated or particularly deviant about rape unless one steals sex from children. Robbery is simply easier than fighting or working for it. Male-female rape is simply the common crime of robbing the resource that women monopolize to manipulate men. Since men suffer more from a biological sex deficit relative to women, men tend to rape women more than women rape men. However, women suffer from biological success deficits so women tend to rape (perfectly legally) men for success more than men rape women for success.

          Feminists have lied about almost all aspects of (male-female) rape since Susan Brownmiller published her fraudulent Against Our Will propaganda piece. It’d be nice to see more than mere anti-male indoctrination from feminist bigots on the topic of rape or other sex crimes. One good alternative EDUCATONAL source is Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket.

          I have to agree with Chris. You need to do your homework before you write about such loaded topics. For instance, the research shows that many male serial rapists have ugly childhood histories of being repeatedly raped by filthy older women. I suspect that once we dig down into the reasons men rape boys/girls or women rape girls/boys we will find some sort of sordid history of sexual abuse. It’d be nice to know what happened to Sandusky as a kid since kissing boys on the lips/sodomizing em isn’t likely to happen for no good reason. The human condition is far to complicated to fit into (false) feminist or any other facile templates. A good place to begin is to rightly consider female evil every bit as ugly as male evil. After all, JoePa was joined by his crying wife as he babbled ‘pray a LITTLE bit for the victims’ after showing the world how totally clueless he remains. Behind every goat there is always a gross woman.

          • You’re equating rape with theft? I beg to differ, and I’ll bet the Penn State boys would too. I would rather have someone use me for money than tear open my anus with their dick multiple times. Get a grip.

  11. Beautiful and intense clips. I’ll see the film. Things that come to mind are shark imagery (the first clip) but also maybe yeah, OCD taking childhood experiences, family of origin issues and yes turning healthy sexuality (how ever we describe healthy at this point in America) inside out. Where to start then?
    Both and.

  12. If good men ever want to get serious about dealing with child sexual abuse directly and honestly – never mind preventing it in the first place to keep kids safe (and mostly men, safe from themselves) – we have to look seriously the stark reality of why it is mostly men who sexually abuse children. Voices here at the Good Men Project seem to ask and debate this hard and important question: why most sexual violence is perpetrated by men.

    If you want to try to understand pedophilia – and where it and lust might fit in the spectrum of other sexually abusive behaviors against children – an accessible, reputable place to start is this overview of what the research shows.

    Why is it important to understand the roots and complexities of this issue? Because simple answers (reporting, sex offender registry) by themselves will never prevent child sexual abuse. And the sad truth is that by ‘monsterizing’ all people who sexually abuse children (some are women, 30-50% are other minors), we make it harder for us to recognize the warning signs in the people we know, care about, trust in our daily lives. Those are the ones most likely to abuse a child – NOT strangers. The PennState culture of football, money, idolatry and looking the other way – is a microcosm of our society when it comes to how we address the issue of child sexual abuse. It’s hard to admit/face, but until we do just reserve more outrage for the next high profile scandal … or the reports of abuse in your local papers.

    If you care about children, men, women, parents, healthy sexuality, families – start getting educated and hopefully empowered with information and help that can prevent sexual abuse of children. Visit us at

    • Thanks for this. I’m of the opinion that it’s more the culture of “money, idolatry and looking the other way” than about genders, but I’ll read your link. I hate thinking of men as predators, when I know there are millions of men out there who are not.
      But there are some who are, just as there are some women who are. That’s the terrible intersection, where a true predator finds himself in a position of power due to that culture of money and prestige.

      • I tend to agree with you. When I heard about the Penn State scandal, I thought, here’s another example of the unforuntate dynamics that occur in power structures, or corporations: people align themselves with power, even if that means shutting up when they should speak out. They enable, and collude, with all kinds of abuses of power for fear of being exiled from the power structure if they do. The worship of these powerful figures defies reason: I was revolted by the TV interviews of the male Penn State students last night. All but one denounced the decision to fire Petrano, as if he were the victim — NO ONE considered the plight of the boys who were abused.

    • Well, one important thing to consider when considering why sexual abuse is perpetrated by more men than women is that more men commit crimes IN GENERAL than women. In the book “Incognito” by neuroscientist David Eagleman, we learn that men are eight times more likely to commit aggravated assault, ten times more likely to commit murder, thirteen times more likely to commit armed robbery…those are non-sexual crimes, and yet men are far more likely to commit them than women. So why do more men commit crimes of a sexual nature? I don’t believe it’s because of male lust…because then why are they also more likely to commit every single violent offense?

      • Because men have to fight for status since women offer sex hypergamously. Men love to have sex with beautiful women. Beautiful women prefer have sex with beasts. Behind every war is a Helen of Troy. You can be sure that behind many of the crimes men commit is some women who is stoking the crime. The winner gets the girl because the girl never offers sex to losers.

    • It ain’t no stark reality that mostly men sexually abuse children. The stats show that there is reason to believe that women commit child abuse far closer to par with men. Feminist bigots will never willingly allow that kind of heresy to see the light of day. Female forms of sexual assault are rarely acknowledged since females are widely but incorrectly seen as incapable of rape. However, the 2004 USDE report on Educator Sexual Misconduct shows female sex crimes as high as 47% with a ridiculously wide range to the low side. Canadian researchers show 33% or more of child sex crimes are committed by women but very few women every serve time for the crime. What is true is that more women GET AWAY with child sex crimes thanks to incessant feminist-sponsored propaganda about male pedophiles, and the unwillingness to acknowledge or hold women EQUALLY accountable for female sex crimes. You can bet that there are plenty of boys and girls in Happy Valley and elsewhere who will never see the light of day because female Sandusky’s (often mothers, grandmothers or aunts) commit these crimes with perfect impunity.

      • from the study you, yourself, mention, John Doe:

        .2 Sex of offenders.
        Sex of offenders is documented in three types of studies: analysis of newspaper reports or state education disciplinary records; surveys orinterviews of adults; and surveys of students.
        Three studies examined public records. Jennings and Tharp (2003) searched
        educator sexual misconduct discipline proceedings of 606 teachers in Texas; 12.7
        percent were females and 87.3 percent males.
        The Hendrie (1998) analysis of 244 cases in newspapers in a six month period reports a higher proportion of female offenders than the later Jennings and Tharp analysis; 20 percent were female offenders vs. 80 percent who were males. Gallagher (2000) reports 96 percent male and 4 percent female offenders.
        Sexual abuse by females is no way near “par” with males. Instead of wasting time defending and excusing male sexual abuse, wouldn’t it be more productive to try to get to the root of the problem and work towards ways to diminish abuse?

        • Table 8 shows an utterly ridiculous range of female sex offenses from 43% (near par) to 4%. (Sorry for the 47% mistake). These kind of absurd statistics show that very little is known about female sex crimes to date. That’s probably because as is reported by many women who DO research female sex crimes the repression from other women to the research is vociferously repressive. It’s also far more difficult for boys or girls raped by women to report the crime because women are falsely seen as the saint-sex whereas feminists have successfully demeaned ALL men as potential pedophile or rapist monsters in the public eye. Bottom line: there is every reason to pay attention to the most recent stats which show far higher rates of female sex crimes and begin to consider women as equally evil (often using different methods) to men. The absurd notion that women are somehow kinder and gentler than men can easily be put to rest by observing how Sharon Osbourne and her gang of cackling bigots guffawed about felony torture (that is male genital mutilation) on The Talk….and with near perfect impunity.

  13. Well, that’s great and all. I’m all for people being able to express themselves. I am completely for love, consensuality and honesty.

    But what happens when you have a man who wants things from a woman or women, and frankly they don’t want to pony up for whatever reason? Are women or the recipients of male lust to be responsible for whatever happens if those needs are met? The “consequences” you mention?
    Because that doesn’t seem quite fair to me, Tom. And I’m not saying you are saying that directly, I am surely not saying that, but it is something that could easily be read into the question. And I’ve seen points like that made on MRA sites, that women are responsible for men’s misbehavior because men have needs that women aren’t fulfilling.
    I’m not responsible for a man’s actions with children if I turn him down, speaking coarsely.
    I realize you are discussing on more of a meta level. I’m very curious too, to see how the dynamics in our incredibly violent and non sensual, non joyful culture can be shifted. I’d love to see women enjoy sex more and more often. I’d love to see men happier and more content in their relationships with women.
    I’m just not entirely convinced that the problems of that coach are due to misplaced lust. I’d need to do more studies on pedophila and it’s relationship to power. To the possibility that he was just a plain old sociopath, frankly. That there are predators out there, as much as we hate to admit it. Male and female both. That they predate on the vulnerable and use sex as one of their weapons. Did they become sociopathic because their natural and innate lusts were suppressed? Or because they just started out that way and don’t see other people as actual people, but objects to play with.
    This is tough stuff. Tough and dark, but I’m just not sure healthy expressions of sexuality male or female can get that twisted up where raping dozens of boys is their needed outlet. My thoughts on that not yours.
    Again, i want to make sure you realize I”m not trying to put words in your mouth. This is heated difficult stuff. I’m thinking out loud here.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      “Pedophilia is obviously male lust turned completely inside out in the most vile and destructive manner possible. I don’t pretend to understand it.”

      • Sexual lust turned inside out or power lust? Is there a difference? I don’t know the answer or understand it either. I’m just trying to figure things out too.

        • I see a response on that topic below. Looks like I’ll have research to do tonight. Thanks for this article.

        • You are welcome Julie. The research on what role sexuality plays in pedophilia or other forms of sexual abuse of children committed by adults unfortunately is just emerging… and does little to help us understandi t in any satisfactory way. But there is research to help us shine some light through the smoke. Children, families, women and men who need and want help depend on it…. never mind the human and financial costs to our society from sexual abuse of children.

  14. Also, and I might be picking nits here, but is this really about sexual lust? Or lust for power that has an immediate reward in sexual gratification? Is there a difference? I suspect there is, but I’d love to hear your take on it.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      I don’t think it’s lust for power. I think it’s lust misdirected and perverted. Again, I don’t know enough about pedophilia to be qualified to answer much. I have one dear friend who was a victim and saw a great film. Beyond that I just have to try to guess. But, again, my belief is that sex can be a consensual and beautiful thing. We just have it all twisted around. I may be hopelessly optimistic but really what do we have to lose in a world of sexual exploitation? How about a little love and honesty?

      “I sometimes wonder what the world would look like if men were totally open about their lust? Would the sex trade still prosper? Would marriage change? Would our collective discomfort with gay marriage and lack of judgment of sexual exploitation in many forms shift? Perhaps, the most vexing is the question: what would male lust itself, completely out in the open, really look like? Do we, as men, have a common animal ancestry that would come to the fore? Are we more like lions or jackals in our natural state? Are we all on the spectrum of bisexuality? Or is male lust a rainbow of colors, stifled by our discomfort with the male need for sexual encounter? I have no answers. But I do think getting honest about male lust might go a long way toward righting some of the most persistent wrongs in our world.
      Honest sex is a beautiful thing, perhaps the most treasured human experience possible. But too often, it gets twisted, tortured, and comes out in ways that destroy the object and the owner of that lust.”

  15. And if so, if suppressing natural drives leads to a perversion of those drives (a point I’m not sure I’m qualified to dig into), what do we do?
    How do we allow for male (and yes, female) lust but also how do we allow for non sexual sensuality which is completely missing in our culture? How do we allow for it with respect for consent on the part of the desired?
    My instinct says that priests aren’t raping boys because they aren’t allowed to sleep with women, but that they are raping boys because they are allowed to do so. Because they belong to an order and religion that places a great deal of emphasis on male and female submission to god, to the priest and to the church. Where those codes and norms of secrecy are valued highly, and questioning the priest is akin to questioning god. At least that is my impression as a non-Catholic.
    As for the coach? Maybe he’s lived a life of a lie. Perhaps he’s been gay this whole time and suppressed that and this is the result. Or maybe power and privilege begets toxicity.
    I have no idea really, but I do think if we are to grapple with issues of being able to freely express our sexual selves, we have to find a way to do it that maintains respect for both men and women, gay or straight, in that expression, that honors consent and sensuality and compassion in that expression.
    Because this? This is terrible beyond words.


  1. 汚泥処理 says:



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