Naked Men: The ManKind Project and Michael Scinto

The organization was supposed to make him a better man. Instead, his parents say, it made him a dead one.

Bob was friends with a man attending his 12-step group who he considered extremely fragile. Members of The ManKind Project began "honing in" on him, says Bob, and he warned the man not to attend, fearing he might suffer psychological damage from the stressful program. When members of The ManKind Project learned of Bob's warning, they became angry.

"They went after me in subtle ways," says Bob. "People started gossiping about me in a negative way behind my back, and it became very uncomfortable to attend my (12-step) meetings. I had to change meetings, but even that wasn't very effective because members are in all the meetings. It's scary because they know all your secrets, and physical and emotional retaliation or blackmail is possible. It's like a virus here in Houston."

There are no rules regulating what members of Alcoholics Anonymous can or cannot discuss once they are outside of the meeting room, says the public information coordinator of Alcoholics Anonymous in New York City. Furthermore, there are no written rules prohibiting a sponsor from trying to get their sponsee to join an outside organization.

However, doing so "doesn't seem to be in the spirit of AA," says the public information coordinator. "Though people have outside interests, they are usually careful not to bring them into their AA relationships. We could certainly see how people might find it problematic, though, and a new person in AA who is enthusiastically approached by someone about another organization may not know it has nothing to do with AA."

"Mary," another person who says she doesn't want her name used because she is afraid of retaliation, has watched both her husband and her son get sucked into The ManKind Project through their 12-step groups. In both cases, their sponsors pressured them to attend, she says.

"They start out with a lie," she says, "because they tell you that you have to carpool because there's not enough parking. Well, it's way out in the country and they have acres of land, so there's plenty of parking. I think they say that so it makes it much harder to leave. And then I saw the covenant that they faxed for my husband to sign saying he will never discuss anything that happens with anyone ever. And I felt, why? What's going on here that needs to be a secret?"

Les Sinclair says the secrecy is for the men's benefit.

"We ask men not to reveal the process because it would be like going to a movie where you hear what the story is about and what the ending is," he says. "We don't want anything revealed because each man's journey is different and every man should have the opportunity to have their own experience."

All weekend long while her husband was at the retreat, Mary was worried. At that point, she did not know initiates are stripped of all their possessions, including cell phones, and was expecting a call. Finally late Sunday night, her husband returned.

"He said that there were some good things," recalls Mary, "but he did not care for the intimidation, especially while you check in. He said they're screaming at you, their faces are painted black, and if you arrive five minutes early or five minutes late, they humiliate you even more."

During the weekend, men are subjected to mandatory cold showers in the morning, about four hours of sleep at night and very little food. Mary's husband did not eat Friday night. On Saturday he was fed small amounts of trail mix and fruit. "They also ate something called 'chicken broth,'" says Mary, "but it was just clear broth with nothing in it. And he only got a tiny cap's worth."

According to the 1998 protocol manual obtained by the Press, leaders are told the exact language they are to use when talking to initiates, right down to when they are supposed to pause in the middle of a sentence. When greeting a new member, the staff is told to "get in his face, hard and clear," and to "hold it for 15 to 30 seconds." Some training centers use buckets instead of toilets, which have "more therapeutic value in terms of dealing with shame." Activities include feelings exercises where the men are encouraged to growl and shove each other's shoulders. "Cock Talk" is when the men put on their "dancing clothes," meaning get naked, and pass around an erect phallus made of wood. Whoever holds the penis gets to share his sexual past or issues. The "Chicken Carving" is a ritual involving a cooked chicken. According to the 1998 protocol handbook, the ritual "has gotten distorted into a sophomoric, semi-sadistic, 'let's get 'em' sort of energy so frequently that some centers have dropped it."

At one point, says Mary, her husband and the other men were blindfolded and marched into a large room, where they were told to take off their clothes. Drums were beating in the background, and when the men were told to remove their blindfolds, "he saw 50 or 60 naked men dancing on a stage in a circle," she says. "They call this 'The Dance,' and my husband said they started playing rock and roll music and some of the men were just dancing like they were obsessed."

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1 comments
t.ariel.terry
t.ariel.terry

There are many other programs like this, including in the realm of evangelical christianity: 

twentyfourseven worldwide

24-7 leadership academy

teen mania honour academy

They fulfill most all the conditions for cult-status, and while they promise to be a launching pad to a great life, there are many silent sufferers(myself included) who spiral off in to greater depression and woundedness...secrecy as to the process, complete misrepresentation, or lack of representation of what is involved in the process, a fanatical devotion to leadership, mind and body control..usage of trauma to invoke change etc...very dangerous so please be warned

 
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