I was first introduced to a men’s group called The ManKind Project while reading through a lawsuit filed against the organization in Harris County civil court. It described a weekend retreat north of Houston where men dress in black, wear face paint, and engage in rituals and exercises called “Cock Talk,” and “Little Boy’s Deepest Needs.”
The ManKind Project is an international nonprofit organization that claims to offer men training: how to be accountable for yourself, how to express yourself, how to learn that being a man in today’s world is okay. Men pay hundreds of dollars to attend a weekend initiation retreat, during which they engage in rituals – many in the nude – and delve into men’s most intimate and personal issues.
Many men who attend the weekend swear the program changed their lives for the better. But not all. The Scinto family, who filed the lawsuit, claim their son attended the retreat in 2005, came home, and two weeks later took his own life because he could not handle the psychological stresses placed upon him during the weekend.
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The family began investigating and discovered an underworld of critics who feel this self-help program – where men must sign confidentiality contracts and liability waivers to attend – has the potential to do harm. Critics, including the Scinto family, claim the organization appears to practice psychology without a state license, targets vulnerable members of 12-step recovery groups, and has a poor vetting system with which to determine who is and who is not capable of dealing with the program.
With all its confidentiality agreements, The ManKind Project is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. In this week’s feature, “Weekend Warriors,” we chronicle the Scinto family’s attempts to pull back the veil and show a side of The ManKind Project that’s not seen in the organization’s promotional films, two of which you can view below. -- Chris Vogel