Aqualus M. Gordon, Ph.D.

Aqualus M Gordon Ph.D.

My Brother's Keeper

Redditor to Redditor

Male Mentorship & Social Media

Posted Apr 14, 2015

Suppose you’re a twenty-something-year-old guy who’s getting ready to have sex with his long-term girlfriend, something the two of you have done countless times before, only this time, you can’t get an erection.  You make some excuse and she’s kind-enough about the whole ordeal, and you tell her that you’re just too tired or drunk or whatever, but secretly: you are mortified. 

Assuming you missed my article on psychologically induced erectile dysfunction, where might you turn for advice? 

You might talk to your dad, but I suspect that many guys might not a relationship with their father that could humor such a frank conversation – if you’re fortunate enough to have a father in your life at all.  You could ask your buddies – but you’re worried they might tease you about it.  Besides they’re roughly the same age as you, what more could they know anyway?  A coach or teacher, even a male one, might regard the conversation as too personal or too inappropriate.  In my experience, many would-be mentors are so worried that tough conversations like these could land them in hot-water that they’re unwilling to take the personal or professional risk.

SelfDesignHigh/Flickr
Source: SelfDesignHigh/Flickr

This leaves many young guys at a loss these days when it comes to asking for advice and seeking guidance; not just about sex, but any tough or embarrassing issue that might come up. Whether that be trying to figure out how to come-out to your parents, ask a girl on a date, fend off a bully, or tie a necktie at some point in a man’s life he’ll need the guidance of those who came before.

One key contributor to many of the problems that young men face today is a lack of  mentorship – whether in personal or professional capacities. For a variety of social and cultural factors, many men, and would be mentors,  are less willing and/or less able to form close relationships with younger men and boys than in the past.  The reasons behind this cultural shift are many, including: changes in family demographics that leave fathers out of touch with their children; the high rate at which men are imprisoned in this country, especially within some marginalized communities; and misplaced social suspicion regarding men’s interactions with young people. 

The result is that many young men are left to haphazardly amble into manhood with only their adolescent instincts to guide them.  The results of this social experiment have been troubling to say the least.  In the past twenty years, the proportion of men attending college has fallen significantly; while male rates for substance use, suicide, and violence (including school shooting and mass killings) continue to rise to alarming levels.

However, some young men are finding new ways to reach out to each other and older generations for advice and mentorship that subvert some of the aforementioned barriers.  Reddit.com serves as an excellent example.  For instance, among the thousands of “subreddits” on the popular social media website are some that are bringing users in contact with one another in supportive and encouraging ways.  Some of my  favorites include r/AskMen, r/AskMenOver30, r/AskWomen, r/fitness, r/malefashionadvice, r/sex, r/AskGayBros, r/explainlikeimfive, r/OneY, r/malegrooming, r/Finance.

These communities weren’t necessarily designed with mentorship in mind, but browsing through the threads of these subreddits you find countless instances of (primarily) young men airing their questions, worries, and insecurities or requesting for advice for a variety of life’s dilemmas.  The vast majority of these posts are met with genuine support and the best advice the internet can muster – with a bit of wit and irony folded in for flavor of course.  A few examples:

After my friends have kids, will I ever see them again or should I prepare for our lives to drift apart forever?

We're all early 30s. I'm a childfree single career focused guy but some of my other friends are married and expecting. Should I prepare to lose them because they'll only have time for children? Or is it more complicated than that?

The top reply offers an honest response, MrDubious writes: 

Yes, and it's also more complicated than that.

The first year of parenting is insane. Like, to anyone who's never done it, you will not understand the impact. You have next to zero free time, you're constantly exhausted, and you're not getting much sleep.

Your friends may be unable to hang out for a bit, uncommunicative, and frazzled. But it doesn't mean they're not thinking about you, and after they get settled into their parenting routines, they'll start having time to hang out again. What's more, they'll be dying to hang out.

It's not "they're going away". It's "their job got really freaking busy for a while, hang in there and offer support".

 Some questions are more serious in nature.  In the below example, one redditor asks about how to handle grief:

My girlfriend passed away Tue how did you guys cope with losing your girlfriend/wife?

Found out Tue night while at work that she didn't wake up (she has bad sleep apnea and also took pain meds for her fibromyalgia) and I guess she was sleeping so good that when she couldn't get air and it didn't wake her up, she was 27 and we was about to be first time homeowners next week since we didn't enjoy living in a apartment since we had tons of problems with plumbing. We were with each other for 2 years and 4 months.

Also did anyone keep else keep in touch with the family? Tabby parents are in Nebraska and that is where she is getting laid at (while we lived in Iowa) so it is like 5 hour drive to go see her grave, did you guys still after all the years still go to the grave?

The responses are direct,

polyfionicspree: Therapy. Don't avoid it.

...and sympathetic.

nondescriptname1: I've had a girlfriend die she was my first girlfriend in fact. We were only 17. That was the worst. I don't have any innovative coping mechanism because it just sucks and there's no ifs ands or buts about it sucking. you've just got to give yourself lots of time and after you've given yourself some time you'll find someone else you makes you feel fulfilled. It's not as easy to find someone who makes you feel fulfilled in the same way because she can never be replaced but finding someone who fulfills you in a different way is a lot more doable. I'm happily married now to someone very different and someone who wasn't there to fill the void (because that can't happen) but makes me feel great in an entirely different way.

One of the key benefits of these types of interactions, is that those seeking advice or direction on issues that seem difficult to bring up in person.  In the below example, one user describes how his relationship to sex has made it a chore for him:

As a man I don't really enjoy sex

I don't know if it's just me, but sex seems completely one sided. As a man I feel obligated to make sure the lady enjoys herself, like I'm to put on a kind of performance. Slowly I've begun to realize I get no enjoyment out of it anymore and it's just a big hassle.

I like to think I'm good at it, I've had my adventures and fun experimentation. It used to be that I'd get pleasure out of the orgasms she'd have, but now I'm just realizing it's a shit deal. I'd like to enjoy it too. Is this common?

Once again, the responses to the original poster’s (OP’s) concerns were both informative and compassionate.

HalfysReddit: OP I have noticed something sort of similar, perhaps this holds true for you as well.

How much I enjoy sex seems to be directly correlated to how thirsty I am for it. Like if I'm having sex three times a day, each individual instance is going to be pretty underwhelming, and probably seem more like a chore than a fun time. Once a day? Still fun, although doesn't seem worth the extra work that goes into it versus masturbation. But find me a few days after not getting any? I'll tear it up and finish in half the time.

I guess what I'm getting at, is that perhaps you're just having sex more often than your libido wants to, maybe you'd benefit from having it less often.

Grecco_Roman_Fire:A good, sexy partner is going to try to make you feel as good as you make her feel.

I had a girlfriend once who really revolutionized the way I thought about sex. She told me "my orgasms are my responsibility. I love you and I will get off. Those are not your job. Your job is your orgasms and you feeling good. You communicate that to me and I'll communicate it to you."

It changed the way I looked at sex. My (and your) feelings are important too as well as your sensations. If it feels like you are doing all the work and no play, then you probably need to talk about that with her.

Created with Imgur
Even some memes serve as a way of providing direction and advice.  This particular meme is known as "Good Guy Greg," and frequently depicts ways to be a "good guy."
Source: Created with Imgur

One of the reasons I highlight reddit in particular is because its users overwhelmingly young (nearly 50% of reddit’s users are ages of 18-24, 35% are 25-34) and male (78%).  But it certainly isn’t the only place on the Internet where these types of relationships are forming among guys.  From YouTube, to Facebook groups, to various forums around the Net, young men are connecting with each other, older generations, and gurus to ask questions and seek guidance on things they may have a tough time talking about offline.

The interactions and responses aren’t necessarily perfect, but neither are face-to-face interactions, and nor need they be.  What is important is the sense of connectedness and direction being provided to these guys. Because, beyond advice, what these types of relationships can provide to young men is a sense that they aren’t alone in their experiences, that someone else has gone through it, and lived to laugh about it.  And while “real life” mentor relationships are indispensable, it is heartening to see that some guys have found new ways to connect with and support one another.

Thanks for reading: Let me know what you think -or- if you've had experiences with this type of mentorship.