I was in Glasgow with my parents on our annual trip back to Scotland to visit family—I must have been in my early teens. I went off for the day to explore the city on my own. I have always enjoyed walking around new and strange cities. My love of steam trains—they still existed then—took me to St Enoch Station.
I was standing on the steps in front of the station, looking at my map and wondering where to go next. A man approached me seeking to help me.
I was an innocent abroad and trusted this man. We started talking and he offered to buy me a coffee in the station cafe. I accepted.
We sat in a quiet corner and at one point he took my hand and laid it on his leg. I realised my hand was on his erect penis. The sensation horrified me and only then did I realise why this man was so helpful. I got away as quick as I could.
Nothing serious happened to me, but this experience has remained with me for fifty years.
The experience had a dramatic effect on me, although I never felt it affected my life. There is a message for me in it about innocence, trust and expectation. The event did not spoil these for me, but it did teach me to be wary. There is a greater message, though, about the sadness of some men. Those who need to resort to random young boys for their sexual pleasure. Those who think nothing of abusing boys.
Yes, the man deserves condemnation, even just for his emotional abuse. He also deserves help.
This is a big issue today, in the UK. There is the continuing celebrity sexual abuse scandal and the current scandal connected with football. Men are drawing too many boys into a cycle of abuse.
Only now, though, am I reflecting on the fact that fifty years later I am writing for men. I am writing about how to create a balanced life in a relationship.
Since that time I have lived a varied life. I went into the professional theatre. I lost my virginity through the advances of a girl, not through my efforts. I experienced brief rumblings with other men and women. I fell headlong into a marriage that promised to give me safety, security and stability. It took thirty years for the marriage to crash. I ended up on my own again.
That was when I started to look at my life in a serious way. I married again and started to write about men and masculinity. I started to write about my life, my experience and how I see what is around me. The focus is on my life as a man and how I see the lives of other men. My emphasis is that I now have a life that works and that that might be a model for other men. The context is that I am a man with a sense of my own masculinity. I am in a relationship of polarity with a woman who has a sense of her own femininity.
That does not make me right. That does not make my way the way for men to go.
I do not set out to persuade everyone that how I live my life is the solution to men’s problems or difficulties. I do not pretend that how I have lived my life is the answer. How I live my life works for me. The way I face the issues of men, masculinity, sexuality and relationships works. On that basis it is worth exploring.
My life hovers around the centre of the bell curve. I am an average man. I have a lot of experience of men and women who don’t fit the average, who feel marginalised by society. I do not, though, feel able to speak for them, I don’t live their life. There are men I know who read what I write, understand it and interpret it for their lives. I don’t tell them how to do it.
I write for the men around the centre of the bell curve who find being a man difficult. They have marriages, children, and jobs or businesses. As society changes, as they grow older, they find the ground shifting beneath their feet. They find their women changing. They find their children growing up into men and women they don’t understand. They support racial and gender equality but they don’t understand how it plays out in their lives.
I am seeking to help these men bring back the courage, compassion and certainty into their lives. I want them to be able to find their courage as men, to find the certainty in themselves. This should not drift into the domination and abuse that men have used in the past. The memory of that domination and abuse has made men scared of their strength. Deep down we all know we can go there.
I help men to see the importance of compassion. Thereby I seek to help them to see that their relationships need to be through genuine consent. Domination often assumes consent which is not there, I know, this is how I lived much of my live. I have spent years dealing my upbringing and events such as the one at St Enoch. In this I sought to control my life by ensuring that I decided what happened. I was not going to be prey to anyone who wanted to use me. Mental and emotional abuse was not going to run my life.
That did not work. I became dominating and used mental and emotional abuse myself! That is as bad as the man in the station.
Using compassion, I now seek to understand the other person. Using consent I seek to have a relationship with them. I still find it hard.
I still want to kick the crap of the man, though…
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Barney Moss