Mens Health | Relationships

7 Apr 2021

Lack of proper male initiation at the root of domestic violence and intimate femicide in South Africa

The recent killings of women and girls by intimate male partners or ‘guardians’ has highlighted an ongoing and serious problem in the country. As a counselling psychologist dealing with individuals and couples on a daily basis, I believe the situation we are facing with male-on-female aggression and violence is symptomatic of an underlying problem which is both simple and complex in its origins.

The simplicity of the problem lies in the lack of male initiation. Boys are not being consciously prepared by society, and particularly by older men, for the responsibilities of manhood. As a result, men are not adequately equipped to deal with the challenges of work, marriage and parenthood, never mind being healthy contributors to society at large. These ‘emotional boys in men’s bodies’ then come under pressure causing them to crack and spill out their valuable contents in destructive hurtful ways.

The solution to this problem is for men to realise what is happening or more importantly not happening to us, and to start taking steps to ensure the proper initiation and preparation of boys and men into full manhood. This not only needs to be discussed and understood, but processes need to be put in place within all the socializing and conditioning systems of society such as families, schools, religious organizations and social activity groups (sports and culture) to address this muchmisunderstood area of human development.

I would hope that the importance of proper male initiation will become an open topic for conversation in our country via the internet, television, radio and other channels, which will in turn stimulate an ongoing debate on how we can more consciously raise strong, capable and caring men. The big issue is around the good news that men and women are both equal and different. Unfortunately, this has been a controversial matter of debate for centuries, fuelling the ongoing gender power struggle.

The result of this unresolved conflict is that men and women have not experienced themselves as equal, nor as different. And it is for this reason that we have failed to coexist in harmony, embracing and experiencing the joy and blessing of our fundamental equality and yet difference at the same time. I believe that for us all to realise our potential as a human race this truth needs to be recognised and responded to more appropriately.

So how are males and females equal and different? We are both equal and different in every way in terms of our physical, mental and spiritual abilities and potential to add value and contribute to the wellbeing of the world and one another. Simplistically I would argue that males have been designed primarily for strength, and females for beauty. This does not mean that a male can’t be attractive or a female strong, but in our essential natures we are strength and beauty naturally attracted to each other. And let me add that strength and beauty are completely equal and different essences, both essential for life to exist. It is the strength of a man that causes him to protect others that makes him attractive, and it is the beauty of a woman that causes her to nurture others that makes her strong.

Hence it is in proper male initiation that males need to learn more about their fundamental design and identity, which is about strength, from males. Females will inevitably play a significant role in the development of males (as males should for females), but there is a limit to the degree to which females can initiate males into their strength, just as there is a limit to which males can initiate females into their beauty.

A crucial part of the initiation experience is to be seen and acknowledged as having gone through a transformational process. I call this “claiming the blessing” which is the work of every son to go to his father and discover mutual respect and admiration. It is equally important for daughters to receive their mother’s affirmation in the same way in order to properly graduate as women.

I believe it is time to start honouring the truth of who we really are, rather than pretending to be something else. Our failure to do this is at the core of the identity and gender confusion plaguing society because we have lost sight of the truth that as male and female we are equal and different.

Let us stop this inter-gender violence and the power struggle that has so destroyed love and trust between males and females, and let us all play our parts in the ‘work of love’, a conscious process of building considerate and respectful relationships with one another. Let us start to switch each other on and turn each other on, as we embrace and celebrate the fundamentally good news that we are equal and different. Hooray for this reality!!!

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