It’s not every day you hear an author say they don’t want half the population reading their book, but Glen Gerreyn is emphatic both in his book Men Of Honour and when The West spoke to him at his Sydney office. Men Of Honour, he says, is not for women (either that or he’s a much cannier marketer than we realise when it comes to the lure of forbidden fruit).
“There are some things boys need to do alone,” the author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur explains. “When I run seminars in schools I ask for it be an all-male environment, because when it comes to talking about masturbation, for example, young guys feel uneasy when there’s women around.”
Even so, he’s realistic in realising plenty of women who have a stake in young mens’ lives probably will read Men Of Honour, but he’d still like them to but out. “The women who have read it have said they love the book, they really understand it. But if a teenage boy reads it I don’t really want him to know his mum’s read it as well. He’d probably feel a little bit uncomfortable next time he looks her in the face.”
Unless you’ve guessed, Men Of Honour is about everything boys are interested in, confused about and outright terrified of – from porn to masturbation, sport to money and alcohol to eating. Gerreyn is frank, brutal and speaks in their language. It’s not a conversation he wants parents to have with kids, it’s mens’ business he wants boys to know but which they (or their parents) might be squeamish about.
While Agony Aunt and medical advisory columns spill out of the pages of girls’ magazines by the dozen, there’s still very little frank discussion directed at boys, and those who are too embarrassed to ask parents or who don’t have a positive older role model will grow up in a vacuum – or worse, get their information from the wrong place.
Of particular importance to Gerreyn is the role the media plays in giving men the essential message about themselves. Just like it tells girls their measure of worth is their weight or sexual allure, it tells boys they’re inherently bad – stupid, untrustworthy, childish or worse. Look at the men in any sitcom, advertisement or pop culture fixture and he’ll be the immature, sex-starved buffoon an endlessly patient, eye-rolling woman has no choice but to put up with.
Gerreyn blames what he calls the ‘radical feminist movement’. “It’s almost like they’ve tried to take out all forms of masculinity. Masculinity isn’t all evil and femininity isn’t all good, there are positive aspects of both. It’s okay for a boy to get in touch with his masculine side because that’s who he is at his core. Masculine behaviour is a young man who responds respectively, is in touch with his emotions, is honourable, and cares about other human beings in an appropriate way.”
The problem, according to Gerreyn, is that too few boys are fathered, and it’s one resource he thinks contributes to one of the central tenets of Men Of Honour, making good decisions. “Young boys today are spending six minutes in the presence of their father a day and 14 seconds in meaningful conversation,” he claims.
“By the same token they’re spending four hours on the internet or in front of the TV. You have to ask who’s parenting our young boys. And what I’m seeing in schools is a massive divide – boys raised by active, engaged parents and boys raised by the media. Their role models are the Hugh Hefners and Charlie Sheens and they’re not making quality decisions.”
Men Of Honour also addresses health issues like nutrition and obesity, and when it comes to influences on children you get the feeling Gerreyn is firmly in the camp of personal responsibility rather than that of blaming society. “We have these bigger houses and smaller backyards and we spend all our money on the theatre room and have a patch of grass left outside for young guys to run around in,” he says. “But in the end young boys have to make a decision, and I think they can take it because they actually want to rise to a challenge.”
Maybe Gerreyn’s onto something. After all, Men Of Honour is one of the only things you’ll read all year for boys that doesn’t bestow worth on getting the highest score on Call Of Duty or isn’t mostly about ogling breasts or racking up encounters with the highest number of girls. Maybe with the right advice about what’s important, boys will be okay after all.